Four students and two staffers from UC Riverside’s African Student Programs, or ASP, took a nine-day trip to Georgetown, Guyana this summer as part of “No Boundaries Alternative Break Experience” — a cross-border educational program organized by ASP and the University of Guyana, or UG.
The June 24 to July 1 itinerary included an introduction to Guyanese history and culture and ended with a visit to Victoria Village E.C.D. ASP also held meetings with UG’s Department of History and Caribbean Studies, International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly-Guyana (IDPADA-G), Guyana Reparations Committee, African Cultural Development Association (ACDA), and the First of August Movement-Buxton.
“This initiative aims to provide UCR’s Black Scholars with the academic opportunity to immerse themselves into the culture of Georgetown, Guyana,” ASP director Jamal Myrick wrote in a program recruitment piece. “Scholars will be able to conduct community service, take a course, and engage in culturally relevant dialogue to develop a better sense of self as a leader. These activities will be supplemented by extensive culturally immersive activities to expand students’ knowledge and learning about Georgetown, Guyana.”
To be eligible, students had to have a GPA of 2.8 or higher, have health insurance, meet with UCR’s Opportunities Abroad Program (OAP), and attend various workshops about safety and cross-cultural matters.
The trip was co-constructed by Myrick and his colleague, Kevin Graham.
“The program was conceived in a conversation we had in 2021, while I worked at UCR as the University Innovation Alliance Fellow,” said Graham, who now works for UCLA’s Samueli School of Engineering. “Dr. Myrick shared his interest in an international travel experience for Black scholars and I suggested Guyana — as it is my home country and because I am a thesis supervisor at UG. We both agreed that exploring the Black Diaspora in Guyana would be an outstanding educational experience. I led the efforts by pitching the idea of the trip to UG leadership, who immediately saw the value of the experience.”
“Dr. Graham was instrumental in coordinating this experience,” Myrick said about the planning process.
When asked about the trip’s most memorable moments, the travelers said:
“My absolute favorite moment was speaking with Queen Ester about reclaiming my power as a black woman. She is the secretary for the reparations committee, a leader in her Rastafarian community, and a mother of 11. She had confidence and conviction in her tone which made listening to her storytelling really engaging. She talked about reclaiming power through reclaiming our names and that was very powerful on a personal level for me." Chianne Carrier, creative writing, class of 2024
“I will never forget the strong sense of Black community and collaboration I felt when I was in Guyana. The Afro-Guyanese people are conscious of their African roots and embrace agricultural practices. This trip is something I will always remember and take back home with me for inspiration to further uplift my own Black community.” Lauryn Dingle, media and cultural studies, class of 2024
"The most memorable moment for me was the dancing and singing we did when we were gathered around the drum. It reminded me of my culture, the dancing we do, and rejoicing to the Lord Jesus Christ. It reminded me of the whole; the storytelling, the songs that they made over time for actions around the household or based around the community. It was perfect.” George Duru, electrical engineering, class of 2024
“Through our partnership with the University of Guyana, an itinerary was set that allowed us access to top political figures of the country including the U.S. Ambassador and the Prime Minister, as well as prominent grassroots organizations whose mission is the liberation and advancement of Guyanese of African descent.” Sharee Hughes, ASP program coordinator
“The ability to talk with key political figures within the country, as well as the Afro-Guyanese villages and people (who were consistently accepting and grateful towards us visiting) was extremely humbling. Being embraced 100% whether it was through singing, dancing, food, or the sharing of our histories was definitely an experience I will never forget.” Paige Jackson, biochemistry, class of 2024
“When I think the embodiment of ‘scholars,’ I think about our extremely talented, insightful, and unwavering Black scholars who engaged in intellectually stimulating dialogue with some of the Guayana’s top officials.” Jamal Myrick, ASP director
Upon their return, ASP students are required to write a 2-page paper addressing one of three prompts: racial and ethnic identities among Black communities when conceptualizing their possibilities for advancement and placement within the global society; similarities/differences seen between the fight for reparations in the United States and Guyana; or ways this trip has changed them. They are also required to develop a presentation for the Melanin Masterclass Orientation in fall 2023 and/or conduct a panel discussion with 828 Summer Bridge Scholars during summer 2023.
“We are looking at continuing the program for the upcoming year. There is great value in a program like this where not only are we exposing our scholars to another country, but more importantly, we're exposing them to the limitlessness of Blackness. Our goal is to continue this partnership with the University of Guyana and eventually create an exchange experience where UG scholars can come to UCR and vice versa,” Myrick said.