Former UG lecturer Kenneth Persaud, who was a prominent WPA activist and colleague of Dr Walter Rodney passed away on Friday night. He was an inspirational teacher and mentor to many in Guyana and the diaspora. He was popularly known as KP by everyone. He was loved by his students and those who engaged him during his decades as an educator and political activist.
In my last conversation with him in December, he showered glowing tributes on the respected Pandit Ramlall and me for our commitment to community development and for my writings on varied critical issues pertaining to Guyana and the diaspora.
KP is held in high regards by the Guyanese diaspora and Guyanese at home as well. He gave his entire life fighting for the poor. He was also devoted to writing. He nurtured countless minds as a teacher and as a writer. He gave his heart, mind and soul to nurture Guyanese away from the politics of race. But he acknowledged that he, WPA and PPP failed in their advocacy of multi-racial politics.
He founded the Kitty Progressive College and became its principal. The Progressive College catered mostly for the poorer students of society. He was an esteemed writer who was not afraid to present his views in public and wrote several lengthy essays.
He felt that through the power of education, people could understand their problems and build a better society. KP became very active in the struggle for the restoration of democracy in Guyana.
He worked closely with the late Dr Josh Ramsammy, Rodney, Dr Roopnaraine, Prof Omowale, and the WPA group and became a targeted man.
Prior to that, he was very close with Dr Jagan and PPP politics and served on the PPP Central Committee. His son Dr Cliff Persaud was originally married to Dr Cheddi Jagan’s only daughter Nadira. They both studied in the Soviet Union under PPPs cholarships.
KP fled Guyana for NY after several WPA activists were assassinated and opposition political activists were beaten by (House of Israel) thugs affiliated with the PNC. He was targeted for violence and put on surveillance for his pro-democracy activism.
KP decided to leave Guyana with urgency after one of his Afro-Guyanese students came to his home during a rain storm in the middle of the night to warn him that the student got word from reliable sources that KP was earmarked for assassination by the PNC government of Forbes Burnham.
This was a period known as “the reign of terror” in Guyana and several opposition activists were murdered and hundreds terrorized. KP had very good relationship with Afro students and they looked out for his safety.
KP was among a few activists who always remained a champion of multiracial Guyanese politics.
In NY, KP saw the need for a community publication after earlier ones failed and all of them racially partisan. He became one of the founders of the weekly Caribbean Daylight and Prime News and its editor for several years.
He also founded several other weeklies in New York and was a regular contributor to Caribbean New Yorkers. And he wrote serious political columns for several newspapers and the respected Guyana Journal.
In NY, he became the original secretary of the Arya Spiritual Centre which was formed in1984 by Pandit Ramlall after the latter left Arya Samaj USA that was formed in1981.
He also worked closely with several other community activists to build organisations. He participated in the NY struggle for the restoration of democracy in Guyana and was present at several protest activities.
In NY, his students acknowledge the crucial role he played in making sure every student receives a quality education. KP never wavered in his commitment to building a just, equitable, harmonious, multi-racial society.
Unlike others in the WPA he did not support the position that an Indian (Dr Jagan) could not be leader of the PCD although he had differences with Jagan.
He did not see issues in terms of race but had been disturbed by what he described as the racist practices of the APNU-AFC coalition.
KP will be fondly remembered. He left a legacy of extraordinary brilliance in his writings and speeches.
He saw education as vital and critical for success and for securing a future. His students will always be in awe of his knowledge of issues, his teaching ability, and passionate spirit in advocating his belief.
In NY, the community is grateful for his contributions to various spheres of life and the development of their former homeland. His political views will always be treasured.