Features — 25 August 2018
Flowers Bank 14 must have     been – local white

History records the arrival of the Flowers Bank Fourteen, to break the tie in the vote in 1797, the vote that cemented the modern state called Belize, which lies in the heart of Central America and the Caribbean Basin. If you had no evidence to the contrary, if all you had to go on was present day Belize, you’d have to believe the Fourteen were local whites.

It is as night follows day in a land where the only females were black (speaking of the earliest days in the settlement), that the white ancestor (slave master) took women from among the black ancestor (slaves) to co-habit with. These unions produced brown children, male and female, some slave and some free.

Over time, brown males would have co-habited with black women, and with brown women, and the white slave master would have co-habited with black women, and the brown women that he and the black female slaves had created.

Over time, in time, Belize would have created a distinct tribe, which was brown, and a not so distinct tribe, the local white.

In one of the history books, Shoman’s 13 Chapters, mention is made of a Hyde ancestor, a man named George Hyde. Both of George’s grandfathers were white; one grandmother was white and one was black, a slave. Thus, George was 75% white. He, George, wanted white privileges. He, George, got some. He got some education abroad, he got land, and he got slaves.

If you are familiar with the central districts – Stann Creek, Cayo, Orange Walk, and Belize – you will know that rather large tracts of land, many very fertile for agricultural purposes, ended up in the hands of people who were not white. The families that inherited these tracts were mostly local whites, and they passed these properties down to their children and grandchildren. Over time, in time, many of these tracts were divided, and sold. But some are still there, and the people who possess the titles to these properties have the same names as the whites, who owned them, and the local whites, their favored children.

The fourteen men who came down the river from Flowers Bank must have been local whites. If you want to know what local whites look like, you don’t need to have much of an imagination – just think Bill Lindo and Melvin Hulse.  So, if you want a realistic re-enactment, like the one the UDP dazzled us with in 1998 for the 10th, just get fourteen men who look like those two, put them in some dories, and there, we’ve got our heroes.

The fact that the fourteen must have been local whites, not black, cannot be glossed over. They, and the whites, were the true winners in 1798. You don’t have to go to the archives to find that out. Just look at 2018 Belize. The darker, less Caucasoid tribes are still shut out of the wealth untold. There are a few, yes, who have made it to the top. But there is chaos and disarray and poverty in the rest of the flock.

The census says thirteen were black

If we go back to the worst of scenes from our past, we see our white ancestors, the slave masters, appropriating or raping our black female ancestors. And our black male ancestors were in chains, and had to look on. Men who are honest with the world know that everything revolves around women. This is not a nice scene.

Some of us can’t get over what the white ancestor did. There are actually a few who adore the white master. For many of us, it is forever a 6’s & 7’s thing, our relationship with our white ancestor. But we are not alone. Every child of a rapist, every child whose mother hated their father, knows the confusion of not coming from a perfect union.

I remember this guy in my neighborhood, an older guy (he is deceased a long time now), I got the sense that his mother was wayward and all that goes with that. I overheard him tell his colleagues one day that there was one thing he was certain of in this world, and that was that his father loved him.

Life can be complicated. There are women who don’t care for children. There are men who will protect their children with every ounce of breath in their body. It’s that way in the human tribe. What happens if your local white father gave you more love than your local black mother?

There were white men here who dreamed of going home. For some, maybe just a few, Belize, The Jewel was home, and their dark children and dark wife they wouldn’t change for the world.

But, in the great scheme of things, with the white supremacists spending billions and billions of dollars to develop military hardware just so they can stay on top, people of color have to be blind to not see the light.

Anyway, the Flowers Bank Fourteen paddle up, let’s say by Bamboo Bay, where the votes are being cast – Bamboo Bay because there has to be some rum, plenty rum, in this story – and the decision is made to stay and fight. Battle plans are drawn up, including “send to Jamaica”, but the leaders realize that they’ll need more troops. And so they turn to the colored population, slave and free.

You don’t need a lot of imagination to figure out why the colored population joined in. Promises were made, and payments were made.

It is a fact that slave owners in Belize had to be less harsh than slave owners on the islands. On the islands, almost the only recourse for the slaves was to engage the slave master militarily. Belize was wide open country, and the Spaniards to the north, for the purpose of undermining the settlers, had an open invitation.

Slaves who ran away didn’t come back to the settlement. The records show that slaves ran to the Sibun, and to the Manatee area. Some ran north, to Mexico. The runaway slaves did not get brides from among the Spanish elite, and Ladinos. The Mayas were also a downtrodden people and it is to them that the escaped slaves went and found women to love.

We have to believe that when the masters called for help, a number of slaves were well past their physical primes. Some of them had been born into the state of slavery; they knew nothing else. Some we know were mercenary.

A lot of people don’t think that it is sufficient for people of color, and slaves, to throw in behind the white settlers. Maybe that is where the Flowers Bank Fourteen comes in. When they arrived, the vote was deadlocked at 51. There was one white man (some say two) in the crowd. He voted to stay and fight. History records all fourteen casting their votes, and the census of the day says that thirteen of the fourteen were black. Did the whites and local whites entertain the votes of free blacks so they could use them to get the other blacks in the settlement on board?

The 1797 decision to defend the settlement of Belize was made by whites, and local whites who had some property. The actual defense of the settlement in 1798 was carried out by all the people here who were willing and able.

A lot of what we were, and what we became to our region, has its roots in 1797, and the battle in 1798. The children of slaves, especially the local white ones, had stay here because the decision was made to stay, not cut and run. (As Fred Hunter, Sr., said, we “asked” Great Britain to make us a colony in 1862). If that decision, and stand, had not been made, the children of the Caste War would have had no place to run to, and the children of the massacres in Guatemala and El Salvador would also have had no place to run to. Heck, every tribe that is here (except for the Mayan and the African) “ran” here to escape strife in the land of their birth.

We, well, some of us, celebrate the heroics of 1798. These were the seminal days of the new Belize, The Jewel, and it would have come to naught if people of color didn’t buy in to the defense of the territory. Hip hip hooray!

But, as mentioned in my first piece today, it didn’t work out that well for the darker children of the slaves.

The Amandala response

The Amandala (UBAD, UEF) has offered that a big reason why people of color are in disarray lies in the distorted history painted by the white ancestor, which is that our brown ancestor (America) and our black ancestor (Africa) began life as conquered and enslaved peoples.  Clearly this is an injustice, being piled on to the most terrible of injustices, those being genocide and slavery.

It is difficult to understand why local leaders of color, those who have “made it”, reject the teaching of African and Mayan history in our schools. It is possible that the Christian churches fear that African and Mayan history will cause them to lose members of their flock.  It is possible that there are locals of color who cling for dear life to the few points of white in their veins. Or is it in the service of a narrow political agenda, why children and youth of color in a country led by people of color, are denied the truth about their brown and black ancestors?

African and Mayan history will not immediately (or of itself) solve the economic problems of brown people and black people in Belize. But it is necessary to set the foundation for development. Everyone who knows anything knows that the foundation is everything.

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Deshawn Swasey

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