Seven years ago today, Linden lost a man of diverse talents and capabilities — an icon in the field of entertainment, drama and cultural consciousness.
That man — Burnell Lancelot Thomas, popularly known as Aku, was at the time of his death the Vice Chairman of Region 10.
Aku was born at Agricola, and was educated at the Agricola Methodist and Tutorial High Schools. He would later marry Hazel Harris in1971, who bore him three children.
During this time, he became actively involved in African drumming and dancing, which led to the development of another relationship, this time with his lead singer, Marilyn Hart. Another three children were born out of that relationship.
Aku moved to Linden in the early eighties, in search of a job to maintain his growing family.
There he successfully landed a job as a labourer with the Guyana Mining Enterprise (Guymine), where he later became a welder.
Linden became his home, and Aku soon formed a cultural group, “The Zulu Dancers”. He provided back-up music with his drums.
Aku joined the PNC in 1982, and often provided musical entertainment at that party’s meetings.
He also became popular for his cultural shows at numerous schools in the Linden community.
The year 1986 saw Aku attaining the position of manager of the then popular Palm Three Cinema, on Burnham Drive.
His tenure there would see his creativity blossom in the field of drama, as he began to write plays. He would later form “The Palm Three Culture Group.”
Out of that group was birthed the famous “No Big Thing” show, which premiered at the cinema to a capacity crowd on December 25, 1990. It was a huge success — so successful, in fact, that the show became a permanent feature at the cinema every Christmas night for the next few years.
As the crowds grew, a new venue had to be sought; so it was that the “No Big Thing” show went to the Mackenzie Sports Club Ground to appease the appetites of entertainment hungry Lindeners.
Meanwhile, Aku was as busy as ever, having become a rural constable, photographer and a teacher at the St Aidan’s Primary School. He was also simultaneously freelancing for the Guyana Chronicle.
This multi-talented and versatile man would later become Regional Vice Chairman in 2001. It was while on duty in that capacity that Aku and the driver of his vehicle, Oscar Bailey, met their demise a few miles from Kwakwani, where they had gone on Regional business.
Their terribly mutilated bodies would be discovered almost four days after they had disappeared in a ravine where the vehicle had plunged with them.
Miraculously, a young woman by the name of Lavern Fraser, who was also in the vehicle, survived the accident.
Aku’s funeral was one of the largest seen in Linden. The service was conducted at the Mackenzie Sports Club with much pomp and ceremony. But then, after his death, his family faded almost into obscurity.
According to reports, his reputed wife, Lorna Lawrence, refused to accept a small sum of money that was offered to her by the Region. She deemed the pittance grossly inadequate, in light of all that Aku had done in service to the community.
She later struggled with odd jobs to take care of their children. There was some public assistance, one of her children recently divulged.
Then she became ill and had to undergo a surgical intervention. Because of financial needs, Lorna reportedly had to go back to work before it was medically advisable to do so.
She would later develop complications as a consequence, which led to her demise, two weeks ago, in the very month that her reputed husband had met his death seven years ago.
Their children are now orphans as a consequence, and three of them are staying with a relative who is a single parent, it was further disclosed.
Most Lindeners agree that assisting the underaged children of Burnell ‘Aku’ Thomas, who at this time cannot fend for themselves, would be a small way to show appreciation for a man who contributed so much to this community.
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