Letter: Tribute to my father David Horace Sookram – 1930-2016 (86)
I wish to pay tribute to my father, David Horace Sookram, who died on June 9, 2016, aged 86, in North York, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
He was a lawyer and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Economics. Like many Guyanese, he came from a lowly and deprived background , but his thirst for education saw him qualify as a village schoolteacher in Berbice, where he had a reputation as an inspiring teacher, but a very strict one, wielding his cane freely, as tutors did in the bad old days.
After divorcing my mother in the early 1960s, he went to London to pursue his studies. He started a new family. He worked as a teacher and studied in the evenings for his law degree at London University.
In the 1960s and 1970s, there was much violence against immigrants. ‘ Nigger hunting’ and ‘Paki bashing’ were the pastime of the hooligan class. He would have had to endure various humiliating situations. On the occasions when he didn’t get any legal employment, he took humble jobs as a hotel worker, factory worker, or sought assistance from the English welfare system. When he had money, he was lavish in entertaining folk, being an excellent cook , a lover of good rum and an avid card player.
He would play for hours with his Chinese friends when they finished their restaurant duties and settled down for relaxing midnight- to-early- morning sessions of card-play( often for money). The years I spent with him in London saw many people from Guyana coming to stay in our house, sometimes for months on end. He was a generous and patient host.
After many years practicing in England, he emigrated to Canada, where he gained a degree of fame for being one of the lawyers for Ben Johnson (the Olympic athlete who was stripped of his gold medal for failing a doping test).
His progress from being a barefooted boy in Guyana, studying by lamplight, to being an eminent professional, is one that finds echo in the lives of many Guyanese. Such progress testifies to the Guyanese spirit of resilience, persistence, and ambition to achieve, in spite of the odds.
Before he was bowled out my father had a long innings, ducking bouncers, trying to read the spin, and always aiming to reach the boundary, and beyond. He was a person with flaws and weaknesses, to be sure, but a remarkable man. I send my condolences to all who knew him and loved him.
About David Dabydeen
David Dabydeen is a Guyanese-born critic, writer, novelist and academic. He was Guyana’s Ambassador to China from 2010 -2015.
As a writer, editor, professor, and critic, David Dabydeen is remarkably committed to critically exploring the literary contributions of the Caribbean diaspora and the often conflicting polyglot identities that emerge from diasporic movements to and from homelands and homeless lands marked by racism, exploitation, and violence. Language—both the creolization of tongues and the overseer-institution of standard English—as an instrument of colonial bondage or the painful outcome of a brutal colonial past is also a central concern in Dabydeen’s poetry and prose.
Professor David Dabydeen is the first cousin to Leonard and Cyril Dabydeen authors of various books and articles, some of which have been featured in Guyanese Online.