WPA joins the rest of Guyana and the Caribbean in mourning the passing of our dear sister, Andaiye. Although Sister Andaiye had not been active in the party in recent years, she remained an important source of wisdom and advice to the leadership. Her passing is a blow to the movement for change and transformation in Guyana and beyond—until the very end she remained a committed soldier of the cause of social justice, women and children rights, working class liberation and ethnic and racial equality. Our party and Guyana have lost one of the brightest lights that emerged from our Guyanese and Caribbean belly. We are eternally grateful that she walked, marched, struggled and grounded with us as we fashioned one of the most remarkable chapters in our country’s history. We give thanks for her life and contributions.
Sister Andaiye started her public life as a schoolteacher and foreign service worker. She is remembered as part of a group of young radical educators who attempted infuse a new national and revolutionary praxis into the then education system. Although she left the profession, she never stopped being a teacher. Her contributions to public education during her years as a WPA activist-leader and later on in Red Thread are testimony to the role of education in Andaiye’s political praxis.
Sister Andaiye will also be remembered as a Black Power activist who saw the movement towards Black pride and dignity as a necessary step in our independence journey. She changed her name from Sandra Williams to Andaiye and wore her hair in the Afro-style of the day—these two symbols remained part of her identity for the rest of her life.
She returned to Guyana in 1977 at the urging of her school friends Walter Rodney and Rupert Roopnarine both of whom had become associated with the newly formed WPA. She joined the party and played pivotal roles in its development as one of the most formidable radical parties in the Caribbean. She was a leader, thinker and worker of the highest order and helped to make the WPA and Guyana an oasis of radical and revolutionary thought and action.
She served the party in various capacities, but in was as a writer and editor of the party’s publications and as its International Secretary that she made her most definitive contributions. Her penchant for detail, her sense of history and her analytical mind made her an intellectual giant in a party and movement blessed with rare leadership talent. But she was also a foot soldier who walked the streets, roads and alleys across Guyana to spread the politics of change and transformation.
In the wake of the demise of the Grenadian revolution, to which she contributed immensely during its short life, and the retreat of the Caribbean Left, Andaiye joined the women of the WPA’s leadership in focusing on a neglected area of the movement—women’s and children rights. She was a co-founder of Red Thread and spent the rest of her life working within and in alliance with that enduring source of relief for women and leadership of their causes. In this regard, she was also a leader, thinker and activist in the wider Caribbean and global feminist movements. Given her political upbringing, her feminism was one that privileged the intersection of gender, race and class which sometimes placed her at variance with the region’s feminist movement. Nevertheless, she remained an icon in the movement and an inspiration to younger feminist scholars and activists, even if she did not refer to herself as a feminist.
Although born into Guyana’s fledgling middle class, Andaiye was sensitive to the feelings and the needs of the lower classes. She was a genuine advocate, in thought, word and deed, for the uplifting of the working poor. Towards this end she remained a creative and independent Marxist without the trappings and rhetoric. She was to the end a firm believer that our country cannot advance without a genuine multi-ethnic thrust. She was uncompromising regarding this central tenet of the WPA’s praxis.
In later years she became disenchanted with political parties and thought that enough energy was not being put into building non-party movements. As WPA mourns her passing, we call on Guyana and the Caribbean to emulate the example of Andaiyes of our Caribbean. She died like most revolutionaries in our country and region—forgotten and marginalized by the political elites whose power came from the struggles and sacrifices of these very forgotten souls. But the WPA is comforted by the fact that Sister Andaiye died knowing that she selflessly gave her life to the service of country, region and humanity. In her name and by her example, we forge on. We salute you Sister Andaiye.
To her relatives and other close associates WPA offers its sincerest condolences.