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Commentary: A mandate for a Garifuna nation
Published on April 16, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Wellington C. Ramos

On the 11th, 12th and 13th of April 2014, Garifuna people from the countries of “Yurumein”, now known as St Vincent and the Grenadines, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize and the United States, came in large numbers for the first Garifuna Nation Summit. The purposes of this summit was to receive a mandate from the Garifuna people to form a Garifuna Nation, to receive updates on the state of affairs in the communities where the Garifuna people live worldwide, to establish a framework for the Garinagu people to work in concert with each other on a daily basis and to have the structures and institutions in place to help solve their problems.

ramos2.jpg
Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has BAs in Political Science and History from Hunter College, NY, and an MA in Urban Studies from Long Island University. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science and History
Prior to this summit, invitations were sent to all the government representatives in the countries mentioned above and only two countries responded and they were Belize and Yurumein St Vincent and The Grenadines. Representing St Vincent and the Grenadines were two Garifuna representatives: Honourable Senator Jomo Thomas, a Garifuna as well, and Honourary Consul Cardin Gil, representative for St Vincent and the Grenadines for the City of Los Angeles, CA.

The first event was the “Welcome Reception”, which was held at “Casa Yurumein” in the Bronx and the host was Ms Mirtha Colon, a Garifuna activist and president of the Hondurenos Contra El Sida organization in New York City. The representatives of the Garifuna Nation began the ceremony by outlining their purpose, goals and objectives and then after that was concluded they welcomed their brother Senator Jomo Thomas to his family.

When Senator Jomo Thomas began speaking one could see the impressions of amazement in his face and the emotions coming from him to see his people. He spoke about the concern his government has for the Garifuna people in this Diaspora, the efforts they are making to seek justice for the genocide committed against our people and a renewed effort by his government to grant citizenship status to all his Garifuna people who reside in the Diaspora countries mentioned earlier. The representatives of the Garifuna Nation and our Garifuna people listened carefully to what the senator had to say.

After the senator concluded his remarks, I responded, being the current director of governmental affairs and associate president for the United States for the Garifuna Nation. I told the senator that a letter was written to his prime minister in March of last year on behalf of the United Garifuna Association Inc. stating our position on reparations and to date we have not received any response. He replied by saying that his government was in communication with an individual who they thought was representing all the Garifuna people from the United States but now with his presence in New York City, he has come to the conclusion that such is not the case and he will inform his prime minister.

The summit continued on Saturday and the following representatives arrived: Belize’s Ambassador to the United Nations Her Excellency Lois Young, Assemblyman Pichardo, Senator Rivera, City Councilwoman Carmen Arroyo and a representative from Councilman Andrew King’s office.

The Belizean Ambassador Her Excellency Lois Young spoke about the vital role that the Garifuna people play in the development of her country Belize. She also named some prominent Garifuna individuals who have served in the government of Belize and have contributed in other areas, such as Dr Theodore Aranda, a former leader of the United Democratic Party, the Christian Democratic Party and a minister of health in the People’s United Party administration; Russell “Chiste” Garcia, a former minister of agriculture and fisheries; Sylvia Flores, minister of defence and human development in the People’s United Party administration; Michelle Arana, a current Supreme Court judge; Andy Palacio, a Belizean musicial icon now deceased; Pen Cayetano, a musician and artist, the founder of the Garifuna music now know as Punta Rock; Anthony “Garincha” Adderlly, a footballer; Nathaniel Cacho, a former financial executive with the World Bank at the United Nations; Sherman Zuniga, Commissioner of Police, and other individuals. All the other elected representatives were given the opportunity to say a few words to the audience.

On Sunday, the summit continued with the history of the Garifuna people’s trials and tribulations by a famous Garifuna anthropologist, Dr Joseph Palacio. His presentation was about how the Garifuna people came about, their struggles, the current situation they face today in the countries where they live and what are some of the possible solutions to some of their problems moving forward towards nationhood. While Dr Palacio was speaking, the Garifuna people were paying attention and taking notes. Some of the information he was relaying to his Garifuna people was new to them. They were all impressed with his in-depth knowledge of his people’s history.

He was followed by a Garifuna activist, Bernardo Guerrero, from Lemun, Honduras. Activist Guerrero spoke about the struggles his people are currently going through in the country of Honduras to maintain possession of their lands. He stressed that the Garifuna Nation is the best thing for the Garifuna people worldwide because in every country where they live their basic human rights are being violated, especially when it comes to land issues.

From the time the Garifuna Nation leaders, namely, myself, Jorge Castillo, Ruben Reyes, Joseph Guerrero, Quisa Gonzalez, Sandra Colon, Carla Garcia, Thrish St Hill and Hubert Bailey started to lobby support for this movement, they decided to reach out to all the Garifuna organizations worldwide.

So far they have been successful in recruiting the following organizations: the United Garifuna Association Inc. of New York, The All People’s Foundation Inc. Chicago, IL, YUGACURE of New York, Hondureno Contra El Sida New York, Garifuna Hope Foundation Los Angeles, CA, The Chatoyer Project Los Angeles, CA, Organizacion Negra Guatemala (ONEGUA) Livingston and Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, Garifuna Cultural Day Mass Committee (GCDMC), Garinagu Lun Awanseruni Chicago Illinois, Hamalali Wayunagu Dance Company, Coalicion Social Garifuna Hondurenos En Texas Inc., Grupo Folklor Garifuna Wafagua, Organizaciones Patronales USA (OPUSA), Sociedad Hondurena Activa De New York, Mujeres Hondurenas Organizadas En New York (MHONY Inc.), HONGUA Seattle WA, Gemelos De Honduras, Comite De Defenza De Tierra Del Triunfo and Garifuna Heritage Center For The Arts and Culture Inc.

There are more organizations that registered to this organization during the summit and the information can be obtained by contacting the organization.

After activist Guerrero spoke, the Garifuna Nation summit continued and several motions were put forward and approved. They were:

1. To give the Garifuna Nation the mandate to go ahead with the establishment of a nation;

2. That the Garifuna Nation must form a committee effective immediately to accept sample symbols of a nation, such as a coat of arms, flag, national anthem, pledge, an animal, plant and other related national symbols;

3. The Garifuna Nation current executive body act as their representatives in carrying out all the functions that are required to become a nation; and

4. That the goals and objectives of the Garifuna Nation be carried out on the Garifuna people’s behalf.

The summit was then adjourned until April 2015 in Roatan, Honduras.

When the summit was concluded, the Garifuna people started to greet each other to discover how they are related and which family they belonged to, which is a custom of the Garifuna people when they gather together. The members of the Garifuna Nation, other organizations and the people who attended were extremely happy and delighted with the outcome of their first summit because now they are more than convinced that their people have given them the mandate to go full speed ahead with the accomplishment of a Garifuna Nation.
 
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Comments:

Vinci Vin:

Mr. Ramos: This is a quite interesting report and development. The participation and input of my compatriots: Jomo Thomas and Cadrin Gill are well-noted. However, my question is: What physical territory (land mass) has the committee identified for the establishment of this renewed nation? We all acknowledge that St. Vincent and the Grenadines, particularly the island of St. Vincent is the ancestral home of the Garifuna people. But the present SVG nation's constitution has no mention of entertaining a Garifuna nation within SVG or of replacing the present SVG nation that was established on October 27th 1979 with a Garifuna nation. So would this Garifuna nation of which you speak be a nation only in concept and not one possessing physical land space?

We know that Indian tribes in the USA occupy sovereign land masses in the USA called Reservations. But those reservations are quite different from the land that were set aside for the Caribs/Garifuna at Greiggs, Sandy Bay and Fancy on St. Vincent. At the moment, there are still "Crown Lands" in SVG that the Garifunas can potentially lay claim to. But the SVG government is rapidly selling off these properties to foreigners in order to finance developments such as the Argyle Airport. So would any movement towards reclaiming our Garifuna real property birthright lead to frictions between the Garifuna people and the political establishment in SVG?

Frankly speaking, there is no better place for the establishment of a Garifuna Nation than on SVG or Yuremein as you call it. However, we must tread lightly and be circumspect in our dealings/initiatives to insure a peaceful and positive outcome in our quest to right the wrong of the European pirates and re-establish the homeland of our ancestors.

In full support of your national initiative.

Your Garifuna brother,

Vinci Vin

Wellington C Ramos:

Dear My Garifuna Brother Vinci Vin,

I am so happy and pleased that you asked this question about what physical land we will be able to administrate as a nation. Like you rightly mentioned the country of "Yurumein" now known as Saint Vincent & the Grenadines is the rightful homeland for all the Garinagu people who were forcefully removed from their without due cause and those who remained and were born in this country up to today. There are several political models of nationhood and we have examined all of them but have not decided on any yet.

The name of the country was changed by the British and they also passed several decrees to stop our people from practicing their culture. Which means that there are grounds for us to consider Restoration of our nationhood because the evidence is available for us to support this just claim.

We have are not extinct people which the British had intended for us to become. Our culture is still alive and kicking we just need to re-energize our resiliency, courage, boldness and will.

Recently, I had the opportunity to watch the Video titled "A Stolen Nation" now known as "Diego De Garcia" where the Americans and British have a huge military base in the Indian Ocean. The Chagos Island people experience is similar to our people's plight. They only number about 4,000 people and this happened in 1963. We number about 400,000 people and our removal took place in 1797. The Chagoan people are fighting to regain back their nation state and they are close to getting it back. Constitutions are living documents and the could be amended or replaced to the convenience of nations as being displayed by the most powerful nations of the world over time.

Send me an Email at: wramos451@hotmail.com and I will send it to all the Garifuna people in Saint Vincent& the Grenadines to watch through you.

Your Garifuna Brother,
Wellington C. Ramos


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