Indians Should emulate Pan-Africanist Andaiye

Glowing tributes have been paid to Andaiye of Guyana who passed away a week ago – revolutionary, feminist, Africanist, among other description - all deserving. No one stops any Indian person from engaging in activities to achieve such plaudits. Andaiye worked to improve the welfare of her people. Who stopped Indians from working to uplift their people?

Indians Should emulate Pan-Africanist Andaiye

Glowing tributes have been paid to Andaiye of Guyana who passed away a week ago – revolutionary, feminist, Africanist, among other description - all deserving. No one stops any Indian person from engaging in activities to achieve such plaudits. Andaiye worked to improve the welfare of her people. Who stopped Indians from working to uplift their people?

One character trait stands out the most about the late political, cultural, and ethno nationalist activist – pride in her African ancestry. Every human should be proud of their ancestral roots and ethnicity and defend the people when attacked or under siege the way Andaiye did. When Indians were under siege in Guyana, few Indians spoke out against their abuse and for their protection. When Indians were victimized and terminated from their jobs, there was hardly a voice. There was no Andaiye among Indian activists or intellectuals to speak on behalf of the victimized Indians.

As Gabrielle Hosein wrote in Newsday, Andaiye was a feminist. But she was more than that and she did not let her feminism stop her to speak on African issues and to advocate on behalf of Africans. No Indian feminist speaks on or champion Indian issues except Rhyaan Shah of Guyana. Andaiye’s Africanness superseded her feminism. There is hardly any female or male equivalent of an Andaiye in any other ethnic group in Guyana or in the diaspora except Ravi Dev and those who fought against the Burnham dictatorship.

Andaiye was a woman who would not compromise her Africanness for anything or for anyone. And she resolutely defended her people. She did, however, distanced herself from the murderous rampage of Indians following the prison break out (2003) and the attempt to violently topple the PPP administration by the “African freedom fighters” who broke out of jail and hailed as heroes for bring the government down to its knees.

Unlike members of other ethnic groups, food (contract or employment) did not muzzle her. The survival of her people and her culture was far more important than a meal or “wuk” or a safe seat in parliament. In which ethnic community would you find such a strong character who put so much faith in her ethnicity? The WPA was fortunate to have her – there was/is no Indian equivalent in the WPA (not Rupert Roopnarine or Moses Bhagwan or Ameer Mohammed or his brother Wazir) or in any other party for that matter except ROAR. Only a few Indians have championed Indian identity and when they did/do they were/are called “racist”. But no such label for Andaiye. She is called a feminist for championing her people. Indians are racist for championing their people.

She was born Sandra Williams and changed her name to “Andaiye” to reflect her African roots. That action in itself defined who she was – a proud African. There is no equivalent of a Sandra in the Indian community that changed their name to Lakshmi or Saraswati or Fatima.

Andaiye was a pan Africanist and supported Pan Africanist activities. She attended Pan Africanist meetings and praised the struggle of her people. She defended Pan Africanism as a proud daughter of her people. No one dared to question her African nationalism and militancy and or defend her people to the hilt. How many Indo-Guyanese attended or organized a pan-Indian conference? How many organized or attended Indian arrival celebrations?

Guyanese and other Caribbean people of other ethnicities should take a page from Andaiye’s book and display similar pride in their roots and culture and by speaking out against racism and injustice meted out to their people and championing their welfare.