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Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Cynthia Pine named Guyanese of the year

Professor Cynthia Pine, the Dean of the Liverpool Univer-sity Dental School, was named Guyanese of the Year at the third Guyana High Commis-sion UK Awards held in Croydon's Fairfield Halls on Sunday.

She told the 400 strong gathering of the UK Diaspora that it was a "tremendous honour and the Guyanese have reclaimed me!"

Professor Pine was born in Guyana half a century ago but emigrated to Britain as a young child. There she grew up in Birmingham to train after as a dentist and dental educator. Two years ago, she became the first Black woman to head a major UK Dental School. Then, after being rediscovered by this paper and this writer, she made contact with her roots again or they with her. Guyana's Minister of Health Leslie Ramsammy invited her 'home' after 50 years. Prof Pine took advantage of that to start in motion the setting up of the Cheddi Jagan Dental School in Georgetown; she has just arranged the shipping of a score of dental chairs from Liverpool to jumpstart that process. She was clearly well deserving of the accolade and humbled to get it.

The GHCUK Awards, the brainchild of this writer and Professor David Dabydeen, were set up in 2001 to salute the Guyanese in the UK Diaspora who had done well for themselves and for Guyana. Previous winners of the Guyanese of the Year have been the popular psychiatrist Dr Raj Persaud and Baroness Valerie Amos, the leader of the British House of Lords. This top award is the icing of the cake of the ceremony, which saluted ten other winners in the Diaspora.

Another 'newcomer' saluted was the distinguished headmaster Sir Dexter Hutt. He was born in Kitty, grew up in Mackenzie/Linden before emigrating to England. After university, he entered teaching and ended up as headmaster of a badly failing school; Ninestiles in Birmingham. There, he encountered initial staff hostility (they called him Alice because they thought he was living in Wonderland) to turn that school firmly around and multiply tenfold the percentage of good GCSE passes achieved.

Today, Ninestiles is humming; a beacon to other schools. Sir Dexter (he was knighted for his work in 2004 when this writer discovered his 'Guyaneseness') has become a speaker in much demand on school transformation. Sir Dexter was unable to collect his award in person as he was doing just that in South Africa.

Media Mogul Lord Waheed Alli was also honoured by the committee. Waheed Alli runs the Chorion Group, which owns the rights to popular children's TV figures such as Postman Pat as well as managing the careers of a variety of TV talent. Most recently, he was instrumental in shifting the presenter Paul O'Grady and his hit afternoon show from ITV to Channel Four.

Lord Alli is a working Labour Peer, close to Tony Blair and openly gay. His father came to the UK from the East Coast Demerara half a century ago. His mother is Trinidadian. Lord Alli in his acceptance speech quoted Martin Luther King and his famous 'I have a Dream' speech. The Guyanese had now realized it; "We now have the power to transform our dreams," he told the audience. "Everybody here has good reason to be proud to be Guyanese."

Fellow member of the soi-disant 'Guyanese Mafia' David Lammy MP, the Minister for Libraries and Arts in the Blair government, was also rewarded. He too is second generation: "I was born here but I still feel truly Guyanese. I know all about pepperpot and souse. I feel Guyana in my blood. It is important to know where you are from," he proclaimed in an emotional speech.

Lammy, the Member of Parliament for Tottenham, succeeded another Guyanese, Bernie Grant in that seat. Since he has achieved ministerial office in three separate departments - Health, Constitutional Affairs and now Culture, Media and Sport. He, like Lord Alli, thanked his mother: "This is the story of our mothers who did more than one job to get us where we are." Lammy later read the citation for Cynthia Pine as Guyanese of the year.

Among the other awardees at this rather formal event were the Singer Sol Raye, elder brother of PNC leader Robert Corbin. He, sadly, was very sick in hospital and unable to collect his award in person. The Honorary Dean of Southwark Cathedral, the Rev Ivelaw Bowman was feted as was Imam Moxamil Ouhla, Guyana Nurses' leader Aileen Edwards, Professors Jaipaul Singh and Robby Bacchus and businessman Gharry Eccles.

In addition in a surprise (and surprising) gesture, the High Commissioner's Committee awarded a prize to Laleshawar Singh, the High Commissioner, himself. These are the third GHCUK awards now under the firm guidance of that office holder himself.

Entertainment throughout the night was provided by a variety of artistes from Keith Waithe and his Macusi players to the Morbee Quovadians and Farah Ramjohn. All arranged in a careful racial patchwork like Guyana itself. This 'culture', though, however rich, ran into the danger of swamping the Awards themselves.

There was some surprise expressed afterwards at the omissions from the latest list. Richard Wilson, the only Guyanese QC in Britain, was absent as was this writer on matters Guyanese who had been nominated by Professors Clem Seecharran and David Dabydeen amongst others.

These Third Awards follow their successful launch at Croydon Town Hall in 2001 .This night in 2006 though belonged to Cynthia Pine, born again Guyanese with gusto.

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