Tag Archives: By Lear Matthews

Who are we away from ‘home’? A View of Diaspora Identity – By Lear Matthews

Who are we away from ‘home’? A View of Diaspora Identity

Opinion - commentary -analysisBy Lear Matthews

Participants in Guyana’s Golden Jubilee Symposium Series will explore four interrelated questions: Who are we? What has been our journey? What can we become? How can we get there? In this article, the writer interrogates the first question: “Who are we”? specifically as it relates to the Diaspora (i.e. Guyanese immigrants). My goal is to begin the conversation.

Diaspora Identity: How is it shaped?

The experience of the immigrant community can be both gratifying and challenging, characterized by opportunities and risks. Adaptation and identity are shaped by trans-cultural and psychological factors, including the extent of social/emotional place attachment to country of origin.  Bi-national labels such as Caribbean-American, a function of sustained links to the homeland, may reflect ethnic grounding and national pride. In this regard, cultural practices/customs among immigrants demonstrate expressed identification with the home country.        Continue reading

Remittances: cultural connections and Diaspora challenges – By Lear Matthews

Remittances: cultural connections and Diaspora challenges

By Lear Matthews

An integral part of the Diaspora experience is the sending of cash and goods, and the transmission of services, from immigrants to their country of origin.  Analysts of this phenomenon argue that remittances have become the most visible evidence and measuring stick for the ties connecting immigrants with their homeland.  According to the World Bank, remittance flows to developing countries are estimated to have reached $372 billion in 2011. In 2014, money transfers to the Caribbean and Africa exceeded all other forms of external finance. In particular, remittances account for approximately 17% of Guyana’s GDP. Diasporas send both financial and social remittances.

Reciprocal Connections      Continue reading

Where Are You From? I hear an accent! – By Lear Matthews + 4 videos

Where Are You From? I hear an accent! –  By Lear Matthews

The question, “where are you from? You have an accent” is one that is quite familiar to immigrants.  The stimulus for such a query is usually based on one’s speech pattern, accent or other linguistic attributes that appear to be different or “foreign.”  A good friend told me that his initial inclination is to respond by saying “Earth! Where are you from?” when asked this question.  But he quickly declared that because he was raised to be polite, he exercises self restraint, empathy and diplomacy.

He further stated that his response may be followed by pointing out to the questioner that she/he too has an “accent”.   Continue reading

Female Musical Trailblazers: The first “All Girls Steel Bands” of Guyana* – By Lear Matthews

A women’s History Month Tribute

Female Musical Trailblazers: The first “All Girls Steel Bands” of Guyana*

By Lear Matthews

It was the early 1950’s. Guyana, then British Guiana, like many other Caribbean countries was in the initial stages of struggle to shed the yoke of colonialism, epitomized by the first national, multiethnic political party.  The dawning of “Massa Day Done”!

As with the political scene, “beating pan” was a male-dominated activity.  But despite normative cultural credence and challenges faced by women, pioneering genius was afoot. The phenomenon of a female steel orchestra was emerging.  Steel band was viewed as a lower class musical form, practiced by urban folk from economically deprived communities – “Dem Bad boys” from Albouystown and Lodge (although the majority of residents from those neighborhoods were decent, law abiding and productive).  Initially, steel band playing was not considered socially accepted as a legitimate genre of entertainment, thus deemed unworthy of invitation to perform at “prestigious venues” such as the Town Hall in Georgetown.   Continue reading

Tribute to Ronald “Bamah” Bamfield – By Lear Matthews

Tribute to Ronald “Bamah” Bamfield – Former Top Tutorial High School Athlete

 By Lear Matthews 

In addition to his other achievements, Ronald Bamfield, who died on January 15th, was an outstanding and superb Guyanese athlete in the 1960’s. Among the notable accomplishments in track and field, he ran the fastest Boys High School 400 meters in the country, in a time of 48.5 seconds.  Quite remarkable for that time.

Cavalcade of Sports was a 1960’s tradition in Guyana, popular among a generation. To highlight that tradition, I pay tribute to the athletes who attended one of the most reputable educational institutions in Guyana.  Known for its excellence in academics and sports, Tutorial High School, Ronald’s Alma Mater was a beacon of hope for a large cadre of working class youth, many of whom were granted the opportunity to display their talents in both academics and Sports.

A memorable moment in track and field at the Cavalcade of Sports demonstrates the athletic prowess of former High School students in Guyana, and provides the context for Ronald’s extraordinary performance as one of most popular High School athletes in the country.

It was an overcast day.  Bourda (GCC) was packed with spectators.  It was time for the men’s 4 by 100 meters sprint relay Invitation Track Race, and Tutorial was represented by one of the best high school teams in the country: Richard Jones (Jonezee), Maurice Emanuel (Manchi) Wilfred Robinson (Raabo), and of course Ronald Bamfield (Bamuh).

 Dem boys fass baad!” shouted a young enthusiast as the athletes warmed up on the sun-singed grass track, some in “street clothes”. Tracksuits were not affordable gear at that time.

No sooner did the first-leg runners assume their ready position, than the Starter raised his pistol.  “On Your Marks”!  A deafening silence resonated across the popular Bourda ground.  “Set”!  One could almost hear a pin drop.  BANG!  As if serving as a queue for both athlete and spectator, a thunderous roar emerged from the crowed, increasing in intensity as the athletes propelled from the starting line.  Apparently some of the runners on the far side of the ground were not aware of the command for the start of the race.  This resulted in the failure of one of the Tutorial athletes to remove his long pants in time to receive the baton.  Anticipating the possible calamity that could befall the favorite team, the crowd’s roar was now intermingled with nervous laughter.  Jonzee came out of the blocks like a rocket, leaning forward slightly, accelerated at incredible speed, opening an early lead.  The spectators went wild as he handed the baton to Manchi. “Clean!” yelled an excited fan, referring to the flawless exchange.  Manchi was magnificent as he dashed around the track between the unevenly painted lanes, widening the gap further, giving an unforgettable exhibition of speed, strength and skill.

The third-leg scene, however, was mellow-dramatic. Robinson was still struggling to take off his long pants as Manchi approached at top speed.  Wishing to avert what would have been certain disaster, Robinson abandoned any further attempt to disrobe, took the baton in one hand while firmly gripping his unzipped trousers at the waist with the other.

Now in a frenzy, spectators were screaming and cajoling. Amazingly, Robinson in perfect stride and displaying astounding athleticism, negotiated the northwestern Bourda bend with surgical precision, extended the lead further, leaving the competition in the dust.  The noise in the stands escalated to a deafening crescendo. With a remarkably smooth hand-off from his unruffled team mate, and his familiar signature high-knee bounce, and perfect form, Bamuh, the consummate anchor, majestically sprinted unchallenged toward the finish line and brought home the win in record time to the delight of ecstatic fans. Just imagine! Ronald Bamfield was a champion. You could always depend on him to seal the deal in grand style as he did on that day.

Sportscaster B.L. Cromby of Radio Demerara described the performance as a classic.  Such moments are forever etched in our memory with a sense pride. Ronald was a team player. He was competitive, and methodical in training and preparation. He was unique in style and countenance.  For him, to be a success in athletics requires commitment, hard work and sacrifice, all of which I am sure were reflected in other areas of his life.

Those glorious days are gone, but not forgotten.  Neither will we ever forget the many talents and contributions of Ronald Bamfield.  So long my brother, you have been a trailblazer. You had a good run, rest well.

“DIS TIME NAH LANG TIME!” – By Lear Matthews

“DIS TIME NAH LANG TIME!”

By Lear Matthews

Dis time nah lang time! Remember Bertie Vann, Fogarty Bun Down, Kayto, Cow Manure, Tuts and Marjorie Monkey (from New Amsterdam), Peas Head, Law an’ Order, Mary bruk iron, Memory man Gonzalves and Side-Ways? They were called mad people or street characters – “Dey head ain’ good!” some would say.

Although generally tolerated and accommodated, they were teased and ridiculed almost every day.  When they tried to defend themselves, taunting youths unsympathetic to their untenable condition and incapacity, desperately took flight to safety. Chinka-Lay-Lay and Walker de British were known to arm themselves with bricks as a defensive strategy.

Their experience was likely attributed to social pressures, lack of resources and unattended mental disability – One psychiatrist fo de whole society! It was said that some of them “went off” after “studying abroad”.  Perhaps their challenges were a reflection of how fragile we could be. Indeed mental illness is prevalent in many a society.  Hopefully the GT “street characters” and others so afflicted are treated with more respect and empathy.

Dis time Nah lang time! According to the experts, the Guyanese context proves to be one of the most challenging for mental health in this hemisphere. Suicide, disaffected youth, domestic violence, child victimization and the woes of the homeless, appear to be a measure of mental health.  We hear about the alarming statistics, which appear to unabatedly persist, potentially becoming a public health crisis.  Possible solutions to this malady escalation require community-based care, informed national policy and qualified professional intervention.

Dis time nah lang time.  Remember the days of Pan Am flying in and out de homeland with no confusion? Now dey gat nuff different airlines, with all kinds of delays, causing tension and aggravation.  No reprieve when you complain, increasing the emotional pain.  Lang time when you go back home you could always stay at your family, with no hesitation.  Now-a-days hometown visitors increasingly stay at hotels, because of spiraling emigration and family dispersion.  Despite such transformation, a growing Diaspora, sometimes wary, persists in efforts to sustain cultural connection.

Dis time nah lang time – Remember when a shilling (24 cents) loaf was a big plait bread, a penny mauby with tennis-roll-an-cheese was a meal, and Bastiani bury de dead? Short Hand and Typing was de in ting, steel band was king and Johnny Braff coulda’ really sing.  De Bhoom was introduced by Tom Charles and the Syncopaters, Masquerade was prapuh flouncing and Yoruba Singers one of the best cultural entertainers.  Dis time nah lang time, when gay was happy; before Watchman turn Security.  “Operation” didn’t mean surgery; radio and gramophone, but no telephone in de home; no television showing all dem Reality nonsense; “Aunt Mary, a good neighbour” made more sense.  Sneaker was yatin’ and $2 dollar could’a get yuh two bunch a plaintain.  Remember when a freck for a small boy was a “jil”? Now is more like a hundred dollar bill.

Dis time nah lang time. We used to ride Raleigh and Hercules bicycle or travel by train on de East and West Coast train line.  Now some ah we ridin’ de subway to stops like Paddington (Lon.), Ossington (Tor.), East Broadway and Far Rockaway – nowhere near Tigah Bay.

Remember the Georgetown yellow bus with routes around our garden city?  Imagine a passenger asking: “Is this a Kitty-Campbellsville or Church-Durbun?” and another politely responding: “The latter Madum”.  Courtesy, comradery and respect reigned.  Dis time when yuh hear somebody sey: “Mistuh please fo a pass” on the Flatbush bus or B 103 to Canarse, yuh smile because yuh know is one ah we.

Dis time nah lang time! Where have all the writers gone? Martin, E.R, Wordsworth, Carew and Mittleholtzer – among those so inspirational.  Put out a clarion call to invoke their names for a literary revival!

Dis time nah lang time! Bicycle and dray cyart use to share Georgetown road space and the City Council made sanitation a priority.  Now cyar and Mini-bus congesting de place and people crying out for public health sanity to return to the Municipality.  As soon as rain set up, Georgetown flooding, while de politicians proroguing and demonstrating. Dis time the focus should be on compromising, BRIDGIN’ and developing.

Lang time we coulda’ mark time.  Dis time we don’t have much time!