Whole lotta people say
it’s the singer, not the song,
but I say no,
it’s the song, not the singer.
There are universal truths,
of which the song is an echo.
The singer is but a changing victim
of God’s eternal urge
to create, by means of love.
It’s the love, not the lover,
can you dig it,
dig it, it’s the truth.
It’s the people, not the person,
do you know what
I’m saying is different,
it’s the song and
not the singer.
Next Sunday marks the 24th anniversary of KREM Radio, and there are many stories to tell. The most important of these stories is the story of survival, because we can see now that, in high places, it was surely not intended that KREM should survive.
When Hurricane Greta struck Belize City in September of 1978, the Amandala printing press had been in pieces on the floor of the original UBAD building for a week. Insurance money from Greta saved the press, and there was enough left over for Evan X Hyde and Rufus X to visit New Orleans in early 1979. These were two old friends who had been separated by the UDP in 1973, but who had reconciled, even though Rufus X remained UDP and Evan X Hyde had become a PUP ally.
While in New Orleans, Rufus X showed Evan X the building which housed the radio station where a New Orleans deejay named Sister Love worked on air. The building was no bigger than the UBAD building, and an idea was planted in Evan X’s mind.
Political independence came to Belize in 1981, and then the country’s first change of government followed in 1984, a process in which Rufus X and Evan X Hyde were more important than most UDP’s know or their leaders will admit. After a while, though, it became clear that not that much was going to change in Belize with the change of government. And the most controversial institution that was not going to change was Radio Belize: it remained a government monopoly which was a tool of the ruling party. This was Belizeans’ first evidence of what we now call “PUDP.”
We can’t say exactly when the British Forces in Belize were allowed to have their own radio station. The British began broadcasting from Ladyville in the 1980s, and the station could be heard in Belize City, the population and financial center of the new nation of Belize. As time went on, it became our opinion on Partridge Street that the existence of the British Forces station was an insult to our Belizean sovereignty, because no such Belizean equivalent existed.
Our Amandala newspaper had become Belize’s leading newspaper in 1981, we had risked a lot for the change of government, and we now believed we were within our entitlement to request a radio license. If the British could have their own radio station in independent Belize, why not Amandala?
The UDP played games with us. Then, in 1988 the UDP leadership prevented Rufus X from challenging Sam Rhaburn for the standard bearer position in Belize Rural North. The die was cast. In early 1989, Amandala began agitating aggressively for a radio license, and the UDP publicly rejected us, with a threat. The Opposition PUP, desperate to return to power after their rude ouster in 1984, and with general elections scheduled for late in 1989, decided to support the “Radio Amandala” concept, for political purposes only.
In the September 1989 general elections, the PUP won by a narrow 15-13 margin, and on November 17, 1989, a new PUP government Minister, Glenn Godfrey, became part of a team which put KREM Radio on the air. The other team members were the engineer Rodolfo Silva, and Rufus X. The trio left J. C. Arzu in charge of the fledgling radio station, and visited Evan X Hyde at his home that Saturday morning to give him the supposedly good news. But, this was not the way the process should have worked, and Evan X knew something was wrong somewhere.
Glenn Godfrey, behind the other KREM Radio shareholders’ back, immediately began negotiating to sell his 20 percent shares in KREM Radio, and then in early December informed the board chairman of KREM, Evan X Hyde, that the PUP administration was privatizing Radio Belize. This meant, essentially, that Glenn Godfrey was telling Evan X Hyde that KREM Radio was finished, three weeks after it had gone on the air!
It became clear, then, that for KREM to survive it would have to be subsidized by Amandala, which is how it was. Amandala had been an institution constructed in 1969 out of pennies, nickels and dimes, and the love of the people. Twenty years later, KREM Radio became a similarly desperate experience. Six months after Amandala began publishing, its two publishers had been arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy, for which they were later tried and acquitted in the Supreme Court. Just a year after KREM Radio began broadcasting, there was an attempt to take down our 200-foot high broadcast tower on Partridge Street. It is what it is.
In this essay, we wish to single out three cornerstones of the KREM Radio experience.
J. C. Arzu, a unique and gifted Belizean, was there from that very first Saturday morning 24 years ago, and he remains a source of technical strength and nationalistic commitment at KREM.
Mose Hyde entered KREM Radio as a callow teenager one week after KREM began broadcasting. He grew into manhood at KREM Radio, and became the station’s first superstar deejay. The road was rough, with many a winding turn.
The Kremandala Raiders helped to save KREM Radio, and on the radio station’s anniversary we remember the late, great Wilton Cumberbatch. The young Raiders were blessed with his veteran basketball prestige and credibility from 1992 onwards, and he is, as it is said, gone too soon. Wilton was truly something special.
And, we almost forgot. KREM Radio’s first general manager in those very, very difficult early years was Mr. Charles Bartlett Hyde, a retired public officer. He gave KREM Radio everything he had, and that is why we were outraged by Supreme Court attacks made on him by Lord Ashcroft’s agents. We are happy that Charles Bartlett is still with us, and we honor him.
In conclusion, we always have to emphasize how invaluable the support of the Belizean people is. We always have to remind the individual supporter that he/she is a part of a larger group, a sum total of Belizean people who have made flowers bloom in the swamp on Partridge Street.
There’s a lot of love, a lot of love.
Power to the people.