Next Thursday, August 13, this newspaper will be marking the 46th year of our existence. For many years now, analysts have focused on the business aspect of our publication, but at Kremandala we have tried to ensure that we make time to pay attention to the social devastation around us in Southside Belize City.
This newspaper survived and grew because of the loyalty of our core readers, so that there is a business benefit to having a social conscience, we would say. But there is also a contradiction between strict business and having a good heart. The businesses around us are owned by new Belizeans, and they are strictly about business: they have no social conscience. The new Belizeans have made money faster than native Belizeans, because they do not spend any of their profits on sports or other social welfare programs.
In Belize, we operate in a capitalist, hence competitive system. There are winners and losers in the capitalist system, but in Belize City, more than that, we have seen thousands of actual bloody human casualties over the last quarter century. In Belize City, the losers are not only dead and incarcerated: our losers are dead and incarcerated youth, our community’s future.
On the Southside, the issue of ethnicity is noteworthy, because Belize City has been majority black for maybe three centuries. In the vast majority of the murder cases in Belize City, it is a case of black youth killing black youth, at rates the United Nations considers civil war rates.
Even though people of Hispanic descent became the majority in the Belizean population more than three decades ago, there is no other ethnic group in Belize, other than blacks, which can be blamed for the black-against-black violence which has defined the Southside of Belize City for more than two decades. This catastrophic violence is one internal to the black community.
At the time in 1969 when this newspaper was established, as the organ of a black-conscious organization called the United Black Association for Development (UBAD), black people in the self-governing colony of British Honduras were still the clear majority, and the economics of the then capital city continued to benefit from the fact that blacks dominated the public service. It was the year after this newspaper was established that most government departments moved to Belmopan, which was declared the capital city in August of 1970.
The Southside black youth who began recklessly murdering each other twenty five years ago did not descend from public service families. But the politicians who have been elected to represent the Southside generally do so descend. The electoral politicians have been absolutely unable to control the Southside civil war. One of the reasons is that the combatants come from a different class: they come from the working class families originally descended from the African slaves brought here by the Baymen settlers to work in the forests and do related work, such as sawmill and waterfront work. There are jobs for the educated children of public service families. But Belize’s hardwood forests are finished. The education system did not and does not properly train working class Southside children: the children have to become gangsters and murderers.
It is difficult to do business on the Southside of Belize City. In no other part of this country, in addition to the extraordinary civil war violence, will you see so many homeless, mentally challenged, drug-addicted and begging people. Our community has become a desperately dysfunctional one. And yet, as soon as strategically-placed real estate becomes available amongst all the human flotsam and jetsam, that Southside real estate is gobbled up by the new Belizeans. There’s something happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?
It would seem to us that there is a plan to have the traditional Southside people destroy themselves or, failiing that, move out of the Southside real estate. There are humanitarian ways to relocate human beings, but capitalism has never been a humanitarian philosophy. The cheapest way to move Southside black people, other than perhaps building gas chambers as the Nazis did, is how it’s being done presently. Remember now, it’s not only the Southside real estate that is more valuable than Southside people can see: the whole country of Belize is a gold mine, and it will go on the auction block of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
When a people are faced with the crisis Southside people face, there is need for a revolutionary organization to present their grievances. 46 years ago, when things were manifestly better than now, Belize City had such a revolutionary organization, but leadership of the UBAD organization split in two in 1973, and the organization was dissolved in 1974.
We do not think that the ladies who run the UBAD Educational Foundation (UEF) conceive of themselves as a revolutionary organization. But they have been working hard for years in the Southside community. The UEF ladies visit the prison, they educate children, they raise money for their programs, and they have maintained links with other Central American black communities. Last week the UEF brought in a Rastafarian lecturer from the University of West Indies campus in Jamaica as a special guest for their Emancipation Week activities. The UEF has also been running the African and Indian (Indigenous) Library for years on the Kremandala compound.
In British Honduras, Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) was quite strong before Garvey was framed and went to jail in the United States in 1925. In the 1930’s a dying Garveyism gave rise to Rastafarianism in Jamaica, but in Belize the only branch of the UNIA which survived, and has done so to the present day, is the Black Cross Nurses. The Black Cross Nurses in Belize today know almost nothing about Marcus Garvey, the man who founded them almost a century ago, but their work (and through them Garvey’s work) lives on.
We choose this Amandala anniversary to honor the ladies of the UEF (they do have men in their rank), because their work in our devastated community is critical. Our newspaper now provides some financial stability for the Kremandala businesses, but the spirit of UEF community work goes all the way back to the foundation days of UBAD. It is said indeed, only the people can save the people.
Power to the people. Remember Danny. Fight for Belize.