“Di-as-pora”—— Greek for “scattering of seeds?” Referring to “the movement of any population sharing common identity.” So that’s how we came by the term Diaspora?
Anyhow, this is the briefest of commentaries on the global, the international social phenomenon of migration. Well, actually, just the contemporary Guyana Experience which has resulted in that “dispersal,” that scattering and eventual settling of Guyanese citizens outside of the confines of the borders of the Republic named Guyana.
During a very recent vacation in the USA which took me to New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C. and Florida, I encountered, as usual, many of my “long lost” countrymen and women- and others I keep in touch with- all one time immigrants now turned citizens of the States reaching out for the American Dream, or any fragment of it. (Is that sometimes “Impossible Dream” now more possible, probable in this Obama era?)
The warmth of the greetings, the reunion and nostalgia of meeting overseas Guyanese in their adopted homelands always envelops me with ambivalence. I know the various reasons they left, I applaud their new status, comfort and achievement. But I rue and regret the reality that even half of the hundreds of thousands of them are not back home, living with me in that Republic of A Big Beautiful, But Blighted Land. What a difference that would have been!? Could we ever know?
Origins, movement, weather and reasons
As always from my layman’s, uncertified perspective, I share with you my own grasp of the basics of the subject, migration.
Human life (HomoSapiens), as we know it, originated on the continent of Africa. There seems to be anthropological agreement on that. Subsequently, three main groups- Africoid, Mongoloid and Caucasoid metamorphosed into African, Asian/Native Indian and European ethnicities.
Man and woman then roamed the planet Earth. Over centuries, the various environments and the weather in the four corners of the Earth fashioned the physical appearances, the eating habits, apparel and attitudes of the groups and subgroups. In time, mixtures and admixtures produced stature, size, texture, colour – and perhaps cultures(s).
Man’s subsequent inhumanity to man also played a part in the dispersal of the world’s population. Conquests, slavery, and its slave trade, colonialism, and its need for “producers” ensured the distribution of peoples, when those peoples were not voluntarily moving around for themselves. It is against that most basic of backgrounds that I relate and lament the movement of Guyanese.
From birthplace to new “homes”
Some folks have various definitions for “home” It’s “where one lives,” “where one was born, or spends most of his or her non-working time”; “home is where the heart is” others declare, (never mind wherever the physical is) Huh?
The actual homeland or birthplace doesn’t matter to some, for they are citizens of the world. At “home”, wherever they serve. “Naturalised” by legal documents- or not.
My only home – physical, cultural, spiritual and birthplace- will always be that portion of the planet named Guyana. I detest what politicians have done to it, but they could never make me deny or resent the land. Though I regret what it has evolved into generally.
Therefore, I know why persons born in Guyana left. From the forties to the sixties the yearning for change, swifter opportunities and a subtle, sub-conscious colonial “mentality” motivated migration. From the seventies to the current era, necessity, social, economic and political imperative, fear were all “push” factors that created the seemingly continuous brain-drain as Guyanese voted with their feet. Rich developed nations’ economic and fiscal organisation of the world also influence where the planets’ poor gravitate to. By any means necessary.
Hence our Guyanese Diaspora. All of our race groups are found in our continental neighbouring States, the Caribbean, the UK, USA and Canada. Don’t doubt that you might find Guyanese in, Afghanistan, Argentina, Dubai or Somalia!
We plant Suriname’s rice fields; we run Caribbean schools and British and American hospitals and transportation systems. We care the elderly in Canada and Europe and we serve the judiciaries, industries, and media in various parts of the world. Those countries’ gain is Guyana’s loss. But we know why, do we not?
We gave the world
A mere sampling of our human exports by name is impressive. Rudolph Dunbar, in the fifties made music in England and Europe, as does Pianist Ray Luck in France. In Medicine, Dr Anamanthadoo and the Denbow Doctors are legendary in the Caribbean and in the US. Sir Shridath Ramphal and Dr Mohammed Shahabudeen headed the Commonwealth and sat on the World Court.
A Guyanese was an early Canadian Governor and the United Nations benefited from the contributions of the Wills, Sinclairs, Jacksons and Insanallys to mention just a few. Martin Carter, Jan Carew, Edgar Mittelholzer and E R Braithwaite are Men of Letters the world read. In popular entertainment sport, Guyana has etched its reputation through scores of accomplished personalities. Just muse on names such as Eddy Grant, The Trade Winds, Christiani, Kanhai, Gibbs, Lloyd and Chanderpaul. Guyana even nurtured the Mighty Sparrow.
As you add your own other numerous names, I’ll just mention three other “younger” ones with Guyanese roots- Leona Lewis, Rihanna (Fenty) and Kendu Isaacs.
I close, for now, by inviting Stabroek News to come up with twenty ways Guyanese residents abroad can still contribute to their spiritual home.
*1) Who owns the old Globe Cinema (compound) in our capital? Visualise the positive things that could be conducted on that piece of real estate.
*2) Who owns St Phillips Green in the capital – now a robber/rapist haven?
*3) Almost every year the US State Department reports describe Guyana’s judiciary as “inefficient”. What do the Legal Affairs Minister and Chief Justice think about that?
*4) What do I think of the CLICO issues? Others are more competent. I wonder about my fire Insurance policies though…
*5) I’m woefully computer-semi-literate so I know little of the Blogs, but whilst in Florida a few weeks ago I was told that one of them even suggested naughtily things about me!
At my age and discretion however you don’t follow up the low-life. Or the sick-minded.
‘Til Next Week!