“The massive wave of anticolonial movements that opened with the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) and came into its own by the last quarter of the nineteenth century broke the legitimacy of colonial domination. No longer could it be said that a European power had the manifest destiny to govern other peoples. When such colonial adventures were tried out, they were chastised for being immoral.
“In 1928, the anticolonial leaders gathered in Brussels for a meeting of the League Against Imperialism. This was the first attempt to create a global platform to unite the visions of the anticolonial movements from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Considerations of expediency and the convulsions of World War II blocked any progress on such a platform. It would have to wait until 1955, in Bandung, Indonesia, when a smattering of newly independent or almost independent African and Asian countries sent their leaders to confer on a planetary agenda. The Bandung dynamic inaugurated the Third World Project, a seemingly incoherent set of demands that were actually very carefully worked out through the institutions of the United Nations and what would become, in 1961, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
“The central concept for the new nations was the Third World. The Third World was not a place: it was a project. Galvanized by the mass movements and by the failures of capitalist mal-development, the leaderships in the darker nations looked to each other for another agenda. Politically, they wanted more planetary democracy. No more the serfs of their colonial masters, they wanted to have a voice and power on the world stage.”
– Pg. 1, Introduction, THE POORER NATIONS, by Vijay Prashad, Verso, 2012
As we approach the 45th anniversary of the founding of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD), I think it desirable to update the present leadership structure of Kremandala and the UBAD Educational Foundation (UEF). UBAD was officially dissolved in November of 1974, but over the years I’d made a conscious effort to run things in such a way that those Belizeans who contributed their time and energy to UBAD, which was the parent organization of Kremandala and UEF, would feel that they had not wasted their UBAD time and energy.
I’ve said before that UBAD essentially went through five phases between its founding on February 9th, 1969, and its November 1974 dissolution. The first phase lasted from its foundation until October of 1969, when the remainder of the UBAD leadership made an alliance with the People’s Action Committee (PAC), led by Assad Shoman and Said Musa. I say the “remainder” of the UBAD leadership because several of the UBAD officials who had been major personalities in the sensational summer of ’69, had migrated to the United States by October of that year. These included Robert Livingston, Edgar X Richardson, and Karl X Menzies (all now deceased). Two other UBAD personalities who were not elected officers, Bert Simon (now Nuri Muhammad) and Odinga Lumumba, also migrated during that period. Bert Simon returned to California and Odinga returned to England.
Amandala, the newspaper organ of UBAD, had been established on August 13, 1969. PAC had begun publishing their own newspaper, which was called Fire. So when UBAD and PAC made their ill-fated alliance, they published a joint newspaper, and called it Amandala with Fire. The UBAD alliance with PAC collapsed in mid-January of 1970, and Amandala thereupon returned to being Amandala.
A third phase of UBAD then began, which became dominated by Charles X “Justice” Eagan, and lasted until he was imprisoned in January of 1971. At this point, a fourth phase of UBAD commenced, which featured Norman “Imamu” Fairweather. That fourth phase ended when the UBAD executive split in early 1973, and a fifth and final phase lasted until our November 1974 dissolution.
This brief history was by way of saying that different people worked in and with UBAD for different reasons during its five and a half year history, so there are different histories to be told. For me personally, I have always been intrigued by the mind sets of those of the UBAD generation of Belizeans who have become political leaders but who never mingled with UBAD in any manner, way, shape, or form. That is another story.
The legacy of UBAD is represented in 2014 by Amandala (1969), KREM Radio (1989), and KREM TV (2003). These institutions are now being managed by three of my children, and they meet regularly to confer. At various times in the past, these meetings have been separately chaired by myself, one of my brothers, and a fourth of my children. Presently, my brother and I are not in the picture.
The UBAD Educational Foundation (UEF) was established in 1996, and it is presently being run by Ya Ya Marin Coleman and Virginia Echols. UEF’s activities, as detailed in their 2013 annual report published in this newspaper earlier this month, are impressive. Among other things, UEF runs the African and Indian (Indigenous) Library on the Kremandala compound, and they also produce shows which air weekly on KREM Radio and KREM TV.
Today, I would say that the important thing to note is that my personal power is much reduced. I don’t run anything on Partridge Street. I have influence, of course, but I don’t have the power I used to have. Some of you won’t believe that, or you will not choose to believe it. No matter.
Just below our managers, there are news editors at the different institutions who make policy and editorial decisions on a daily basis. There are some critical issues which are being debated in Belize today. These include the International Court of Justice/Guatemala claim matter, Carnival/Chukkah versus FECTAB, the dispute between Belize Sugar Industries (BSI)/American Sugar Refining (ASR) and Belize’s cane farmers, the struggle between U.S. Capital Energy and the Sarstoon/Temash Maya, the matter of the oil exploring companies/Government of Belize versus Oceana, APAMO, and all those who are opposed to drilling for oil in offshore areas and in national parks, the Government of Belize versus the trade unions, UNIBAM versus the churches, and so on.
In the critical issues facing Belize, it is fairly easy to see where a media house can make business-profitable decisions. In several of these matters, it is a case of big corporate money fighting against domestic, indigenous interests. It is not good business to fight against big corporate money. But the foundations of Kremandala were not built on orthodoxy. So, we have Kremandala managers and editors having to make decisions wherein straight business concepts are in conflict with the institution’s core beliefs. Kremandala’s core beliefs, I suppose, involve the concept of “power to the people.” It sounds so generalized as to be vague, but what it means for the decision makers at Kremandala is that the masses of the Belizean people judge their decisions, and the people let them know whether they approve or disapprove. Business is not supposed to work that way, but this is how it is behind the Zinc Fence.
The history is important. You have to know your roots. Amandala, the flagship of Kremandala, began with the 1969 purchase of a Gestetner stenciling machine for $534 from a company called British Honduras Distributors. UBAD received donations, beginning in May that year, totaling about $250 from the people of Belize. This was all small stuff, mostly collected at UBAD’s indoor and outdoor public meetings. The remainder of the money came from a Dartmouth College Professor of Chinese named Jonathan Mirsky. A Dartmouth student by the name of Wallace L. “Wally” Ford had solicited the money from him. Incidentally, I soon lost all contact with Wally Ford, who became a big time attorney in New York City. I’d never met Professor Mirsky. Google reports that he moved in London in 1974. (In line with that old Dartmouth vibes, hello to Dr. Don Dayson in New York.)
When UBAD collapsed, only Amandala survived. The 1973 split in UBAD broke my heart, needless to say. Some of my best friends went against me. In the longer term, the split meant that our leadership was absorbed, off and on, by the two major political parties. So Amandala, once the voice of a revolutionary cultural organization turned political party, became merely a business proposition.
Perhaps it is only in my personal head that the memories and echoes and ghosts survive, but I think not. I think that we fought against racism, colonialism, and imperialism in UBAD, and that fight is ongoing even as we write. The invaders don’t call themselves slavemasters or colonialists any more. The sophisticated nomenclature now says: “foreign direct investors.” They seek the same thing their ancestors and predecessors did – cheap labor and fast money.
Power to the people. Amandla. Ngawethu.