Saturday, December 8, 2012

Jan Carew Joins Ancestors

We shall always remember the great Guyanese writer Jan Carew! I met him while in Toronto, Canada, 1967, having gone their as a draft resister to the war in Vietnam. I first met Austin Clarke, the Barbadian novelist, then he introduced me to Jan Carew. The three of us met several times during the six months of my Canadian exile. We had lively discussions because Jan and Austin were at opposite ideological poles, maybe I was in the middle, although I would say I was closer to Jan's position as a revolutionary. Since both these men were my elders, I would do a lot of listening, for Austin had published novels and so had Jan, plus Jan had been around the world, one of his novels was Moscow was not My Mecca, about the experiences of a black man in the Communist camp. Now as I recall Jan was a Marxist who had advised Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana. He told stories of the African Americans who were in Ghana during the Nkrumah years. As I recall he said their behavior was suspect, Julian Mayfield, Maya Angelou, et al. Some of these Black Americans may have contributed to Nkrumah's downfall. Black Americans were suspected of being agents of American intelligence.

As I said, Jan and Austin Clarke would argue often, either at the bar we met at or at their apartments. I remember Jan brewing that strong espresso coffee and the three of us drinking while conversing on African, the Black man in the USA and  the Americas, especially the Caribbean. Austin would talk about the Bajans being more British than the British, Jan would talk about how the African leader had to not be feared by his people and not make them fear him. He talked about the ineluctable energy needed to maintain revolutionary consciousness, to transform oneself from the oppressed man to the brother man. Jan Carew, thank you for the wisdom you shared with me during that special time in my life as a young writer/activist.
--Marvin X
Oakland CA

Guyanese literary icon Dr. Jan Carew dies

This year has marked the transition of two of our greatest scholars and elder statesmen--Dr. Edward Robinson and Dr. Jan Carew.  I was fortunate to have known them both.  Like many, I certainly loved and respected them and received some of the same from them in return.  Jan Carew actually stayed in my apartment once.  Like Dr. Robinson, he was a rare scholar with brilliant intellectual gifts coupled with a rare humility.  Last year we lost two others--Abdias Do Nascimento of Brazil and Dudley Thompson of Jamaica.  But while I met Dr. Nascimento and Dr. Thompson and briefly corresponded with the latter, I knew Dr. Robinson and especially Dr. Carew on a much more personal level.
Dr. Carew was a mentor of my scholarly mentor Ivan Van Sertima.  He told me many stories about Ivan.  I always thought that he was the perfect scholar and gentleman and I loved being around him.  In my life, he joins John Henrik Clarke, Charles B. Copher and Asa Hilliard as not only great scholars but people that I essentially revered.  To me, they were more than scholars.  They were very special people.
Much love to you Jan Carew.  You will be missed by many.  And I treasure my memories of you, and of you and me.
In love of Africa,
Runoko Rashidi

Guyanese literary icon Jan Carew dies 

by Denis Scott Chabrol   

Friday, 07 December 2012 23:13
Renowned Guyana-born literary icon, Professor Jan Carew has died.
He was 92 years old.

Speaking to Demerara Waves Online News ( ) from the United States, his daughter, Shantoba Carew said he died of natural causes at midnight Wednesday 5 December at his home in Louisville, Kentucky, United States of America.

Asked how she best remembered her father, Shantoba said: "He had a unique perspective on what it is to have a mission in life because every decade he seemed to have a new career but the goal is always the same to have done something in life." The only continuous career he had, she said, was being a writer but in the latter part of his life he was regarded as an academic.
His funeral will take place on December 29 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Carew was born in Agricola, East Bank Demerara on 24 September, 1920 and he also had very strong ties to Berbice.

"Ian was remarkable. Extremely brilliant! He was called the quiet revolutionary," Guyanese Dr. Juliet Emmanuel told DemWaves.

He was a Professor at the University of Louisville and received Emeritus Professor at Northwestern University, Chicago where he worked from 1973 to 1987.

He has led a rich and varied life as  writer, educator, philosopher and advisor to several nation states.  After his initial education in  British Guiana (now Guyana) in  South America, he studied at universities in  the U.S., Czechoslovakia,  and France.  

In  London, he  worked as a broadcaster and writer with the BBC and lectured in race relations  at London  University’s Extra-mural  department.  He has also lived in  Spain, Ghana,  Canada and Mexico.  He has taught at many universities in  the U.S., including Princeton, Rutgers,  George Mason, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and the  University of  Louisville. 

He is perhaps  still best known for his first novel, Black Midas, and his memoir, Ghosts in Our Blood: With Malcolm X in  Africa, England and the Caribbean.  Black Midas , along with his second novel, The Wild Coast, originally published in 1958 and 1960s, respectively, were recently re-issued as special 50th Caribbean Modern Classics Series by Peepal Tree Press.  Other than these two publications, his recent publications are The Guyanese Wanderer,  The  Sisters and Manco’s Stories,  and Rape of Paradise:  Columbus and the Birth of Racism in the Americas.

Despite  the implosion that collapsed the Second World  upon itself (leaving the Third World with only  one super power with which to contend), and the profound changes that an  electronic, communication and service industry has brought about, Jan Carew  remained an ardent Pan-Africanist.  His motto as a writer and artist comes from one of his poems: “Art and  Literature” he wrote, “are like lightening, for lightning illuminates, and is  never timid.”  

Guyana's Ministry of Culture earlier Friday issued the following statement in tribute to Professor Carew who last visited Guyana in the mid 1990s for an event that had been organised by the Association of Caribbean Studies (ACS).

Just a few days ago, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport was moved to remark on the fact that this leap year of 2012 has taken quite a few creative Guyanese minds from us. From entertainment promoters to choreographers, musicians and vocalists to broadcasters and journalists, the exodus to a higher calling was evident and significant. It was therefore our pleasure and privilege to host an outstanding literacy son of the soil, the centurion-author E.R. Braithwaite, a few months ago.
Against that reflection the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport now pays tribute and bids farewell to another internationally-recognised Guyanese writer, poet and essayist, Jan Carew.
Though Mr. Carew has spent most of his adult life away from his homeland, his varied volume of work has depicted Guyana and the Caribbean, securing the region's literary legacy amongst the international literary and academic landscape. As playwright and educator also, Jan Carew wrote landmark novels - Black Midas, Wild Coast - set - in Guyana, the Caribbean, Europe and elsewhere. He has written for children, for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and for the British and Caribbean Pan Africanist Movement.

Carew has been describe as "the Gentle Revolutionary" for his work in promoting Black activism alongside such stalwarts as W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Cheikh Anta Diop, Kwame Nkrumah and his countryman Ivan Van Sertima, to name just a few. The Guyanese intellectual from Agricola must also be regarded as a citizen of the world living and producing work from bases in some ten countries across the globe.

The Ministry also notes Carew's earlier political and philosophical forays culminating perhaps, in his 1964 "Moscow Is Not My Mecca". It is recorded that Carew's numerous academic work - research papers, reviews theses and assays - reflected his determination to re-examined and present alternatives to the Westernised "traditional historiographies and prevailing historical models of the conquest of the Americans". Carew's works, along with Van Sertima's, are scholarly evidence of Guyanese contributions to the Third World mental re-orientation.

The ministry therefore offers condolences to the Carew family and all his international colleagues in the literary and academic world. "The Guyanese Wanderer" (2007) must be continuing his life's work at a Higher level.

1 comment:

  1. Mackie Blanton I am only now, four days later, learning of Jan's passing on. My fondest memories of Jan -- and of Joy, of course, also -- are from our days of numerous conversations over the few years our paths crossed in Chicago. I learned a lot from those talks and knew then that Jan and Joy would always be significant presences for many others yet to come, as there had already been many, because of Jan, during previous years. As we remember him, our shared memories will become new lessons. MAY HIS MEMORY BE ETERNAL.


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