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UBAD Conversations

HeadlineUBAD Conversations

Photo: (l-r) Yasser Musa, publisher; YaYa Marin Coleman, chairperson for UBAD Educational Foundation and Aondofe Joe Iyo, author

Imagination Factri launches first-ever Oral History Sourcebook

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Mar. 13, 2024

The UBAD Conversations: An Oral History Sourcebook was launched today, March 13, 2024, at the Imagination Factri on North Front Street in Belize City.

Written by Aondofe Joe Iyo, author of Towards Understanding Belize’s Multi-Cultural History and Identity (2000) and co-director of the African and Maya History Project (2003-2007), the book is a first-of-its-kind literature that tells the story, set in the 1970s, of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) movement.

It highlights the journey of Afro-Belizeans as they embarked on a quest for self-love, knowledge, and recognition of their identity and history, in pre-independent Belize. UBAD stood as a powerful counter to prevailing narratives that favored ignorance, silence, erasure, and the distortion of their stories.

“UBAD forced Belize, not only to recognize and engage with our African ancestry, but also to meaningfully engage blacks in the social and political life of the country,” described Dr. Jessica Gordon-Nembhard’s book review.

The 348-page book is comprised of over a dozen interviews conducted over 20 years ago. These include Ismail Omar Shabazz, Wilfred Nicholas, Galento X Neal (d), Lillette (Nzinga) Barkley-Waite, Edgar X Richardson, Nuri Muhammad, Rufus X, Lloyd Smith, Norman Fairweather, Assad Shoman, Odinga Lumumba, Charlie Good, Joe Castillo, Herman Lewis, Paul Rodriguez, Evan X Hyde, and Sedi Elrington.

“The objective was to tell the story from different perspectives because for a long time, it was only from Evan’s perspective. All that he could write in the newspaper (Amandala) that we were reading about,” author Iyo told me. “I used to teach Belizean history, so the only other source that I had for the UBAD movement was from Assad Showman’s 13 Chapters. I wanted to interview the co-members, to hear their stories, so that people could compare their story with Evan’s story and get a panoramic picture.”

As a crucial document that entails a part of Belizean history, Iyo, an educator for over 20 years, explained that implementing the sourcebook as material for Belizean classrooms is not as simple as it may look, especially given his already failed attempt a few years back.

“You can’t see the scars, but if you were to look beneath my skin, [you will see] what I went through between 1998 and 2007, fighting to get African and Mayan history in schools, and did not succeed, even though we put it in the curriculum. We are hoping that people will read this and it will change their minds,” he said.

Hopefully, with meetings lined up with the publisher, Imagination Factri, things will appear much clearer as to whether there will be engagement with schools across the country or not.

Deputy Prime Minister and son of Evan X Hyde, Hon. Cordel Hyde attended the event and was asked about the importance of assisting and promoting such a historic book, of which he stated, “I think part of our challenge [is] that we don’t know enough about our past, don’t know enough about the foundation that was laid for us. I think it was important for this generation to understand that a lot of people sacrificed, a lot of people stood up, a lot of people got beaten down, a lot of people got prosecuted, and a lot of people paid a heavy price for some of the freedoms and some of the things we enjoy today; and so I thought it was important for us to acknowledge that.”

Despite UBAD now being dissolved, UBAD Conversations serves as a homage to the memory and legacy of the elders of the association. “We have to find a way to honor their memory and honor their work by doing better and trying to find the things that unite us, rather than persisting and focusing so much on the things that divide us,” added Hyde.

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