Amandala continues to mean “power to the people”
BELIZE CITY, Mon. Aug. 12, 2019– On August 13, 1969, the first issue of the Amandala, the organ of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD), rolled off a Gestetner machine in Belize City. For the next three editions, the newspaper was given away to members and supporters of UBAD.
After the third edition, however, a charge of 5 cents was charged. Since that first edition 50 years ago, and despite the changes in technology, Amandala has continued to be a staple for the reading public and a voice for the voiceless Belizeans in our midst.
The UBAD organization, which was formed in February 1969, was a cultural organization which aimed to instill a sense of self-love and pride in Belizeans of African ancestry by emphasizing the rich history of African peoples and fusing it with what was happening in the United States, from which the “black and proud” slogan was brought home to Belize.
UBAD’s rhetoric was militant. In fact, it was too militant for the then colonial society to simply absorb, and so, the powers that be set themselves on a mission to crush Amandala and its young revolutionary leaders in its infancy.
The number 17 issue of Amandala, which was published on February 20, 1970, caught the attention of the powers that be, and Amandala’s publisher and editor, Ismael Omar Shabazz, and Evan X Hyde, were arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy for a satirical article entitled “Games Old People Play.”
“Sedition is a political crime,” Amandala publisher and chairman of Kremandala, Evan X Hyde, told us in an interview this morning.
“It was a way to attack the organization before it revived, because UBAD had allied itself with the People’s Action Committee (PAC) that was led by Assad Shoman and Said Musa.
“PAC had its own publication named Fire, and so Amandala became ‘Amandala with Fire.’
“But that alliance didn’t work. I didn’t really analyze why, and then came the arrest for sedition in January, 1970,” Hyde said.
At 23, Hyde became a revolutionary in colonial British Honduras.
“I felt that I owed it to the African-American students to support their fight against racism and so on, and that kind of revolutionized me,” Hyde said.
Hyde explained that due to his youth and inexperience, he did not realize what he was getting himself into when his UBAD organization decided to support Philip Goldson in the City Council election in 1971.
“I was young, and got myself into some deep waters,” he said.
We asked the publisher to outline the technological changes that Amandala went through after the Gestetner period.
“We got an old letter press in about 1971; it was a Chandler and Price letter press. The motor never worked, so we used to pump it by hand,” Hyde explained.
“The major development in Amandala technologically came in 1977 when the PUP led an initiative by Said Musa; me and my family invested half-half with Said Musa, and we got the offset press that enabled us to compete with the Reporter Press … And I think that by 1981, we had become the leading newspaper,” Hyde recalled.
“The present challenge is the internet and social media. How do you see Amandala faring in this new era?” we asked him.
Hyde explained that in the US, a lot of newspapers have folded because of the internet, and the newspapers that have survived are those which have invested in top-notch reporters.
“The most important thing for me to say is to express my gratitude to the people who have supported us. Their loyalty to us is real, and I don’t get a chance to say thanks to them individually,” Hyde said.
We asked the publisher to reflect on the future of Amandala in this technological era.
“There is a changing sociological landscape. I have no idea going forward. Do you know that the Gleaner, Jamaica’s leading newspaper, has been around since 1834? There had to have been several points where major adjustments have had to be made,” Hyde explained.
“At the height of Amandala’s popularity, we diversified into radio and then television, because these are important methods of communication, because our people are not being properly educated as far as reading is concerned,” Hyde went on to say.
Hyde recalled one of his classmates, Carlson Gough, who is an engineer whom he went to school with from Standard 3 at Holy Redeemer primary school, all the way to SJC sixth form.
Hyde recalled that, during a conversation he had with Gough a few years ago, Gough told him that to learn mathematics, you have to know how to read. He’s an expert, Hyde said.
“You have to know how to read the text, and Belizeans are not being taught to read because social media employs methods of communication that are not formal. Serious writing is important, because ideally, you have to learn how to read,” he said.
The half-a-century journey that Amandala has made has been remarkable, and even dangerous at times, but the newspaper remains committed to its core principle of being a voice for those less fortunate Belizeans for whom hardly anyone ever speaks.
As the leading newspaper, Amandala has never been afraid of speaking truth to power, even though that could be a costly exercise at times.
The newspaper, however, continues to persevere, although the journey gets difficult at times; Amandala continues to mean “power to the people.” The newspaper has never forgotten how it got here – not through the support of the rich, but the support of the poor and marginalized Belizeans. It is a debt that we will continue to pay.