Editorial — 18 March 2017
The new Centenary

   In July 1919 a number of ex-Servicemen from Belize who had served in the First World War under the British returned to Belize totally disgusted with the racist treatment they had suffered abroad at the hands of the British Forces. When they were treated shabbily on their return and their pay was delayed, some of them started a riot in Belize Town, and they were soon joined by over 3,000 Belize Town residents, including many women. The looting was stopped by other members of the returned troops led by Samuel Haynes, but the whites did not feel safe until a British warship arrived the following day, followed by a U.S. gunboat a few days later.
   – from MARCUS GARVEY AND THE UNIA IN BRITISH HONDURAS, prize-winning essay by Regina Gordon on the occasion of UBAD’s 25th anniversary in 1994.

On the night of May 29, 1972, Evan X Hyde was the president of the UBAD Party, but it was the UBAD secretary-general, Norman Fairweather, who became a great hero of the movement that night when he led two UBAD members, the late Michael Hyde and Edwardo Burns, on a rampage against institutions of the ruling, oppressive People’s United Party (PUP). Evan X Hyde having established his place in history with the sedition victory of July 7, 1970, after May 29, 1972, UBAD had two heroes.

In early 1973 there was a division between the two UBAD leaders, and the executive of the organization split in half. The Fairweather faction supported the Unity Congress, comprised of the People’s Development Movement (PDM), the National Independence Party (NIP) and the Liberal Party. (The Unity Congress became the United Democratic Party {UDP} in September of 1973.)

The events of May 29, 1972, are never discussed in the other media systems in Belize, but at this newspaper we try to ensure, despite the division and dissolution of UBAD following 1973, that May 29, 1972 is never forgotten. May 29, 1972, is, however, never discussed in polite circles, and this was understandable while the PUP remained in office, which was up to December of 1984. After all, it was the PUP’s security forces which had been embarrassed by the insurgency. But the steadfast refusal of the now five-term UDP to mention that historic night is puzzling. May 29, 1972 is an important part of Belizean history. This cannot be denied.

On the television news this week, we saw where Belizean educators were discussing an update or revision of the high school curricula in Belize, and the lead official mentioned the need for Belizean history to be taught. We want to say to you right now that the biggest thing in Belizean history in the twentieth century occurred on July 22 and 23, 1919 in Belize Town. The then majority black natives, led by British Hondurans who had served overseas in Great Britain’s war effort of World War I (1914-1918), took over the capital and population center from the British administrators and their local officials.

When “order” was restored after two days of black insurrection, the colonial authorities decided that the matter should never again be mentioned. And so, even though there were trials which culminated with six different Belizeans being sentenced to prison for varying lengths of time, the so-called Ex-Servicemen’s Riot became an insignificant footnote in Belizean history. The post-World II generation which became the leadership of UBAD between 1969 and 1974, knew nothing about July of 1919, because they were never taught anything about it.

In some respects, it may be said that May 29, 1972 was a repeat, on a much smaller scale, of July 1919. The thesis we present to you is that if the UBAD leaders had known of July 22, 1919, perhaps May 29, 1972, would not have occurred, or perhaps May 29, 1972 would have taken a different course. We’re just saying.

Whatever the case, in March of 2017 it is Belizeans who are in control of our nation’s education system, and not only that, although black Belizeans have become a minority here, the majority of the present Belize Cabinet are clearly people of melanin. Moreover, people of melanin now control the Belize Historical Association, and one or two leaders thereof even describe themselves in Garveyite terms. Here’s looking at you, Dr. Abigail.

We believe that Belize should have begun to prepare for the new Centenary – the rebellion of July 1919. We understand the power structure energy involved with glorifying the original centenary, the Tenth of September 1798 Centenary. After all, these celebrations have become a major tourist attraction in Belize, and tourism has become, to a great extent it is said, how we Belizeans now eat. But the fact of the matter, jump high or jump low, is that there are colonial and white supremacist vibes involved with 1798. We’re not going to get into an argument with you loyal and patriotic Baymen today. All we want is for you to acknowledge the fact that July 1919 was of mammoth significance in the history of our people, and the new Centenary should be appropriately marked on the Belizean history calendar.

In marking the 25th anniversary of UBAD’s founding (February 9, 1969) in 1994, this newspaper had sponsored an essay contest on the topic of Marcus Garvey and British Honduras. (The Garveyite movement influenced the events of July 1919 in Belize Town.) The winning essayist, the lady Regina Gordon, pointedly mentioned that Garveyism in Belize had become pro-British as early as 1925, and she wanted to know why and how. So do we, and this is 23 years later.

Generations of Belizean children have been done an injustice by a colonial education system which was retained practically intact after self-government and independence. The pusillanimity of our political leaders has allowed European colonialism to maintain a mental slavery in Belize. Pressed by Bill Lindo on last Sunday morning’s SUNDAY REVIEW on KREM Television, the president of the Belize Historical Association could not or would not answer the question why African and Mayan history are still not being taught in the majority of Belizean schools. How can Belizean history not include African and Mayan history when the vast majority of our citizens are of African and Mayan descent? Our ancestors had a history before British slavery and before the Spanish Conquest, so why are our children in sovereign Belize still not informed with respect to such?

It may rightfully be argued that history does not put food on the table. But it should also be pointed out that the true history of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism would provoke feelings of resistance in the hearts and minds of our youth. With the intention apparently being to transfer roots Belizeans from British colonialism to an American/Guatemalan hegemony, those natives who have risen to political power have done so by playing the Uncle Tom/Aunt Jemima game. They have embraced the colonial narrative, which is to say, that there was no real slavery in the settlement of Belize, that it was a “family affair,” that slaves fought to protect their masters, and that everything was copacetic. These are lies.

Nothing exploded the lies as sensationally as July 1919. This was just 21 years after the first glorious celebration of the Battle of St. George’s Caye centenary. In order for the lies to be revived and regurgitated, the history of 1919 had to be obliterated. We submit that it is the duty of all patriotic and militant Belizeans to support the recovery of the 1919 truths. This will be the new Centenary. This will be the real Centenary.

Power to the people.

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