BELIZE CITY, Mon. Aug. 3, 2020– August 1, 2020 marks 182 years since the abolition of the slave trade within the British Caribbean.
In 1807 the United Kingdom parliament enacted the Slave Trade Act, which prohibited the slave trade in the British Empire, and in 1833 the British parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act to quell major slave revolts and abolitionist education campaigns.
The UBAD Education Foundation (UEF) has been actively engaged to enlighten the Belizean masses on the importance of recognizing Emancipation Day in Belize. Since 2014 UEF has been organizing Emancipation Jubilee Day celebrations and public lectures by invited guests in an effort to sensitize the public to the impact of slavery and, more importantly, to Africa’s rich history prior to slavery.
This year’s invited guest was Belize’s own Dr. Aondofe Iyo. Dr. Iyo has been instrumental in the insertion of African and Mayan history within the education curriculum in Belize and has co-authored publications such as “Belize New Vision-African and Mayan Civilizations” and “Towards Understanding Belize’s Multicultural History and Identity.”
Iyo’s address was delivered after the group paid homage to the African ancestors with libation and drumming which took place near the seaside on Marine Parade from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, after which a Zoom conference, led by Dr. Iyo, commenced.
(This video can be viewed online at https://youtu.be/QAZ5Ld9u-2M)
Yaya Marin-Coleman said that the planning for this year’s celebration was put off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of funding, and overall restrictions. This caused the UEF to break away from the usual public community talk.
Historical sources record that Belizean patriot Simon Lamb organized the first Emancipation Day celebration in 1888 with a carnival that was ignored and downplayed by the colonial administration, who later engraved the Battle of St. George’s Caye narrative in the minds of the Belizean masses.
Unlike many other Caribbean countries, Emancipation Day is not recognized as a public and bank holiday in Belize. In 2019, the Government of Belize officially recognized Emancipation Day after many years. In a statement issued by UDP party leader-elect Patrick Faber this year, he said, “While today is not a public and bank holiday, it is a day where I want to ask all Belizeans to call to mind the fact that the enslavement of African people was a reality here in Belize and other places in this hemisphere. I also want us to recall that slavery continues to occur around the world in various forms; for this reason alone we need to be vigilant at home to ensure such crimes against human beings can never again occur.”
Yaya Marin Coleman said that the story of our “ancestors” did not start or end with the enslavement of our people, that the enslavement period was just an extremely tiny portion of the African storyline.
During the Emancipation Day Jubilee Community Talk, Dr. Iyo said that the systems that were inherited by British colonies are riddled with flaws and inconsistencies which cause the further disenfranchisement of African descendants in those territories.
Dr. Iyo commented, “there is a term in critical theory, disruption. For you to rebuke, look, you must destroy the foundation. You can’t grasp on a shaky foundation; the foundations that we have inherited are absolutely shaky.”
Emancipation Jubilee Day 2020 was made possible by the various local and international partners of the UBAD Education Foundation.