Like that famous song put it, "do you remember the 21st night of September?". Well, thanks to COVID - you probably don't remember much at all about this special month - since the last two years of COVID stripped September of its spirit, expressed in displays of both patriotism and partying.

But, that spirit is back this year and the familiar feeling of togetherness is on the rise once again. Already, the red white and blue streamers are fluttering across the city, and the National Celebrations Commission has launched its Calendar of Events.

But before we tell you what's in store, to set the mood for the month, the NCC held its "Belize at 41" Award ceremony where prizes named after legendary artists and creatives were distributed to those carrying on their legacy in the creative sector.

All the awardees were nominated and chosen by the NCC. And today, co-chair Merilyn Young, explained the importance of this award and encouraged Belizeans to look at those in their communities for the next round:

Merilyn Young, Co- Chair, NCC
"This award is important for us at NICH and for the NCC because we want to ensure that, like what Bredda David said earlier, we have to acknowledge people when they're alive. Sometimes we remember people and big them up when they are dead, but everybody has to be acknowledged sometime in life and I am very grateful that people nominate. We have an opportunity to look at the nominations and select the best of the best that represents true culture when it comes to Belize."

"Do you find that you got a lot of nominations? Like a lot of people were engaged and active?"

< Merilyn Young, Co- Chair, NCC
"Yes we did get, not as much as we wanted in some categories, and like what Roylando said in his vote of thanks, we want to encourage people to look within their community because each community has at least that one person that will fit one of the categories. So, we want to ensure that people start to look now and acknowledge people that work with herbs, and to look at people do drama in their community and send the information up to us. This is going to be an annual part of our calendar of events and so we hope to ensure that not only do we do the awards but as you see we have a little booklet today because we want to ensure that the schools also get a copy of these booklets and have these - I call them these living legends of ours - visit schools in their community. So, we hope that the schools will invite them to come and talk to the younger generation about what is it that they do and how to be able to contribute back to our society as young men and women."

And today, we spoke with two of the awardees. Bredda David Obi is one of Belize's most revolutionary musicians and the creator of what he calls Kungo Muzik. And for that, he was selected to be honored with the Andy Palacio Prize.

Meanwhile Ray Gongora won the Beverly Smith Lopez Prize. He is an iconic actor, dramatist, and comedian who was once the director/producer of the Belize Theatre Company. He has produced several stage productions and founded a Belizean theatre group in Miami.

Here's what both awardees told us:

Bredda David Obi, Andy Palacio Prize
"Kungu music got created in the early 80's, Reggae music was just coming to Los Angeles and Belize didn't have music we were making noise about or that we knew of, we always had like the bruk-down music but people weren't following it too much. When I went into the Reggae music and I was hearing that this was from Jamaica, I said but I don't hear us have that music in our Country like what these brothers are doing. I heard Trinidad had Calypso so I said well we need to have our own music. When they say Kungu that means 'let's go' and that's a positive word right, it's like 'let's go together' so that word came and I said we will make it into Kungu music and I got a contract out in Hollywood for it because I was working very hard before I even came home. When I came home, fortunately the people embraced the music and the radio station, everyone appreciated it and that was another thing that took the music to the next level and since that time well it's history. I represented Belize in about 5 or 6 countries in the world already and all of them felt good and everyone was happy and satisfied. So, it's a blessing for people to now say 'brother David, let's give you this honor' and coming under Andy it's a special treat because at one point it was myself and Andy who took the Belizean music. You guys don't know this, it was me and Andy Palacio who was the representation for Belize music in Mexico and all about."

Ray Gongora, Beverly Smith Lopez Prize
"I didn't win you know, I earned, and Beverly and I go way back, we started theatre together, we performed numerous plays together whether it was a major production with 10, 5, and right down to 2 persons and eventually one on one. So, we have years of performance together and it is an honor for me to now hold this and say this is a part of me, because that's what we were for each other. I've been a director for Scorpic Plays a former theatre group in Belize for many years. I spearheaded that theater group and lead it unto the Edmonton, unto the Commonwealth Festival of Arts which is held at Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I considered that a major accomplishment, I continue to serve Belize by creating productions and performing them especially in Miami now."

The other awardees include, Brad Pattico, who won the Leela Vernon Prize, Dawn Adderly, who took home the Rosita Baltazar Prize, Lawrence Vernon got the Zee Edgell prize, Pen Cayetano received the George Gabb Prize, and Susano Blanco won the Don Eligio Panti Prize.

Channel 7

Belize @ 41 Award Ceremony