The following is a letter to the Editor by Mr. Vincent Alexander, Chairman of the International Decade for People of African Descent-Guyana, outlining that there are issues affecting Afro-Guyanese, which are peculiar to them and require the state`s attention and, which gave credence to the relevance of the United Nations` declared decade for People of African Descent to the Afro-Guyanese.
The State of Afro-Guyanese within the context of the UN Decade of People of African Descent
Two dailies recently carried my letter, which sought to establish the relevance of the United Nations` declared decade for People of African Descent to the Afro-Guyanese. There were varying responses to the missive. Among the respondents were many who failed to address the content of the missive. Instead, they sought to malign the author by claiming that I lack credibility.
Those responses reek of intellectual laziness or the deficiency to read, comprehend and analyze. Since when the content of an article is judged by the attributes of the author, rather than the facts, logics of the argument, and conclusions? By no means am I conceding that their contention about credibility is worthy of attention. I am highlighting their consistent failure, or inability to address issues, intellectually.
One of the respondents, Mike Singh, sought to address the problematic and in so doing sought to juxtapose the African Guyanese condition to that of the Indo-Guyanese. He concluded by posing the question: “Why special treatment for Afro-Guyanese.”
My letter was not intended to juxtapose the two ethnic groups. I particularised the state of Afro-Guyanese from the universal perspective, as articulated by the United Nations. A perspective which led the United Nations to conclude that People of African Descent need attention, hence the declaration of the decade.
Since I was speaking from, and about, the Afro-Guyanese perspective, I could not have been expected to speak to the issue of the lived experiences of Indo-Guyanese, albeit a pertinent issue. Mike created and destroyed a straw house and in doing so falsely sought to portray what I should have done. Sorry Mike, I did set out to go there. That was not the purpose of my letter.
It is however important, by way of an example, to reinforce the point that there are issues affecting Afro-Guyanese, which are peculiar to them and require the state`s attention since they were occasioned by policies, actions and facilitation of the state, and require state intervention, if they are to be fixed.
The manner in which lands acquired by Afro-Guyanese, by way of their hard work, thriftiness and post emancipation purchase, have been transferred into the hands of the state, and can be, or have been further transferred into the hands of others without reference to the rightful inheritors; or compensation for the rightful owners/ inheritors is a peculiar circumstance of the Afro-Guyanese.
It has nothing to do with the land tenure status of the other ethnic groups, where they justly acquired lands. It is but an example of an issue affecting Afro-Guyanese, which needs attention. It flies in the face of Recognition, Justice and Development of a people. It epitomizes what the decade is intended to address.
May I close by stating that other ethnic groups may also have their issues and reserve the right to champion them. However, the fact is that the United Nations has declared a decade for the People of African Descent, similar to what was previously done for the indigenous peoples. As a leader of an organisation which was established to pursue the goals of the decade, I am obligated to identify and champion the cause of the People of African Descent.