Guyana Faces a Moral Crisis

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Homeless and Invisible - GuyanaHomeless man asleep on sidewalk outside Parliament Buildings
Georgetown, Guyana – October 2014
Photo Credit: Mark Jacobs

 

On Monday, November 10, 2014, the Guyana government entered into shutdown mode. Facing the threat of a “no-confidence” motion from a combined opposition against his administration, President Donald Ramotar “prorogued” the 65-member National Assembly or Parliament. He invoked a provision from the 1980 Constitution, framed by the former autocratic government of President Forbes Burnham. Such a drastic move could throw the country into a state of limbo for up to six months.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War, the Indo-Guyanese dominated party of Marxist Cheddi Jagan finally came to power in 1992 and has remained in power since then. Government corruption, unsolved criminal activity, police brutality, and extra-judicial killings – common during the Burnham dictatorship – continue unabated. Continue reading

Frustration at Filing for Divorce in Brazil

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Divorce - When a Marriage FailsDivorce – When a Marriage Fails
Photo Credit: culturamix.com

 

Marriages are tested under fire. Some marriages survive the flame, forging a stronger bond. Others suffer third degree burns, weakening the union. My marriage belonged to the latter group. When it ended in Brazil, I had not only failed as a wife but also had to confront the demon of divorce.

“I can’t sponsor you and your sons to come to America unless you’re divorced,” my mother told me.

I opened my Jerusalem Bible for guidance. In the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 19), Jesus was clear about divorce.

“[W]hat God has united, man must not divide… Now I say this to you: the man who divorces his wife…and marries another, is guilty of adultery.”

Alone and broken with two kids in a foreign country, I spent a year of soul searching to come to terms with what I needed to do in order to reunite with my family. Continue reading

“Jungle Rot and Open Arms” – Poem by Janice Mirikitani

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070711-D-7203T-004Wounded War Veteran with wife at the Walter Reed Medical Center
Photo Credit: Cherie A. Thurlby / National Military Family Association

 

November 11 is Veterans Day. It’s an official American holiday to honor the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The date marks the anniversary of the end of World War I on November 11, 1918.

To commemorate this day, my Poetry Corner November 2014 features the poem “Jungle Rot and Open Arms” by Janice Mirikitani, a sansei or third-generation Japanese American born in 1941 in Stockton, California.

Janice Mirikitani’s life was touched by two wars: World War II and the Vietnam War. As an infant during World War II, she was interned with her family and other Japanese American families in the Rohwer Relocation Center in Arkansas.

At the end of the war, to avoid the racism still prevailing on the West Coast, Mirikitani’s family moved to Chicago. Her parents’ marriage did not survive the tumult in their lives. Writing became a source of comfort for the fledgling poet. Continue reading

On Leaving Guyana

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Guyanese boarding Aircraft at Cheddi Jagan International AirportBoarding aircraft at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport – Guyana
Photo Credit: Guyana Times International

 

The worse part about emigration is not the brain drain. It’s the fragmentation of the family and community. Before my time came to leave the land of my birth, I had already lost to emigration, aunts, uncles, cousins, school friends, my three brothers, my sister, and my mother. Only my father and I had remained. Marriage gave me a new family with new connections.

Like thousands of other Guyanese over the years, they left for all kinds of reasons: higher education, reunite with family, economic hardships, racial and other violence, political victimization, corruption, crime, and more. Continue reading

U.S. Midterm Elections: Vote Wisely

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Homeless in the USAHomeless in the USA
Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon / Paltalk News Network

 

November 4 is Midterm Elections in the United States. Americans will be choosing their representatives for the United States Congress, state governors, and their state legislatures. A number of citizen initiatives also have their place on the ballots.

While we’re busy pursuing our individual goals and dreams or simply struggling to survive, the rich and powerful One Percent are buying our government representatives and, through them, changing the laws in their favor.

America is no longer the nation that our Founding Fathers had envisaged. We have lost our way. Continue reading

“In Search of Childhood” – Poem by Brazilian Poet Anilda Leão

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Street Children - Sao Paulo - BrazilStreet Children in São Paulo – Brazil
Photo Credit: Devamor Amancio / ONG

 

October 12 is Children’s Day in Brazil. It’s a fun time for children across Brazil. On their special day, children receive toys from their parents and relatives. The day is celebrated with children parties, family outings, and special local events. It’s a day for families to share in the joys of childhood.

To commemorate Brazil’s Children’s Day, my Poetry Corner October 2014 features the poem “À Procura da Infância” (In Search of Childhood) by Brazilian poet Anilda Leão (1923-2012). Born in Maceió, capital of the Northeastern State of Alagoas, she grew up in a privileged middle-class family. Her father was a business owner and a respected politician in the 1940s and 1950s. Continue reading

Guyana: Forbes Burnham & My Grand Disillusion

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Late President Forbes Burnham - GuyanaLinden Forbes Sampson Burnham (1923-1985)
Prime Minister of Guyana, 1964-1980
President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, 1980-1985
Photo Credit: Guyana Graphic

 

Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham: an impressive name. In retaining his mother’s maiden name, Sampson, not a common practice in Guyana, he reveals a deep regard for her. With a father who was a schoolmaster and both parents devout Methodists, the young Forbes had a strict and upright upbringing.

The brilliant, young Forbes won the 1942 British Guiana Scholarship, the highest scholastic award at that time. Later, he excelled at the University of London, achieving a Bachelor of Laws (Honors) Degree.

When I first met Forbes Burnham, then a practicing lawyer and leader of a newly-formed political party, I was about four to five years old. I was at our next-door neighbor’s flat the day he came to pick up his order of black pudding. The charming, well-spoken, and elegantly dressed man left me in awe. Continue reading

Warfare: Remnant of our Barbaric Past?

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Lockheed Martin Joint Strike FighterGlobal Arms Sales
Photo Credit: The Guardian (Associated Press)

 

Beginning in August 2014 and as recent as Friday, October 3, four videos have been posted online purportedly showing the beheading of two American journalists and two British aid workers by hooded members of the new Islamic State (IS), a caliphate previously known as ISIS and ISIL. American and British leaders have termed these acts “barbaric.”

Are these publicly orchestrated executions intended to provoke the USA and Britain? If so, they have succeeded. The United States has now extended its war in the Middle East. A war without end. Continue reading

Brazil’s Stand at the UN 2014 Climate Summit

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Deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest - BrazilDeforestation in the Amazon Rainforest – Brazil
Photo Credit: Manchete Online

 

On September 23, over 900 leaders from government, business, finance, and civil society came together at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for the 2014 Climate Summit. Judging from the Summary of their most significant announcements, they issued more promises “to galvanize transformative action in all countries to reduce emissions and build resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change.”

Promises are easy. Following them through is another story.

The pledge to halve deforestation by 2020 and reach zero deforestation by 2030 is ambitious. Since trees release carbon when burned, such a move would secure an additional 4.5 to 8.8 billion tons of carbon yearly. This is equivalent to carbon emissions from one billion cars on the roads worldwide.
Continue reading

Guyana, Cheddi Jagan & the Cold War

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Cheddi and Janet Jagan - Wedding Photo - Chicago USA 1943Cheddi and Janet Jagan – Wedding Photo – Chicago/USA – 1943
Photo Credit: Cheddi Jagan Research Centre

 

On Saturday, at the People’s Climate Los Angeles – Building Blocks against Climate Change, I had the opportunity to chat with the leader of the small contingent from the Communist Party USA. I learned that he had visited Guyana in 1967.

In the 1960s, in what was then British Guiana, the Catholic Church had drilled the fear of communism into my young impressionable mind. Those were the days of the Cold War. With their dread of the Soviet Union and fear of another Cuba in their backyard, the US government covertly ousted from power Guyana’s populist East Indian leader, the Marxist Cheddi Jagan.

“I met Cheddi Jagan and his wife, Janet,” the white American male said with pride. Continue reading

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