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May 23, 2018

Honoring the “Flowers Bank Fourteen”

Next Friday, June first, marks not only the start of the hurricane season but an important milestone in Belizean history. On that date in 1797, the vote of twelve free black men and two whites residing in the area at a public meeting in Belize Town irreversibly swayed the decision of residents of the Belize Settlement to stay and fight what would become known as the Battle of St. George’s Caye. That battle saw a combination of British and Belizean forces defeat an invading Spanish force from Mexico and launch our tiny nation into existence. Ten years on from the first dedication of a monument in honor of the Flowers Bank Fourteen, a group of activists continue the tradition of honoring them with an official ceremony and festival in the village near the banks of the Belize River. With more here is chairperson of the Belize History Association, Doctor Abigail McKay, and the village’s chairman, Clinton Rhaburn.

 

Abigail McKay

Dr. Abigail McKay, Chair, Belize History Association

“But for the first of June, 1797, Belize would be a different kind of set-up. There are always backstories to [the story]; the Battle of St. George’s Caye has a back-story, which is June first, 1797; and June first, 1797, has a back-story, because twenty years or so before that, the Spaniards had raided Belize Settlement, Belize Town and taken off a bunch of the slaves and the Baymen to prison in Cuba. And so when June first came around and they had to decide whether they were going to stay or leave, there was a lot of fear in the settlement. So having twelve black men, free men, from Flowers’ Bank, and two white men who broke that tie, to say that we will stay and defend, that is telling you that they decided then – that is history for all Belizeans, not just River Valley people or Kriol. All of Belize. That is when our country was born, when people decided to stay and fight because this was their home.”

 

Clinton Rhaburn

Clinton Rhaburn, Chairman, Flowers Bank Village

“The history says that these men left from Flowers Bank and along [the river] to attend this meeting. In those days, the only way they could have traveled from Flowers Bank to Belize Town was by dory; they got in their dories and they paddled down, according to the history, to be at the meeting on time. They didn’t [go] to the first session of the meeting, so what happened the meeting went to a tie. These fourteen men were in the area and so they went in search of these fourteen men, and when they got these fourteen men to the voting area they all cast their vote to say they will not evacuate, that they will stay and fight. People maybe don’t want to believe, but it is the history that these guys did vote that they will not evacuate, they will stay and fight.”

 

Some of the surnames of the men – like Rhaburn, Robinson, Dawson and especially Flowers – survive to this day in the River Valley and surrounding areas. The activity begins with a libation ceremony at sunrise at the site of the monument. A bus will leave at four-thirty a.m. from Belize City in time to make Flowers Bank by sunrise, about forty-five minutes later. Official ceremonies kick off at ten Saturday morning, June second, followed by sporting activities and games.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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