Eusi Kwayana (94)… is a priceless gift to Guyana, the Caribbean and humanity – By David Hinds

Eusi Kwayana – 2014

OPINION: Demerara Waves – April 6, 2019  – By David Hinds

This past week, one of the architects of our relatively young nation, Eusi Kwayana, celebrated his 94th birthday. Kwayana, by any measure, is a rare human being—a priceless gift to humanity. I use this occasion to remind Guyana that we have given this remarkable gift to ourselves and the world.

As a Caribbean civilization, we are not known for powerful armies, rich economies and high skyscrapers, but our contribution to world civilization has been mostly in the form of what another Caribbean treasure, Rex Nettleford, calls the creative intellect and creative imagination. It says something beyond the ordinary that these former colonial outposts could in the fields of art, sports, political economy and academia produce men and women of the highest caliber who sit and stand among the best of what humanity has produced.   

Because of our smallness and newness as independent nations and our penchant for political implosions, we have not developed the habit of recognizing our own inherent genius. We see it in others, and we celebrate it. We celebrate the leaders of our respective political tribes and denigrate those of the competing ones. And it is in that narrow exercise of belonging that we stifle and kill the genius of our collective being. But at some point, we must liberate ourselves from that curse.

Kwayana is not God—he is a human being who has made errors of judgement in the area of life that he chose to serve his country, region and world. But I can say without hesitation that if there is a public person in Guyana who comes closest to the embodiment of political morality, it is the “Sage of Buxton.” In my long four decades and more association with him and in my study of his much longer political activism, I can think of no political decision of his that was driven by personal consideration or partisan expediency. That for me is the definition of political morality. It is no accident that Kwayana is the only major political leader in modern Guyana to have publicly admitted political errors.

Kwayana is an icon in his village, his country, his region and the world at large. He is a giant in an era and a region and country which have produced giants. He has dedicated his entire life to the public service of his fellow human beings. He has in the process taken care of Guyana and Guyana must now take care of him. And one of the ways in which we do that is to locate him at the center of that which is most profoundly beautiful about our culture. Those of us who are familiar with his humility know that he would not be too excited about him being elevated to hero-status. But even heroes must be over-ruled at times. So, in saluting him on his birthday, I will beat his drum as loudly as I can. I will not in the process repeat his political biography. As I said above, this missive is meant as a reminder to the nation of its own contribution to the world.

So, when Guyanese political activists think of themselves as political independents, we should know that Kwayana is the modern pioneer of that strand in our modern politics. From his membership of the early PPP and PNC through his Black Power days and his leadership in the WPA, he has been both partisan and independent—the independent partisan or “insider-outsider” who has never been muzzled by the logic of partisanship.

When African-Guyanese now give their children African names and Guyanese no longer make fun of those names, we must trace that back to Eusi Kwayana who through the African Society for Cultural Relations with Independent Africa (ASCRIA) launched the Cultural Revolution that introduce the level of self-love that African Guyanese now take for granted. When we celebrate Emancipation Day as part of the national norm in Guyana, we must know that that celebration as an institution is the result of Kwayana’s cultural revolution. And we must remember that ASCRIA was the first Black Power-Pan Africanist organization of the modern Caribbean Black Power Movement.

When PNC and PPP members gather for their Congresses and sing their parties’ songs, they must know that the author of those songs is Eusi Kwayana who also wrote WPA’s party song. And when party members see the ThunderNew Nation and Dayclean and Open Word, they must think of what Kwayana did to make those organs important mediums of political journalism. The independent media in Guyana owes a debt to Kwayana for helping to pave the way for that genre of journalism.

When we dare to discuss race and ethnicity in the open and debate shared governance, we must remember that it was Eusi Kwayana who first put that discourse on the post-independence agenda. We must also remember that it was Kwayana who introduced the notion of shared governance as a possible solution to the country’s ethno-racial problems—he is also a pioneer of the shared-governance school of thought in Guyana.

When we celebrate the Cooperative Movement as a national institution, we must know that Kwayana was one of its earliest proponents in that regard. We must know that it was Kwayana who suggested the word “Cooperative” in our Cooperative Republic. And when we remember Guyana’s role in assisting the African Liberation Movement, we must know that Kwayana was one of the architects of that policy.

Finally, we Buxtonions know of Kwayana’s seminal role in molding our village as a free space. His leadership and activism in politics, art, education and culture are written boldly on the consciousness of generations of Buxtonions. I said the above about Bro Eusi not to take him out of the realm of the ordinary, but to show that ordinary people can throw up products that can accomplish extraordinary things.

I know I speak for tens of thousands when I say: We love you, Brother Eusi; because of you many of us now have a chance to shine and be free people.

Professor David Hinds is a political scientist and executive member of the Working People’s Alliance political party in Guyana.

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  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 04/07/2019 at 2:21 pm

    Well said, Professor Hinds!

  • Geoff Burrowes  On 04/08/2019 at 11:45 am

    I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting Dr Kwyana. when he was chairman of Guyana Marketing and I was an NCR salesman.
    I am not qualified to comment on his political career but found him a delightful gentleman and far sighted. He treated me like a fellow Guyanese with no racial or political bias and I have always had the warmest memories of him!
    God bless you Dr Kwayana and give you many more years of fruitful life!

  • Seelochan Beharry  On 04/08/2019 at 2:13 pm

    I agree with the sentiments expressed by Dr. David Hinds with regards to our Elder Statesman Mr. Eusi Kwayana.
    My father had great respect for Mr. Kwayana and cheered his efforts to regain his lost cultural identify for himself and other fellow Guyanese.
    While at the University of Guyana, one of my friends who was a member of ASCRIA mentioned something that Mr. Kwayana said that stayed with me: ‘One cannot do something illegal to get rid of an illegal Govt. or else one is no better.’ This is the high standard by which Mr Kwayana has lived. It is no wonder that whatever our politics, ethnicity etc., we all have tremendous respect for Mr. Kwayana.
    I have said this to others several times, that Mr Kwayana is one of the finest minds and human beings, if not the best, to come out of Guyana.
    To my dismay, Govt. after Govt of Guyana have failed to honor this exceptional human being of our times.
    I was privileged to receive his support on one cause in particular, that is, to make Guyana a better place for our youths via Education at the University of Guyana. You do bring out the best in us.
    Thank you Mr. Kwayana. Happy belated Birthday Greetings.
    Seelochan Beharry

  • Lester Emmanuel  On 01/27/2020 at 12:23 pm

    Dear Professor Hinds

    This is inspirational to read from across the waves in London.

    Knowledge unity and action are still the tools of change that are much lacking but are needed today mire than ever.

    Knowledge not just of our shared African past but also the tracks of the freedom railroads laid by great men like Brother Kwayana which lead us to a new future.

    Too often we look at the journey for change ahead of us and feel it is insurmountable and a lonely thankless task. If we only realised through unity and sharing knowledge tracks have already been laid, others have already started the revolution, we are not at the beginning nor are we alone.

    I am of Guyanese parentage and am attempting to trace my ancestors. Would it be possible to be in contact with with Brother Kwayana as there is a wealth of knowledge I would like to tap into and there are also some specific descriptions of the impact of salt on their body which my relatives have spoken about which I believe he may be able to comment on to help locate where they were from.

    Also on my maternal side my great grandmother taught my mother mavimp mavimpi pangyam? good morning good morning how are you? Tu ke lele.. I am fine.
    I have not been able to trace this language.

    On my paternal side my Great Great grand mother was called Tetteh (which I believe is a Ga name). She was given a lot in Winkel by the plantation owner who she had two children for.

    My mAny help you or any readers may be able to provide would be greatly appreciated. Knowledge of who we are can shape where we are going.

    I do this for my children and grand children’s children’s, children.

    We have to bring about change because their will be no emancipation from global system which continues to holds all African people at home and in the diaspora captive.

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