Celebrating ‘Independence 54’, virtually
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The hoisting the Golden Arrowhead at D’Urban Park on Independence-eve
The hoisting the Golden Arrowhead at D’Urban Park on Independence-eve

By Gabriella Chapman

GUYANA celebrated its 54th anniversary as an Independent Nation on Tuesday, and while the country is operating under different and unusual circumstances, the Government of Guyana, through its Ministry of Social Cohesion, still ensured that this celebration was memorable despite the odds.

Guyanese artiste, Carlvin Burnett doing a rendition of ‘Oh Beautiful Guyana’

And it was all thanks the advancements in technology and the world’s transcension into the Digital Age, which came in pretty nifty in this pandemic mode we’re now in, as the usual celebratory activities were broadcast virtually for the entire world to get a taste of our culture, even though we all are currently confined to our homes.
While the activities were not the usual extravaganza we’ve grown accustomed to, with thousands of people crowding the stands and being part of the experience, the current political and health predicament makes it all the more understandable and the efforts of the government commendable.

SHOW-TIME
As such, things got off to a grand start on Monday evening, with a rebroadcast of the cultural aspect of the Jubilee celebration in 2016, which was the year of one of the biggest Independence celebrations ever in our country’s history, on State-run National Communications Network’s NCN Channel 11, as well as its Facebook page.
That rebroadcast no doubt helped put the public in a mindset to reminisce and simulate a sense of proudness of being Guyanese.
Following the cultural rebroadcast, several local artistes, musicians, dancers and poets, performed live from their homes, and some on stage at the National Cultural Centre (NCC), putting on a magnificent show, which was hosted by veteran broadcasters Russel Lancaster and Andrea Bryan-Garner.
The show featured such big-name Guyanese acts as Courtney Noel, famously known for his hit single, ‘Arrowhead’; Creole Rock star, Gavin Mendonca; lead vocalist in the Heatwave Band, Tennicia DeFreitas; Saxophonist, Courtney Fadlin; Violinist, Akeem Adams; Poet, Mark Luke Edwards; the National Dance Company; and many other talented Guyanese.

THE FORMALITIES
The show concluded at exactly 23: 53 hrs, just in time for the hoisting of the Golden Arrowhead at the break of Tuesday, May 26 (Independence Day).

Due to the stipulations governing social distancing, of course, the stands at D’Urban Park were empty, but thanks the dexterity of the cameraman and the broadcast team, the HD quality of our phones and TVs had the same effect as if we were all there physically.
A team of six ranks from the Armed Forces, clad in white, green and red, and wearing the mandatory face-masks, hoisted the gigantic, five-coloured beauty into the sky in seven minutes flat, as the military drums rolled excitingly.
By this time, the live broadcast was flooded with comments of pure love, joy and pride at being Guyanese.

Berbice Delight Dancers in action

Then President David Granger took to the virtual podium to address the nation, and he began by saying that for each and every Guyanese, wherever in the world they may happen to be, the celebration of Independence is about “recalling the sacrifice, suffering and struggle of our working people, who struck the first blows against colonial oppression 115 years ago in Georgetown.”

He said it’s a time when Guyanese also recall the militancy of the workers who were shot by colonial police in the Ruimveldt Riots of 1905, an incident which led to the formation of our first trade union and the start of the labour movement. “We recall that workers’ rebellions which erupted throughout the British West Indies in succeeding decades, forced the Imperial Government to ameliorate living and working conditions,” President Granger said, adding: “Britain’s response initiated a constitutional revolution and, eventually, led to Independence for its Caribbean colonies. British Guiana, as part of the labour movement and the Independence movement, achieved its Independence on May 26, 1966.”

After referencing his New Year’s message of the ‘good life’ for all, President Granger said that Guyanese can look forward to enjoying greater equality, and a higher quality of life in an expanding economy over the next decade. “We have become a ‘Petroleum State’, in which the proceeds from the petroleum industry will contribute to transforming the economy. We are on a path towards becoming a ‘green state’, which will promote the preservation and protection of our environment and the adoption of renewable energy technologies.”

Local Chutney Sensation, Bunty Singh, putting his own personal stamp on ‘Suhani Raat’, made popular back-in-the-day by the Legendary Mohammed Rafi

In closing, the President urged Guyanese to await the declaration of the results of the General and Regional Elections which were held on March 2 this year, stating that the Elections Commission, which is the sole authority charged with administering the elections in accordance with our Constitution, has responded in an orderly and lawful manner to the challenges which have arisen.

And, saving the best for last, he said that the ‘Decade of Development’ promises to be “the most exciting and exhilarating era in our nation’s history.”

THE ‘WASH-DOWN’

That aspect of the celebrations done, it was now time for the ‘bacchanal’, and as any Guyanese worth their salt would know, no coronavirus or national recount can hold them back from celebrating such a momentous occasion, and thanks to the Government of Guyana, Nigel Worrell and Andrew Tyndall, they certainly outdid themselves with the virtual activities. And if you thought that the rebroadcast and the pre-flagraising show was all that was planned, then you thought wrong.

For at 10:00hrs sharp on Tuesday morning, another virtual, cultural music festival was broadcast live on Television, Facebook and radio, coming from the stage of the National Cultural Centre.

The indomitable Charmaine Blackman, doing what she does best, ‘gi’ dem mo fuh talk’

With the host of this show being Malcolm Ferreira, the energy was all the way up, and was 1000 per cent Guyanese.
Starting with the exceptional lyricist, Clifford ‘Alabama’ Charles, the show kicked off with the ultimate ‘bang’, and the crowd was definitely in for a treat.

Other massive performances came from the likes of Mark Batson, Carlvin Burnett, Charmaine Blackman, Brandon Harding, Steven Ramphal, and Jumo Primo, taking the broadcast to thousands of views and positive reactions from the public, who were all pleased with the production.
Three full hours of live Guyanese entertainment from the comfort of our homes, ‘Independence 54’ is definitely one anniversary that will always be remembered.

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