The historic decision by St. John’s College to introduce a formal and permanent program of African and Mayan history into its curriculum is, of course, a progressive one, but it is, at the same time, almost unbelievable in our opinion, because the institution took the lead when the other religious denominations continued and continue to drop the ball.
When this newspaper was established in 1969 and began to agitate for the teaching of African and Indian (Mayan) history, the relationship between the ruling PUP, led by Premier George Price, and the Jesuit-established SJC was a very close one. Mr. Price was an SJC graduate, as were other PUP founders like Johnny Smith and Nick Pollard, Sr. The Jesuits were Americans of Irish and German ancestry, which is to say, they came out of communities which were not pro-British. In British Honduras, the Jesuits had become popular among roots Belizeans because of their contributions to education, credit unions, basketball, boxing, and community life in general. After Bob Turton died in 1955 and Mr. Price became PUP Leader in 1956, the closeness between the PUP and Roman Catholic Church leadership became evident.
The ethnic aspect of the relationship was important. Under British colonialism, the Mestizo Belizeans, who were mostly Roman Catholics, were being discriminated against. This began to change under Mr. Price, and the Roman Church, naturally, welcomed this.
When this newspaper, as the organ of a young, black-conscious organization, ran into problems with Mr. Price’s rule, our criticism of the Catholic educational curriculum, specifically the absence of African and Mayan history, brought us into conflict with the Roman Church, the most powerful religious denomination in Belize.
This was a conflict which cost Amandala dearly through the years, but we stood our ground. Today, the most prestigious Roman Catholic education institution in Belize has come around to our way of thinking. We think this will be good for Belize and Belizeans.
Now the question has to be: what about the Anglicans and the Methodists? What are the Catholics seeing that they are not?