There is this massive contradiction in socio-politics on Southside Belize City. The strongest and bravest of our youth have been dying in the streets at rates which, the social scientists say, constitute a civil war. Yes, beloved, a civil war. In other words, we have been experiencing a human disaster here. We have been living this disaster for more than a quarter of a century. At the exact same time that this is happening, we can see all this political power representing the said Southside. The faces of the powerhouses of the ruling party look like the faces of the victims in the streets, only older. What’s going on? The same people who are losing, are the same people who are winning. How can this be?
It gets worse. The MCC Grounds, our football shrine for the last half century and more, has been closed for almost a year now, and the Civic, our basketball altar for more than three decades, has been dismantled. At night, the Southside is like a town of ghosts. Those who can, have moved out. The prison is overcrowded with our black youth. The police understand clearly who are their targets. If you are a black youth and want to survive, the survival road is the road of the carnival queen.
I laugh, sardonically, as I write. Boy, oh boy … The Southside youth must have been puzzled by all the recent noise surrounding the Corozal and Orange Walk cane farmers. What’s it all about, Alfie? On the Southside, you can’t walk from George Street to Pregnant Alley, or vice versa. There’s a war going on, and the combatants live practically next door to each other. At least the cane farmers enjoyed the solidarity of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, and that solidarity stretched across District borders. That’s until international investment capital, supported by the Government of Belize, smashed cañero solidarity. Southside solidarity was broken more than twenty five years ago. I suppose it was done, as they say, incrementally.
When you see what does not appear to make sense, happening around you, then you have to seek a higher counsel. What has happened on the Southside does not make any sense unless you look at the regional context of things. The most important reality for us Belizeans is the reality of Washington, the world superpower which is just a few hundred miles north of us.
As great as Robert Sydney Turton was, he was wearing blinders. He could not see that the answer to British colonialism which he saw up there in Uncle Sam, that answer had dangerous implications for those of a darker hue. The nature of the racism in the British Caribbean, and British Honduras was a part thereof, was less virulent than the nature of American racism. In Amerikkka, they lynched you if they didn’t like you. Remember now, Robert Sydney was not the only Belizean who fell in love with the United States: most of the Belizeans who worked in Panama in the first half of the twentieth century were totally impressed with what they saw of the United States’ power and glory in the Canal Zone.
In Belize today, the pickup trucks our police drive, have American flags painted on them. I am flabbergasted by the fact that our local authorities do not feel the need to have these flags removed. A few months ago our local authorities had no problem in watching the Americans award a Belize Coast Guard facility contract on Hunting Caye to a Guatemalan company employing exclusively Guatemalan workers, until someone who was not supposed to see, saw.
Again, the bottom line here is that there is this human carnage taking place on the Southside. How can there be so much laughter going on in high places? It must be because, I feel forced to submit, the loyalty in the high places is not to the youth of the Southside. That loyalty must be to the world superpower, and if you are a person who plays the percentages, Washington is not an ill-advised place for you to locate your loyalty. It may be an ill-advised place for the Southside youth to have you people in power locate your loyalty, but it is not an ill-advised place where your personal earthly fortune is concerned. Ask Papa Doc, and Baby Doc. Ask Sese Seko.
The matter of party politics is so disruptive in Belize where trenchant analysis is desirable. Between 1998 and 2008, the present Opposition party was in power, and two of their Southside area representatives/Cabinet Ministers, Cordel Hyde and Mark Espat, were affiliated to Kremandala. Between late 2004 and the general election of March 2008, however, these two spent most of their time outside of the Said Musa Cabinet, even though they were considered, in fact proven to be, very popular area reps. Hyde and Espat succeeded in defending their Lake Independence and Albert constituencies in the 2008 general election when the Musa PUP lost in a landslide to the UDP. The Hyde/Espat saga continued into late 2011/early 2012, and basically reflected a philosophical conflict between themselves and the dominant faction of the PUP.
When the aforementioned two young men entered national politics in 1998, the Southside had already been collapsing for more than a decade. The civil war had already begun. One would need to go all the way back to 1969, the year when this newspaper was established, to find a golden age of the Southside, and indeed of Belize City, with respect to peace and love among black youth.
The point of this column is that there is something seriously wrong on the Southside in 2015, that it is Southside area representatives who are in national power, and yet it really does not appear as if these Southside area reps recognize the crisis for what it is. If they do recognize the situation to be critical, then it must be that they don’t care that much. If I have the power to address an emergency, and I do not, then I must not be interested in addressing same.
In a couple weeks time, we’ll be marking the February 9 anniversary of the founding of UBAD. It’s only a big deal for a few of us old timers, but the UBAD group, scattered as the remnants of us are, made it possible for this newspaper to survive. The newspaper, therefore, represents one of the few indigenous, authentic institutions which Southside solidarity, now vanished, made possible. We recognize our debt to those righteous souls from 46 years ago.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.