Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

The Case for a Belizean Pan-Africanism

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

The Case for a Belizean Pan-Africanism

Article excerpt


This essay is an analysis of Pan-Africanism in the Central American country of Belize. One of the many significant products of W.E.B. DuBois's now famous utterance that "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line" has been the unending commitment to document the reality of the color line throughout the various regions of the African Diaspora. Thus, nearly a century after his speech at the First Pan-African Congress, this effort has produced a corpus of works on Pan-Africanism that capture the global dimensions of the Pan- African Movement. However, the literature on Pan-Africanism since has been and remains fixed on the Caribbean Islands, North America and most certainly Africa. This tendency is justifiable given the famous contributions of the many Pan-African freedom fighters and the formations hailing from these regions. But this has been at a cost. There remains significant portions of the African Diaspora whose place in and contributions to the advancement of Pan-Africanism has been glossed over or fully neglected. The subject of this paper is to introduce Belize as one of the neglected yet prolific fronts in the Pan-African phenomenon. Thus this essay utilizes a Pan- African nationalist theoretical framework that captures the place of Belize in the African Diaspora, with an emphasis on 1) identifying elements of Pan-Africanism based on a redefinition of the concept and 2) applying them in a way that illustrates the Pan-African tradition in Belize.

I am pleased to be once more with you in the Academy of Music, I am pleased always to be in Philadelphia, but I do not want you to become too bigoted in your strength because there are dozens of branches of the U.N.I.A. that are twice as strong numerically as you are. I have also a cable in my hand which came to me last night while I was presiding over the meeting at Liberty Hall, from one of the Central American countries - British Honduras. Those of you who have been reading the Negro World will remember that about six months ago the government of British Honduras, through its legislature, voted to suppress the Negro World to prevent it from entering into British Honduras, where it had a circulation of 500 copies weekly. We had not yet organized a branch of the U.N.I.A., but the moment that the government closed down the Negro World the Negro people in British Honduras - in the city of Belize - organized a branch of the U.N.I.A.

Marcus Garvey

April 29, 1920

During the heydays of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in the 1920s, Marcus Garvey, venerated by many as the sage of twentieth-century Pan-Africanism, was clear in his praise for the strides the UNIA chapter in Belize was making.i From Garvey's perspective, the chapter in Belize deserved special recognition for its relatively high levels of organization and effective leadership. Such special acclaim for Belize was not insignificant given the fact that at its peak in the 1920s the UNIA could count over 1000 branches worldwide. The work of the UNIA chapter in Belize was such that Garvey, with his sights ceaselessly set on strengthening the central base of the organization, wasted little time drafting the Belizean UNIA leadership to work in the main chapter in Harlem with the hopes of expanding the capacity and reach of the movement internationally. Ironically, this recognition given to Belize by the leader of the largest Pan-African organization in history has been absent in the broader literature on Pan-Africanism. Consequently, and given the scant reference to Belize in Pan-Africanist literature, a tempting conclusion might be that those efforts in Belize did not produce a great deal in terms of the Pan-African tradition and movement. To the contrary, the African-Belizean experience is ripe with Pan-African activity that has been celebrated in other regions of the African Diaspora. Moreover, Belize's contribution to the Pan-African vision of unity, self-determination and empowerment throughout the African Diaspora transcended the Garvey Movement as it was consistently reproduced in other eras, settings and contexts. …

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