He was shot to death this past July for no apparent reason, ending his rising trajectory as a promising young journalist. But the late Kareem Clarke, who would have turned 28 on Saturday, November 21, will never be forgotten, at least not by his family or the local community of journalists and news personalities which came together in the weeks following his passing to start the Kareem Clarke Memorial Fund. The purpose of the Fund is solely charitable. It was specifically set up to promote literacy and contribute funding and dry goods to two school feeding programs in Belize City – those of Kareem’s alma mater St. Joseph R.C. Primary and Joel “Dara” Robinson – as well as to support the schooling of Kareem’s nieces and nephew. Fund chairman Alexis Milan told us that in his view the event had been a success and a worthy tribute to our fallen colleague.
Alexis Milan, Chairman, Kareem Clarke Memorial Fund: I think it was a huge success. We got actually quite a bit of people out here. I would say about 100 people give or take. All the weeks of hard work, I think it was a huge success. It didn’t go exactly according to plan but it was for the most part smooth and the way we had imagined it would be. We hope for this to be an annual event, so next year we want to make this bigger, more organized. This was so short noticed, you know what inspired this even only took place some months ago in July, Kareem’s death, and it’s been a learning process for us all in the media, we haven’t done anything like this before but we’re learning. And we hope to be a fully established legal entity by next year so that we can seek greater donation and participation
As part of Saturday’s memorial organized at the BTL Park, there were performances from members of Kareem’s family including brother Kerwick Samuels, and a dance by niece Georgia Henry and her friends in Kareem’s honor. The Image Factory, represented by Katie Usher, handed over a donation of books and funds raised for the Memorial Fund.
Meanwhile, the Fund sponsored an essay competition for high school students in which they were asked to write about this topic: What is the nature of politics in Belize? How can I change it? Michelle Leiva of Edward P. Yorke High School was judged the winner of the competition and received an Acer laptop courtesy of various donations. Here is a sample of Michelle’s winning essay: Second place winner Kyle Rodriguez from St. John’s College (High School) received a tablet courtesy Go Wireless Direct and third place Kaylene Sedacy also of E.P. Yorke won 500 dollars from Caribbean Tires. Edward P. Yorke High School was Kareem’s alma mater. Leiva told us about how she got involved in the competition.
Michelle Leiva, Winner, Essay Competition: At first it wasn’t that complicated to write the essay because it was actually a previous topic that we had discussed in class so my Social Studies teacher brought most of the information together, we discussed in class. When the essay came about I already had the information. My personal experience with the political system, especially in the area that I live, I could have just used my imagination and put it in paper.
Reporter: Okay so tell us about how long it took you to put the essay together.
Michelle Leiva, Winner, Essay Competition: Well I heard about the essay competition the same exact day it was due, the Friday morning I was sitting in my house and I was listening to the radio and I heard the announcement of the essay competition. I didn’t really hear everything, but I heard that it was offered to all high schoolers and then I went to school and I was like “oh ” then I went straight into m principal’s office and I asked him about the information and he gave me the details and thing and then I went and start writing, and then I print it out at school, drafted, edited. It was actually edited four times then I submitted it the same day.
Also performing were a group of poets formerly part of the Youth Voices Group. One of them, Shamira Gill-Card, spoke to us about how she got involved and her personal memories of Kareem.
Shamira Gill-Card, Youth Poet: Kareem’s tragedy hurt the nation basically because he wasn’t someone that was into any trouble or anything that is not conducive and so it’s something that we had to be a part of. He’s also a fellow writer. He’s a journalist. And so something like this is something that we as other artists, whether you’re a writer or performer should want to be a part of and so it was an honor for us actually to be here and to share a part of this. For my second piece, My Brothers, it was actually written because of Kareem. I knew Kareem for over 25 years and it was actually an outcry to all the Belizean men who are living negligently in the streets, and that’s the example that the younger generation is seeing and that’s what they are following. Children live what they see. They don’t live or they don’t practice what they are told to and so this is a cry to them to let them understand that if this is what they’re doing to each other, I mean the black man is going to be an extinct race also that young children will no longer have respect for each other whether same age or adult.
In August the Memorial Fund did a food drive in Clarke’s memory and is expected to do another early next year. It continues to accept donations in Kareem’s honor for its programs.