I will say now, that I am not xenophobic. I learned well what being on the other side of that coin feels like, so I make sure, not to participate in those behaviours.
I actually think that nationality is in a sense a double edged sword. It unites us to our paisanos but it separates us from our brothers and sisters from other nations.
When studying in Mérida, and being away from home for the first time, I dove deeply in my identity. Reconnected with my blackness and my Belizeaness. It was important. I was faced with my otherness constantly, and for that reason, I needed to re-validate and connect with something. My response to being on the other side of the xenophobic coin. Any experience can be flipped to your benefit; trust me.
But to not bemoan xenophobia, I will go back to my single woman September protest. Every September 21, since 1981, Belize celebrates its release from its previous colonial stronghold. Celebrates its attempt to construct its own identity, carve out for itself its own path, and the pursuance of its own ideals.
It is a big deal for us. I would dare to say, especially because of our colonial past, (and I would hope, our fear of regression into a colonial mindset), that it is of utmost importance to our Belizean artists.
It is known widely, the connection between culture and identity, so I need not elaborate there. Belize is a soon to be 34 year old nation. We have a rich Maya history of more than 2000 years, when Belize was not yet a concept. That is not to be ignored, and should definitely be valued. But there were British incursions on Maya territory, later migrations, voluntary and involuntary, by peoples from all over the world, and a concept of a Belize began.
So an infant nation, needs constant building of self. You remember your adolescence? Your twenties? Your thirties? You were becoming yourself. Identity morphing as the years passed, until finally, somewhere along the years, you became what and who you are.
Belize, I believe, is still building and constructing its identity. And, in my opinion, and excuse my lack of psychological expertise, it is key that Belize taps into its own culture resources to build itself, even more than it needs to be submerging itself with cultural imports. You realise that we, in Belize, import far more than we export, so our consumption, it is possible mirrors our art experience. And this holds true for concerts. Every month, we have artists and bands come from the region and beyond hosting huge concerts. And we go. That's how we Belizeans are, 'every pan knak, wi di deh', and I like that about us. Our desire to party keeps us young at heart and joyful in nature. I really hope that that would never change.
These major concerts are never headlined by Belizean artists. Which I have an issue with. And my issue with this, intensifies in September.
Septemba da fu wi! I really think these promoters should hold off in August and resume in October. I know that "moni deh fu mek" but maybe, they could consider holding off as their patriotic contribution.
So every September, it doesn't matter who comes (I have missed Machel Montano, Duane Stephenson and countless others), I stay home in protest. I doubt that my paltry contribution is missed in the flood of concert goers, but I do it in the spirit of art and Belize.
This year though, Chronixx came to Belize. This put me in an uncomfortable spot, though I started listening to the artist late (December 2012), I immediately loved his vibes, lyrics and the message he shared through his music. Yes! Revival Reggae is back, and could not have had a resurgence at a more appropriate time. I have been following his tour dates, and looking for the ones closest to me. I missed his Independent (San Francisco) show by days.
So of course, that he would have a concert in my home, even in the face of my September protest, how could I not go.
I thought about it long and hard. Would I be a fraud if I attended? My Catholic upbringing keeps me guilty. I live life in constant stream of "me aculpa, me aculpa, tanto me aculpa." My anxiety ensures, that I morally check myself, even if no one else does. I hold myself accountable, to myself, and with great paranoia assume that others do too. As I pondered the dilemma, a dear friend purchased a ticket to the show for me, as a late birthday treat. Thanks for the kind gesture Giuseppe, you are a dear friend. So it was settled, "ease out! I gwen da Chronixx!"
I was ecstatic! And anxious. "They'll see you for your fakery, Katie," I thought. So of course I posted a wide apology to all Belizean artists on Facebook before I headed to the show.
I don't know how you feel about reggae, but I think it is community music. The origin was for the purposes of elevating and liberating the minds of oppressed Blacks, creating community between disjointed people. All in all, it started as the 'music for the people.'
So, I thought the concept of VIP, Platinum and General for a reggae show was absolutely ludicrous. But, as much as I don't understand finance, I realised, what that was all about, for business purposes.
So we were in the general section, which I will say, straight away, was behind a fence, in the style of a refugee camp, people gripping the fence, looking on at the stage, which to quote a line from Jah Cure was "a million miles away."
Ni modos, I thought, you get what you pay for, I suppose. I know shows start late, but for no reason, should djs have been playing for 3 hours before the opening acts even came on. So that was my first qualm.
The second? The mics were lower than the tracks played for the opening acts and the sound coming from the speakers was low quality. "Here Comes Trouble" I thought. This is starting off poorly.
So I saw the Belizean acts, from far, far away, and barely heard what they were saying. I just swayed on, the stouts and euphoria from seeing my fellow Belizean artists on a big stage, had me going.
Finally at 3 am, Chronixx came on stage. A small spec in blue, with dreads in a ponytail, from where I stood. A sea of Platinum and VIP guests, in front of the fence and a sea of people clinging to the fence before me.
I could hear him faintly, not enough to 'build a vibes' but I was happy that here he was, performing his art, in the same space as me. There is absolutely nothing that beats a live show. And I say this, even as I swore by virtual exhibits and their reach and any-time accessibility. There is nothing like presence with art.
I swayed vigourously as he and his band played songs which I have been listening to, almost on repeat these past two years. The sound blaring from the speakers did no justice to the ability of the band or the artist, but I danced on. I don't know what the experience was for those fortunate ones in front of the refugee camp fence. I truly hope it was better than mine.
Unfortunately for me, having been up since 4 am, my body had met its limit, and as the songs strained past people and the fence to me and my friends and cousins, I started nodding off. I stood on a crate and was rocking with sleep. I decided to sit on the crate instead, and ended up falling asleep.
My friend decided that we could leave then, and I was relieved.
Concerts by artists you treasure bring great expectations. And I could say all of mine were dashed in that general section. I wondered then, if all this was karmic.
I thank my friend Giuseppe for inviting me to the show. My friends Hannah and Tatiana, who danced with me on crates, and my cousins Andre and Erin, who chilled with me. If not for you all, I would have thought I did myself a disservice by not sleeping after a long day instead.