Booker T. Washington was born a slave in the United States in 1856, but he became a great leader of black Americans. Around the turn of the century more than a hundred years ago, he was embroiled in a bitter philosophical dispute with another great leader of black Americans, W. E. B. DuBois, with respect to how black Americans should proceed towards educational and economic empowerment, and racial pride and dignity in the post-Emancipation America.
Basically, Booker T. was urging black Americans to focus on hard work and the building of institutional capacity in various fields of endeavor. He wanted black Americans to avoid activist agitation and confrontation with the white power structure at all costs.
W. E. B. DuBois was a mulatto, quite light-skinned, and he had been the beneficiary of a high quality education. Born in 1868, he became the first black American to earn a doctorate at Harvard, the United States’ most prestigious university. One of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and a leader of the so-called Niagara Movement, DuBois demanded full civil rights for blacks and called for political representation in the American mainstream, while Booker T. Washington’s so-called Atlanta Compromise sought to appease the Southern white power structure and avoid rocking the boat, so to speak.
Philosophically, then, the lighter-skinned man, DuBois, was the more radical man, while the darker-skinned man, Washington, was the more compromising leader. Those of you who are serious students can go to your search engines, of course, and study the lives and positions of these two outstanding black leaders.
Booker T. died in 1915, before the rise of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Harlem (New York) and indeed worldwide, while W. E. B. DuBois eventually moved to Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana in the early 1960s and died there at the ripe old age of 95 in 1963. DuBois was an outspoken opponent of Garvey and the UNIA. It would have been interesting, if Washington had lived, to see how he would have viewed Garvey’s movement. It seems to me that the UNIA had significant similarities in approach to Booker T. Washington’s initiatives.
Booker T. was a great, great man, but Booker T. may be viewed as being an Uncle Tom. Garvey did not fool around with radical ideas like socialism and communism, but he was no Uncle Tom, which is why the United States government felt the need to arrest and imprison him at the height of the UNIA’s power and glory in the mid-1920s.
In a progressive, activist organization, the issue of funding is a critical one. When money comes from the power structure, that money always carries strings; white money comes with conditions. As the years went by, DuBois’ NAACP began to accept a lot of white funding, so that by the time the black civil rights struggle entered its militant stage in the early 1960s, the NAACP, like the Urban League, had become a moderate, accommodating group. (DuBois himself, however, was considered a militant to the very end.)
In their essay on DuBois, Wikipedia claims that the reason for the disputes between DuBois’ NAACP and Garvey’s UNIA in the 1920s was competition to “capture a larger portion of the available philanthropic funding.” I really don’t know what to say about this, because it has always been my understanding that the bulk of Marcus Garvey’s funding came from black folk.
And, arguably the most important Garvey disciple to emerge in the United States, the Hon. Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, emphasized self-reliance to his followers and generated his development financing from the black community. Now, no one can say what goes on behind closed doors, so I’m saying to you only what is my personal understanding of things.
I became a disciple of Malcolm X in 1967, and Malcolm had been an absolute disciple of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad before their split began in late 1963. On becoming president of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) in late March of 1969, I ran that organization for the next four years as a self-reliant organization. The lack of working liquidity would have contributed significantly to UBAD’s division in early 1973, and subsequent dissolution in late 1974. I ran UBAD as a disciple of Malcolm, who was a disciple of Elijah. There was no white money in UBAD.
In 2008, the Kremandala organization, of which I am chairman, supported the attorney Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington in his electoral campaign against the Pickstock constituency incumbent area representative, Godfrey Smith of the People’s United Party (PUP). Smith was known to be an open favorite of Lord Michael Ashcroft’s, and Lord Ashcroft had launched a major legal attack on Kremandala in March of 2007.
Mr. Elrington, representing the victorious United Democratic Party (UDP), was elected to office. We were totally stunned at Kremandala when he almost immediately accepted a gift of $200,000 from the said Lord Michael Ashcroft. Perhaps we should not have been stunned. In any case, the acceptance of such a gift from such a source, to my mind, said something about Mr. Elrington’s philosophical beliefs.
In 1994, the then general manager of KREM Radio, Charles B. Hyde, in good faith had negotiated a loan of $75,000 from The Belize Bank, of which Lord Ashcroft was the boss. C. B. Hyde, a retired public officer who is my father, negotiated the loan through the attorneys Richard Bradley and Said Musa. I was not involved in the negotiations.
When it was time for me, in my capacity as chairman of KREM Radio, to sign on to the loan, I was informed that a condition of the loan was that I should sell, for the price of $25,000, 10 percent of KREM Radio, of which I owned 40 percent at the time. The purchaser would be a faceless entity named Sagis Investments Limited. My personal feeling at the time was that Sagis was either Ralph Fonseca or Michael Ashcroft. I did not then know how strategically significant the 10 percent amount is in matters of business. I did not feel that I had much of a choice at the time. The radio station was in bad shape. So, I signed.
Lord Ashcroft did not give me anything. KREM Radio, a limited liability company, negotiated a loan with one of his banks, The Belize Bank, and an anonymous Sagis bought shares in KREM Radio.
In March of 2007, Lord Ashcroft’s attorneys, Barrow & Williams, claimed that the 10 percent of KREM Radio had not been transferred to Sagis. In the Supreme Court of Belize, Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh ruled that KREM Radio should return the $25,000 to Sagis, with interest. Lord Ashcroft rejected this ruling, and instructed his attorneys to appeal the Conteh ruling in the Belize Court of Appeals. Evidently, it was crucial to the British peer to own 10 percent of KREM. In the higher court, Sagis was victorious. The enemies of Kremandala, in both the ruling UDP and the Opposition PUP, rejoiced. The people of Belize stood firm with us on Partridge Street.
All power to the people.