By Francis Quamina Farrier
If you have never heard of Patricia Anne Callender, professionally known as “Sista Pat”, then it is time that you do. In a previous article five months ago, I promised to tell her story, and here it is. Sista Pat is an extremely talented singer and entertainer of Guyanese birth who I saw on stage for the first time earlier this year, 2020. It was at the Guyana Jubilee Republic Celebration held at the Hall of the Americas at the Organization of American States (OAS), in Washington DC, United States of America(USA).
Sista Pat grabbed my attention and admiration with her very first song when she commenced her performance that evening. She delivered some of the best-known and loved Guyanese and Caribbean songs. She was so dynamic, and not knowing her previously, I had to find out more about that Guyana-born, America-based, extremely talented performer. As such, I requested her contact information. We have been in touch by email over the past five (COVID-19 lockdown) months.
Patricia was born at the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Georgetown, British Guiana. Her father was Trinidadian of African Heritage and her mother a Guyanese of Portuguese Heritage. The couple enjoyed a strong inter-racial marriage. Although she migrated as a young child to the USA with her parents in 1960, her interest and love for the land of her birth never waned. She knows and sings all the national and folk songs of Guyana. She sang those songs at the Guyana Republic Jubilee celebration in Washington, DC on February 22, 2020.
Sista Pat actually started singing with the Salvation Army in British Guiana when she was just a tiny two-year-old. However, that was short-lived, as she was taken to the USA when her parents migrated. Her growing-up years were in Brooklyn, New York. During her pre-teen and early teenage years, Sista Pat had the experience of living with a father who loved Caribbean music and a mother who did not. “It was not easy,” she lamented. Added to which she had doses of “Guyana licks.” She did not get proper information about her dual heritage as a child, she informed me. Nonetheless, she was interested in knowing as much as possible. “I pieced together a patchwork of stories in order to pass down some family history to my children,” she explained.
In those early years, immigrants from the Caribbean in New York were not readily welcomed by Americans. “Go back on your banana boat” were the sort of things she was told. “I didn’t know where I fit. That’s when music came to my rescue,” she said. Sista Pat started performing publicly from the age of 16 and over the decades has done extremely well. She masters all the music genres of the Caribbean and audiences have always been well entertained by this talented daughter of Guyana.
After over half a century away from the land of her birth, Sista Pat visited Guyana during March and April of 2018. “As soon as I entered the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, I felt like I’m home.” Here is one of the proofs from her own lips: “De fus t’ing I did was look fah way de watah coconut man deh.” She also checked out Maggie’s Snackette on New Market Street in Georgetown where she bought lots of pastries, some of which she took back with her to America. During her stay, she won more Guyanese fans by performing at karaoke sessions in Georgetown regularly.
There is so much more about this talented daughter of Guyana which I know will intrigue you.
She is the mother of three brilliant grown daughters whose father she married – twice. He is Walter Tates, Jr., a talented saxophonist and also a professional in the entertainment business. It could be referred as being rather ironic that her husband’s band is called “One Nite Stand.” Over the years, Sista Pat has toured internationally. She is usually the lead Vocalist of the Peter Humphrey and the Oasis Band. Beyond music, Patricia is a graduate of the Hunter Collage where she gained a degree in Physical Therapy. She also taught Special Education and tutored autistic children.
Patricia is a fine example of the tens of thousands of Guyanese in the Diaspora, many who, after decades of absence, continue to love and cherish their childhood memories. They are the Guyanese who would never speak disparagingly about Guyana, especially to non-Guyanese. As stated in the Guyanese folk song, “Small Days”, which she sings with such patriotism, Sista Pat lifts the Golden Arrowhead very high. “I’m 64 and still rocking. I’ve been blessed throughout my life and am so grateful to God to be showered with endless love of a spectrum of beautiful people worldwide,” she stated.