The Raiders basketball organization was keenly interested in supporting the Princess Royal Youth Hostel Under–17 basketball tournament. One reason was that the core of our team, which entered semi-pro at its inauguration in 1992, had cut their basketball teeth in that said Under-17 tournament in the late 1980s. Another reason we supported the tournament was because it was an opportunity for high school teenagers and street teenagers to interact and compete with each other in an atmosphere of strict discipline.
It must have been in 1994, 1995, that an Under-17 team came out of the Yarborough area under the management of a guy known as Winks. This was a very good team, dominant in fact, and I think they won at least one of the tournaments. Winks was a tall, quiet, black man. He was humble, and he was poor. The relationship between him and his players was unique. It was incredible that he would “own” a championship team, but I never bothered to figure that out, because I had my own problems with Raiders at the time.
The late Wilton Cumberbatch, who was the head referee and disciplinarian for U-17, lived in Yarborough, and so he and Winks were quite familiar with each other.
I don’t know the details of what happened to Under-17. I know that the Raiders, under heavy pressure, disbanded in 1995, came back and then disbanded again in 1996, then semi-pro died in 1998. I believe the death of the Raiders contributed to the death of Under-17. But, there was also the relocation of the Hostel to Mile 21 on the Western Highway.
One night Winks got into a fight and ended up stabbing a young man to death. He went to jail for long years. While he was in jail, one of his star U-17 players began getting into all kinds of problems: he was in the headlines quite a bit. My sources all claimed that Winks was acting in self-defence, but down here sometimes it is what it is.
A while back I saw Winks on a bicycle. Seems like he was spending some time on this side of town, maybe back Mahogany Street/Complex area. As time went on, one day I said to myself, I have to hear Winks’ story. I sent to tell him come check me out, but when he came it was a bad time for me and I couldn’t receive him.
Winks did not come back. Some months passed. I figured maybe Winks thought I was pushing him around. I sent for him again, and we finally got linked last weekend.
This is a sad story, and one I think would best be told by our radio and television people. When you’re a poor, black man on the Southside, you don’t have to be a bad guy. Bad luck can sink you at any time of the day or night. Then you have to start feeling that no one cares. It’s rough.
Winks spent eight years in jail, between 2000 and 2008. He was working security guard at a dance, and caught three youth trying to steal a bicycle in the back of the building. They were very angry at him, and they waylaid him when he was going home from the dance, 4 a.m. or so. I guess we would have to say Winks was lucky to survive the ambush: would we say he was unlucky to stab one of his attackers to death with a knife with which they came at him?
It’s rough down in the streets. You can be trying to make an honest living, and people try to take your life. You can work with young people out of an inborn paternal instinct, and everything falls apart. You end up with blood on your hands, locked behind iron bars for years, and you wonder what you did to deserve this.
This story intrigued me, and it depressed me, because I could not see where Winks had been anything but a pretty good guy. From elsewhere in the city and in the nation, Belizeans can see some of our people in the news who were looking for the trouble in which they find themselves. Some of these young people are victims of socio-economic circumstances which had them, from the time they were children, begin travelling a road which was leading only one way, and that way was to trouble. This was not the case with Winks: trouble came looking for Winks; trouble hunted down Winks, and made him a sacrifice.
In our conversation, he said to me that he feels fortunate to have maintained his sanity. It was a poignant moment. I understood what he was saying. This was a man who had never been in any kind of trouble with the law. Life can deal with you rough, especially in the streets. Life dealt rough with Winks. Going forward, I wish him the best. I think he’s a good guy.