Whatever happened to Black History Month?

Frankly Speaking

I had already penned the lead caption when I realized that today being only the first day of February 2013, might make my offering both preemptive and premature. But I decided to proceed. So you would still be reading this right now. So what I am going on about?

It’s the Fenty curiosity about the celebration/observance of Black History Month, alternatively called African Heritage Month.  Concomitant with the Republic Anniversary activities here, February was/is (?) the month set aside for African- descended Guyanese citizens – and People of Colour elsewhere – to reflect upon their origins and heritage, their achievements, challenges and plans for a satisfactory future.

So is the month still on? Will the established and newly-created Afro-Guyanese representative organizations roll out their programmes for all to see? I hope I’m not rebuked and told that that is none of my (non-African) Business! I love all groups occupying the Guyana space. (I might even be described as “black-minded” by a few who “know” me.) And I have discerned in recent years, a definite falling off of the intensity, variety and importance regarding this particular ethnic-specific activity. I wonder why.

Rebellion and Achievement…

Any national observance of such occasions as Black History/African Heritage must eschew arrogance, or intimidation of other groups.

The celebration should be robust but dignified and invested with lasting meaningful, practical lessons and projects. There must be activities- both celebratory and cerebral, to benefit participants beyond any one designated day, week or month.

I’ve always griped over the one dimensional nature of “African” celebrations usually prevalent here. The organizers and authors overwhelmed by (justified) pride, just emphasise the past Glory, contributions and achievements of African People in the History of the World. That element must have its place in inspiring the young and the uninformed. But after that, what? That is always my gripe and question on these “black” occasions. What of the Black Man’s Condition in this Guyana today? What economic projects are planned and launched to move him out of subservience and second-rung status?

This February’s Republic Anniversary (43 years on) coincides with the significant historic milestone of the 250th anniversary of Kofi’s 1763 Berbice Revolution.  This slave Rebellion –turned –revolution for almost one year, when and where diverse slave groups mounted  challenges against the more fortified Dutch military and Dutch Plantation Managements of Savagery; When slaves organized and mobilized for the shared governance and economic development of Berbice and when, though eventually defeated , the structured bravery of a severely oppressed group in Guyana’s early history inspired other revolts, later more successful, elsewhere; all this  should be used to influence modern- day cultural and economic “seriousness” amongst African- descended Guyanese.

From home, community and district, plan economic development projects with diasporic assistance. I know that a sizeable segment of Afro- Guyanese regard this Ramotar Government as biased and discriminatory. I know that the banks, tax system, private sector and poor personal financial track records are frequently used against you, you say.

I still say, don’t mourn, don’t depend, organize! In large, meaningful, effective groups. With 1763 and 1823 in mind move from pride to project! A reflective, effective month to you.

On Culture, Competition, Calypso

In truth, Frankly Speaking, I tire of commenting on these issues. But some new readers might just be inspired or influenced by these few sentences. (I know however, I’ll lose a few “friends” today!)

The Republic Anniversary- related Mashramani festival is now unfolding via its various competitions. These performing arts contests throw up the usual implications – and complications.

Primarily, many cultural and musical art forms are presented for judging. Invariably, many attendees don’t – or won’t –agree with the judges’ assessments. Frankly Speaking, I don’t usually depend on judges. I decide using my own appreciation, what I know to be good. Even lasting.

This is no place to deliberate on our cultural traditions or the deterioration of some cultural presentations. But I must record my dire disappointment at Saturday Night’s Junior Calypso Competition. This is the sort of nursery for this musical art form. I cannot criticize harshly the young contestants. Rather, it is the organizers, band, arrangers and the other adults I must blame for what I now deem an extremely mediocre junior calypso show last Saturday evening.

Further I say not. Except that I’ve just heard of plans to review and re-invent the entire concept!



.1) Last week I celebrated twenty years of doing this column. Yesterday was my birth anniversary. Since I was born in 1945 you might just be able to guess at my age.

But just consider what happened in my milestone year 1945: A US army bomber crashed into New York’s Empire State Building. The First Ebony magazine was published.

The microwave oven appeared. The Second World War ended and both Mussolini and Adolf Hitler died.

The United Nations came into being. My favourite singer, among many Anne Murray was born and Ball Point pens hit the world. I was born!)

.2) Farewell to the Mighty Kaieteur. He’ll sing for his friends in “the graveyard”, I’m sure.

’Til next week!

(Comments? allanafenty@yahoo.com)

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