An inaugural lecture organised by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport to honour the life and work of the late Minister within the Ministry of Education Dr. Desrey Ceasar-Fox was held on Monday at the Umana Yana, Kingston. The event which attracted a number of prominent persons reflected on Dr. Fox’s many accomplishments and her passion for the development and preservation of Amerindian languages.
Prime Minister Samuel Hinds in delivering brief remarks spoke of the work the late minister did and, much of which is part of the country’s rich history. Mr. Hinds stated that more can and will be done by Government to promote Amerindian Heritage and language as it was a passion of Dr. Fox. “We are very proud of her achievements….Guyana has had a great loss with her demise,” he said.
Dr Fox succumbed to her injuries after she was involved in an automobile accident in December 2009.
Presidential Advisor on Governance, Gail Teixeira stated that the lecture which is the first of many was important as it allowed persons to reflect on the important achievements by Dr. Fox. She added that while there is important work which was started by Dr. Fox and which needs to be completed, called on the students and lecturers of cultural linguistics and anthropology to continue her work.
At the time of her death, Dr. Fox along with Teixeira and Foreign Affairs Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett was in the process of translating the National Anthem into the nine Amerindian languages. Thus far, only six have been completed and the Presidential Advisor on Governance, committed on behalf of the Government to ensuring that the remainder are completed and, in a timely manner.
“It is very important for our people to have and respect the different languages in Guyana, and we have and must preserve them regardless of their kind and creed,” she said.
The lecture which is now an annual event in the Ministry of Culture’s calendar of events also saw an in-depth reflection on the life of Dr. Fox by Director of Training, Iwokrama, Dr. Raquel Thomas-Caesar. Dr. Thomas-Caesar described the late leader, as a remarkable person who fought for what she believed in and carried herself with great humility.
“I can safely say that Guyana lost a great treasure…Dr. Fox had so much passion in life and for her heritage…she felt that more needed to be done and as such, she embarked in the preservation of Amerindian languages at the University of Guyana,” she said.
According to Dr. Thomas-Caesar the work of Dr. Fox continues to have a tremendous impact on the development of Guyana as she will be remembered for her many contributions to academic, sports and the political arena.
Ministers of Amerindian Affairs and Foreign Affairs, Pauline Sukhai and Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett respectively were also present at the event to celebrate the life of Dr. Fox with her many relative, friends and well wishers.
Born on January 2, 1956 at Waramadong Village, Region 7, Desrey Clementine Caesar attended the Waramadong Primary School, and the Campbellville Government School and then briefly the Georgetown Seventh-Day Adventist Academy. She was awarded a nursing scholarship in 1973 and was a trained midwife at the Georgetown Hospital School of Nursing. She married a few years later.
In 1977 she joined the University of Guyana (UG) as a junior researcher attached to a special project referred to as the Amerindian Languages Project. She continued serving within this unit until it evolved into the present Amerindian Research Unit.
The focus of her research was cross-cultural, resulting in data being collected and analyzed on a wide range of Amerindian issues and situations in Guyana such as their pre-history, present history, spirituality, demography, geography, rites and rituals, kinship networks, language, music and general aspects of their way of life.
She secured a Master’s of Arts in Environmental Anthropology from the University of Kent at Canterbury, in the United Kingdom in 1997, then a PhD in Linguistics from Rice University, Houston Texas in 2003 and a Master’s of Arts in Linguistics at the same University in 2003. She also obtained a B.Sc Sociology from the University of Guyana.
She was the Curator of the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology and lectured in Linguistics and Amerindian Studies at UG and taught special courses at the Universities of Oregon and Rice.