Expressing my view!

Sharing with whoever would read my thoughts

We should not discriminate against Homosexuals

By Mike James

(Note: this article was extracted from The Catholic Standard, Jul 9, 2010, editor Colin Smith, published by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Georgetown, Guyana.)

A very interesting and often heated debate has developed in Guyana over the past two weeks on the issue of the rights of homosexuals following an impassioned critique by some members of the Inter Religious Organization
of a current film festival sponsored by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) at the Side Walk Cafe in Georgetown and responses by other members of the IRO and members of the wider Guyanese public.
The debate revives the equally contentious issues surrounding the 4 January 2001 Constitutional Amendment approved in Parliament prohibiting discrimination against persons based on their race, age, sex, marital status, religion or sexual orientation.

Following strong lobbying led by some sectors of the religious community that the law would limit the rights of religious groups to discriminate against homosexuals, the President of Guyana declined to sign the amendment into law, and subsequently approved a revised constitutional amendment without sexual orientation being listed as one of the grounds on which discrimination is prohibited in Guyana.

It is notable at the time significant religious bodies, including the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches and other civil society groups publicly registered solid and dispassionate arguments for retaining the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds sexual orientation. It is also notable that the President bowed to the pressure of very vocal and agitated groups claiming the right to vilify and discriminate against homosexuals despite the fact that he himself had been subject a few short years previously to a sustained, disgraceful, uncharitable, obscene and totally unjustified public campaign of insults, mockery and contempt surrounding supposed allegations of his own sexual orientation.

For a good understanding of a Catholic perspective on the current controversy on homosexual rights in Guyana, the publication of the following excerpts from the excellent Pastoral Letter published by Bishop
Benedict Singh on the issue may be helpful. His concerns, ignored by the President and Parliament at the time, remain as valid today as they were then.

July 13, 2010 Posted by | African-American News, Black Gay Men, Black Gay Men Health, Black Men, Black Men Health, Caribbean, Caribbean Community, community, Elderly LGBT, Guyana, Health, HIV, HIV Status, Immigrant rights, LGBT community, LGBT Immigrant rights, LGBT Rights, LGBT Seniors, Male Health, Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

W.A.R Stories: Walter Rodney – a documentary

A life and death – celebrated.

By Antoine Craigwell

On Feb 8, a cold Monday evening, more than 200 people braved the freezing winds blowing off the Hudson River to pack a room at the Brecht Forum in Manhattan’s West Village for the New York premier of the documentary, “W.A. R. Stories: Walter Anthony Rodney,” which chronicled the life, work, passion, and death on Jun 13, 1980, of the world-renowned Guyanese historian and social activist.

It was from an idea that Clairmont Mali Chung said he  had that he was encouraged to traverse the globe, crisscrossing and tracing the routes and places where Rodney lived, and interviewed more than 43 people who knew or in some way were associated with him. Chung, an attorney, who wrote, directed, and co-produced the 90-minute documentary, said that all those who were interviewed recalled Rodney’s life and more importantly, the effect he had on them and on the places where he either visited or lived, including those places where he was rendered persona non grata by governments.

L to r, Gabriehu Aregai, Abbyssinian Carto, and Clairmont M. Chung. Photo: Andrea Williams

In the film, those who were interviewed included academics, Horace Campbell, Ph.D., professor of African-American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York; Rupert Roopnaraine, Ph.D., principal of the Critchlow Labor College, Georgetown, Guyana; Clive Thomas, Ph.D., professor of Political Science, University of Alaska Southeast; Issa Shivji, Ph.D., professor of Law, University of Dar-es-Salam, Tanzania;  the late professor Haroub Othman, Ph.D., University of Dar-es-Salam, Tanzania; and the late Vice-Chancellor Emeritus Rex Nettleford, Ph.D., professor of Cultural Studies, University of the West Indies, at Mona, Jamaica. Also included among the list of those interviewed were poets, U.S. poet and playwright Amiri Baraka and Working Peoples Alliance (WPA) member Eusi Kwayana, writers, and activists including, Karen DeSouza and Andaiye, members of the WPA, the political party in Guyana to which Rodney belonged.

The documentary captured the essence of the man – in the people he met, spent time with, who listened to him speak, and shared in his vision for the rights of workers, especially those of the African Diaspora. Many spoke not only of his academic brilliance, referring to his books, which were during his life, and have since become required reading in colleges on subjects of Black history, and placed as part of the canon of Afrocentric and conscious writers such as the late Guyanese Ivan Van Sertima, and Cheikh Anta Diop, but as his widow Patricia Rodney, Ph.D., recalled, his humanness. His daughter, Asha Rodney, spoke of the tenderness and delight he had in his family – being nimble with his hands to build a doll house for his children, and his brother Hubert Rodney, who spoke of his attempts at cricket and his passion for striving to correct the wrongs done, not just to one person, but to a people.

In the film, many pointed to Rodney’s ability to navigate the line between his scholarship and his ability to dance the ska, he was able to hang out with friends, often hosting numerous people where he lived, to meet, to discuss and share thoughts on issues affecting them, and still be disciplined in his work.

Section of the audience

The crowd that gathered for the screening, though small in number, was a promise of those expected to turn out to see the documentary at other occasions. The film revealed that whenever Rodney spoke at a meeting and wherever he went, from countries as far flung as Tanzania to Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo; from Zimbabwe to Jamaica; from Montreal, Canada to Atlanta, GA in the United States; and to the intersection of Louisa Row and D’Urban streets in Georgetown, Guyana; people gathered to hear him speak of realism, practicality, pragmatism, and to hear him excoriate those who condoned and perpetuated wrong-doing. Undoubtedly, Rodney’s charisma and his grasp of the issues combined with his oratory, held many captive, and not only unnerved those in power, but also earned him their opprobrium and ultimately, his demise.

The documentary, with a few technical glitches, drew on archival material including footage from the Victor Jara Collective “Terror of the Times” and Menelik Shabazz “Time and Judgment,” and news clips from the Walter Rodney Archives, and from Guyanese and Caribbean publications, such as the Guyana Chronicle, The Catholic Standard, The Mirror, Dayclean, The Gleaner of Jamaica, Caribbean Contact, and the Trinidad Guardian. The music, which provided another sense of context was taken from the work of artists including Ras Camo, Rubix and Talib Kweli “Another Millionaire Dies Everyday,” Carl Dawkins “Dr. Rodney,” Lui Lepke “Dem kill Walter Rodney,” and the strains of Frederick Chopin, all fused together to produce a piece of work that truly captured who Rodney was, his impact on the people he met, and the patina of a legend that had begun to form about him in life, and which assumed greater significance for the party and the people with his death.

At right, Abbyssinian speaking with members of the audience. Photo: Amali Chung

Following the screening, Chung, Abbyssinian Carto and Gabriehu Aregai, author of “Dangerous Times: The Assassination of Dr. Walter Rodney,” hosted a panel discussion and was assisted from the audience by Nigel Westmaas, Ph.D., assistant professor of Africana Studies, Hamilton College. Westmaas, who was an advisor for the documentary, as he answered questions from the audience, placed Rodney in the context of his time. He pointed out that despite stories to the contrary, Guyana’s history is replete with several successful rebellions, occurring during slavery by slaves as in 1763 Slave Revolt in Berbice, and after slavery, in the 20th century. In response to a question from the audience, Chung said that while he was aware of the presence of the idea for and about Rodney in his consciousness for sometime, he decided in 2006 to bring it to reality, and completed filming in 2008. Carto and Aregai, who appeared in the documentary, each recollected memories of Rodney’s life and the dastardly circumstances of his death. Speaking separately, Carto and Aregai said that combined with the knowledge that some of the principal people who were instrumental in formulating a decision to have Rodney removed, and who are still alive and playing active roles in the political life of Guyana, fills them with unspeakable anger. Carto said that he is so angry with the former prime minister, Hamilton Green, now mayor of Georgetown, that he cannot bring himself to forgive him for the part he is alleged to have played in ordering Rodney’s assassination.

During the film and even after, in the question and answer session, frequent mention was made of Rodney’s authorship, especially “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,” “A history of the Upper Guinea Coast, 1545 – 1800,” and “Groundings with my brothers.”

Rose October-Edun, a member of the Guyana Cultural Association, commented that as a young woman in Guyana, she was as aware, as were those of her generation, that while many Guyanese were ignorant or unfamiliar with Rodney’s international stature and proficiency, there were people in Guyana, who through the filter of the political domination of the time were only slightly familiar with his work and activities; he was ever more popular abroad than he was at home. She admitted that she was a victim of the deliberate or unconscious channeling by the adults in her life who denied Rodney’s existence and stature, a charge she felt was true for many of her peers and those of subsequent generations; that any information of and about Rodney was purged from the news and from popular discourse. The documentary, she declared, has inspired her to make a project of learning as much as she could about a true revolutionary. Many in the audience called for the educational system in Guyana to embrace and promote Rodney’s books, so that this and future generations could be informed more accurately about their history.

At left, Clairmont Chung after the panel discussion

February 10, 2010 Posted by | African-American News, Black Men, Caribbean, community, Guyana, Jamaica, Politics, Tanzania, Walter Rodney | , , , | Leave a comment

Jonestown 30years later – what about Guyanese people?

Last evening, at 9pm EST, CNN showed a documentary that was hosted and presented by Soledad O’Brien, who did Black in America, on the 30th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre. Many of us would recall the effect and impact of this event on the Guyanese national consciousness.
Prior to Jonestown, Guyana’s impact on the world’s stage was restricted to vague references such as the Dryfus Affair, the 1963-64 race riots, and a few notable personages, such as Sir Shridat Ramphal, who was Secretary General of the Commonwealth and one of Guyana’s best scholars and representatives, and the semi-autobiographical novel of E.R. Braithwaite’s To Sir With Love.
Guyana, as we who lived through the Prime Minister-ship, Presidential turned dictatorship of L. Forbes S. Burnham era know only too well, was a country by northern hemispherical classification standards a third world underdeveloped country, that was provincial and rural, but to its Caribbean counterparts, because of the fertile land, was considered the bread basket, rated one of the highest in literacy and a steady ship of state. It was anything but bucolic. Rather Guyana was a country caught up and living in a post-colonial ideological confusion: couldn’t quite decide how to define its republic self whether as socialist or just simply anti-American and by extension to the British, anti-imperialist.
We who have lived through the evolutions of Guyana’s history, despite our present allegiances, are still proud of our heritage – our parents, close friends, the unique amalgams of African, Indian, and Amerindian foods – holding fast to gastronomic maxims such as a person who ate labba and drank creek water was bound to return, our particular lilting sing-song Creolese speech, our conversations that sound like full-scale disagreements as each of us tries to out speak the other, to make our point, and our intelligence, general knowledge and education, which placed many of us at odds against those with whom we work or attend schools; made us undeniably and identifiably Guyanese. It is a history and heritage we share to the extent that we still shudder at the memory of the 1963-64 race riots, telling ourselves that we would not ever and warning our children, against a repeat; where we cringe at the shame the recent allegations of two of our fellow Guyanese accused of plotting to blow up the John F Kennedy Airport in New York; and we shake our heads in horror at “Fineman’s” rampage through the country. We who live afar but still retain contact with our family, friends, or business associates in Guyana shake our heads uncomprehendingly at the economic state of affairs, asking ourselves: how could this be, why are prices so high, how are people making it and surviving, isn’t there a government committed to serving the people instead of their own interests, how is it that there is such a bloom and narcotic pervasiveness, which has seemed to become and support a sub-economy? These are some of the questions we ask each other and ourselves.
But have we asked what was behind the deal that Burnham made with the “Reverend” Jim Jones to lease 3,800 acres of virgin land, a turn off from the railroad that plied between Port Kaituma and Arakaka in the Kaituma region, for a commune. As rumors go, which undeniably contains a modicum of truth, Burnham received coveted U.S. dollars for allowing Jim Jones into Guyana. What really was the arrangement that not only gave Jones land in the Northwest region, but a house and land in Prashad Nagar, at the time an affluent section of northeastern Campbelville? Was there an enquiry into why did Guyana have the shame and stain of 918 deaths on its national pride? How was Guyana perceived then and how is it seen now? Guyana’s attraction to Jones was, as Burham was reported to have said after the tragedy, “he wanted to use cooperatives as the basis for the establishment of socialism, and maybe his idea of setting up a commune meshed with that,” and that coming to Guyana “would afford black members of the Temple a peaceful place to live.”
Every year, there has been some mention of Jonestown, but this year marks 30 years since the murder-suicide happened. We who live in the U.S. have witnessed the holding on to and dredging up of the memories of the past: Pearl Harbor, Jonestown, and September 11; incidentally, only those which were caused by others, and which rekindle memories and make healing and forgetting that much harder. How do we as Guyanese feel about this re-hashing of an event we would rather forget? Isn’t healing supposed to involve forgetting and allowing the past to remain in the past? While many of us know that Guyanese, in the main, had no active part in this blot on our country’s pride, are we somehow culpable by our passivity?
I could feel the bile rise in me when I listen to O’Brien recount, in a behind the scenes interview of the making of the documentary, the experience of Traci Parks, a survivor of Jonestown, who was 12 years old at the time and who returned to the area for the documentary. Parks, according to O’Brien said that as it was then, so it is now, she is still trying to wash off the oppressive heat, the sweat and the smell of Guyana from her skin. Parks speaks of the darkness and fear she experienced as she fled for her life in the jungle bordering the airstrip. Earlier this week, MSNBC carried a two-hour long presentation of Jim Jones and the Jonestown massacre.
While Guyana has come a long way since the events of Nov 18, 1978 on that turn off from the stretch of railroad between Port Kaituma and Arakaka, questions still linger. Just as in the U.S. there were investigations into what happened and who caused September 11, was there ever an enquiry by Guyanese into all that was Jonestown?

Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonestown

Excerpt from Slavery of Faith by Leslie Wagner-Wilson: http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/wayoflife/11/12/jonestown.wilson.excerpt/index.html?eref=rss_latest

Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People

Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor’s Story of Life and Death in the People’s Temple

Dear People: Remembering Jonestown

Jonestown – The Life & Death of Peoples Temple

November 14, 2008 Posted by | African-American News, Blogroll, Jonestown, Politics, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment