Ann Harper writes:
Ever since May 26, 1966 it has been the tradition for Guyanese at home and abroad to observe the annual Independence Day as a holiday. It is marked by a ‘Flag Raising Ceremony’. It was 48 years ago when the Duke of Kent, Sir Richard Luyt, Guyana’s first Governor General presented to the late Prime Minister Forbes Burnham in the House of Assembly special papers containing ‘a matter of great urgency’ on the behalf of the Queen of England.
One can only imagine what it must have been like, and the profound sense of achievement and great pride that Forbes Burnham felt as he opened that envelope. It was at midnight on 25th May, 1966 that he announced that British Guiana was no more. A new country ‘Guyana’ a fully democratic state was founded that day based on the rule of law.
The Union Jack, the Union Kingdom’s flag was lowered and The Golden Arrowhead Guyanese flag was raised for the very first time. Guyanese were jubilant to be
free from the yoke of colonialism. Afterwards they celebrated with triumphant
parades through the streets for a full 24 hours.
In keeping with this tradition on May 26th 2014 representatives from The Government of Guyana hosted a fete in Toronto. We met for the anniversary ‘Flag Raising Ceremony’ at 12 noon at Toronto City Hall. This was followed by a reception where we were treated to delicious Guyanese entries and a healthy dose of tales and laughter, as we reminisced about our homeland.
Being at this celebration gave me a sense of enormous exhilaration. The crowd was more or less all Guyanese with the exceptions of Cuban and Jamaican dignitaries. This was the first time that I have attended the flag-raising in Toronto and I did not quite know what to expect. I recognized no one and only began to feel at ease when we sang the National Anthem and as I listened to the Master of Ceremonies. Mr. Clive Gulliver very eloquently delivered his lines in the Guyanese vernacular. He thus took my thoughts and mind back to 1966. I remembered thinking then ‘now I have something else besides my birthday to celebrate on May 26th’.
I was only 15 years at the time of independence. I immigrated to Canada four years later. When you live abroad, you realize there will always be a part of you that is still close to home but lies dormant until you see something like The Golden Arrowhead Guyanese flag officially raised. It brought beautiful and thrilling feelings.
Afterwards as I walked home, I thought of my life as a child in Guyana and my life here in Canada and I came to the conclusion best expressed in the following
There are two births; the one when light
First strikes the new awaken’d sense;
The other when two souls unite,
And we must count our life from thence…
To Chloe, By William Cartwright 1611-1643
Ruth writes: Our thanks to Ann Harper for telling us about her experience. She is currently a Wedding Officiant in Ontario but has worked abroad in Mongolia, Madagascar, etc. She has served with provincial, national and international volunteer organizations such as the Canadian Red Cross, United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP), United Nations Volunteers (UNV), etc.
Every year Toronto City Hall receives requests to fly the flags of countries of Toronto’s various communities. Its Protocol Office lists the flags to be flown on: http://bit.ly/1gWy1wg. Unfortunately no times are mentioned and its takes a bit of digging if you want to see the ceremony. My best source is email@example.com but I never have the time to search for them all. You could try the Toronto Protocol Office, or the relevant community organization, ethnic press or consulate. Some city councillors might be able to help also.
Some of these events can be simple and some elaborate. No outsider should hesitate about just showing up but it’s best to ask permission. For our blog on flag-raisings of our First Nations and Wiphala residents, see: https://www.torontomulticulturalcalendar.com/2011/06/23/144-aboriginal-day-sunrise-ceremony/and https://www.torontomulticulturalcalendar.com/2013/09/27/417-wiphala-flag-flies-at-toronto-city-hall/ respectively. Ruth