Thursday 20-10-2016 - 15:48
#ReclaimBlackStories is NUS Scotland Black Students' campaign to share the reality of Black history and what it's like to live in Scotland at the moment - as told by Black students.
I was born in a small country on the northern end of South America, Guyana. It is relatively unknown to most people and I am happy about that. Guyana is mostly unspoilt with vast rainforest and undeveloped grasslands and a very small population, for this I am also very happy.
As the only English speaking country on the continent, it remains relatively external to the “Latin-America” most people envision, and because of it’s physical separation from it’s “colonial sisters” in the Caribbean it is also largely excluded from thoughts of the Caribbean, for this too, I am happy.
I think of Guyana as a haven of sorts, a small nation, big enough for its people and with vast potential. For many years after colonialism, this, my small nation has and in part continues to be plagued politically. In the period of de-colonialisation, the British and American governments, threatened by what they saw as an impending communist government in Guyana, intervened to prevent a coalition government from ascending to power in a post-colonial Guyana. Instead they, the British insisted that independence would only be granted only if the country retained a capitalist economy, and they implanted one member of the coalition, Linden Forbs Burnham, an Afro-Guyanese, educated in Britain as leader.
This intervention changed the entire course of Guyanese history. It racialised politics between the two largest ethnic groups, Afro –Guyanese and Indo Guyanese; the Indo-Guyanese leader felt betrayed by Burhman, and so called upon his ethnic group to “Vote for your own”. This lead to decades of political conflict and corruption. Starting with Burnham, though he increased access to education and healthcare for many people, and in his early years provided much of the civic services needed for the population. But later when the national economy declined due to the fall in international prices for it’s main export, he was forced to turn to the IMF. The structural adjustment programs set out, destroyed the welfare systems, thousands of Guyanese suffered as a result. To hold on to power Burnham passed a series of legislations, making him president for life. Upon his death, and afterwards the two main political parties in Guyana continued to hold power only to uplift their own ethnic groups whilst oppressing the others.
A few years ago, Guyana elected it’s first coalition government, made up of several parties supported by mixed ethnic demography. The Country has seen a shift in it’s political arena. Politicians are being held accountable for their actions past and present, education and welfare are back on the big agenda, there has been widespread investment in infrastructure and cleaning up the major cities and towns which has long been neglected. For this I am happy.
To me Guyana is a slice of heaven, a place where people of all ethnicities come together to celebrate and love each other, “land of many waters” and of “seven people” living in harmony – this was my childhood idea of Guyana and it neglected the political realities that used to me. Now I feel that the progress being made has the potential to create the Guyana I imagined and loved, the one I believed in as a child, this time the political reality will reflect my imagination. For this I am happy.