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Decolonising Belize’s graduation ceremonies

LettersDecolonising Belize’s graduation ceremonies

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Dear Editor,

“Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet,
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.”

These words are the chorus written by AC Benson and set to the tune of Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, readily identified by Belizeans and most of the Anglophone world as the “graduation song”. Composed at the turn of the 20th century in 1901 with lyrics added a year later, the song was born in the heyday of British imperial expansionism as a military march, and was even used as part of the programme for the coronation of Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom and Emperor of India. The “Land of Hope and Glory” referred to is, of course, the United Kingdom, with the urging that “… wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set”.

I listened to the lovely rendition of Land of Hope and Glory sans lyrics at UB’s commencement exercises by the University’s steel orchestra, and again a little over a week ago at Holy Redeemer Primary School’s graduation ceremony. While we should all be proud of music by Belizeans, the irony is offensive. That scholastic achievement should be celebrated with music of imperial expansionism in a country 43 years into political independence, should be anathema.

The administrators of our places of learning would do well to discard this piece of colonial guff, and never forget that the plea that “God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet” was achieved on the backs of our enslaved forebears, facilitated by enrichment with colonial plunder from the Caribbean and from the many other places on which the sun never set.

Sincerely,
Ray Meyers

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