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BHM: Cynthia Ellis-Topsey

GeneralBHM: Cynthia Ellis-Topsey

by Charles Gladden

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Feb. 7, 2024

In celebration of Black History Month (BHM), the Leo Bradley Library in Belize City will be featuring a series of well-known Belizeans versed in the literary arts and history of the country, who will be making presentations on the Afro-Belizean heritage.

The theme for this year’s Black History Month is “African Americans and the Art”.

“We want to spread more information about Afro-Belizean history and their culture, because [many] students would say, ‘What da di history ah Kriols? Who are we?’, so that’s the kind of information we’re trying to spread,” said Herbert Stuart, Senior Library Assistant at the Leo Bradley Library.

Black History Month was first established in 1976. It was recognized in the US to honor Black Americans’ neglected accomplishments and February was designated for its celebration. Later on, it was recognized by other countries that share African lineage as a means of cultural inclusion.

Today, the Leo Bradley Library featured a presentation by activist Cynthia Ellis-Topsey, founder of the Godsman Celestino Ellis Center for Garifuna Culture (GCE-CFGC). Ms. Ellis-Topsey’s presentation to several high school students from Pallotti High School highlighted the struggles she faced as an Afro-Belizean in her youth, along with the history of Kriol arts and music.

“I was very honored to have a conversation with the students. It was very interactive … I feel like I owe it to the present generation, because they’re the ones that need to be cultivated in readiness in leading the country – they will be our lawyers, doctors, nurses, engineers, and so on –and they asked brilliant questions, and I try to think back of when I was their age, and some of the questions that I had, and what my journey has been, that could support them in their journey,” she said.

“… Black History Month should be every month, because we have a lot of delving into that goes into our healing, because we are a traumatized people at all levels, and because being Garifuna doesn’t distinguish us from other people, in the sense that, young people are hungry for information. I told them about Evan X Hyde and the impact he had on me when I was growing up, when he came back and made it his business to meet with us – young people – and shared with us a lot of information about Black Consciousness, and so I have benefited from that [and] have a responsibility to do the same,” she added.

While we are in the 21st century, known as the digital era, Ellis-Topsey highlights that it is the responsibility of schools and resource centers to share information and knowledge with the next generation.

The Leo Bradley Library will be featuring a presentation from historian Dr. Abigail McKay on February 13th and musician Brad Pattico on the history of Kriol music, on the 29th.

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