Belize City, Wed. Sept. 15, 2021– Today at the House of Culture in Belize City, the National Celebrations Commission presented awards to recognize decades of work by seven artists and pioneers in the creative arts and cultural activism.
The first awardee to be recognized at the ceremony was Amandala’s publisher, Evan X Hyde, who is the recipient of the Zee Edgell Award for Literary Arts. Hyde has written countless short stories, essays, and poems, and the incisive social, cultural and historical analysis that he has provided in editorials and From the Publisher columns in the AMANDALA newspaper over five decades have had a seismic effect on the sociopolitical discourse and cultural/political realities in the country. Hyde also played a major role, through the United Black Association for Development, in the expanded awareness of Belizeans’ African and Mayan heritage. He was unable to attend the event; however, his daughter, Jacinta Hyde, business manager at Amandala, was present to receive the award on his behalf.
The second awardee, Lucio Alcoser, Sr., was honored with the Andy Palacio Award for Belizean Music. Alcoser is a prominent Belizean musician. He was born in the Orange Walk District and is a member of the Lucio and the New Generation Band, which is critically acclaimed across Belize, Latin America and North America. His original song, “September 21” won the first place prize in the September Celebrations National Song Competition in 1981 —- the year Belize gained its Independence.
Leroy Green, a career educator, was the recipient of the Beverly Smith Lopez Award for Acting in Theatre and Film. Green has been an integral part of the development of expressive arts in Belize. He has taught generations of students in theater and drama techniques and he has played a key role in the yearly organization of the Festival of Arts, Leonides Sanchez, Garifuna artist and cultural activist, won the Leela Vernon Award for Creative Community Action and Safeguarding Cultural Heritage. Sanchez has played a major role in developing and preserving his Garifuna heritage for many years. He was a technical drawing and building lecturer at the Toledo Community College for 25 years. He is noted for his impressive skills in miniature boat building. One of his most prominent works, “The Black Star Liner”, pays tribute to Marcus Garvey, the United Negro Improvement Association and Sanchez’s Garifuna ancestors.
Receiving the Don Elijio Panti Award for Protection and Development of Traditional Knowledge was Florencia Castillo. She is known as a passionate advocate for the preservation of Belize’s cultural heritage. Her extensive expertise in culinary arts and medicinal healing has earned her many accolades. She founded the El Manicero Belize and represented Belize at the UNESCO World Forum on Culture and Food Innovative Strategies for Sustainable Development, hosted in Italy.
Fernando Cruz won the George Gabb Award for Visual Arts. He has gained a stellar reputation as a painter, instructor and activist. He currently serves as an art instructor at Galen University and has organized the preparation of the murals at Galen University and San Ignacio Town. In addition, he represented Belize in Taiwan to commemorate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Belize and the Embassy of the Republic of China
The final awardee, Althea Sealy, won the Rosita Baltazar Award for Dance. Sealy was an apprentice under the modern and folk dance instructor, Bob Reneau. Sealy was a founding member of the Belizean Dance Creatives who specialized in modern, Afro-Caribbean and Latin dance in the 1980’s. After other key members departed, Sealy established the Belizean Dance Company. To date, Sealy is arguably considered the greatest modern dancer in recent Belizean history.
Prior to the presentation of the awards, the Minister of Education, Culture, Science and Technology, Hon. Francis Fonseca, said, “We come together today to honor and celebrate the best of who and what Belize is. For too long our nation has failed to offer due respect, recognition and acknowledgement to those among us who have tirelessly dedicated themselves to mastering their craft and selflessly sharing their work with the Belizean people. Brilliant creatives too often go unnoticed and unrewarded… Today we must change this narrative and correct this misguided mindset.”