The PUP Belize City Council candidates team is remarkable for its diversity. In my lighter moments I think of it as ‘risto, ragga, roots and rasta.
It has entrepreneurs and academics, retired career public officers and passionate youth. The men and women are a spectrum of varied experience whose bond is their passion to serve. The change they offer to the City’s citizenry is a generational one.
A thumbnail sketch can hardly do Albert Vaughan, a graduate of Excelsior High School and the Belize Technical College, a retired military officer, a political activist and a musician, justice.
He served in the Belize Defence Force for 22 years as Bandmaster, Regimental Sergeant Major with the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1, and was commissioned as a Lieutenant and served as a logistic officer.
Albert is very much a musician, and an officer and a gentleman, and a warrior for the people and causes he believes in.
Whilst serving in the BDF, he received a degree in music at the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall, took the Senior All Arms Drill Instructor Course at ATC Pirbright, the Royal Logistics School in the United Kingdom, and a Re-Bandmaster course with the Jamaica Constabulary Force in Jamaica.
His love for music and education stayed with him after leaving the BDF, and he was a pioneer in setting up the Music in Schools Program in the Ministry of Education.
But beyond music Albert Vaughan has been a dedicated family man and determined citizen and activist for his community. He is a Justice of the Peace and a member of the board of the Holy Redeemer Credit Union. He has always been and will always be passionate about improving his community – Belize City.
Some of his friends teasingly call Javier Castellanos “Gold Dust” because he is a character. Javier is an entrepreneur who operates his family- owned business, KC’s Restaurant, in the heart of downtown Belize City.
He was born and raised in Belize City, educated at Queen’s Square Anglican Primary School and Nazarene High School before attending the Belize Technical College and then the University of the West Indies.
Javier has seen a lot of the seamier side of our inhumanity during his time as a police photographer and scenes of crime expert in the Belize Police Department 1998 – 2003, but it has not changed his positive outlook and optimistic personality. He was seconded to the US Embassy following 9/11 as a detection specialist and worked with them for 7 years before going into the family’s restaurant business.
Javier describes himself as a “soldier of the People’s United Party” who is motivated by the rampant suffering he sees among the people he grew up with, and whom he is proud to serve.
“People are suffering”, he passionately says, “but it is not supposed to be like this; poverty has changed. Once we were poor, but we could live but these days people are dying of poverty, so many are like zombies, their bills outstripping their pay checks”.
“I have a heart”, he declares.
Incidentally, it was his former police colleagues who stuck the nickname “Gold Dust” on him. Javier was a fingerprint expert who preferred to dust scenes with gold-hued dust, hence the nickname.
It is unfortunate that young Allan Pollard, 22, perhaps the youngest candidate in the campaign, is virtually unknown outside of his family and friends. He was born and raised on Fabers Road in Belize City and studied general studies at St. John’s College Junior College. Allan, though, is first and foremost a businessman who at 20 opened Supreme Automotive Belize in June 2016. His shop retails automotive repairs and maintenance services, a trade he learned working with his father who has bought, repaired and sold vehicles for the last two decades.
This young businessman, the owner/manager of his own business, has a lot of concerns about the conduct of Belize’s social and political economy, primarily social issues, and sees his bid for election as a first step towards the inclusion of those concerns in the national conversation.
He also loves music and enjoys promoting young Belizean artists and hosting entertainment events for the young Belizean community. He is passionate about giving young people a voice in the way they are governed and in creating employment opportunities for those coming out of school.
Older folks would describe Allan, regardless of the outcome of these elections, as one to watch.
Some of my friends refer to Micah Goodin as “AMANDALA’s Micah Goodin” since he has taken to reporting for the nation’s leading newspaper with gusto and verve. Raised in the heart of Majestic Alley, Micah has made good on the promise of his intellectual abilities that he has been able to combine with his street smarts.
It is testament to his will to succeed and his drive that in 2011 he graduated as valedictorian of Sadie Vernon Technical High School, but while in 3rd form there he secured a scholarship to St. John’s Junior College where he completed an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice and earned another scholarship to further his studies in Criminal Justice at Galen University.
While in sixth form he assembled a group of his schoolmates and provided free tutoring and homework assistance to other young people. He also teamed up with other student leaders and launched the Nation Builders National Youth Movement through which they lobbied on behalf of young people on issues ranging from access to education to meaningful employment.
After he left SJCJC he was elected as Chief of Staff of the Belize Youth Movement, the youth arm of the PUP, and challenged for the presidency of the National Youth Council. His spirited campaign and obvious appeal attracted the ire and attention of the other major political party, which pulled out nearly all stops to ensure he would lose narrowly.
Micah passionately believes that young people must be included in how they are governed and that the youth must no longer be an invisible majority whose time will come tomorrow. He is determined that he and they are here now and have a role they must play in making Belize better.
You could be forgiven for assuming that Dr. Candice Pitts is just another pretty face if you’ve never had the chance to actually sit down and converse with her. She is an attractive woman. She is also an intelligent woman of iron determination.
Hers is a remarkable story of grace and achievement despite the odds. Dr. Pitts was born in Port Loyola and knew that community from its days of London Bridges, and the hard scrabble life that many fought through just to survive. She attended Port Loyola Pre-School and St. John Vianney Primary School. And it was with the help of her community and the determination of her will that she graduated from Pallotti High School and St. John’s College Junior College.
She helped to sell her mother’s bread and buns on the streets as a girl as her family fought to make ends meet. The lessons learned in that endeavour are beyond any textbook to be found in the halls of academia.
It is testament to the iron lady behind that velvet mask that she not only attained a basketball scholarship and earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Albany State University in New York, in the United States, but that she also pursued her Master’s Degree at Ohio State University and later her Ph.D. at Howard University in Washington, DC.
She is a published author of scholarly articles in professional and international journals and a university lecturer.
She is not one of those who got away from Belize though. After her studies, Dr. Pitts made the decision to return to Belize and to Port Loyola to be of service to her country. Her education has exposed her to the doctrines of social justice which inform and propel her singlemindedness to join in the transformation of her community and Belize City and to join in the development of her Belizean nation.
She is a passionate and unrelenting advocate for women and children, particularly those from the ignored and downtrodden areas of our community. That she is determined to make a positive difference in their lives should go without saying. That she will succeed is not a question in her mind, and few, given her record of personal achievement despite the life odds stacked against her, would dare bet against her.
The obvious aspirational desires of the PUP Belize City Council candidates cannot just be dismissed as the ambition borne of greed. The old city by the bay has long come of age and is restlessly seeking to make that next step to modernity, but clearly its youthful residents want to be a part of that change.
For many residents the city is their home and they are demanding that they are included as a meaningful part of its governance. On the campaign trail all the candidates hear this demand, but it is the new candidates with whom it resonates because it represents their cause too.