(NOTE: The column below was originally published in the Friday, February 3, 1989 issue of AMANDALA, No. 1010. It has been slightly edited.)
Sometime in 1965 I met Mr. Samuel Haynes. I guess it was somewhere in Brooklyn.(NOTE: Looking back from June of 2018, I am inclined to think the meeting actually took place at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan.)
My late grandaunt, Gladys Lindo Ysaguirre (may she rest in peace), was one of those British Hondurans who had lived in Brooklyn since around the time of World War I. She and I had a couple ups and downs, but if she were alive right now I wouldn’t be so tough on her as I was, and maybe she wouldn’t be so tough on me either.
My Aunt Gladys took me to a meeting in Brooklyn which was addressed by the Hon. Philip Goldson, then Leader of the Opposition National Independence Party (NIP).
There are streets in Brooklyn like St. John’s Place and St. Mark’s Place where many British Honduran families lived and no doubt still do. My aunt lived on Rutland Road, not far from these streets. Most of these families were what we might call middle class families, and they were mostly pro-NIP and anti-PUP. They felt that George Price (Hon.) was ruining the country and selling it out to Guatemala.
So when Mr. Goldson came to New York City from time to time, he would address these meetings and raise funds to take back to Belize to campaign against the PUP.
I was introduced to Mr. Haynes, and I knew him then only as one of the co-writers of “Land of the Gods.” I think he wrote the lyrics and Dr. S. Walwyn Young wrote the music. (NOTE: Incidentally, I think Dr. Young, who had migrated to Chicago, was the uncle of our last edition’s letter writer, Mr. Gilly Young. Belize is a small place. Also, since the time this column was originally published, Mr. Compton Fairweather has informed me that Mr. Haynes, who lived in New Jersey by that time, was one of the founders of the powerful British Honduras Freedom Committee.)
It may have been that Mr. Price had already chosen “Land of the Gods” as the so-called “proposed national anthem.” I can’t remember, and I won’t even try to find out. Because if he hadn’t done so already, he soon did. (As I continue thinking about it, he must have done so already, because meeting Mr. Haynes would not have been in any other context.)
Many, many years later, maybe four or five years ago, I learned more about Samuel Haynes, after he was already dead. He had served in World War I, and was one of those who were involved in the disturbances or riots which took place in 1919, right after the war. Those British Hondurans who had served in the war effort and returned home to Belize were very dissatisfied with the treatment meted out to them by the colonial government and colonial society; they had returned from a theatre where they had learned how nations used violence to defend themselves and their rights, so they rebelled violently.
An account of those disturbances was published in the Belcast Journal of Belizean Affairs, and that account made for some very interesting reading. The Jamaican Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) already existed, and it is felt that its teachings and philosophy had adherents among those ex-servicemen who revolted.
Samuel Haynes left Belize soon after the riots, and he became active in the Garvey movement in the States. In fact, he was an official in Pittsburgh, and helped to write Garvey publications in the northeastern United States.
Samuel Haynes was a gifted writer; “Land of the Gods” is evidence of this. When the song officially became the national anthem in 1981, the authorities changed it to “Land of the Free” because, they argued, Belize was a Christian nation which believed in only one God, and therefore reference to “Gods” was blasphemous, or whatever. Haynes was already dead, but I’m sure he would have resented this violation of his art on such trivial grounds. And I would have agreed with him.
In fact, I think both he and Dr. Young disagreed with Mr. Price’s arbitrary choice of their song, without their having even been consulted.
Mr. Price’s supporters argued that he had chosen national symbols in order to create nationalism in the people of Belize. But I have attended international soccer matches in Orange Walk and San Ignacio and Belize City, and large groups of Belizean spectators do not even stand for the playing of Belize’s national anthem. It is painful and humiliating to observe.
I feel that the manner in which the anthem was chosen has resulted in very slow acceptance by the people. Just a couple months before Independence in September of 1981, the People’s United Party (PUP) government finally appointed a symbols commission to choose national symbols, but everyone knew they would bring “Land of the Gods.” It is a great anthem, but the manner of its choosing divided Belizeans instead of unifying them. I cannot conceive how anyone could argue with that conclusion. The song was perceived of as being imposed upon us: it became identified in the public consciousness with the PUP government instead of with the nation of Belize.
I would like to see some public discourse on this matter, because I find it embarrassing to contemplate attending another international soccer match and watching groups of Belizeans sitting down during the playing of the national anthem. Until we can respect our national anthem, we will be a nation in name only.
P.S. After writing this column, I was able to locate a copy of the BELCAST JOURNAL OF BELIZEAN AFFAIRS – Vol. 3, Nos. 1 & 2 of June, 1986.
In an article entitled “Race Riot, Class Warfare and Coup D’Etat: The Ex-Servicemen’s Riot of July 1919,” Peter Ashdown, a Ph. D. from the University of Sussex, said that Lance Corporal Samuel Haynes did NOT participate in the riot on July 22, 1919.
According to Ashdown’s research, the organizers of the riot were Sergeant H. H. Vernon and Lance Corporal Rufus Hall, and the overriding factor, in Ashdown’s opinion, which doomed the rebellion from the outset, was the failure of the instigators of the uprising to include the “two most able and intelligent members of the Contingent – namely RSM P. H. E. McDonald and Lance Corporal Samuel Haynes.”
Ashdown went on: “McDonald’s authority and abilities were reflected in the rank that the racist military had conferred on him, for despite his ‘colour’ he had risen to the highest level an NCO could attain and had accepted the discrimination and humiliation imposed on him in Mesopotamia and on the troopship home with an equanimity which only a man of wisdom and self-assurance possesses. Samuel Haynes, being younger, was less philosophical in his acceptance of white bigotry and it was Haynes who, in his evidence to the Riot Commission, provided the Commissioners with the most detailed and comprehensive account of the indignities experienced by Contingent members in the Middle East.
“Moreover Haynes, while assisting McDonald in putting an end to the pointless violence and vandalism of the night of the 22nd, then took the offensive against the Administration. It was Haynes who was the driving force behind the Contingent Committee set up on the 23rd in the C.U.’s theatre; it was Haynes who put the Committee’s demands most forcefully to the Governor on the afternoon of the 24th and it was Haynes who was to create the only positive legacy of the riot.
“Distrusted by Hutson (Governor) from the outset, unlike McDonald, he remained true to his colour and never forgot the Mesopotamian experience. In April 1920 he inaugurated the Belize branch of Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and in June 1921 was recruited by Garvey to work for the UNIA in the U.S.A.
“With Haynes’s departure to serve as the major leader writer on the NEGRO WORLD and as Garvey’s first lieutenant in Pittsburgh, the Belize laboring class lost its most able and energetic champion. Had he and McDonald combined their talents and shaped and controlled the Contingent’s violence into a positive mould, British rule in Belize might have come to an end on Tuesday, July 22, 1919.”
So, contrary to what I wrote in the column proper, Samuel Haynes did NOT participate in the riots. In fact, he helped to put them down.
You can go to school in Belize from you are 5 until you are 55, and you will never know anything about the 1919 riots and what led up to them.
As I wrote in 1969, in the preface to KNOCKING OUR OWN TING, “The masters of any society, legitimate or illegitimate, have the power to shape the historical accounts of events in order to suit their ends.”
So in the “official” histories of the colony, the Ex-Servicemen’s Riot of July, 1919, either never happened or it was most unimportant and un-noteworthy. But for anyone who would understand British Honduras and Belize in the 20th century, Peter Ashdown’s research is of massive substance and importance. I salute Professor Ashdown. I learned a lot by reading his article.