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The Garifuna nation suffered a bitter defeat at the hands of the British on the island of Yurumei in 1795. The nation, under the leadership of Chief Joseph Chatuye was merely defending its homeland. The survivors, whose allegiance to the homeland was unquestioned and whose skin color was of the darker variety, were summarily dispatched from Sandy Bay in boats and left marooned on the island of Roatan, under conditions best described as totally inhospitable.
Always keen in matters of survival, the Garinagu made their way off that island, to settle in places where they were not really welcomed. They suffered and overcame various forms of indignities and violations of their basic human rights in these places. Yet; to their credit they, remained a proud ambitious people. Quietly, with heads held high, they've made the Caribbean shores of their adopted countries home and; over these past two hundred years, have stared across the sea into the horizon, remembering from where they came, what they'd been through, knowing they were wronged, and that some day, a day would come, when they would unite to seek redress from their oppressors.
On April 9 of this year, a group of dedicated, resourceful, and forward thinking Garinagu from Garilands in Yurumei (St. Vincent), Honduras, Guatemala, the United States of America, and Belizecame together in Dangriga, Belize,Home of the Cheuleuhaduwa Garinagu (The Garinagu has Arrived) Monument - The Symbol of the Oneness of theGarifuna people - with a mission; to see about righting those past wrongs against their fellow men and women. With them were a number of experts in various fields of interests from the United States, West Indies, and Great Britain.
Each participant came filled with vigour, a sense of purpose, and a serious commitment to the mission at hand.
Conference came to a close on April 12, they
had managed to merge their varied levels of knowledge
and intelligence, to chart the course the Garinagu;
as a Nation, will take in this new
According to a news release from this assembly; "The Garifuna People (also known as Black Caribs) from all five (5) countries of United States, Guatemala, Honduras, St. Vincent and Belize have established the World Garifuna Organization to pursue their rights, freedoms and advancements."
Another report stated that "the conference was a success, for it realized the goals that it set itself to accomplish: 1. The launching of the World Garifuna Organization as the legal petitioner for reparation against Britain and 2. to show the Garifuna nation that it has legal grounds for reparation. Both were achieved, and it is now up to us to demand our just reward."
The WGO is thus organized and officers elected, with Dr. Theodore Aranda,Dangriga Town Representative to the Belize House of Representatives, as Paramount Chiefand Mr. Felix "Igemeri" Miranda, of New York, as General Secretary. A Constitution was also adopted, and symbols and logos placed under discussion.
The founding of the WGO is, indeed, a bold ambitious step, that those who spearheaded the endeavor, must be applauded for. There is no doubt that we; the Garifuna nation, is in dire need of an organization that is united in purpose and international in scope. We need to bring our various entities together under one umbrella, in order to legitimize our nationhood in the eyes of the world. We need to move forward from our focus on social consciousness to one that is national and political in nature.
Change can be fearful. Yet; without change, there can be no progress; no growth. For change to occur, there has to be open-mindedness and flexibility amongst the benefactors. In order for a people to grow and develop as a nation they must come together as one.
For too long we have considered ourselves as Belizean-Garifuna, Honduran-Garifuna, Guatemalan and Nicaraguan Garifuna. So much so, that it is now with great difficulty that we can work together on any given issue that is of vital interest to us as Garinagu. This double identity must cease, if there are to be any Garifuna at all remaining in the future. Our Survinal as a people depends on it.
Don Justo's message to his people implores us to always maintain a column of prosterity. To encourage race harmony, language maintenance, and foster constant communication with all Garinagu everywhere. "Not all of us are destined to be famous," he wrote, " but when any one of us does something admirable, or worthwhile, give that person the reward due."
I therefore bring you this article in the Spirit of our Ancestors, and my father; Don Justo, who guides me. This is an installment in my contribution to the support and effort of the World Garifuna Organization. The struggle for reparation may be a long and exhausting process, and it's achievement not realized for generations to come. But the WGO should be here to stay, to unite and guide us forward into the future.
Garifuna Ignorance no Longer a Factor
"Unu Betta Axe......Somebody"
The purpose of this article; in light of all that is stated above and what follows, is not to instigate divisiveness, but rather; to inform and educate, to generate and promote debates of the issues involved.
"Knowledge is Bliss." If you take the time to read what is written here, you are guaranteed to learn a number of things about our past, our present, and possibly our future as a people. As my fellow Garifuna-Belizean of Texas community member; William R. "Bill" Cayetano in thisTexas GSD-99 article announced: "Ignorance (especially ignorance) about things Garifuna (of one's culture and history in this day and age) is no longer acceptable (a factor)". "Our history is (should be) no mystery". If we are; therefore, seriously proud of who we are, we; the Garinagu, must have an interest in what is taking place around us, and keep abreast of any developments affecting our welfare. In other words, as Bill so clearly put's it; "If you don't know, you better axe (ask) somebody".
"Complacency is Dangerous." A number of individuals have come together, and instituted a cause, claiming it to be in our behalf. As such; we must be concerned, and have; at the minimum, a general idea of what the issues involved are. No one, not even our very own, should be allowed to take on or espouse any cause in our name, without our full knowledge, concurrence, or any input from us; the general public. There must be transparency, accountability, and free, open and continuous communication between all parties concerned.
Garifuna People; on a whole, need to begin be Proactive in their future. For us to be proactive, there must be interaction, communication, and dialog between all Garinagu, wherever we may be.
No one is perfect, and we all can learn from each other. The most important thing here, is to read, learn, and to understand.
Joseph R. Flores