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Do you Gari? » Ifasina Speech at Belize Black Summit
Dec 11, 2003

Belize City
Biltmore Plaza Hotel

Ifasina Speech at Belize Black Summit

Greetings to all. I come before you today humbly in honor of my Ancestors and all Spirit with whose blessings and guidance I am here. I ask the permission of the Elders to speak…and I pray that what I share will inspire feelings, thoughts, and actions that will change our collective lives for the better. “Springwater flowing to the desert, where you flow there is no regeneration. The desert takes. The desert knows no giving. To the giving water of your flowing it is not in the nature of the desert to return anything but destruction. Springwater flowing to the desert, your future is extinction.? Ayi Kwei Armah, Two Thousand Seasons.
Ever since I accepted the challenge of presenting at today’s discussion as part of the Black Summit, I have been questioning myself and others about exactly what to say. Immediately I knew that I wanted to say something that would bring change because my life purpose is to bring change. I knew that being a part of this discussion was no coincidence. I have pondered greatly this topic, “The Situation of Black Youth in Belize? and I have had sleepless nights thinking about our situation long before I was asked to make this presentation. In my pondering I have cried and I have had headaches and I have gotten angry and I have thought violent thoughts. I have gotten desperate for solution and peace of mind and the more I thought, the more upset I got.
The situation of the Black Youth in Belize is sad. Thousands of our children enter over-crowded schools every year into environments so crammed and uncomfortable and certainly not conducive to academic excellence. Of a total of 4,912 students in Standard Six in the 1997-1998 School year, only 3,897 started high school that school year. For that school year alone, 1,015 students did not enter high school. What happened to them? Consider along with that how many of those who do enter high school don’t finish. No wonder then, that in 1999, 7,375 young people between the ages of 14 and 29 who were out of school were also not working even though they were willing to work. Of the 1,019 convicted criminals in the Hattieville Prison in 2000, 533 were between the ages of 17 and 30 - 497, that’s 93 % were males. These figures are increasing year after year. We haven’t even touched on teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, child abuse and neglect, poverty, and HIV/AIDS. This is the story of the Black youth in Belize, this is the reality we face everyday and it is heart wrenching.
What are our chances of survival when our fathers are missing in action, our mothers abuse us out of frustration, our brains are scrambled under the guise of education, we turn to drugs in search of consolation, a teenager in incarceration, shot in the head by the age of 21. Oh, that’s putting it too nicely. How about the girl who’s raped at age three, grows up from Children’s home to foster home to Girl’s Home to the streets, to an abusive home, to the grave, still searching for home? Too many stories to tell sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, elders. These are the things that make me cry and can’t sleep, angry and frustrated and wanting to bomb something or somebody. But it’s no point when black youths are killing black youths everyday – springwater flowing to the desert, your future is extinction.
We are the future but more than that, we are the now. If we don’t make it through now, there will be no future. When I’m tripping about it, pondering, I wonder if it’s intentional, somebody’s secret plan for us. Are we the black youth of Belize doomed? Is it our destiny to fail, to die young, to be miseducated, uneducated, unemployed, fatherless or motherless, imprisoned, beaten down, disrespected and ignored? What future are we?
I have sleepless nights because I do not consider myself lucky among the fortunate few. I was blessed, born a poor, black, female, Garifuna, African in Belize. Struggle gave me strength, survival gave me hope. I have sleepless nights because I feel…and feeling gives me responsibility. I cannot see myself separate of any Belizean youth because whatever happens to them happens to me. I am no exception. I speak here today, not because I’m special but because I want to do something, something relevant, something that will make our future more real. I educate myself so that I can educate others. My appeal is for youths to educate themselves, gain meaningful knowledge that will help you make strong decisions.
“He who knows does not die like he who does not know?. Whoever said that ignorance is bliss said it to fool us into believing that we are better off not knowing what is happening to us and around us. The only one to benefit from such an arrangement is the one equipped with more knowledge. Ignorance has kept our brains in shackles. We cannot survive in ignorance.
One of our great leaders, Founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, Marcus Mosiah Garvey emphasized the importance of education in his Message to the People. He said, “You must never stop learning…never stop reading. Knowledge is power…All the knowledge you want is in the world, and all that you have to do is to go seeking it and never stop until you have found it.?
What to do about the situation of Black youths in Belize? Educate us, teach us EVERYTHING. We need to know our history based on what has been written by us for us. Time for us to hear our story and have it told to us in our homes and in our schools. We need to know how our Ancestors lived before they came in contact with Europeans. We need to know the methods of teaching they applied that allowed youths to develop their skills from young and taught them how to survive. The knowledge and teachings of the past were well-rounded. Every child had an opportunity to learn technical skills, academic skills, spiritual skills, artistic skills, physical skills, mental skills, everything. Why wait until a child is five years old to learn to read and write if s/he can do so at three years old? Why should anyone be deprived of good quality education just because s/he has no money? It’s time for us to start our own schools that will teach our children and youth to be independent and creative. Let our children think and question and analyze, develop their brains. Nourish their bodies with good healthy food, food we grow and teach them how to grow their own food. Feed their minds with positive thoughts and information that will get them where they want to go. The more we know the more choices we have and the better the choices we make. S/He who knows does not die like s/he who does not know. S/He who knows does not die foolishly, accidentally, senselessly, innocently.
S/He who knows lives and dies with purpose. S/He who knows does not wander about aimlessly, a mere existence like zombies. S/He who knows can tell the truth from the lie, walks with direction, faces the day with purpose.
This is not just about talking, this is about doing what’s necessary to ensure that there is a future for the youths of today and those coming up. We can do much for ourselves if we are given the opportunities. Give us the tools and we will work. We need our Center for Employment Training in Dangriga.
And why is it so difficult for us to get a little piece of this 8, 866 square miles? Isn’t it our right to own at least a little piece to build a house and plant a garden? Dependence and ignorance are our downfall and it seems there are some people who want to keep us that way, ignorant and dependent. It’s time for a change people. It’s time to wake up. The solutions to our problems won’t come from somewhere out there, it’s up to us. Like I said before, I educate myself to educate others. I strive for justice and equality so that those after me will not have to face the same struggles. It is not easy. I have to deal with ignorance everyday but I make it through everyday – thanks to God and my Ancestors. I consider the negative remarks like rotting fruit in a compost pile. They are the nourishment of my Spirit. I rise up strong. It is not easy, no one said it would be. Like Frederick Douglas said,? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
We have to know ourselves and stand by that knowledge. Stop living in illusion Black youths of Belize. Our future is extinction if we do not, each of us, take on the responsibility of making a change, first in our own lives and in so doing we will change the lives of others. Whatever happens to one of us happens to all of us. Taking our frustration and anger out on each other will not solve our problem. Don’t you realize that the masters still laugh at the success of their work, divide and conquer? Armah tells us, “Those whose vocation it is to destroy destroyers do not through their work become destroyers but the necessary, indispensable finders of paths to the way again. The way is a call to creation. Easy it is to fall into the trap of loneliness if we forget that our people are not just of the present, not just the walking multitudes of murdered souls and zombies now around us, but many, many more gone and many, many more to come. The body that is whole moves always together, no part of it goes against any other part. White destroyers thrive on our disintegration. Whatever thing, whatever relationship, whatever consciousness takes us along paths closer to our way, whatever goes against the destroyers’ empire, that thing only is beautiful, that relationship only is truthful, that consciousness alone has satisfaction for the still living mind. There is no beauty but in relationships. Nothing cut off by itself is beautiful. Never can things in destructive relationships be beautiful. All beauty is in the creative purpose of our relationships; all ugliness is in the destructive aims of the destroyers’ arrangements. The mind that knows this, the destroyers will set traps for it, but the destroyers’ traps will never hold that mind. The group that knows this and works knowing this, that group itself is a work of beauty, creation’s work.
Against such a group the destroyers will set traps for the body, traps for the heart, traps to destroy the mind. Such a group none of the destroyers’ traps can hold.?
I am just a messenger my sisters and brothers. I educate myself so that I can educate others. My knowledge is no use to me alone, that’s why I share. You must educate yourself also, Black youths of Belize, and educate others. The time to start is long gone. It took thousands of years to destroy us and it will take thousands more to get us back to our way. Each of us can do something and together we will make our future continuation instead of extinction. May we never lose sight of the Almighty nor the support we have from our Ancestors on whose shoulders we stand. Ase, Ase, Ase, Itarala.

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