On this day in 1966, Guyana became an independent nation. The Caribbean nation had become a British colony from 1928-1953. The 1950s were filled with strife and agitation for independence, including what was termed as interference by the Central Intelligence Agency.
In 1961, the British gave Guyana autonomy installing Cheddi Jagan as the Prime Minister until 1964, when Forbes Burnham took over. With independence, the country changed its name back to Guyana after being known as British Guiana.
This island nation is home to people from different ancestry including famous celebrities who have taken over the world.
Here are some of the famous Afro-Guyanese people you might not know.
Valerie Ann Amos, Baroness Amos
The eighth UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator was born in Guyana in 1954. In 2003, she became the first black woman to sit in the cabinet of the United Kingdom when she was appointed the Secretary of State for International Development.
She is also the first black woman to lead a university in the United Kingdom as the Director of the SOAS, University of London.
The ‘I Don’t wanna dance‘ hit-maker was born in Guyana in 1948. Grant went ahead to become a huge star, founding a band called the Equals, one of Britain’s racially inclusive bands and creating a platinum hit like ‘Electric Avenue’.
He also pioneered a music genre in 1994 called the ringbang, which is a combination of various Caribbean music. Of the genre, he said:
Ringbang is the thing that makes the soul quiet. That in a musical concept is rhythm. A child is given ringbang when a mother rocks it in her arms. Ringbang allowed the slaves to communicate. Ringbang is a bridge that allows us to stop being insular; it is a concept predicated on our being able to communicate with one another.
Cox was born in Toronto, Canada to Afro-Guyanese parents. She is considered Canada’s top R&B artists. Her song, Nobody’s supposed to be here, held the record for longest-running number one single on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks.
Luke was born in New Jersey to a Guyanese father and American mother. The actor has had a prolific career, winning three awards for his role in Antwone Fisher.
This iconic musician attributes her success to her Guyanese heritage. Born in Toronto, Fiona started her music career as a member of the X-Quisite band before joining Drake’s Renaissance. She is currently working on her third album to be released this year.
Sean Patrick Thomas
He featured in Save the Last Dance and the Barbershop films. He is the son of Guyanese parents, Cheryl and Carlton Thomas. He wanted to be a lawyer but after successfully auditioning for A Raisin in the Sun, he decided to become an actor.
Carol Christine Hilaria Pounder
Born in Georgetown in 1952, CCH Pounder is an actress famous for roles in series and films, including the ER and Sons of Anarchy. She is also an activist and a founder of the Artist for a New South Africa, an organisation that aims at creating awareness on Apartheid and HIV/AIDs in South Africa.
Among the awards she has earned include the Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley Award at the 21st Annual Awards Gala.
Rihanna’s mother Monica Braithwaite is from Guyana. Rihanna grew up in Bridgetown, Barbados and has become one of the biggest musicians, recording eight albums and winning numerous awards.
She is also an actor, a businesswoman and an activist, setting up a variety of charities including the Clara Lionel Foundation.