Letters — 06 May 2017
Hector Zapata replies to Wellington C. Ramos

Dear Editor,
I would like to have an opportunity to have a published reply to this letter that bears my name – “Dear Mr. Hector Zapata and my Garifuna people,” by Wellington C. Ramos.

Professor Ramos,
Yurumein was a nation of Garifuna people.  There was no need to think of one when one already existed. That was conceptualized prior to the birth of Right Honorable Chief Chatoyer and his contemporaries like Duvalle, Walumugu, Toussaint, Nanton, and Jean Baptiste.  The goal, then, was the maintenance of the existing autonomy and sovereignty. As a political scientist, I am shocked that you do not see this distinction between an idea and manifest reality.

This struggle to maintain our homeland occurred as a response to European expansionism.  Initially, the Spaniards, subsequently the French and the British. In particular, the 1763 Treaty of Paris gave the Europeans the “legal” authority to seek the imposition of their will.

Two wars and many skirmishes were fought as our ancestors were pivotal in disrupting European human trafficking of Africans.  This generated a huge military response from England.  Eventually, four thousand soldiers, the largest military up to then and since invaded Yurumein.  Even then, it took a scorched-earth policy and the aid of those whom they called Rangers to weaken them.  Forward from the exile in 1797 to the present day, 220 years have passed: where did the idea go?

Is there is a difference in desiring a right to return to our homeland and a goal to establish your own country?  Would you, reader, agree that making such a declaration publicly displays a lack of diplomacy, tact and political sophistication?  It’s showing your cards to the other team, isn’t it?

Keeping in mind that these terms that we are using are from the very people that were sworn enemies of our ancestors, up to a certain period indicated below, I had not heard nor seen the terms “Garifuna Nation” aligned or in conjunction.

Understanding the linguistic dominance of English in Belize in relation to Spanish in Honduras, one cannot necessarily expect to see such absolute terms in the latter. As such, I’d not heard the phrase “Nacion Garifuna” uttered.

However, living in the United States, those of us from Honduras are now able to bilingually communicate with our brothers and sisters in Belize, and expose ourselves to English written information and literature.

In 2012, on the heels of the release of Chris Taylor’s “Black Carib War”, I began an intense research on Garifuna history. As I am a practitioner and researcher of collaborative learning, I invited Bro. Pablo Blanco, who had also been studying Garifuna history while pursuing his undergraduate degree.

We had already realized the need to seek to dive deep into the details of our history as it is written from multi-points of view with a focus on the various theories of our origin as the theory of the shipwreck is full of holes (pun intended).  We noted the Eurocentric perspectives of authors like Sir William Young and Charles Shepherd, as well as the perspectives of Dr. Ivan Van Sertima and Leo Weiner. We came quickly to the realization that the lexicon used by the British writer’s sought only to justify their presence on Yurumein.  We spent over a year digging in the Schomburg Research Center as well as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Research Library.

With these understandings, we began to move:
1) “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6)
2) The Kemetic proverb “Man Know Thyself”
3) From the Holy Koran:  ”Scholars should endeavor to spread knowledge and provide education to people who have been deprived of it. For, where knowledge is hidden it disappears.”

The initial goal was simple.  Bring this information to the attention of our people.  Thus, through social media, we published the knowledge the existence of such material within the New York City Public Library system; on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  We utilize these platforms to promote the information we had constructed.

We concluded our work deciding that we need to have some sort of organizational format that would continue to research and develop ideas for the edification and survival of our people. We named this idea “Garifuna Nation,” stemming from and in honor of Dr. Palacio’s idea of “Garifuna, a Nation without Borders,” a great, almost rare book these days, which unless translated is very difficult to find amongst those of us who are literally dominant in Spanish.

We’ve gone further and created www.facebook.com/ garifunahistory to serve as a resource and thus continue to fulfill the mission of bringing to the attention of our people the vast resource of information that exists, such that a student interested in obtaining a Master’s degree in history with a focus on Garifuna history will know that there is no lack of information.

From that sprang political activity. We worked on the issues that affected the community. E.G:  Involvement in advocating and assisting Garifuna women migrants in 2014, assisted with immigration workshops, organized a political symposium in Riverside Church with Miriam Miranda and other members of the community.  Bro. Pablo went as far as going on a cross-country caravan compiling information about the national immigration issue as he met with other similarly affected communities. He visited the border with Mexico and chronicled the militarization of the border.

In 2013, Bro. Pablo spoke to me about Bro. Jorge, whose advocacy I’d taken note of on Facebook.  Sitting at a coffee bar in Harlem we initiated the first conference call with Bro. Jorge.  This can be verified in the minutes of the conference held on 2/12/2014.

It is written “Jorge Castillo:  Hector and Pablo invited him to conference calls, and we are still in conference to date.  It was a small idea that grew big.”

Several of these calls were made using three-way calling until Bro Jorge moved to fund the conference call number that was used to facilitate the communications.

This is not to toot my horn, but rather to note that I’ve taken a keen observation of the state-of-affairs amongst the generations.
There are those, such as yourself, Mr. Ramos, who display arrogance and one-mindedness, lacking humility, disregarding the ideas of others and pushing their agenda; men who become perturbed when their ideas or theories are questioned or when others present reasonable ideas that may not agree with theirs; a personality trait that does not bode well for organizational development.  With more and more Garifuna obtaining higher education, those who don’t like having to clarify their ideas will realize that they are a detriment to development of the community.

The rush to have the symposium in the Bronx with two months planning was terrible.  I was completely against it as the option then was to produce a late summer or mid-fall event.  That would have provided sufficient time for organizational traction development as well as marketing and promotion.

April 13, 2014, the interview on Bx. 12 you, Mr. Ramos, made no mention of Garifuna Nation, but rather made a shameful plug for your organization; deceitful.

The title of the article and the URL: “Bronx P.S. 333 hosts 1st United Garifuna Association summit.”

“The United Garifuna Association held its first annual summit at P.S. 333 on Rev. James A Polite Avenue.” Source: http://bronx.news12.com/news/ bronx-p-s-333-hosts-1st- united-garifuna-association- summit-1.7693177

This was the first public step in the organizational development. How was it going to grow given such a sabotage for the sake of media? According to the article, the UGA has publically declared “their goal is to establish their own country.” To quote Bro. Castillo, “The rest is history”

Hector Zapata

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