BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Mar. 21, 2019– In his youth, Edward Lincoln Gabourel was a very strong, powerfully built, but quiet man, who became known as “Mandingo.” Essentially, he has lived a quiet life, even though, at a very young age, he became a member of two organizations which would later have a lifelong impact on him and which would mold his early consciousness.
Gabourel recalled that he was around 16-years-old and was working on Turneffe Atoll, when he heard about an organization named the United Black Association for Development (UBAD), from a friend.
“It is an organization for black people,” he recalled his friend telling him.
“Even at that young age I have always felt that we as a people needed to be more organized, so when I came in, I immediately joined the group,” he told us in an interview.
Gabourel said that after he joined UBAD he kept “an active membership and began helping with the organization’s newspaper, Amandala.”
There wasn’t any motor and so we pumped the press by hand. Gabourel said the press was a Chandler-Price press.
From pumping the Chandler-Price press, Gabourel became interested in a farming project that a UBAD group had stated in Hattieville.
He recalled some of the UBADERS who were involved in the land program. He said there was Norman Fairweather, a brother living up there we called, Daddy Gabourel, and then there was another young man, Wayne Gabb.”
“I was one of the few who stayed longer in Hattieville,” he said.
We asked Gabourel how his early initiation into the UBAD movement framed his thinking.
“Well, it has constantly been my guideline. And the next step from UDAD, I joined the Nation of Islam and began following the program and teachings of the Honorable Elijah Mohammed. The Nation of Islam taught us that land is power; if you don’t have land you don’t have anything,” he explained.
Gabourel said that the teachings of the Nation of Islam rings very true today, because we are losing the land.
“We, the Belizean people, seem reluctant to do anything with the land,” he said.
We asked him to tell us how a youth from Belize City ended up in a place called Valley of Peace, some 50 something miles out of the city.
Gabourel recalled that Peter “Ducho” Thomas, a member of the People’s United Party, was heading up a project with some lands in the Valley of Peace. He said that it was early in 1982, when a few Belizeans and some Salvadorians began settling in the area. “There was no kind of infrastructure,” he told us. “We built thatched houses and began clearing the land. Initially there was nineteen of us.”
Gabourel said that the program was spearheaded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“We were given a small stipend. In my case I got about $15 dollars a week. The money was being provided by the UNHCR. They also aided us with zinc and lumber. They also brought a mold system and I built my house from white marl,” he said.
He said initially they were given one acre plots to build their houses. In addition, they were given 50 acres each, for farming purposes.
“I built my house on the 50 acres and later went back and built a house on the one acre lot,” he said.
Gabourel said he remained in the Valley of Peace for 10 years, before he left to go to the United States.
“When I left for the US, I left my brother, James, to take care of the place,” he told us.
Gabourel said about three years ago he returned from the States, and he returned to the Valley of Peace and resumed farming the land.
“In the States I learned about the fruit, soursop. So I decided to plant a few acres with soursop. I had my mind to plant 20 acres of soursop, because you can’t plant just a few for a juice business,” he said.
He told us that he has difficulties in getting soursop seeds to plant, and that he is thinking of planting moringa, because he uses it to grow his hair. He said that he plans to farm more fruits for marketing purposes, and that he needs “to develop more skills.”
“In my area more people are growing vegetables, because that is a cash crop. I am in the process of trying to utilize the land, now that I have title for it,” he said, “I have never been a farmer, but I like it.”
Gabourel said that it was the UBAD experience and the Nation of Islam that have opened his eyes to work the land.
“Out of the original settlers who started out in the Valley of Peace, only a few people remain,” Gabourel said. “I was the first of the black Belizeans that went and now only I and the family of the late Zedekiah Scott are there. It is a difficult life that only a few people could handle.”