on poetry and politics: groundings 6

on poetry and politics
23 August 2014
groundings banner
I’m getting tired of talking. Lot of people yak yak yaking but shit still the same or worse. I scale back my internet time and increase my garden time. I talk to the plants but don’t need to hear words back. Fruit and new leaves are enough for me. I’m tired of talking.

But, I want to know what people think about Bai Shan Lin and Vaitarna and the massive clearcutting of the interior. Town people don’t have much of a clue about what goes on in the interior of Guyana unless they’re working there. So it’s good that the news people got that helicopter and flew over and took those pictures/video so we all can see what’s going on. The size of the trees getting cut down is massive. The amount of forest being cut down is huge. One cannot wrap one’s arms around these tree trunks or statistics; no, we must see and even then it’s hard to believe our own eyes.

Town people don’t have much of a clue about what’s going on in the interior/bush. Is Amerindian people/land mostly and town people don’t generally give two hoots about what happens on Amerindian land/to Amerindian people. Massive hundred-old year trees getting cut down in the interior but in Georgetown, gigantic new concrete boxes are springing up on every street corner. Malls, malls, and more malls; shop til you drop country coming right up.

Town life is hectic. People gotta hustle to get that bread to mind themselves and their families with. Is the same the world over- this struggle for survival. The ants setting out from the nest every day, the bees from the hive, the strays foraging among the market garbage piles, the junkies and vendors ready to kill over a basket of bananas, the boys on bicycles and CGX motorcycles- every day is sheer scramble. Empty bellies gurgle and empty minds/souls growl at others. Things, material objects, are what worth is measured by these days. The fact that it takes cutting down a tree to get paper to print money, the fact that without trees converting carbon dioxide to the oxygen that humans need to breathe to live- somehow these immutable facts of survival have gotten lost/forgotten/buried under the weight of things/products that the human brain has created. It’s amazing and terrifying and mystifying all at the same time.

It’s been a month since I last Grounded. Encountering the mob last time shook me up and I’ve kept close to home/myself for much of the past 2 weeks. But it was time again and I was going. Amaraydha had picked the spot this time- corner of Camp and Robb, outside Republic Bank. It was a wide corner, with shade and place for sitting. She was already there when I reached. I’m running out of books to give away; she’d brought romance novels mostly. We’re going to have to get more people doing this, so there are more books for people..

The first person I talked to was a young nursing student. I stopped her with a bright greeting, surprising even myself a little bit. I told her we were doing a literacy project, trying to get more people interested in reading. That was the tone of this Grounding- the reading revolution :). Amarydha had printed out multiple copies of the Martin Carter poem ‘You Are Involved’ on small slivers of paper for us to hand out- a brilliant idea. I gave one to the nurse, asked her what she thought about it. She liked it, she said. I asked her if she was had passed the nursing exams; most hadn’t- a national shame/scandal. Yes, thankfully she had, she replied. I asked her what the problem was, why so many of her classmates had failed. She thought it had to do with the new grading scheme, of grading papers 1 and 2 separately instead of together and requiring passes for both, instead of the old, other way. That made no sense to me- if you did not know the material I didn’t want them jiggering the test so you could pass- this is life and death we dealing with and you must know what you’re doing if you’re working in that field! Still, she seemed nice enough. “You’re not one of those nurses who hollers at the patients, are you?” I asked her. These were all serious questions I was asking her. No, she said, and that she does be sad when she sees her colleagues behaving that way. I tell her my background is in health as well, and that I write a column for the newspapers. I ask her what she thinks I should write about next, to inform the public about. Chikungunya, she says, and that Angola disease.

After a quick but heartfelt prayer to the powers that be to keep it so I never require medical care in Guyana, I attempt a couple other interactions. Security guard lady says, yes, you could give me a book. I tell her she could choose for herself and she pauses and looks at me. Sigh. I don’t feel like talking much today. Which is not good since that is the whole point of Groundings. I try chatting a little with one of the taxi driver guys who hangs out on that corner. I pass there/them all the time but never stopped to really look at or talk to any of them. This one guy looks young and he talks to me readily enough. He’s just come out, he said, and he’ll stay until he makes the amount of money he needs. Then he gets a passenger and our attempt at conversation ends just so. A couple of schoolgirls pass and Amaraydha and I engage them. They’re family they say- one being the other’s brother’s granddaughter. One who looks barely 15 says no, she’s not in school anymore, that she has 2 children! How old are your children, I ask her curiously. She’s got a 10year old daughter and a 3 month old son, she tell me. I am amazed. She didn’t go past primary school. The other two are still in (secondary) school, coming to town from Better Hope on the East Coast every day. They’ve never heard of Martin Carter though, and have nothing to say about the poem. They are smiley and amiable though and we chit chat for a little bit before they go off to catch their bus back home.

An older gentleman passes by then and Amaraydha gives him a poem slip. He doesn’t want to stay and read with us he says at first, but then he and I start talking and he stays for over an hour. He wants to know about the book I’m holding- Derrick Jensen’s ‘A Language Older Than Words.’ I tell him it’s about the environment and he pulls a quote from it to read. “The part of the mind that is dark to us in this culture, that is sleeping in us, that we name ‘unconscious’ is the knowledge that we are inseparable from all other beings in the universe.”- Susan Griffin. I ask what he thinks about that and he says he agrees, is true, that everything IS connected. He asks me if I know that every leaf on a plant is different. We marvel at that together for a while, then I ask him what he thinks about the Bai Shan Lin logging scandal. Eh girl, how u gone from poetry to politics so! He asks me who I work for and if I have a microphone on me, recording him. I laugh and tell him that no, I doan work for anybody and I just want to know what he thinks. He counters by pointing to the big concrete building going up directly across from where we are standing. People just care about money these days, he says, nothing else. It’s the best wood getting exported, he says, telling me that one of his prized possessions is a purpleheart table. From there we get to talking about wood ants. He tells me all kind of amazing things about wood ants, and flying ants, and ants in the savannah that make those big mounds, and then we start talking about bees, worker bees, and the fighter ones, and the queen bee. Dis man is, as they say, a real gaffologist.

I know the time passing and I should wrap it up and talk to other people but because I wasn’t feeling too sociable, I decided to just stick with him for a while since the initial contact work had been done etc. Plus, we had a nice gyaff going. Mike was well known to many it seemed like. A big woman pushing one of those water barrels stopped to swap a few lines with him, and whats his face reporter man hailed both of us up. You talking to a real sugar man there, he tells me with a smile. We continued gyaffing. Even thought Mike had no idea how it would happen, he was sure that change was coming. I asked him if he thinks he’ll see it in his lifetime and he answered yes without missing a beat. Would that I were so optimistic, I told him, even though I agreed with the inevitableness of change. “Oh, you will see it, definitely!” he assured me.

Vidya had come by then, and the books had moved from the concrete bench to the grass by the pave. There were some youth in school uniforms sitting on the bench and I decided that I would wrap things up with Mike and go talk to them. Before I could do that though, Amaraydha approached them with the poem. I bid farewell to Mike and watched her as she attempted to engage them. They gyaffed a bit, posed for some pictures, and then dispersed. A taxi driver who knows Vidya pulled up then and they gyaff about poetry. Amaraydha gives him one of the slips and he jumps back into his car to affix it to the dashboard. He’s jovial and chatty. I’m still feeling rather anti-social so am just kind of looking on from the background. Another friend of Vidya shows up- she’s actually come to use the ATM. There is a long line of people waiting (it was payday) and Vidya decides to go read poetry to them as they’re waiting in line. It takes a bit of courage but he works himself up and does it. Again, I just watch from the sidelines. I talk to a schoolgirl who is waiting for someone in line; she is in Form 4 but like the others, has never heard of Carter. Her favorite line- same as the others- is about being a hero tomorrow. I tell her mine is the one about all being involved and all consumed and go on to define consumed for her. With the educational system in its current shambles, nothing can be assumed these days.

Vidya takes me for icecream at the place in the new mall at the corner of Camp and Regent which is already getting run down. I want the sorrel but it’s too soft and the girl will not serve it to me. The banana and lemon combo I eventually decide on is not bad though. We must always have the banner/sign we decide, as well as a theme and props. We also have to ground ourselves first beforehand, Vidya says. I agree and spoon more icecream into my mouth. We are sitting right in front of the fry chicken counter and I’m not really uplifted but at least I came out of the house today. After saying bye to Vidya, I go to the Stabroek Friday night market and buy more stuff to consume, trying to fill the emptiness within.


things people still don’t want to talk about

about 2 weeks ago, my second column on health and wellness- Break the Taboo Against Abortion Now– was published in Stabroek News. there were *zero* comments on the article online, and the only response i got was this letter- Men’s role in Abortion– from Vidyaratha Kissoon..

meanwhile, this- hospitalised woman denies connection to dead foetus; infanticide charge pending– happened. SIGH. 33 years old. mother of 10 already. now facing charge of infanticide. WHO IS GOING TO TAKE CARE OF HER 10 CHILDREN IF SHE IS JAILED?? ABORTION IS (THEORETICALLY) LEGAL IN GUYANA! WHY WHY WHY THEN IS SHE IN THIS SHIT? NO BIRTH CONTROL/ FAMILY PLANNING. FORCED TO RESORT TO THIS. AND NOW FACING A JAIL SENTENCE. I REPEAT- WHO IS GOING TO TAKE CARE OF HER 10 CHILDREN WHEN THE POLICE LOCK HER UP????



i have had an abortion. two actually. i have had two abortions thus far in my lifetime. it took me a long time before i could talk openly about the subject and not feel ashamed or guilty. i know many other women who have also had abortions, some of whom are willing and able to talk about their experiences and some who can’t, who are still afraid of being judged and stigmatized. these are women of all ages, races, socioeconomic levels, sexual orientations, and educational backgrounds. there are many reasons why women have abortions. women who have abortions need safe and affordable abortion services, not to be stigmatized and judged. the more of us who break our silences, who speak publicly about this issue, who challenge the status quo, who engage the healthcare providers and policymakers- the better for all. every child should be a wanted child and every person should have the right and ability to decide their own destiny. what we need is reproductive justice, economic empowerment, respectful and responsive healthcare, and more love and understanding.



CAL Advocacy Blog

Black Women Are Powerful and Dangerous. Black Women Are Powerful and Dangerous.

Another lesbian was raped and murdered in Ventersdorp, South Africa. But we cannot talk about that alone. We cannot speak about the unspeakable kinds of violence carried out on black women’s bodies without speaking about poverty. We cannot shine a light on violence when violence occurs, but remain silent about the multitude of other violations, that we experience, daily, everywhere, which culminate in the brutal, hateful actions that are carried out on black women’s bodies. Our bodies continue to be silent battlefields where misogyny, patriarchy and cultural imperialism rage their never ending wars. Our families, communities, religions and governments police black women’s bodies; making decisions about how we can appear and how we present or adorn our bodies daily-often without our consultation and certainly without our consent. Our governments control our reproduction. Our families partisan to social and religious structures that enforce the idea…

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Break the Taboo against Abortion Now!

Break the taboo against abortion now!

Posted By Staff Writer On August 15, 2014 In Daily,Features | No Comments

There are some species in the natural world where individuals of either gender can reproduce. In humans however, it is women alone who are the child-bearers. This is a critically important task, requiring a great deal of resources and care. However, for as long as women have been giving birth, women have also been terminating pregnancies.

The reasons for terminating a pregnancy are multiple and varied. Many pregnancies- up to 40% according to the Guttmacher Institute- are unplanned. Too often, women and girls are raped. Sometimes the condom breaks or other birth control method fails. Often, accurate information about birth control is lacking and women/girls don’t know where to get it, or don’t have enough money to buy and use it regularly. Sometimes health centres lack the type of contraception a woman prefers or knows to use. Too often, women are in abusive, unhealthy relationships where they cannot communicate and negotiate such things with their partner(s). Also, in societies with widespread poverty and inequity, many are engaged in a daily struggle for survival. Often women already have children to care for and simply cannot afford another. Sometimes being pregnant causes the mother’s health/life to be in danger. Other times there is something critically wrong with the foetus. And sometimes a woman is not ready or willing for the task of motherhood.

Some women, faced with an unplanned pregnancy, decide to continue with it anyway. Others choose to abort and delay childbearing. Not every woman should or must bear children. Every woman’s circumstances are unique and control over her body’s reproductive functions- such as deciding whether or when to become a mother, how many children to have, and when to stop having them- are fundamental rights of every woman and decisions that no one else but she should make.

Women and girls in Guyana would seem, on the surface, to be luckier than women in countries around the Caribbean and Latin/South America. That’s because abortion has been legal in Guyana since 1995, with termination of pregnancies up to 16 weeks being allowed, with the involvement of medical practitioners. Abortion remains a deeply taboo subject in Guyana however, as in many societies, with a great deal of discrimination being directed towards women and girls who have this procedure. Much of the condemnation comes from religious leaders who have adopted deeply discriminatory anti-woman beliefs and who have been able to convince many, especially those in positions of power, of the validity of such beliefs.

Such stigma and discrimination is so strong that, even in cases like Guyana where abortion has been legal for almost two decades, there are less than a dozen trained healthcare professionals in the entire country willing to provide this service, mostly in the private sector in Georgetown. None of the public hospitals offer the procedure and Guyanese women and girls who desire this service- especially those who are economically disadvantaged and cannot afford private care, and who live in rural and hinterland communities- continue to suffer and die needlessly because safe and affordable abortions remain inaccessible to them. In fact, many Guyanese do not even know that abortion is legal here!

Abortion- when performed by a trained healthcare provider- is safer than many other procedures. During the first few weeks of pregnancy, termination can be easily and quickly induced by taking certain pills (Note- it is best if these pills are taken after consulting with a doctor/healthcare professional). In a later stage, minor surgery is necessary. However, when done correctly by a trained healthcare provider, there are no lasting effects of abortion and most women/girls who have aborted have no problem conceiving or carrying another pregnancy to term at another time if they so desire.

However, when abortion is stigmatized and made inaccessible to the women/girls who most need it, and when only those with resources can afford proper care, then- even though there is a progressive law- we have women drinking ‘bush teas’ and pills from unlicensed sources, pushing bicycle spokes in their uteruses, or going to bottom-house clinics where they risk getting maimed or killed. Complications from unsafe abortion include rupture of internal organs, excessive blood loss, infection, and septic shock. Just a few years ago, in 2011, Karen Badal, an 18 year old married mother of two, died shortly after Christmas, after her bowels and uterus were severely damaged during a ‘bottom-house’ abortion. The reality is that, law notwithstanding, poor women and girls in Guyana who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy are not much better off today than in decades past.

However while economically disadvantaged women/girls suffer the most from the inaccessibility of abortion, the fact is that all kinds of women seek abortions- single and married, rich and poor, young and older, well-educated and less schooled, religious and non-religious, those already with children and those with none. As such, safe and affordable abortions should concern every woman.

To really implement the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, the Ministry of Health must, first and foremost, ensure that abortions be affordable, done safely by trained providers, and be accessible in all regions of Guyana. In addition, untrained, unlicensed persons who maim and kill women/girls seeking services should be brought to justice at all times.

Access to safe and affordable abortion is only one plank in a broader reproductive justice platform however, and a true commitment to this would include the provision of comprehensive sex(uality and health) education in schools, family planning, and termination of pregnancy services (to victims of rape especially) as well as economic policies such as recognizing and compensating caregiving, reducing the VAT, and increasing wages.

Every child should be a wanted child. Raising healthy, socially conscious, and responsible children is a task that requires a great deal of attention and resources. This should be where we as a society concentrate our efforts- not on stigmatizing and judging women for the choices they make, or forcing them to do things against their will and well-being. Break the taboo against abortion now!

URL to article: http://www.stabroeknews.com/2014/features/08/15/break-taboo-abortion-now/


lovely. neighbor beating his girl chile. thud thud thud. just lovely. i’ll sleep so good tonight. oh, the followup- other neighbor pretending to be the police coming to their rescue. everybody jus cracking up. yea, dis joke ting. now they’re talking about how children disgusting and you gat to beat them. but yuh cyan knock chirren dese days like u used to. now she seh if i knock she, she gon knock me back. #WHERETHEHELLUTHINKSHELEARNDAT?

Is not just the neighbor. No, this hits a lot closer to home. Yea, I was beat growing up. Sure there are certain beatings from my childhood that I remember more vividly than many other things from my childhood. But that was decades ago, I’m over that now. No, I’m talking about beatings that are going on currently. In my family. These are the dirty secrets that people are reluctant to talk about. Raise the topic with the perpetrators and they block with a wall of silence. Do not admit that there’s any problem is the first step in the defense. Freeze off any attempted intervention like how they freeze off warts at the clinic- coldly and clinically. Protect self and ego, nevermind the children.

Is our children and we’ll raise them how we see fit. You don’t have any children so you don’t know anything. Shut up. Thud thud thud. They are unashamed. They are unafraid. They are unapologetic. They are convinced they are doing the right thing. You know they love their children. They are trying to teach them right from wrong. They’re just doing what they’ve been taught. The abused grows up to become the abuser. The cycle repeats.

Over the fence or behind a closed door. Relative or stranger. I can still hear. Whimpering. A woman’s voice, muffled and indistinct. Not your child. Stay out of this. They gotta learn. I’ve been that whimpering child. I’ve also been that ineffectual woman. Every day, we are faced with choices. To act or to remain silent. To look the other way or to act. To walk away or to act. Don’t buse. Mind your own business. Shhhh. Just act normal. Don’t tell. Every day we’re faced with choices.

It’s clear what’s not working. But old habits are hard to break and delusion nicer than reality. And so the human carries on, devolving a bit more every day. Entropy and disorder inevitable.

Woman Hold Your Head And Cry

Woman Hold Your Head and Cry

Today was supposed to be Groundings #5. We’ve been good about sticking to our twice a month schedule and I had been able to convince Vidya to try a different location this time (High and Hadfield St- a corner close to my heart from People’s Parliament days), so I was looking forward to it.

I had to go to court in the morning, to support my trans friends who had been shot at one night while they were by the Cathedral (even though they got the license number of the vehicle involved, it took over a month and picketing the station for the police to ‘investigate’ and bring charges against the shooters). But Groundings wasn’t until 3pm, so my plan was to go to Court and do a little bit of marketing, then return home to unload and relax during the hottest, mid part of the day, before heading back out. That’s not how the day unfolded though.

The case was adjourned yet again, so we ended up just liming and gyaffing for a couple hours. It had been a rough couple of weeks, with Tyra and Jada getting murdered, the picketing of MMC and OP, the wakes, funerals etc and everyone was spent. So it was nice to just kick back and chill out. We drank Milo and ate cassava bread. Eventually tho, I had to leave. I only had one roll of toilet paper left and had to replenish my stocks.

I first went to the Library to print some quotes from “Stains On My Name,” by Brackette Williams for the Groundings later. Then I made my way to Stabroek market, picked up my Golden Arrowhead toilet paper and few other items, and started down Water Street, heading to my bus park. As I walked, I noticed a couple of men, also walking the same direction as me. One of the men was barefoot, in ragged clothes. He was being led/dragged by the other man who was holding onto a belt wrapped around his neck like a collar. As they walked, onlookers laughed and called out “Ey, you got a big dog there; Woof woof!”

The barefoot man, it appeared, was a ‘junkie’ and the other man a vendor who he had apparently stolen a basket of bananas from. He walked unresistingly. We passed a policewoman in the blue traffic police uniform. She just looked at them and kept on walking. The vendor turned into the yard of the Gandhi store, yanking the ‘junkie’ along.

I had followed when they turned into the yard. I knew a beating was about to be inflicted on the junkie. That is how things go here. The vendor pushed the ‘junkie’ against the fence, picked up the concrete and iron sign which usually blocks cars from entering and hit the ‘junkie’ with it. He crumpled to the ground. I got into the mix then, grabbing the vendor’s shoulder. A female member of the City Constabulary also appeared and together we pulled the vendor off the ‘junkie’. By this time, a crowd had assembled, mostly other vendors from that area, mostly female. They all screamed at me to mind my own business.

They were out for blood. They pulled the ‘junkie’ away and started kicking and cuffing him. He remained motionless on the ground. I shouted at them to stop. “He’s a thief,” they screamed back. “Ok, so take him to the police station then,” I countered. The female Constab member just looked on ineffectually. “Y’all want kill a man over banana?!” I was incredulous. “Shut up! This is what tiefman them deserve!” They were out for blood.

“Eh, like is she family! Is you tiefing family dis?” They were up in my face, poking fingers and spraying spittle. I felt someone yanking on my arm. I recognized one of the women. She had known me from People’s Parliament; when we were collecting signatures for the petition to reduce the VAT, I had canvassed the whole market area. Ever since then, she’d hail me whenever I passed her spot, and sometimes I’d stop and gyaff a bit, buy something. “She’s with human rights,” she told the others now. She was one of the ones trying to pull me to the side. But then I saw her kick the ‘junkie’.

I don’t know how long the whole incident lasted. All I remember is the venom. The look of absolute hatred on the faces of some of the market women- none of whom owned the basket of bananas in the first place. They were just mad at me for intervening. I just kept repeating, “Y’all really want kill a man over banana?!” I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

Eventually, the crowd parted and the ‘junkie’ and male vendor disappeared. I tried to follow them for a little bit, to see if they were going to the station, but I lost them in the crowd. I stood there for a minute, trying to catch my bearings. I walked back to the Gandhi store area. I wanted to ask my ‘vendor friend’ why she had kicked the man. But she didn’t want to talk to me. The Constab woman then came up and hollered at me to move along. “Don’t you make any trouble here,” she berated me. I asked her where the men had gone, but she didn’t answer; just kept shouting at me to move. People were still enraged and screaming at me.

I made my feet move. I was able to contain myself until the next corner. Then I started to cry. Not huge sobs, just silent tears flowing down my cheeks. People are ready and willing to kill another human being over bananas. I know vending is not easy- being out there in the hot hot sun whole day, having to deal with harassment from Constables and police, competing with everybody else selling the same trinkets and goods, trying to make enough for all the expenses; I know all this. I know you have to be tough otherwise people will take advantage of you. I do 99% of my shopping from the street and market vendors; is only one one things I go into the supermarkets for. I don’t expect gratitude or friendship in return; I’m satisfied with my fruits and vegetables and knowing that I’ve done what I can in this small way. So that’s not why I was upset.

The utter disregard for life and others, the savagery and violence that is now a daily part of our existence, the valuing of money and material goods over everything else- that’s what upsets me. I know there’s a lot of goodness and beauty in the world still, but the longer I’m alive and the more I see, the less convinced I am that real, sustained, change is possible. Now, mostly, I think: bring the cloth to wipe the slate clean and whatever will be after will be.

I still believe in revolution, but there are a lot of revolutions that need to occur, in many different spheres and levels- not just in the political arena. “Junkies” are still human beings, somebody’s child, friend, relative- a human being still. Same as my trans friends. I’m not condoning stealing; I’m just saying a human life is more valuable than a basket of bananas. And nobody deserves to get shot at simply for being who they are, from being different from what some think is the ‘norm’.

I came home, fighting back tears all the way. I crawled into my hammock and cried until sleep arrived. I’m fine- physically at least. I don’t want sympathy; I want behavior change. I’ll be ok. But I don’t know about Guyana/the world.

I am her. Do you remember me?


I don’t know how old she is, but she is pregnant now. Girls are at risk from being pregnant.

i don’t know how she remembered me but she did. she came to say hi. Pregnant bored and young.

Chilling out in Manor Park Plaza. She tells me the baby father is in Canada. He has to work so he can’t come till December. The baby is due next month. She is going to make a better life because she is going to go Canada.  When the baby is 3 months she is going back to school and going to try to get a job at the same time. she told the baby father that she wants to go back to school and he says okay.

I heard that the GRAND GALA cost millions this year to put on. The Independence village at Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre must cost a lot…

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Say No to Culture of Disrespect


Why does ‘Cultural Village’ banner feature no real Guyanese people?

Dear Editor,

Last weekend I went to the National Stadium for the final game of the High School Football Championship. Although the team I was supporting – Waramadong – did not win, it was still a good afternoon overall. I was glad that the ban on selling alcohol at school events was observed and it was also nice to not have to spend a ridiculous amount of money on an outing.

My enjoyment of the event was marred however by the appalling name-calling I heard uttered towards the indigenous people of Guyana – the Amerindians. Comments about ‘buck’ people were prevalent, mostly derogatory in nature. Also disappointing was the fact that not a single indigenous song was played by the DJ during the entire event. Now, I don’t understand why a DJ is needed at a football game in the first place, but since there was one, and knowing in advance that one of the finalists in the championships was a team from an Amerindian community, it seems to me like the least that could have been done was for the DJ to find at least one Amerindian song to play. I have heard indigenous songs playing on Guyanese radio stations during Heritage Month, and I even own entire CDs of Amerindian music, so I know such things exist. Apparently though, all the DJ at this event knew was soca and dancehall. This lack of attention to showing even a simple bit of appreciation for the cultural diversity of Guyana, illustrates what has sadly come to be true in Guyana today – only lip service is given to culture and diversity – there is little actual care or attention paid to ensuring that such things are really respected and embraced.

While the DJ’s cultural insensitivity can be dismissed as individual ignorance, the banner at the entrance of the Stadium advertising the upcoming Guyana Festival put on by the Ministry of Tourism cannot be so easily excused. This event is supposed to be a celebration of Guyanese heritage, culture, food, art, and music, to “reflect the true Guyanese identity,” as Minister Irfaan Ali’s message on the GF’s webpage proclaims.

Most laudable indeed. However, when I stopped and looked at the banner advertising the ‘Cultural Village’ aspect of this event, I was shocked. Guyana is known as the land of six people and there are indeed six individuals featured on this banner, but none of them is Guyanese. Sure, there’s a South Asian and an East Asian woman on top and an Indigenous and African man on the bottom, but these people are not Guyanese. They may ‘resemble’ people in Guyana but they’re not Guyanese. As for the two images in the middle – a Heidi and bewigged man – they are even more bewildering. No one I’ve talked to knows which Guyanese they are supposed to represent.

This banner is huge and has been in place for over a month now. Many people have passed it but until the other day when I shared a picture of this atrocity on social media, I had not heard anyone comment on it. This is telling to me as it illustrates yet another instance of Guyanese people remaining silent in the face of massive disrespect. Because that’s what this banner is – a slap in the face to the diverse Guyanese people as well as an insult to our collective intelligence. Not all indigenous, African, or Asian people are the same. You cannot simply cut and paste pictures that vaguely resemble Guyanese people onto a banner and then try to use that to entice people to a ‘Cultural Village’ and ‘Guyana Festival’. We are not fools nor are we being fooled!

Images of Guyana’s diverse people abound; why then are no real Guyanese featured on this banner? Yes, the festival’s webpage does have lots of pictures of real Guyanese but this banner with the fake people is the public face of the festival. Some advertising company got paid a significant amount of money to create it and that they produced a banner advertising Guyana’s culture without one single Guyanese person on it is atrocious. I call on Minister Ali to tell the Guyanese public the name of the advertising company/team that produced this ridiculous thing as well as to reveal how much of our tax dollars they were given.

It is appalling that Minister Ali and his staff at the Ministry of Tourism approved this banner and waste of funds. That such poor quality work is acceptable, that misinformation and inaccuracies are permitted and given a place of prominence in the public sphere, that no real care or attention is paid to Guyana’s history and people from a government minister/ ministry no less, is sickening. It illustrates their acceptance of shoddy work, deception, and disrespect for the people of Guyana.

Guyanese people deserve better. We deserve to see images in the media and public sphere that accurately reflect our lives and reality. This is not just ‘nice’ to do; it is necessary for the healthy development of people, for building positive self-esteem, and for fostering understanding and respect for others who are different from oneself.

These are all things that are lacking in Guyana and that have contributed to a divisive and intolerant society. This is why derogatory terms like ‘buck’ can be hurled at indigenous children by adults who think nothing wrong with such behaviour. This is why racist ads specifying that only individuals of a specific ethnicity need apply can still be allowed to appear in our local newspapers. This is why certain individuals and communities receive government privileges and services while others languish.

A people divided will always be easily conquered. People ignorant of their identity and strengths are a weak people, easy to take advantage of. Children who are not taught their culture or to take pride in themselves, to value fake, foreign things over local quality goods will grow up without proper self-confidence, accepting and perpetuating abuse, and willing to sell out to the highest bidder. People who see obvious nonsense being perpetrated by their elected officials yet remain silent, or worse, who choose to participate in the fraudulent schemes are people complicit in their own destruction. If Guyana is to truly progress, we have to do better. We have to demand truth and accuracy at all times, in all spheres, from all people. We cannot just be satisfied with a plateful of food in our belly, a cup full of rum in our hand, and some music to wine up to.

I call on Minister Irfaan Ali to apologize to the Guyanese people for this atrocious banner, and to disclose the name of the advertising company that was paid our tax dollars. I call on the Government of Guyana to truly invest in cultural education and to set up concrete systems to support local artisans. Artists should not have to wait months to receive payment for their work or picket to receive prizes that they have won. People should not have to migrate in order to succeed, or to give up their dreams in order to earn a livelihood. Also, one-off events with sky high booth rental costs are not accessible to small crafts people and serve as money-making fronts instead of real avenues for cultural advancement.

I call on my fellow Guyanese to boycott all fake ‘festivals’ and to spend their time, energy, and resources on educating themselves, their children, and their neighbours instead; to develop and support local talent. Let us cooperate and organize festivals in our own communities instead of giving our attention and hard earned dollars to people who continually disrespect, lie to, and abuse us.

Yours faithfully,

Sherlina Nageer

why are musicians & artistes such suckers? Guyana festival calling

mark jacobs lives!

i know people who still aint get paid from carifesta 2008 by frankie and the gang at the ministry of culture. yes 2008
and let me not list all the litany of abuse our beloved fartists endure day in day out in lovely guyana the land of zero copyright laws
yet still, grovelling fartistes brukkin dung de gate fi get into de guyana festival of fakery
some even coming home from amerika to sing songs of love
open your blinkered eyes
form a cooperativa. organise. resist. protest
learn to say no to abuse
straighten up your backs and stop bending over in service
behind all the smoke and mirrors is your trinket, a food in a styrofoam box and a free taxi ride to and fro your hovel
when they sucker you this tome again there^s more for you mutton boys and girls
you get to sing on the upcoming…

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