Our Resistance

It would be easy to say we brought our culture. The keepers of that culture show us with their iconoclasm what we really brought: a spirit of resistance that has allowed us to take the tenacity of our religion, our language, our flora and reinvent it to suit our needs, settings, and temperaments.

The woman who came alone to America as a child, with someone else’s documents, did not bring anything from Guyana but her fighter’s soul and her instinct to survive.

The woman whose son died handcuffed in a hospital bed in the custody of the New York City Police Department tells his story in an act of resistance, to show us the disproportionate violence against black and brown bodies, to show us where our solidarities lie.

The woman who knows she is a proud Persaud, and also identifies as African-American, embodies how we have defied the divisions that our political history would petrify.

The man who composed a poem to the archetypal cane-cutter in all our genealogies, while locked up in a British detention camp, shows us that we can resist expectations and build solidarities, as he has done.

Our actual lived history in the United States shows us our many alliances and relationships with the descendants of the enslaved. It reminds us that we have been crossing borders for a long time. It reminds us that our history was lived in parallel to theirs, as echo to theirs.

Gaiutra Bahadur, author of Coolie Woman: the Odyssey of Indenture, is an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University-Newark in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media. Her Archival Creators Fellowship project focuses on documenting within Guyanese communities descended from Indian indentured laborers. The Archival Creators Fellowship Program is made possible with a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Read Gaiutra's writing about her fellowship project in TIDES:
• The Things We Carried
• The Storytellers in the Mandir
• Notes Toward a Prehistory
No Homeland Here

You can also listen to the oral history interviews Gaiutra conducted for her project and browse the archival materials she collected.

For their work and their guidance, Gaiutra is deeply grateful to her advisory board members William Depoo at DRUM, Annetta Seecharan at CHHAYA CDC, Pritha, Chitra and Karna Singh at the Rakjumari Cultural Center, Aminta Kilawan at Sadhana and the members of the collective of Ro(u)ted by Our Stories: Arita Balaram, Sasha Balkaran, Lissa Deonarain, Kimmi Ramnine, Tarika Sankar, Dharani Persaud, Simone Devi Jhingoor, Shivana Jorawar, and Yasmin Toney.