“Looking back across these forty-something years, what is most striking about the Caribbean Black Power movement is the steepness of the curve of its rise and fall and yet the significant impact that it has had on subsequent social and political events in the region. In the narrow definition, Caribbean Black Power flourished for a mere six years. Inspired in name by Stokely Carmichael’s 1966 rallying cry in Mississippi and really taking flight with the demonstration, riot, and events surrounding Walter Rodney’s expulsion from Jamaica in 1968, Black Power rose to a crescendo in “the 1970 Revolution” in Trinidad and Tobago and then was rapidly eclipsed with the crushing of the National United Freedom Fighters (NUFF) in Trinidad. The rise of the New Jewel Movement (NJM) on a Marxist-Leninist footing and the Grenadian Revolution of 1979-83 can be viewed as the tragic epilogue to this period.”
– pg. 263, BLACK POWER IN THE CARIBBEAN, edited by Kate Quinn, Conclusion: Black Power Forty Years On – An Introspection, by Brian Meeks, University Press of Florida, 2014
“It is inappropriate here to reprise the crisis of 1983, except to say that the death of Maurice Bishop and his associates at the hands of some of his closest comrades, closely followed by the United States-led invasion, signaled not only the end of the Grenadian Revolution, but the rapid demise of an entire political movement that spanned the region and that had been born some fifteen years earlier in the moment of popular efflorescence that followed Walter Rodney’s banning from Jamaica.”
– pg. 270, ibid.
Usually one of my daughters reads our editorial aloud to my dad, who can’t see well enough to read any more. For some reason, however, last Friday afternoon it was I who did the honors. When I’d finished reading, my dad said he was glad that I was courageous enough to say the things that I’d said. No, dad, I said, actually there are important things I need to say for which I don’t have enough courage.
Belize is a small place, and there are sacred cows here. If you touch these sacred cows in print, even if you believe that you personally are strong enough to withstand them and their worshippers’ retaliations, you will endanger your children, your grandchildren, and your generations yet unborn. Your innocent ones will feel pain. Serious!
If you look at the republics around Belize, republics which gained their independence from Spain in 1821, such as Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and Salvador, it is for sure that you can identify oligarchical eras in these nation-states. I think Honduras and Guatemala are still very much oligarchical, but it is said that there have been some changes in Salvador. In the case of Mexico, there was an extended revolution which began in 1910 and saw some roots leaders like Zapata, Villa, and Cardenas, and some leftist leaders like Obregon and Calles make structural changes which transformed Mexico from an oligarchy run by the dictator Porfirio Diaz into a populist state. Nevertheless, according to my friend and teacher, Clinton Canul Luna, Mexico gradually returned to being an oligarchy after the end of Cardenas’ presidential term in 1940.
I think Belize today is as much an oligarchy, on a much smaller scale, as Guatemala and Honduras, but we are cleverly disguised here as a democracy. If you look hard enough, you can probably find twenty or twenty five interlocked families which control the economy of Belize, and because they control the economy of Belize, they control our politics.
To understand the politics of Belize, you have to understand our sociology and our religion. Belize’s sociology features a very powerful homosexual element, and that sociology is intertwined with the major religion, which control the education system.
Look, I have known about the Papaito case for more than a decade now, way back to when the prison was “back-a-Baptist” in the old capital. Finally, a humane individual who sounds like a white foreigner found out about it and decided to bring the case to the attention of the Belizean public. This newspaper was in a position to publish Chriss Roggema’s letter (on page 31 of last weekend’s issue) because we knew he had the fundamentals of the case right. The Amandala issue with this letter hit the streets of Belize City on Friday morning and reached the remaining five Districts by Friday afternoon. Since then, and this is Wednesday morning, the silence has been, as they say, deafening. I am not surprised.
I know Belize, and Belize is bogus. In my adult life, I’ve tried to be real, but I went through experiences which shook me up. I was “beat down,” beaten into submission. In a sense, the power structure in Belize made a deal with me. It is still not clear to me exactly what the terms of the deal were/are, but I do have an idea what I can say and what I cannot say. Some of you may feel that, by comparison with others in this media business, Partridge Street is rough. A few months ago, though, I told you what the man Eddie Edmondson said to me one time: “Evan, sooner or later every mother f—er makes a deal.” Nothing’s gonna change in Belize, because Partridge Street made a deal.
There was a time when I thought I had niggers with me who were ready for just about anything. I loved those brothers, and I thought they loved me. This was all of 43 years ago. Something went wrong. I ain’t blaming them, and for sure I ain’t blaming me. But, things fell apart early in 1973. I went through a period of heartbreak, and after that for years I felt like a rag doll being kicked around. In the midst of it all, there were some good times, there were new friends. But, the revolution was over.
When he was in Belize a couple months ago, Bilal Morris brought me a dvd of a documentary movie about the revolution in Grenada, which triumphed in 1979 and destroyed itself in 1983. The dvd’s title is Forward Ever: The Killing Of A Revolution. Brothers ended up killing brothers at the leadership level of Grenada’s revolution. They, and the people of Grenada, ended up as losers. (I think that the dvd is shown on KREM TV from time to time, and it is gut wrenching.)
When the Grenada Revolution self-destructed in 1983, and United States’ president, Ronald Regan, seized the opportunity to invade the Eastern Caribbean Island, which had become friendly with Cuba, none of us with black power history and experience had precise knowledge of what had gone wrong. For sure I did not. (Grenada’s may be considered the only black power movement in this region which came to power.) All I knew for many years, in fact decades, was that Grenada was under a lot of pressure from the United States and the CIA, and two of the leaders, Maurice Bishop, a national hero, and Bernard Coard, ended up fighting to the death against each other.
They say revolutions devour their own children. Robespierre was devoured by the French Revolution. Trotsky paid the ultimate price in the Russian Revolution. Madero, Zapata, and Villa all became sacrifices in the Mexican Revolution. In the case of the Cuban Revolution, some of those who fought alongside Fidel in the mountains against Bautista, Fidel ended up having to imprison them. Che Guevara quickly began to feel confined spiritually and ideologically after the Cuban Revolution triumphed in January of 1959. Che believed in what he called “permanent revolution,” international revolution. Che left Castro and Cuba to fight in guerrilla wars in the Congo and southern Africa, and was killed in 1967 when he tried to start a revolution in Bolivia. The chances are if he had not gone abroad, he would have gotten on Fidel’s nerves.
There are those who say that there was a peaceful, constructive revolution which began in Belize in 1950, or 1956. No one ever says when that revolution ended. But, I would say that something is seriously wrong on the ground in Belize. I’m talking about the Southside, in the first instance. The peaceful, constructive Belizean revolution didn’t do enough for the Southside. If there were changes made, they must not have been the right ones. Or, perhaps the changes were reversed by counter-revolutionaries?
I mean no disrespect to the Right Hon. GCP. He was a great, brave, visionary leader. He kept it real long enough to lead Belize to independence with all our territory intact, in the face of big time adversity. But, I’m talking about 2015 now, and I’m talking about what’s taking place right around me, all around me. Something ain’t right.
Power to the people! Remember Danny Conorquie! Fight for Belize!