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Jul 23, 2019

A Protest at Ground Zero; Activists Want Building Named ‘1919 Plaza’

An energetic group protested at ground zero this morning at the foot of the Swing Bridge in Belize City. They want to rectify a vexing matter in respect of the naming of the new building that replaces the old Paslow building. That building was gutted by a fire in 2002 and now that a new one is going up, the name Paslow is a reminder of the injustices and racism of the colonial past. The protesters rightly believe that the building should carry a more fitting name and be a place to celebrate Mayan and African history. Here is News Five’s Duane Moody.


Duane Moody, Reporting

A group of activists staged a protest in front of ground zero; saying they want the replacement building to be named “1919 Plaza,” after the ex-servicemen revolution, and not enslaver Thomas Paslow, who was found guilty of mutilating black slaves.


YaYa Marin Coleman, Activist

YaYa Marin Coleman

“When dehn tell fi his story, yo woulda think seh nobody neva deh yah before dehn British enslavers come ya. Indigenous Mayan people were in this settlement. And that is why we have to tell fi we own story as opposed to Belizean studies and his story. We have to tell African and Mayan stories like SJC has been doing for the past seven years. Yes dah wah Belizean story, but we clear, black people organized and revolt historically. There were seven recorded revolts before and after the story of the Flowers Bank Fourteen and the Battle of the Saint George’s Caye, but dehn noh tell we that ina fi his story. When dehn tell fi dehn story, dehn make it seem like it was an ex-servicemen centred revolution, but the majority of people dah Belize Town at the time—had about twelve to fifteen thousand people—three thousand of them, majority ah dehn dah mi black skin people, and dehn mi revolt against the white supremacy system and middle class Creole. Dehn people ina 1919 ad the awareness that this dah black people space and dah only wah handful ah unu white people deh yah and we di push back on the oppression. 1919 dah after the 1838 Emancipation and people still were enslaved.”


The Paslow Building once stood at the foot of the Swing Bridge, at the corner of Queen and North Front Streets. It was a three-storey colonial structure that housed several government departments as well as the magistrate’s courts in Belize City. But back in 2002, a fire gutted the third floor and by 2003, it was torn down. Some sixteen years later, through the Belize City House of Culture and Downtown Rejuvenation Project, two-storey concrete building with parking space to the rear and various office spaces will serve as a welcome centre for tourists and Belizeans to gather information about the commercial city and Old Capital. It will also be a space for artisans and other organizations. But the protestors have another plan.


Yasser Musa

Yasser Musa, Founder, Image Factory Art Foundation

“There has been a lot of discussion among teachers, educators, community activists, artists that a place like this, so centrally located, should have something like an African and Mayan museum. That would attract millions of people to come and see what we consider important, what we value. If yo want to get into tourism, people admire and respect what the people value. So there is no way we can take lightly the value of this space and the economic potential that this place could have for this city.”


But are their voices falling on deaf ears? Both the UBAD Educational Foundation and the Image Factory Art Foundation have teamed up and after two days of activities say they are energized and ready for the next step.


Yasser Musa

“None of this just happened by chance; this moment that we are in today is a reflection of the people who we are today as people living and looking around and being conscious of what’s going on. Obviously we are calling the name that they are proposing, “Paslow Plaza” to be totally scrapped. There are community members who have posted online recommendations—one that has come forward a lot is “1919 Plaza.” But we will continue from today with a petition to explain to the people why that name cannot be tolerated at all.”


YaYa Marin Coleman

“We di say we di come to the streets. We gwen throughout the whole country for the rest of the year, every market—we wah have pop-up consciousness classes. We noh know everything, we make mistakes, we di learn. Question everybody and everything. Question we; we encourage the provocation like wi bredda Delmar weh write the book Rights, weh tell the story ina wah engaging way about the 1919 Revolution.”

Duane Moody for News Five.

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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