There has been much speculation about the visit by a group of African-American state legislators and Black activists on a “fact finding mission to investigate” reports of discrimination and other factors allegedly adversely affecting African Guyanese. According to the leader of the delegation, former Georgia state rep Dee Dawkins-Haigler, they were responding to concerns raised by PNC MP Roysdale Forde, SC, AFC’s Catherine Hughes and David Patterson who in August had attended a “Conference on Guyana” in Washinton and also via Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, the top Democrat in the Congress. Dawkins-Haigler stressed, however, that neither she nor any other member of the delegation had spoken “directly” to the PNC-affiliated, Brooklyn-based organiser of the Conference.
But group leader Dawkins-Haigler pointed out that she had been part of another delegation which visited Guyana back in August 2021 and had met and held discussions with President Ali and several members of his Cabinet and Government. In that visit, in which the then US Ambassador Sara-Ann Lynch was involved, the agenda was centred on business opportunities.
The delegation included members of a “Black Entrepreneur Association” (BEA) and in the meeting with President Ali, one of the “spokespersons” for BEA, Quinetha Fraiser, in the presence of Dr Melissa Varswyk, described as the Vice Chair of Guyana BEA, claimed there were 300 businesses in the local BEA affiliate and another 300 in Britain. The implication was that there was a US BEA that was being represented by Ms Fraiser, but efforts to identify such an organisation in the US have been unsuccessful.
The Guyana BEA had been launched back in 2020 and appears to have been quite active in attempting to foster entrepreneurship locally in the African Guyanese community. Dr Varswyk, who is the CEO of the Georgetown American Uni (Med School) that graduated its first batch of Medical Doctors in 2018, most recently sponsored a Shark Tank-type “Emancipation” contest for African-Guyanese entrepreneurs that featured a G$2 million top prize.
It was won by an individual who submitted a business idea involving drones. Earlier this year, she and a team from BEA met with Public Works Minister Juan Edghill to learn more about the bidding process to obtain contracts on Public Works. They emphasised they were not complaining about the award of contracts but to understand the mechanics of the process. At the meeting, Minister Edghill offered training for the BEA’s members.
It is not too clear from the public record what role, if any, Ms Dawkins-Haigler plays in the Guyana BEA but it would appear to be quite significant since less than a year after her 2021 visit, the Savannah Tribune of May 18, 2022 announced that: “Reverend Dr Dee Dawkins-Haigler, President and Founder of Organisation of World Leaders and candidate for Georgia Secretary of State, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize….The Honorable Roysdale A Ford, MP in Guyana and one of her nominators for the Peace Prize, states “Dr Dee Dawkins-Haigler has been instrumental in the fight for Afro-Guyanese gaining full access to government and global resources.
“She has been an ally in trying to ensure that equitable sustainable economic development is achieved for all Guyanese, which would level the playing field and get many Afro Guyanese people back to work and out of poverty.””
As a member of a national assembly, Mr Forde qualified as a nominator for the Nobel Peace Prize and must have met Ms Dawkins-Haigler during her 2021 trip.
This newspaper has been unable to obtain any information on the “Organisation of World Leaders” of which Dawkins-Haigler claims to be “President and Founder” and also of the “Dr” prefixed to her name. She has twice been, however, a candidate for the Georgia Secretary of State and twice been defeated in the primaries. In the 2022 primary, a month after being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Mr Forde, she lost to a Vietnamese-origin female candidate and according to the Associated Press, she complained there is “a race problem within the Democratic Party”.