April 27, 2017

British Guiana in 1913

By Peter Halder

Lombard Street, British Guiana

Lombard Street, British Guiana

The year 1913 was propitious for British Guiana. Sir Walter Egerton was the British governor. For the first time, the head of the British sovereign appeared on British Guiana postage stamps.

The first map showing the Corentyne River as the boundary between British Guiana and Dutch Guiana (Suriname) was published.

The population of the colony reached some 300,000 and the population of Georgetown was 58,000. The Amerindian population was 13,000. Sugar, known as ‘Demerara Crystal’, continued to be the major export.

In 1913, the first airplane flight was launched by George Schmidt.

But the year was also one of mystery. In that year alone, there were two major, mysterious fires in Georgetown. On March 7, the Brickdam Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the premier Catholic Church in the colony, was burnt to the ground. At the time, the Cathedral was highly regarded for its structural beauty and fine edifice.

Postcard showing R. C. Cathedral Tower on fire on March 7, 1913

Postcard showing R. C. Cathedral Tower on fire on March 7, 1913

There were two versions about the cause of the fire. One was that a plumber was using a blowtorch near the top of the great tower of the church when something went wrong and the building went up in flames. Another version was that a workman, a Frenchman named Bencher Cornelle, innocently left a coal pot burning in the tower while repairing it and the result was an inferno.

The fire was a great shock to the people of Georgetown since the Cathedral was regarded as a national landmark. It was also the main place of worship for Catholics. The Church was packed to capacity on Sundays.

The other fire occurred in December at a time when the people were deeply engaged in preparations for the Christmas season. On Monday, December 22, just three days before Christmas, at around 8:25 hours, there was a loud and violent explosion in the western section of Georgetown. The “thunderous and deafening noise,” so it was related, was heard not only in the capital but on the East Coast, East Bank and West Bank Demarara.

The explosion took place at Chin-A-Yong’s shop on Lombard Street. There, according to reports, fireworks were being manufactured in a vault. The “little bombs” were a delight for little boys to throw around on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The explosion blew Chin-A-Yong’s business place sky high and was followed by a massive conflagration. It also killed 20 persons and injured many others. The raging fire also almost destroyed all of Lombard Street. A swift breeze from the northeast turned the raging fire into a firestorm. News reports stated that valiant work was done by the fire brigade, the police, the artillery, the militia and volunteers, but their efforts were retarded by low water pressure. By the time the fire had vented its rage, Bugle Sawmill was no more. Psaila’s Store, Hope Sawmill, Bugle Building, Bettencourt’s Sawmill and the Demarara Company warehouse with 67,000 bags of sugar were all burnt.

Several days after, when the police and fire brigade inspected what was left of Chin-A-Yong’s place of business, they found a secret underground cellar. The authorities believed it was an opium den. Opium smoking was a serious problem in British Guiana at that time.The year 1913 turned out to be propitious, mysterious and maybe just another instance of misfortune for the unlucky number 13. (https://guyanathenandnow.wordpress.com)

History of street lighting, tree planting in Georgetown

Utility poles on Lombard Street, British Guiana circa 1903

Utility poles on Lombard Street, British Guiana circa 1903

Have you ever looked at the towering trees on Main Street or around Georgetown and thought of when tree planting in the capital city began? Or thought of the history of the installation of street lights?

Gas lighting

According to the book “The story of Georgetown” by James Rodway, Stabroek was lighted in early times with lanterns fastened to wallaba posts. The oil used was probably train oil. In 1860 kerosene was introduced and iron lamp posts erected. Rodway also said in his book that gas lighting had been mentioned many times before it was seriously considered; it was proposed in 1838.

The Town Council back then seriously considered the introduction of gas in 1860. It was spoken of as likely to be a great improvement, but there were doubts as to whether people generally would adopt it. It was not to be supposed that the town lighting alone could support a gas company. However, several persons came forward with projects: the first being T. C. Jenkins, an American Consul. This offer was withdrawn after news of the impending war of secession.

The impressive Rain Tree on Main Street

The impressive Rain Tree on Main Street

Then came James Appleby, who offered to get up a company in London; his estimate was £4 4s. per street lamp, and 12 shillings per thousand feet for the public. The most serious offer was by S. R. Dickson, who, in 1861, proposed to establish the Demerara Gas Light Company. He asked for a lot of land for the works and offered to light 300 street lamps at $25 per annum and to supply light to private persons at $5 per 1,000 feet. He also stipulated that half the shares should be subscribed in the colony. The result of his action was a petition to the court and an ordinance dated August 2, 1862, which stated that the establishment of gas works in Georgetown would be of public advantage. The petitioners were S. R. Dickson, H. I. de Jonge, Jos. Kaufmann and Jas. Brady.

Nothing appears to have been actually done, and in 1864 a new ordinance was passed on the petition of A. W. Perot, F. A. R. Winter, J. S. Hill, J. Kaufmann and others. This also failed or at least did not get into working order in the time given by the ordinance and a new charter was granted in 1870. The preamble stated that the Demerara Company ordinance having ceased, A. W. Perot and G. H. Oliver, directors of that company, agreed with G. W. Harris, A. Williams, and others in England, to apply for a new ordinance to establish the Georgetown Gas Company.

At last, in March 1873 gas lighting became an accomplished fact. The Georgetown Gas Company did fairly well, and although there were complaints of the high price, still there was small ground for anything like dissatisfaction.

Electric lighting

Early in 1889, Julius Conrad, R. Allan, W. S. Turner and R. Dodds applied to the Town Council for a conditional promise to support an electric light company, and as they wanted a monopoly they were referred to the government. Their request for a monopoly for 30 years and for permission to use the streets were considered by the court and referred to the Town Council. Nothing was actually done until the following year, when a meeting was held at the house of Jacob Conrad on March 25, at which it was agreed to form a company.

On May 5 the town council agreed to refer a motion of Mr. Gibson that a test of 50 electric street lamps should be made to the lighting committee, which ultimately arranged for such a test. At the first general meeting of the company, on August 6, it was reported that 650 private lamps and 50 street lamps had been ordered and works expected to start on January 1, followed by lighting the greater part of High Street from Brickdam to Kingston.

On January 17, 1891, crowds of people filled the street to look at the new lights being turned on. Since that time, electric slowly, but surely, replaced gas, until the gas company was compelled to discontinue its operations and gas lighting came to an end.

Tree planting

The first attempt at tree planting in the streets was a short line of Fiddlewood trees, with here and there a bat-seed, Andirainermis, in Commerce Street. These were planted before 1870. A great impetus was given to ornamental planting by the laying out of the Promenade Gardens in 1853, when many trees and shrubs were imported from the Trinidad Botanical Gardens and elsewhere.

An early attempt to decorate Main Street was by a double line of Oleanders on either side of the canal, but these bushes never looked well due to them being damaged by the public.

An avenue of Mahogany trees in Le Repentir Cemetery dates from about 1870, and the coconut palms near the seawall were planted about the same time.

Rodway in his book stated, “All these were but poor attempts at street decoration, and we must thank the Botanic Gardens for almost everything [regarding trees] we have today.”

A sign on one of the trees, obliquely to Walter Roth Museum on Main Street, reads: “Rain Tree, scientific name: Samaneasaman. Interesting facts: Native to Tropical America, grows up to 50m tall and spreads as wide as 200 human steps, seeds are chewed for sore throat.” (Information from “The story of Georgetown” by James Rodway)


Supernaam: The Secondary Town

By Isahak Basir CCH

Supenaam, located on the mainland situated left of the Essequibo River and Wakenaam, is an island.  Supenaam and Wakenaam are two Dutch words.

Originally, Supenaam was involved in agricultural production and subsidized the former sugar estates of Aurora and the 12 sugar plantations of Wakenaam. It also served as a communication point for Fort Island.

On one occasion, a Dutch entourage had its vessel sunk in the vicinity of Troolie Island and several persons drowned. Their bodies were recovered from the river and entombed at Caria Caria, where their tombs are still visible.

Supenaam is a growing community with a population of 2,000 and falls under the purview of the Pomona/Good Hope Neighbourhood Democratic Council. It can be considered an essential point for all categories of social and economic needs.  It is also a local port of entry for vessels plying Bartica, several populated islands along the Essequibo River and Parika, which is a hub to the capital city of Georgetown.

The Parika/Supenaam speed boat service was developed in 1978 and today it is much more organized, with faster boats covering 30-odd miles in approximately 35 minutes, and operates under strict maritime regulations. A high level of courtesy is exhibited by boat operators and commuters as more than 3,000 passengers ply this route daily. At any time, the car park is flooded with more than 40 taxis, routing between Charity and Supenaam. The Supenaam community also has a recently built ferry stelling, a car park, community market, fuel station, hotels and police outpost.

Supenaam Creek leads to the large timber concessions, which supply several saw mills with a variety of species of wood – especially greenheart. The Dutch occupancy also had the first hydro-driven sawmill located in the Supenaam Creek. Some relics of foundation are still visible.  Five miles up the creek the Amerindian community of Bethany is located. That community has an airstrip since government policies did not exclude the area, which is consistent with Amerindian development.

Supenaam is poised for development with a proposed road link to Buck Hall, Caria Caria and later to Skull Point at the mouth of the Cuyuni River. When this road link it materialized, thousands of acres of farm land can be utilized. The Supenaam Creek is a progressively farming area and very soon will have the facility of a plant breeding station. It is a prime tourist destination, but its history and historic landmarks need to be properly recognized. (Photos by Marco Basir)

Hamburg Beach

Hamburg Beach is located along the private island of Tiger Island, Region Three (West Demerara/Essequibo Islands).

It is a location where families and friends gather to enjoy music, games, fly a kite and even enjoy a refreshing dip in the cool water. It is the ultimate destination for a fun family trip.

A relaxing spot on the beach (Photo by Michael Lam)

A relaxing spot on the beach (Photo by Michael Lam)

A section of Hamburg Beach

A section of Hamburg Beach

A quiet day of fishing at Hamburg (Photo by Michael Lam)

A quiet day of fishing at Hamburg (Photo by Michael Lam)


Treasures of the National Collection

From simple beginnings, the National Collection over the years has gathered and exhibited artwork of Guyana’s best artists

Guyana’s national gallery of art, officially known as the National Collection, is housed at Castellani House, the name given to the building in honour of its designer and builder Cesar Castellani.

The art collection’s unofficial beginnings developed in the 1950s when public subscription was mustered to purchase a Denis Williams painting, “Human World”.

Its official start came in 1962, when the National History and Arts Council was established, which began to acquire works of art by Guyanese artists. The council acquired important pieces for the fledgling collection, but since it had no actual gallery, many pieces were held in various government buildings and in Guyana’s foreign embassies.

After a change in government in 1992, it was realized that the then-disused residence would make a good home for the national collection, so on May 24, 1993, it was designated the home of the National Collection and renamed Castellani House.

With this move, the collection at last gained a permanent site and space in which its pieces could be displayed. Everley Austin was appointed first curator in 1994, who was then succeeded by Elfrieda Bissember in 1996. After Bissember’s departure, Ohene Koama was appointed Curator (ag).

The National Collection is now managed by the Ministry of Education, Department of Culture Youth and Sport, and has grown to over 1,200 pieces of fine art by major and lesser-known Guyanese artists.

The collection encompasses work from early Guyanese masters such as E.R. Burrowes, Vivian Antrobus and Hubert Moshett, to the second generation that includes Denis Williams, Stanley Greaves, Ron Savory, Donald Locke and others who followed them.

It also includes other artists who contributed to the visual imagination of Guyana over the years – major names such as Aubrey Williams, Philip Moore, Gary Thomas, and others, including contemporary names such as Winslow Craig, Bernadette Persaud, George Simon, Oswald Hussein and many others.

Containing many artistic treasures, the National Collection is a symbol of Guyana, an invaluable resource, and a priceless national asset. (Text based on “Panorama: A Portrait of Guyana. Images from the National Collection of Guyana”)


British Guiana Tramcars

A tramcar at the seawall, perhaps the area Aspinall called the ‘Platform’ in his guide

A tramcar at the seawall, perhaps the area Aspinall called the ‘Platform’ in his guide

Algernon E. Aspinall in the 1914 edition of “The Pocket Guide to the British West Indies”, describes the “admirable” Georgetown service of electric tramcars provided by the Demerara Electric Company as plying four routes daily, through the city, at 15-minute intervals. They stopped, he noted, along the route at places marked by white poles, to pick up and drop off passengers.

The trams traversed along lines named the (1) Belt Line, which went from the company’s office, Water and Coal streets, crossing Camp Street, the cricket ground on New Garden Street, Middle Street and crossing Camp Street and Main Street  into Water Street. (2) Sea Wall Line: From the sea wall (a place called the Platform) to Main Street, Bentinck Street, Water Street, Lombard and Broad streets, Croal and Camp streets and Camp Road. (3) La Penitence and Church Street Line: La Penitence, Stabroek Market, the company’s office, Church Street, Water Works, New North Road and New Garden Street before returning along the same route. The East Bank Line(4) went along Main Street through Water Street; Lombard Street, Albouystown and La Penitence along the public road, running through the Ruimveldt and Houston plantations to the terminus at Peter’s Hall.

The Brush Electrical Engineering Company tram

The Brush Electrical Engineering Company tram

According to Allen Morrison in his article “The Tramways of Georgetown, British Guiana”, on tramz.com website, a street railway began ferrying passengers in the city in 1877, which was acquired in 1880 by the Georgetown Tramways Company. In 1899, the Georgetown Tramways Company was itself acquired by the Demerara Electric Company, which had also purchased the British Guiana Electric Light and Power Company.

Demerara Electric Company then ordered 14 open electric trams from the St. Louis Car Company in Missouri, a tram maker in the US. The previous vehicles were provided for the Georgetown Tramways Company by the John Stephenson Company in New York.

The new tramway in Georgetown was declared opened February 25, 1901, and in the following year, two more trams were ordered and installed along the city’s streets. Another two more were added in 1909 though this time purchased from a British company. The East Bank line was established by the Demerara Electric Company when it built a line south of the city to Peter’s Hall.

Single fare was 5 cents while tickets purchased in strips of three, were 12 cents. There was also a children’s fare and a special fare for cars to be used for “trolley parties”. Transfer tickets from one line to another were free.

However, the July 2, 1929 Jamaica Gleaner newspaper would later report the Demerara Electric Company as informing the Georgetown Town Council in June the same year that due to the reduction in passengers on its tramcars, the company would cease its service at the expiration of its licence in January 1930.

According to the report, in an interview with company manager G.B. Lomer, he stated that the company had performed its own investigations earlier in the year to determine the feasibility of keeping the lines running, and had concluded that the tramways “could only be operated with heavy annual deficit”.

The manager noted that the increase in the use of motor cars and bicycles – what he called modern conditions – had led to passenger decline. The tram service was discontinued in February 1930 and the lines dug up.  They were taken out of the city and used to ferry wood and fuel, while the rest was sold to an overseas buyer. (Photos from tramz.com)

Hero CPL 2017 launches with eye-catching Draft

cplThe fifth instalment of the Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) launched in spectacular fashion in Barbados on Friday morning as the Player Draft concluded with some eye-catching movement across all six franchises.

The great Sir Garfield Sobers joined the assembled guests, dignitaries, sponsors and international media to help launch the biggest party in sport.

This year each squad’s Player budget is $750,000 (USD). In addition to an unlimited group of retained players, once more there is a guaranteed roster spot for a Young West Indies emerging player as well as a representative from the ICC Americas, which ties in with one of the Hero CPL’s mandates of providing opportunities for young players across the Caribbean and north America.

CPLThough each team was permitted to retain the core of their squad this year, it still allowed for some eye-catching transfers.

Amongst some of the notable acquisitions are that of Australian all-rounder Ben Cutting who has been recruited by St. Kitts & Nevis Patriots, while West Indies ICC World T20 winner Marlon Samuels has joined the St. Lucia Stars. Samuels was not the only high profile Caribbean capture, with the Jamaica Tallawahs signing up batsman Lendl Simmons. Chadwick Walton has made the move, meanwhile, to Guyana Amazon Warriors and looks set to be a strong addition to their batting line-up.

cpl1For the first time ever, there will be an Afghanistan presence in the Hero CPL, with Mohammad Nabi (St. Kitts & Nevis Patriots) and Rashid Khan (Guyana Amazon Warriors) being snapped up. Barbados Tridents have also supplemented their bowling attack with the signing of Pakistan’s WahabRiaz.

In addition to the high-profile acquisition of New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson, coupled with the return of Dwayne Smith following his transfer from Guyana Amazon Warriors, the Tridents have retained Pakistan’s Shaoib Malik and South African all-rounder Wayne Parnell as they bid to win the coveted title they last won in 2014. Kieron Pollard will lead an exciting team which includes wicket-keeper/batsman Nicholas Pooran, who impressed following his comeback from a long injury lay-off joined the likes of Ravi Rampaul and emerging West Indies player Shamar Springer for the forthcoming campaign.

cpl4Guyana Amazon Warriors have been one of the most consistent sides since the tournament’s inception in 2013 and that is reflected in the retention of a number of stalwarts including Black Caps opener Martin Guptill, in-form Australian batsman Chris Lynn and Pakistan’s towering left-armerSohailTanvir who was one of the most consistent performers in 2016 with bat and ball. In addition, the squad will include West Indies duo RayadEmrit and Jason Mohammed, as well as exciting batsman ShimronHetmyer who led the West Indies to the Under-19 ICC Cricket World Cup title last year.

It will be a case of opportunity knocking for reigning champions, the Jamaica Tallawahs, who will be aiming for their third Hero CPL title. Rovman Powell was a standout player last year and the exuberance of youth will be balanced by a spine of a hat-trick of Asian talent in Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara, Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan and Pakistan’s ImadWasim who have all been retained. USA international bowler Timroy Allen has also been retained as the ICC Americas representative.

cpl1St. Kitts & Nevis Patriots completed one of the most eye-catching transfers in the close season by acquiring the services of two-time champion Chris Gayle, and the powerful left-hander will join ‘marquee’ overseas signing Proteas all-rounder Chris Morris and his international colleague TabraizShamsi in the Patriots squad. A string of local Caribbean talent will include influential leg-spinner Samuel Badree, Jonathan Carter, Kieran Powell and promising fast bowler Alzarri Joseph for what will be ICC World T20 winning coach Phil Simmons’ first season in charge of the ambitious Patriots. Carlos Brathwaite has been retained as a West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) ‘Free’ Player, who are players either contracted to the WICB, or, likely to be selected by the WICB for international duty.

St. Lucia Stars will once again be led by charismatic leader Daren Sammy and they will welcome back South African batsman David Miller and Australian all-rounder Shane Watson to the fold. Recently re-named and under new ownership, the Stars will also welcome Sri Lanka’s LasithMalinga for a squad brimming with quality. Local favourite Johnson Charles was a strong performer at the top of the order last year and he will line up once more alongside the likes of Andre Fletcher, Shane Shillingford and Jerome Taylor.

2015 champions Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) have opted to retain all but three of last year’s squad and will once more by led by Dwayne ‘DJ’ Bravo. TKR will look to the guile of Sunil Narine while Darren Bravo will firm up a batting line-up which includes ‘marquee’ player Brendon McCullum, who will be joined again by fellow Black Cap Colin Munro. South Africa’s HashimAmla also returns to the panel who will be coached by Australian Simon Katich.


BARBADOS TRIDENTS: Kieron Pollard, Kane Williamson*, Shoaib Malik, Dwayne Smith, Nicholas Pooran, Wayne Parnell, Ravi Rampaul, WahabRiaz, Raymond Reifer, Christopher Barnwell, Imran Khan, Damian Jacobs, AkealHosein,Ryan Wiggins, Tino Best, Shamar Springer (Young W.I.), Akeem Dolton (ICC Americas)

GUYANA AMAZON WARRIORS: SohailTanvir, Martin Guptill*, Chadwick Walton, Chris Lynn, RayadEmrit, Rashid Khan, Jason Mohammed, Steven Taylor, VeerasammyPermaul, Roshan Primus, Gajanand Singh, Assad Fudadin, Keon Joseph, Steven Jacobs, Steven Ketwaroo, ShimronHetmeyer (Young W.I.), Muhammad Ali Khan (ICC Americas)

JAMAICA TALLAWAHS: Lendl Simmons, Kumar Sangakkara*, Shakib Al Hasan, ImadWasim, Muhammad Sami, Rovman Powell, Gidron Pope, Kesrick Williams, GareyMathurin, Jon-Russ Jaggesar, KrishmarSantokie, Jonathan Foo, Kennar Lewis, Andre McCarthy, Odean Smith, O’Shane Thomas (Young W.I.), Timroy Allen (ICC Americas)

  1. KITTS & NEVIS PATRIOTS: Chris Gayle, Chris Morris*, Ben Cutting, Mohammad Nabi, Evin Lewis, Samuel Badree, Jonathan Carter, TabraizShamsi, Brandon King, Devon Thomas, Sheldon Cotterell, Kieran Powell, Fabian Allen, Shamarh Brooks, Jeremiah Louis, Alzarri Joseph (Young W.I.), Nikhil Dutta (ICC Americas), Carlos Brathwaite (WICB ‘Free’)

  2. LUCIA STARS: David Miller, LasithMalinga*, Shane Watson, Daren Sammy, Johnson Charles, Andre Fletcher, Jerome Taylor, Marlon Samuels, Kamran Akmal, Rakheem Cornwall, Kyle Mayers, Shane Shillingford, Eddie Leie, KeddyLesporis, Sunil Ambris, Obed McCoy (Young W.I.), Timal Patel (ICC Americas)

TRINBAGO KNIGHT RIDERS: Dwayne Bravo, Brendon McCullum*, Sunil Narine, HashimAmla, Darren Bravo, DeneshRamdin, Colin Munro, Shadab Khan, Khary Pierre, Ronsford Beaton, JavonSearles, Nikita Miller, William Perkins, Kevon Cooper, Brad Hogg, Anderson Phillip (Young W.I.), Hamza Tariq (ICC Americas)

*Denotes ‘marquee’ player (CPL)


A Treaty on Rights

Remembering the achievements of our African ancestors and their journey to emancipation from slavery gives us a sense of identity and helps us to appreciate our roots. This is the aim of celebrations that would be held throughout the month of February, designated Black History Month worldwide.

A Catalan Atlas showing the Western Sahara. Mansa Musa is seen seated holding a gold coin. Attributed to Abraham Cresques, Wikimedia Commons

A Catalan Atlas showing the Western Sahara. Mansa Musa is seen seated holding a gold coin. Attributed to Abraham Cresques, Wikimedia Commons

The Mali Empire and the Mande Charter
Most social studies and history programs teach little about the kingdoms of Africa. Not much is said about the great kingdoms of sub-Saharan Africa such as the Kingdom of Kush, the Kingdom of Axum, the Land of Punt, the Mali Empire, the Songhai Empire, and the mysterious Zimbabwe Kingdom.
This week, we take a look into the Mali Empire and the founding of the Mande Charter.
Many know the Magna Carta, which is regarded as the first document to encapsulate any sort of human rights. It is a charter agreed to by King John of England on June 15, 1215. It is one of the most important documents in history as it established the principle that everyone is subject to the law, even the king, and guarantees the rights of individuals, the right to justice and the right to a fair trial.
However, according to French anthropologist and ethnographer Jean-Loup Amselle, who has studied and written about African society, culture and art, particularly how outside influences are adopted by cultures, the “Kurukan Fuga Charter” also known as the “Mande Charter”, is said to predate the Magna Carta.
The Mande Charter was born at the founding of the Mali Empire. Sometime in the 1200s, a great warrior named Sundiata Keita pronounced it. Though Disney takes credit for the moniker, Keita was the original “Lion King.” After calling for a rebellion, he raised an army and squashed his sovereign’s forces, consolidating the empire, and eliminating the state of Old Ghana.
At the site of Kurukan Fuga, meaning “clearing on a hard rock,” situated between what is now Guinea and Mali, the resplendent Keita assembled a group of wise men, the chiefs of the various clans. These included Sumanworo Kanté, Emperor of Sosso, whom he had just defeated at the battle of Krina.
After the Charter’s declaration, it was passed down through griots or bards, the famed storytellers of the region, and keepers of the culture. This is a family affair, and stories and other items are passed down still today from father to son.
The spoken document, which has also been called a “Constitution”, contains a preamble and seven chapters. It speaks on social peace, the sanctity of human life, women’s rights, the right to an education, food security, and even to self-expression. The charter gave equal rights to citizens including women and slaves. The aim was to provide peace and social stability. It advocated diversity and spoke of abolishing slavery, in this case the razzia or raid.
Since the Mande Charter was derived from an oral tradition, it isn’t easy to date. Historians as near as they can piece together have put it at 1236. Amselle contends that the Mande Charter actually predates the Magna Carta, adding that that most scholars familiar with the subject agree that Mande Charter is either contemporary to or predates the English document.
Black History Month was started by Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson, who also founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). In 1925, Woodson conceived and announced Negro History Week. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

Kouroukan Fouga or Kurukan Fuga was the constitution of the Mali Empire

Kouroukan Fouga or Kurukan Fuga was the constitution of the Mali Empire

Woodson and others like him believed that truth could not be denied and that reason would prevail over prejudice. The goal of started Black History Month was to help raise awareness of African American’s contributions to civilization.
This paved the way opening the door to many events, clubs and teachers demanding materials to instruct their pupils as well as scholars and philanthropists stepping forward to endorse the effort.
Carter G. Woodson first coined Negro History Week in 1925 and it was introduced as a full month by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976. Upon Woodson’s death in 1950, it continued to grow into a central part of African American life and substantial progress had been made in bringing more Americans to appreciate the celebration.
At mid–century, mayors of cities nationwide issued proclamations noting Negro History Week. The Black Awakening of the 1960s dramatically expanded the consciousness of African Americans about the importance of black history, and the civil rights movement focused Americans of all colour on the subject of the contributions of African Americans to history and culture.
Throughout this month, Sunday Times Magazine will feature notable achievements by our African ancestors and present-day individuals. (Guyana Times Sunday Magazine)

Historical view of Meadow Bank

Meadow Bank, East Bank Demerara, located some two miles south of Georgetown, has undergone a significant transformation from the village it was some 175 years ago. Around that time, it was mostly populated by the Portuguese and became the centre of the Catholic Church in Guyana.

View of entrance into Meadow Bank from the East Bank public road

View of entrance into Meadow Bank from the East Bank public road

With the abolition of slavery in 1834, many of the African slaves who worked on sugar estates eagerly left the inhuman and barbaric conditions on the estates to seek their fortune and future elsewhere.
Portuguese from Madeira began arriving as indentured immigrants in 1835. By 1882, more than 30,000 Portuguese had immigrated to the-then British colony. Many settled at Meadow Bank. As a result, Meadow Bank became the centre of the Catholic Church.
Far away from home, the Portuguese indentured immigrants, inspired by the religious worship and practices on their former island of Madeira, set about recreating them at Meadow Bank.
Fr Benedict Schembri, who resided in Meadow Bank, built a church in December 1876. The patroness chosen was Our Lady of the Mount, the patroness of Madeira.
It was a devout place of worship for the Portuguese to fulfil their spiritual and religious heritage and zeal. Another aim was to encourage and inspire other Portuguese immigrants to settle at Meadow Bank. Its activities featured some of the customs and ceremonies of the churches they attended in Madeira.

Our Lady of the Mount church located in Meadow Bank

Our Lady of the Mount church located in Meadow Bank

Ritual masses were held at the Church and its activities included jumble sales, bazaars and religious feasts or “festas”.
Among the feasts observed and celebrated by the church at Meadow Bank were the Feast of St John the Baptist; the Feast of St Peter; and the Feast of the Holy Ghost.
For the Feast of St Peter, a Boat of St Peter was built and was lifted from the home of the promoter of the Feast by six persons along a processional path to the church. They walked to music and cheers from crowds who lined the roads.
Near the Church was a bandstand and a band played from it. Bread was distributed at the church.
The biggest ritual, however, according to reports, was the Feast of the Holy Ghost. The event began on Easter Sunday. Two Holy Ghost Flags, red in colour with a white dove in the middle, were taken by four men who were the promoters. Two girls were in the group and they sang. In the group also was a man who played the violin. The group solicited money to feed the poor. A Hymn to the Holy Ghost was sung and collections and donations were placed in a Silver Crown with a dove on top of it.
During the feast itself, beggars were fed at the school in the village. Three altars were placed in the school – one covered with silver, one on which bread was placed and the other was covered with a flag.Each beggar was given an outfit of clothes, a pair of shoes, a basket filled with food and a towel.
On occasions, the Feasts ended in bacchanalian revelry, so much so that the Bishop decided to stop the Feasts.
Passion Sunday, was, however, still observed. Members of the Catholic Guild in Georgetown walked in a procession from Georgetown to Meadow Bank carrying a Statue of Our Lady of Sorrows and one of Jesus Christ with the cross on His shoulder.
Meadow Bank today is not the same as it was many, many years ago. (Text by Peter Halder, https://peterhalder.wordpress.com)

Inspiring women to find their calling

Anita Ramprasad has overcome challenges to be the best she could possibly be. A corporate executive, Distinguished Toastmaster, fitness enthusiast and life coach, Anita aims to inspire others, especially women.
Anita is FCCA (Fellow of the Associated of Chartered Certified Accountants) of London, England certified and is a Senior Corporate Executive, holding the portfolio of Finance, Administration and Human Resources Manager for the MACORP Group of Companies.

Anita Ramprasad

Anita Ramprasad

Notably, Anita is a Distinguished Toastmaster, which means she had to compete in all of the four levels each of the Communication and Leadership disciplines. Additionally, within the Caribbean Toastmasters community, she currently holds the post of a Division Director, with the responsibility of ensuring success of all Toastmasters Clubs and members in Guyana, Trinidad and Grenada.
“It’s been said those who talk do so just because they have something to say, but those who speak have something to say that others actually want to hear. The true essence of effective communication can be found in that simple line and also the reason I chose to become a Toastmaster. I wanted to master the art of speaking and to become a more effective communicator and leader,” she stated in an interview with Sunday Times Magazine.
She added that as a Toastmaster for about seven years, she has grown “exponentially” in areas of courage and self-confidence, providing feedback, responding to impromptu situations and handling stress. It has also allowed her to represent her country at the Regional Public Speaking Contests.

Speaking at a past Toastmasters' event

Speaking at a past Toastmasters’ event

“I have provided training and given presentations nationally, regionally and internationally. I have also had the honour and privilege of being asked by The Tourism & Hospitality Association of Guyana to be the official host of the very popular Guyana Restaurant Week food and restaurant reviews. So in essence, Toastmasters has transformed my life outside of my comfort zones and has challenged me to step out of the box I had once confined myself in,” she pointed out.
Apart from being a Toastmaster, Anita enjoys being fit and even encourages others to lead such a path. For Anita, fitness is a “way of life, a choice to live a healthy life and is a balance of smart eating and regular exercise”. She believes “when you look good, you feel good about yourself, when you feel good you are much more productive”. The fitness enthusiast mentioned that a fit lifestyle adds to our longevity and can slow down the signs of aging.
“I think even when I am 80, I would probably still be exercising,” she quipped.
Now, Anita is focused on becoming a life coach. She believes this is her true calling and many people she has coached informally have confirmed this.
“I believe everyone has a purpose and value. I want to become a life coach to help people realise their true potential, their real worth, their value and most importantly their purpose, passion and calling in life. I love to make time for people to understand their challenges and to help them overcome them,” she expressed.

A life dedicated to being fit and inspiring others to do so

A life dedicated to being fit and inspiring others to do so

Having endured “many levels of hell”, Anita enjoys “a state of peace” and is “totally in love” with the person she is today.
“I got through my challenges by prayer and having unshakable faith in God. I believe everything in life is temporary, only here for a season and a reason. What gets me through my toughest days is by remembering my current situation is not my final destination, because I believe I was created for great things and that my destiny is not at risk of being stolen by anyone. I have a little saying I love to use when times seem challenging to remind myself that in the end everything will turn out fine, ‘You can’t have rainbows without a little rain and you can’t have joy without a little pain’,” she declared.
Motivated by a passion to help women of all ages, Anita shares eight strategies she has developed, which have also worked for her personally. These are acceptance, know who you are, balance, self-awareness, switch it up, choose your battles, invest in yourself, and let yourself off the hook.
She explains: “Acceptance is knowing that all I am is human, which means I am not perfect and I don’t have to be, I have flaws but I am not flawed, I have experienced failure but I am not a failure, I have made mistakes but these do not define me rather they empower me to constantly improve the quality my life.
“Know who you are: I know who I am but more importantly I know who I am not. I celebrate my strengths and I am aware of my areas of improvement. This makes the impact of others opinions powerless against me because once you accept your flaws; no one can use them against you. This way nothing comes as criticism because the rumours and lies amuse me and the truth doesn’t shock me because I already know myself.
“Balance: I work hard and play equally hard. I allocate enough time for work, family and friends, exercise, prayer, sleep, reading, social and recreational actives. Life is about balance and no single activity should ever consume too much of our time after all a balanced life is a happy life.
“Self-awareness: I never discredit my gut instinct nor do I allow emotions to rule me. Self-awareness, to me, is the perfect alignment of intellect (ruled by our head/brain), emotion (ruled by our heart) and intuition (ruled by our gut). In any situation I am confronted with I take a mental pause to align these 3 areas and I contemplate…How does this affect me, how does it make me feel and how do I want to handle it? This allows me to be in control of my thoughts, feelings and my energy and this is the truest form of empowerment of self.
“Switch it up: I have banished limits and negativity from my life by ‘switching it up’. I turned my am I’s, can I’s, should I’s, will I’s into I am, I can, I shall, I will. My motto, ‘The question isn’t who is going to let me rather it’s who is going to stop me’.
“Choose your battles: Let’s face it not everything in life can be conquered some things we have to learn to accept. Knowing this I do not waste time and energy complaining. If I don’t like something and it can be changed then I change it, if it can’t be changed then I change the way I perceive it. I fight the battles I can win and when it comes to people I know that sometimes being at peace is more important than being right.
“Invest in yourself: Life can take many things from you but the one thing that cannot be stolen is knowledge. I try to read one book per month. This month’s read is ‘Emotional Intelligence’ by Scott Mercer. When you increase your knowledge you immediately increase your worth and remove your own limits.
“Let yourself off the hook: Far too often we are harsh and cruel with ourselves. I tell myself, I don’t always have to be happy, or in a good mood, or have it all figured out, or always look good oh no – I am allowed to have bad days, I am allowed to be hurt and cry, I am allowed to be scared, worried, anxious and unsure, every once in a while. Most importantly I am not afraid to ask for help when I know I need it as I see this as a sign of strength. To me it’s okay to get bent out of shape once in a while after all only when you are stretched can you grow.” (Guyana Times Sunday Magazine)