Indians and Amerindians should also demand their fair share

Dear Editor,
With reference to Shanie Jagessar (GT Aug 6) who has penned a splendid critique of Eric Phillip’s Afro-nationalist demand, one can’t help but admire other leading Afro-nationalists like Tacuma Ogunseye, David Hinds, Barrington Braithwaite, Clive Thomas, Eusi Kwayana, Craig Sylvester, Vincent Alexander, Keith Williams, Freddie Kissoon, among others, for not condemning Philips in his unsubstantiated claims and ‘what if’ interpretation of history.
As Shanie penned, Philips’ claim is not based on actual history but what ifs. And no African has come forward to rebuke him. Instead the Afro-centric organisations like ACDA, ASCRIA and African-nationalists salute him for advocating for the interests of their people.
The Afro-centrists are unapologetic about their Afro-nationalism. One can’t help but admire the activism of these outstanding Black nationalists and intellectuals, who unlike most of their Indian counterparts, proudly advocate for the interests of their ethnic group.
The interests of their group are of paramount importance to them (and of course their people) and foremost in their thoughts and actions unlike most Indian politicians or intellectuals or writers who are hesitant about advocating an Indian cause because of a fear of being branded “racist’.
There is nothing racist about advocating for your group – Dr King, Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Angela Davis, Walter Rodney, etc all championed a Black agenda from which other ethnic groups benefited. So ethnic advocacy has its benefits and the advocates are not racist unless they attack (people from) other groups.
We must be thankful to and salute these Afro-nationalists who fought racism in the US. And Indians and Amerindians should also make demands on the state. It is noted that Afro-nationalists in Guyana made/make demands on the state and get results unlike Indian and Amerindian politicians and intellectuals who are bashful about making similar demands for their group.
Indian and Amerindian advocates should learn from the Afro-nationalists to get equitable resources for their groups. I commend the Africanists for their work and call on leaders of other ethnic groups to emulate their activism. I wish if Indians and Amerindians can develop the courage and tenacity to copy their actions.
The Afro-nationalists are not known to compromise their identity or advocacy on behalf of their group for narrow self-interests. Their group interests take primacy.
Take, for example, Ogunseye or Hinds who simply refused to work for a non-African dominated government in Guyana. These proud Afro-centrists did not seek government employ or educational assistance under the PPP but gladly accept government roles under the African/PNC-led coalition.
Tacuma is advisor to Granger while Hinds writes for the state-owned Chronicle.
When PPP was in government, Tacuma proudly worked as a vendor in the market to provide for his family rather than work for the Indian-led (PPP) government. He could not be bought by any Indian.
Since the change in government last year May, Tacuma advises the African leader of PNC and APNU and the coalition government.
Phillips is an advisor to Granger.
Similarly, Hinds, did not seek employment with the Indian PPP and opted for work in the US rather than at UG that was under PPP control; no PPP handouts could have bought Hinds who advocate for racial equality (although his voice has been muzzled since Africans have retaken control of the government.
Few Indians take such a principled position like that of Ogunseye and Hinds of not cavorting with those who were viewed as “the enemy” of their people. Where do such type of Indians dwell?
Ogunseye, Kwayana and Hinds promoted self-reliance among Africans and dressed in traditional garb to promote African culture whereas few Indian intellectuals proudly wear their traditional clothing.
It is also noted that while the African intellectuals (including Kwayana) initially supported Forbes Burnham and the PNC, including when Forbes Burnham cracked down on Indians, Amerindians, Portuguese, and Chinese, some of these Afro intellectuals turned against Burnham when he started oppressing Africans – murdering Rodney, Ohene Koama, Edward Dublin, etc. They were enamoured by Burnham and the PNC’s rule against the Jagan, PPP and Indians, but felt Burnham went too far when he began to oppress and persecute his own people.
And although some of the Afro-nationalists opposed and condemned Burnhamism, they never joined Jagan to obtain the same goal. Their mouths were not muzzled by the PNC hands that fed them at that time unlike what has been the case since May 2015. Their group is now in control of the state and they rally behind the leadership of the group for preservation, unconcerned about policies that hurt other groups.
There were few Indian intellectuals who took such a principled step to resist ethnic victimisation and the atrocities of the PNC dictatorships of Burnham and Desmond Hoyte. Even now, few Indian intellectuals have spoken out against the discriminatory policies of the coalition.
The Afro-nationalists are leaders that their Indian counterparts can take a lesson from and as individuals one can work with on a formula for power sharing or equitable distribution of resources.
Unlike most Indian intellectuals, Afro-nationalists are proud of their identity and consistently advocate for Black causes. There is no Indian or Amerindian or Chinese or Portuguese equivalent.
And the Afro-nationalists are not only advocates of an Afro-Guyanese identity, true followers of a Pan-Africanist identity. Their economic, social, political, cultural philosophy is Black nationalism as once advocated by Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey and others.
There isn’t a similar “Pan-Indian” or “Pan-Amerindian” ideology in the horizon even though Indians and Amerindians have been victims of racialist abuses in the greater Caribbean and globally. And unlike the PNC and WPA that encouraged and promoted ethno-nationalism, the PPP averred on anything that resembles Indian nationalism.
Advocates of Indo-centric policies were marginalised or removed from the PPP. There is no room for Indian ethno nationalists in the PPP that claims that ethno-nationalism is anathema to Marxism.
Black-nationalism defines the group’s economic, social, political, cultural philosophy and agenda. Indian and Amerindian nationalists need to emulate the activism of their African counterparts for their own ethnic agenda, and they should make a fair demand on the state for an equitable share of the resources.

Yours truly,
Vishnu Bisram