Features — 01 August 2014 — by Kareem Clarke
US college students in Belize to study emancipation

Emancipation is described as any of the various efforts to procure political rights or equality, often for a specifically disenfranchised group of people, or more generally, the discussion of such matters. In an effort to research and examine this issue of emancipation as it relates to Belize’s ethnic and indigenous groups, an 18-member entourage, comprised of 10 men and 8 women from two colleges in California, USA, are presently engaged in an educational eco-tour of the Jewel.

The group is scheduled to spend a total of 11 days touring the different regions of the country and gathering information as part of their field work studies, while liaising with Belizean grassroots organizations in regards to Emancipation Day, which will be commemorated this Friday, August 1.

The students and lecturers are from San Jose Community College and San Jose Evergreen Community College, both based in California, and they come from a mix of departments, such as African Studies, Ethnic Studies and Anthropology.

Amandala spoke to two of the students who told us about the reason for their visit, the importance of being educated about emancipation, and what they hope to learn/gain from the eco-tour.

Jordan Vukosav, 22, of San Jose Community College, said, “The purpose of our visit here in Belize is to get exposure to the Belizean cultures, including the Mayan, Creole and Garifuna people, and become more enlightened about their way of life. Just being here for one day has exposed us to so much; Haile Selassie’s birthday was last night, and it was great to celebrate that and get in touch with the Rastafari spirit. We have also been in touch with different educators about land rights and other political issues going on in Belize right now to learn about the structure here in Belize.”

Vukosav, who majors in Liberal Arts, explained that is important to learn about black history and emancipation because “black people have been repressed for over 500 years, and to learn about their history and their ancestors and their origins is important because all people need to be free.”

“My interests vary from ethnic studies to cultural anthropology, which is the study of different people, so this is a perfect experience here, just to become more enlightened as to the cultures that live here and their way of life, to experience what it really is like, rather than to simply read it. You feel naturally inspired when you come here, and it’s a natural inspiration you just want to share with other people”, he mentioned.

Rebecka Bruno, 20, another student who attends Evergreen Valley Community College, told us that this is her first trip abroad, and so far she has enjoyed every second of the experience.

She said, “I’ve never been out of the country [USA]. I learned about the tour through my cultural anthropology class, and it was a chance I couldn’t pass up. I’m glad that I came. I chose to come here because mostly to learn about the culture, get out of my American mindset, and explore and see [other parts of] the world. It’s been a pretty amazing culture shock, so honestly I am enjoying every second of it. I came to be enriched from the culture, and I hope to be filled with knowledge and take back everything that I’ve learned and share it with everybody that I know.”

Rebecka is majoring in psychology with a minor in ethnic studies, which she considers her main focus, and believes that the study of black history and emancipation is important to learn because “it’s been so closed off and not talked about, but nonetheless, it’s real life and needs to be addressed.”

“Personally, there are many things at home that I take for granted, but I’m really big about speaking to my family and friends about all my views on everything, so I hope to just make emancipation a thing for all of them to understand,” she noted.

The tour spans from July 26th to August 6th, during which time, the students and lecturers will spend three days in Belize City, four days in the south (primarily Hopkins), and another four in the west of the country.

As part of their visit to the Dr. Leroy Taegar Institute of Learning, home of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) Educational Foundation on Partridge Street in Belize City, this past Monday, July 28, the group donated various school supplies and books, and also gave monetary contributions, to the institute’s library administrators.

They are also scheduled to partake in presentations on the legacy of African civilizations, enslavement of African people (Maafa), and Africans in contemporary Belize at the University of the West Indies (UWI) on Emancipation Day, August 1.

The theme for this year’s Emancipation Day celebrations is “Emancipation – Understanding Enslavement in Belize In 2014.”

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