Remembering Leela in P.G.
In Punta Gorda this morning, cultural icon Leela Vernon was laid to rest with all the trappings of an official funeral. Vernon passed away on February nineteenth. She had been ailing for some time and was hospitalized at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital where she passed away. Her death has had a tremendous impact on the cultural scene in particular as it relates to the promotion and preservation of the Creole culture. Today, those who knew her work remembered the Queen of Brukdown with flowing tribute. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
Belize bids farewell to another cultural icon, following a night of tribute to the musical brilliance that was Leela Vernon. Famous for a slew of brukdong numbers, including one that perhaps all Belizeans, young and old, are familiar with, her impact on the Creole culture is immeasurable. That song, ‘Ah Waahn Noa Hoo Seh Kriol Noh Ga No Kolcha!” was released in 2001 and quickly became the most recognizable piece of music in her catalog.
Wil Maheia, Eulogist
“She was moved to do something about the need of the Creole people and to find a way to immortalize their songs, culture, food and a way of life. And I’m telling you, after what NICH did last night I think everybody get the sense. I mean that was something, if you missed that party last night you missed the party of a lifetime. Thank you NICH. She was the cofounder of the first Kriol Council of Belize at her home at number six Front Street in Punta Gorda Town, like a lot of people say, at number six Leela Vernon Street.”
A native of Punta Gorda, Leela Vernon’s call to preserve and promote the rich heritage of the Creole people spread beyond the Toledo District, becoming a nationalistic movement unto itself. Dangriga Area Representative Frank ‘Papa’ Mena shares his recollection of the Queen of Brukdong.
Frank ‘Papa’ Mena, Official Remembrance
“Through her musical genius she inspired us to embrace our roots and to live authentically. Leela projected an idea that was burning in her soul, it was the idea that Belize Creole man and Creole woman were inheritors of an African and European cultural heritage. She spoke with conviction and confidence that the Creole are also an indigenous group of Belize. She was cognizant of the fact that Creole culture emerged in Belize as a result of both the dreadful experience of African enslavement by the Europeans and by the intermingling and socialization that resulted.”
Brukdong, a genre of Belizean music, has given rise to a number of homegrown talents, including Mr. Peters and the Boom and Chime Band, Bredda David and Leela Vernon, as monarch of that category of artistic work.
Myrna Manzanares, Friend/Cultural Attache, National Kriol Council
“Nobody else deh pan dis earth like you Leela. Nobody else weh put fih dehn music and fih dehn kulcha way up toppa di top eena like you Leela. If only others mi gat fi you passion and love fi dehn ya tings weh show yoh own true, true self kulcha, no matta if yoh da Kriol, Mestizo, Garifuna, Maya, East Indian or any other kulcha eena wih country dehn Belize woulda cohn together fi true and wih nation woulda get nuff blessing and each kulcha group woulda got dehn correct place and respect eena dis country. Ah know how yoh love up yo kulcha and yo music Leela. Ah know how much yoh mi soh treasure yo Mayan mixture but yoh mi choose fi identify wid yo African ancestors because yoh mi know seh how dis deh so important fu di Belize Kriol and we all much betta seka dis. You dah one Belizean to di bone, toppa di top Leela and like Mr. Peters, you wahn live eena fu we heart and mind forever and we wahn memba you forever as part ah wi rich, rich kulcha and music heritage.”
Dedicating a lifetime to music and activism, Leela Vernon was bestowed with the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. She had performed her ‘Buru-style’ Brukdong for Queen Elizabeth II upon her visit to PG in 1994.
Juliette Vernon-Austin, Daughter of Leela Vernon
“Our beloved national hero. I would like to thank all those who helped her during her time of need. Another angel has earned her wings. Your work here is done mom, your work here is done. Rest in peace.”
Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.