JUBILATING UNDER A WATCHING MOON – by Francis Quamina Farrier + 2 videos

JUBILATING UNDER A WATCHING MOON 

by Francis Quamina Farrier

Guyana 50th Anniversary Logo

Guyana 50th Anniversary Logo

Francis Quamina Farrier

Francis Quamina Farrier

If the word ‘jubilating’ is strange to you, so it was to me when I first heard it as I was on my way to the Jubilee Park on Wednesday night May 25, to enjoy the Flag Raising Ceremony of Guyana’s Golden Jubilee, May 26, 2016. I also over-heard the statement, “This is Jubilee, not stupidee.” The streets approaching the Jubilee Park were over-run with vehicles. It was grid-lock of the worst order. Drivers were impatiently honking their horns as though they were driving out Ole Higue. It was chaotic. (Please say the word the way it was popularized so long ago by one of our hero policemen; “chow-tic”).

It was so different a situation fifty years ago when I went to the then Queen Elizabeth Park – now the National Park – to witness the lowering of the Union Jack and the raising of the new National Flag of Guyana, the Golden Arrowhead. There were certainly not so many vehicles on our roads back then. Fifty years make a difference – a big difference – as it should, and I am about to relate just a few of those differences between the Flag Raising Ceremony at the Queen Elizabeth Park in Georgetown in May 1966 and that which occurred some fifty years later in May 2016.  

The first big difference as far as I can ascertain, is that while in 1966, TWO flags were involved; this Jubilee Year, it was only one really BIG-BIG Flag. Nothing which we the Older ones can try to tell the under 50s, can make them understand how emotional it was for us who had lived for five, ten, fifteen, twenty and more years under the British Union Jack felt, to see it officially come down slowly, for the very last time in British Guiana, even as our brand new and beautiful Golden Arrowhead, was also slowly rising to the top of that flag pole. For us surviving former British Subjects of this former British colony in South America, we know it is something that those born in this independent Nation, and know only the Golden Arrowhead, can really fathom.

Another difference between 1966 and 2016 is that there was no large British Presence this year as there was back in 1966. And while there was a British officer who was part of a contingent at the Queen Elizabeth Park in 1966, and who returned for this Jubilee Celebration fifty years later, as well as the British High Commissioner to Guyana present on Wednesday night, the British presence was more or less very small.

In 1966, there was a Prime Minister in the person of Mr Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham. There was a Leader of the Opposition in the person of Dr. Cheddi Bharrat Jagan. This year there was a President in the person of Brgd. David Arthur Granger, and a Prime Minister in the person of Mr Moses Nagamootoo. Present at Jubilee Park for just a period of time on Wednesday night, was the Leader of the Opposition in the person of Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo. There was a warm symbolic hug of unity between Burnham and Jagan in 1966. There was no hug of unity between Granger and Jagdeo at this Jubilee Celebration, even though Jagdeo hails from the village of Unity on the East Coast of Demerara.

During the Jubilee Flag Raising extravaganza at Jubilee Park, I was seated mid-way in one of the northern stands. It was a very good vantage point. To my left in the east, the moon was rising slowly above the horizon. There was no cloud in the sky, yet I did not see a single star! I wondered! The folks around me were in very high spirits. Men, women and children, were all enjoying the historic moment. My own thoughts raced back and forth from 1966 to the present. Two little drones, probably with video recording equipment on board. were flying around, capturing the scenes being played out below. For a moment, I even wondered whether they were the Spirits of Burnham and Jagan, out for the night to join in the Jubilee Celebrations. And why not? They too, should be ‘jubilating’ at this time. Maybe they may even repeat their heart-warming hug of fifty years ago.

As would be expected, there were the Guyanese patriotic songs which were composed during the colonial era, such as; “The Song of Guyana’s Children”, “Hymn for Guyana’s Children” and “O Beautiful Guyana”. Not there at the Flag Raising Ceremony in 1966, were those newer patriotic songs, which were composed since independence, such as, “I Love my Golden Arrowhead” and “I am a Guyanese”, which were also rendered.

As the young dancers came on and thrilled the audience with their fantastic performances, the moon continued its slow climb over the eastern horizon. There was a gentle, cooling breeze. My fellow Guyanese around and about me in the stand, were still in very high spirits; some making up-beat humour. The two drones, which I insist were the Spirits of Burnham and Jagan, continued their flights from one end of the Park to the other; sometimes at very high altitude and at other times pretty low. Then the announcement of the drums; that maybe scared away the moon which then went into hiding behind a thin cloud. The dancers did their pieces which were well received by the very large audience.

There was very much a similarity of the crowd at the Queen Elizabeth Park back in 1966, and there at the Jubilee Park in 2016. But while the 1966 crowd was celebrating the arrival of independence, and the late Terry Nelson’s hit song “We Welcome Independence”  was sung everywhere, this 2016 crowd, the bulk of then never having experienced living under colonial masters, were ‘jubilating’ at a location which just previously, was a virtual jungle.

What a difference a year makes! Some fleeting thoughts by many. This Jubilee Park, back in colonial times, was a race course; the Ascot of British Guiana. So much so, that when Croal Street was extended from Vlissengen Road eastward to Mandela Avenue, and named “Upper Croal Street”, the patriotism in me prompted me to write a letter to the City Council, recommending that the new street be officially named “HOMESTRETCH AVENUE”. To my great pleasure, my recommendation was accepted and so we have “Homestretch Avenue.”

As the mid-night hour of May 25/26, 2016 approached, looking to the east, I saw that the moon was out again; no longer hiding behind a cloud, but no doubt, intending to witness the raising of the flag; Guyana’s Golden Arrowhead in this Jubilee Year. The moon too, was ‘jubilating’. Unlike 1966, this was a much, much larger flag. Unlike 1966, this was a much, much taller flagpole. Unlike 1966 it was a much larger percentage of persons born in independent Guyana, who were there to witness the Flag Raising ceremony, in this The Cooperative Republic of Guyana.

Then it was a few minutes to mid-night. The jumbo Golden Arrowhead began its journey up that tall flag pole. All eyes were on it. Unlike 1966 it was not being hoisted by the 21 year old GDF Officer Desmond Roberts. The journey of this large flag up that very tall flag pole, was being observed by a now 71 year old retired army officer Col. Desmond Roberts. I have to say right away, that Desmond Roberts at 71, looks more like 51. We have to be proud of him. And it is my hope that he will be treated with the respect which we should have for such a son of the soil. I also wondered, where are those Guyanese who were born on May 26, 1966. Do we have a record of them.? Where are they now? Have we totally ignored them? Were any of them Jubilating at the 2016 Flag Raising Ceremony at Jubilee Park in Georgetown? To be sure, they are SPECIAL citizens and should have been recognized.

My understanding is that the original Golden Arrowhead is nowhere to be found. This jumbo Golden Arrowhead which was hoisted at Jubilee Park on Wednesday at mid-night must be preserved. “This is Jubilee, not stupidee.” Try as I might over the past four years, no one can tell me where the Ruimveldt Independence Arch is. It was dismantled for the widening of the Ruimveldt Public Road, and has disappeared off the face of the earth. Let’s get serious with our history. The World’s most valuable postage stamp, the British Guiana Magenta, which was printed at a building on Church Street in Georgetown just east of the National Library, 160 years ago this year, has been preserved by others, and is now on display at the United States Postal Museum in Washington D.C. Others preserve our history. Why shouldn’t we. “This is Jubilee, not Stupidee.”

There was a similarity of the flags of 1966 and 2016, in terms of their journey up the flag pole. In both cases, they were limp during their journey up the pole, but as soon as they got to the top there was a firm breeze which opened them, resulting in resounding applause from the crowd. As I departed the Jubilee Park, I wondered how many present were, like me, witness of the Flag Raising Ceremony in 1966, and whether any of us will be present at the Centenary Flag Raising. Folks who were one, two or three years old, and taken to the Queen Elizabeth Park back in 1966, could very well be around after many moons, in 2066, and blessed to witness THREE Special Guyana Independence Flag Raising Ceremonies – the first, the fiftieth and the Centenary. That is possible. Fact of the matter is, “This is Jubilee, NOT Stupidee.”

Golden Jubilee Music Video – Guyana 50th Independence  – video

Published on May 27, 2016

Guyana; The Land of many Waters, celebrated our 50th year of Independence with our National Flag Raising ceremony and Float Parade. Cut to the sounds of one of Guyana’s premier voices singing her patriotic rendition, ‘Rise Guyana’ we present you with our perspective of the Golden Jubilee…

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Comments

  • Daniel Mason  On 06/18/2016 at 2:43 pm

    Well described of the occasion. An affair to remember.

  • Dmitri Allicock  On 06/18/2016 at 6:46 pm

    Awesome article Francis. I had the great pleasure of meeting with you in January this year, as we were both documenting Linden with pictures. [During the Bank DIH annual Shareholders meeting]. I was touch by your sincerity and love of Guyana’s precious history. Blessings to you and family- you are indeed a dear son of Guyana.

  • ndtewarie  On 06/20/2016 at 9:00 am

    JUST MARVELOUS!

  • Pamela Alleyne Tracz  On 06/22/2016 at 10:05 am

    Unfortunately I was absent from the historic event but I am very fortunate to be able to see these amazing videos.
    This well written article and beautiful renditions of songs brought tears of joy to my eyes. CONGRATULATIONS to you all on a job well done !
    I am very proud to have been born in my Great Guyana !

    “RISE GUYANA RISE ♡ LIKE THE PHOENIX YOU SHALL RISE ♡ “

  • Geralda Baker Moffatt  On 09/25/2016 at 4:23 pm

    This was a beautiful walk down memory lane that brought nostalgia. Very fitting and struck a positive note. I also detected a serious note about preserving our history. I trust persons took note of that call for preserving our history. Well done!

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