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“UBAD Conversations” and “Belizean nationalism”

Editorial“UBAD Conversations” and “Belizean nationalism”

Be it education, sports, the economy, or being “black conscious”, one theme seems to resonate in the atmosphere after devouring the insightful and intriguing personal testaments of some individuals who were intimately involved in the “UBAD happening”, as one may describe the exciting and stimulating period of the early 1970s when this cultural phenomenon manifested itself in the streets of Belize City mostly, but also touched down in a number of district towns across the Jewel. And that theme is that for us as a people to go forward and make good for generations to come, we need to be proud enough of ourselves, love ourselves enough to boldly face all challenges with a uniquely Belizean perspective toward finding the best solution that suits us as a people, and not what some expert from a foreign land decides is best for us.

To start with, education has been a big topic of debate, following a recent World Bank report that indicated the substantial budgetary allocations, routinely above 20 per cent of the national budget, still resulted in well below satisfactory performance levels for Belizean students. Facts are stubborn things. The BNTU was quick to react to suggestions from ministry officials that our teachers needed more training, arguing, as has been the situation with crime, that there was need for a “multi-sectoral approach” to the problem. And they are right. There are many factors involved, and while the local experts will analyze and propose their strategic plan to deal with the problem, it is nevertheless advisable to take a step back and tackle this dilemma from a purely Belizean perspective. Not every solution prescribed from outside will necessarily work for us in Belize. As was said in UBAD days, we must “knock our own ting”. Yes, A.I. is the future, and everyone wants a tablet; but don’t underestimate books; children still need to learn to think, and expand their imagination, even in the absence of a video screen. Whatever our technocrats come up with to address this troubling situation, and taking into consideration all the advice from foreign experts, just let our officials have the courage and bravado to infuse our Belizean approach to whatever we do in educating our children. Give our teachers an ear, and they will help to build our own, home-grown solution to this problem.

In sports, what can we say without offending anyone or seeming to not appreciate the efforts of our athletes? Volleyball, once the least popular sport in Belize, has over the past couple decades become a big attraction, with our teams, our girls mainly, medaling consistently in Central American competitions. But our once “Golden Girls” of softball are no more evident in recent generations. Something is wrong. With the pretty Civic and the fancy clubs and casinos on the Barracks strip, Belizean sports fans are expecting more in their accommodation when they attend sporting events. But the Rogers Stadium, “the home of softball”, is not a shining light right now. And as to the MCC, once the Mecca of Belize football, it is currently a crying shame. And on the regional football level, we are at the bottom of the pile; notwithstanding our female footballers giving our officials a moment of cheer when they trampled over the minions in the absolute lowest tier of the sport. Athletics is pretty much the same. Our kids in Belize seem to do well in the early years, when it is all talent that counts; but as they reach adolescence and beyond, we tend to lose the competitive edge in the region. It does seem that mediocrity, like a hard to shake colonial mentality, is a disease that has been burdening our athletes and sportsmen; and, despite the FFB bosses asking us to “believe in the process”, it has been taking a long time with all the foreign coaches and new-fangled “formations” our players are supposed to be learning. Perhaps we should focus on building upon our own Belizean style which we know, and strive to become the best at what we do.

We have to be patient with our governments, as long as they don’t become arrogant or corrupt. Mistakes will be made, and successes will be sprinkled with failures now and then; but if we remain true to our calling, and do as a former prime minister said he would do, chop off the head of corruption whenever it appears, the Belizean people will work things out and stay the course in building our nation “fi evrybadi”. But what we want to guard against, is those fancy foreign strategies and hifalutin phrases that are way above the heads of Belizean citizens, so that we can’t give constructive advice or criticisms. Just “keep it simple” for us and we will make a success of it with hard work and dedication as we go along and learn how to make things better. At one time, our leaders became infected with all the glorified theories from outside about the wonders of “privatization” and “re-engineering the corporation” and all those fancy phrases. When we looked, we had lost our vital water supply, electricity supply and telecommunications companies to private owners who were all about gouging the Belizean people for these life necessary products and services. Think Belize first, and think for ourselves, rather than swallowing everything the foreign “experts” tell us, and we won’t make those kinds of mistakes again.

And that brings us to black consciousness. Some folks became scared of UBAD when they heard some bombastic rhetoric and phrases like “by any means necessary”; but the main message was about “freedom, justice and equality,” and the vibe was always about “peace and love” and “togetherism” and reclaiming our glorious Afrikan/(Indian) Mayan history to realize that we were “young, gifted and black”. UBAD’s “black power” and “black and proud” message meant that no longer was anyone to be ashamed to be black, but standing tall and proud like all Belizeans should – the black, the brown, the yellow and the red; that’s all the UBADers were saying; well, not exactly all, because there was an array of personalities and inclinations and sometimes entertaining verbal fireworks that got some people scared who couldn’t relate to the emotions driving these young people in the throes of mental liberation. It was all about throwing off the mental chains, the stigma and the stain of colonial racism and orchestrated ignorance that had kept us down and kept us all apart because of the stupid prejudices. That’s all. Get up; stand up, Belizeans! All a wi da one! We can truly build the Belizean nation, where every man, woman and child, of every color, race or religion, is equally a proud Belizean. That’s where UBAD was going, to Belizean nationalism, and world humanity, and still reaching out to our roots in the motherland, Afrika, where civilization began.

It was a refreshing journey and reflection, reading and exploring many areas we didn’t quite know or understand back then when the tide of our times was rushing and we all with it. If you were around, if you were there, and even if you weren’t, or just “baan di ada day”, it’s a Belizean experience – UBAD Conversations – that will enrich your understanding of dis lee Belize. And the journey continues.

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