Features — 22 May 2019
Edwards Park …

(Publisher’s NOTE: Open, public spaces for young people to romp and frolic in are vital for the sociological health of all communities in poor countries like Belize. In the last three and a half decades, Belize City, the nation’s largest population center, has lost most of Yarborough Field, all of BEC Field, Memorial Park, the three/four fields at the old Newtown Barracks, and so on, when it should have been that we were increasing the open, public spaces for our youth to play.

That is one reason why I felt it important to reproduce the following excerpt from my 2008 book – SPORTS, SIN AND SUBVERSION. No one else reproduces yours truly’s material, beloved, so sometimes reproduction becomes yours truly’s responsibility. To make any sense whatever of the bloody insanity that has taken over in the old capital for three decades now, we have to read between the lines sometimes.)

But, on the other hand, my father started taking me to Edwards Park, where the old Unity Club pavilion was the only real building, when I was eight or nine, so that I was in the company of the grown men who were the Unity Club members, and I was watching football, baseball, cricket and softball games at Edwards Park, treats I don’t believe any other child my age was enjoying on a regular basis.

The story of Unity Club needs to be told, but there is some party politics involved here, hence controversy. The men at Unity Club were responsible for filling up the swamp land which became known as Edwards Park. After Hurricane Hattie, the powerful PUP government took over the park and named it Rogers Stadium. But Minister C. L. B. Rogers had absolutely nothing to do with the building of that park. It was an old Jamaican cabinet maker, by the name of “Skipper” Edwards, who inspired and organized the young men who became Unity Club, to embark on the insanely ambitious project which became Edwards Park.

The young men were civil service types from middle class Creole families. They were of different religions, and, as it would turn out, of different political persuasions, but the Edwards Park project united them all. The names I remember include those of Horace Young, Dean Lindo, Telford Vernon, Ellis Gideon, Eckert Lewis, Angus Vernon, Clarence “Claro” Grant, Alfred “Jack” Campbell, my father C. B. Hyde, and my uncle George Hyde. I also remember Gilbert “Paady” Lindo and Theo Cleland.

The way I heard the story was that after Hurricane Hattie in 1961, there was great damage done to Edwards Park. The Unity Club decided that only the government had the resources to rebuild the park in a reasonably fast time, and so the PUP government was handed Edwards Park, which became Rogers Stadium, on a silver platter, so to speak.

The clear majority of the Unity Club members were not PUP supporters. In fact, Unity Club produced Dean Lindo, the person who organized the United Democratic Party (UDP) in 1973. The Lindo-led UDP created the first really serious threat to the PUP juggernaut which had ruled local politics from 1950.

But Lindo may have travelled to London to study law at the time Edwards Park was handed over to the PUP, and the Unity Club member who led that initiative was a PUP, and a forceful one at that. His name was Telford Vernon, and he was my father’s best friend. I am therefore positive that my father acquiesced in the proposal for Edwards Park to become a government project.

But then, the original and true history of the park has never been told. This is something in which the PUP specializes – the systematic obliteration of history they consider unfavorable or undesirable. And now you can see, for the first time in this literary effort, where politics entered the sports in my life. But politics was always in sports in British Honduras, just that we didn’t call it politics before 1950. It was just colonialism, British colonialism.

When I became involved in a working relationship with the PUP government between 1975 and 1977, I saw where sports was so subordinate to politics in our leaders’ minds that it was almost an annoyance, instead of a priority. In a sense, this was a period of loss of innocence for me, because my world had revolved around sports from the time I knew myself. It had appeared to me that it was the same way for almost all the people I knew and liked. But no, the societal reality was that politics ruled. And then there was religion.

In British Honduras, the work week in the civil service was five and a half days – half day on Saturday. The main sports day, then and now, was Sunday. But Sunday is also the Sabbath for all the Christian churches except the Seventh Day Adventists, and Belize was a place where the respectable locals were all prominently Christian. Sunday, theoretically, should have been dedicated to Christian worship in B. H. Sports was an impudent intruder, and worse, an intruder who came along with alcohol (later weed), gambling and sexual flirtation. Sports, if you really analyzed it sincerely, was sinful.

(- from pgs. xvi to xviii, INTRODUCTION, Sports, Sin and Subversion, by Evan X Hyde, Ramos Publishing, 2008)

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Deshawn Swasey

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