DANGRIGA, Stann Creek, Sun. Feb. 5, 2017–The afternoon rains could not deter those who headed to Pen Cayetano’s Studio Gallery in Dangriga Town for a celebration of Black History Month, which featured a ceremony in which the versatile, dynamic artist Pen Cayetano honored Kremandala chairman Evan X Hyde for his stellar contribution to the development of black consciousness in Belize.
In the back-water colonial society of British Honduras, young Evan Anthony Hyde returned from his studies in the United States and became Evan X Hyde, a black activist and freedom fighter who dared to speak out against the injustices of the colonial society through the United Black Association for Development (UDAD) a black consciousness movement that he helped to form and later led. If there is one word that can summarize Evan X Hyde over the almost five decades that he has been on the scene stripping away the various layers of hypocrisy in Belizean society, that word is consistent.
Shortly after 3:00 p.m., Pen Cayetano began making periodic checks at the gate of his studio compound, after he told the waiting audience that, “the great Evan X Hyde should be arriving any minute now.”
Evan X Hyde arrived and was greeted with a warm, brotherly embrace by Pen, who led him and his wife toward the stage. The waiting crowd greeted Evan X Hyde with loud clapping as Pen took the cordless microphone and shouted out, “Power to the people.” Then he sang “God Bless X Hyde”, and the program to honor the “Power to the People” man got underway in earnest.
In his welcome remarks, Pen began to reminisce about how he met Evan X Hyde. He told the story about how black people, Creoles and Garifuna people, used to treat each other. “I was twelve years old,” Pen recollects, “and this guy used to tell us how we are beautiful.”
“Today, 2017, the 5 February I spoke to Dr. Aranda, and Cynthia Ellis, I told them we got to do something…,” Pen told the audience.
“Power to the people, power to Evan X Hyde,” Pen thundered into his microphone, as he began speaking about Cynthia Ellis-Topsey, “one of our great woman leaders in Dangriga”, who he would introduce shortly as the first speaker.
Ellis-Topsey said she was moved to tears and gave God thanks in celebration of Evan, and invited the crowd to sing with her. Then she led the crowd into the singing of Bob Marley’s “One Love” and moved into another of Marley’s songs., this time it was Marley’s Redemption Song.
Ellis-Topsey credited Evan for, “what I have become today.” She said that Evan spoke to her class when she was a youngster attending St. Catherine’s Academy and he awakened in her the reality of what was happening in the world.
“ I was getting ready to go into the convent. I wanted to become a nun, but after Evan spoke to us, and taught us to be black and proud, I changed my mind about becoming a nun”, Ellis-Topsey said. “I was following the crowd called UBAD,” she noted.
Ellis-Topsey explained that Evan was not popular due to the system. “Evan has given us the model. He dared to be different. Amandala, power to the word,” Ellis-Topsey said.
“Do not leave this place without telling the Cayetano family or Evan how we are going to move forward,” Ellis-Topsey said, noting, “All of us are responsible.”
Following Ellis-Topsey’s presentation, Sean Taegar read a poem dedicated to Evan X Hyde, whose work and contribution the poem described as “blossoming from the abyss.”
During the interlude, Pen narrated a story about when he was living in Germany and he learned from Amandala that an investor wanted to buy Amandala. Pen went on to describe the anxiety he felt when he learned that some rich person wanted to buy Amandala. So he waited for the next edition of the newspaper to find out what would happen to Amandala. “I di wait for the next Amandala from Belize to see what X gwine do bout this man. X told the man this Amandala was not made by money. This Amandala was made by the people,” said Cayetano.
Pen introduced the next speaker, Dr. Theodore Aranda, as the man who got the hospital built in Dangriga.
Dr. Aranda recalled the first time that he met Evan was when he returned from the US, and mentioned that they spoke about the situation in Belize.
After his remarks about meeting Evan X Hyde, Dr. Aranda delved into some aspects of Black history.
Dr. Aranda explained that we are descendants of Africa but the system of oppression would have us believe that African did not make any contribution to the development of human history. “We civilized England. We civilized Spain,” Dr. Aranda declared.
Dr. Aranda said the Garifuna people have a lot to be proud of. “We have made contributions to the world.,” he said.
“The Garifuna and the Creoles are Africans”, Dr. Aranda said. He said that the Garifuna people moved into Europe when there was an ice age thousands of years ago. “Our ancestors were sailors, they were familiar with the oceans, they were traders and they started going further and further north until they crossed the Atlantic Ocean all the way to America. Those Mandingoes crossed the Atlantic Ocean,” Dr. Aranda emphasized.
Dr. Aranda said, “I thank Evan Hyde for what he started. Who are the Garinagu? We are Mandingo people. It was not Columbus who discovered the Americas; it was the Garifuna people, the Mandingo people,” he said.
After Dr. Aranda had spoken, a former Wesley College student from 1971, whom Evan had taught, Isabel Cacho, took to the stage to inform the audience that she acted in Hard Times, a play that Evan X Hyde had written and produced when he was teaching at Wesley College.
Cacho’s brief presentation was followed by another poem dedicated to Evan X Hyde by the poet Sean Taegar who touchingly described Evan X Hyde’s writings as “warrior of fire, spirit of Belize, your writing is a sword of fire, lighting the path to the new Jerusalem. Your pen, an arrow flying to infinity, your heart, harmonizing the history of sky.”
As the program was winding down, the man of the hour Evan X Hyde took the podium. He thanked Pen Cayetano for honoring him, and said that Adele Ramos and Pen “double benk me.”
“I am the eldest of nine. From the time we small my ma tell me bout we history,” Evan said.
“I never into this public life, I am a writer. I want to say this, to me music is the highest form of art, and we have a great artist here, Pen Cayetano,” he said.
“Marcus Garvey was a phenomenal black man who built this magnificent movement in Harlem, New York,” Evan said.
“At a certain point in my life when I became black conscious in America, I became kind of a racist. But that da no something you could continue with, because we are just humans,” Evan said.
Evan then briefly referred to a foreigner who has Belize on its knees due to the millions of dollars we are indebted to him. “Now every minute unno owe, 50 million,” he said.
Touching on the sale of Amandala that Pen had mentioned, Evan said he did not know whether they wanted to buy Amandala or they just wanted to have control. “I no want get too hype and so, but the support we get from roots, these are the people that are always there for us, cause sometime we struggle,” he said.
Evan then spoke about a black Belizean millionaire Isaiah Morter and Robert Turton. Thurton ended up as the guy who sparked up the PUP to get rid of the British. He said that Morter left all of his money for Marcus Garvey. He was operating in a white supremacist world, Hyde said. Marcos died in England in 1943 at the very young age of 53.
“Marcos died a bitter death; I think one of his brethren ran a story saying he died without checking his stats. When Marco see the story he collapsed and died. I could a never rate myself with Marcos Garvey, but I have Pen Cayetano right here,” Evan said.
“We wan deal with wey we wan deal with now. Alright, the man dem sey, Sibun to Sarstoon belong to me, serious business, because the one over yonder, the neo-European, genocidal racist murders, said give us Sibun to Sarstoon. The one wey unno really love, the one from England, da no land he really want. he no want no land, he want all a yu money. Serious business the go on inna this lee country,” he said.
“Big people watch this very closely. Because it is never to be that Belizeans should start unifying. That is not how this is set up. The love between Pen Cayetano and Evan X Hyde is something that they going to watch very closely. At some point we have to unite against THE common enemy. Who is the common enemy, the person weh claim Sibun to Sarstoon and the one wey want so much millions, why unno can’t see that,” said Hyde.