GUYANA: Mid-year events in Guyana and abroad affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

Editor’s Note: Since its inception ten years ago, Guyanese Online has featured events by Guyanese Associations in the Disapora. Over 75% of our readers reside in the USA, Canada and the UK. This year, due to COVID-19, most events have been cancelled by Guyanese associations. This article by Francis Quamina Farrier highlights how it has affected life and events in Guyana and elsewhere.

By Francis Quamina Farrier

LIKE millions all around the world, I have been in lockdown since mid-March. As someone who loves and needs to be here, there and everywhere, gathering the news from the four corners of our beautiful Guyana, and to many corners of our wonderful world, I am surprised that I do not find myself in any way bored being at home 24/7 for the past four months. With the aid of so many modern technologies – the internet, smartphone and Zoom included – we are all able to make contact and receive information from all around the world in real-time.     

For those of my age group – eighty-plus – we have seen tons of technical developments in our lifetime. Some of us become overwhelmed and bow out of active life and living. Others like myself, struggle to keep up with the ever-developing technologies including the internet and the smartphone and the range of their devices.

Those of my age-group can recall when it took a day or two and sometimes three days to get a telephone link-up from Georgetown to a relative or friend in New York. One had to make a call to the telephone headquarters on Brickdam, Georgetown. The operator would then make the connection which took hours and sometimes even days to get you connected to your party abroad.

With the available modern technology of today, it takes just a few seconds to make a similar connection, with no need for the assistance of a third party. Within the past three months of lockdown, I have been part of several Zoom programmes and that really excites me. I usually do flashbacks marvelling at the way technology is keeping Guyanese at home readily connected with those in the diaspora in real-time. Catholics based across the Caribbean and North America, see Holy Mass said not only in Georgetown but at Mahdia and elsewhere in the country. Chow Pow and Guyana Critic still reach their fans scattered all across ‘Region 11’ (Guyanese living in the diaspora).

Never have I ever thought that it would have become necessary for me to wear a mask and stay indoors to give myself the best chance to stay healthy and coronavirus-free. However, I am not alone since that is something millions of others all around the world are also doing to remain healthy. Indeed, we are all in this together.

We are now well into the second half of 2020, but without the benefit of 20-20 vision to even see what will likely happen tomorrow. In most countries, including Guyana, the economy is taking a severe beating. Many people are hurting financially and emotionally. However, the hope is that we will all come out of this unique experience, a stronger and much more united people.  Guyana can’t continue as is and be happy and genuinely prosperous. We need to remember or learn that it is smarter to “live and let live”. A society in which all are receiving their fair share of the economic pie is a society in which there is much less conflict, and much more happiness and prosperity.

I have to say that the COVID-19 and the resulting protocols – wearing a face mask, social distancing and washing hands regularly – are in no way getting me down. Unfortunately, that beast of a virus has gobbled up many lives; some of whom were folks I knew personally for many years – Jimmy Bacchus, Billy Braithwaite, Michael Gilkes, Pat Thompson, Gordon Case and others.

Quite a number of annual mid-year events such as Guyana’s Independence Anniversary have had to be cancelled, scaled-down or done virtually, because of the stringent COVID-19 protocols. Thank goodness there is the technology which makes it possible to communicate with others in and around countries even hundreds and thousands of miles apart.

The exciting week-long activities by the Guyana Police Force, for example, are not happening on the grand scale as usual. Citizens of Georgetown who live along the route where the annual Police Anniversary Route March is usually held will most certainly miss that grand event. The exuberating marching music by the Police Force Band headed by Superintendent Charmaine Stuart and the crisp marching by the ranks will surely be missed on this the 181st anniversary of the Force. COVID-19 is certainly turning almost every annual event upside down.

In New York City, the four annual events by the Guyana Cultural Association of New York, Inc. (GCA) – The Awards Ceremony, the Kwe Kwe Night, the Literary Hang and the Family Fun Day – have for over 20 years been constant and have always attracted hundreds of fans. This year, they are all off the charts as it were- in the conventional way and will be done virtually.

Some of the Guyana Cultural Association (GCA) Honorees of past years include Dave Martins, Ron Robinson, Petamber Persaud, Marilyn Dewar, Bernadette Persaud, Merlene Ellis, Stephanie Bowry, Genevive Whyte-Nedd, Desmond Ali and Mosha Telford among dozens of other high achieving Guyanese, both in Guyana and in the diaspora. In Guyana, the popular ACDA Emancipation Fair held at the National Park in Georgetown, is also not likely to be held this year for the very first time since its commencement, compliments of COVID-19.

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