Remarks as prepared
Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch
Reception in honor of Black Entrepreneurs Association Guyana
July 31, 2021
Honorable Senator Michael Rhett;
Honorable Laura Hall, Alabama State Representative and President Elect, National Black Caucus of State Legislators;
Mrs. Dee Dawkins-Haigler,
Dr. Melissa Varswyk; Vice Chair of the Black Entrepreneurs Association Guyana;
Executive Directors Ms. Abbigale Loncke and Ms. Stacey Mollison;
Chairman Rowen Willabus;
Ladies and gentlemen, a very pleasant evening to you all.
First and foremost, I would like to congratulate the Black Entrepreneurs Association of Guyana on their recent incorporation and for coordinating this distinguished delegation. On behalf of the United States Embassy, it is my honor to host you and recognize BEA’s vital work to empower black-owned businesses. We at the Embassy are thrilled to support initiatives that strive for equitable access to commercial opportunities in Guyana and strengthen commercial ties with the United States.
I am also grateful that the BEA will seek to empower Afro-Guyanese business owners and communities. The Afro-Guyanese community’s long history of entrepreneurship dates to 1838.
After Emancipation, the entrepreneurial skills and self-reliance of freed Africans resulted in the purchase of plantations which were converted into villages, and the birth of the Village Movement – one of the proudest chapters in Guyanese history. The movement established a system of local government; built thousands of houses; cleared and cultivated several thousand acres of land; created commercial and economic life; focused on families which had been destroyed by slavery; and established a system of primary education with the cooperation of Christian churches. This innovation created resilient leadership in the 19th century and continues to be the cornerstone of success today.
Guyana celebrates its fight for freedom and equality with the 187th anniversary of the abolition of slavery tomorrow, August 1, celebrated as Emancipation Day. In Guyana, as in the United States, the fight for freedom did not end with emancipation. It was only the beginning and the struggle for the full measure of justice continues.
In June, President Biden signed legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, enshrining June 19 as a national day to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is a day of profound weight and power. It is a day that also reminds us of our incredible capacity to heal, celebrate the centuries of struggle, courage, and hope that have brought us to this time of progress and possibility.
African Americans have played a profound role in shaping the U.S. business landscape. Life-changing technological innovations like the traffic light, automatic elevator doors, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, and caller ID all sprung from the minds of creative black luminaries. America’s diversity is a principal driver of our economic prowess – diverse backgrounds bring new perspectives and challenge our society to address pressing socio-economic needs.
Entrepreneurs, irrespective of background, are successful because they have the creativity, insight, and knowledge, but can face challenges when trying to achieve business growth and success. These include access to capital, markets, and human resources. How do we confront these barriers? How might the government help to make things easier for businesses?
I am particularly pleased to see that one of the key objectives of BEA is to develop solutions to these challenges and advocate for public policies that bring about change and economic development. Embassy Georgetown looks forward to BEA playing a proactive role.
U.S. companies want to do business with Guyanese companies. Attracting investors is a vital first step. Now is the time for organizations like BEA to help build capacity among Guyanese firms to make them more competitive and support the market conditions and standards U.S. firms are looking for.
In that vein, I want to mention our embassy is a partner post with the U.S. Commercial service. We provide commercial services that are traditionally offered by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Foreign Commercial Service such as market intelligence, matchmaking services, in-country promotion of products and services, assisting with trade events, and others. In this role, we would be happy to explore further engagements with your organization’s membership in the hope that we can connect U.S. businesses with viable business opportunities here in Guyana. One of the key things BEA and U.S. businesses interested in Guyana can do is to join the American Chamber of Commerce located here in Georgetown, to ensure that U.S. voices are strongly represented and heard.
I would like to thank Abbigale Loncke for providing us with the opportunity to engage with the visiting delegation and executive members of the BEA. As a U.S. Department of State alumna, we are extremely proud of her work to empower aspiring entrepreneurs from every facet of Guyana’s entrepreneurial landscape.
To the visiting delegation, thank you for your commitment to not only work for unification of African descendants at home, but for those abroad with whom we share strong cultural, historic, family, and economic bonds.
The United States is committed to the same things that Guyanese want – a transparent and accountable government, and prosperity and security for all Guyanese.
Thank you very much, and Happy Emancipation Day!