Queen’s College Alumni Association of Toronto hosts Literary Event – By Kemahl Khan

Kemahl “ARK” Khan
Kemahl “ARK” Khan

By Kemahl Khan

Editor’s Note: On Friday, September 13, QC alumnus, Kemahl “ARK” Khan, died while on vacation with his daughter and grand-children.  ARK attended QC in 1951-1958 and was a member of Weston “F” House. Living in Toronto, he was one of the most active members of the Toronto Chapter of the Queen’s College Alumni Association.
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When I joined the executive for a brief time in the early 2000s, it was Kemahl that I was most frequently in contact with. He served as President of the Association (2009-2011), and was also a past Assistant Recording Secretary for the International Committee of the Queen’s College of Guyana Alumni Associations (ICQC).     
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Two years ago, I introduced Kemahl to Dr. Matthew Smith, then Chair of the History department at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus, who was seeking information about Walter Rodney’s QC Years for an Exhibition and Conference, Confrontations: UWI Student Protests and the Rodney disturbance of 1968. With his usual courtesy and immediate response (as anyone who knew Kemahl can attest), Kemahl answered immediately, recounting his own memories of Walter Rodney, providing contact information for others who could provide more information, and attaching a write-up “Queen’s College and Walter Rodney” by the late Dr. Robert (Bobby) Moore, himself a UCWI graduate, and one of Walter’s teachers at QC.
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That write up is included in the online archive of that momentous period in Jamaican and Caribbean history (https://uwimuseum.wordpress.com/uwi-the-1960s-confrontations-1968-page/). Kemahl commented that he was “glad to have helped in any way to continue the memory of an intellectual giant and a stalwart political activist such as Walter Rodney who was undoubtedly one of a rare breed before his most untimely demise.” And Matthew Smith responded by underlining how all of the information so generously supplied had provided him with a much stronger sense of the context.

Back in August, Kemahl provided a write up of a literary event hosted in Toronto by the Queen’s College Alumni Association for the diaspora column. Intended to offer readers a sense of the diaspora community here, he was waiting for some comments that would have enabled him to broaden it beyond a QC audience. Sadly, he is no longer with us to do this. He had also, typically, requested anonymity for himself and the other person who had written this week’s article. As QC alumni gather in Guyana this week from all over the world for intergenerational sharing, celebration and commemoration, we publish Kemahl’s original contribution, and dedicate it to the memory of a gentle and committed alumnus, who exemplified the school’s motto: Loyal and Useful Everywhere.

 Alissa Trotz, October 27, 2019.


  • By Kemahl Khan
 The 1990’s witnessed the birth in Toronto of alumni associations of several Guyanese high schools. In keeping with that trend, the Toronto Chapter of the Queen’s College Alumni Association (QCAAT) was formed in 1991. The main purpose of the Chapter is to raise funds to finance various needs of the students and staff to help maintain the high standard of excellence  for which Queen’s College is renowned. Through its fund-raising activities, QCAAT has so far contributed CAN $220,000 for a wide range of items, including major ones like musical instruments, computers, a modern intercom system, the upgrading of the library, and high-speed wireless connectivity throughout the school. The Chapter also hosts non-fundraisers that bring the QC alumni and wider Guyanese community together, like the Literary Event that was held on July 14 of this year.

The July 14 event got underway with opening remarks by QCAAT President Gerald Alleyne who warmly welcomed the attendees, thanking them for coming out once again to support another of the Association’s events.

The main goal of the Literary Event was to highlight the first book written by a new Guyanese author. The unveiling of this author by way of a book signing was also his first in Canada hosted by QCAAT. It was one of the most successful events organized in recent years by the Association.

The book titled – “Kidnapped: A Living Nightmare” is available as a paperback and as an e-Book on various sites. The author’s name is Dave Rohee and his book regales the reader with a kidnapping event that took place in China. It is a true story and recounts in vivid detail the intricate plot of an international incident.

The Literary Event was planned, organized and coordinated by Kemahl Khan of QCAAT’s Executive Committee. In addition to the book signing, Kemahl designed the event by inviting three other presenters to participate. The program included poems by Janet Naidu of the Toronto Pakaraima Writers Association, and some interesting poetry by Guyanese “King” David Johnson whose readings gained many positive vocal affirmations by the audience during his delivery. A presentation was also made by QC alumnus Geoff Burrowes expressing his thoughts and feelings of a memorable vacation to Guyana’s hinterland, and his fascination with various types of aircraft in his boyhood days.

The event was very well attended with standing room only! It was estimated that well over 60 people were completely engrossed with the various presentations that preceded the main focus of the afternoon. This was a testament to the publicity garnered through QCAAT’s many Toronto contacts and its own alumni, together with supporters of other Toronto organizations in addition to marketing assistance by other Guyanese groups.

The centerpiece of the Literary Event was the introduction of his book by the author, supported by his slide presentation of various parts of China. This held the audience’s rapt attention for the better part of an hour. Dave Rohee spoke at length about the reasons for attempting an almost impossible strategy for going to China to start a new business venture. This was fraught with risks and dangers unknown to him prior to making this entrepreneurial dive into murky waters.

Dave’s book explains in great detail how he surmounted incredible odds to attain the first Flight School operating approval ever issued to a foreigner. The Canadian Embassy, one of his supporters in attaining this approval decided to publicize this fact, a story that got picked up by all the local newspapers in Beijing. It was not an inconsequential story and apparently was what instigated the plot to extort a ransom from a foreigner by a group of criminals! The book recounts what transpired during this horrific event and the eventual outcome.

The presentation by Dave Rohee held the audience spellbound, and there were many questions he had to respond to at the end of his speech. There were several humorous anecdotes from his experiences in Guyana that provoked the audience to laughter. It was an impressive performance.

QCAAT always puts on a good show and this was no exception. The event included complimentary snacks and drinks, which made for a convivial time for all the Guyanese and others at the intermission.

Shortly after the intermission, the author signed and autographed copies for those who wished to purchase the book. There were a few disappointed folks at the end as all the books brought to the event were sold! Quite an accomplishment for this type of program.

Prior to the author’s presentation, he was introduced to the audience by an old friend and fellow QC alumnus and QCAAT co-founder Leyland Muss who provided the gathering with an insight into the author’s background. This included the author’s initial career as a pilot in Guyana’s hinterland regions, and then as a Captain in Guyana Airways in the late sixties. He then immigrated to Canada with his family due to the political turmoil in Guyana.

The author was asked by several people if there were any other books forthcoming! He revealed that there were two more books in the works, mainly aviation adventures he experienced while flying in Guyana. These books will be published sometime in the next year.
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