Morehouse Takes Belize!
Photo by Andy Harris
By Andy Harris, Editor in Chief
After a long and painful Covid-19 pandemic, Morehouse College has finally returned to the study-abroad scene.
On Dec. 10, 17 Morehouse and Spelman students and seven staff members and administrators embarked on a trip to Belize to observe the cultural and environmental positives and pitfalls in a developing Central American country.
On this trip, students explored different regions of the country. On the first full day, students received a tour of Belize City, the former capital of the country, and learned more about what discussions and natural disasters led to Belmopan becoming the new capital.
The next day, the journalism students were in for a treat, as the group visited the Kremandala house, home of Belizean television station Krem TV. Auzzy Byrdsell, secretary for The Maroon Tiger, was on air for the local morning show, “Wake Up, Belize!” The junior Kinesiology major told us, “…having a host that was abroad but had so much knowledge on our institutions … it was another reminder that intelligent and curious people are everywhere.”
The students connected with individuals their own age for a change as the group took a trip to the University of Belize in the capital city of Belmopan. After a brief introduction by the school’s Vice President, Dr. Franese Roches, the students broke into groups between the two schools and talked about life at their respective campuses and communities.
Dr. Tiffany Bussey, executive director of Morehouse’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center and a daughter of Belize, expressed how much it meant to her to finally make this trip happen.
“It’s been amazing seeing people enjoy the things I enjoyed growing up,” Bussey said. “I’ve been here [at Morehouse] 20 years and it was in my third year that this idea came about.”
While the students all thoroughly enjoyed themselves – whether by swimming with sharks or playing basketball with the locals in Hopkins Bay – the group was able to do a deep dive into the rich history of Belize.
It has several cultures and subcommunities that have been preserved through wars, and educational and political persecution: the Creole, the Garifuna, the Maya, and the Mestizo. As the group visited the Mayan temple, we were blown away by what we saw and the fact that it was all still intact despite being built 2,000-3,000 years ago.
The one place I have yet to mention is our visit to Spanish Lookout, which despite the name is not run by whom one may think. This settlement is run by the Mennonite community, who dominate farming, agriculture, and oil production in Belize. In a country that is still trying to establish itself as something other than a third-world nation, these German descendants appeared to be living a life of luxury compared to their Belizean brothers and sisters. We asked Jeanny Dees, one of our tour guides, about how they incorporate the neighboring communities that simply want to work. Our journalists fine-tuned their ability to “press the issue” in a politically and financially affluent Mennonite community.
We enjoyed some leisure and much-needed relaxation at the Hopkins Bay Resort after a long Fall semester. The students and faculty spent time in the water at the beach, playing volleyball, going kayaking, and simply kicking their feet up and taking a deep breath.
While in Hopkins, the students and faculty also performed a community service project. While the beach at the resort was well kept, just a short bus ride showed the reality that many people recognize at beaches worldwide: some people do not protect the beaches as they should. We noticed mountains of trash at the ocean shore just a few minutes from our resort.
Members of the Garifuna community told us that people will see nearby trash receptacles and still drop their trash in the sand. However, we also noticed a lack of trash cans when we walked around the community. Additionally, we noticed large piles of trash when we first arrived in the country. MT members, Morehouse College administrators, and the other members of the group collaborated with the Hopkins Village Council to clean up the beach and build more trash cans for the community.
One of the most debilitating factors in the development of the country is the corruption in government the locals have had to fight for decades. Nuri Muhammad, a journalist for Krem TV, told us in addition to the worker shortage, there is little to no financial assistance.
“The politicians give aid to struggling people on the condition that they vote [for them],” Muhammad said.
In this country, journalists are on watch lists and are often considered rebels. Muhammad is one of those individuals, as is Jerry Enriquez, who organized our tour. As our “personal walking encyclopedia” as Professor Ron Thomas, chair of the Morehouse journalism department put it, Enriquez was able to give our students and faculty the answer to virtually every question we asked him.
“This is the first group of all Black students [to visit Belize] and one of my favorites to work with,” Enriquez said.
We at the Maroon Tiger would like to take this moment to thank Enriquez once again for his kindness and willingness to teach us all he could in these 10 days we spent in his country.
This trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience in so many ways. Going to Belize gave so many of us an opportunity to bear witness to other people’s lives and potentially appreciate what we have. The consensus appeared to be that the trip gave many a reality check and made them want to complain less about their circumstances. We look forward to seeing where the Morehouse Pan-African Global Experience travels next.