Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
Columnist, Freddie Kissoon, has been writing a lot about Eusi Kwayana over the last year. Much of it has been downright nasty. But he seems to have unlimited license and editorial cover to do so. Many Guyanese have asked me if Freddie does not have anything good to say about Brother Eusi. I went into my archives and found this tribute to Bro Eusi by Bro Freddie given on or about October 12, 2013 on the Walter Rodney Groundings program. I reproduce it below so that the public can benefit from Bro Freddie’s honesty.
“I am kind of in an uncomfortable position here because I have this reservation of referring to myself as an East Indian. I mean, I am East Indian genetically, but I like to see myself as a citizen of the world, as a Guyanese. But in this world, you can’t escape who you are genetically. As an East Indian, I think it is so important that Indian people who know Kwayana and knew Kwayana to speak about him. That’s because I think there is a large section outside there, in Guyana, outside of Guyana, in the Guyana diaspora, who knows this man Eusi Kwayana. He formed a number of organizations with African names and the tendency of those people from the 1060’s and onwards and those born after the 1980’s, the tendencies to say –Eusi Kwayana, a very African oriented man, is this guy racist ? Does this guy just see things through African lenses?
I think it is important that Indian people who interacted with Eusi Kwayana, it is important that they speak to Guyanese, speak to East Indians and Amerindians and our Portuguese and European folks who live in Guyana to tell them about this man with this African name, about how multiracial he is. I understand an Indian sister has done a MA thesis on him and she is a teacher now. I would hope that book is published– taxpayer funded Guyana Publishers are publishing books by politicians. Jagan speeches– Dr. Odeen Ishmael just released a book published by that publishing house. I hope that sister’s book is published.
But it is important that Indians tells other East Indians that this is a man if you got to know him you would see that though he felt that as an African he should address the wrongs of Africans, that this man was essentially, quintessentially and most biologically a human being that loved people and that when it comes to struggle, when it comes to human rights, there was no man with an African name, there was no Africanist by the name of Eusi Kwayana. This is a Guyanese man who would go out into a crowd and tell a group of African people that you are doing a wrong to the Amerindian race that you are doing a wrong to the European race and that is what is so important about Eusi Kwayana.
Now never mind my admiration for brother Tacuma and all that I’ve written about him and we are friends. But I believe he gave the best speech at Friendship Primary School on Wednesday because what brother Ogun did, and you had to be there to listen how he contextualized Kwayana’s politics. Because we must remember that Eusi Kwayana was a member of the Working People’s Alliance and they can be no historical denial that The Working People’s Alliance confronted a post-colonial African Government.
And people would say but when you look back why would Kwayana do that? But if you speak to Kwayana and ask Kwayana if he has any regrets, Kwayana would say no. Because Kwayana would say at the time when Burnham was ruling, I love my people who are Africans, I was fighting for my people, but I was also fighting for my nation whether it was Amerindians or East Indians. And that is the nature of the man.
If Kwayana comes back here and he is situated in a place where young people can go and talk to him, young university students, Portuguese Indians , and they sit down and talk to him and say to him but Brother Eusi what do you think about the PPP? What do think about what is going in government? Then you will see the real essence of the man. First and foremost, Eusi Kwayana was not African, he was not Guyanese, he was just a decent human being of the world who dedicated himself to fighting wrongs at a cultural level, at an ethnic level and at a political level.
I think what happened in the 1970’s that got Eusi in confrontation with the PNC government is because I think a majority of people didn’t understand that about Kwayana, that although he is named Eusi Kwayana you couldn’t go to him and say, “Hey man Eusi, ease it up, quiet it up, this is an East Indian lawyer man, don’t rock the boat”. Eusi will say, look I will rock the boat because you are hurting a human being. That is the essence of the man.
I believe if I didn’t meet Eusi Kwayana, I am not sure I would have turned out to be the passionate person that I am. Kwayana is a voracious extra ordinary reader, and he would be alone in the WPA office every day and you go in there and you talk to him. But I am absolutely certain that if there wasn’t a Kwayana–I could say the same for Brian Rodway, Clive Thomas– there is no question about it, if there wasn’t an Eusi Kwayana I am not too sure if I would have turned out– I mean let me beat my own drum– I think I am an honest man who cares about people’s rights. It affects me deeply and I believe if there wasn’t a Kwayana I don’t know if I would have been that passionate.
But one other thing I think Kwayana has instilled in me. I detected the years I spent with Kwayana that Kwayana is a man that says look I am going to stay on the ground here and fight for people and fight for people’s liberation but don’t give me power, don’t make me the leader, don’t put me to be a minister. I think Kwayana knew and sensed that power once possessed dilutes and weakens the essence of you are as a human rights person– and I pick that up from him. Because of that I have never entered an election campaign as a candidate or want to be an election person. And if there is a change of government, I would not want to be a Minister. I would like to be what Kwayana was. You’re in some agency for human rights giving small people credit or something like that. But you are with people helping them.
There is something I’ve never said. I wrote in my Friday Kaieteur column about Kwayana and there is something I’ve not said and I’m going to say it now for the first time and I should put it in print. I had rebelled against the inquisition of National Service at the university. I was doing very well, and it really devastated my parents when they say if you can’t do National Service then you have to leave UG. So, they expelled me, and I was depressed. I went to him and he said go out into the Caribbean and get a teaching job and get yourself together. I had a sister in Barbados, and I said to him” Eusi coming from where I am five dollars is a problem much less to get an airline ticket.” And within a couple of days Eusi got an airline ticket for me and said go and get out of your depression in Barbados and I always remember that. Those are the kinds of influence he played on your life. Eusi Kwayana in the three of us who are sitting here, in David Hinds, in so many of us, the struggle is continuing because Eusi left us here.
One of it is very sad and tragic things at the moment and I think this is where Eusi Kwayana departs significantly from all of us. I believe, there may be disputes about it, but I believe African leadership in Guyana is afraid to speak openly about things that are racially done to African people. It may take a Freudian psychologist or people like Ogun who could explain it but it maybe needs someone who studied the African Psyche to explain it. You get this reluctance of African leaders whose support comes from African to say look, this is an African village and you put a white poster on a village welcoming people into the village. Why you couldn’t put a little African girl? I find African Leadership is afraid to say those things but not Kwayana. This is where the man is different and this I learnt from him.
Kwayana was not afraid to say wait a minute if I say this, are people going to say in racist? And the absence of Kwayana and lack of that type of Kwayana type leadership, you are seeing tragic consequences of it today. I say this to all of you. I looked at every one of those cricket matches in the Limacol Caribbean Premiere League. I think I missed a part of one but in between every over if you look at those advertisements, it featured predominantly very clear–skinned actors. I saw Kings Jewelry commercial throughout the series in which a white guy and very light complexion woman were advertising. If you pick up the papers today, I will say to you that is one of the serious tragedies facing Guyana right now. That is why you need Kwayana and that is why you need Kwayanaites to deal with this thing. I don’t believe ever in Nigeria, in Chile, in France you will have 85% of the advertisements and the actors in the TV or the newspapers not Nigerians or French Caucasians or Hispanics in Mexico. I don’t think in Mexico it will have Americans advertising milk or something.
And that is what Kwayana taught me. That is what Kwayana taught a generation of Post-Colonial students from 1974 that you must have respect for your race, that you must have respect for your culture and that you must put it forward, you must advance it. And I want to say very guardedly that the Hindus and Muslims advance their culture. I cannot see why African leaders cannot complain about this profusion of whiteness in our advertisements.
I want to end by specifically addressing East Indian people in Guyana by telling them don’t ever forget that Eusi Kwayana played a huge gargantuan role in the restoration of democracy Guyana. This African man with this African name fighting on a multiracial bandwagon is responsible for whatever little freedom we enjoy now. You should treat him as an historical icon. I am speaking specifically to East Indians and they should give him his proper place in history. He has his proper place in history already, but East Indian people who have had reservations about him should know that Eusi is one of the most unusual and one of the most extraordinary persons to have come out into this world and all Guyanese should be thankful that we have him.”