The UBAD organization and the Amandala newspaper came back here to Partridge Street in late 1972. We had been given notice by our landlords at #46 Euphrates Avenue, and the decision was made to go to swamp land on Partridge Street we had leased from the Government of Belize in 1969, thanks to the foresight of the late Ismail Shabazz. Our conditions were primitive on Partridge, until we managed to complete the original UBAD building, a 30’ by 20’ ferroconcrete structure (now demolished), in the latter part of 1973. Partridge is where we have been ever since.
If you go direct east from Partridge, you will meet Santa Barbara Street, Zericote Street, and then Central American Boulevard. Further east, you meet Pine Street, and then Mayflower. On Mayflower Street lived the man Lester “Bailar” Smith, also known as “Sundance,” “Experience,” “Kid,” and other affectionate names.
For decades it had seemed that Belize City stopped at Pound Yard, and one of the reasons the city could not expand northwest was because of a large body of water known as Prisoner Creek, which would have been between where Lakeview Street, Banak Street and Vernon Street converge today. At some point in the early 1960s (we stand to be corrected) when the city did begin to force its way northwest and fill in Prisoner Creek, Hon. George Price’s ruling People’s United Party (PUP), in line with its “we unite to build a nation” program, grandly changed the name of Prisoner Creek to Lake Independence. The middle class, pro-British skeptics in Belize got a laugh out of this, as they did at other things Mr. Price was doing in order to create a nationalistic, pro-independence consciousness amongst Belizeans.
The 1960s were a time when Belizeans who were a little better off were moving into what we now know as the King’s Park area on the Northside. Roots, working class Belizeans dominated the new Lake Independence area. (The southern section of Lake Independence actually became part of the Collet electoral constituency in 1984.) There are people like Emerson Guild and Anthony “Dulce” Myvett who can say exactly how the seeds for the football club Bailar named “Lakers” were planted, but it is for sure that between the 1972/73 and 1973/74 seasons, Bailar finally got a big time sponsor for the team. This was the late Ernest Black of the Caribbean-based corporation called Berger Paints. And this is when Bailar acquired Christobal Mayen and Larry “Charro” Bennett from Toyota Cruisers. The Lake’s new Berger 404 won its first Belize City football championship in the 1974/75 season. The team was based inside Mayflower Street, the exact same street and area where a murderous gang quarrel has developed forty years later.
Forty years ago, the football championship of Belize City was a highly prestigious title. Mayflower Street and Lake Independence enjoyed big respect because of the accomplishments of the Berger 404 organization. Today, Belize City, though it remains the population center of the nation, has not had an adequate football field/stadium for years, the MCC Grounds having been repeatedly violated some years ago by the Belize City Council in collusion with the National Sports Council, under the aegis of the Ministry of Sports in a United Democratic Party (UDP) administration, which remains in power.
It was as if crow’s feet were placed upon the MCC Garden when the first UDP Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Manuel Esquivel, three decades ago decided to sell the Newtown Barracks in front of the MCC to tourism hotel interests. This became Ramada, which is now the gambling casino Princess. The Newtown Barracks had been a kind of common greens for the Belizean people from time immemorial, but in the middle 1980s the Barracks became a grab tub for foreign investors and Belizean multimillionaires. By now, thirty years later, the MCC was supposed to have long become a parking lot for the casino, but there has been a sturdy, consistent resistance to that proposed sacrilege.
Forty years after the first Berger 404/Lake Independence triumph, there is nowhere for football to be celebrated at its highest level in the old capital. It is an unbelievable state of affairs, but now we can see the powerful hand of Anglo-American imperialism and neoliberal capitalism, even if many of our people do not understand what these forces are and how they work. The bottom line is that Anglo-American imperialism and neoliberal capitalism lay down the guidelines by which Belizean politicians must operate, and some of the human sacrifices they are responsible for today in Belize are the youth of the exact same area that produced Berger 404.
In 1975, what could we have seriously hoped for forty years later other than the socio-economic wasteland we now see before us? Well, at the very least, we think, we could have hoped for a thriving semi-pro football industry in which the Lake was providing personnel for a solid franchise. The people who have won political power since 1975, and who have therefore controlled all the national budgets of Belize, have been thinking of things other than those we have thought of on Partridge Street. That is why the football area of competitive advantage for the Lake has been disgracefully disrespected by the National Sports Council, the Ministry of Sports, and the Government of Belize. Today, it’s the UDP. Back then, it was the PUP which did not have the vision.
On Mayflower Street in 2015, the same street which the Berger 404 heroes once trod, insanity rules. Trying to explain what happened here between 1975 and 2015 requires some attention, some research. And maybe what it requires is some reparation. Until 1834, you see, there was an institution called slavery in Belize, and that was followed until 1981 by another institution, in some ways almost as harmful to black people, called colonialism. You can’t judge the youth who began life with these ancestral burdens the same way you judge the children of Belize’s elite families. You have to allow for where some of our Belizean children came from. Remember, we want to be one community, one society, one nation. That is where we want to go. One love.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie. Fight for Belize.