August 3, 2021
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first_imgDear Editor,During the summer that just ended, Guyanese-Americans organised community events specifically designed to reunite kinfolks from a particular village and surrounding area in Guyana. These have become annual rituals that constitute a remembrance and celebration of life in that village and of the presence and achievements of those villagers and their descendants settled in America. Recreating ties among those spread across different areas in America, transmitting kin-based connections to offspring, is one of the objectives behind these joyous village reunions.Over the last two decades, Indo-Guyanese village and school reunions have become an annual ritual in New York City. They have institutionalised people (or those Americans who trace their roots) from every Indo-Guyanese village imaginable at gatherings (reunions) this past summer; and in fact have been so doing for many years – at the Flushing Park, Cunningham Park, Baysley Park, or Roy Wilkins Park, all of which also host cricket.And these reunions carried their own distinct labels, like Port Mourant Day, or Albion Day, or Rose Hall Day, or Canal Day, or Lesbeholden Day, etc. These reunions were organised by volunteers. The reunions attracted hundreds every Saturday and Sunday from the first weekend in July through end of September. The largest gatherings were usually Port Mourant, Albion, Enmore, Canal, Windsor Forest, Uitvlugt, Wales, Rose Hall Canje, Black Bush, etc. Non-villagers (from surrounding villages) also attend the reunions. I attended several to observe proceedings from a journalistic and academic perspective.All the school and village reunions tend to bring together people from back home in a fraternity. These reunions had a plethora of fun activities, including cricket, volleyball, track and field (bag racing, needle threading), dancing, and of course liquor drinking and a lot of eating. They saw each other and talked about those who lost hair, gained bellies, used reading glasses, etc. They showed off old photos of themselves, children, grandchildren and neighbours.Large music boxes tend to entertain the crowds with Indian and chatney songs, and occasionally there is a live band. Karaoke from well-known artistes is also part of the entertainment.These social events have meaning. The reunion is used as a fundraising drive to improve the village back in the old country. Raffles are held, participants also donate money; collected proceeds are sent home or used to organise next year’s activities. The money is given to some worthy project in Guyana – fixing a school; helping poor families; honouring outstanding Guyanese from that area – recognition.For older folks and those in poor health, a reunion presents a chance to see people whom they had not seen for a long time, and may also be seeing for the last time. The gatherings are also a way to celebrate shared heritage and culture; to exchange stories, and to honor the memories of those who have passed on.Participants disclose that it is a wonderful opportunity to be with village folks. The reunions allow members of a village to re-engage in face-to-face interaction that would keep alive memories of village life and to reminisce and celebrate their families and personalities. The holding of a village reunion also gives youngsters born in that village and migrated, as well as American-born of parents from those villages, a chance to meet and get to know their ancestral villagers, and anyone else who is from that village; and by extension from Guyana. It is amazing to hear youngsters born in America say they are from Port Mourant, or Anna Regina, or Berbice, or Guyana. The reunions are a welcome activity – a re-enactment of nostalgia back to a time and place that formed an important part of Guyanese life. They help people catch up with the past after a long period, serve a therapeutic effect on the old, feeble and lonely. There is much consoling over losses, and gratification and joy at meeting again. The connections, shared values and common experiences re-unite them all once again, until another summer, when they hope to meet again.Yours truly,Vishnu Bisramlast_img read more