Guyana Cultural Association of New York – GCA Award recipients 2017

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The tableau present in the body of the 2017 Guyana Cultural Association of New York Award recipients shows foundational, connecting human activity. The indigenous characteristics are multiple centuries old, and in modern-day light, dispel the colonial lies with their truthful substance. Guyanese have a magnificent cultural grounding. It is evident in the initiatives and accomplishments of the Awardees who demonstrate creativity and distinctiveness. We acknowledge and commend their successes in four designations: GCA Youth Award; GCA Award; GCA Exemplary Award and GCA Lifetime Achievement Award.   

The 2017 honorees are spread across the Guyanese Diaspora.  They reside in Paraguay, the United States of America, Canada, and Guyana. Their predominant areas of impact have positively enriched Guyanese in various forms and sectors. Our compatriots achieved significant successes in visual arts, archeology, linguistics, journalism, education,  community service, and as cultural enablers.

In considering the diverse span of Guyanese cultural attributes and our close kinship to the Caribbean, we make a special award to a calypso icon.

We congratulate and introduce the 2017 Awardees.

John L. Aaron; Desmond Ali; Dominic Alleyne; Amerindian Research Unit-UG; Anything Guyanese First; Canada-Guyana Outreach Mission; Clinton Duncan; Walter F. Edwards PhD; Slinger Francisco: “Mighty Sparrow”; Guyana Christian Charities (Canada) Inc.; HealthFirst; Aileen Hintzen; Kyle Igarta; Ruel Johnson; Romola Lucas; Keanna McGarrell; Faith Parris; Mercedes Pierre; Clive Prowell; George Simon; Tevin Skeete; Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology; Godfrey Wray.

Best Regards,
Ronald   H.  Lammy

Chair, GCA Awards Committee

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  • Clyde Duncan  On July 22, 2017 at 10:08 am

    It is high time Slinger Francisco: “Mighty Sparrow” is recognized for his association and contributions to Guyanese communities everywhere – one of my favourites is B.G War – listen to the calypso and you know he was around deh.

    Sparrow knows the place – He is one of us ….

    • Ronald H. Lammy  On September 3, 2017 at 1:59 pm

      These facts show the influence Guyana had on his emerging career.

      “…in 1956, after he had toured Guyana extensively and had an intensive training experience, that he jammed his way to public acclaim with ‘Jean and Dinah’ which won the twenty-year-old his first Calypso King crown.”

      The stage was his for a a long time: “No calypsonian has so dominated his period as the Mighty Sparrow has done.”

  • Clyde Duncan  On July 22, 2017 at 11:17 am

    How an Australian Remembers B.G. War …

    Naval Historical Society of Australia

    Georgetown, British Guiana – The Riots of February 1962

    by Ian Pfennigwerth

    The four Type 15 frigates of the Dartmouth Training Squadron were berthed in Bridgetown, Barbados as part of their West Indies cruise, and the RN cadets and RAN and RN Midshipmen embarked were looking forward to exploring this beautiful member of the Windward Islands.

    There had been some press coverage of the increasingly tense situation in British Guiana, a colony on the northeast coast of South America some 800 kilometers away to the south, but nothing of this disrupted the slow pace of life in Barbados.

    Then on the evening of Wednesday 14 February my ship, HMS Wizard, was brought to four hours notice for sea, and when the hands were called the following morning we were told that the ship would sail at 0800. The ship’s company was supplemented with technical sailors from our three consorts – to form a Technical Landing Party – and then we were off.

    Although Wizard was no longer the sprightly young destroyer of her British Pacific Fleet days, she had a turn of speed considerably in excess of my only previous ship, HMAS Swan, and away we went in a flurry of foaming ‘rooster tail’ wake to join HMS Troubridge wearing the broad pennant of the Senior Naval Officer West Indies. (How inappropriate, I thought, that they should call the Navy’s boss of the Caribbean ‘Snowy’, until the acronym was explained ‘snowi’).

    What a silly question!

    I can’t recall when it happened, but we Australians were asked at some point – before we sailed, I imagine – whether we wanted to be involved in aiding the British civil power in Guyana. What a silly question!

    I was a few weeks shy of my 18th birthday and this looked like being exciting; I would have stowed away to have been part of it. En route we were briefed on the origin of the unrest and on what was happening in the capital Georgetown. I might have had second thoughts at that point, but I don’t recall it.

    The colony was moving towards independence and had enjoyed a measure of self-government for about ten years. The leader of the ruling left-wing People’s Progressive Party, and Premier, Dr. Chedi Jagan, whose support base was in the rural areas of the colony, had introduced a particularly harsh budget, and this had sparked demonstrations and protests.

    Some 60,000 people had gathered in the capital to call for the withdrawal of his budget or his resignation. Rioting and looting had broken out; the police and the British garrison – a company of the Hampshire Regiment – had been unable to restore order, and the Navy had been ordered to the rescue.

    At 0700 on Friday 16 February, the two frigates rendezvoused off the mouth of the Demerara River out of sight of land to await orders. The bar at the entrance to the river was a real navigational hazard at low water, but the call forward came in the nick of time, and there was just enough water (or liquid mud, at least) for both ships to get across. It was the first time I had ever seen a ship’s wake stream out abeam instead of astern – a sign of imminent grounding!

    As we pounded upriver between fields thickly sown with sugarcane, the state of affairs ashore was revealed by the huge pall of black smoke which rose over the city and, as we drew closer, the shooting flames of a serious fire showed its origin.

    Most of the city seemed to be ablaze with the wharf and godown area a special hotspot. We berthed alongside Troubridge a few hundred metres downstream from this conflagration, and began to be detailed off for duties aimed at assisting in bringing the situation under control.

    Our landing party was soon ashore, and they had an evident effect in clearing the streets around the blaze. I joined the young officer crew of Wizard’s motor cutter, under the command of my RANC term mate Stuart ‘Tug’ Wilson, which had been ordered to tow burning barges moored alongside the blazing godowns [Bookers No 1. Wharf, for the fastidious], into the river and clear of shipping, including the two frigates.

    Those readers familiar with the capabilities and limitations of the Royal Navy’s 17-foot motor cutter will recognise that this was a tall order under ideal conditions, which were certainly not in effect that day.

    We closed the barges until the heat was unbearable, at which point volunteers (of whom I was not one) swam to the barges and attached painters. I suppose our mission was successful as we did manage to drag these accidental fireships clear of the wharf area and into the stream, but it was a close-run thing against a strong current.

    ‘. . not very much danger . .’

    As the fire took absolute control in the godowns, flammable goods started to explode, throwing drums of blazing chemicals into the river. Our task was now to ‘corral’ these or at least to keep them clear of the ships.

    The blazing barges had been bad (and I never gave a second’s thought to what their cargoes might have been), but these fizzing, spluttering, malevolent barrels were worse.

    Prodded with a boathook, they would roll over only to resurface to spurt jets of chemicals and pitch at us. We were in our tropical white shorts and shirts, and in stocking feet. The First Lieutenant would have had our guts for garters if we had worn other than gym shoes in his precious boat.

    So we were all singularly ill-equipped for this task, and at one stage we had to return to the ship to offload a cadet who had been badly burned about the arms by the contents of one of the barrels.

    Eventually these dangerous packages had all been escorted clear of the wharf area, and we returned to the boom. The motor cutter was in as bad a state as we were, but fortunately there was no lasting damage to either boat or crew.

    The account of these incidents in my Midshipman’s Journal states that ‘I enjoyed all this work, as it provided the maximum of thrills with not very much danger involved’. But then, at (nearly) 18, we were all immortal, weren’t we?

    With the ships’ landing parties now in control in the vicinity of the port, and power and other services restored by the efforts of the Technical Landing Party, the immediate crisis in the city was now contained. The following morning a few of us were permitted to travel through the streets on the back of a truck to view the damage, which was considerable.

    Georgetown must have been a most attractive town, but no longer. Whole rows of shops had been destroyed or ransacked by looters, the streets were awash with debris, and the few locals in view looked most depressed, as well they might be, as the riots had probably cost them their livelihoods. It is one thing to view scenes of riots on TV, but the sight and smell of the reality made a deep impression on me.

    But we were not tourists, and the concern now exercising the authorities was the possibility of a reprisal attack on the city by Dr. Jagan’s supporters. It was deemed that the homes of the leaders of the two opposition parties should be provided with an armed guard. My name came out of the hat (or perhaps the First Lieutenant was still smarting over the mess we had made of his motor cutter), and I found myself with a British midshipman guarding the residence of Mr. Forbes Burnham, leader of the People’s National Congress.

    The ship’s armoury was clearly feeling the strain of the multiple demands on its stock of weapons, because my colleague and I found ourselves, now in Action Working Dress and wearing those RN ‘pudding basin’ helmets, out in the suburbs well away from the ship armed with one .303 rifle. This had been fitted with a Stokes tube to convert it to .22 ammunition. Each round, of the fifty or so in the two small cardboard boxes we had been issued with, would have to be inserted in the chamber individually should we need to use them. Effective rate of fire in daylight, perhaps five rounds per minute; at night, the one up the spout and then we would melt into the darkness.

    Mr. Burnham’s house was in a well kept suburb of houses very similar to the traditional Queenslander in design. The streets and verges were wide, and offered no prospect of any strongpoint for defence nor hindrance to people ill-disposed towards our charge.

    And there were rumoured to be plenty of those – 10,000 sugar workers armed with cane knives, whose political zeal had been fortified with the finest Demerara rum. The odds did not seem to be in our favour.

    But the recollection I have of the twelve hours we spent on this lonely vigil, visualising those slashing cane knives bringing two quite promising naval careers to an untimely end, is not of being scared but of the attention and affection our presence engendered amongst the locals.

    They were chuffed and relieved that the long arm of the Royal Navy had reached out to provide them with protection. We lacked for nothing, constantly engaged in conversation by whites and blacks alike as we patrolled our beat, offered a wide range of snacks and cool drinks and, after nightfall, sips of rum – ‘Polar Bear’ brand being one I distinctly remember.

    Our small numbers and lack of armament did not seem to concern them as much as it did us, and they had more faith in our ability to summon up a larger force should the need arise (with what?) than we did. At last, after midnight, our reliefs arrived and we returned thankfully to the ship.

    The following day the remaining ships of the squadron arrived to put fresh parties on patrol in the streets and our burden was considerably eased. The same day, the advance party of a contingent from the Brigade of Guards landed, and the handover of security responsibilities to the Army commenced.

    Law and order was well and truly restored. On Monday 18 February a general strike by Dr. Jagan’s opponents was called off and most workers returned to work. Wizard went to sea on the following day to fuel from an RFA before returning to Georgetown to recover the Technical Landing Party. And then it was back to the training program – the excitement was over.

    Appalling outcomes

    I have two abiding recollections of the Georgetown riots. The first was of the sound and fury and the appalling outcomes of a breakdown in law and order of that nature, and the bemusement of the populace that such a thing could have occurred in their community.

    The mob is truly a thing to be feared. The other is of the successful application of naval power in a civil insurrection situation, and the way in which all involved discharged their responsibilities, even antipodean Midshipmen.

    The lesson of the flexibility of warships and their companies in taking on such unusual tasking at short notice has remained with me.

    And I had derided the passage in Callender’s history of the Royal Navy that we had been obliged to study at RANC, where he described the benighted masses of humanity clinging for security and succour to the hem of the White Ensign. Now I had seen the phenomenon for myself. There was a lot to ponder in what I had just experienced.

    Forbes Burnham subsequently became Prime Minister of an independent Guyana and served in that position for many years. I never met him, but I was there when his life was apparently threatened, and I shared the first watch in guarding him.

    But I’m really glad that putsch never came to shove. Those sugar workers might not have been so impressed with the might of the Royal Navy when called upon to ‘Halt, or we fire!’

  • ndtewarie  On August 24, 2017 at 8:58 am

    I have to quote this gentleman who asked, “How do we mould a country?” Imagination, intelligence and integrity, sometimes simple decency, it works as well. Talking about gossip he remarked, “We can’t afford it; we’re a little nation. We need to think and act outside of our skins. Every day must be about excellence without let-up, until we drop; where every person feels like a leader because every person is a leader.” He said that even a man who has a family is a leader, but stops being a leader when he beats his wife. “Then he becomes a word; coward, a coward. You can’t build a nation from cowardice, you can’t do it; you destroy it like that. Our country can be a very, very special place, but we need to take practical steps to make it real.”


    Lets get to the very real story
    And review our sorry history
    Firstly our leaders vied for Independence
    Its our right its to get rid of our hindrance
    Promising progress with very lofty idealism
    Then the Big Two accused us of Communism
    Got instead a lukewarm brand of Socialism
    Those were the hot days of Cold Wars’ ism
    We ended up with a big dose of corruption
    Racialism, bloodshed and sheer destruction
    The people run away from their beloved Guyana
    To England and to the cold harsh North America
    Causing a huge brain drain leaving Guyana rudderless
    Various parties struggling they too come up clueless
    The good ol’ days when rigged ballots rained
    And at the same time coffers were drained
    As the other parties jump and take over
    So did the people as some run for cover

    But a simple Guyanese people we are
    Don’t want to relive another Wismar
    After 51 years we still have a chance
    We’ve to stop this bias racial dance
    Sadly politicians would never change
    Its like telling a dog it has bad mange
    The two races have to come together
    Live again like sister and like brother
    We have to be Guyanese again not a black man
    Think like a Guyanese and not like a coolie man
    Be accepted as real down earth Guyanese
    You be Chinese, Amer-Indian or Portuguese
    Maybe our last chance to make it
    Or hate will drive us out of our wit
    And politicians on both sides please pard!
    Stop hiding, reciting playing the race card
    There are some things we have to eradicate
    Stop fighting one another and stop the hate
    Talk to one another stop deny we’re steeped in racialism
    Stop lying, face the fact, we have far too much nepotism
    Govern for everyone bring back equality
    Or drop the darn “e” and focus on quality
    Pray to the one Above
    For all we need is Love
    Listen people take heed
    For Love is all you need.

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