An Act To Amend The Education Law, In Relation To Instruction On The Garifuna People

An Act To Amend The Education Law, In Relation To Instruction On The Garifuna People
By José Francisco Avila

As previously announced, New York State Senator Rubén Díaz has introduced Senate Bill No. S07175 to amend the New York State Education Law Section 801 to Include the History of the Garifuna People in the New York State Senate. New York State Assemblyman Luis R. Sepúlveda has introduced Assembly Bill No. A09791 in the New York State Assembly. (Click on Bill to read full text)

Senator Rubén Díaz Will Introduce Amendment to New York State Education Law

The proposed amendment states that Subdivisions 1 and 3 of section 801 of the education law, as amended by chapter 574 of the laws of 1997, are amended to read as follows: “In order to promote a spirit of patriotic and civic service and obligation and to foster in the children of the state moral and intellectual qualities which are essential in preparing to meet the obligations of citizenship in peace or in war, the regents of The University of the State of New York shall prescribe courses of instruction in patriotism, citizenship, and human rights issues, with particular attention to the study of the inhumanity of genocide, slavery (including the freedom trail and underground railroad),the Holocaust, the history of the Garifuna People, and the mass starvation in Ireland from 1845 to 1850, to be maintained and followed in all the schools of the state.”

Assemblyman Luis R. Sepúlveda Proposes Amendment to New York State Education Law

“We are grateful to Senator Rubén Díaz and Assemblyman Luis R. Sepúlveda for this initiative, which we support and invite the Garifuna Community to rally behind it, considering that the British exterminated from St. Vincent and the Grenadines some 7,193 Garifuna people through genocide (5,167) and forced deportation (2,026) or roughly 80 percent of the Garifuna Nation on St. Vincent. This is a horrendous statistic for which the British nation is culpable and responsible. The land grab, genocide against our ancestors and their forcible deportation from St Vincent and the Grenadines was Crime Against Humanity!

British Land Grab

The British acquired suzerainty over St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 1763 after the end of “the Seven Years’ War” with France, at the Treaty of Paris. [1]

One of the first acts of the British colonizers in 1764 was to declare that all land in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (the country was called St. Vincent prior to independence in 1979) belonged to the British Crown. At one stroke they deprived the Garifuna and the Callinago people of all their land, which was held in common by them.

The British forcibly deprived the Garifuna (Black Caribs) and the Callinago (Yellow Caribs) people of their land and profited directly from such forcible and illegal, appropriation of land.

From 1764 until 1795, the Garifuna/Callinago nation fought the British Colonizers. The land issue was central to the popular native resistance to British colonization. Bit-by-bit, chunk-by-chunk, the British took the lands of the Garifuna on one pretext after another. The British finally defeated the Garifuna/Calllinago people in 1795 and in subsequent skirmishes. On March 14, 1795, a British ambush and massacre of the Garifuna patriots occasioned the death of the Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer, leader of the Garifuna people.

By 1800, the Garifuna/Callinago people were practically quarantined on an allocated parcel of 238 acres of land in an inaccessible area of the north east of St. Vincent. Thus, between 1763 and 1800, a mere 37 years, the Garifuna/Callinago people lost the remainder of their 85,120 acres of land on St. Vincent and the 10,880 acres in the Grenadines.

The British Genocide Against the Garifunas and their Forcible Deportation

Between July 26th 1796 and February 2nd 1797, 4,776 persons from St. Vincent were sent to the inhospitable offshore island of Balliceaux for a seven-month transit before deportation to the Spanish-ruled Roatan Island in the bay of Honduras in Central America. Of this 4,776, the overwhelming number was Garifuna (4,633), and 102 Callinagoes (Yellow Caribs) and 41 African slaves. There were 1,080 men; 2,003 women; and 1,693 children. (Eighty-three of “the Yellow Caribs” were sent back to St. Vincent; 22 died on Balliceaux).

So, of the 4,693 (4776 minus the 83 Callinagoes) on Balliceaux, only 2,248 embarked on the journey to Roatan Island on March 09, 1797. This meant that 2,445 died on Balliceaux. The journey to Roatan reduced their number further by 222. So, on April 12, 1797, a total of 2,026 Garifuna landed at Roatan: 664 were men, 1,362 were women and children.

By March 1797, it has been estimated that less than 2,000 Garifuna survived to remain in St. Vincent. Remember that in 1795, there were 9,000 Garifuna. Four thousand six hundred and sixty three (4,663) were dragooned to Balliceaux. It means therefore that some 2,500 Garifuna were killed in battle or massacred in the aftermath of Chatoyer’s death and the suppression of the Garifuna guerilla resistance to the British. This number (2,500) plus those who died from maltreatment and disease on Balliceaux (2,445) and those who died en route to forcible exile in Roatan (222) amount to an aggregate of 5,167 or some 57 percent of the Garifuna nation in St. Vincent in 1797.

This is an incredible, historic crime of genocide and against Humanity! Considering that New York is home to the largest Garifuna Community outside of Central America, we consider it appropriate that the regents of The University of the State of Ne York shall prescribe courses of instruction in patriotism, citizenship, and human rights issues, with particular attention to the study of the inhumanity of genocide, slavery (including the freedom trail and underground railroad), the Holocaust, the history of the Garifuna People, and the mass starvation in Ireland from 1845 to 1850, to be maintained and followed in all the schools of the state.”

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