My training as a journalist as well as my experience over the years have led me to expect that all noteworthy occasions attended by the President of a country would be treated as a ‘news story’, if only to inform the populace about the agenda of the nation’s governance. It was therefore passing strange that an event such as The 5th Annual ‘State of the African-Guyanese Forum’ organized by The Cuffy250 Committee held on August 20, 2017 (at which President David Granger delivered the keynote speech) was treated with such tardy coverage, especially by the visual media, specifically Prime News and NCN.
Never has there been an event attracting so many members of the African Guyanese community in conference; the capacity crowd in the Critchlow Labour College auditorium two Sundays ago numbered in excess of 500 persons; activists from organisations representing the community’s issues – scholars, spiritual leaders – all there to discuss the contemporary state of the African-Guyanese community and to plan broad developmental strategies for our future.
This year’s most significant theme was ‘Repositioning African-Guyanese for Recognition, Justice and Sustainable Development’ and – another critical aspect – this forum was organized in collaboration with the International Decade of the People of African Descent Assembly-Guyana (IDPADA-G), a coalition of African-Guyanese organizations whose members have worked diligently on an Action Plan for African Guyanese communities.
President Granger had delivered this charge in his 2016 keynote address at a similar forum to honour the UN Decade, a charge to the leadership to initiate a plan of action for the community. The highlight of this year’s Forum was the unveiling of that African-Guyanese Action Plan which lays out a strategy and agenda for the community’s empowerment for the rest of ‘the decade and beyond.
From my perspective, this should have been given front page banner headline coverage in the print and digital media as well – President Granger Offers APNU+AFC Government’s Support To African Guyanese. And in the body of this news story the Guyanese public should have been informed that this significant occurrence is the result of our community’s thrust to be clearly identified in the nation’s cultural mosaic currently being defined, with the government of the day acknowledging that the success of its ‘social cohesion’ development strategy requires some unequivocal affirmative action incentives.
Yet, the day after this momentous gathering (in the next Guyanese news cycle Monday night August 21 2017) nary a mention of it; not a word about the President receiving that Action Plan from the African Guyanese community; not a syllable of President Granger’s thoughts on that occasion appeared anywhere on the (credible) TV news. On Monday night (and Tuesday night too) Prime News regaled us with information related to the recent National Toshaos Conference; Guyana’s President was pictured in a sod-turning ceremony while pledging government support for Amerindian concerns; nor could NCN be bothered (that night NCN News time was mainly cricket time). I asked a friend if she’d seen anything about State of the African-Guyanese Forum on Channel 67’s nightly news, and she said no; I sincerely hope she was mistaken.
This sharply reminds me of an incident a long time ago in Germany when Julian Mayfield posed a direct question to a German Professor who had invited us to spend a weekend with him –
“Were you ever a Nazi?”
The question caught the man off-guard; it startled me also. I held my breath and watched him turn beet red, then evasive. Julian Mayfield said: “Damn man, I’m not your God or your conscience, I just need to get to another question that’s bothering me; just answer the damned question, man.”
“Of course I was, Julian; everyone around me was a Nazi; what would you have done?”
“That’s what I thought, but tell me this, couldn’t the Jews see it coming? Wasn’t the writing on the wall?”
“Of course they knew what was happening, but they were talking about it in whispers,” was the former Nazi’s answer; a response that lodged in my mind and thereafter influenced my thinking as it does today in this historic moment – like a metaphor, an omen.
What does it all mean?
From my point of view this means there’s a deliberate attempt to sublimate African Guyanese; it is insidious and t’will grow worse. We need to take a pause now, at this juncture, to take note. Stop talking about it in whispers. It means that we in the African Guyanese community must begin to consciously worry that the seeds of our efforts at upward mobility will not be allowed
To be broadcast, take root and hopefully, spring to life in a unified communal vision of our future.
My training and experience both inform me that this clearly should be viewed as a suppression of news ‒ enough said.