BY NATHAN DUKE
Guyana celebrates its 51st birthday as an independent nation this year.
On May 26, 1966, the Union Jack was lowered and replaced by the Golden Arrowhead after the Caribbean nation achieved independence from Great Britain. Guyana went on to become a republic on Feb. 23, 1970 and remained a member of the Commonwealth.
Located on the northern coast of South America between Venezuela and Suriname, Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America and is often referred to as the “Land of Six Peoples,” due to its ethnic make-up including African, Chinese, English, Indian Indigenous and Portuguese people.
In New York City, Guyanese are professors, principals of schools, commanding officers in the city’s Police Department and scientists. And a number of persons of Guyanese descent have left their marks on the United States.
Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman to be elected to Congress as well as the first African American to run for a major party’s nomination for president of the United States during her 1972 bid. Her father was born in British Guyana.
Other highly recognized people of Guyanese descent include singers Rihanna (her mother was Guyanese), Leona Lewis (her father was Guyanese) and 1980s pop star Eddy Grant as well as actor Sean Patrick Thomas, historian Ivan van Sertima, Olympic swimmer Maritza Correia, baseball player Mark Teixeira and NBA player Darren Collison.
Sir James Douglas, who was influential in Canada as a fur trader and later a colonial governor, and William John Locke, a novelist and playwright, were also born in Guyana.
To celebrate Guyana’s independence, the Queens Tribune has profiled four local prominent persons of Guyanese descent. Richard David is a community activist who is running for the City Council’s District 28 seat, while Annetta Seecharran is the executive director of Jackson Heights’ Chhaya Community Development Corporation.
David Narine is the owner of Dave’s Guyana Fish Market in Jamaica and the Caribbean Market in Takoma Park, Maryland and Grace Aneiza Ali is a professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and the founder and editorial director of the award winning NOTE magazine, which features global artists who use their mediums as catalysts for activism and social change.
As part of this year’s Guyanese independence celebration, there will be a flag-raising ceremony at City Hall on May 26, interfaith services in Brooklyn, a cricket competition in Queens and the annual Guyanese-American Independence Parade on June 11 in Brooklyn.