“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, when thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.”
– JOHN: 21:18
“Kurtz, the main character in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, completes his essay on the civilizing task of the white man among the savages of Africa with a postscript summarizing the true content of his high-flown rhetoric.
“It is this sentence radiating toward me now on the screen: ‘Exterminate all the brutes.’”
– pgs. 7,8, “Exterminate all the brutes”, by Sven Lindqvist, The New Press, New York, 1996
“Some years ago, I thought I had found the source of Conrad’s phrase in the great liberal philosopher Herbert Spencer.
“He writes in Social Statics (1850) that imperialism has served civilization by clearing the inferior races off the earth. ‘The forces which are working out the great scheme of perfect happiness, taking no account of incidental suffering, exterminate such sections of mankind as stand in their way … Be he human or be he brute – the hindrance must be got rid of.’”
– pg. 8, ibid.
37 years ago, this newspaper, which had been established in August 1969 as the voice of a black-conscious organization called the United Black Association for Develoment (UBAD), declared that its editorial philosophy would no longer be black nationalism, but rather Belizean nationalism.
4 years before that declaration, the UBAD organization, which had become a political party in August of 1970, had broken in two. At the time of that angry division in early 1973, the two UBAD factions, one of which had become linked with the new United Democratic Party (UDP) and the other of which remained independent until early 1975, were pretty close to becoming violent with each other. At stake were the land and original ferro-concrete building (now demolished) on Partridge Street and some loud speaking equipment, the only UBAD Party assets.
Previous to the 1973 division within UBAD, which had been variously based on Racecourse Street, Euphrates Avenue, and Partridge Street on Belize City’s Southside after its first few months on Northside’s Hyde’s Lane, serious and sustained violence amongst the black youth of Belize City was totally unthinkable. Isolated incidents of violence almost never involved guns, and only infrequently featured knives or machetes. To a certain extent, the absence of violence in Belize City reflected the fact that tough colonial laws still existed and were still being enforced. Convicted murderers were still being hanged in Belize. But the absence of black-on-black Belize City violence between 1969 and 1973 was also a testament to the prestige and power of UBAD as an umbrella council-type presence in the population center.
Amandala’s declaration of Belizean nationalism in 1977 did not cause any kind of stir, most likely because UBAD had been formally dissolved in late 1974. This newspaper was locked in a bitter battle with the surging Opposition UDP and its newspaper organ, The Beacon. Amandala was allied at the time with the ruling People’s United Party (PUP), which had become almost desperate in its quest for political independence.
That independence came in September of 1981. Murderous gun violence began to claim the lives of black youth in the old capital after the introduction of crack cocaine here in the mid-1980s and the arrival of the gang phenomenon from the United States a couple years later.
The publisher of Amandala, who had been the president of UBAD from early 1969 until its dissolution in 1974, believed after the end of UBAD that his contribution to the community would have to be in the form of job creation. This goal was achieved, to a substantial extent. The new Kremandala, which incorporated radio in 1989 and television in 2003, in addition to sponsoring and managing semi-pro basketball and football teams, became arguably the leading private sector employer, outside of the Bowen empire, on Belize City’s Southside. The Kremandala business success, for what it was, was taking place pretty much during the same three decades when Southside youth were sinking into the abyss of gun violence we see them drowning in today – September 2014.
The gun violence in Belize City, which has been documented as having reached a level which the United Nations considers as that of a civil war, largely features young, black males, but it is time, we submit, for us to declare this situation a national crisis. The Belize City murder rate is more than that: it represents a human rights issue of major proportions. This national crisis and human rights issue is playing out right before our eyes, and yet the alarm has not been properly raised.
The major reason for the muted response to Belize’s human tragedy is the fact that the ruling UDP controls all the seats in the constituencies where the bulk of the murder violence is taking place. The UDP government has an interest in “damage control” of this civil war. Another reason the alarm has not been appropriately raised is that Amandala and Kremandala have been going about their business as a professional media house. We are not to be blamed for the low volume of the alarm, but the question now must be asked: how long can we ignore the root causes of a catastrophe which may be described as genocidal?
When UBAD was formed in early 1969, UBAD became linked with an organization called the People’s Action Committee (PAC), led by Assad Shoman and Said Musa, which was utilizing the Marxist-Leninist model to analyze Belize’s socio-economic problems. UBAD and PAC made a formal alliance between October of 1969 and January of 1970, but after that alliance crashed, the leaders of the ruling PUP began to focus their hostile propaganda on UBAD, whose leaders they described as “preachers of hatred and violence,” and whom they accused of dividing the different races of Belize.
Ethnicity has always been a sensitive subject in Belize. The UBAD message that “black is beautiful” sought to reverse a brainwashing which had been going on in the territory of Belize for centuries. The UBAD message threatened a status quo which included the brown elite of Belize City, who had developed a feeling of class entitlement after generations of privilege under British colonialism. There were Mestizo elements in Belize who also felt threatened by the 1969 Belizean version of “black power.” This was, in retrospect, to be expected. Needless to say, Belize’s white power structure was very much hostile to UBAD. But, and this is what the electoral politicians of Belize have spent four decades plus doing their best to deny, the UBAD message was embraced by the black youth of Belize.
When UBAD divided in 1973 and disappeared in 1974, the black youth of the population center remained, as generation followed generation. In 2014, Belize’s young black masses are murdering each other at an unprecedented rate. What does this say to you? To us, it says that there was a problem in 1969 which was left essentially unaddressed and unsolved. The Prime Minister of Belize announced on Independence Day 2014 that his UDP government was borrowing 60 million dollars in order to fight crime. This is the UDP’s fourth term in government in the last thirty years. The evidence is that they have not been able to figure out what is really going on in the streets, or that they don’t really care. Or, it may be that they are following orders from some people somewhere.
We have said to you before that only the people can save the people. This must be clear to anyone who really cares to see. As Belize this month marks the anniversaries of the births of our two major political parties, the PUP in 1950 and the UDP in 1973, we think it should be noted that neither of these two have any answers to Belize City’s gun violence. Only the people can save the people.
Power to the people.