I don’t know if you really understand what Tony Wright has been trying to do, and how his efforts contribute to the building of our national consciousness as Belizeans. Tony Wright is trying to protect the Belize market for Belizean musicians. This is something that should have been done by our elected leaders, but it seems they are always too busy trying to enrich themselves. So it is that, 33 years after our political independence, Belizean musicians are not treated with the respect they deserve, as authentic artists, in their home country. This is painful. And the man who feels the pain inside more than anyone else, and keeps on expressing it, is Tony Wright.
In talking about Tony Wright, I have to do a little talking about myself in order to show you how different our backgrounds and personalities are. Some of the official disrespect which has been shown to Tony Wright over the years is derived from the fact that the power structure in Belize assumes, because he broadcasts on KREM Radio, that he is pushing an Evan X Hyde agenda. And, you must understand that there are powerful people in this country who have hated Evan X Hyde’s guts from the time he first began speaking out loud in 1969.
One of the characteristics which enabled me to survive their hostility is an ornery or cantankerous streak in my personality. What I mean is, I always feed off the negative energy from people who dislike me and my opinions. The more they hate, the stronger I feel.
Tony Wright is cut from a different cloth from myself. He does not look for trouble, but he has a quiet strength which has kept him going. Every opinion Tony Wright has, is his own. The haters could never see that. They thought when they were beating down Antonio, they were beating down X. On second thought, perhaps they were. Tony and I are Belizeans who love Belize. Straight.
We are about the same age, from the same generation. He came out of the working classes, and I came out of a civil service family. I don’t think Tony went to high school. I was fortunate enough to go all the way to university. When we talk, nevertheless, and it is not as often as we should, our vibes are very, very similar. We know there’s something wrong in Belize, and we have seen how far our people have fallen.
Here’s the thing. Tony Wright was never trying to make a revolution. He’s never read Marx or Sartre or Camus or Fanon. He simply could not understand or countenance how the Belizean musician was being treated like dirt in his/her own country. The evidence is how the Honorable Wilfred Peters went out. The evidence is the structural refusal to place Lord Gerald Rhaburn on the pedestal he deserves. The ultimate evidence is the powerlessness of the Belizean musician to lay down basic conditions to govern penetration of the Belize market from outside. In his own humble way, Tony Wright took the bull of official disrespect for Belizean musicians by the horns. He has fought a good fight.
I’m not a musician: I’m a writer. But both musicians and writers create. The Belize market, as it existed, had no room for me as a young Belizean. The writers whom our students were allowed, mandated actually, to read, and whom they continue to read, were and are imports. I would have starved in Belize if I didn’t learn to get by in the streets. Eventually, I began to make a living because this newspaper changed the Belize market: we made a connection with the masses of the Belizean people, and we bypassed the colonial/clerical power structure of the education system.
KREM Radio was built on the foundation of Amandala, hence KREM belongs to the masses of the people. It is the masses of the Belizean people whom Tony Wright represents, not Evan X Hyde. Tony will win his fight some day. If he does not win his fight, then Belize will never be a real nation.
Consider this. Mexico became independent in 1821, but Mexico did not become a real nation until the Mexican Revolution of 1910 to 1940. The United States declared its independence in 1776, but America’s nationhood was not consolidated until they fought a bloody civil war between the Union and the Confederacy between 1861 and 1865. There is turmoil ahead for the young nation of Belize. This is not a turmoil which we can avoid. Belize is not yet a real nation: Belize does not put Belizeans first. When you define nationalism this way, you can see that Tony Wright is a real Belizean nationalist.
And, just as he has his opponents, Tony Wright has his hard core supporters. They love him. Trust me. Sometimes I wonder what the hell would happen if Tony and I had a “quarrel day.” In Belize, “quarrel day” always happens, because there are Belizeans who delight in provoking misunderstanding and conflict when they see people getting along too smoothly. I think if this happened, if Tony and I fussed, I would have to eat humble pie. I would not be able to stand up to Tony’s VSL (Very Special Ladies) crew. (Smile.)
Antonio, and your Belizean musicians organization, I wish you all the best with your annual Soundfest promotion. When the music stops, the world ends. Life without music would not be life. This music was your gift from God Almighty, and now this music has become your responsibility as Belizean musicians. Stand strong for Belize music and Belizean musicians.
In closing, I wish to dedicate this column to the memory of the late Leroy “Bass” Castillo. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
Power to the people.