Time for Belize’s Garifuna people to act.

Even though I am a resident of Dangriga town, I have never visited the villages of Seine Beight and Placencia. During the 1960s when I was a little boy growing up in Dangriga town, I used to go to all the villages in the south with Dick Usher in his blue bus to go and sell merchandize in all the Stann Creek Southern villages, except these two villages.

My grandfather the late Simeon Marcus Sampson taught in Seine Beight village for about 35 years and is well known and respected in this village for the contributions he made in educating his people. I have always wanted to go to Seine Beight but never had the time to visit this village. I made a commitment to myself that this year I will make it my business to visit the village.

Based on my observations recently, the road to Seine Beight and Placencia was the best thing that could ever happen to this area in the southern part of Stann Creek District. In the 10 years of the previous government, the People’s United Party did not do anything to complete this highway. My suspicions is that they did not make it one of their priority items, because most of the residents of Placencia have always supported the United Democratic Party.

In the third year of this new government they can boast that they have completed the paving of the Southern Highway all the way to Punta Gorda Town, to Seine Beight and Placencia, other roads in Orange Walk, Corozal and other districts. The paving of the road to Hopkins is badly needed and that will be the next project in the south.

Not only have they completed the construction of roads but they are also building a second international airport to enhance further national and international travel throughout the country of Belize. Seine Beight and Hopkins are two of the most populated Garifuna Villages in the southern part of the country of Belize. Unlike Seine Beight residents, the people from Hopkins have more relatives who have migrated to the United States who mostly reside in the city of Chicago. Due to the finance they send to Belize, they have built new homes and opened up their business in order to become independent and reduce their dependency on the Belize government. Seine Beight on the other hand does not have this same opportunity. Some people have always said that the Hopkins people are more industrious than the Seine Beight people but the construction on this new highway in my opinion will be the test for the Seine Beight people to prove other Belizeans wrong.

Placencia is a village that is made up mostly of white skinned Belizeans as opposed to the Garifuna people who are of African descent and black. It is being said that many people of Placencia are prejudice and some of them think that they are white and have problems dealing with black people in general who are Creoles, Garifunas and East Indians. While many Belizeans may not want to accept this, they should study the history of Belize where there is evidence to support that some of these people are descendants of the white racist Confederates who ran away from the United States for fear of being prosecuted after slavery was abolished in the United States. They continue to hold the same view of Black people even though they migrated to Belize. The Garifuna people fought many wars against the French, Spanish and British due to their attempts to enslave them. Their hatred for white people due to this experience is a known fact. As Belizeans these two groups must now begin the process of racial reconciliation in order for Belize to develop as a nation. Belizeans are afraid to discuss the issue of race relations because they want the world to believe that racism does not exist in Belize which is far from the truth. In every country that is mixed race, racism exists and Belize is no exception.

Today, Seine Beight people are living in extreme poverty like many other Garifunas in the town of Dangriga and other Garifuna communities throughout the country of Belize. In the history of Belize the Garifuna people were always autonomous, industrious, independent and resilient. This new characterization of dependency is puzzling to many of the older Garifunas and others.

It is now the responsibility of the Garifuna people to find out what are some of the factors that contributed to this drastic change. I now call on the National Garifuna Council to conduct an in-depth study into this dilemma. If they are not willing to take the lead, then other Garifunas should make it their business to investigate the causes for this state of affairs. Failure on the part of the Garifuna people to act will only lead to the Garifuna people living in a state of poverty for a prolong period of time.

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