A mark of a good teacher is one who can inspire his or her students to become enthusiastic about education. And one teacher at Saint John's College got his students so excited about Caribbean History that they were able to produce a book, which they want to publish.
It's a study of the Black Cross Nurses, which was founded in the 1920's, as the women's auxiliary of Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. And like Garvey, the Black Cross Nurses were activists agitating for black empowerment and equal treatment of persons of African Descent. The Black Cross Nurses had an influence all over the Caribbean, as well as in Belize, and, a group of 2nd Form students from SJC, researched their activities in this country, back when it was still the British colony known as British Honduras.
The students and teachers invited the press for the official unveiling of the research project which morphed into a book which was launched today. 7News was there, and here's what the history teacher told us about how his students embraced the topic:
Delmar Tzib - History Teacher, SJC
"The focus of the African and Maya History program is basically to talk about resistance and oppression in the settlement of British Honduras, back then, and now Belize. We explore a series of topics that have to deal with how the colonial project was oppressing the people, and how the people reacted to it, basically to give a story of look, the people didn't just receive colonialism. They were also resisting these labour and land policies that were oppressing them. So, this particular story comes across from a series of other stories as well. Justice like the 1919 riot, the Black Cross nurses were also a moving that was trying to uplift people. Although it was not a way a protest or a riot, it was a substitute way of provoking racial upliftment in the settlement."
"This book basically provides an overview of what is Garveyism. It's in a very basic language, broken down in the high school language. This is basically what we presented to the Students. Marcus Garvey started a movement, and his movement was about black empowerment. He dreamed about taking blacks back to Africa, and establishing a black nation, establishing companies owned by blocks, having leaders who were blacks. One his his organizations was the Black Cross movement."
"The Black Cross Movement was something that was throughout the Caribbean region. They came to Belize, and they had 2 basic goals, which was to uplift the hygienic practices in the settlement, and secondly to uplift the black race in the settlement."
Gil Gilharry - Student, SJC
"The Black Cross Nurses were women. This was very important because in this time, there was a patriarchal society, where women were only seen as domestic workers, being in the house, cooking, cleaning, washing and taking care of children. But, the community which was mostly blacks, needed some upliftment. There was no one who could do it because the men were at work in the camps, cutting logwood, and doing other job. So, only the women were left, and these women worked in their community as nurses to promote better hygiene, teach personal care, and create a cleaner environment for the community."
"The book is basically a project that entails a bigger vision of decolonizing education. It's about - we used concepts of Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the oppressed as well. And what is done in this book is basically, some of the content was given to the students. They students came up with poems, and then we chose one poem from a student called Chris Garbutt."
"His poem was then brought back to the class, just like any other poem would be brought back for analysis in the classroom. The students analyzed it. They looked at it. They tried to see what Chris was trying to tell through his notes in the poem. They wrote an analysis of it, and the second part of it was that they wrote what they imaged from it. So, what they internalized is what they drew to illustrate Chris' poem as well."
"You've put together all of this work. Is there any intention to share it beyond the walls of SJC?"
"Well, the intention is that precisely because as one of the students mentioned, Gil Gilharry. He was mentioned that look, we already know about this topic this topic is not wildly. So, this book is an avenue through which we can reach to everybody."
"It's going for a very cheap cost we could say, $10, but the real hope is the inspire others to do the same."
The book is available online for free at BelizehistorySJC.com. It can be downloaded for free, as well.
Black Cross Nurses: Analyses by S.J.C. Students
The S.J.C. History Department launched a book on the historical significance of the Black Cross Nurses in Belize. Back in 2013, the high school adopted a student-centered approach of teaching history through its African and Mayan history studies. The aim is to have students learn about different perspectives outside of colonialism and how those movements of resistance against the colonial system have shaped the country’s development. So, for this project the students have analyzed how Marcus Garvey’s teachings have impacted Belize through the Black Cross Nurses. Reporter Andrea Polanco tells us more in the following story.
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
Second form students at Saint John’s College released a publication called the Black Cross Nurses. The students assessed how the philosophies of Marcus Garvey and the Black Cross Nurses have influenced labour movements and nationalism in British Honduras to present day Belize. They depicted this through visualizations, analyses and poems – all compiled in this book.
Gil Gilharry, Student, S.J.C.
“I believe that that the analysis of the Black Cross Nurses was helpful to break us from the typical way of thinking. It freed up our minds through the philosophical thinking of Marcus Garvey and other black people. We learned how they uplifted us and helped us in our toughest times.”
History Teacher Delmer Tzib says that this exercise has empowered students to question and think critically about Belize’s history. They now want to share this wealth of information beyond the walls of S.J.C. and hope that this book inspires other student-led projects.
Delmer Tzib, History Teacher, S.J.C.
“More than just the text of the black cross nurses, the idea of decolonizing the educational system and the idea of pushing for an agenda of history that looks at how we are represented as Belizeans and how we are represented as natives in historical narratives and in the educational system because history can be used as a tool to motivate a full generation of people. We already know about this; this topic is not widely discussed in our society so this book is an avenue which we can reach to everybody. So, this is the purpose of writing in such basic language so that anybody that opens the book can be able to read it and understand what is going on in relation to the black cross nurses. It is going for a very cheap cost, just ten dollars. The real hope is to inspire others to do the same; to do these projects and decolonize the educational system. If we empower our students, they can make drastic changes in our society.”
The students were tasked with producing work that delves into the theme. Student Chris Garbutt created a poem that inspired this publication.
Chris Garbutt, Student, S.J.C.
“I will tell you of a story not shown on television about the UNIA, an association with vision. Uplifting black people, that was their dream. They’re tired of the white people being so mean. One of their programs tackled our health because blacks worry about blacks, white only cared of their health. The colonial government was not happy at all. They rather whites rise and see blacks fall. They were against this brilliant organization. Nurses had to find their own training and education. After a period of time, the government came through they used the black nurses and crosses to help all of you. In a way it came out of the Garveyite Movement itself; not moving the many but helping their health. At first it was just an idea, what more can it be? Oh look at them now, just like Vivian Seay. The UNIA looked out for each other, because white or blacks we should care for one another. The United Negroes always face problems at the door, because of people like them we should struggle no more!”
SJC 2E students and teacher publish book on Black Cross Nurses
There is a lot of history that is not being taught in the schools of Belize. The history of the Africans who were brought to Belize as slaves, and the Maya peoples who first populated Belize, has been neglected for generations, during the colonial period and later in the independent state of Belize, until St. John’s College incorporated the study of African and Mayan history in its curriculum.
Today, at a short ceremony on its campus, the class of SJC 2E and their history teacher, Delmar Tzib, launched a book which was a collaborative effort of the students. The idea for the book grew out of an assignment to write a poem about the nurse, Vivian Seay, and the Black Cross Nurses that she led.
Yasser Musa, another teacher who has been instrumental in the school’s effort to include African and Mayan history in the school’s curriculum and who pioneered the SJC History Club, declared that the launch of the book on the Black Cross Nurses was a very important event.
Musa explained that SJC is the only school in the country that teaches the history of African and Maya civilization from First Form, and teaches Belizean History with an emphasis on the people’s struggle from 1491 to 1981. He said that the teacher of the 2E class, Delmer Tzib, was the one who drove the narrative. Musa said a lot of us know that stories are told to us, but we do not know the motive behind the stories. Tzib involved his students as participants, Musa said.
Tzib said that the book is the result of the students’ work, after they thought about Marcus Garvey and the work that he did. The students were tasked to write a poem as a group, but one student, Chris Garbutt, decided to write his poem alone. “His poem was amazing and I know that his poem was the poem we had to analyze,” Tizb said.
“We took two hours of our time to try to understand what he was trying to say in his poem. The project broke the barriers of the teacher always being the one who is informing and it broke the barrier of the students always being the one always receiving, because they took the role of leading these lessons. It is their work that I am proud of today,” Tzib said.
Gill Gilharry, one of the students, said that they created the book as a class. “Most of us did not know that we were creating this book. All we knew was that Mr. Tzib was creating a book previously and wanted some help from students. Most of us did our poems and analysis without knowing that it would be published in a book,” Gilharry said.
Gilharry added, “I believe that the analysis of the Black Cross Nurses was helpful to break us from the typical way of thinking. We freed up our minds through the philosophical thinking of Marcus Garvey and other black people. We learned how they uplifted us and helped us in our toughest times. The Black Cross Nurses was an organization under Garveyism. They were very profound women who tried to help their community. They were seen as the lowest people in the community. They were not only black but they were women. They fought the patriarchy and uplifted a settlement that was oppressed by the whites. At first, they were seen as a burden to the colonial government, but over time they were used as a welfare tactic to help improve the healthcare of the settlement.”
Musa said that he gets very emotional whenever he hears a young person (Gilharry) speak with such clarity and such coherence, because people come with an agenda of what they want you to know and think. Musa said that we have to start to develop this incubator of new ideas that Mr. Tzib has triggered.
Musa praised the students, explaining than one cannot get to a higher level than where they are because “they are not memorizing and regurgitating, they are thinking and analyzing.”
The program ended with the poem by Chris Garbutt that inspired the book, Black Cross Nurses:
I will tell you of a story not shown on television,
About the UNIA, an association with a vision,
Uplifting black people, that was their dream,
They were tired of the white people being mean,
One of their programs tackled our health system,
Because blacks worry about blacks
Whites only care of their wealth,
The colonial government was not happy at all,
They rather white rise and see blacks fall,
They were against this brilliant organization
Nurses had to find their own training and education,
After a period of time the government came through,
They used the nurses and the Black Cross to help all of you
In a way it came out of the
Garveyite movement itself,
Not moving the many but helping
At first it was just an idea,
what more can it be?
Oh look at them now, just like
The UNIA looked out for each other,
Because white or blacks, we should care for one another,
The United Negros always face problems at the door,
Because of people like them we should struggle no more!!!