By Hon. Gilroy Usher, Port Loyola Representative
“We cannot be separated in interest or divided in purpose. We stand together until the end.” – Woodrow T. Wilson
The Chinese Association of Belize, the National Garifuna Council, the Maya Alcalde Association, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), and other organizations stand up for the rights of their members through dialogue with government and other bodies. Individually, each of the groups represent less than ten percent of the population. Nevertheless, when the members of any of those organizations speak with one voice they get results, because unity is strength in numbers which influences power.
The black population, Creole people, in Belize is the only ethnic group which doesn’t have an organization to express its concerns with social justice, inequality, poverty and crime including gangs to the administration of the day and other bodies. There are even several organizations that protect manatees, howler monkeys, jaguars, dogs, and other animals. Yet, there is no such organization on the ground to demand protection, social justice, a better life for the black Belizeans.
Five black men were murdered in Belize City last week in continuous gang violence. One of the alleged shooters was a minor which is becoming the norm. The particular minor was fatally shot by Police as he fired upon the officers in trying to flee the scene. The deaths are not anything to cheer about. Those, who lost their lives all had families, and… all lives matter.
Not a single press release was issued by the churches or any of the many civil rights organization in the country to
- a) condemn the Black on Black carnage and
- b) demand that the government do it’s best to end the gang crisis it inherited, and address the root causes of the problem—pressing social issues.
The murder of five members of any other ethnic group in a single week in this country would have resulted in street protests and a flood of press releases denouncing the carnage and demanding that the government put an immediate end to the bloodshed. Not so when five black youths suffer the same fate.
That is an indication of how much the lives of lost and marginalized black youths and their entire communities are valued or written off by certain sections of the society.
Sadly, in the absence of their own association to stand up for their rights not even black people, the victims of the five latest deaths in the street murders, could stand up for themselves with one voice to
1) condemn the violence and
2) demand respect of their fundamental rights as stated in the Constitution of Belize.
Divided, black people remain at the mercy of whichever party is in power to address their struggles in whatever shape or form they choose if at all. As the second largest population in the country and the largest ethnic group in seven of the ten divisions in Belize City which is the commercial and media capital of the country, black people have the numbers in the old capital to demand the most basic things for a better life from their Area Representatives and any government for election or reelection to office. Fragmented, however, they are powerless with scores of black persons dependent on the same politicians for their daily survival. Shocking, but real.
The gang problem, which results in all sorts of terrible social issues, started in the early 80s about three or four years after Independence. In that thirty-five plus years approximately 1000 mainly black members of gangs have been murdered by their rivals along with several of their innocent relatives and friends. That clearly shows that, unlike what some people mistakenly believe, simply leaving the members of gangs to continuously murder each other will not bring an end to the problem. The solution to the nightmare is jobs, education, counseling, prosecution, and better home conditions to channel the youths towards the right direction.
Gangs have gotten worse in the country under both political parties especially during the thirteen years of the previous administration. Those thirteen years should be called ‘the great betrayal’. During that time the then administration used thousands of dollars monthly to actually pay members of gangs to stay home and keep the peace especially at election time. That was done for cheap, quick, and easy political gain. Those funds should have been used instead to provide black youths with real jobs and, in so doing, teach them life skills such as a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. Those are the skills necessary for black youths to function as law-abiding citizens.
Of course, when the free money was depleted, hell broke loose in the country, particularly in Belize City with robberies, burglaries, and murders of members of rival gangs. There has been no escape from the crime and violence for long periods since then.
The United Black Association for Development (UBAD) that was headed by Evan X Hyde in the late 1960’s was the last attempt to organize black people of the Belize as an association for their own betterment. Such group, force, or association enabled their representatives to discuss their problems and solutions with the government and request the implementation of specific programs for the betterment of themselves and their communities.
In the privacy of their homes and with close friends most black persons discuss their uphill battles for a better life in the country, and admit that with the way things are presently headed for them, their future in Belize looks bleak.
What black people in Belize need to realize is that by forming an association or organization specifically to represent their interest on a wide range of social issues, they are guaranteed a better future in Belize. That’s because, they will then have strength in numbers to demand social justice, development, and equal protection from any government of the day exactly as the other ethnics groups and organizations have done and continue to do.