At the end of July and the beginning of August, there will be an “international black summit” (ibs) held in Belize. Regional and international conferences and conventions are always beneficial for the host domestic economy, because hotels, restaurants, shopping districts, nightclubs, tour guides, and the like will make money catering to the influx of foreign guests.
As I understand it, the organizers of the event come out of Atlanta, Georgia, and the local coordinator is Zenaida Moya, the former two-term (2006-2012) Mayor of Belize City. My name is on the local coordinator’s mailing list, but I have not seen the names of Rufus X and Norman Fairweather, for example.
My understanding is that Virginia Echols, who is a board member of the UBAD Educational Foundation (UEF) and was one of the organizers of the Belize Black Summit held in September of 2003, is involved with this international black summit, but I am not sure at exactly what level. Virginia, a native of Detroit, Michigan, is an American citizen. I did not see the name of Ya Ya Marin Coleman, the chairperson of the UEF, on the local coordinator’s mailing list.
In an event as ambitious as this one, it is necessary for us to consider issues of power, protocol, and diplomacy. An event like this international black summit in Belize falls primarily within the portfolio of the Foreign Minister of Belize, Hon. Wilfred Elrington. If the Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. Dean Barrow, wishes to be involved with such an event, then the power protocols are such that he has the authority to do so. The Prime Minister is the Prime Minister. But, all things being equal, this would be the Foreign Minister’s baby. The Foreign Minister could, of course, delegate his authority, either within his Ministry or outside of it. By “outside of it,” we refer to the possibility of his using a surrogate organization, such as the National Kriol Council, which he did with Central American Black Organization (CABO) general assembly a couple years ago, to represent his Ministry in an unofficial manner.
It being the case that this international black summit is coming out of a leading American city, the chances are that this ibs will have the blessings of the United States’ State Department. If it does, then the international black summit will command the attention of Belize’s Foreign Ministry. This is how diplomacy works. The United States is the most powerful nation-state on planet earth. Belize has to show respect.
When the average reader of this newspaper hears “international black summit” and remembers the role Kremandala played in Belize’s only, unprecedented 2003 Black Summit, the chances are such a reader will assume Kremandala is prominently involved in the present ibs process. But, in matters like these, day does not logically and automatically follow night. The organizers of the July/August ibs most likely have an agenda, and it is highly unlikely that such an agenda is similar to Kremandala’s historical program.
More than four decades ago a black American named Harold Cruse wrote a book entitled, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual. At the core of the book was a discussion of the different and conflicting intellectual positions of the various black American leaderships in Harlem, the intellectual capital of black America in the 1920s. The most high profile conflict involved Marcus Garvey, the leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in disagreement with W. E. B. DuBois, the leading thinker in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Earlier in the twentieth century, DuBois had been locked in a major intellectual battle with Booker T. Washington, but Washington had passed, and then it was DuBois against Garvey. In Harlem at the same time, however, there were also various cultural nationalists, religious cults, socialists, communists, and others vying for attention and influence. Black people were not a monolith in Harlem in the 1920s. Black people are not a monolith in the United States today. And black people are definitely not a monolith in Belize in 2014.
The United States issued their Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in July of 1776, but for the enslaved black people of America, the beginning of the Haitian Revolution in 1791, two years after the French Revolution began in July of 1789, would have had more significance. Slaveowners in the slaveholding South of the U.S. were greatly alarmed by the military success of the Haitian slaves, who gained freedom in the 1790s and established the black republic of Haiti in 1804. Remember now, in 1804 the United States was not the military and economic juggernaut it is today. And, the former Haitian slaves had defeated French, Spanish, and British armies on the road to their 1804 statehood. In the American South, the slaves heard news of the happenings in Haiti. There was an increase in slave rebellions in the South in the early part of the nineteenth century. The frightened Southern slavemasters reacted with great ferocity. It was many decades before the government of the United States recognized the independence of Haiti.
The Cuban Revolution of 1959 similarly alarmed the American power structure, because Cuba adopted a communist economic system and because the American government feared that black Americans, especially those in the Southern states close to Cuba, would begin to think that their black Cuban brethren and sistren were doing better under Fidel Castro’s communism than they, black Americans, were doing under Washington’s capitalist democracy. It is for this specific reason that Washington has never lifted or eased the economic blockade of Cuba. It is for this reason that Washington rejected Havana’s offer of a thousand Cuban doctors to assist the people of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Let’s now summarize the present situation. In a month’s time an international black summit is being held in Belize. In principle, the concept is a good one, but Kremandala is not the Belizean coordinator of the project. We have no control over the process and the proceedings. The Kremandala facilities are here for the ibs organizers to use to publicize their event, but the sovereign authority for this summit does not lie in Belize.
Power to the people.