In these days leading up to Pen Cayetano’s Black History Month event in Dangriga, we have been reflecting at the editorial desk on our 48-year history at Kremandala, and on the socio-cultural-economic situation which existed in British Honduras/Belize in 1969 – the year our black-consciousness initiative began.
Five hundred years ago, the Europeans began a process which involved two deadly crimes against humanity. In the language of religion, these would be described as mortal sins, evils which would condemn one to an eternity of hell punishment. First, the Europeans seized the ancestral lands of Indigenous Americans, and, secondly, they enslaved African peoples and forced them to work those stolen lands so that the Europeans could become as wealthy and powerful as we now see them to be.
The crimes against Indigenous American and African humanity continued for centuries. Slavery was not abolished in some European possessions until late in the nineteenth century. In the nineteenth century, the Europeans in North America were still involved in violently grabbing the ancestral lands of Native Americans. In fact, when you study the behavior of the oil and mining companies owned and administrated by Europeans and European descendants today, one wonders how much has changed since Cortes and Pizarro et alii.
The marauding Europeans and the beneficiary populations of their home countries felt the need, apparently, to justify all their crimes against Indigenous American and African human beings, so they began a campaign to dehumanize our ancestors. Our ancestors were depicted as ignorant, pagan, uncivilized creatures who were actually in need of the Christianizing and civilizing techniques which the Europeans brought to native continents in European ships. It appears that the Europeans convinced themselves that they were doing Indigenous Americans and Africans a great favor.
Well, in the beginning, Indigenous peoples in America and the African peoples with whom the Europeans came in contact, saw that contact with Europeans for what it was – conquest, murder, rape, enslavement, oppression, degradation, and so on.
But, over a period of centuries the Europeans were able to obfuscate the situation enough to convince elements of both dehumanized peoples that because, overall, European rule had become an established, entrenched order of things, they had to go along with the European program. The most significant decision, historically speaking, which our ancestors then made was to send their children to the schools opened by the Europeans.
In 1969, even though a process of political decolonization was taking place in British Honduras, there had not been any kind of real reversal of the violent process by which the Europeans had conquered and enslaved our ancestors. We Belizeans were still a subject people. So that, the demand by the 1969 generation of Kremandala for the teaching of African and Indigenous history in the schools of Belize, was a dangerous demand in the eyes of the power structure, and it could not be countenanced by the European Christian missionaries. Such a demand was revolutionary, and those who were making the demand did not have the power to reverse the process of obfuscation and lies which had been the invisible code of the schools. In 1969, it was clear that Europe still ruled in Belize.
The danger of African and Indigenous history is that it establishes the humanity, dignity, and culture of those peoples who had been violated by the Europeans ever since the arrival of Columbus in the Americas in 1492. In establishing the humanity of African and Indigenous peoples, such a history would have destroyed the justification for the crimes against humanity which the Europeans had committed over a period of centuries. Such a history would have destroyed whatever moral authority the descendants of those Europeans now rely on to support the various moral prescriptions they have been doling out to us African and Indigenous descendants through their various churches and Non-Government Organizations. Such a history would, ultimately, make the case for financial reparations to African and indigenous descendants. Such a history, to repeat again, was dangerous.
The question in 2017 is: who is it that now rules in Belize? Continued collaboration with European obfuscation and lies by African and Indigenous Belizean leaders who proclaim themselves to be in constitutional power, raises the question of what were the conditions they accepted from Buckingham Palace in order for them to be anointed “honorable” and “right honorable.” If the facts which documented European obfuscation and lies were already out there in 1969, and they were, how much more so is it not the case in 2017 that the evidence exists for the truth about African and Indigenous peoples to be told?
Power to the people.