Ah We Guyanese-All Is Culture!
A Few Laughs And A Walk Down Memory Lane!
This speech made by David Martins 4 years ago is patriotic, inspiring, nostalgic and funny.
Below is an excerpt from a speech Dave Martins made here four years ago, when he visited for the Guyana Republic Ball. It just reminds me as to why I'm so proud to be Caribbean. Dave Martin's speech was one of the main inspirations behind Caribbean Passport Newspaper and the irreverent way we celebrate Caribbean people and Culture.
"Guyana has put a stamp on us with this vibrant, colourful, humourous, optimistic culture that sets us up to succeed when opportunity comes.
A Guyanese friend of mine, Terry Ferreira, who lives in New Jersey put it very well in an email he sent me, and which I sent on to the Stabroek News in Guyana. Before I read his note, I need to tell you that this is the same Terry Ferreira, a ‘Putagee’ from New Amsterdam, who, in 1996, rode a bike 7,600 miles from Orinduik in Guyana, through Brazil, Venezuela, Central America, the US, all the way to the Niagara Falls. It took him five months, but he did it. The first 160 miles, his sister Donna rode with him. After that, it was him alone. Not many people know this amazing story of this amazing guy: 7,600 miles in five months.
That’s the kind of man he is. He made the ride to draw attention to an organization he started in New Jersey called ‘Quiet Noise’, to try and stamp out the public stigma towards mental illness. This is a banna who has been a success outside Guyana, but hear what he says: "Of all the things I am, have done, claim to be, or was brave enough to dream about, the most important aspect of my being is buried in the lucky shot that I was born Guyanese. Let me put it this way – I would dislike being from elsewhere. We are such a bright bunch of people; common sense and ability galore. As individuals, we are usually ready for the chance, the task and the challenge.
“How many times we hear about one of us who started out with nothing, not even a proper cricket bat, school books, even shoes, or the ability to construct a proper sentence, bare-foot but hungry for improvement, making it all the way to the top of his or her endeavour?
"Give me my people's company, and I am most happy. Give me my country's spirit, give me my people's outlook and I am boss in anything I choose. Fixing, reaching for, or solving anything that is often a headache for others, is often a breeze for us. Long live North America, where I find myself, but long live Guyana that gave me the tools to succeed.”
Terry is making the point I’m making: Our life in Guyana prepared us to succeed.
Now I know there will be some who reject what I’m saying; who feel Guyana has given them nothing; and they owe Guyana nothing. I hear them. I hear them loud and clear. They haven’t gone home in years, but I also see them same people Saturday morning in the Caribbean market buying their curry powder and their hassar; and I see them in their house parties grooving to soca and reggae; and I still see them in their Dockers pants in the roti shop; and Christmas morning in their fancy house they still have garlic pork on the stove. And if you give them two rum they end up telling you of the champion cashew tree they had in Forshaw Street.
Ah sorry for them as they try to evade the culture like Sarwan dodging a bouncer; you can’t evade your culture banna. It’s on you like a stain. For everybody, not just Guyanese, your culture follows you wherever you go. It is part of you. Like the Sikh with his turban, or the Islamic woman with the veil, you can see it; you can see it in the ‘Trinis’. Trinidadians are the only people who coming into your house, no music playing, but they chipping. Sometimes you can smell it, as in my sister’s apartment building in Toronto: You walk down the hall, doors closed, but you know some Pakistani living there – you can smell the geera and the Basmati rice. Sometimes you can hear it: Traffic stop in the middle of some American suburb, 2 o’clock in the morning. You can hear reggae pumping through the door – who living there?
Wherever we wander, our Guyanese culture sustains us and fortifies us. It comforts us. When we have a hard time at work or with a client, we silently tell the man about he ‘beetee’ and the pressure ease. When we girl-friend give we a hard time, we put on Sahani Raat, cry lil’ bit, and feel better. When family come to visit, is roti, and pepper pot, and cook up – KFC put one side. You walking down the street somber, you run into a panda. “Oh score!
So buddy, wha giein on!” And just so, a smile on your face. Can you imagine a life without roti and curry, or metagee? Is there a sweeter dessert than paynoos? Can you imagine Christmas without pepperpot and garlic pork? I know a Guyanese working on the DEW line in Alaska. He say: “Dave, Christmas, I drop a garlic pork pon dey backside; um almost melt the glacier.”
Just think about the ingredients of this culture and how they never leave you. Every time you see a picture of Stabroek Market, you make a connection. You can hear your culture in the sound of a dray cart going down Lamaha Street: Clop! Clop! Clop! Clop! You can see it in the guys up in the tree
‘pope-in’ cricket. Or in the Jordanite with the bottle lamp in town; or in the sweep of the Essequibo, as my friend Ian McDonald calls it, ‘The Mighty Essequibo’; you can feel it in that early morning dew up in the Abary; you can smell it in that punt-trench odour when you passing Diamond…remember that? Guyanese driving two English people from the airport. They passing Diamond. The English-woman says: “Good Lord, driver! What is that awful odour!” Guyanese smiles… takes a deep breath: “That’s Diamond Estate, madam. Smell today; rum tomorrow.”
And the other thing to notice is that the culture endures. It does not fade. Fifty years after he leave Guyana, my friend Colin Cholmondeley, now living in India, first thing every morning after he tek a pee, guess what Colin doing? He reading the Guyana newspapers online. Every day. As we say in GT: The culture got he backside.
The politicians may stumble, the economy may be struggling, but our culture stays strong. Even when there is madness about, as there is now in Guyana, in Agricola and Lusignan and Bartica, in the middle of all that, the culture continues. And it will come out whole in the end. The current madness will pass away; the culture will survive that. And the children of the culture, thousands like you, carry it wherever they go, as you have carried it and drawn strength and joy from it.
You have it here with you, in this hotel tonight, in this place 3,000 miles from Guyana. You have come all that way, and your culture has come with you. It will never leave you, as you will never leave it. As the song says: IS WE OWN.
“Mary and Paul up on the seawall, is we own. And the gal foot fine, but lawd, she behind is we own.”
We should be proud of Orlando and New York and Toronto and all the other arenas of our achievements. But we must be proud of our beginnings, too, and be proud of the culture that produced us. At the core, wherever we are, it is the essence of who we are.
Alyuh walk good!"
I cannot wait for this weekend to be in the company of Dave Martins and the Tradewinds, to escape to the islands for a few hours, to have my heart swell with pride when I hear Not a Blade of Grass, to laugh when Honeymooning Couple comes on and to hope that he plays Wong Ping which is my absolute favorite song of all!!