Emancipation celebrationsBy Lakhram BhagiratDecked in traditional African garb, thousands of Guyanese took to the National Park to join in the African Cultural Development Association’s (ACDA’s) annual Emancipation Day celebrations; and a resounding call was made for emergence of a unified Guyana and for Guyanese to free themselves from the shackles of mental slavery. Bob Marley famously sang: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds”, in his track titled Redemption Song, and that was the message that resonated with the gathering at the National Park on Tuesday.The atmosphere was one of unity as persons from all ethnicities, donning traditional African wear, occasioned a veritable explosion of flamboyant colours at the National Park, creating a kaleidoscope that was appropriately complemented with a wide variety of delicious food, exquisite craft, and educational materials.Several present and former Government officials attended the celebration, and interacted with the attendees and exhibitors.Former Prime Minister Sam Hinds described Emancipation Day as an occasion to reflect on the period of slavery and the struggles that were associated with emancipation.“That period of African slavery was particularly horrible, and the challenge for us people of African descent is to establish that we are like others. We should be unified in everything we do,” Hinds said.This year marks 179 years since African slaves were emancipated after a long and hard struggle with the plantation owners.Denise Garraway told Guyana Times that she uses the day to reflect on the struggles of her ancestors. She said that celebration of the day has so progressed that it embraces the culture and displays the pride of the African slaves.“We must emancipate ourselves, not just from slavery, but from mental slavery. The chains were taken off from our hands and feet, but they are still around our brains; so we need to emancipate ourselves, not just physically, but mentally and spiritually,” Garraway advised.Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and his wife, Sita, were at the cdelebrations.“I suspect that the emphasis is more on cultural and exploring who you are,” the PM expressed. “There is a very rich portrayal of culture, language and dance. There is a fusion and mixture of the cultures, and it contributes to social cohesion. Our variety is our beauty, and you can build national and social cohesion based on this variety,” the Prime Minister said.Several families had gathered at the Park for cookouts, mostly of cook-up rice. One of those persons, Desmond Wray, told this publication that he uses the occasion to deck himself and family members in their traditional garb, and spend quality time embracing their culture while reflecting on the sacrifices associated with their freedom.During a tour of the booths, Guyana Times caught up with Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson, and he said August 1st should be used as a celebration to reflect on the struggles faced to take Guyana to the state it is currently in.“It is a day (when) we remember the struggles our forefathers would have gone through to leave us this beautiful country, and the responsibility we due them for the struggles and sacrifices they made. My message today to everybody is to rededicate themselves today and onwards to living in happiness and prosperity, and keep working together to make Guyana great again,” Patterson related.Cook-up rice competitionCapitalising on the goodness of Emancipation Day, Chief Brand products hosted its inaugural Cook-up rice Competition. Participants competed in three categories, namely ital (vegetarian), no pork, and obstacle rice — a combination of a variety of meats.Each participant was required to use the Chief Brand seasonings along with Lasco coconut milk powder in the preparation of their meal.Tami Ramdeen, Chief Brand Representative, told this publication that the main criterion for judging was taste, but points would be awarded for presentation and smell.Each participant was awarded a food hamper, with the winners in each category taking home $50,000 cash as a prize and a ‘ginormous’ food hamper.