Thoughts of a Guyanese Immigrant Witnessing Guyana’s 2020 Elections

Some thoughts.

My heart is in my throat as the world watches the chaos going on in Guyana right now. Everyone who knows me knows how much I love my country, knows that I have never given up on it, knows that I go back every single year as often as I can because it is HOME and always will be. Y’all know that right? Cut me heart open and me guh bleed dem five color wah deh pon di flag 🇬🇾 It’s no secret that I am a proud daughter of Guyana.

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But what you may not know about me is why my family and I left Guyana in the first place nearly 22 years ago. It was because of this very same thing that is happening now. The political corruption. The racial animosity and violence between the Indian and Black communities. The targeting of innocent people and threats of death being thrown around to terrify them. All this was going on when I was a little girl living back home.

I spent my first 8 formative years there and I can recall being evacuated from my school in Georgetown multiple times when I was merely 6-7 years old because of bomb threats that frequently occurred during elections. Every day my parents sent me to school not knowing for sure whether I would return or if I’d be blown up one day. This was my norm during my childhood – the bomb scares were so routine that it didn’t even register to my young self that something was amiss, because to me this was a normal day and I did not know life could be any other way than what I was living through. It eventually got to the point where my father felt he could no longer send me to school for fear that I would end up dead one day. So he made the difficult decision to flee our homeland and bring me, my little sister and my mother who was 6 months pregnant with my youngest sister to New York, leaving behind everything and everyone we knew and loved. This wasn’t a “let we move to Merica fuh opportunity and money” kind of migration. This was truly a choice between a safer life or potential death. None of us wanted to leave, but our country was not making it safe enough to stay. My father thought of me and the danger I was in at school where I should have been safe and happy, and decided to flee our whole damn country. This has stayed with me my whole life. I have never known safety, to this day I don’t know what it is like to feel safe. So when I think of my family’s painful migration, I see that, though not identified as such, we are political refugees in a sense, a family from the third world who fled the corruption of a government that failed to serve its people and only led to harm.

I share this to note that this is recent history. Not stuff in textbooks that are done and over with. This history is alive and well. It has been going on since Guyana gained independence in the 60s, it was going on when I was growing up, and it’s going on now. Generation after generation, the vicious cycle continues. And pains me now to see that this is where we are, that my country is refusing to learn from its mistakes and seems to be making no effort to do so. That we have let anti-Black and anti-Indian sentiment fester for so long and are hardly moving towards healing on both ends. To witness this by proxy is conflicting because while I am not there in person, the consequences are very much felt. I have many loved ones who remain back in Guyana so my ties to home have never been cut. My existence is very much split between here and there. So of course I am anxious about what is going on, knowing that my family faces more bigotry and injustice after lifetimes of experiencing it already. And I am horrified that in the very village my family lives in, the one I visit every year which is my truest home in all the earth, there are violent threats being made to the people who live there. A village that has already experienced a massacre and has healed gracefully from it. And I am deeply saddened that the same kind of things are happening to others elsewhere around the country.

Needless to say, I have always seen Guyana’s potential for greatness. That’s why I go back so often, why I will never turn my back on her. But when I see the current state of affairs… it hurts to watch injustice thrive. Why are my people hurting each other like this? Why can we not get it right for once? What is stopping us from reaching our potential? Will we ever have the future we envision for our descendants? Guyanese of all backgrounds are people who have endured so much pain and trauma at the hands of our oppressors, from enslavement to indenture and all the ways colonization has inflicted damage and left us for dead. And yet we live on because we at our core are resilient. It is time we stop oppressing each other. I will allow myself a glimmer of hope that we will get there.

A final note, I am 7 weeks away from completing my master’s degree in social work at Columbia. I am doing everything I can to be someone who fights for social and racial justice for all people. And anyone that has met me will have heard me talk about my hopes, wishes and dreams to return to Guyana to do work and create change there in the hopes of making a difference in my country because I truly believe that there is where my purpose and my life’s work lies. And I know in my heart that although I had to leave all those years ago, I am always being called home to help my people. For 22 years I have heard that call “Come home, your people need you, your journey with them is not over” and it will keep calling until I answer. I don’t want the country I show my children to be like the one I left or the one that exists now. I want so much for us to achieve the betterment we always talk about. I do not know what the future holds but if someday I can play a part in helping Guyana and her people towards a brighter, more equitable and peaceful future, I will know that I have done what I was meant to. For my people, for Guyana♥️

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