Black lives matter, East Indian indentureship, Guyanese Poet Martin Carter, Marginalized urban populations, Suspension of the British Guiana Constitution 1953, Working class oppression
Homeless Woman outside Parliament Buildings – Georgetown – Guyana
Photo Credit: Mark Jacobs
My Poetry Corner January 2015 features the poem “I Come from the Nigger Yard” by Guyanese poet Martin Carter (1927-1997). Following the suspension of the British Guiana Constitution in 1953, the poet-politician composed this poem during his three-month detention, together with other political leaders, by the British Army.
For readers unfamiliar with the history of Guyana, a former British colony until May 1966, slavery ended in 1834. East Indian indentured laborers began arriving from India in 1838 and continued until 1917. Other immigrant workers came from Portuguese Madeira (1835-1882) and China (1853-1879).
In the 1890s, living conditions on the British-owned sugar plantations remained deplorable. Occupying a section of the plantation, the “nigger yard” consisted of crude huts built on low-lying, badly drained land. When the indentured East Indian workers arrived, they lived under similar conditions in logies, barrack-type mud-floor ranges in the “bound-coolie-yard” [Cheddi Jagan, The West on Trial: My Fight for Guyana’s Freedom, 2004, p.30]. Continue reading