Getting ready to celebrate Garifuna Day in New York


Getting ready to celebrate Garifuna Day in New York

By Wellington C Ramos
Since the Garinagu people fled Honduras in the 1800s and landed on the shores of Dangriga Town with the leadership of their mentors Elijio Bennni and Satulle on the 19th November 1832, they have been celebrating this day which is a public and bank holiday in Belize. This holiday became a holiday due to the efforts of people like Thomas Vincent Ramos, CJ Benguche, Mr Lencho Benguche, Mr Ventura and many other Gasrifuna men who were in the movement to honor this day. Originally, the Garifuna Settlement Day was only celebrated in the southern part of Belize but in the year 1973 the government of Belize decided to make it a National Holiday.

Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has an MA in Urban Studies from Long Island University

The Garinagu (singular Garifuna) are a mixture of Carib, Arawak and African ancestry. In past history they were labeled as Black Caribs. According to history, these people were brought from Africa to become slaves in the 1600s but due to a shipwreck off the coast of Saint Vincent they managed to escape and acculturated with the native Carib Indians on the island. The French were the first Europeans to report seeing black people on the island of Saint Vincent. This was years after Christopher Columbus and his Spanish Conquistadors were driven off the island in a fierce battle with the native Carib Indians, which caused Spain to discontinue further advancement on these people’s territory years earlier.
After the British defeated the French in 1763, the French and the British signed the Treaty of Paris, which gave them full possession of the island of Saint Vincent. The Caribs refused to accept this treaty and declared war against the British. Fighting took place between the Caribs up until March 11, 1796 when the Caribs were defeated and forcefully surrendered to the British. They were then separated by the British based on the color of their skins and then imprisoned on the island of Baliceaux. From there about 5,000 of them were placed on several vessels and taken to Roatan, Honduras, in Central America. They landed in Roatan, Honduras, on April 12, 1797, where their names were changed and they scattered throughout the entire country of Honduras after they demanded to be removed from Roatan.
In 1832 there was a civil war in Honduras and the Garifunas were fighting with both rival factions, causing some to be slaughtered. For fear of their lives, many Garifuna people left Honduras and migrated to Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize, where they still reside up to this day and continue to practice their culture. The majority of the Garinagu people live in Honduras, followed by the United States and then Belize. The Garifuna Celebration Day is also celebrated in the Guatemalan Town of Livingston where most Garifuna reside later in the same month of November.
The United Garifuna Association Inc. is a tax exempt organization that is responsible for the preservation of the Garifuna culture and the empowerment of the Garinagu people. Apart from doing everything possible to preserve this rich culture, this association also promotes other self-help programs to assist Garifunas in their quest to become productive citizens. Educational, employment training, job search, GED, college counseling, immigration, housing assistance and several other programs are in the pipeline to assist their people and other members of the community.
In the month of May this year, the association opened up a cultural center by the name of “Wabatou”, which in English means “our house” at 531 Sutter Avenue in East New York. Brooklyn. On Saturday 14th November, the association will be having a Grand Opening Dance and the Garifuna Celebrations Dance combined at their center. Garifuna artists from Belize, Jobo and Method Man, backed up by Banner’s Band and drummers Vincent Servio and Godoy, will be present for the weekend festivities on the 13th, 14th and 15th November 2009. Since the opening of this Cultural Center, the burden to keep it open has been on a few dedicated Garifuna brothers, sisters and Belizeans to keep it open. Currently, we are facing a serious recession and these are hard times.
However, we are convinced that, since our people are resilient, with your continued support and the guidance of our ancestors, we shall prevail. The burden will be a lot less if all of our people can come together and assist us with this needed service. There has never been a place like Wabatou that I know in the City of New York where all Garifunas and Belizeans can come enjoy themselves and feel at home. We have never forgotten the fact that our ancestors did many things with very little resources so why would it be very difficult for us to accomplish great things with the amount of resources that are available to us in these modern times. During the festivities, their will be some acknowledgments and awards given. Please join us in commemorating this wonderful 167th Garifuna Celebrations Day Anniversary at our center Wabatou throughout these festivities.

Caribbean Net News: Commentary: Getting ready to celebrate Garifuna Day in New York



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