22 – 26 March 2021 is being observed by the Organization of American States (OAS) as the InterAmerican Week for People of African Descent in the Americas under the theme “Ending slavery’s legacy of racism: the imperative for strengthening justice and resilience in Afro-descendant communities in the Americas in the face of COVID-19.” The OAS held a series of virtual activities including a special meeting of the Permanent Council on 25 March to commemorate the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Translantic Slave Trade.
In Belize, The Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology through the National Institute of Culture and History organized various social media activities highlighting Afro-descendant heritage and the legacy of slavery in Belize. This culminated with a virtual discussion on the theme organized by NICH in collaboration with the OAS on Friday, 26 March. The panelists included: Mr. Emerson Guild (3rd. Asst. President General, United Negro Association & African Communities League; Dr. Abigail McKay (Chair, Belize History Association); Mr. Cesar Ross (Vice-Chair, Belize Commission: Initiative for Justice and Reparations) and Dr. E. Roy Cayetano (Anthropologist and Garifuna Cultural Activist). The forum was attended by Mr. Luis Octavio Coimbra (OAS Representative to Belize) and Ms Erika Watson (OAS Barbados). The forum was moderated by Mr. Nigel Encalada, Director of the Institute for Social and Cultural Research, NICH. Click here to view forum!
The Museum of Belize has organized a virtual tour of enSLAVEd: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in Belize Exhibit. The exhibit provides a historical look at the arrival, treatment and condition of enslaved persons in Belize. View the exhibit at ART Steps. Guardian of Afro-descendant Culture, Emmeth Young and Afro-artist, Gayla Ann were also highlighted as two of the many individuals that continuously works towards the promotion and retention of Afro-heritage in Belize through the arts.
The Institute of Archaeology highlighted three archaeological projects that foster awareness and respect for the heritage and identity of people of African descent and their contribution to the Belizean Society. These are the St. George’s Caye Archaeological Project led by Dr. Jim Garber, the St. George’s Caye Underwater Archaeology Project led by Dr. Rod Mathers, and the Belize River East Archaeology Project led by Dr. Eleanor Harrison-Buck.
The Institute for Social and Cultural Research highlighted 18 individuals of Afro-heritage from the Belize’s Heroes, Patriots and Benefactors Exhibit. The exhibit features the life and contributions of men and women in Belize’s historical and cultural development. The selection features Andy Palacio, Benji Nicholas, Cleopatra White, Clifford Betson, Dorothy Bradley, George Gabb Sr., Lord Rhaburn, Isaiah Morter, Leigh Richardson, Leela Vernon, Paul Nabor, Philip Goldson, Samuel Haynes, T.V. Ramos, Robert Reneau, Vivian Seay, Wilfred Peters and Zee Edgell. Click to download!
The Institute of Creative Arts showcased a performance by the Belize National Dance Company featuring Belizean dancer Wilford Williams entitled Strange Fruit. Strange Fruit recalls the horrific history of lynchings as told through the haunting lyrics of the song of the same name performed by African American Jazz singer Billie Holiday (Watch Video). Secondly, was a musical homage from Terry “The Brukdown Gyal” performing Leela Vernon’s Kriol Kulcha (Watch Video). The song is a jubilant declaration of the resilience of African descendant identity in the face of a legacy of oppression.
To learn more about the Fourth InterAmerican Week for People of African Descent in the Americas visit the OAS website at https://www.oas.org.
Cover Photos courtesy: Romario Pech and Institute for Social and Cultural Research