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Jan 25, 2023

William Dawson: The Legacy of a Lion

William Dawson

This morning, Belizeans woke up to the shocking news of the untimely passing of William Dawson, the chairman of the Leadership Intervention Unit. His contributions to crime fighting, particularly throughout the gang-ridden streets of Belize City, are unmatched. He dedicated the last two years of his life breaking bread with the most vulnerable in society, in an effort to understand their needs and champion their cause. Through this approach, many young men and women within the gangs of Belize City came to know Dawson as a caring individual with their best interest at heart. The trust and bond he was able to build gave him unfettered access to these communities, even in the midst of an ongoing flare-up.  But, over the past few months, unbeknown to many, Dawson was suffering from a serious ailment that claimed his life this morning.  News Five’s Paul Lopez took a closer look at the life and legacy of William Dawson. Here is that report.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

William Dawson was the fabric that held together the delicate peace among rival gangs in Belize City. And tonight, many across the city and even the country are mourning his sudden passing. As a product of a gang-ridden community in the Old Capital, Dawson would dedicate his life to mentoring at-risk youths, from all walks life. He first made an impact at the Ladyville Technical High School as a teacher. He then took on the role of Director at the Wagner’s Youth Facility, and up until the time of his passing, Dawson was the Chairman of the Leadership Intervention Unit. In his capacity at the LIU, he spent a great deal of time on the streets of Belize City building relationships with feuding gangs in an effort to curb the senseless violence that has taken hold of the inner city.


William Dawson

William Dawson, Chairman, Leadership Intervention Unit

“The difference between a father and a dad is like the difference between a house and a home. The father contributes biologically, in my view, but the dad really is that person who nurtures, cares, mentors and supports his children. Not only his children, have I believed it is important to also nurture those who do not have those support around them. It incorporates the ideology that it takes a village to raise a child. So, as a dad it is important for me to be able to spot that young man or young woman who might need that type of support from a dad.”


To many, those words embodied the life that William Dawson led. This afternoon, we met his wife, Sheena Dawson, among relatives and friends who gathered in Belize City to mourn the untimely passing. There, we spoke with Olga Gordon, a community activist who has known Dawson from his childhood days in the Saint Martin’s Area. She would later come to work alongside him at LIU.


Olga Gordon

Olga Gordon, President, Eyes of the Jaguar Neighborhood Watch

“His thing was to get some of them back into school. He wanted to get them back into school, into projects and anything that could help helped. Because, when we sit down and talk I was like Mr. D, they bway nuh have no job. They have a family, kids, can’t mine deh children, what you could do. He said, Ms. G any suggestion you could come up with, we will go with it. That is when we started having meetings with them.  He would call and say, wah shooting just happened, we gwen guh talk to deh bway. And I said, Mr. D, deh wah shot you and deh wah shot me. And he was like, no man, we just gwen talk with the bway and mek deh know we got them and he got them. He had them. He was so true and faithful to these boys, that I know right now so much of them the crumble, because they looked up to him. They always looked to Mr. D to get something done for them.”


And today in Lake Independence, we met members of the community who came together to mourn Dawson’s death, a true testament to his work and the positive influence he had over these young men. Only five months ago, a state of emergency was issued for this area, following a slew of murders. But on this occasion, that hostility was nowhere in sight as a commitment was made to carry on the legacy their friend and mentor begun.


Brandon “Battery” Smith

Brandon “Battery” Smith, Community Member, Lake Independence

“Dah man dah mih fah back yah and he represent anywhere he guh and he know fih get along with people. I nuh know how things wah work out, but I hope deh put somebody in his place that will do things the right way.”


Paul Lopez

What were your interactions like with him?


Brandon “Battery” Smith

“Because he come round and talk to people, when yo talk to people yo get fih know people yo understand mih.”


Paul Lopez

“What was it about his approach his approach that would allow him to have the impact in these mediation sessions?”


Brandon “Battery” Smith

“The man had a positive vibe and he know how fih keep it real. Once yo keep it real people wah could vibes with yo. Once yon uh keep it real, people wah cant vibes with yo. The man just real to the thing.”


Jermaine “Horse” Garnett

Jermaine “Horse” Garnett, Community Member, Lake Independence

“From Love Foundation and the whole team and the whole work team, we just wah she condolences to the family and try keep strong and make sure everything get through. We wah deh right dah the funeral as the whole team and we wah try get the whole team together with all the hoods deh fih step een and try do the march up fih please the man soul and set ah down good check.”


Brandon Baptist

Brandon Baptist, Community Members, Lake Independence

“Like weh yo could sih right now, sih weh part I deh right now? The love the deh and I just the seh the man dah wah good man and ih hurt, ih really hurt. The man mih the try fih we, really mih the try so we just wah continue do what he mih want. He mih want see peace and love eena the whole city and we wah continue. We wah keep dah legacy, trust me we wah keep it. We wah mek the man smile. We wah the man sih that we continue to do what he mih want. We wah continue to it trust mih.”


In the Mayflower area, matriarch of the community, Sandra Uter, recounted her time with Dawson through his work with the L.I.U.


Sandra Uter

Sandra Uter, Resident, Mayflower Street

“So far with the guys they all had a fair enough relationship with them. Even one of my grandson use to come out and talk to deh and invite deh and certain things, and he help find jobs for them which they are still working on. But, he was a nice person, as far as I know. He use to come here also with Mr. Rosado and we use to talk and explain situation that is happening and we use to rectify it the best way he could.”


The Leadership Intervention Unit is a branch of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Only last week, Dawson and Kareem Musa, the Minister of Home Affairs, were together at a Cabinet retreat in Cayo District where they presented the ministry’s 2023 crime fighting strategy. At the time, Dawson was already experiencing health complications, and as Musa told us this morning, he insisted on being present at the retreat.


Kareem Musa

Kareem Musa, Minister, Ministry of Home Affairs

“When I saw him, I said Mr. Dawson, please do not come to the Cabinet retreat the following week, because he had been preparing along with Deputy Rosado the launch of the multi-sectoral approach. And I said Mr. Dawson please focus on your health, Dr. Rosado and myself can handle it. And, he said to me Minister if it is the last thing I do; I need to let Cabinet know that we believe in these young men and women. And it is not just about letting Cabinet know, it is about letting those young men know.”


Deputy Commissioner of Police, Doctor Richard Rosado also spoke with News Five. Dr. Rosado, as the commander of Eastern Division, met Dawson during 2020. They discussed ways in which they could collaborate to tackle the ongoing gang violence. During those discussions they agreed that they were both passionate about championing the same cause.


Richard Rosado

Dr. Richard Rosado, Deputy Commissioner of Police

“Presently I am in Barbados and I still find it hard to believe that William has left us and I still find it hard to believe that William has left us. I believe that Belize is saddened by the untimely dealt of William. Our prayers and thoughts are with Mrs. Dawson, the kids and family. I believe that Belize has lost an irreplaceable soldier, a fighter for the poor man. I believe his work has touched many lives and he was a champion that wanted to make a difference. He was a champion that wanted to promote a shared vision in managing crime. I believe we have lost a great soldier.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.


Moses “Shyne” Barrow, the Leader of the Opposition also sent his condolences to Dawson’s family. Barrow says “ Brother Dawson’s passion and consistent hard work to help those who have fallen shot in society, deter at risk youth, and reduce crime and violence in Belize is second to none”.

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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