The Prodigal Children of Belizean Soil by: Aria Lightfoot


prodigal son

The Parable of the Prodigal son in the Bible describes a father with two sons, one stays at home and takes care of his father while the younger son leaves home, squanders his fortunes and returns home destitute.  The older son wants the father to scorn him and accept him back ONLY as a servant but the father in his wisdom welcomes him back with celebration and feasting.  The father stated “but it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost and is found.”

The parable is a powerful short story highlighting the dynamics of human relationships and emotions that accompany separation, abandonment, forgiveness and reunification.  Lately I have been examining what is it about the diaspora that negatively strikes at the emotions of Belizeans at home.   The diaspora is fighting for the rights of inclusion and full recognition of citizenship at the reluctance of the leadership in Belize and many Belizeans at home; even though Belize faces a existential threat from Guatemala;  even though born Guatemalans have been nationalized without consent of the Belizean people or constitutional authority;  and even though Belize faces one of the most important votes in the history of Belize where born Guatemalans will get a say and born Belizeans will not.   What would subject Belizeans to such self destructive animosity against their own?

I look internally at my own experiences for answers. I moved to the United States at the age of 27 and on my own accord.  I left to pursue an education without scholarship or invite from family. When I left Belize, my son was six years old and I left him for two and half years in Belize as I pursued my education.  When I talk to my adult son today, he shares that he felt deserted even though I called him every week and visited home or he visited every vacation and even after we were reunited, he still feels that he was separated from seeing his father regularly because of living in the United States.

Talking to my son brought me to a deeper understanding of this animosity towards the prodigal children of Belize by Belizeans at home. As a people we don’t examine our deep feelings of hurt and abandonment, we instead lash out in anger and resentment like the older son’s reaction in the parable of the prodigal son.  Strong emotions of love and fulfillment can be uplifting, but emotions of pain and resentment can be debilitating and self-destructive.  The father in the story knew the younger son learned his lesson and understood that reunification would be the start of something new and positive and he understood the pain of the older son, but he also knew that you cannot heal when you hold on to resentment.

My mother was the only one of six  children that never moved out of Belize or married a non- Belizean.  She did consider moving but changed her mind and said that she did not want to raise her children in the United States. My grandparents, my mom’s parents, also moved to Canada as they grew older and I think that even though we kept close to my family in the era before social media when communications were letter writing and special occasion phone calls, we only knew tidbits of each other and when my mother died, the relationships were constrained.

If we dig deeper, we may uncover feelings of abandonment when families leave. If your parents left you behind, like an orphan,  you navigate without a compass to find an identity with no parent to help you develop or direct your path.  When all my mom’s family were living in the diaspora, there were no cousins to interact with daily;  there were no aunts to visit or interact with thru regular visits; communications were formal and infrequent and there were no deep relationship building.   Once my grandparents left there were no more generational stories; no more homemade recipes and cooking; and no more holiday gatherings for all family members. A loss is created for the families left behind, even if we do not consciously acknowledge it, there is a void that is created.

Families left behind get to know their families via pictures, gifts sent home, anecdotal stories,  and occasional visits. Many times, the families abroad treat their families at home as charity cases rather than deep bonded families.   Families abroad are seen enjoying the spoils of a more developed and progressive environment, TV quality Christmases and living conditions, access to school and medical care not afforded to families left behind and through no conscious undertaking, animosity and jealousies develop and these feelings manifest itself as resentment.

The Leader of the Opposition described the diaspora as “people who drive in nice a/c  cars and on good roads” further proof that the perception of Belizeans enjoying life while families are back home suffering or struggling to overcome.  What I imagine adds insult is when some Belizeans return home retired, after living a life in the lap of luxury, owning  assets they were able to attain with foreign income.  Many Belizeans at home face daily economic struggle and many are unable obtain savings, assets and wealth after living in Belize and enduring the struggles in their everyday lives.   One young lady lashed out on Facebook saying “unu nuh deh ya di tek lick”.

Some of these feeling may be legitimate, but I suspect most of these feelings may be misplaced and deeply embedded in perception rather than reality.  Many people in diaspora left Belize because upward mobility was not a reality; many remember a colonial Belize where they were excluded from tertiary level education or access without the right blood lines or connections. Many in the diaspora are not “living the dream” but are working several jobs to make ends meet and struggling for a place that is not receptive to foreign cultures. Some have no legal status and have no ability to return home without losing their investments. Some are escaping a life of poverty and pain,  Some are working hard hoping to create a better situation for their families at home; many are subjected to racism and exclusion; many long to return home but see no opportunities to return home.  Some are forced home thru deportations or extreme poverty.

It is not coincidental that Belizeans in the diaspora fiercely hold on to their Belizean heritage; many Belizeans in the diaspora long to live in Belize and long to become a contributing force, diaspora  Belizeans see  home based Belizeans as blessed and fortunate; Belizeans at home see the diaspora as fortunate and privileged and disconnected from the realities of Belize.

Obviously there are many existing emotions that need further examination,  but I must say that it is refreshing and reassuring to see a young Belizean politician, Hon. Kareem Musa elevate the dialogue by stating publicly on national TV –  “ I want all Belizeans to come home” .  Musa is currently lobbying the House of Representatives via a private bill to include the diaspora in the ICJ vote. Kareem received an unlikely endorsement from Shyne Barrow, another young politician,  who is standard bearer for the opposing party and the son of the current Prime Minister.  The young Barrow went a step further and stated that the diaspora should be fully included in all elections in Belize. Both young men are children of leaders and both have differentiated their approach from the status quo;  both seem to grasp the idea of inclusion, taking the pathway of the father in the prodigal son parable.

kareem musaShyne-Barrow00031

The United States allows their diaspora to vote; Ireland recently held a referendum vote where hundreds of their diaspora returned home to vote. Some African leaders are calling for their enslaved diaspora to visit Africa  and we are seeing transformational leaders call home their diaspora. Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Motley, recently called on their diaspora to come home and contribute;  Mexico is benefiting from their diaspora as mass  exodus of Mexicans return home with construction and specialized skills gained in the first world.  Mexico is going a step further and setting up special programs for their deportees to hone their skills so it can be used to  enhance the development of their nation.

Since the mass exodus of Belizeans the world has changed dramatically, communication is easier and immediate, flights to Belize are affordable and frequent, the bridge has been built, and the gap is closing  and families are reuniting, .  The politicians who want to be future leaders of Belize ought be able to recognize the world is evolving  at lightning speed; if leaders are smart and strategic, they will see allies in the diaspora in a globalized environment where the diaspora can be a rich source of expertise, funding and manpower and especially with Belize’s sovereignty at risk.

The alternative is to be stuck in old colonial politics of exclusion, divide and conquer.  Kareem is a breath of fresh air because he is aligned to a new generation of politics.  I suspect the younger generation of Belizeans will have none of their parents’ politics.  The young Belizeans are far more adept to globalization and very connected; they have access to information unlike any other time in our history and I suspect that both Kareem and Shyne are thinking progressively and strategizing for a future Belize leadership challenge and I would endorse both!

unite-or-die.jpg

 

 

 

Joseph Sanchez is dead, but who am I? written by: Aria Lightfoot


… I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life.”  Moses

Joseph Sanchez  Murdered cross dresser teen

Joseph Sanchez
Murdered gay teen

Joseph Sanchez is dead but who am I?   Who am I must be the one universal question we have all asked ourselves while staring at the reflection in the mirror staring back at us, mimicking our moves and sending back signals to our brains. We have tacitly accepted the reflected image is actually who we see. Some scientist believe that we would not be able to recognize ourselves if we could actually see ourselves outside of a mirror or picture.   We see a face staring back at us and many times we are left with more questions than answers.  Am I pretty? Am I fat? Why is that flaw so prominent?  Who am I?

Many of us depend on the mirror to help us project the image we consider acceptable or want to share with the world.  Most of us would never leave the house without visiting the mirror for confirmation that we have portrayed the right image.  We take care in what we wear to fit into certain cliques, or professional groups; we look to the mirror to determine our ratio of sexiness or decency; sometimes we want to ensure we are emulating our heroes by copying his or her dress, or hair or make up; we sometimes want to seem intimidating; regal;  sometimes we want to look “fresh” or stand out; but most times we just want to fit in. The way we choose to dress many times gives a glimpse into who we want to be but not necessarily who we are. One thing for sure, we all inhibit some level of insecurity about the image staring back at us, maybe wishing we had the money, or DNA, or will power to change it.  And while the world can see the actual physical manifestation we ourselves cannot see because we can only see it through a mirror or picture;  the world is not privy to our feelings, or thoughts not projected in our physical appearance.

Joseph Sanchez was an 18 -year old gay teenager, barely legal and the same age as my son.  He loved to dance in the Belize Carnivals and did very well in that element. He reportedly preferred to dress in skirts and dresses rather than pants…but think for a minute… so do Scottish men, many men in the Middle East, Africa and India. Here we have a teenager, terrorized by some members of Belize society and then executed. Joseph’s family told the media that he quit school because of numerous death threats and the constant hate he endured. He must have been assaulted on many occasions and decided not to report it. He may have thought his attackers were just another bullying incident he had endured many times.  If being gay was a choice, who would choose to live under such constant threats, terror and judgment? Joseph was said to be mindful of where he went and who he affiliated with and yet he still was subjected to the brutality of a judgmental society gone berserk. Joseph was brutally murdered early Sunday morning January 12, 2014. A knife in his heart sealed his fate.

Growing up I was a tomboy. I loved playing sports. I personally hated dresses because it meant I could not run around and would have to sit properly or risk chastisement. I use to wear my brother’s t-shirts and shorts.  I just cannot imagine that anyone would want to kill me, beat me up or terrorize me because of what I chose to wear. Joseph, a teenager barely into adulthood, digressed from what Belize’s machismo “God fearing” society thought was appropriate dress code and now you hearing the proponents begin to rationalize his murder.  That is disturbing to me.  For those who think that this young man was seeking special rights, then you are clueless about freedom and rights and you have no respect for it.

Freedom does not only encompass your happiness. Let me repeat. Freedom is NOT ONLY ABOUT YOU. Living in a free society means that you will be subjected to images, beliefs, opinions, people and lifestyles you don’t agree with;  things and people you don’t like or support;  but in such a society, the same freedom allows you to equally  live your life as you see fit;  offer controversial and opposing opinions and ideas;  dress in a manner that expresses who you are;  pray as your personal faith dictates;  and be who you want to be,  free from any fear  or terror.  Joseph was never afforded such freedom. The people who chose to rationalize Joseph’s murder are  willing accomplices to his demise. Freedom is in serious peril when we are trapped in ideology.

Joseph Sanchez is today free from all the hate and anger. He is free from fear, he is free from judgment and he has left behind a society that has rationalized their own imprisonment.  There is never, ever a rationalization to kill someone because you disagree or dislike who he or she is.

The Bible thumpers, who continue to quote death verses, consider that God gave Moses ten simple commandments to follow.  Thou shalt not kill was one of the commandments. He did not say thou shalt not kill those I agree with or like. There was no caveat to the commandment. Thou shalt not kill was a commandment handed down by God himself. Yet the self appointed religious leaders and arbiters completely ignore a direct commandment of God and direct their followers to verses in the Bible interpreted by priests who themselves have blatantly ignored and rejected God’s commandment of thou shalt not kill and encouraged their followers to kill in the name of God.

I am completely disgusted with those people in our Belizean society who attempt to rationalize the murder of Joseph or the murder of anyone for that matter and especially those in the LGBT community.  How dare you use God as a foundation for your personal hate?  Joseph was just a kid. He was somebody’s child. He was a fellow citizen and human being and he deserved life and respect even when you disagreed with how he chose to express himself. We are on a slippery slope Belize when we rationalize murder of those we don’t like.

Martin Luther King Jr. said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  When you have lost your empathy for human life, when you rationalize bad behavior, when you have selective morality- don’t be surprised when injustice meets you next.  We need to honor life and investigate death in such a manner to prove that we actually honor life.  We live in a diverse world and only people who believe in acts of genocide, dictatorships and totalitarianism reject the idea of diversity.

You are now at peace Joseph…let those who revel in your death feel the wrath of their own conscience … God please help us find our moral compass because we are lost sheep!

Twocanview Inaugural Blog Radio Show 12/29/2013


Today Dec 29, 2013 marked the inaugural blog radio show for Twocanview.  My first guest was Hubert Pipersburg. Hubert explained pubic policy;  the importance of effective public policy;  and helped me examine the Christmas Cheer Program implemented in Belize- Was it good public policy?    Please click on the following link to listen to the discussion: Blog Radio 12/29/2013

 

Also please donate to a great initiative to uplift the lives of elderly Belizeans who are living in very deplorable conditions by clicking the following link. Improve the lives of Belizeans at Home

Donate what you can. A bank account will also be established in Belize.  The funds will be used to help build a decent living structure for the residents affected.

The pictures below are structures that senior citizens presently live in:

housing 4 housing 3 housing 2 housing 1

 

 

Twocanview on Blog Radio Dec 29, 2013 @ 2pm


Communication is awesome, revolutionary and fast-paced. The mediums are growing that are empowering the average non-corporate citizens of the world with a voice in a seemingly powerless world.  I was approached by someone who will sponsor me for a radio blog to enhance my current blog www.twocanview.com.

hubert

Hubert Pipersburg initiative to start his own radio blog addressing pressing issues facing Belize is revolutionary. Issues in Belize are many times clouded by political labeling, fear of political backlash and apathy borne out of years of failed promises. Please listen to Hubert premiere show here:

 

 

 

 

Hubert on Blog Radio

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/belizebillboard/2013/12/21/echoing-voices-from-the-belizean-diaspora-the-hubert-pipersburgh-show

Hubert and I have discussed and written in length about different issues facing Belize;  we have attracted different audiences, criticisms and even suspicion from our writings.  Embedded in the political system in Belize is a culture of partisan politics. Ideas are accepted or denied based on the political party in power and perception of person’s political affiliation.   The aim of Blog Radio is to reach the non-readers and engage the Belizean public at home and the diaspora.

Since Hubert and I attract different audiences, the ideas and education must continue to be shared with our citizens through different voices. Citizens should benefit from knowledge outside the political lens. With that said, please tune in on Sunday Dec 29th @2 PM for a one hour discussion. Joining me will be Hubert to discuss public policy issues facing Belize. (Postmortem of the Holiday Cheer Program).  You can tune in here:

Twocanview on Blog Radio

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/belizebillboard/2013/12/29/twocanview-with-aria-lightfoot

Baked Again by: Aria Lightfoot


It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children’s and grandchildren’s fates, are decided.” 

Senator Hillary Clinton

 

women

On October 20, 2013, Colin BH wrote an article in the Amandala newspaper called “Bake it Again”.  Colin gave a whimsical and romanticized view of rape, even going as far as calling the act “natural” when it was against a female vs a male; more “heinous” when it was a male; and simultaneously victim-blamed and downplayed the effects of rape on women and children.  Unbelievably, Colin writes for a newspaper that thrives on black power, but actually celebrated centuries of raped slaves because it produced a “beautiful race” of Belizeans in his baked opinions.

Colin’s baked opinions became a significant symbol and a wake up call alerting Belizeans as why stronger child protection and gender laws are urgently needed.  Colin was expressing what he believed to be an appropriate response to the amendments to the Criminal Code that seeks to strengthen laws of Belize to protect children. The unfortunate reality is that Colin represented the views of quite a few men and women in Belize. One may even argue that he was merely stating what is a culturally accepted practice in Belize’s society.

Colin suffered un-remorseful foot-in-mouth disease and was clueless when confronted about his opinion.  He stated that he could not find anything distasteful about his article. Lets pray today, Colin is a little more mindful and educated on the social, political and emotional issues of traumatic and too often permanent debilitating effects of rape for all victims regardless of sex.

The uncomfortable truth is victim-blaming and rape, especially involving very young women and older men, are part of Belize’s culture.  I have witnessed many times when a significantly older man is caught with a child, comments on Facebook pages begin with a wave of abuse defenders stating that “she mi di look for it”;  “deh lee gial fast these days”;  “she da wa whore”; etc.; instead of recognizing it is an adult manipulating and abusing a child.

Pastor Willacy affair with a 16-year old student is a perfect example of the culture practiced in Belize. Willacy was a married principal from a religious school, a counselor and a pastor and he was well respected. He targeted a child who was entrusted in his care by the girl parent. He admittedly abused his position of trust and carried out a relationship with a child. In his case, many people openly attacked the young girl’s reputation and were willing to give the “good” pastor a break to abuse again.  Due to ineffective laws, nothing more than headlines came of this case. Pastor Willacy is just one of hundreds of cases every year in Belize.

Colin voice was necessary in this debate because it may be the first time that society was slapped into reality of how women and female children are perceived.  As a woman who played sports, I can attest to the views society openly promotes about women and girls.  I recall playing basketball in my youthful days and asked on numerous occasions if I didn’t have dirty dishes to wash (or something along that line), being underestimated as a viable opponent and being consistently sexual harassed on the court.

Women are not encouraged to be in male dominated arenas and it is evident even in our leadership arena.  Belize has one elected woman in the House of Representative even though women represent at least 50 percent of voters.  The Hon. Dolores Balderamos, Belize only elected woman, was mocked with sexist, vile and disparaging remarks during a public house meeting.  Previous female candidates have been raped or shamed with sexually explicit pictures circulated in the community.  Are we surprised that Belize is dead last in Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean when it comes to the empowerment of women?

Colin received a much deserving tsunami of public criticism from the Woman’s Issue Network, The Special Envoy for Women and Children, Amandala colleague Adele Ramos, National Committee for Family and Children and many other people, however, lets make this a beginning and not an end. Belize must begin the arduous task of reeducating Colin and many like him because he was simply expressing what many of us have seen and heard from our own fathers, brothers, husbands, lovers and friends. Women are different, unequal and warrant the treatment they receive.

As a society we must grow and learn from this pivotal point in our history.  Women must be supported and celebrated. Women are not like men and don’t want to be men, however, women are entitled to the same opportunities and respect as men.  We must empower our women and girls with messages of “yes you can”; “ you can be all you want to be”;  “go for it and take the road less travelled”;  “it is okay to have the same dreams as men”; ”it is okay to stand out and stand up”;  “your body is yours and no one controls who you are”.  Let’s not forget that women are the guardians, and teachers of the next generation therefore empowering a woman empowers next generation and it will empower Belize.

Colin BH response to criticism: http://amandala.com.bz/news/colin-bh-hot-seat/

bh colin

Daily Dingleberry 01-10-13 Is Whe Dis?


400041_488048217903346_473731799_nWhat’s all this about Micah Goodin? From all appearances, he di “Du Di Rait Ting”. He is President of the Student Council at SJCJC, Teen Belize Organization’s Personality of the Month, founder of A.R.M.E.D, a program aimed at mentoring young people, and the list goes on. One side says it is a simple matter of the scholarship program “Du Di Rait Ting” running out of funding BUT don’t you know how much money you have for scholarships BEFORE you give them out? Some say he took too long to complete his program and his share ran out. Others say it is retaliation, plain and simple for speaking out against Patrick Faber’s initiative to cut government subsidies of student fees. In any case, it would seem that he should not be left in the cold and he won’t be. Already, the Rotary Club and Kremandala have stepped forward to offer assistance.

Things that make you go “What?”

Watch This Blow Over Too by Fayemarie A Carter


pointing-fingers

Da you! Da you!

A lot has been said, fingers have been pointed but does any of it make a difference? Will anything change? No. Why? Because we aren’t really interested in a solution. Many feel that what is happening in the South Side is irrelevant to their lives. The district people get on the bus and go home as soon as they are finished with whatever business dragged them into the city. The city folks jump into their air conditioned cars and drive to their burglar barred homes and wait for the chaos to blow over. An overriding sentiment seems to be ” I wish they would just hurry up and kill each other out.” Horrified yet? Maybe. Maybe not.

The self righteous religious people pray to God and assure themselves that the only reason these gang bangers are dying is because they need Jesus. They just need to pray and everything will be all safe and good again. The government treats them like a nuisance that needs to be put down by any means necessary, even murder. Screw trials and due process. What would be the point? We have a whopping 2% conviction rate. Let’s just open fire into a crowd of unarmed bystanders and see what happens. The Opposition is whining that they aren’t invited to the Press Conferences, which is PUBLIC by the way, so they sit on their hands and say “Da nuh we!” The GOB says “Stop the rumor mills!” and blames Facebook. That one is hysterical. Instead of blaming rumor mills and Facebook, embrace it. Use the social media to spread awareness and garner support for your efforts. Oh wait. Do you actually have any????? As far as anyone can tell, everything is hush hush thereby CREATING the speculation. And as for the media…well. What media? You call that journalism? Trampling all over the crime scene is just irresponsible and disrespectful to the process of justice…unless we aren’t planning on seeking any justice?????

The GOB’s response was inadequate in addressing the fear of the people. Nothing is ok about shots ringing out and children being frightened to go school. Instead of mocking the people’s concerns, how about some compassion? What are we waiting for…kids to get shot in their classroom because the BDF is opening fire randomly? And to the spectators…what the hell were you doing not moving out of the way? There were women actually confronting these armed soldiers. Then when one gets shot? We would cry “abuse of power”.

As for the men who were murdered. We know nothing. Who are they? Why were they targeted? Who would have wanted them murdered? Some are painting them as victims. Hmmmmmm. Let’s not do that just yet. Like I said, we know nothing. The only innocent victims in all of this are the children being terrorized on a daily basis. In the meantime, can we not use their deaths to vilify the GOB, poor people, the South Side? This problem is OUR problem. There is no one reason it is happening and no one solution to fix it. We are all complicit in the criminal lifestyle. Yes I said it… ALL. All of us have a brother, cousin, father, mother, sister, auntie, somebody involved in something that is illegal and we all look the other way. It is a lifestyle. You want this to stop? Start right in your own house.

This Says It All… And Then Some by Fayemarie Anderson Carter


Lock ’em up

Anybody heard what the Catholic priest said about child victims of sexual abuse? He said that oftentimes, they are the “seducer”. You heard it right and he did say it, although if you go look for where he originally said it, you won’t find it. Instead, you will find that that article is already taken down and has been replaced by an apology article.

The Rev. Benedict Groeschel of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal said a lot of “dafuq” things in his interview with the National Catholic Register (NCR). Like what, you ask? O, that child molesters shouldn’t go to jail for their first offense, because they didn’t really mean to commit a crime; and, he refers to Jerry Sandusky as “this poor guy” as he wondered how no one said anything for years. “This poor guy” remember, is the Penn State coach convicted for molesting boys under his tutelage.

What did the Catholix have to say? Well, Editor in Chief of the NCR Jeanette De Melo, was really sorry they published what he said and called it an “editorial mistake”. Whatever, lady. And his fellow friars??? They likened him to an elderly relative, old and addled, not responsible for his ramblings. And what did HE say? Oh, that his brain ain’t the same since he’s been in a car accident. So then, why the hell was he in an interview again????? Bull!

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP expressed concern for victims, witnesses and whistle blowers saying that comments like that are “incredibly hurtful and mean spirited” and that there should be consequences for people like him.

So, here we go again. If this is the kind of thinking that is prevalent in our churches, is it any wonder that Pastor Willacy, of the Belmopan Baptist Church, got off with not a single charge??? Despite existing sexual harassment laws in Belize? Until we rise and holler at these people, refusing to swallow this garbage they spew from the pulpit, we can look forward to more of our children being used to satisfy the depraved sexual desires of our leaders. I don’t know about you, but I aint in for sacrificing lambs for that purpose.

 

Link to article about comments: http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/priest-apologizes-after-rebuke-comments-sexual-abuse

Link to apology: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/father-benedict-groeschel-reflects-on-25-years-of-the-franciscan-friars-of/