Brooklyn-based, Guyanese-born community and political activist Rickford Burke is also an international law, public policy and political consultant, who has held various positions in both government and private sector in Guyana and the United States.
Burke entered politics at an early age, serving as technical advisor the Guyanese Minister of Public Service and special assistant to then President of Guyana, Hugh Desmond Hoyte.
In the US, he served as vice president of Saxon National Bank, Northeast area manager for General Motors, international law consultant in the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender and policy advisor to New York City Councilmember, David Yassky.
Burke told Caribbean Life that he has also worked on presidential campaigns and has staffed gubernatorial, mayoral, city council, senate, assembly, judicial and congressional political campaigns in the US.
An outspoken human rights advocate and staunch proponent of the empowerment of Caribbean-American communities, Burke currently serves as president of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID), a foreign relations, good governance and human rights think-tank.
During his tenure, he said the institute established the prestigious “Democracy Prize,” a coveted award bestowed on heads of state for upholding principles of democracy, good governance and human rights.
The prize has been awarded to the prime ministers of Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados.
Burke has also been in the forefront of multiple campaigns for justice for Guyanese and Caribbean nationals at home, the US and further afield.
He has also received numerous awards for his ardent and steadfast advocacy for social justice, immigration rights and against gun violence in African and Caribbean American communities.
In 2016, Burke was elected chairman of the newly established Guyana Independence Committee (New York) organization to celebrate Guyana’s 50th anniversary of Independence in the Diaspora.
He said he “embarked on an initiative to unite all Guyanese races and communities for the historic celebration.”
Burke said “the organization attracted over 150 members from nine states, rekindled Guyanese national pride, and went on to produce an elaborate and unprecedented one-week, 13-event celebration.”
Guyana’s President David Granger; former leader of the British House of Lords, Guyanese-born Baroness Valerie Amos; and Hollywood Actress CCH Pounder were among those who attended.
“Over 30,000 Guyanese nationals turned out for the closing event at South Shore High School park, Brooklyn, which was preceded by a parade on Brooklyn’s Church Ave,” Burke said.
In two years, under his leadership, he said the Guyanese Independence celebration has emerged as “one of the largest West Indian celebration in New York City.”
Burke sits on the board of directors and committees of a number of companies and not-for-profit organizations.
He is a prolific writer who is published in the US, Caribbean, United Kingdom and Africa.
In addition, Burke is a media contributor on international and Caribbean relations, and has been a radio and television talk show host.
In 2005, the Network Journal recognized Burke as “one of the most influential black professional achievers in the US.”
In November 2018, Caribbean Life and Schneps Community News Group honored Burke among 35 other “standout Caribbean-American individuals” with the Impact Award.
The event, held at Paradise Catering Hall in Brooklyn, celebrated “people of Caribbean background who have created the most impact in their respective career fields — from the arts, to advocacy, entrepreneurship, and much more.”
“By establishing themselves in these lanes, they’ve helped continue opening the path incoming immigrants and inspiring generations to come,” said Caribbean Life at the time.
Among the awardees were Burke’s compatriot Shaundell Agrippa, a family day care provider in Laurelton, Queens; Rhonda Binda; Garnes Byron; Glenda Codogan; Andrea D. Charles; Irwine G. Clare Sr.; Andrew A. Clarke; Michelle Cole; Karen Crawford-Marcelle; Rick Davy; Nicole Dennis-Benn; Jackson Farrell; Eric Girault; Rohan Gittens; Robert Gordon; Khalid Hamid; Marlene Heath;, Dolores Herbert; David Heron; Aminta Kilawan Narine Esq.; Elva Lewis; Shelly Marshall’ John P. McQueen; Vivia Morgan; Clive E. Neil; Daniel O’Brien; Roy Reid; Tracey Rousseau; Sanford Rubenstein; Dr. Claudia V, Schrader; Vilma Smith; Marie Yolaine Toms; Tamara Weston; Tiffany Williams; and Shelley Worrell.
Besides Guyana, many of the Impact Award recipients have “ancestry hailing from all over the Caribbean,” specifically Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Virgin Islands, Caribbean Life said.