Guyana’s Forests Under Threat

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Bai Shan Lin Logging Concessions - Guyana

China’s Bai Shan Lin Forestry Projects in Guyana
Second World Congress on Timber & Wood Products Trade
China – November 2012
Photo Credit: Guyanese Online Blog

 

Since starting work on my second novel, I’m immersed in the rainforest of the northwest region of Guyana where the story unfolds. After watching the video of “Bai Shan Lin Aerial View of Massive Logging Exports,” posted on the Guyanese Online Blog, I was perplexed.

Just five years ago, Guyana had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Norway agreeing to work towards Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). To make this possible, Norway established the REDD+ Investment Fund with the commitment to provide Guyana with up to US$250 million by 2015. What had gone wrong? Continue reading

America’s Culture of Violence

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Armored Police - Ferguson Missouri - 13 August 2014Armored police watch protestors following fatal shooting of Michael Brown
Ferguson – Missouri – 13 August 2014
Photo Credit: Whitney Curtis / The New York Times

 

During the last week in July 2014, my eighty-one-year-old mother was physically assaulted in a Culver City bus in Los Angeles County. As a regular passenger on the Culver City line, I have never felt threatened. The bus drivers, most of whom are black, are always courteous. Therefore, the news of my mother’s assault came as a shock.

With the aid of a walking chair, my mother moves around Los Angeles by bus. When she entered the Culver City bus near her residence, two white women sat facing each other in the front section of the bus. The two seats in this section, reserved for the elderly and physically disabled passengers, fold upwards to accommodate passengers using motorized and other wheel chairs. My mother judged the stout woman to be in her fifties. The other woman was frail and older, probably in her seventies. As is normal during the slack mid-morning period, there were only three other passengers on the bus.

While the bus driver, also white, waited at the bus stop for my mother to take a seat, the stout woman stood up and spoke to the frail woman across the aisle. While they spoke to each other, my mother positioned her walking chair to sit down next to the frail woman. (These side seats each hold three passengers.) Continue reading

Brazil Recalls its Ambassador from Israel

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Smoke from Israeli attack on Gaza - July 2014Smoke from Israeli Attack on Gaza – July 2014
Photo Credit: Hatem Moussa /Associated Press

 

Since the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948 on Palestinian territory, the two nation states are locked in a death grip. The latest renewal of fighting exploded into a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Of the 700 dead and 4,000 injured Palestinians, an estimated 75 percent are civilians. A large part is children. On the Israeli side, only two civilians were numbered among the forty Israelis killed.

As the humanitarian crisis escalated in Gaza, Brazil took three measures to call international attention. On July 23, 2014, at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council, South America’s largest nation and economy voted in favor of a resolution calling for an investigation into alleged war crimes in the Gaza Strip. With a majority of twenty-nine votes in favor, the Human Rights Council passed the resolution. Remaining on the fence, Western European members abstained from participation. The United States was the only council member to reject the motion. Continue reading

“When the Storm is Forgotten” – Poem by Saul Murray

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Hurricane Katrina waits with dog for help - USA - August 2005Hurricane Katrina survivor waits with dog for help
New Orleans – Louisiana – United States – August 2005
Photo Credit: Hurricane Katrina

 

My Poetry Corner August 2014 features the poem “When the Storm is Forgotten” by Saul Murray, an African-American poet, songwriter, and performing artist. Murray’s poetry blends the rhythms and themes of Beat and Black alternative hip hop.

Written in the wake of Hurricane Katrina that devastated the Gulf Coast in August 2005, Murray’s poem is not a reflection on the storm itself. Instead, it presents a dismal view about American life: complacency, self-centeredness, pride, violence, celebrity worship, and more. When the storm is upon us, we become vulnerable. We learn that our survival depends upon others.

The poet calls on us not to forget the storm. When we forget the storm, the struggle to change our lives comes to an end.

The inspiration for my Haiku poem, “In Denial,” came from the repetitive first line of Saul Murray’s poem: When the storm remains distant… In California where I live, drought and firestorms have already reached critical levels.

Read “When the Storm is Forgotten” and learn more about Saul Murray’s work at my Poetry Corner August 2014.

Guyana’s Surveillance State, Death Squad & Undercover Agents

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Robert Gates - Witness for Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry - June 2014Allan Robert Gates – Witness for Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry
Georgetown – Guyana – June 2014
Photo Credit: Guyana Chronicle

 

The three years leading up to Walter Rodney’s assassination on June 13, 1980, were dangerous times in Guyana. Living with State surveillance, the Police Death Squad, thugs of the House of Israel Sect, and economic hardships had become our new reality. Informers were everywhere. A treacherous remark could cost you your job or worse.

During session three of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry, Allan Robert Gates was the star witness. Since January 2014, he has been serving a two-year prison sentence for fraudulent activities. He claimed they were “trumped-up charges” to prevent him from testifying.

Gates described himself as a security expert. As a young man in June 1977, he joined the Police Force. Two years later, he was assigned to the Special Squad of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Continue reading

When will we learn?

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American Protesters in Murrieta

Illegal Immigration or a Humanitarian Crisis?
American Protesters against influx of Central American Refugees
Murrieta – California – July 2014
Photo Credit: Politicus USA

 

Our choices, our behavior, our actions have consequences. Some good. Some bad. Some consequences take more than a lifetime for manifestation. That’s why it’s important to study history. History that distorts the truth is useless and harmful for learning.

In high school, I hated studying history. I saw no connection to my life. I finally get it. Everything that’s assailing us today has its roots in the distant and recent past. Not only have America’s foreign policies supported dictatorship governments that heap hardships upon their citizens, but we also have trade policies that affect local economies and peoples’ livelihood.

Consider the current overwhelming number of unaccompanied refugee children arriving at America’s southwest borders. The majority of them are fleeing gang and state violence in their homelands in Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. These three developing countries are part of the six-nation CAFTA-DR Free Trade Agreement with the United States, fully implemented in 2006.

Inconsequential? Coincidental?

The world we live in is of our own making. We set the course decades ago. Securing our borders with more troops will not resolve the humanitarian crisis we helped to spawn. Continue reading

BRICS 2014 Brazil: The New Development Bank

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BRICS 2014 BRASILBRICS 2014 Brasil – Fortaleza – Brazil
Heads of State (left to right) of Russia, India, Brazil, China, and South Africa
Photo Credit: Marcelo Camargo, Agência Brasil

 

The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is over. Brazil did not win the coveted cup. Their humiliating loss of seven to one goals in their semi-final match against Germany is a clear indication of the need for profound changes in Brazilian football. Changing heads will make no difference. As Otto Scharmer, a senior lecturer at MIT, said in his article on the Huffington Post Sports Blog, the Brazilian team needs to shift its focus to a shared awareness of the evolving whole. As Scharmer points out, it’s a challenge that we face in all sectors of society.

The day after watching the German team take away the World Cup, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff headed northeast to Fortaleza, Ceará, for the Sixth Summit of Heads of State of the BRICS group: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Since their inaugural summit in Russia on 16 June 2009, BRICS leaders have met annually to pursue their common goals for peace, security, development, and cooperation. Working within the framework of the United Nations, they continue to push for financial stability, sustainable growth, and quality jobs – globally and nationally. Continue reading

Guyana Population Census 2012: Panoramic View of a Nation

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Guyana National Junior Squash Team - August 2012

Faces of the People of Guyana
Guyana National Junior Squash Team – August 2012
Photo Credit: Guyana Times International

 

We are a complex species, living in a complex world of our own design. Except in small rural communities and suburban enclaves where people know each other by name, our urban centers have become too large for us to know everyone. In many cases, we don’t even know or chat with our neighbors.

In order to meet the needs of a nation’s population, policymakers rely upon a critical planning tool: the national Population and Housing Census. Such a comprehensive population count is not only costly but also a colossal operation. For about 150 developing countries, home to 80 percent of the world’s population, help comes from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Undertaken every ten years and in compliance with the United Nations’ mandate for the 2010 Global Round of Censuses, Guyana held its Population and Housing Census on 15 September 2012. In June 2014, the Guyana Bureau of Statistics released its Preliminary Report of the nation’s 2012 Census. All population figures are not yet available; factors affecting changes since the 2002 Census have not been fully analyzed. Continue reading

“Circle of Horrors” – Poem by Brazilian Poet Waldo Motta

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Being Black in Brazil

At left, Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari with star Neymar
At right, Brazilian fans at a FIFA World Cup 2014 match
Photo Credit: Black Women of Brazil

 

In my Poetry Corner July 2014, I feature the poem “Círculo dos Horrores” (Circle of Horrors) by Waldo Motta: a gay, black, contemporary Brazilian poet, actor, and mystic from the Southeast State of Espírito Santo. Some literary critics consider him one of the most important Brazilian poets of the first decade of the twentieth century.

“Círculo dos Horrores” is one of his lyrical, protest poems from his poetry collection, Bunda e Outras Poemas (The Negro and Other Poems), published in 1996. (The word bunda originates from the Angolan Bantu language, meaning Angolan Negro.) In this collection, Motta explores the themes of blackness and social exclusion. Little has changed since 1996.

As shown in the captioned photos, although blacks or mixed-race players, like football star Neymar, predominate in Brazil’s World Cup 2014 team, they don’t occupy the coaching position and very few could afford to attend the World Cup matches.

Motta laments that we allow our human feelings to prevent us from taking collective action to save ourselves from self-inflicted wounds. The poet repeats the question raised in the opening lines:

How many more humanities
Will we let pass by again?

In translating Motta’s “Circle of Horrors,” I failed in preserving his beautiful lyricism. In maintaining his use of the word “humanities,” not used in this context in English, I sought to capture the essence of the poet’s lamentation of the plight of blacks in Brazil. Our failure to correct this wrong against blacks, not only in Brazil but also here in the United States and worldwide, is a task for all of humanity.

The circle of horrors facing humanity goes far beyond racism. It also speaks to the inequality we face worldwide. As Motta notes, the “stupidity of the demon in us” leads us to our ruin.

Inspired by Waldo Motta’s poem, my Haiku poem “Humanity” focuses on the effects of unfettered capitalism on humanity.

You can learn more about Waldo Motta and read his poem, “Círculo dos Horrores” (Circle of Horrors) in its original Portuguese and English versions at my Writer’s Website.

The Illusion of Independence

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Declaration of Independence - 4 July 1776 - Detail of Painting by John TrumbullDeclaration of Independence – 4 July 1776
Detail of Painting by John Trumbull in the U.S. Capitol
Photo Credit: U.S. Library of Congress

 

This Fourth of July, I joined the people of America in celebrating 238 years since the nation’s Declaration of Independence from the British Empire. In 1966, when my native land, Guyana, gained its independence from Great Britain, the British Empire was already in decline. The United States was in ascendance.

Growing to adulthood in a young independent nation, I learned that the word independence was a misnomer. We were still tied by our navel string to our former colonial masters. With a struggling economy, we endured power outages, water cutoffs, and food shortages. Help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) brought more austerity. Independence had led to new forms of dependency on international bankers and on other masters. Continue reading

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