Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Lullaby for September

The smell of September is in the air here in Belize. It's a fascinating month because Belize City, usually so sleepy, is exploding with action - all month long. Red white and blue streamers, flags, and ribbons adorn the houses of the prominent, political, and well-off families.

On September 6, the first public parade will travel along the streets of Belize City. I'm looking forward joining a steel pan float. In Belize, Carnival adds a festive layer to the more formal, Anglicized expressions of patriotism. September 10 celebrates the historic Battle of St. Georges Caye of 1798. September 21 celebrates Belize's Independence, only 27 years ago in 1981.

The tension between the two at times seems obvious to me, though in this observation, and at this zealously patriotic time of year I am the odd woman out. In the 10th celebration, there is an implicit notion that the history of the Creole people who helped found this colony began when the Baymen allowed their black slaves to fight alongside them against the Spanish Armada at the turn of the 18th century. Until now, this lore has remained, and the exceeding pride of the Creoles.

Belizeans have much to be proud of. And every day, the re-discovery of heritage continues. Next Tuesday, for example, a presentation of patriotic songs written in the 1930's and 1940's is being given at the old Wesley Methodist Church on Albert Street. These are songs mostly written by black bourgeois men, who formed the charitable, patriotic, refined, and talented elite of the pre-independence days, Victorian soprano, concert-organ songs with lyrics like these:

When the last sunny rays meet the Cockscomb
and darkness envelopes it over
All my care long had, I forget as I plod
To my home by the Caribbean Shore...

I reflect as I bask in the splendor
Of a Bayman's inherited right
That this land of our own bears beauty's fair throne
And scenery's eternal light.

The written compositions, and the popular memory of them, seemed to have disappeared for years. In schools, it is said, the songs were completely banned by an oral decree by former Prime Minister and "Father of the Nation," George Price, a superb mestizo politician now in his 90's who still has an incredible hold on this nation. His patriarchal pull is as strong as the faded memories of this cultural patrimony which devoted Belizeans are trying to reclaim. Along with the music is the history of some of these patriots, like Samuel Haynes, known for writing a poem called "Land of the Gods," which became the national anthem "Land of the Sea." What many did not know until just August, when graced by a visit from the renowned historian Professor Robert Hill of UCLA, is that the young Samuel Haynes and his compatriots played a pivotal role in the early UNIA movement of the 1920's, led by Marcus Garvey and his followers.

It’s clear that the collective memory and political struggle of this country, written into its songs, is more dynamic than written history would have us believe. So I'm waiting and watching this September for the reflection that comes after Carnival.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

BTL Hits Another Legal Wall

Belize is once again brimming with excitement over an interesting turn in the ongoing cases against Belize Telemedia Limited, which the public is heralding as a victory in international law protecting the sovereignty of the small country Belize. This time, the battle concerns the Government's demand that BTL pay a steadily growing amount of back taxes, now assessed at over $10.2 Million dollars, to the Government of Belize. BTL has been claiming since the new administration came to power in February that Government owes BTL money on the basis of a secret accommodation agreement given to the company by former Prime Minister, Said Musa, under the last political administration. News of that agreement, which has not been made public but gives BTL concessions from business taxes and is rumored to give a 15% rate of return, came only a few months ago, when there was a change in Government and Barrow replaced Musa as Prime Minister.

In front of the court yesterday was an injunction against any more summons by the Government to BTL for back taxes, issued by the Commercial High Court of London. But in a decision handed down by Belize's Supreme Court, Chief Justice Conteh stayed the injunction of the London Court, calling it "egregious." The essence of his decision was that no foreign court has the right to prescribe the taxing authority of a sovereign nation.

BTL had also initially gone to the court to ask the Supreme Court to stop the Government from imposing import duties on the company, until it believes GOB’s arrears are settled. But it later withdrew that portion of the request in the local court.

The Government, with the backing of key media personalities and public figures, including the Government's prominent attorney, Lois Young, appears to intend to put its full resources into pursuing the litigation and claiming the back taxes.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Hope Creek

There should be an expression, "Up Hope's Creek." That's what it felt like when I visited the village of Hope Creek, in the South of Belize, with 13 Productions on a documentary film assignment.

We spoke with Mr. Senteno, a villager who had lived in Hope Creek for so long that he named the place (for a bridge that ran across the creek to the back of the town.) He showed us the water marks up to the tops of the windows of his store.

The rainfall came from the hills, that's why it flooded, they said. The water rose to human-sized heights within the space of five minutes. Everybody slept through the rain. Sometimes it rained for 4, 5 days. but it never flooded like this. Environmental advocates are saying that the sudden weather patterns are directly connected to Global Warming trends in the region, trends that will have devastating effects on the bioystem, including the rainforest, access to potable water, and marine wildlife in the Coral Reef.

Much of the village was completely destroyed, and environmentalists are now clamoring about the dangers of reforestation and the inevitable effect of global warming on both coastal and inland areas. But as Red Cross volunteer Larry Silver showed us a pump connected to a generator that, on its own, generated enough clean potable water for the whole community to wash their clothes, I could feel, incredibly, that there was still hope.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Censorship from the Chambers

The Zinc Fence let out its top dogs this week. The owners of KREM radio (known as the South Side Belize City station "baka da zinc fence") were called into court in a little-known litigation that has been boiling between the owners of the upstart media company and the owners of a company called Sagis. Both sides presented their last arguments in a case between KREM owned by Evan X Hyde and his associates, and Sagis, a company controlled by
Michael Ashcroft's BB Holdings, which also controls Belize Bank and Belize's government backed telecommunications company, Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL).

Defendants' counsel Michael Young argued that the transfer of the shares to Sagis back in the early 1990's had not been proper because the entire board had never consented to a transfer, and the individual shareholders, KREM founder Evan X Hyde and activist Rufus X, had only understood the transfer as a pledge of collateral in exchange for a loan. In addition, rather than turn over the 10% share, the KREM shareholders had already offered to pay the value of the shares (over $250,0000 from an initial investment of some $100,000) to Sagis. Counsel for Sagis, an attorney of color who Sagis flew in from England, argued that the sale of the shares had occurred over 13 years ago and that Sagis had every right to cash in now.

Sagis' demand came (perhaps fortuitously for Michael Ashcroft whose business connections to major financial transactions via the Belize Bank put him squarely in the center of the public debate) in the midst of a national uproar and calls for the PUP to step down. In the pre-election year, scandal after scandal were dredged up and debated: a $33 million defaulted loan by Belize Bank to government-backed Universal Health Services, questionable lending practices and development projects by the Development Finance Corporation, the diversion of dollars earmarked by the Social Security Administration, the transfer of millions of dollars worth of government land to PUP cronies, to name a few. (For most recent, devastating financial scandal, please take a minute to read this article in the Economist

So in Spring 2007 when the litigation was brewing, listenership was at an all- time high on KREM's Wake Up Belize WUB morning talk show. With their reputation for being outspoken and their listener call-in format, WUB was swept up in the center of a political cyclone.

The corporate law issues are somewhat complex, and complexity tends to favor the big business owner. But from a citizen's point of view the equities in the case are on KREM's side. Sagis waited almost fifteen years to demand its share of the company, and even when KREM insisted that the demand came too late, and offered to pay the value of the shares, Sagis refused and the litigation continued. What is it that the owners of Sagis needed to defend so badly? Why is it so urgent that they continue to pursue this case?

Even if the owners of Sagis are not malicious, they can't avoid the appearance of impropriety and desperation that come from a monopoly trying to defend its empire. and we can't avoid the ultimate price we will pay for not fighting to change the model for business and development in Belize - real and virtual censorship, and a complete lack of public debate.

From the sight of the crowd in the courtroom, surely Krem-Amandala's motto "Power to the People," rings even louder than usual for some of its listeners this week.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Second Line

I just discovered that Lafayette, Louisiana, a small city in the heart of Lafayette parish, has some of the best-tasting, well-blended food in all of the Americas. I arrived there with the Garifuna Collective, and tasted the food and the warmth of the place. By the morning, I’d fallen heart, belly, and soul in love with Lafayette.
Perhaps it was because the place reminded me so much of New Orleans; in fact, resembled New Orleans compressed into a city of 300,000. The city plays host to the same cultural elements that form the rich cultural mileau of New Orleans – the African slave and French European mixture known today simply as "Creole." The Cajun, an entymological spin-off from "Acadian," from that area of Quebec, Canada, is what the people from that region – exiled by the British from Quebec during the French-Indian war – still call themselves to this day. Then there are the immigrants of Irish, Italian, German, and Eastern European Jewish descent that it shares with cultural metropolis like Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Miami.

All of these groups experienced adversity and discrimination in varying degrees, from the Cajuns who persisted despite laws against the use of their language, to the Creoles and former slaves who recreated an entire African past through their music - the strong pull of the bass drum, accentuated by a washboard in traditional Zydeco music, felt in the soul, pain, and earthy groove of Louisiana blues of bands like the Black Magnolias. In similar fashion, around Mardis Gras time, the "Black Indians" still flaunt their feathers with a regal bearing and gravitas But when on Bourbon Street on Fat Tuesday, the bandleader asks Where yat?” everyone just says “I’m here.”

Perhaps that explained my comfort level in Lafayette; it is wonderful, the mix, that is ever so conscious of its roots. The musicians from the Garifuna Collective who I was traveling with seemed to agree with me. Their bellies full with crawfish, etoufee, red beans and rice, cornbread, and pudding, they told me that Louisiana “felt just like home.”

Coming from a play at the Cites des Artes following the Garifuna Collective's show that weekend at the Festival International, I walked right into a raucus Zydeco march that was traveling down the street. It was a thrilling moment - the energy of the band, the night stilt-walking man, and the blare of the brass band coming up from my rear. A new musician friend of mine whips out his sax and starts to riff some buttery lines off of the syncopated brass chorus. The chorus repeated and repeated, and we were intoxicated with nothing but the pure unleashed, earthy energy of a Louisiana crowd. In the midst of trying to steal couple of shoulder-mounted camera shots, I realized, though we were a hundred miles away from New Orleans, that we’d fallen into something of a "second line."

The second line is a tradition born out of brass band parades in New Orleans - the tradition of pageantry and procession, associated with New Orleans' famous (and now endangered) "jazz funerals" of black musicians. The "second line" originally referred to people who were attracted to the music, as opposed to the "first line" of musicians, mourners, and their friends and family. Customarily, these people would follow behind the "first line."

Despite the devastation of Katrina of human life and the artist community in New Orleans, jazz musicians continue to mourn their lost ones with a grand musical celebration starting with a slow dirge and ending in a beautiful cacaphony of brass and rhythm - a life-affirming tradition that no flood, no chains, no poverty, could stamp out.

My own experience with sudden loss came before Katrina, in September 2001, when I lost father suddenly to a drowning accident thousands of miles away. For years, I grasped in the dark wondering, how to pay tribute to his memory. This year, in 2008, Andy Palacio, bandleader for the Garifuna Collective, passed away after I had been following his career as a documentary filmmaker, when in the village of Barranco, I marched with 5000 mourners down a dirt road to his burial, I knew that I had been paying tribute to lost loved ones all along. I had danced into filmmaking with reverence, and when on stage with a camera in hand, reaching into the inner parts of my jazz-loving soul and embracing a powerful new music.

The joyful praise of a jazz funeral and the beauty of the black Indian costumes so intricately designed throughout the year leading to one important day of remembrance and celebration, are traditions that reaffirm my the celebratory rituals of our communities. My people, and our cousins all over the black New World, like the Garifuna, the Trinidadians, and Belizean Creole, have for over two centuries cultivated this street sanctuary known as the Carnival, the fete, the bacchanal, or the second line.

But creolized carnivals and parades are not as a place of temporary spiritual recovery or temporary amnesia. Our pageantry, leading up to a one-day explosion of ecstatic expression that lies just below the surface, is a way of remembering our losses and reaffirming our collective originality - that we can claim the originality of others because as descendants of communal cultures, it is a part of our common heritage. In an era when digital technologies and media threaten to erase our memory of generations past are far-distant, I think we should never forget this legacy.

I’ve come to think of life as a second line. While the band is passing your way, it is imperative for you not to watch, but to join. If you don’t have an instrument to pick up and play, you just go on in and groove. You dance for your life, for the spirits within you, for the lost ancestors who continue to guide your steps.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Boldly Colored Beginning

Life goes on in Belize the morning after the general election. On Euphrates Street, students are emptying out from school for lunch in their uniforms, though red flags wave through the streets as cars hired by the UDP drive by every once and a while.

At about one am last night when the last ballots were being rounded up, the television stations began to announce a resounding victory by the UDP over the incumbent PUP. Despite reports of election fraud by one incumbent and the presence of camera cell phones inside polling stations despite a recent ban, the election was peaceful.

I was a bit surprised to see that the signs of partisan politics that run deep into the core of Belizean life were so visible on the actual day of the election. The city donned its colors, from Collet and Lake Independence where Cordel Hyde's blue-clad election army swarmed Partridge Street, to Mesopotamia which bled the red signs and T-shirts of the UDP, the city donned its political colors. Voters walked with their political paraphanalia into the voting stations, with no restrictions. I wondered how we could be so lax about our standards protecting voting rights and voter independence. Later that evening, when a Belize City candidate won against an incumbent by only 16 votes, I began to understand the situation a little better.

I camped out at the television station for most of the evening, taking calls from news correspondents who were out reporting in the various districts. In the afternoon, a reporter asked Orange Walk candidate Gasper Vega why he thought voters were so much bolder than in past election years about flaunting their party colors. Vega's impression was that the voters were enthusiastic about the political process. The fact that voters were proud, rather than intimidated, about being identified with party, was an encouraging sign of democracy. Another take on the matter, I guess. But when a first-time voter goes to the polls afraid to dip her finger in the ink twice for fear that her staunch PUP parents will know that she had voted in favor of a referendum that could benefit the UDP, I have my doubts about how far the political party has come. It is another boldly-colored new beginning, a new start with a lot of excitement and almost as much fanfare.

Meanwhile, tragedies in Belize City. The night after the election, I visited a popular bar called Putt Putt, steps away from the Princess Hotel and its casino. Two hours after I left, gunshots broke out at Putt Putt, and a bartender there was killed. In an incident that shocked the nation, the killer then pursued their target through the streets of Belize City, killing two more victims, one of them a 17-year-old girl.

Yes, violence is everywhere, and everywhere politicians feed their people pipe dreams. But something seems seriously wrong if a government can't police young, small-time criminals who, disillusioned by the hopelessness around them, turn to means only slightly less rational than their leaders'.

Next time I'm back in Belize, I'm looking forward to seeing more Belizeans move past talk of politics and even talk about the formal education system to a real the conversation about the PRESENT conditions in which our young people - from Brooklyn to Belize City - are growing up.

Monday, February 04, 2008

J'ouvert Morning

It's the Monday after j'ouvert Sunday and my first pilgrimage to Trini Carnival. There is one proud, persistent stripe of yellow paint still stuck to my left calf, and I am wondering, will people think I haven't bathed since Saturday? Will I maybe even get some brownie points for my filthiness? In this insane party atmosphere, who knows. Tomorrow, I'll be staying on the sidelines, not buying a costume to "play mas'" on the main parade day. Still, I'm feeling like a convert, my mind already racing to next year, imagining myself playing j'ouvert covered not in yellow paint, but plain ol' mud, brown like the skin I'm flaunting.

There is something about Carnival that allows the sheer hypeness of the bacchanal, of soca music, to coexist with the laid-back social vibe that you can find everywhere in the Caribbean. I spent the first day and a half of my trip here laying in wait, looking for a good "lime." I drive past the mosque and temple of a neighborhood called St. James with my host to check out the scene. We went to a bar called Smokey and Bunty's where we found pre-carnivalites back-to-back, grooving, treating their two square feet of dance floor like they owned it, like it was their own private backyard.

It is an awesome thing to witness for the first time, this egalitarian Carnival experience, this celebration that is collective and an expression of each one's most free and intimate self. I feel this environment seeping deep into my pores and cleansing all the worry, doubt, and judgment from my mind.

Next day, I walk the streets, ending up at Arapeta Avenue, the downtown heartbeat of Port of Spain Carnival. By now, music is blasting from every truck and car, so I'm involuntarily learning the lyrics to all the hottest club songs, from Machel's sensuous hits to pounding tracks heavy on the digital, like "My pressure bad, bad, bad. My pressure bad, bad, bad" ...repeat, repeat, ok, you get the picture. I am a stranger to everyone, but we all feel like we get on bad to the music, same way.

I'm not saying that in Trinidad the race and class issues were not apparent. They are blatantly apparent, though hard for an outsider to decipher. Driving around the city, you can see the hills that birthed the first steel bands players in the 1930's and 40's. In those days, I'm told, pan players were treated like second-class citizens, and I recall the familiar story of Trenchtown. I pass through a neighborhood perched on a gorgeous cliff overlooking Port of Spain and the skyscrapers built by oil money (I'm incredulous to see skyscrapers in the Caribbean). On a shoulder to the left of the road, tourists and lovers pull their cars over to watch the nighttime skyline. To the right, my host points toward the shantytowns beyond the trees.

But Carnival seems to equalize. You just let yourself go, no matter who you are. It's about your own body and your own spirit, not just the wining up on some other body to get your kicks on. And on Carnival Tuesday it seemed, every masquerader who had managed to scrounge together the 300 bucks for a costume was a celebrity for the day, sparkling and beaming, stopping for photo opps with friends and strangers.

I did wonder what the non-masqueraders, the St. James folk, were doing far from Arapeta Avenue. Maybe they had no time for the costume judging. So what was it that drove their lime, turned it into a full-blown fete? The rum? The music? The smell of roti bread being cooked on streetside grills? The sexy women? The company of friends? All I know is that night I ran into a friend from New York on Arapeta and as the Tribe band's truck snaked by for a good two hours, the D.J. spinning the hottest tracks, I got a real good wine on, the wine that I needed. I got a not too subtle reminder that we are born and die naked, barefoot, and covered in sweat and dirt.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Go Carry Him Back Home

For those of us who have been close to the work and music of Andy Palacio, heading down to Barranco, the small Garifuna village where he was raised, felt like a homecoming. In reality, it was nothing short of an invasion. We descended on Barranco, a village of some 200 inhabitants, not in the hundreds, but in the thousands. The scene reminded me of stories of the grand Belizean independence celebrations as they were held decades ago through the streets of Belize City. Except that the flags flying were the yellow, white, and black flags of the Garifuna nation (yellow for hope and riches, white for peace, and black for the ancestry of the people.)

The flood of emotion and praise that we experienced at the service continued when the chapel doors opened and we continued down Barranco's red dirt road in the pouring rain to see Andy laid to rest.

Like several mourners who I spoke with who didn't even know Andy personally, I was drawn to pay my respects because of who Andy was as a person, and what he fundamentally believed in. It was not only what Andy represented to us, or that Andy represented us. More than that, he exposed us to the world at our largest and yet most intimate selves. To me, Andy's greatest strength as a human being and as an artist was his vision, which was so personal to him, and yet so much larger than him. Without seeming to ever preach or teach, Andy made converts out of ordinary non-believers, making us feel that we could grasp something greater too, making us know that our own stories and songs were an act of pure resistance. His vision was about being true yourself, seeing yourself in the mirror of your own dirt-road, bakabush surroundings, and speaking your own name loudly wherever life's road might take you.

When we listen to the lyrics of this message through the barriers of our own shame or language or culture, we are transported outside of ourselves to a place where we can see ourselves, and therefore finally see each-other. Mourning his loss, we remain as desperate for this message as Andy's 13-year-old son, singing Ameuyengu, first shy then bolder, with a deepening voice as he smiled across the chapel at his sister.

Andy, somewhere in my heart, I can't help feeling the weight of fate in the uncanny timing of your final achievements. In an interview last August, I asked you what the most memorable reactions to the "Watina" album had been so far. You mentioned two: Michael Polonio, your cousin and President of the National Garifuna Council, and the renowned Belizean Garifuna anthropologist Joseph Palacio, who both told you that your work was done and that "you could now go in peace."

We could not have known that your ancestors would agree. We could not have known that these words would prove to be literally true. After all, you and your god knew your own time better than any one of us.


A Tribute for Andy Palacio
by Irma McClaurin
An African diaspora treasure dies
By Irma McClaurin
Updated 1/28/2008 6:23:52 PM

"...Down Albert Street, the main thoroughfare in Belize City, the 'punta' sounds of Andy Palacio and Chico Ramos can be heard rocking the streets." (Women of Belize: Gender and Change in Central America, p. 34).

I remember vividly finally mastering the undulating hip and shuffling feet movements that are the trade mark of punta, a dance form in Belize, Central America popularized by Andy Palacio, a local artist.

On Saturday, January 19, 2008, at the very young age of 47, Andy Palacio, a Belizean national treasure, died. His was an influence that resonated across many different borders inside Belize, and touched the hearts and souls of African-descended people throughout Central and South America, the Caribbean, the United States, Canada, Europe and Africa. Andy, and his people represent the spirit of resistance, creativity and innovation that we know is part of the character of the African Diaspora. The origins of the Garifuna people are complicated, and filled with many serendipitous events, resistance, will power, and genius.

As the story goes, West African slaves believed to come from "the Yoruba, Ibo and Ashanti tribes" were shipwrecked off the coast of the Island of St. Vincent. They came ashore and were protected by the indigenous population of Island Caribs with whom they formed strong alliances. The Island Caribs were an amalgamation of Carib and Arawak Indians that occurred sometimes through warfare, with Arawak women often taken as war prizes. As a result, the Arawak-Carib women spoke a different language than men. This women's language pattern survives into the present. The intermixing and intermarriage of the maroon (escaped) Africans and the Island Caribs resulted in a new people –the Garifuna-- whose language drew upon its African roots mixed with Carib and Arawak. Sometimes called Karaphuna, according to one source, " 'Gari' is African for food," and "Garifuna roughly translates into 'cassava-eating people.'"

Anthropologists labeled this newest group "black Carib" as a way of distinguishing them from the original indigenous populations of St. Vincent. This distinction would later have dire consequences. Over time, the Garifuna adopted the term Garinagu to describe themselves as a group, and Garifuna to refer to their language and culture.

While the Red, Yellow, and Black Carib co-existed peacefully with the French, they were in constant battle with British forces, especially after the signing of the 1763 Treaty of Paris that gave the British control of the island. The French allied themselves with the Caribs, and in 1795, despite a previous treaty, a major final battle over land occurred. The French surrendered one year later, but the Garinagu continued for another year. Despite their surrender, the British decided to exile the survivors. According to anthropologist, Mark Anderson, the British "seized upon the blackness of the Garifuna to question their [ethnic] purity and legitimacy and to justify their expulsion."

In1772, the British, distinguishing the Red and Yellow Caribs from those who appeared Black to them, separating families and loved ones, placed 4,338 people on a boat to the Roatan, one of islands off the coast of the Honduras. Only 2,026 people survived the journey. As I've written elsewhere, they "... were able to do so because of the cassava plant that they were able to hide among their clothes, keeping it moist through the sweat of their own bodies." The importance of cassava bread continues among Garinagua today.

Only a small group stayed to found what would become Punta Gorda, the oldest Garinagu town; the majority moved on, establishing themselves along the coast of Guatemala, Nicaragua, and much later Belize. It is this latter group who in 1832 arrived in Belize (formerly the British Honduras, and the only country in all of Central and South America where English is the national language) and took up residence in the district known as Stann Creek, but now called Dangriga, to which the late Palacio traces his cultural and historical roots.

What the Garifuna carried with them, as they formed a diaspora scattered throughout Central America (Spanish Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize, formerly the British Honduras), was a rich cultural tradition of music, foodways (especially their survival food-- cassava bread), and dugu (or ancestor worship), which they mingled successfully with their beliefs in the Anglican church. And, of course, music.

Belize mourns the loss of Palacio. He was only 47-years-old; those who had the good fortunate to meet him would attest to his modesty and humility despite the popularity of his music. And most of us remember his passion for preserving Garinagu culture and music.

In a January 21, 2008, interview for "All things Considered" on Minnesota Public Radio, Said Musa, former Prime Minister, and now president of the National Institute of History and Culture, called Andy "a cultural activist."

Indeed he was that and much because of his unwavering commitment to preserve the Garinagu history, language and culture. But Palacio was much more. For those of us in the African Diaspora in the United States who may never travel beyond the boundaries of our neighborhoods or regional and national borders, Andy's music was a window into our dynamic African Diaspora past, present and future. He proved through his music how resilient African culture could be and how relevant it still is to contemporary culture.

Andy's work and his music will serve as an inspiration for us to think about ourselves as an African Diaspora people who have given the world tremendous cultural riches. He will always be a Belizean national treasure. But he is also an African Diaspora treasure. He joins the ranks of some of our own Black American departed greats: Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Luther Vandross, and James Brown, to name a few.

We shall miss you Andy, even as the sounds of punta rock on.

Irma McClaurin is the author of Women of Belize: Gender and Change in Central America. As an anthropologist, she has conducted research in Belize since 1991. She joined the University of Minnesota in December as the new Associate VP for System Academic Administration and Executive Director of the Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center in North Minneapolis. The opinions expressed here are entirely her own.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Collected Tributes to Andy

A replay of Melissa Block's interview is available now on NPR,

Other Tributes Received Today

Hi Everyone,

My words are inadequate to express my feelings about the shocking
loss of Andy Palacio. He meant a lot to me, and I know he meant much
more to the international Garifuna community. But this is what I can

Please, let's do what we can to forward his mission.


Remembering Andy Palacio

[Something] Andy told me about his experience in Nicaragua has made his untimely passing so much more painful. Andy gave a little laugh when he thought about how when he was younger, he didn’t mind dying for a cause like for the Nicaraguan struggle, and how foolish that thought is to a more mature person. Of
course, he said, it’s making the most out of one’s life that truly
That Andy’s life was cut so tragically short just when his music and
his message had begun to reach a long-deserved worldwide audience is
still unfathonable...But even though 2007 became Andy’s banner year, it
was also the result of a life’s hard work...
As I traveled throughout Belize, it was clear how much Andy’s work
meant to that small country, especially its Garifuna minority. He was
particularly fortunate to have a kindred spirit in Ivan who not only
shared his artistic vision, but had the know how to translate it all
to the finished recorded product. A number of Garifuna advocates,
like the Cayetano family, who helped show how deep the social and
political ramifications of Andy’s music and message ran, especially
in such villages as Barranco, Hopkins and Dangriga.
I couldn’t have been more pleased that much of the conclusions I
reached in my 2003 thesis had become obsolete by 2007. While Andy’s
quotes about preparing for Watina, made me optimistic when I wrote
them down, it’s obviously much better to see what happens when the
best of those hopes are exceeded. By the time Andy was touring the
world and accepting awards on the heels of Watina, Nyasha Laing was
preparing a documentary film on Garifuna culture from her base in New
York and in Chicago Emery Joe Yost had been working on an informative
instructional DVD on Garifuna drumming. And in Belize, Ivan Duran had
put the finishing touches on a disc documenting Garifuna women
singers. Meanwhile, other international Garifuna artists like Aurelio
Martinez from Honduras and Rhodel Castillo (a Belizean Chicagoan)
began ascending to larger stages.
Last summer, Andy performed at Chicago’s Millennium Park. I spoke
with him for a while before his set and he seemed understandably
tired, as he had been in the midst of that exhaustive tour. And it
soon became apparent that he had been storing up his energy for his
terrific performance. Not only did the musical rapport soar among the
collective’s guitarists and percussionists, but Andy’s exchanges with
Paul Nabor charmed the hundreds in the park. Afterwards, Andy was
clearly elated at the reception, and so was the concert’s organizer,
Michael Orlove. When I spoke to briefly to Michael and Andy, Michael
said to Andy, “Aaron’s our white Garifuna.” Andy laughed and told me
that there’s a secret initiation process. To which I laughed, and
said, “Oh, no, you guys aren’t gonna break out the paddles are you?”
We were all smiles then, but I can’t help but wonder what I should
have said if I had any idea that would be the last words I’d say to
him. Still, the last image I have of Andy is of him beaming in the
post-performance afterglow.
As I heard about Andy’s sudden demise I tried to sum up his
importance to a colleague of mine who hadn’t heard his music. I said
something along the lines of, “Andy was as important to his people as
Bob Marley was to Jamaica.” It was an inadequate, inaccurate
statement. To be sure, Marley influence was profound, especially on
musicians like Andy. But Andy had a more difficult role, as he did
took on more duties than what could ordinarily be expected of a
musician. He was also an active preservationist, government official,
devoted teacher and, of course, a tireless interviewee. At all times,
he knew that wherever he went, he took with him, in person or in
spirit, a multitude that knew they were no longer on anyone’s
margins. As he wrote in the song “Amunegu” on Watina:

Ageindaguatian wayunagu lun habagaridun kei Garinagu
Wagia me san aferidirei wagaburi, madugawamei

It means:
Our ancestors fought to remain Garifuna
Why must we be the ones to lose our culture?
Let’s not do it

In the 21st century, the Garifuna couldn’t have asked for a better
champion than Andy Palacio.

Aaron Cohen
Associate Editor, DownBeat


From: Ivan Duran []
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2008 12:19 AM
To: Info


I received this email today allowing us to announce that Andy is the winner of the 2008 BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music in the Americas category.

Andy and I received news in December that he had won the award but we were asked to keep it strictly confidential until the award ceremony in April, Andy was scheduled to perform at the ceremony in London after receiving his award. I remember Andy being extremely happy the day we got the news and I know it was hard for him not to be able to share the news with his friends and fans in Belize.

Thank you to the BBC Radio 3 media partners for letting us break the news of this great honor for Belize in time for his tribute on Friday January 25th.

With respect,

Ivan Duran
Stonetree Records /
cell: 6105152

Dear Ivan

The partners in the BBC Radio 3 Awards For World Music have decided that it would be appropriate to release the information that Andy is the winner in the Americas category of the 2008 Awards, so that you may if you wish make this known locally and at his funeral. Normally this would not have been announced until April 10th along with all the other winners, but we all felt that these were truly exceptional circumstances that merited breaking the BBC embargo in this isolated case

I've attached a copy of the announcement which is going out now, and copied the text below (the main Doc also includes verbatim the text of your own official release).

Andy Palacio wins prestigious BBC Award

The tragic death on Saturday 19th January of Andy Palacio, the much-loved Garifuna musician from Belize, has made it appropriate to reveal that he is the winner of the Americas category in the 2008 BBC Radio 3 Awards For World Music.

Although decided by the jury in December, the official announcement of all the winners is not due to be made by the BBC until 10th April. However in these exceptional circumstances, the news of this should be released now so that a full measure of his achievements and the regard in which he was held by the world music community can be recorded along with the many other tributes now being made to him. When this is heard at his State funeral in Belize on Friday, his people will know that this Garifuna musician, with his marginalised indigenous culture, had been chosen as the best artist of all the Americas.

BBC Radio 3 presenter Lucy Duran, who is to broadcast a tribute to Andy Palacio this coming Saturday, has commented: "The news of Andy Palacio's untimely death has been an absolute shock. It seems impossible that Andy has gone. He was young, healthy, dynamic, at his prime. And such a loss to so many people around the world, at the very moment when he was truly set to become an international star - with the incredible success of the album Wátina - such a loss to his own people, the Garifuna, for whom he was such an articulate and charismatic spokesman. Such a personal loss to Ivan Duran - fellow Belizean musician and music producer, who worked tirelessly for so many years with Andy on making Garifuna music better known, culminating in Wátina, which has an anthemic quality to it and has been for many in the world music industry the best album of 2007. This is quite simply heartbreaking news."

Many of us in the world music community were moved by Andy Palacio's acceptance speech on receiving the 2007 Womex Award, in which he stated: "I see this award not so much as a personal endorsement but in fact as an extraordinary and sincere validation of a concept in which artists such as myself take up the challenge to make music with a higher purpose that goes beyond simple entertainment. I accept this award on behalf of my fellow artists from all over the world with the hope that it will serve to reinforce those sentiments that fuel cultures of resistance and pride in one's own."

We are proud to make this announcement that Andy Palacio has won the Americas Award in the 2008 BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music, though can only wish that it were made in very different circumstances.

fRoots magazine, Songlines magazine, Rough Guide To World Music, Womex

-- Ian Anderson
Editor: fRoots Magazine


the candle is out
the light remains

chekist1917 (1 day ago)
rest in peace Andy

jackeline24 (2 days ago)
No se fue esta con nosotros, Centroamerica lo llora, pero sigue aquí en su casa, en el mar, en las palmeras, su vos vibra en el tambor garifuna, una guitarra en medio de nuestro cálido Caribe! que viva mi CENTROAMERICA que DIOS te tenga en su gloria ANDY.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Andy Rests With the Ancestors


With a heavy heart, I wanted share this news of the passing of Andy Palacio, a brilliant songwriter, articulate advocate, and performer who touched hundreds of thousands of lives around the world during his lifetime. As Andy told me in Vermont last August, the Garifuna elders have spoken their verdict that Andy had already accomplished his work and mission on this earth.

This morning, I am setting to work assembling images as testimony to an amazing journey with Andy and the Garifuna Collective last year. But no images or words can express the private loss felt by so many at this time. We will miss his wry sense of humor, his relentless faith, his insight into the human spirit, and his ability to inspire us all. My prayers to Andy's loved ones.


Dear all:

We are heartbroken to report that Andy Palacio passed away tonight at 9pm Belize time. The cause of death was a massive and extensive stroke to the brain, a heart attack and respiratory failure due to the previous two conditions. After having been waylaid in Mobile, Alabama while en route to emergency care in Chicago, Andy had been brought back to a hospital in Belize last night so that he could die in his homeland.

Words can’t express the sorrow we feel at the loss of such a tremendous person and artist.

A more formal press release is copied below. Please pass this information on to the countless people around the world who have been impacted by Andy’s music and message. Feel free to post this announcement to your email lists or blogs, as we want to make sure that everyone who knows Andy or his music are aware of what has happened.

We are together at the Cumbancha office in Vermont. Ivan will be heading to Belize as soon as possible to attend the funeral ceremonies and the tribute concert that is planned for this coming Friday.

In the Garifuna culture the death of a loved one is an opportunity to celebrate their memory and rejoice in having been blessed to have had them in your life. We feel so fortunate to have known this incredible individual and we mourn the loss of truly great man.

In an interview conducted last July, Andy was asked how he wanted to be remembered when he died. He replied, "As a proud Garifuna...someone who instills pride in Garifuna and raises their
self-esteem. To me, that's the most important thing." This was already the case while he was alive, and we’re certain it will only be more true in the future.


Ivan Duran and Jacob Edgar

DECEMBER 2, 1960 – JANUARY 19, 2008



Belizean Musician Andy Palacio Passes Away After Heart Attack and Stroke

January 19, 2008 - Andy Palacio, an iconic musician and cultural activist in his native Belize and impassioned spokesperson for the Garifuna people of Central America, was declared dead tonight at 9pm Belize time due to a massive and extensive stroke to the brain, a heart attack and respiratory failure due to the previous two conditions.

Palacio, 47, started feeling poorly last week and eventually visited a doctor with complaints of dizziness and blurred vision. On the 16th of January, he began experiencing seizures and was rushed to a hospital in Belmopan, Belize and then on to another hospital in Belize City. At this point, most people were hopeful Palacio would recover.

On January 17th, Palacio’s condition worsened and he began experiencing more seizures. He was placed on an air ambulance to Chicago where he was expected to get treatment at one of the premier neurological facilities in the country. En route to Chicago, the plane stopped in Mobile, Alabama to clear immigration. At that point, Palacio was unconscious and it was determined that he was too ill to continue on the flight to Chicago. He was rushed to a hospital in Mobile, and placed on life support. There, doctors determined that the damage to his brain function was severe, and that his chances of recovery were slim. On January 18th, his family requested that he be flown back to Belize so that he might die in his homeland.

A national hero in Belize for his popular music and advocacy of Garifuna language and culture, news of Palacio’s condition sent shockwaves through the community. At 5pm today, a public service was held in Belize City for Palacio as people prayed for his recovery. Ceremonies were also held by Garifuna spiritual leaders in an effort to help with the situation. Belize is in the midst of a heated election, but the local news was entirely dominated by Palacio’s health crisis.

The reaction has also been strong around the world. Until the recent turn of events, the past year had been one of tremendous accomplishment for Palacio as his album Wátina, which was released at the beginning of 2007, had become one of the most critically acclaimed recordings of the year in any genre. Perhaps the most unanimously revered world music album in recent memory, Wátina appeared on dozens of Best of the Year lists in major media outlets around the globe and was roundly praised in glowing terms.

In 2007, Palacio was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace and won the prestigious WOMEX Award. Wátina was also nominated for the BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards. At home in Belize, the international success of Wátina has sparked a revival of Garifuna music, as young musicians have become inspired by Palacio’s example. Even in the days since Palacio’s health crisis began, the accolades have continued to pour in for his work.

That Palacio has been struck down at a moment of such international acclaim only increases the sense of shock and tragedy felt at his sudden and untimely death.

Andy Palacio will be honored with an official state funeral. A massive tribute concert is planned in Belize City on Friday, January 25th.

Friends and supporters are invited to post messages in memory of Andy Palacio to his MySpace page ( as well as to the blog of his international record label Cumbancha (



Andy Palacio was not only the most popular musician in Belize, he was also a serious music and cultural activist with a deep commitment to preserving his unique Garifuna culture. Long a leading proponent of Garifuna popular music and a tireless advocate for the maintenance of the Garifuna language and traditions, Palacio recently achieved international acclaim for his work as a recording and performing artist thanks to the critical success of his early 2007 album Wåtina.

Andy Vivien Palacio was born in the small coastal village of Barranco, Belize on December 2, 1960. Palacio grew up listening to traditional Garifuna music as well as imported sounds coming over the radio from neighboring Honduras, Guatemala, the Caribbean and the United States. “Music was always a part of daily life,” said Palacio, “It was the soundtrack that we lived to.” Along with some of his peers, he joined local bands even while in high school and began developing his own voice, performing covers of popular Caribbean and Top 40 songs.

However, it was while working with a literacy project on Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast in 1980 and discovering that the Garifuna language and culture was steadily dying in that country, that a strong cultural awareness took hold and his approach to music became more defined. “I saw what had happened to my people in Nicaragua. The cultural erosion I saw there deeply affected my outlook,” he said in late 2006, “and I definitely had to react to that reality.” His reaction took the form of diving deeper into the language and rhythms of the Garifuna, a unique cultural blend of West African and Indigenous Carib and Arawak Indian language and heritage. “It was a conscious strategy. I felt that music was an excellent medium to preserve the culture. I saw it as a way of maintaining cultural pride and self esteem, especially in young people.”

Palacio became a leading figure in a growing renaissance of young Garifuna intellectuals who were writing poetry and songs in their native language. He saw the emergence of an upbeat, popular dance form based on Garifuna rhythms that became known as punta rock and enthusiastically took part in developing the form. Andy began performing his own songs and gained stature as a musician and energetic Garifuna artist. In 1987, he was able to hone his skills after being invited to work in England with Cultural Partnerships Limited, a community arts organization. Returning home to Belize with new skills and a four track recording system, he helped found Sunrise, an organization dedicated to preserving, documenting and distributing Belizean music. While his academic background and self-scholarship allowed for his on-going documentation of Garifuna culture through lyrics and music, it is his exuberance as a performer that has helped earn him worldwide recognition.

Palacio also brought his passion for Garifuna culture into the public sector. In December 2004, Palacio was appointed Cultural Ambassador and Deputy Administrator of the National Institute of Culture and History of Belize.

About five years ago, Belizean producer Ivan Duran, Palacio’s longtime collaborator and founder of the local label Stonetree Records, convinced Palacio that he should focus on less commercial forms of Garifuna music and look more deeply into its soul and roots. Duran and Palacio set out to create an all-star, multi-generational ensemble of some of the best Garifuna musicians from Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. The Garifuna Collective unites elder statesmen such as legendary Garifuna composer Paul Nabor, with up-and-coming voices of the new generation such as Aurelio Martinez from Honduras and Adrien Martinez from Belize. Rather then focusing solely on danceable styles like punta rock, the Collective explores the more soulful side of Garifuna music, such as the Latin-influenced paranda, and the sacred dügü, punta and gunjei rhythms.

Palacio and Duran embarked on the production of Wátina, an album that would come to redefine modern Garifuna music and become one of the most critically-acclaimed world music releases of 2007. The initial recording sessions for this exceptional album took place over a 4-month period in an improvised studio inside a thatch-roofed cabin by the sea in the small village of Hopkins, Belize. It was an informal environment, where the musicians spent many hours playing together late into the night, honing the arrangements of the songs that would eventually end up on this album. While the traditions provided the inspiration, the musicians also added contemporary elements that helped give the songs relevance to their modern context. After the sessions, Ivan Duran worked tirelessly back at his studio to craft what is surely the pinnacle of Garifuna music production to date.

Wátina, which was released at the beginning of 2007, became one of the most critically acclaimed recordings of the year in any genre. Perhaps the most unanimously revered world music album in recent memory, Wátina appeared on dozens of Best of the Year lists in major media outlets around the globe and was roundly praised in glowing terms. These best-of lists put an exclamation point on what had been an incredible year for Andy Palacio and the worldwide recognition of Garifuna music. In November, 2007, Palacio became the first Caribbean and Central American artist to be designated a UNESCO Artist for Peace. He received the prestigious WOMEX Award in October, 2007 which was co-awarded to Ivan Duran. In September, 2007 Palacio was conferred the Order of Meritorious Service by the Prime Minister of Belize. Wátina was also nominated for the influential BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards. At home in Belize, the international success of Wátina has sparked a revival of Garifuna music, as young musicians have become inspired by Palacio’s example.


Stonetree Records
35 Elizabeth Street
Benque Viejo del Carmen
Belize, Central America

t: 501-8232241
f: 501-8232240

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Games Goliath U.S. Plays

Did you know that last year Washington stopped American banks and credit card companies from processing payments to online gambling businesses outside the country? I didn't know this until I heard a story on NPR the other day about how the U.S. restrictions are pitting our goliath gaming industry against the small, Caribbean nation of Antigua. The island is a formerly tourist-driven economy, like many countries, struggling to reinvent itself in the face of globalization.

Last month, in a decision that followed a 2005 ruling by the World Trade Organization, the WTO ruled on the online gaming dispute between the States and Antigua, saying that while some disputed laws (including state laws) are "necessary to protect public morals." The argument reminds me of the objections the U.S. government raised when the Pequoit Indians and other tribes discovered gaming as a way to raise their communities up from the mire of poverty that has been caused by the raping of their lands and historic mismanagement of their federal trust funds.

Sadly, the lack of an unambiguous defeat or victory at the WTO in the Antigua case may embolden the Bush administration to suggest only minor changes to federal gambling laws. If this happens, these laws will invariably continue to have an adverse effect on the struggling Antigan gaming industry. The larger countries of the European Union calready have complained about that the U.S. regulations create a trade imbalance with respect to their commerce as well.

Antigua is seeking compensation from the World Trade organization worth US $3.4 billion a year. It is asking the trade body for authorization to ignore copyright and patent laws which it said would hit U.S. firms hard. I'm staying tuned for more on this story, which if not fascinating on its legal merits, is a classic case of an age old moral dilemma, and an unfair imposition of "family values" on a culture that, in my opinion, has already got its values squared away.

Even though the Justice Department believes that Internet gambling is illegal, it's become popular in the last few years - worldwide - as with most other Internet commerce. The industry was expected to collect revenues of between $4.2 billion and $5 billion in 2003, according to a Government Accountability Office study. Meanwhile, as Bush seeks to shut down electronic gambling, his cronies in and around the administration are transfering billions to Antiguan and Bermuda based offshore banking entities without as much as a whisper, a tax credit, or an investment in the progress of those countries.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Earthquake Devastates Afro-Peruvian Towns

As the death toll mounts in Peru from earthquake which devastated the Southern province of Ica on August 15 and the days after, 100,000 people, including women and young children, are still without shelter. The catastrophe brings to mind familiar images from coastal communities around the world: Katrina, the South Indian farmers exposed by last year's monsoons, the Tsunami. It is the first time in memory that afro-Peruvian communities have been hit as hard as this. I hadn't seen any images and was shocked to hear about the devastation from amy friend Mónica Carrillo Zegarra, an activist and artist.
Monica is the Director of Centro de Estudios y Promocion Afroperuanos (LUNDU), an organization of Afro-Peruvian youth promoting recognition and respect for Peru’s African-descendant population, has appealed for assistance and support in the disaster relief. She writes:

"Dear Friends:

Many thanks for your messages of solidarity. As of this writing there are over 500 dead, but once the debris is cleared away there will be many more. There is a lack of water, light and telephone services in several districts and regions of the country. The epicenter of the earthquake was in Chincha located in the department of Ica and Callao, where the populations is mainly Afro-Peruvian.

There are also many Afro-Peruvian in El Carmen, a subdivision of Chincha, where 80 to 100 percent of the houses built during slavery have been destroyed, including our Centro Referencial de LUNDU.

Although the Afro-Peruvian Youth Network of LUNDU has been affected by the earthquake, its members are organizing help brigades to channel all of the donations that are being offered. They as well as their family have lost their homes and are currently sleeping outdoors in the cold weather.

Callao, located in Lima, is another area affected by the earthquake, particularly the poor who live in wooden and cardboard houses meters away from the sea.

In Lima many houses have been damaged and many more are at risk to collapse. People there are also sleeping outdoors and run the risk of a Tsunami. They cannot return to their homes, for these have also been destroyed. In Callao we are working with 25 children and adolescents in the marginalized zones.

In spite of the all the help these zones are receiving, there is a high level of exclusion and racism towards the inhabitants of our communities. Although we have a social responsibility with all people affected by the earthquake, it is imperative that we guarantee help for Afro-Peruvians and the poor, who neither receive priority treatment in good times nor in moments of disaster.

We are in the midst of a cold winter and the needs of the earthquake victims are many, so we would be thankful to receive the following items: foodstuff, winter clothes, blankets, mattresses, and money to support the housing reconstruction program, particularly pre-fabricated houses to replace the temporary canvas tents, which are not expected to last beyond one week. We will also distribute the donations to the affected communities to cover the urgent and immediate cost of food, medicine and other incidentals.

If we are unable to answer the telephone, please communicate with us via email.

We are grateful for your support. We will send a narrative and financial report to account for all resources received and expenditures incurred.

For donations in dollars please use:
Scotiabank, Account # 2082548,
San Felipe. Make check out to LUNDU.

Donations can also be made by international transfer by using one of the known services such as Moneygram. In these cases in order to expedite the transfer, please make the check payable to Monica Carrillo Zegarra (Lima).

Others may leave their donation in the offices of LUNDU.
Avenida Cuba 249, oficina C, Jesus Maria.
Our cellular telephone is (0511) 93530955, and the office telephone is (0511) 4727524

Monica Carrillo
Director, Centro de Estudios y Promocion Afroperuanos
Avenida Cuba 249, oficina C, Jesus Maria


Queridas compañera/os:

Muchas gracias por sus comunicaciones solidarias. Hasta el momento son cerca de 500 muertos pero se esperan muchos mas ya que se estan levantando escombros. En varios distritos y regiones no hay agua, luz ni adecuada comunicacion telefonica. El epicentro del terremoto fue en Chincha, que pertenece al departamento de Ica y Callao, con gran predominancia de poblacion afroperuana .

El Carmen esta ubicado en Chincha que tiene mas. Las casas - muchas de ellas construidas desde la epoca de la esclavitud - son muy precarias y se han destruido en un 80 o 100% , incluyendo el Centro Referencial de LUNDU.

Los jovenes de la Red de Jovenes Afroperuanos de LUNDU son parte de los afectados, pero estan organizandose para poder brindar ayuda y canalizar todas las donaciones que puedan ser ofrecidas. Ello/as, al igual que sus familias estan durmiendo a la interperie ya que sus viviendas estan destruidas.

El Callao, ubicado en Lima otro de los lugares más afectados, especialmente los habitantes de las zonas mas pobres, que viven a escasos metros frente al mar en casas de madera, o de carton.

En Lima también existen muchas casas resquebrajadas y con riesgo de devastación.

Ellos tambien estan durmiendo en la interprerie por el riesgo del Tsunami, y tampoco pueden volver a sus casas porque estan destruidas. En el Callao estamos trabajando con 25 niños y adolescentes de las zonas mas marginalizadas.

A pesar de que la atencion esta siendo canalizada hacia estas zonas, existe un gran nivel de exclusion y racismo hacia nuestras comunidades, por ende se hace necesario tener responsabilidad social hacia todos los afectados, pero garantizando que la ayuda tambien pueda ser alcanzada por las comunidades afroperuanas y mas pobres, que no prioritarias ni siquiera en epocas de desastre.

Estamos en un crudo invierno, las necesidades son muchas pero agradeceremos tener atencion a lo siguiente:

-Viveres ( alimentos)
-Ropa de invierno
-Dinero para apoyar la reconstruccion de casas. En este punto la idea es proveer de casas prefabricadas ya que las carpas son temporales y las personas no podrian soportar mas de una semana.
Tambien para trasladar las donaciones recibidas hacia las comunidades.
Quienes tengan las posibilidades de enviar dinero seria muy importante ya que nos permitiria tomar decisiones y poder utilizarlo prontamente en las necesidades urgentes de comida, medicinas y otros.

Si no podemos contestar el telefono, por favor envien un correo ya que las comunicaciones no son del todo buenas

Enviaremos un reporte narrativo y financiero sobre la canalizacion de los recursos, esperamos su apoyo

Para donaciones:
en dolares
Banco: Scotiabank
Numero de cuenta 2082548
Direccion de Banco: San Felipe
Nombre: LUNDU

tambien pueden enviar como giro internacional a traves de servicios como
Money Grant, a nombre de Monica Carrillo Zegarra (Lima) ya que puede ser una manera más rapida de recibir los fondos.

Pueden dejar sus donaciones en las oficinas de LUNDU. Avenida Cuba 249, oficina C, Jesus Maria. El numero de celular es (0511) 93530955, numero de oficina (0511) 4727524."

I also note that one of the areas hit hardest by the earthquake is the city of El Carmen, which has been called the cradle of Afro-Peruvian culture and music. The earthquake destroyed more than 80 percent of El Carmen’s housing stock (houses first built during slavery). Other towns closest to the epicenter, such as Chincha Alta and Cañete, are also home to much of Peru’s black population.

Because it is currently winter in Peru and the temperature continues to drop, the loss of homes is particularly devastating for its citizens. People are sleeping on the street with no protection, the wounded lay on hospital floors, the electricity supply is out, and the highway infrastructure is destroyed. Hospitals are understaffed and overwhelmed.

Please do what you can to support Monica, LUNDU, and her community outside of Lima. Also, I'll send info soon on a fundraising event featuring Monica's spoken word poetry here in NYC soon, and I look forward to seeing you.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Remnants of An Artist We Loved

I went to Wingate Park in Brooklyn yesterday, curious, more than anything, about whether young Jamaican pop star Sean Kingston had anything in him besides a pop frenzy induced big head. He didn't. Sean's performance of Beautiful for the crowd (over 10,000) was about the worst thing I've ever seen live at any concert, paid or free. Shouted rather than sang, and couldn't even remember the lyrics to Beautiful, jumped up and down in a sloppy T-Shirt with little stage presence or rhythm, jumped into the crowd as if it were a mosh pit, was even interested in reaching out to grab him.

I can't say, unfortunately, that Lauren Hill was an even bigger disappointment that Sean Kingston, because I in fact had pretty low expectations. When she finally graced the stage with her presence after a one-hour-wait to greet the standing room crowd in a brown leather knee length vest, the murmor of everyone around me was the same: "What the hell is she wearing? What's up with her hair? Does she think she's Oprah?" I don't think these were just the petty reactions of a mean-spirited crowd. The men and women around me, young and old, were still hopefull that she'd somehow give a decent performance. They seemed to love Lauren like a sister. Only, they sensed something seriously gone wrong in the sister's walk, her voice, her vibe. I think we wondered what diva spirit had possessed L-Boogie, known for her simple flair and grace, for never being too overdone or flashy, but always, through the drama of stardom, being able to come across as just herself.

The mysterious outlandish outfit told me that there was a deeper crisis within. As loud and as passionate as she seemed, it seemed she had had withdrawn from the world. She didn't even try - as Sean Kingston had, and failed - to connect with the crowd. She seemed to be saying, simply, this is Lauren's world.

Even though I hadn't expected much more, it was for me a sad dose of reality about the hopelessness of finding a place in the music industry for R&B, hip hop, and dance hall artists with true soul. I was among the folks who walked out on Lauren with a sad pout on my face. Even though I hadn't paid for a ticket, I felt as cheated as anyone, my expectations reduced to the memory of a true artists who have, over the years, been able with the simplicity of song and grace to touch so many folks.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Caribbean Entrepreneur and Heads of State

I attended the Conference on the Caribbean in Washington last week (I spent most of my time in the Diaspora Conference on June 20), and I can tell you that there was no lack of enthusiasm about a united future for the Caribbean across regional and international borders. But the consensus of whose with who I spoke with - journalists, businessmen and diplomats from Belize, Trinidad, and St. Lucia - seemed to be that it is a lack of creative, bottom-up organizing within each of the home countries that prevents us reaching any momentum through CARICOM or any other political body.

Caribbean summits happen yearly, but there is rarely a concerted plan of action that comes out of them. It is the entrepreneurs and activists who are truly helping the Caribbean continue to do for itself. One Canadian entrepreneur who offered to donate one $1 Million dollars in medical supplies to Haiti put the sentiment well. "I'm not here to talk, and I don't want any crap," he said. I'm here to get this done."

For me, the event reinforced the importance of the cross-border, virtual spaces we've created for sharing the ideas about pan-Caribbean development. The event convinced me that the best help those of us in the "Diaspora" community can offer is to lend resources to strengthening these communication channels and the collective action they can ultimately promote. The consensus of many of us at the Diaspora Forum was that we need to keep listening to the conversations that come outside of formal discourse, and tapping into our collective entrepreneurial spirit.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Guantanamo - What Will Obama Say?

In incredible news this morning the new defense minister Robert Gates is calling for the close of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. Yet another strike against the administration's war policies - from the Walter Reade scandal, to the torture scandals, to the recent court cases condemning the detention of Iraqi-Americans in custody in Iraq.

Meanwhile, on Larry King, Barack Obama called for a virtually immediate end to the war that is costing greater and greater devastation to Iraqi civilians (The United Nations estimates that two million Iraqis are currently displaced within their homeland) as well as to neighboring countries like Uzbekistan and our returned soldiers and their families here at home.

There is so much criticism brewing around the administration and the war that, for those of us outside of the discussion over Guantanamo, it is hard to tell the difference between a shrewd political consession, an act of showmanship, and a decision in the interest of national security. But no matter what the motivations for the administration's change in stance on Guantanamo, it comes at a critical time.

Who would have thought that what amounts to a dramatic shift in strategy over our domestic legal approach to the war on terror would coincide with the loudest calls to change to our military policy Iraq? Closing Guantanamo would seem to be an unavoidable windfall for those who have been fighting to protect the rights of the prisoners. Moving the prisoners from the physical isolation and unprecendented legal black hole of the military detention center (in Cuba of all places!) can both as a practical and legal matter serve as nothing more than an admission of their human rights and civil rights. This is a chance for immigrant and human rights advocates to gain foothold in their fight against the United State's inhumane policies on the detention of deportees, refugees, and suspected terrorists.