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Galento X Neal, R. I. P.

EditorialGalento X Neal, R. I. P.

It is not surprising that the rest of the Belizean media have paid no attention to the passing on Wednesday morning of Galento X Neal, a founding officer of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) in February of 1969 who later served as vice-president and briefly as president of the organization. UBAD, a cultural organization which became a political party in August of 1970 and was dissolved in November of 1974, is an organization which is ignored by Belize’s historians, academics, and students. The politicians of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) and the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) do not wish to talk about UBAD, and Belize’s educational system is Christian-dominated. UBAD had significant Muslim influence.

Over the last four-plus decades, Belize’s mainstream politicians have sometimes accused this newspaper of talking too much about UBAD. If we at this newspaper did not talk about UBAD, it would be as if UBAD had not existed. It is not possible to understand the civil war level of violence which has been taking place on Belize City’s Southside for the last quarter century without some understanding of why UBAD was founded and why UBAD achieved the high levels of popularity which it did between 1969 and 1972. In addition, it is because of UBAD that this newspaper was established and survived its early years.

It is not possible to sustain any argument that Amandala is not relevant to Belize and not valuable for Belizeans, because this is the newspaper which Belizean readers have given the most support since 1981. Since Amandala is important, then that organization which made it possible for Amandala to be established and to survive, must be of some importance.

Galento X Neal left UBAD and Belize for the United States early in 1972. During his UBAD years from 1969 to 1971, he had made a living as a steam press operator, a tailor, and a motorcycle mechanic. The son of a butcher, Galento grew up on George Street, between Cemetery Road and Church Street, near to what was known as Harlem Square. He had no high school or university education. Galento was almost never mentioned by the newspapers of that era, but he may have been the most popular UBAD leader between 1969 and 1971. He had great credibility with roots people, and he was loved.

Galento spent many years in the States, particularly New York City, where he built a successful auto parts business. He made frequent visits home, and eventually he returned to Belize to live with his wife, the former Irma Pitts, who had grown up just a couple houses away from him, at the corner of George and Church Streets, the same Harlem Square area.

Since the late 1980s, George Street has become known as the base of Belize City’s most powerful gang, the center of their operations being a couple blocks down from the Neal and Pitts family homes, closer to Dean Street. As an elder, Galento was comfortable living on George Street, though he would shake his head in disappointment at the negative changes which had occurred in the neighborhood. The youth of the ‘hood gave him maximum respect. Galento X Neal was a cool and strong brother, authentic Southside.

Galento X Neal was a man who gave respect to all the people he met, but he did have a consciousness of the class difference between clerical “necktie” Belizeans and worker Belizeans. He always said that he had gotten that consciousness from his father. This class difference is not a subject Belizeans like to talk about, but it is a vital subject, if only for the reason that our educational system, that system which has failed the Southside, has been a clerically-biased system.

UBAD was not a phenomenon which came out of the blue, so to speak, or took place in a socio-economic vacuum. The power structure of Belize, which we sometimes refer to as the “PUDP,” has not addressed the socio-economic conditions on the Southside which contributed to the birth of UBAD 46 years ago, and now we have civil war levels of violence amongst Southside youth. Bottom line, the reason for this is that Southside children are not receiving adequate and relevant education.

Over the last four decades, we have seen the people of the Southside change their political loyalty from the PUP to the UDP. But, it appears that the Southside’s socio-economics have become worse.

Galento X Neal would not have needed Dr. Herbert Gayle, the anthropologist, to tell him what were the causes of the Southside crisis. 46 years ago Galento X Neal took the bull by the horns and searched for solutions to his people’s problems. We honor Galento X Neal. May he rest in peace.

Power to the people. Power in the struggle.

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