Friday, March 7, 2014

Bileez Kriol: Wi Deh Pahn it!

by Silvaana Udz, Secretary of the Belize Kriol Project

 “Di vaibz … Mee feel di pipl toch dehn kolcha, gyal!” This is what president of the National Kriol Council, Dana Rhamdas, said in reaction to several hours of Kriol bramming with di gumbeh drums in a Krismos float through Belize City’s principal streets at the December 2013 “Love Christmas Parade.” The float was bedecked (now isn’t dat a great English word!) … di Kriol float was bedecked in messages spreading peace and love and life and hope—BUT most of all—dehnya messages were all in big, bold, CORRECT (that is, standard) spelling of di Belize Kriol language. There she was, our priti priti Bileez Kriol langwij, one of di seventy-seven plus Creole languages in the world, according to the Lewis Ethnologue, (See … there she was, proudly flexing her symbols and syllables, eliciting comments from smiling bystanders, like “Bot dis Kriol noh haad fu reed atal, yu noh!”
More than just being a medium for entertainment, or edutainment indeed, di parade as a vehicle for mass media
transmission continues to be unparalleled. For those watching di procession through di live broadcast beamed into living rooms (me, I confess, as I do not live in  di city), it was clear from di announcers’ comments that di Kriol float was a hit. Buttressing di great onsite success of the Belize Kriol culture and language float in embedding di Kriol orthography that emerged after some fifteen years of research, testing, and revising (, was di pre-parade TV magazine show that featured di National Kriol Council sharing information on old-time Krismos practices, displaying Kriol books and giving away some as prizes during call-in segments, and showing di sambai dance moves that would be in di parade.
What di successful Kriol entrance into the public parade did was to reinforce to all of us working in promoting Belize Kriol
language rights what Hubert Devonish said in his 1987 book       Language and Liberation: Creole Language Politics in the Caribbean and reiterated in the 2007 updated edition; namely: not only is the mass media the forum to engage “the right of Creole speakers to participate in public discussion” (p.105), but in the media, “Creole needs to be used as a language of public information” (p. 125). Specifically to di point of di Kriol float in di parade and its promotion of  peace messages in di standard Belize Kriol orthography, Devonish’s advice indeed came alive this past Krismos in Belize:  di use of publications—and by extension media in general—has di function of developing “interesting and attractive ways of presenting the new Creole orthography …. As well, the television and established newspapers could be used as media for publicizing this orthography” (p. 124). This has always served as sterling advice to di members of di Belize Kriol Project, established since di early 1990s to develop, promote and popularize a standard orthography for di Belize Kriol language. Di critical need for popularization of di orthography is advice that is doubly noted, coming as it is from Devonish who, along with UWI and Caribbean counterparts,  initiated di entire ICCLR Charter and who has been—along with Sir Colville Young in Belize, SIL, and local educators and artists—a foremost guru who has helped to shape di Belize Kriol orthography’s development.
Indeed, at di historic January 2011 establishment of di Charter for Caribbean Language Rights, two of di critically important points—and all of di Charter’s 52 articles are critical—speak to di impact of the use of our Creole languages in public information outputs and inputs. Specifically, Article #21, 2 states: “Everyone has the right, as a client, customer, or consumer or user, to receive oral, written and/or signed information in the territorial languages from establishments open to the public”; Article #36 states: “Language communities are entitled to representation of their language in the communications media of their territories, specifically including …”; and Article #38, 1: “All language communities have the right to use, maintain and foster their language in all forms of cultural expression.”
 The ICCLR push for ensuring we memba di  critical role of di publicity part of what wi di do when we promote, research, and add to di WRITTEN language outputs was well in display this past Krismos season in Belize. Di Belize Kriol Project has, for almost a decade and a half since its first draft booklet in 1995 on di initial orthography, published a weekly newspaper column called “Weh Wi Ga Fi Seh” in first di local Amandala newspaper then, and currently, in di Reporter newspaper. Since di middle of di 2000s, the column is also available online where it is also archived for ready retrieval (See In March 2013, di Belize Kriol Project also launched di New Testament in Belize Kriol, culminating almost 15 years of work with SIL, Wycliffe, West Indian Bible Society, Belize Bible Society, and local pastors (See
What di outreach at the public parade did was to reinforce to us di power of directly connecting with di people we most want to affect. The participation of members of the National Kriol Council of Belize and its literacy arm, the Belize Kriol Project, in an extremely anticipated public procession sponsored by a nationwide radio/TV station engaged the media and the people who say the prominent signage in the Kriol language. This, more any policy per se will make the Bileez Kriol language and all our Caribbean Creole languages be bold , brave, and beautiful in their written forms in the public's eye. Plus, the language is placed always in the context of the culture. The float was jumping with the traditional Kriol Krismos music  made by graters, pint bottles, accordion, shakaz and  of course di Kriol sambai drumming and dancing! Di pikni dehn bai di roadside mi-di taak: “Ma! Dat da Kriol tu?  Dat gud man!" (or something like dat according to the Kriol Council members on the float! Note that di Kriol sambai dancing is still done mostly in rural areas, like Gales Pt. Malanti Village, so di urban youths watching di parade got a bit of cultural learning!) Now, as soon as we can at di Belize Kriol Project, we  want to free up some time, so that we can get back to setting up village booths at village weekend events, not only to continue to promote di Kriol orthography, but also to hold more writers’ workshops with a view to developing more reading materials, fun as well as educational books—and online options now—for promoting di written version of our Creole language, one of the Caribbean English-lexified Creole languages—di Bileez Kriol language! After all, as a visiting literacy assistant Naomi Glock of SIL reiterated during her time in Belize, once you get people reading the Kriol, you will need materials for them to read. [Of course, just getting anyone to read nowadays is a challenge at times! No matter what language di material is written in!] In di meantime, we continue to promote wi priti priti Kriol langwij anyway, anyhow, anytime we can. Kohn … mek wi taak—ahn rait—wi langwij!