Immersion Experience: Students visit Garinagu People of Belize

Posted November 07, 2023, 9:00AM

Students enrolled in an Introduction to African Diaspora course facilitated by the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities had the privilege to take their learning beyond the classroom. From May 5 to May 19, 2023, they experienced the African Diaspora. This practical learning experience deepened their understanding and knowledge of the subject matter.

Nine students from North Carolina Central University (NCCU) traveled to Belize, a Central American country bordered on the north by Mexico, south and west by Guatemala and east by the Caribbean Sea. During their visit, they had the opportunity to interact with the Garifuna people.

The Garifuna, also known as the Garinagu people of Belize, are descendants of West African captives and Arawaks or Red Caribs who migrated from St. Vincent Island following conflicts between the French and Spaniards. Banished from the Island of St. Vincent to the barren island of Baliceaux, the Garinagu, known as the purest forms of Africans in the Diaspora, by anthropologist Sheila. S Walker traveled down the Central American coast in canoes from Roatan and eventually settled in Belize in the early 1800s.

The Introduction to African Diaspora course provided an immersive and authentic experience of the Garinagu people, with a strong emphasis on daily mindfulness practices, language lessons and academic activities, all aimed at capturing the essence of the Garifuna culture.

This immersion incorporated experiences in the Garifuna language, spirituality, music, dance, food, and an in-depth exploration of the journey and resilience of the Garinagu people. Designed with emphasis on the areas of interest of each student including art, architecture, mass communications, music, mental health and maternal issues, African spirituality and history.

Promise Providence, a junior majoring in psychology, stated: “Belize was the dawn of my spiritual awakening. Previously I started my spiritual journey of the alignment of my higher self. Belize has shed a light on how I plan to move through life as a resource here on Earth.”

Imara Harrell, a senior majoring in mass communications, stated: “I was surprised how they stick to tradition.” Harvesting on a farm, for example, is done with machetes rather than machines. Imara also found life to be more relaxed. “I feel people (in the United States) are stressed about everything,” she said.

“There, you just live life,” stated Brianna Spruill, a junior studying psychology. “You are immersing, not just sitting in the classroom. Living specific experiences and getting to dine with Garifuna people and being in a lot of these sacred spaces.”

Dean Carlton Wilson, Ph.D., would like international travel to become a regular part of the student experience at NCCU.

“I hope that this will not be a one-time experience,” Wilson said. “We would like to bring a sense of internationalism to the students.”

The students will give a presentation about their trip at 4 p.m. Monday, November 13 in the Miller Morgan Auditorium. There will be an opportunity to participate in a Q&A with a student panel.

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