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A time to reflect

EditorialA time to reflect

“Let’s recall some great men.” — Burning Spear

Monday, August 21, 2023

As the nation gears up for the upcoming month of national celebrations, there will certainly be the traditional recollections of our national heroes and patriots, two of the greatest being “Father of the Nation”, Rt. Hon. George Cadle Price, and Hon. Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson. And it is right that we should as a nation recall and review the life’s work of these great men, as there is a lot to learn as a people from their triumphs and setbacks in their dedicated efforts to see Belize become an independent nation “with all our territory intact.” Such a recollection and review may help us understand better the present predicament we are in, where there seems to be a killing spree among our young people, and access to guns is now within the reach of even pre-teen boys; and by far the vast majority of robberies, home invasions, and murders seem to be committed by Afro-Belizeans, despite their now being a dwindling minority, after having constituted a majority of the population up until perhaps the latter 1980s.

While the percentage of the population that is Afro-Belizean has been significantly reduced, the percentage that is Hispanic-Belizean has been correspondingly increased. For, while the accelerated exodus of Afro-Belizeans north to the USA following Hurricane Hattie in 1961 has continued unabated for the past half century, along with the almost genocidal murder rate among the remaining Afro-Belizean community in Belize in recent years, this has been matched simultaneously by a massive amount of Central American emigration into Belize, starting with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) program beginning in the late 1970s to facilitate refugees from raging civil wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala. So, here we are today, and it is not looking nice for a once safe and peaceful community, where violent crime, especially murder, remains at an unacceptable rate, and the Afro-Belizean community is the most affected.

Reflection on the political lives of Price and Goldson will inevitably harken back to their initial break, and we can ponder the implications of that split in relation to where the Afro-Belizean community now lies in 2023. Both men stand out as playing leading roles in the road toward attaining our Independence. Interestingly, they started out in the same group, the People’s Committee in 1950, which launched their campaign against the then British colonial government, and thus later named the political party that evolved from that, the People’s United Party.

But circumstances and personalities have a way of coming between individuals, and as things turned out, soon Price and Goldson were strong political enemies, with Price leading the charge to Independence, and Goldson championing the No-Guatemala stance while accusing Price of attempting to “sell out” our country for a subservient status as a part of Guatemala. The PUP and NIP rostrums during the 1960s were the stages for many a heated public meeting where charges and allegations were made against each other as they vied for the people’s support in general elections. Both men were adherents to their Christian faith, and though there have hardly been any instances of personal animosity in their one-on-one contact in the House of Representatives, for sure, on the political scene they were fierce and persistent opponents. There were instances in the House, where individual PUP members are reported to have hurled racial insults at Hon. Goldson; and, though there has not been any report where such behavior was publicly admonished by Hon. Price, he himself never stooped to such petty and malicious personal criticism of Goldson; and neither did Goldson of Price.

The source of the initial rift between Price and Goldson, according to Amandala historical reports (See “Some 1956 PUP history” in Amandala online) of the events in the mid-1950s, had to do with the matter of West Indian Federation. Goldson and one faction were in favor of Federation, while Price led the other larger faction, which was against Federation with the predominantly black West Indies.

Price and the no-Federation faction had their way in 1956, with Richardson and Goldson, the only two to spend time in jail in 1951 for speaking out in their newspaper against the colonial government, being among those resigning (or being expelled) from the PUP.

With Goldson and his later National Independence Party and then the United Democratic Party, acting as vigilant “watch dogs”, Price did go on to lead Belize to Independence in 1981 “with all our territory intact.” But the Guatemala problem remained, and while he managed to get the British to agree to keep some of their military force stationed in Belize for “an appropriate period”, there were some compromises, one of which took decades for Belizeans to learn about – the Belize-United Kingdom BIT (Bilateral Investment Treaty) treaty, signed in 1982, that one Lord Ashcroft has repeatedly leaned on to facilitate having his way with our Belize governments. Meanwhile, with repeated Ashcroft litigation over the years putting a severe drain on government’s treasury, the effects are now being seen on the neglected and impoverished population in the “swamp”.

On a regional level, two of the most impacting minds from among people of color in the first half of the twentieth century are probably the Afro-American W.E.B. Du Bois and the Jamaican Marcus Mosiah Garvey, and they were very antagonistic in their views toward each other because of their hugely different approaches to the color question, which they both admitted was the biggest stumbling block to black people’s progress in America and the world. The brilliant intellectual, Du Bois looked at the racism issue through the eyes of an Afro-American who is a minority in a “white man’s country” and trying to articulate how to most effectively fight for their rights. The bombastic Garvey came from a country that was predominantly black, Jamaica, and looked at the world in the USA in an uncompromising manner, and promoted the return to the African homeland where people of African origin could be in full control of their destiny. The reality of that dream proved unreachable. Du Bois tried to articulate a realistic route in the battle for progress for his race, while Garvey inspired his followers with perhaps unrealistic goals in a “white man’s world”, but in the process he planted seeds of rebelliousness and black pride that have had a great and long-lasting impact upon the masses of black people across borders and time. There is a lot to be learned from the lives and legacies of both great fighters for the cause of oppressed people. Garvey died in London at 53 years old of a broken heart after the courts ruled against him and his UNIA in the Isaiah Morter will case, but his message still resonates. Du Bois came to later appreciate some of Garvey’s harsh criticism of his work with the NAACP. While Garvey never got to set foot on the soil of Africa, Du Bois later resided there and died at 95 years of age in Ghana, where he was given a state funeral.

The recently published book by Michael Richardson, delving deeply into the FBI files which seek purposefully to illuminate all the flaws and weaknesses and wrongs of Marcus Garvey in order to build the US government’s case against him, is an important work, because, having revealed all the bad that all the intelligence agents could dig up on Garvey, and they did dig up quite a bit, the inevitable revelation is that this man had a sincere and powerful dream, was endowed with a unique talent, and his uncompromising and persistent focus on achieving his dream for his people, remains an inspiration even today. The common people are still singing songs extolling the greatness of Garvey and basking in the pride and glory he imbued them with.

George Price and Philip Goldson are Belizean national heroes whose lives will long resonate in the hearts and minds of Belizeans for generations to come. Their statesmanship and commitment to nation-building remain exemplary for young Belizeans to study and examine in this season of national celebration. “Building is a task for giants,” and these were certainly two of our very own.

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