“Mao had dealt an enormous psychological blow to the U.S.A. On 15 December 1950, Truman went on radio to declare a State of National Emergency, something that did not happen in either World War II or the Vietnam War. Using almost apocalyptic language, he told the American people. ‘Our homes, our Nation … are in great danger.’ The Chinese by then had already driven the Americans back some 200 kilometres in a matter of weeks, in appalling conditions, with sub-zero temperatures compounded by icy winds. Secretary of State Dean Acheson described the reverse as the ‘worst defeat’ for U.S. forces in a century.”
– pgs. 365, 366, Mao: The Unknown Story, by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Alfred A. Knopf, 2005
“It was having China as a secure rear and supply depot that made it possible for the Vietnamese to fight for twenty-five years and beat first the French and then the Americans. In most of these years, the huge logistics burden of the fighting in Indochina fell almost entirely on China.”
– pg. 357, ibid.
The United States is the greatest country in the world, and when I landed in New York City in late August of 1965 at the age of 18, I would have thought it was the greatest city in the world. New York was then the center of activism for Belizean Americans. Today, Los Angeles has replaced New York as the center of Belizean American activism. And, overall in America, there is an intense rivalry between the Big Apple and the City of Angels.
Around this time, late November, 45 years ago, I was recruited by Assad Shoman and Said Musa to participate in a demonstration against a propaganda film for the American war effort in South Vietnam. The movie, called The Green Berets and starring John Wayne, was scheduled to begin showing at the Eden Cinema on North Front Street on New Year’s night 1969. I had drawn the attention of Assad and Said because I had become known in the city as a black power advocate. I was teaching English at Belize Technical College at the time.
The Dartmouth College campus I’d left just about five months earlier was pretty much anti-war, and one of my close friends, a white American named George Moore, was so opposed to the Vietnam War that he had become a member of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). This was radical as you could get on American college campuses. George Moore lived in the same dormitory where I did – Bissell Hall, belonged to the same fraternity I did – Zeta Psi, and graduated from Dartmouth the same time I did – June of 1968.
I’ve never written about George Moore, and I guess one of the reasons was the speed with which I had put things Dartmouth behind me after I returned home. Then, when I wrote North Amerikkkan Blues in late 1970/early 1971, I was in a desperate socio-economic situation and had a big chip on my shoulder. I don’t think I mentioned George in Blues, and he was my good friend. He influenced me.
American colleges keep in contact with their alumni, even when an alumnus doesn’t reply to correspondence. Dartmouth has kept in regular contact with me, although on my side I am incommunicado. Thus it was that earlier this year I saw George Moore’s e-mail address in a list of details involving Class of ’68 alumni, and I decided to mail him after all these 45 years. He soon replied. Basically he had continued to “give trouble” for some five years after graduation, after which he settled down and went to law school. A brilliant guy, he has been and is now a senior vice-president and legal counsel for a major university in Philadelphia. He promises to visit Belize next spring or summer, but my friend has recently had a recurrence of pancreatic cancer. I hope for the best.
One key thing about our mail exchanges is that George explained to me that it was the Vietnam War, above all, which had radicalized him in college. But, the Vietnam War was providing opportunities in the American military for many immigrants, including Belizeans, who wanted to participate in the “American Dream.”
As the first issue Shoman and Musa would choose to demonstrate against publicly, the Vietnam War, in retrospect, was a somewhat strange and controversial one. If I had known at the time how many Belizeans were in the American military and how many were actually in Vietnam, I might have hesitated in November of 1968 before jumping into participation in “The Ad Hoc Committee For The Truth About Vietnam.” And if I had known how involved the communist Chinese were in the anti-American war effort in Vietnam, I might have hesitated.
The first night of the Ad Hoc demonstrations, as I’ve written in these pages before, Robert “Rasta” Livingston came up next to me and exhorted me to “lef dose Arabs” and come and “lecture at Liberty Hall.” Livingston was secretary-general of the Garveyite UNIA which controlled Liberty Hall. In a sense, this was where UBAD began. In UBAD’s five-year history, Livingston is more important than I have previously realized and recognized. The United Black Association for Development was formally established on February 9, 1969, with Rasta as one of the founding officers. Around late July, however, he got an opportunity to travel to New York City for expert medical attention for his damaged hip. I had a sit down with Norman Fairweather last week, and he told me that it was Livingston who had kept urging him to return to Belize from New York and help us in UBAD. He finally did return in early 1971. With Norman as secretary-general, UBAD reached the peak of its popularity and power in 1971 and 1972.
The Shoman/Musa Ad Hoc Committee ended up lasting just a couple weeks. It is noteworthy for me that Assad, who has done a lot of writing, never has a word to say about the Ad Hoc demonstrations against The Green Berets. It is also noteworthy that a demonstration against the Ad Hoc demonstrations, began, at what point exactly I can’t say. But Ray Lightburn testified to me that a group which included Rupert Cain had staged a pro-U.S. demonstration outside the Eden Theater. I did not see this group the first night, which was the only night I demonstrated.
It is easy to understand why the PUP never has a word to say about UBAD, because it was the UBAD group, with Norman Fairweather as a hero, which broke the power of the then ruling PUP in the streets of Belize City. What is more difficult to understand is why the now ruling UDP has never given any credit to the work of UBAD.
In September this year, I remarked on the fact that the UDP’s marking of the 40th anniversary of the founding of their party, which was established in September of 1973, was extraordinarily muted. I explained to you that of the three parties which were officially represented at the UDP’s birth, only the NIP was a real party. The PDM was a paper party, and the Liberals were a bogus party. The effective power in Belize City as 1973 began, was the UBAD Party. Check the stats.
Power to the people.