Today, somewhere in New York, my name will be called out as the winner of the Godfrey Chin Prize for Heritage Journalism. I got the news a couple of weeks ago and was so thrilled to have been nominated, let alone won first prize.
I started this blog as a way of documenting interesting things I learned or came across in Guyana. I thought: well, my mum might read it. I didn’t forsee it would grow roots. My most recent blog, Five Ways To Do Iwokrama On A (Kind Of) Budget, has had 510 views already. OK it’s not exactly the 140,000 my BBC piece on Guyana’s blind cricket team apparently got, but it’s not bad going for a little, unpromoted site with a random name.
On winning the prize, I thought I should really read up about Godfrey Chin, who I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t heard of before. I find a “social history icon and culture enthusiast”, a man of memories, an author, and an artist. In fact, all the things I aspire to be. Well, apart from the man part obviously.
If I met him today I think I’d badger him to let me interview him for my Guyana50 oral-history project – particularly for his memories of growing up in Georgetown to parents of Chinese heritage. I might ask him for tips on being an artist, how to find the discipline to be creative. And I’d listen. Just listen.
His Nostalgias writings and books in particular seem to have struck a chord with their readers, both those who remember those days and the younger generation who grew up hearing similar stories from their own parents. If I can achieve just 10% of that with the Guyana50 project – with audio rather than words – I’ll be overjoyed.
Sadly I’m unable to make the award ceremony in New York, and I understand there won’t be an opportunity for speeches. But I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading this blog, commenting, sharing, encouraging… it means a lot, and keeps my eyes open and pen ready.
I’d also like to thank Dr Vibert Cambridge, Claire-Ann Goring and all the other talented and dedicated people from the Guyana Cultural Association of New York who organised this prize giving – and continue to celebrate, promote and develop Guyanese culture around the world.
And a final word of thanks to Alysia Simone of the blog Rewind & Come Again for agreeing to accept the award on my behalf – and for bringing the amazing Timehri Film Festival to Guyana earlier this year. I can’t wait for next year’s programme…
In his obituary in Stabroek News, there’s a lovely quote from Mr Chin about growing up in Georgetown. “In our neighbourhood,” he says, “each of us in this challenging environment was a small acorn, which grew into a huge oak tree – our branches making waves – providing comfort and shade in the enclaves where we live today.”
I hope to be able to do the same – or at least pour water and light on others, and enjoy the fruits of their labours.