Jun 26, 2016
On Tuesday, last, I attended the 36th death anniversary of Walter Rodney, at the National Library, sponsored by the Working People’s Alliance. During the question period, Clive Thomas left, with Desmond Trotman escorting him.
I came out and followed him to his car on Church Street. I haven’t seen or spoken to Clive Thomas in more than two years. When I was an activist with the WPA and a young UG student, I spoke with Clive almost daily.
Clive is not in perfect health, and as I hugged him, he felt light. In his late seventies, he has the same face and the same smile as when I first met him so, so long ago.
As we walked out of the library compound onto Church Street, he introduced me to his driver and the driver’s wife. He said something that reminded me so deeply of this great man whose activism had an immense influence on me. He introduced the lady, then with his characteristic smile, he said, “she just returned home after traveling for the first time.” This was the Clive Thomas I knew in the seventies, and that smile took me back to the days when he dominated the political landscape of Guyana and the intellectual terrain of the Caribbean.
As Desmond Trotman and I walked backed into the library, I said to Trotman, “Clive should have been the President of Guyana.” I sincerely regret that someone like Clive Thomas never became our president.
It is not just the qualities of the man, but the utterly amazing contribution to the acquisition and preservation of the freedoms of the Guyanese people that he stands out for. Clive inspired two generations of Guyanese, of which I belong to one of them.
The years of activism that I spent with Clive in the WPA have left indelible, psychic symbols on my personality.
The memories of political struggle will never leave, will never go away.
They will always be around you, and they are automatically invoked once you see the person, as it was on Tuesday afternoon with Clive, and Thursday afternoon with Dale Andrews.
I was at home, doing the dishes and I put on a CD by Patrizio Buanne titled, “The Italian.” As “Come Prima” was playing, vivid memories of Dale Andrews rushed into my mind. “Come Prima” is an Italian love song that was once done in English by the Rhythm and Blues superstars of the fifties, the Platters. The Platters’ version was titled, “For the first time.” One day, four years ago, I was in Giftland Office Max and my eyes glanced on the Platters. I bought “The Best of the Platters” for Dale because he would have been too young to enjoy the greatness of the Platters in the fifties and sixties. I told Dale my favourite cut was “For the First Time.”
The next day, when I saw Dale in the office, I asked him if he enjoyed the Platters, he replied; ‘nice, but nothing special and duh song (he meant “For the First Time”) yuh tell me about I ain’t see anything special about it.”
That was Dale’s reaction to the fantastic melodies of the Platters. It was Adam Harris, the editor of Kaieteur News, and who obviously saw Dale much more than I did because they worked together every day, who informed me on Friday when I told him about the Buanne song, that Dale got to like the Platters real bad
As Buanne sang “Come Prima,” the memories of Dale Andrews came tumbling down. I bought CDs for Dale almost every year from the time I knew him sixteen years ago. And this included up to the month before he died.
I thought of Dale when I heard that Buanne song, because I know this was a journalist that Guyana will find hard to replace.
I am absolutely sure more memories of Dale will visit me, depending on the circumstances. I am in the National Park every day, and there was an incident there with Dale that is crazily funny, but embarrassing to Dale, so I will not describe it.
I am glad I ran into Clive last Tuesday. I am glad Buanne’s song last Thursday, reminded me of the journalistic power of Dale. Memories do not leave you. They stay with you forever. In a sad country like this, it is good to invoke the memories of people who have made positive contributions to Guyana.
These memories take away the presence of the unpleasant and the unholy that surround this country.
For me, Clive Thomas is not only a national icon, but a national hero.