For immediate Release
The Ghana Day Committee in collaboration with The Cuffy 250 Committee Hosts Forum on State of Black African Guyana on 250th Anniversary of Berbice Slave Rebellion
“The State of Black African Guyana: Time for Renewal and Empowerment” will be the theme for a Forum to be hosted by The Ghana Day Committee in collaboration with The Cuffy 250 Committee on August 4th 2013 at ACDA headquarters. The all-day forum, which is the first in a series of conversations in the African Guyanese community to mark the 250th anniversary of the Berbice Slave Rebellion, feature presentations on the current socio-economic, political and cultural condition of African Guyanese by leading intellectuals, members of civil society, and well known Africanists. These presentations will be followed by in-depth discussions by participants aimed at generating needed inputs for the evolution of a plan of action for the African Guyanese community to collectively begin to address some of the challenges it faces and to equip itself with the necessary tools for its own survival and development in contemporary Guyana. We feel that such a plan is pivotal to African Guyanese ability to participate fully and equally in Guyana’s growth and development.
Two hundred and fifty years after the epic 1763 rebellion and 175 years since the abolition of the European Slave project, African Guyanese and their counterparts in the African diaspora continue to confront the legacy of slavery in every sphere of human endeavor. The attainment of independence from colonial rule created an opening for African empowerment and ultimate freedom from want and servitude which are critical to the attainment of ethno-racial equality in plural societies such as Guyana. But almost 50 years after independence the African Guyanese community is in crisis. The post-emancipation advances and the progress of the early post-independence period have been overtaken by under-achievement in all spheres of national life, a collective sense of alienation and disillusionment and a cultural drift away from the rich heritage of the group. These developments have resulted in insecurities and fears of subjugation.
The Ghana Day Committee is deeply concerned about the plight of African Guyanese and fells that it’s high time this condition be confronted in a systematic and comprehensive matter. We feel that for a muti-ethnic society to advance all of its ethnic groups should enjoy a sense of security, equality and ownership of the collective space. While government and other national institutions have a primary role to play in this regard, we believe that each ethnic group has an equal responsibility to tackle its own problems and search for solutions to them. Hence this initial initiative to launch this fact-finding conversation aimed at establishing the true extent of the economic, political and cultural decline in the community. We feel that there is no better symbol around which to have this discourse than the Berbice Slave Rebellion. The spirit of resistance and freedom embodied in that rebellion is the perfect reminder to African Guyanese that overcoming obstacles and downturns is part and parcel of the local and global African praxis.
Plans for this forum and others to be held later in the year have been jointly undertaken by two committees of the Sponsoring Organizations–a local committee based here in Guyana and an International Committee based in the USA—which have been working together for the past year. The forum will feature four broad plenary sessions covering the economic, political, social and cultural/historical condition of African Guyanese. The list of presenters includes noted African Guyanese scholars and activists such as Hugh Tommy Payne, Nigel Hughes, Andaiye, Melissa Ifill, Carl Greenidge and David Hinds. International presenters include acclaimed African American scholar-activist Anthony Browder, and Guyanese-American business-men George Abrams and Floyd Haynes. With lengthy periods set aside for discussion, organizers are encouraging all African Guyanese to come out and have their voices heard – looking together at where we are and where we want to go.
The Forum would be held at ACDA headquarters, Thomas Lands, Georgetown and starts at 8 am.
For further information please contact:
Telephone: 226-9986, Mobile: 682-7479
Berbice Slave Rebellion Conference July 29, 2013
For immediate Release
Sent to me by a friend, I had to share this – Fearless Guyanese! December 6, 2011
Approximately 15 years ago yesterday, a young man from Berbice arrived at Niagara Falls, Ontario. Most visitors come to Niagara by car or bus, but this young man, Terry Ferreira, was making history: he had come all the way from Guyana to Niagara on a bicycle. Terry had covered the 7,552 miles, via Brazil and Venezuela and then up through Central America into North America, carrying all his essentials in a knapsack, and he had tackled this amazing journey, mostly alone, quietly accomplishing what he had been told was impossible. This was no holiday trip. Terry basically rode each day until dark, often sleeping in a tent, got up the next day and rode again, on and on. He wasn’t out there to see the sights or to prove his endurance; propelled by the mental health problems of his brother, Terry’s mission on the ride was to draw attention to the myths and misunderstandings about the disease. Roadside along seacoast: ‘On Colombia’s east coast, I spent an entire morning riding through loose gravel alongside an endless convoy of trucks carrying asphalt. The dump trucks rumbled by inches away from my shoulder. As they passed I’d have to fight being sucked into their slipstream, truck after truck, hour after hour. In the afternoon I ended up pushing my bike through several miles of their roadwork with its hot asphalt; tar clogging my pedals, tar on my tyres and spokes, tar on my shoes, tar all over the place; making me feel as though I was creeping.’ – Terry Ferreira Living in New Jersey, he had created an organization called Quiet Noise to try and change negative attitudes to mental illness, and he was tackling this forbidding trip not as Terry Ferreira, but in his Quiet Noise persona. (See box) Going back to March 1996, preparing for the ride and dealing with officialdom in Guyana, Terry had almost given up on the venture. “That’s impossible,” he was told in several quarters. “The terrain doesn’t exist that would allow you to do that journey riding a bicycle. No way.” But an enterprising cousin, nature photographer Bobby Fernandes, figured out the route for him and the game was on. Ferreira, by then living in the USA, was on this “impossible” ride with no entourage and no support group. “He would ultimately ride alone, but for the first part of his trip he was accompanied by his younger sister Jackie. They flew to Kaieteur, camped overnight and then started a four-day trek to the Brazilian border near Orinduik from where they eventually reached the first proper roadway. But on only the ninth day of the ride, disaster struck. Negotiating a rickety bridge over a dry Brazilian river bed, Terry’s front wheel caught in a crack in the planking and he fell, 15 feet, breaking his left arm close to his wrist. It appeared Terry’s ride was over; a broken wrist meant weeks of recovery. Kaieteur Falls: ‘The pleasant March morning Jackie and I arrived at Kaieteur Falls was the first time I thanked God we were Guyanese. I recall standing at the edge of the gorge practically stunned by nature’s beauty, completely flabbergasted that I didn’t know the magnitude and force of our country at all. I reflected on my parents and on my brother; the reason for Quiet Noise. I said to Jackie, “Hear girl, scatter my ashes here, eh.” Kaieteur is honey for the soul.’ – Terry Ferreira With no medical facilities nearby, a place was found to store Terry’s bike and an ambulance took him to the Santa Elena Public Hospital in Venezuela to have his arm set. But at the hospital, a young Venezuelan, Enrique Ramirez, hearing Terry’s story, came to his aid. Said Terry, “I’ll never forget Enrique. He played a huge part in getting us out of the Amazon the next day, a Sunday, seeing us off to Caracas, and then Jackie to Miami and me to Trinidad to recuperate at my sister’s house. Not only that; he told me, ‘When you return I’ll ride across the country with you.'” Sitting in Venezuela, with his arm in a cast, Terry, the eternal optimist, was already thinking of resuming the Quiet Noise ride. Two riders on open savannah: ‘Bobby Fernandes took this picture of Jackie and me at right by his homestead a half hour by bike to Orinduik Falls where we crossed into Brazil. For the first four days we essentially walked through the bush to reach roadways in Brazil.’ – Terry Ferreira In Trinidad, Terry was in the care of his sister Julia Ann. “She was wonderful, but with this huge cast, up to my shoulder, I began to suffer terribly from panic attacks,” he said. “It became difficult to stay indoors, or even to have a barber’s cloth placed around my neck, or to pull shut a shower curtain to shower. “Sleeping was difficult; my sister Julia Ann must have thought I was going crazy; she lectured me into not returning to the ride after my rehab. However, I always kept Enrique’s positive approach in mind; ‘when’ you return.” Six weeks after he crashed, Terry hooked up with Enrique in Venezuela, at the very hospital where they had met. It was an emotional time: “Enrique was a man of his word. Terry with woman and other rider: ‘In late June Enrique Ramirez and I rode across Venezuela with Quiet Noise. We had first met in March on the day I broke my wrist near the Brazilian border, ending up in Santa Elena a dusty town a few kilometers north of the only land-border crossing between Brazil and Venezuela. Pictured here though we are enjoying happier times: glasses of ice-cold cane juice and a friendly vendor on a street corner in El Tigre.’ – Terry Ferreira Until that day he hadn’t done any serious biking, yet in less than a month we rode completely across Venezuela. In that time, I was able to pick up some Spanish and to regain control of my ego; we laughed a lot, although riding with a soft cast on my left forearm was never going to be easy.” With Venezuela under his belt, Terry waved goodbye to Enrique and veered north, riding through Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. In the USA, his wheels turned through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, DC, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York, then across the Thousand Islands Bridge into Ontario, and down to Niagara Falls. Although this ride is not widely known, it was a tremendous display of perseverance, physical endurance and mental persistence, never done before and not since. It is a singular achievement, and it was done by a singular Guyanese. In all that time, close to 7 months on the ride, Terry never got ill and never felt threatened. He said, “I had an ATM card but very little cash – food in Central America was extremely cheap – and I never had any sense of danger. Mind you, I took precautions. Terry sitting at a fruit stand: ‘Here I’m enjoying a watermelon lunch in Venezuela about a week after I resumed the ride. Lunches were always healthy and reminiscent of my childhood roaming and enjoying the market at New Amsterdam. On the ride, at night, I would often force myself to eat two dinners to provide fuel for the next day’s push.” – Terry Ferreira “When I slept in my tent, I would have a string on my toe connected to my bike outside. Also, I stayed away from exotic food; I ate a lot of fruits and fried chicken for protein, and I filled up on coconut water and fresh fruit juice all the time.” However, he recalls one occasion when a group of heavily-armed soldiers in Colombia had him a bit nervous. “Late one day, they stopped me at a road block and sent me down this little trail to God knows where – not much conversation; getting dark; I was wondering if this was it. As it turned out, the road led to a nice hotel; quick time, I was kicked back watching CNN.” The Latin people he met along the way were sometimes shy, then curious, then friendly. He would frequently end up being interviewed for radio and newspapers, and people would often ride along with him briefly for company. Said Terry, “The difference between the people in Central America and those in the US was that the Latin people would give of themselves, or their time – they would interact. The people in the US would give you money. Terry sleeping between chairs: ‘With no convenient place to sleep in Caracas, a priest gave me shelter in a classroom between a stack of chairs. Bad sleeping conditions were often a problem, leaving you worn out the next day. My lack of Spanish, too, was a problem; people shouting at you as you rode by; you don’t know what they’re saying or what they want.’ – Terry Ferreira A guy in a Benz drove up to me one day – he had heard about the ride on the radio – and said he wanted to support me and offered to buy me lunch. Mind you, the Americans would support you strongly in other ways, such as backing your organization publicly.” What did he travel with? “In Guyana and Brazil where the passage was mostly jungle, Jackie and I carried dehydrated meals, a tiny water purifier, a single-burner stove, a change of clothing, a pair of clip-on bike shoes and a pair of hiking shoes each, two spare tyres, five tubes, a spare chain, patches, a plastic bowl and a spoon each, a small First Aid kit, and two single-person tents. Her load was nearly 20 pounds, and mine almost 40. When I restarted in June, and you could say in civilization, I was able to get rid of a lot of stuff and my load was now 15 pounds – no stove, no purifier, etc. Of course I always carried my tent.” How did he persevere? “Every day brought its own set of hardships, and those hardships would trump all other hardships. It was always about what was pressing at the time. One would assume that riding in the tropical heat or rain, or the mountains, or the snow in North America, would be the hardest. Not so; the hardest thing to do was not quit. The rest of the problems came and went, but quitting while in Central America always harassed me. Every day that thought rode with me as sure as my name did. I had a credit card. I could go to the nearest airport, and two hours later I would be in Miami sitting with Jackie in a nice restaurant. That option to quit; I had to fight that every day.” Apart from the attention to Quiet Noise, what did he get from that long grind? “The ride taught me plenty about myself; like how to traverse my fears; how to say goodbye to what was once my normal life; how to consider myself already dead thereby allowing me to see my current life as a privilege. Furthermore I realized if I looked people in the eye and paid them due respect, that nine out of ten times they would respect me, perhaps befriend me, and even offer me their nicest bed to rest my battered bones. I learned that there isn’t a devil; just egos gone astray. I learned, too, that it is possible to travel on a bicycle from Guyana to Canada without being robbed. I know that people are mostly good, at least those living between Kaieteur Falls and Niagara Falls. I know how marvellous a bicycle is, and that I should never pee uphill.”