Thursday, August 16, 2007

Andy Palacio and National Garifuna Council School Benefit


The Garifuna is one of the most misunderstood, unique and threatened cultures in Central America. Enter Andy Palacio & The Garifuna Collective, an all star team of musicians assembled in Belize bringing the voice and message of this unique and inspiring people. They are the ambassadors of the Garifuna culture, bringing with them a unique blend of paranda and punta from the Garifuna communities of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. These are the songs of the ancestors that connect the people with their spirituality, Garifuna spirituality.

I had the honor to witness Andy Palacio, Paul Nabor & The Garifuna Collective’s magnificent performance during GAHFU’s (Garifuna American Heritage Foundation United) benefit concert in Los Angeles, California on Friday August 3rd, 2007. The band included the primera and segunda garaoun (garifuna drums), the sisira man (shakers), the bass and the lead electric guitars, then Andy’s acoustic guitar and the main vocalist as well as the enchanting performance of Mr. Paul Nabor. Nabi as his fellow musicians call him, stole the show. He was the high light of the performance. The audience stood up and applauded his vibrant and energetic voice. During the sound check, Nabi told me that he was very pleased with his touring of Europe and the United States. Nabi also said that he would do it again. The man looked marvelous for a man his age.

It feels unbelievably good to know that “Watina”, the album, has taken The Garifuna Collective to new horizons; from Central America to Europe and from Europe to America as in the United States of America. The tour has taken them from the east coast to the west coast and from Jazz houses to nightclubs; from nightclubs to theaters around the country. The album hit number two in May 2007 in The World Charts Europe. For those of you who have seen the show, you know that it is priceless.

The benefit concert that featured Andy Palacio & The Garifuna Collective featuring Paul Nabor, was a contribution from Andy himself, his promoters and Grand Performances in Los Angeles. The benefit concert celebrated at Latino Night Club was organized by GAHFU, Inc. and it kicked off a month long fundraiser for school supplies for “NGC School” (National Garifuna Council) in Dangriga, Belize.

The NGC School will open on Monday, September 3rd, 2007 and the community is very excited about it. The school will be managed by the NGC located in the Monument Site area of Dangriga. The school will have 5 teachers and it will start with lower division education as in Pre-School, Infant 1, Infant 11 and Standard 1. Ms. Venancia Flores is the school principal with 20 years of teaching experience under her belt in the rural areas which includes 5 years in Seine Bight.

The NGC School will seek to develop a curriculum that will include and exceed the minimum educational guidelines of the Ministry of Education for Pre and Primary Schools. The traditional curriculum will be taught which prepares children for the School-Leaving-Exams. In addition, the curriculum will be integrated with additional subject matter that would produce competency in the Garifuna Language, history and culture. Traditional Garifuna life skills and values will be taught particularly in the early years of schooling. Children will be taught to read and write in English and Garifuna in parallel and they will also be taught practical courses in agriculture. There will be a special endeavor to teach the children the skills of their ancestors and to have greater appreciation for their culture as well as the multi-cultural nature of Belize’s society.

Parents in Dangriga town have shown a strong interest in this project and so far over 75 children have been enrolled in the NGC School. There was a vote taken by the parents to make the uniform reflect the garifuna culture and the colors will be black, white and yellow. Although there is some delay in the construction of the school building, there are plans to rent a nearby facility and probably buy one house from the Mennonites which will be used for the Principal’s Office latter on. Moreover, The Gulisi Garifuna Museum facility would be utilized for the Principal’s Office. There are plans to launch NGC’s own fundraising drive with the help of Hamalali Garifuna Radio by means of a Radiothon.

GAHFU, Inc. is looking to collect through your generous donations new or used computers with capabilities for internet connectivity. Also, printers, photocopy machines, projectors for video, VCRs and filing cabinets. School books with subjects such a math, English, science, geography, etc. for pre and primary school levels to be used as teaching aids. There is a great need for new pens, pencils, erasers, exercise books, folders, magic markers and coloring pencils. A P.A. (public address) system is also needed for school announcements. Monetary donations are also welcomed to purchase material for the school uniform which the students will be wearing.

The collected donations will be shipped to Dangriga, Belize duty free through National Garifuna Council and they will distribute the school supplies accordingly. GAHFU, Inc. is hoping to have these barrels shipped by the end of August 2007.

If you are interested in helping, please contact website or by calling (323) 898-6841. You can also send your tax deductible donation in cash, check or money order to GAHFU P.O. Box 10054 Long Beach, CA 90810.

Written by: Rony Figueroa

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