Belize: Day 9 - The Journey Home
While waiting in the International Airport a few hours before my flight arrived, I had the pleasure of talking to an older Creole woman who was escorting four young Belezian girls back to the states. The girls revered her as they would their grandmother, although she was of no relation; merely a trusted friend of the family. This woman classifies herself as Belezian, but still I noticed that although she never referred to herself specifically as being black, everything she discussed was in the context of being black.
This well-traveled woman has visited several countries in Africa, the UK, and of course the U.S. As we discussed being able to connect with our ancestors, she made it clear that although in Belize, everyone is considered Belezian with no regards to which ethnic group you belong to, being Creole, she always knew she had a connection elsewhere, to Africa, and longed to travel there. To her dismay, in all the countries she traveled to in Africa, she felt like an outcast, like she was not pure. The problem, she said, was within our own people. The Africans, she said, sold their own people into slavery. It was not her fault that as a result she became of mixed blood. Then when she traveled to the United States, she felt that same disconnect from African-American people. Again, she was different. No one reached out to help her. She felt it was like every man for himself.
She said that it was more painful to experience this negative attitude from people with her same descent that from anyone else. From those experiences she learned that although she longed to feel a certain connection to her ancestral roots, she had learned to accept the fact that she is of African descent even if she is never accepted. It is no longer important to her that she gains this external acceptance because in her heart she knows she belongs. Her hope for me was that I was able to experience hospitality in her home country as she had wished to initially feel when she entered the United States. Thankfully, I was able to inform her that I felt welcomed here in Belize. I did not feel like an outsider, although clearly I was. There was nothing but good feelings here.
On the flight home I had the chance to reflect upon what the woman in the airport discussed. Why is it that my own people cannot always be more supportive of each other? Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs tells us that all of us have a desire to belong. But it is quite shameful that as a people we do not always help others, regardless of race or ethnicity, to help satisfy that sense of belonging. Now as I welcome a new group of children this school year, I must make conscious efforts to make sure to include everyone; to ensure that no child feels less than or that he or she cannot establish his or her place in the class, in the school, and in society. We all matter.