A reflective Emancipation weekend to all. The point has been pounded recently: that the physical, legal freeing of the BG Colony’s slaves necessitated the arrival of all the other immigrant–labourers here. Hence the act of full-freedom Emancipation has impacted upon all who now comprise the nation of Guyana.
But I’ve decided not to go on this year with my annual lament about the status and condition of African Guyanese and the reasons and causes.
Such anniversaries swiftly take on a political characteristic of triumphalism and exclusion these days. I know that wronged people, themselves excluded from equitable distribution of the country’s resources, must pay heed to the political dimension and causes of discrimination. So this concerned citizen will leave it to the other numerous speakers and analysts at the numerous symposia, round-tables and other conferences planned for this August’s Meditations and, hopefully, action-oriented programmes of upliftment.
But please, allow me two points, one serious, the other impishly trivial.
I say to members of the working-class Afro-Guyanese Community: look around your town, village, landing or grant. See who owns what. How did that come about? Identify your leaders and plan survival-and-prosperity programmes. With government’s obligatory help – and without, but with your own resources generated here and overseas.
Secondly, why do I like to remind Afro-Guyanese that not all of them are the descendants of slaves!?
School-and life- in August
(Somewhere I once read that this eighth month was named for Julius Caesar’s adopted son Augustus whose Roman reign marked a Roman Peace lasting for two centuries. Emperors then studied the weather and astrologers’ findings to name months.)
Guyanese over the ages of fifty or sixty would be familiar with the old-time expression/question: “You been to school in August!(?)” This was a not-so-subtle dig and “tantalise” at someone not considered too “bright” or quick. The suggestion was that the person being addressed never had enough formal schooling or (jokingly) “attended” school during the month of August. When all schools used to be closed for the long holidays, after promotional exams.
Poor person. That meant that they really never had the benefit of a full education, as much as those making the tantalise.
How times have changed! These days schools and lessons are quite open and enjoying significant attendance. The Lessons Industry enjoy thriving businesses as Guyanese parents thrust their youth into the world of acquiring “qualifications”, if not true education. So thousands are “going to school in August” nowadays. But let me hark back to the long school-holidays of my childhood – most briefly.
Events, places, games …
First let me pay tribute to the Masters of Guyanese Nostalgia – both past and present Godfrey Chin, Wordsworth McAndrew, Charlie DeFlorimonte, Art Broomes, Frank Pilgrim, Peter Kempadoo, Marc Matthews, Terry Holder, Vic Insanally, Vibart Cambridge, Bernard Haydorn, Hector Stoute, Maggie Lawrence, Desiree Edghill, Dave Martins – an incomplete list I know. But if we could have arranged for all of them to sit in one place and reminisce, the world would get a great flash-back picture of Guyana of the forties to the seventies.
And especially for the hundreds of thousands of Guyanese, born here but now, living overseas, someone came up with a “series” a few years ago themed “you know you are Guyanese when…”
Well for a poor, barefoot, working-class Guyanese school boy in the fifties in the wards of Georgetown, the long July-August school holidays could be bitter-sweet-mostly “sweet”. What to do with eight or so weeks from school? We would hear of Sunday School treats and Big-People Excursions out of town. Even if we could not participate. There used to be horse-race meetings only in Georgetown, at D’urban Park. The adults planned numerous Barn Dances, Bottle Sports and “Picnics” during August.
Georgetown children welcomed their Country-Boo-Boo cousins from Berbice, Essequibo, East Coast, etc. Those encounters were funny, embarrassing and joyous. We town boys played in the 40-foot trenches, behind and in the Big Gardens, Canals, Seawalls and foreshores.
Space and time will never allow me to name most of the games, foods, toys and characters of that past. But they are available.
A quick mini-sampling: Games: Rake, Saul Pass, Jumbie-lefe-pipe, Cush, Chink. Toys: Buck top, paper boats and wind mills, papaw stem blowing soap-water bubbles, slingshot, wood guns. Cakes/sweets: square-cake, whiteeye, square-bun, jackass collar, bull stones, real tennis rolls, sugarcake, peppermint, nevva-done, butterstick. Nicknames/characters: Walker-de-nigga, Putagee-bumba, Spongedown, Gallon, Blue beef, Cato, Platoo, Nixie, etc.
I would urge those over sixty to tell, record, write down their memories of August Past. Those recorded recollections would truly contribute to the Guyanese identity. In this impersonal age of electronic life styles.
I suppose it’s a Third World/Poor Nations thing. From Turkey’s Refugee Camps, the Congo, Bangladesh and Haiti. Health care struggles. Medical facilities cannot keep up!
Luckily, we in Guyana are spared epidemics. But the lot of the working-class sick is still most challenging. I wonder what many of the Rural/Regional “Hospitals” are capable of. Patients on Death’s Door are referred to Georgetown. Even Linden, New Amsterdam, Diamond, Skeldon all have to rush serious patients to Georgetown. Over the long years why couldn’t these facilities be upgraded with staff, equipment, drugs?
Doctors new, have just arrived. But to work under what conditions. Specialty hospitals are welcome but upgrade all others!
I smirked when reading the report of a Parliamentary Committee which visited the much-touted Diamond (EBD) Hospital. It’s great, except that: more beds are needed for maternity-patients; too long a period for evaluating and serving its medical equipment; security is a major concern; there is no permanent ambulance, expired drugs pile up swiftly; additional clerical personnel are needed urgently.
And that’s one of our better hospitals!
Just don’t get sick in Pakera!
*1) Whatever happened to the “Cricket Constitution” issue in Parliament? Look how the Cabinet enjoys GCB cricket this weekend. (Illegal GCB!)
*2) See how the Georgetown “Marriott” arises – being built by Chinese workers, by night and by day.
*3) Guyenterprise launches A Guyana Annual today!
*4) Allan Fenty’s Book of Proverbs is available once again…
‘Til next week