By YaYa Marin Coleman
Afrikan Wombman in Belize
Mawning Empress (Morning Empress), Top Ah Di Day Queen (Top of the Day Queen), Respect Sistren (Respect Sister), Evening Ras.(Evening Rastafarian). These daily greetings from children, youths, brothers, sisters, and elders in our Belizean communities affirms our connections as family as I move around our bountiful Belize by bus, on foot, in dollar vans, and private transportation. After being deported from the United States almost 6 years ago my reentry into our Belizean culture took some adjustment. That alone was a new and unfamiliar feeling for me because I felt very Belizean in my nationality so I did not expect to feel misunderstood by my people.
I identify myself as a spiritual being having a human Afrikan womban experience. Physically I am recognizably Black, with dark skin, wide nose, and have chosen to wear my hair in locs or roots as I prefer to describe my brain antennas. Since I have been awaken to my African consciousness, changing my spiritual orientation, daily self- analysis, growing my roots, wearing African clothing and jewelry are physical manifestations of my inner being.
Many Belizeans believe that because I have locs that I am a Rastafarian. My initial impulsive response was to share that I was not a Rastafarian, and to add that not because someone has locs means they are Rastafarian. The facial expressions, and the retorts I received made me realized that my response was not favorable.
A Jamaican brother once told me that I ought to cut my locs off because I told him I was not a Rastafarian. I was in midsentence explaining that I had the right to choose how I identify myself when I saw that I was talking to his back.
After many failed attempts at having conversations with some Belizeans who identify as Rastafarians, I chose not to engage in the Rastafarian discussions for the most part. It has been my experience that some people in Belize (mostly males) have a very fixed mental position on their interpretation of the Rastafarian religion. Whenever I would question them regarding their source of knowledge for them to arrive at such strong positions of convictions, emotions would often run high and sometimes they were harsh in their replies. At times I felt that a few were outright discriminatory, when they made mention of me not knowing my place as a female because I lived in Babylon.
In the recent past I have formed strong bonds with a group of Rastafarian brothers from the capital city of Belmopan. They are informed and are willing to have intense exchanges. As a self- described Afrikan wombman my bonding with my Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association (BGYEA) Rastafarian brothers has affirmed my Blackness in ways I never anticipated. Their strength, collective unity, and willingness to make sacrifices for the advancement of oppressed people by being trailblazers in providing 1 acre plots of land for many first time land owners in Belize is uplifting. Our community known as Harmonyville is at mile 41 and a half on the George Price Highway, in Belize.
Upon reflection I know now that I was not always a good listener in my earlier conversations with some of my people about the Rastafarian religion, I had a know it all attitude, and I had biases prior to entering into many conversations. As I grow and develop I can now appreciate those heated yet teachable moments, especially when we did not always finish a conversation or agree on a point. My lessons are that people have a right and a responsibility to believe whatever they choose to believe. That, I have a right to share what I know and a responsibility to listen, not respond. And rather, to listen inorder to learn, reserved of judgement.
Our reality as Afrikan people living in Belize in 2015, is that some of us have chosen to determine what our religious and spiritual values are independent of the systematic indoctrination of Western religious beliefs.