By Britney Gordon
The UBAD Education Foundation (UEF) does not support the decision to celebrate Afrikan Emancipation Day on an unrelated date and demands the alteration be remedied.
In a press release issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries, the list of Public and Bank Holidays for 2023 informed that Afrikan Emancipation Day would not be observed on August 1st as it typically is internationally. Instead, the holiday was moved to July 31st.
The reasoning behind the change was not made known in the press release, simply stating that it would be moved “in lieu of Tuesday, 1st August”.
However, Musa acknowledges the association’s displeasure and remarked that their concerns would be taken into consideration for 2024.
YaYa Marin Coleman, the chairperson of the UEF, however, argues that this change is unnecessary and disrespectful. In an interview with The Reporter, Marin Coleman stated, “Whether it is out of ignorance or done with malicious intent, we don’t know, but we cannot accept this.”
The UEF has written a letter of complaint addressed to Minister Musa explaining the significance of the date and requesting the holiday be moved back to the original date. This is not the instance in which the association has disapproved of the ministry's decisions regarding the holiday. In 2021, they wrote to express their objection to referring to the holiday as “Freedom Day”. The holiday was subsequently changed back to “Afrikan Emancipation Day”.
In the e-book, “Free Your Mind” written by Dr. Aondofe Iyo, a former professor at the University of Belize, the origins of the holiday in Belize were explained, stating, “On 1 August 1888, those Belizeans who identified themselves as descendants of slaves celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation, presenting themselves to the governor as representative of ‘the colored population of this Colony.”
The book goes on to explain how a committee of men and a group of women, headed by laborer Simon Lamb marched to an empty lot in the center of Belize Town. The governor then granted ownership to the group and the promised emancipation institute, now dubbed the “People’s Hall”, was to be built by private donations.
Marin Coleman maintains that the flippancy in which the ministry regards the holiday showcases a lack of respect for the descendants of those which the holiday represents, a large population of Belize.