Ah, modern technology, it’s stunning, amazing. Early Sunday morning last, as is my wont, I wrote my publisher’s column. It was typed by Odessa on Monday morning and appeared in the mid-week issue of Amandala which hit the streets of Belize City in the pre-dawn of Tuesday, December 3, 2013. Around 9 a.m. the same Tuesday, the online edition of our newspaper became available on the Amandala website all over planet earth.
By Tuesday night (10:09 p.m.) Dr. Dennis Young, a world traveler who may be any part of the globe at any given instant, had made contact with me through e-mail. At such an “ungodly” hour, I am almost always in my bed sleeping. So that, it was only when I woke around 4 a.m. to begin writing my weekend column, that I searched my mail. Dr. Young had sent me a video aired on Boston television in 1974. That’s 44 WGBX-Boston (Public Access Channel). The video featured “The Web,” a famous Belize American musical combo based in New York City at the time, and the poet Branston Clarke. Dr. Young was the host and mediator. It seems that the session may have been videotaped at Bird’s Isle in Belize City, but I’m not sure.
Among the Web musicians I identified were the saxophonist Dougie Thompson, who now owns and operates the Black Orchid Resort in Burrell Boom, and the great vocalist Anthony Richards. The keyboard player had a huge Afro, as did most of the people on the video, except for Branston, and the chances are it was Jeffrey Adolphus. Not sure.
Anyway, Dr. Young informed me in his Tuesday night mail that Branston Clarke, whom I have never met, is alive and well at age 90 in Jamaica Plain of Greater Boston, Massachusetts. In my Tuesday column I had spoken of great Belizean scholars before my time who had essentially disappeared into the diaspora, specifically Newton Stuart and Branston. (That column is reproduced in this issue of our newspaper.)
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, Branston Clarke had become a world class poet, among other things. On the videotape in question, Dr. Dennis had him read a couple of his poems, and for sure Mr. Clarke is at what we Belizeans today would call, “levels.” I would say that we would have to send someone like Sandra Coye to interview Mr. Branston. Few Belizeans could properly handle such an assignment. But, there would not be a market for such material. It is only a few older Belizeans like myself who would be interested in the unique saga of Branston Clarke.
A few months ago I saw one of Rene Villanueva’s night shows in which he had interviewed Howell Hulse. (I’m not sure if Mr. Hulse was visiting home, or if Mr. Villanueva did the interview in Chicago or some other American city.) Mr. Hulse is a broadcaster from the days of BHBS – the British Honduras Broadcasting Service. In those days, back in the 1950s and early/mid 1960s, the government monopoly radio station tried to sound like the BBC – the British Broadcasting Corporation. So, all the announcers were sent to London for training. Howell Hulse was considered the cream of the BHBS crop.
There was an upheaval of sorts which occurred at the radio station around the early 1960s, however. And, a similar upheaval of sorts occurred in the Ministry of Finance. The nationalist movement was growing in power under Mr. Price’s leadership, and there were stars from the colonial days who would be replaced by those who were more loyal to Mr. Price and his People’s United Party (PUP). In broadcasting, then, Howell Hulse was superseded by Everal Waight. Hulse left Belize for America. In finance, Cornelius Patrick “Pat” Cacho was superseded by Rafael “Faalo” Fonseca. Cacho left Belize for America. Belize lost several talented Belizeans in those days.
In the beginning of the anti-colonial PUP in 1950, it became clear that the majority of the Belizean people were in support of the party. The major split in the PUP took place around August of 1956, when Mr. Price became Maximum Leader, and Leigh Richardson and Philip Goldson departed.
The British probably felt that the PUP had been weakened by the 1956 split. So, in 1957 they sent Mr. Price home from London “in disgrace.” The key member of that Belize delegation to London who remained loyal to Mr. Price was Albert Cattouse, Sr. Thus, Mr. Price survived that “disgrace.”
The following year, 1958, the British charged Mr. Price with sedition because of a Courthouse Wharf speech. What is significant about that trial was that Mr. Price was defended by W. H. Courtenay, the colony’s leading attorney but a man who had been a leader of the National Party, the pro-British opposition to the PUP in the early 1950s. There had to have been, then, some kind of bridging of the political gap between Mr. Price and Mr. Courtenay, and the rapprochement between these two Belizean giants was of massive, if usually understated, importance in Belize’s socio-political history.
By 1959, Mr. Price had pointedly began talking publicly of independence “within the Commonwealth,” whereas before he had been consistently saying that it could be within or without as far as he cared. In 1960, the British donated the MCC Grounds as a kind of peace offering to the Price PUP, and then in 1961 the PUP won all 18 seats in Belize’s first general elections under a Ministerial constitution, and W.H. Courtenay became Belize’s first House Speaker. Self-government followed in 1964.
I would say that in the public service there were people who either did not realize that the British had made a deal with Mr. Price, thereby rendering him practically invulnerable on the domestic scene, or they just refused to abide by the rules and culture of the new regime. There are some Belizeans, nevertheless, who consider those days in the late 1950s and 1960s as the days when Belizeans victimized Belizeans, in such a way as had never been seen before, because Belizeans had never held so much power before.
There are Belizeans of substance in the diaspora who have stories to tell which are of interest to older Belizeans like myself. Such a Belizean is Branston Clarke. The technology which now exists makes such interviews possible for taping in America and airing in Belize, and indeed, all over planet earth. The problem is that such processes would have to be niche financed, so to speak. There is no real mass market for such material. But, it is a relevant part of our Belizean history which will be lost if we do not pay some attention quickly. I rest my case.