Over the last few weeks, a couple ladies mailed me to encourage I with this column. It was well appreciated.
I have gone through months of anger which sometimes reached the point of rage. There were things I could see happening, and a bitter sense of my own powerlessness was coming over me. So how many times would we have to say the same thing? So how many youth had to die? More than fifty years ago, Bob Dylan said it real – the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.
For a revolutionary, it is always important to remember that the people for whom he or she fights are downtrodden and, yes, that word again, powerless. If you do not consider me a revolutionary, I would not take it amiss, or consider your opinion disrespectful. There are many people all over the world today who considered themselves revolutionary in the 1960s and early 1970s who lived long enough to return to being bourgeois and respectable.
The description of myself as “revolutionary” is the closest I can come to letting you know that most of those who were my Belizean contemporaries in childhood, puberty and adulthood, went on to live more conventional lives than I have. If you prefer to just call me “different,” if you feel that I do not deserve to be described as “revolutionary,” I have no problem with that or with you, Jack, no problem at all.
So now, as a “different” citizen, one must remember that one’s people are in a struggle. This means that one must be prepared to experience pain of different sorts, because the daily reality of the people you love is pain, all kinds of pain. We say “power to the people,” because it is only through empowering themselves that our people can begin to escape pain, to conquer pain, to live in a different reality. The revolutionary, we are told, identifies with the people: their pain is his/her pain.
As a Belizean people, we are descended primarily from African and Mayan peoples, peoples who were conquered by the British and Spanish peoples from the continent of Europe. The British and Spanish people both emphasized and brandished their belief in a loving Christianity. But, they both brought pain, pain to the African slaves of the British and pain to the Mayan peons of the Spanish.
There was a time about 150 years ago and more when the British changed their slavery of us here to something they called colonialism, while roughly around the same time north of us in the Yucatan, the Mayan peons were rising in violent rebellion against those classes which had inherited the imperial power of the Spanish. Descendants of both the African slaves and the Mayan peons ended up in Belize together, in the first half of the twentieth century, under the rule of British colonialism. In 1919 and in 1934, our ancestors marched and fought for power, unsuccessfully, but in 1950 our ancestors formed a revolutionary party to fight for self-rule.
When I was still Evan Anthony Hyde, I found myself as a young boy growing into puberty amongst other chosen youth of my people who were being educated for a special status. Personally and to be truthful, I felt entitled to that education. This was the time of the fight for Belizean self-rule. It was not explained to me that those foreigners who were doing the educating were doing me, the descendant of African slaves, a favor, and that they expected great and abiding gratitude for that favor. I suppose those other chosen youth around me were more insightful than I was: they understood themselves to be favored, and they were properly grateful.
Still, the question always was, what about those of our generation and those of our people who were not being favored. Although I was the one who, probably naively, considered myself entitled, I was the one who did not participate in any kind of elitism. The fact that I avoided elitism did not result from any innately superior character on my part, but it was the result of my experiencing a special series of circumstances between 1966 and 1968 at an American university.
Whatever the case, the favored contemporaries from my youth went on to their favored lives. I was made to pay a certain price for being too concerned about those of my contemporaries, a majority actually, who were not favored by colonial society. I was made to feel pain, but as the years went by I managed to achieve a status where the pain was much less, and it was a case of the education from my childhood and youth coming into play. My contemporaries, then, I had to admit, were right to be grateful. Still, when I achieved a status of less pain, I never forgot those who had been less favored than I, because it was those less favored than I who had sustained me during my years in the wilderness, so to speak.
The Kaina Martinez episode was an eye-opener. It was not that I was surprised by the result of the challenge to the power structure, but I was stunned by how nonchalantly the rulers turned that challenge aside. It was like child’s play for them. And the people of Belize were weak: they said, let it be, let it be …
The Chester Williams/Diane Finnegan/Nuri Muhammad initiatives came just about on the heels of the crushing Kaina Martinez episode, and Chester, Diane and Nuri proved to us that our youth, the grandchildren of those who had stood with us seeking righteous empowerment in the streets, did not have to die, our mothers and grandmothers did not have to grieve, our babies did not have to be left orphaned and sacrificed to even more pain than their parents had experienced. There was light, there was hope, and there was love. Truly, for a while there, black was beautiful, again.
So what was there to be said when our own people abruptly dismantled the peace movement and returned the streets to pain, blood, and death? Our leaders, who had been among the favored, turned openly against the children and grandchildren of those who had not been favored, and threw them into graves, sometimes shallow and unmarked, and cast them into dungeons where blaring loudspeakers preach Christianity to them in the night. I take it, beloved, that we are to call this self-rule.
And John The Baptist told the people, I am not The Christ. I baptize you with water, but after me will come One who will baptize you with fire.
Power to the people.