Cofona 2013 Conference

From resistance thru emancipation towards empowerment

2013 COMMEMORATION ACTIVITIES CALL FOR CONFERENCE PROPOSALS   The 250TH Anniversary of the 1763 Berbice Slave Rebellion & the 175th Anniversary of Emancipation. In Guyana, South America

Venue: New Amsterdam, Berbice and various locations throughout Guyana Date: Sunday, July 28th – Saturday, August 10th 2013 PROPOSED THEME: “From Resistance, through Emancipation, toward Empowerment.”

Historical Context: The 1763 Berbice Slave Revolt is indelibly etched in the historiography of slavery in Guyana, a former colony of the colonial empire. This revolt put the colonizers on notice of the intent of the oppressed not to acquiesce to the brutal system of enslavement on the plantation.  And indeed, six decades later, the more deadly 1823 Demerara slave revolt occurred when over 200 slaves were killed in yet another quest for freedom. This harbinger of impending possibilities for more revolts convinced the stakeholders in England of slavery’s inhumane treatment of other human beings.  Thus, in 1834 the Abolition of Slavery was enacted in the colonies of the Caribbean.  However, full freedom was again delayed as this bittersweet reality saw the introduction of the period of Apprenticeship which lasted another four (4) years. The delay to grant full freedom to the slaves was portrayed as a time for the former slaves to prepare themselves for a meaningful role in the society. Thus it was not until 1838 that these slaves were fully emancipated after over 200 years of slavery.

The 2013 Commemoration activities would include both the 250th Anniversary of the Berbice Rebellion and the 175 Anniversary of the 1838 Emancipation of Slavery. Commemorative activities would be held from Sunday, July 28th through Saturday, August 10thand would include an international conference. The proposed program will include panel presentations, major forums, cultural performances, educational programs, visits to historical sites, sports competitions, entertainment events, and community development projects. Berbice, the origin of the 1763 Slave Rebellion, will serve as the focal point for these commemorative events. While various events will be held at venues throughout the country, however, recognition of the historical importance of the places where the events occurred must be acknowledged by including them as an integral part of the commemorative programming.

The proposed program will play a reflective and constructive role by examining the period of enslavement, by critically reflecting on the post emancipation periods, and by proposing future paths for the descendants of the enslaved.  Following are the goals for the program being planned:

  1. To reflect on and promote the history of Berbice and its role in the struggles for freedom; and to recognize the historical significance of the sites of the Berbice Slave Rebellion.
  2. To reflect on the historical significance of the 1823 Demerara Revolt and its role in the struggles for freedom; to reflect and pay tribute to the 200 slaves who lost their lives in this revolt and to advocate for a monument in their name.
  3. To analyze the sociological and psychological legacy of the past and its impact on succeeding generations.
  4. To identify, promote, and implement projects in recognition of the events and individuals being honored in the nation of Guyana.
  5. To strategically plan for the socio-economic development of the peoples of the post-slavery years, and
  6. To develop a plan to support and promote community based programs and projects at the local level.

Event Organizers:  The Council of Friends of New Amsterdam (COFONA), an overseas based organization with a local counterpart in New Amsterdam, will be coordinating the commemorative events in collaboration with: community groups, religious institutions, local, regional, and national agencies, and overseas based organizations.

REQUIREMENTS: Presenters for the conference should submit a one-page abstract/description (with title) of their presentation. Presentations may be an academic paper, a cultural presentation, a documentary, etc.

DEADLINE FOR ABSTRACTSFriday, March 15th 2013 DEADLINE FOR PREPARED PAPER/ITEM:  Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

In addition, photographs, pictures, clippings of stories and events depicting the various periods would also be greatly appreciated. Submit items by above stated deadlines.

CONTACT PERSONS:   Overseas: Dr. Leonard Lewis, President COFONA, Council of Friends of New Amsterdam 676 East 23rd Street, Brooklyn, NY 11210; 646-256-5776 (c)

Ms. Michelle Khan, Organizing Secretary 1110 East 82nd Street, Brooklyn, NY 11236

Local:   Ms. Marcia Williams, President COFONA (GUYANA), Council of Friends of New Amsterdam NIS Compound, Vryman’s Erven New Amsterdam, Berbice, Guyana


Purpose: The intended purpose of identifying persons to be included in the 2013 Commemoration Journal is to recognize those individuals who have made a significant impact on the development of the township of New Amsterdam and its environs. It is intended to serve as a record of individual, and institutional, accomplishments over the period of 250 years from 1763 to 2013.  You are invited to nominate individuals to be included in the journal; nominations could be taken from the following categories:


  1. Educators and teachers  (20)
  2. Politicians (20)
  3. Medical, and health professionals (20)
  4. Religious leaders (20)
  5. Community developers (20)
  6. Legal professionals (20)
  7. Writers (20)
  8. Musicians, dancers and cultural Icons (20)
  9. Business persons (20)
  10. Entrepreneurs  and pioneers (20)
  11. Uniformed services (20)
  12. Sports personalities (20)
  13. Others  (Associations, entities) (10)

Use the following criteria as a guide in selecting individuals to be nominated:  


  1. Must have made a significant impact on the township of New Amsterdam and its environs. The impact may or may not have been extended regionally, nationally, and internationally.
  2. Must have originated from or spent a number of years in New Amsterdam or its environs.  To a lesser extent, the entire Berbice region will be considered as places of origin for these individuals.
  3. Individual could be alive or deceased.
  4. Recommendation must be supported by at least one other individual. You must include the name of the other recommender on the recommendation form.
  5. An association, agency, or entity may be considered for nomination as a group.


  1. You could nominate someone for inclusion in the 2013 Commemoration Journal by completing the form provided below here.
  2. Submit your nomination by Friday, February 15th 2013. Also include the name and contact information of one other person who would support this nomination (this area is provided on the form). This individual must not be the person being nominated.
  3. After two (2) weeks you would be notified if the nominee has been selected for inclusion in the 2013 Ancient County Commemorative Journal.
  4. Bios of nominees must then be provided for inclusion in the Commemoration Journal.
  5. The information for the nominee’s bio is described below:
    1. A one-page bio of the individual, word-processed, single-spaced, in 9-point, Times-Roman font. Margins must be 1½ “ on left, 1” on right, 1½ ” at the top, and 1” at the bottom. The bio should (a) describe the individual’s background and/or origin and upbringing, and (b) describe the individual’s personal accomplishments, and (c) describe the impact at the local, regional, and/or national level.
    2. A 2” x 3” passport photo of the nominee must be included.  For individuals who are deceased, any available photo that includes the individual may be considered. For individuals who may not have any available photo, due to the passage of time, then a photo depicting some aspect of the individual’s accomplishment would be considered.
  6. All submissions would be acknowledged and a date given when a final determination is expected.  Acknowledgements may be in email as well as traditional mail.
  7. Any information submitted would not be returned and becomes the property of the 2013 Program Organizers.
  8. A Nominating Committee will make the final decision about the individuals who should be included in the 2013 Commemoration Heroes Publication.
  9. The deadline for submitting bios along with any other information is April 15th, 2013.

Nominator Information


Nominee Information

  • Other Information

  • For individuals who are deceased, please provide the contact information for person(s) who could provide information about the nominee.



From 1763 – Present: Theme: From Resistance, Through Emancipation, Toward Empowerment.

The 2013 Commemoration theme presents a landscape of the experiences encompassing the struggles of resistance since 1763, through the period of emancipation, and into the current need for empowerment. The questions below tease out issues of interest to groups of individuals including: researchers, educators, historians, economists, policy makers, religious figures, and students. Individuals with interest in any of the issues below are encouraged to submit presentations.

Historical Lessons What has been the impact of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome on the descendants of the slaves in Guyana? How did the abolition of slavery impact the socio-economic development in Guyana during post-colonial times? Can blacks overcome the legacy of the past and move beyond that trauma? What were the successes and shortcomings of the anti-slavery movement? What were the social/political conditions during the post-emancipation period? What strategies should be employed to preserve the physical structures and icons of the country’s history?

Education & Training What role did the educational system play in post-colonial Guyana? What legacies of the post-colonial educational system still persist today?  What new international educational models would be beneficial for Guyana?  What educational models from other countries could Guyana learn from? What role does education play in Guyana’s national development? Could Guyana’s educational system help to ameliorate the ‘brain drain’ that continues to persist today?  Educating our citizens for the global marketplace: what are the opportunities and challenges in pursuit of this goal?  How does Guyana’s educational system support its national development strategies? What measures must be implemented to encourage and motivate Guyanese to contribute to the nation’s development instead of migrating elsewhere! New technological advancements present new opportunities and challenges to Guyana’s educational system, what recommendations could you offer?

Economic Opportunities How does current land use and land use laws impact on the economic development of the various ethnic groups? How does the contribution of the diaspora impact on development in Guyana? What were the successes and failures of implementing the Caribbean Single Market Economy? What are the advantages and disadvantages of out-migration as a strategy for economic development? What role should heritage tourism play in the development of the local economies? Would Guyana’s expanding interest in establishing linkages with countries in Latin America conflict with its role in the Caribbean region? What lessons could Guyana learn from its experiences of nationalization during the ‘70s? What is the current government’s overall strategic development plan for the nation; the economically underserved communities; the towns, the villages, and the interior region? Critique the past and current economic development policies in Guyana. What contributed to the uneven economic development in Guyana?

Cultural Legacies How did African cultural traditions impact the culture of Guyana? Should efforts be made to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of Afro-Guyanese? What were the contributions of the English, Dutch and French to Guyanese culture? Should the architectural structures of colonial period be preserved? What role did music, art and drama play in the lives of the slaves during their period of enslavement? What role did they play in the post-colonial period of Guyana’s history? How do the various racial groups in Guyana perpetuate and promote their unique cultural heritage? How could cultural traditions be used to unify the various racial groups in the nation? What was the lifestyle of the Amerindians during the early years? How has Amerindian culture changed over the years? Is culture being used to promote division or unity among the racial groups today? Do you think the current younger generations display greater, or lessor, racial animosity? What national strategies could be undertaken to promote the utilization of culture as a motivating force for development? What contributions could individuals make to promote and develop Guyanese culture? What are the benefits of promoting Guyanese culture in the diaspora? What policies should be developed to utilize the skills of Guyanese in the diaspora?

Health Issues What were the nutritional and health issues during slavery? How did the conditions of the slave lifestyle affect the health and well-being of the slave population, and what were generally used on the slave plantations? How did African cultural traditions impact on the slaves’ perception of health issues? How did the practices of slavery impact the traditional family life? What mechanisms do we have at our disposal to rectify the negative impacts on the Guyanese family?  What were the nutrition and health conditions of the population during post-colonial times? Is looking out for the elderly a responsibility for a civic-minded society? Do Afro-Guyanese women view their experiences in a foreign land differently than the Afro-Guyanese male? Do Guyanese women think differently, or have different expectations, than Guyanese men?

Religious Contributions What role did the missionaries play in British Guiana and Guiana in developing the moral values of Guyanese? How did the church fare during the colonial and post-colonial periods in Guyana? Could the church play a more significant role in the socio-economic development of various communities in Guyana? What role did religion play on the moral development of the various racial groups in Guyana? What critique would you make of the role of the Christian church during the post-colonial period of Guyanese history? What role did the Christian church play in educating the Guyanese populations? What sociological and psychological impact did the Muslim belief system have on the psyche of the adherents to the faith? How did they impact the other families and friends within their network? To what extent do you think the religion of the Muslims and Hindus have in playing a more significant role in the destruction of the negative belief system?

Political Challenges How did the Government of Guyana position itself during the era of non-alignment? Our nation’s aggressive stance on the Ankoka stand-off made Guyanese proud of their nation, what could Guyanese be proud of today? How would you critique the various governments that governed Guyana since post emancipation of slavery (1838)? What should be done to improve the functioning of local government in Guyana? How could regional governance in Guyana improve? What were the successes and failures of the Guyana National Service? What role should the current government play in implementing development strategies for depressed communities? What role could the diaspora play in the development of communities in Guyana? What policies should the government implement to encourage diaspora investments at the community and national levels? What policies and practices would encourage tourism as a strategy for development in Guyana?  What policies and practices would encourage investments in New Amsterdam?

Sports Competitions Was the sport of cricket used to engage Guyanese during the post-colonial period? And if not, why not? How were sporting talents nurtured and cultivated in Guyana, despite limited available resources? How could sports be used to unify the various races in Guyana? What role did cricket play in Guyana? What systems should be used to maximize the potential of today’s youths to further their sporting talents? What role did sports play in the development of Guyana’s local communities?

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