We drove slowly around the Southside of Belize City this afternoon around 4:30 pm. It was a time of reflection for us, sober reflection. We saw no joy in the streets of the Southside, though we assumed many citizens were indoors watching the Olympics on television, talking on the telephone, playing games, making love, and so on and so forth.
Many years ago the Southside was our stomping grounds, and our people were vibrant, confident, and aggressive. As Belize entered the 1960s, it was becoming clear, or at least so we thought, that the British were willing to leave the settlement/territory of Belize for us to control, and while there were some influential Anglophile Belizeans who had their own reasons for being opposed to the substantial changes which self-rule implied, most Belizeans in Belize City, the capital city and population center, looked forward to our post-colonial future. On the Southside, which was majority black, there was the feeling that our ancestors had built Belize, and we now deserved to take over.
As the 1960s progressed, we Belizeans found that things constitutional were becoming complicated by the Guatemalan claim. We did achieve self-government in January of 1964, however, and Hurricane Hattie in October of 1961 was proving to be a blessing in terrible disguise, because Hattie had flung the doors of the United States of America, the world’s largest and richest economy, wide open for us to enter.
Younger Belizeans must know, and older ones must remember, that in the 1960s we Belizeans had no idea how rich Belize was in natural resources. Samuel Haynes had referred to “wealth untold” in the poem (written ca 1930s) which Premier George Price had chosen for our national anthem, and there was talk of oil, but the roots knew nothing, absolutely nothing, of lithium and cadmium and uranium and gold. We loved Belize, but we saw it as just a swamp. Belizeans eagerly, wholeheartedly, embraced the American eagle.
When you drive through the Southside in August of 2016, it is hard to escape the reality of devastating change since the 1960s. Between Wednesday night and Thursday morning this week, Hurricane Earl destroyed much of the southern wall of the MCC Garden. There is no doubt this is a godsend to the enemies of our people. If the lighting for the Garden has taken so long to be restored, if the field itself has been cruelly violated for so many years, if the casino finally forced its way earlier this year into our football and sports shrine, do you think this United Democratic Party (UDP) Government of Belize, sold out as it is to the international corporate monsters whose business is lithium and cadmium and uranium and gold, will move quickly, or any at all in fact, to “bless up” the sacred Garden? All the energy is now across the street at the casino, where Belizeans continue to play the fool with their precious money and assets.
There was a time in the 1960s when on a Sunday evening at 4:30 pm, the hour we drove around the Southside on Sunday, August 7, 2016, there would be total “fire on the Barracks” at the MCC Garden. Our young men warriors would be flying and jousting on the field of combat, our fabulous young ladies would be watching them in admiration, our old men would remember their youth with sometimes sad nostalgia, and our pre-teen youth would dream of when they would grow up to become the young men warriors, the heroes of our proud people. Instead of these glorious games, expressions of the vitality of our people, what the Southside offered this Sunday evening was aimless children and homeless Belizean desgraciados prostrate on the ledges of buildings owned by foreign magnates.
The majority of the Belizean people remain focused on the arguably mindless personality contests between the UDP and the People’s United Party (PUP) which pass for parliamentary democracy in The Jewel. The views we have expressed at this newspaper, even though we have been the leading newspaper here for 35 years, have always been and remain the views of a minority.
It is normal for Belizean political commentators in our media to get all caught up in the PUDP personality contests. Take the massive multimillion dollar Equity House fortress where the Prime Minister’s law firm stands, less than a short block from terrible pockets of poverty. One definition of a leader is one who thinks for the group. From the perspective of the Southside masses, it is safe to say Mr. Barrow thinks above the group. But finding areas to criticize Mr. Barrow individually, while often entertaining, are mostly pointless. It is clear that there is no one better in his own party, and the Southside is convinced that the Said/Ralph combo which came immediately before Mr. Barrow, was worse.
This here, brothers and sisters, is an intimidatingly huge game. The Chinese, the Indians, and the Mennonites who have come to Belize from huge, competitive economies, have brought us Southsiders to our knees. The painful irony is that when we were still relatively strong four and a half decades ago, we made very poor decisions.
There was a revolutionary moment to which this newspaper belonged, and we focused on the black situation. But our movement was absorbed by the PUDP. Amandala remained on the Southside, but, beginning in 1977, we decided to focus on the Belizean nation.
On Sunday evening, we realized that the Southside has collapsed around us. While this state of affairs may not represent a frightening calamity to the Equity House, it does so represent for Partridge Street. In a sense, we now have to come full circle. We were always proud to fight on our people’s behalf. If this is a struggle to which we must return, then let it be.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie – murdered at Caracol on September 25, 2014.