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SJC’s students discovered how Black Cross Nurses defied the status quo

St. John’s College, SJC, has revolutionized the way history is taught by teaching it from the perspective of the oppressed in order to encourage critical thinking, allow for the students to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the composition of Belize’s history.  In this regard, SJC’s History Department launched a book, Black Cross Nurses.  The book looked at how black women in Belize tried to uplift the black community by teaching about personal hygiene and maintaining a clean environment in order to prevent diseases.  We stopped by SJC and spoke with Delmer Tzib, a history teacher, to learn more about the book and how it has impacted the students.

Delmer Tzib – Teacher at SJC: “This book basically provides an overview of what is Garveyism. It is in a very basic language, broken down to the high school level, it is basically what is presented to the students. Marcus Garvey started a movement and his movement was about black empowerment. He dreamed about taking blacks back to Africa and establishing a black nation, companies owned by blacks and having leaders that were blacks. One of his organizations was the Black Cross movement so he established other several organizations that included business to basically liberate blacks but the Black Cross movement was something that was throughout the Caribbean Region. They came to Belize and they had two basic goals which were to uplift the hygienic practices in the settlement and secondly to uplift the black race in the settlement as well so it was about racial liberation but also about promoting health practices and reaching the people that didn’t have access to these services. The book itself is basically a project that entails a bigger vision of the colonizing education. What is done in this book is basically some of the content is given to the students, the students came up with poems and then we chose one poem from a student called Chris Garbutt who is exceptional when it comes to music and also poem writing, he has very good artistic skills. His poem was then brought back to the class just like any other poem would be brought for analysis in the classroom. The students analyzed it, they looked at it, they tried to see what Chris was trying to tell through his notes in the poem. They wrote an analysis of it and the second part of it is that they wrote what they imagined from it so what they internalized it and drew to illustrate Chris’s Poem as well.”

As mentioned, the students wrote poems based on the Black Cross Nurses’ movement. We spoke to the authors of these poems which are included in the book.

Chris Garbtt- Student: “One of their programs tackled our health because blacks worry about blacks, whites only care of their wealth. Colonial Government was not happy at all, they rather whites rise and see blacks fall. They were against this brilliant organization, nurses had to find their own training and education. After a period of time the government came through, they used the nurses and the Black Cross to help all of you. It is about a small group of people doing something amazing, it is a small group of black people and at the time black people had it rough, worse and not only that they were women. People usually expect women to be at home cooking, cleaning and doing regular household things but they proved them wrong and the formed an organization to help other black people.”

Tayshaun Pasqual SJC: “To uplift other black people, that is our aim, we do it to help, we do not do it for fame. All our fallen brothers and sister whom health got ignored are no more because the Black Cross Nurses are at their door.

Tzib added that the students were able to appreciate how these nurses did not just settle for the way society branded them, but went on to step out of their normal roles and achieved something extraordinary.