An Evening of Reflection and Thanksgiving: “Guyana on the World Stage”

The theme, “Guyana Together: Reflect, Celebrate, Transform”, came alive on stage in the NYC H+H/Queens Hospital Auditorium, New York on Sunday, February 16, 2020, when Guyanese in the Diaspora, Inc. under the auspices of the Honorable Barbara Atherly, Consul General of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana launched its Republic Golden Jubilee celebrations, with a spectacular “Evening of Reflection and Thanksgiving”.

The program commenced with the singing of the National Anthems of the USA and Guyana and an Ancestral Invocation was delivered by a representative of Guyana’s indigenous peoples who was joined by two representatives of the indigenous peoples of the United States. The majesty of our major religions; Christians, Hindus and Muslims, was on full display when religious leaders performed side by side with other faith groups, such as the ‘Spiritualist’ and ‘Rastafarians’. This was a rather unique and colorful aspect of the evening because it signaled the first time in New York that Spiritualists and Rastafarians were formally recognized to perform alongside the three main religious groups and so prominently celebrated as Guyana showcased itself on the world stage.

Master of Ceremonies, Former Radio Announcer and Talk Show Host Hugh Hamilton,  introduced the procession of flag bearers – Members of the Guyana Ex-Police and Ex-Guyana Defence Force Soldiers, Members of the Jubilee Choir and Band, Members of the Consular Corps and other dignitaries as they processed into the auditorium to the rousing music of the gospel song, “Every Praise”, by Hezekiah Walker. This set the tone for a seamless and very intricate multi-religious and multi-ethnic mosaic of Hymns, National Songs, Rastafarian chanting and the spoken word, Christian, Hindu and Muslim interpretive dances, an Interfaith Unity Dance by International Dancer Zaman, gospel singing, Hindi devotional songs and Bhajans, Tabla drumming, as well as, African drumming and Libation.

Special thanks were extended to the Queens Events Auditorium by Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Christopher Roker, New York City H+H/Queens Hospital Auditorium which hosted the event. The representative, Mr. Cleon Edwards, presented remarks.

In her welcome and introductory remarks, Consul General Atherly highlighted the importance of Guyana’s religious diversity and religious tolerance in our multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society. She urged the excited audience which packed the auditorium, that, as they reflect and give thanks, to find personal inspiration from the evening’s religious experience. She noted that Guyana’s Republic celebration was named ‘Mashramani’, which is an Amerindian word that means ‘Celebration after hard work’. “There is much to celebrate and much to look forward to in the future,” she declared.

Special 50th Republic Anniversary greetings were delivered by The Honorable Oral Holder, Consul General of Barbados and Chairman of the 15 member CARICOM Consul Corps in New York. He congratulated Guyana and noted the significance of the CARICOM Headquarters in Guyana and the pivotal role Guyana played as one of the four original signatories to the Treaty of Chaguaramas which established CARICOM in July 1973. He also spoke of Guyana’s natural and human resources which he said will be of critical importance to the Region in the future.

It was and honor and privilege for His Excellency Riyad Insanally C.C.H., Guyana’s Ambassador to the USA to bring greetings on this auspicious occasion. He declared that “these are exciting times for Guyana”. He announced ExxonMobil’s 16th deepwater Oil discovery off the Guyana Coast with an estimated 8 billion barrels of recoverable crude in the very lucrative Stabroek Block. “This means”, he noted, “that Guyana could become one of the biggest per-capita oil producer in the world and is set to become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies”.

Religious Leaders took the audience down memory lane with reflections from their religious perspectives. Araslan Mohamed (Pradeep Kumar) reflected on the origins of four religious national holidays in Guyana: Deepavali, Phagwah, Eid-ul-Adha and Youman Nabi. He said he is very happy to know that Guyana still observes those holidays. Hindu Pandit Naro Bali and Pandita Davi Lakhnauth read from the Bhagavad Geeta and the children played the tabla and sang Hindu devotional songs.

Bishop-Elect Dr. Cheryl Ault-Barker spoke on Transformation and took the audience on a journey from her childhood to present. She prayed for peace, love and unity in Guyana and asked everyone present to hold the hand of the person next to them while she prayed. She asked the Lord to intervene and to ensure that the transformation that is taking place in Guyana be divinely blessed. This was followed by an inspiring and uplifting Praise Dance performed by Impressions Dance Theatre to the song,” We’ve come a Mighty Long Way”.

The Jubilee choir led the audience in singing national songs such as the song of the Republic, “From Pakaraima’s peaks of pow’r to Corentyne’s lush sands”. There was a distinct air of patriotism and national pride as the predominantly Guyanese audience sang along lustily with the Choir as they sang, Salute to Guyana, My Guyana El Dorado, To Serve my Country, O beautiful Guyana and Song of Guyana’s Children.

The Evening’s program came to an end with a big thank you to everyone by the Master of Ceremonies, for coming out in their large numbers to celebrate Guyana’s 50th Republic Anniversary. The flag bearers once again led the procession of dignitaries out the auditorium to the very popular national song,” Let us Cooperate for Guyana”. This was followed by a reception in the Atrium.