Sociologically, Belize has changed greatly and dramatically since the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) was organized in 1969 and I entered public life here at the age of 21.
I became the second president of UBAD because my first degree gave academic credibility to the black consciousness efforts of a small group of Belizean followers of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad (led by Charles X “Justice” Eagan, with Ismail Omar Shabazz and Rudolph Farrakhan as his followers) who had been active, in Belize City primarily, since 1962.
Nowadays a first degree (Bachelor’s) is practically meaningless, but back then in 1969 it was a big deal. So yes, I gave Justice and his group academic credibility, while they in return provided me with street protection, as it were.
The problem for us was that Belize was a place which was absolutely controlled by Christian religions, primarily the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, with the Methodists next in line, as the powerhouses in worship and child education. My insistence on the credibility of African and Mayan (Indigenous) history brought me into direct conflict with the day-to-day teachings of the Catholics, Anglicans, and Methodists. To this day, the Anglicans and Methodists here have still not accepted the relevance of African and Mayan history in their schools.
So then, I personally became a pariah in respectable Belizean circles, where the above-mentioned three religions ruled. The decision of Culture Minister, Hon. Francis Fonseca and the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) earlier this month to award me for my writings may perhaps be seen as the first significant change in perspective by the establishment or power structure here, which, as I said, has been under the aegis of the Anglicans, Catholics, and Methodists.
In my earlier adult years, I became very close to the Muslims in Belize, and even visited the famous Temple No. 7 in Harlem (New York City) in early January of l972 along with Ismail Shabazz. (A week before, Shabazz and I had attended a religious service at a Muslim mosque in Los Angeles.) I was even given a Muslim name (Alif Ansar Mujahid), but I never became a practising Muslim.
To me (I was raised as a Roman Catholic, but my late mother was a Methodist), there are two major differences between the Christians and the Muslims. One is that the Christians believe in a Triune (Trinity) God, which includes a Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, while the Muslims believe in one, singular God, and one, singular God only — Allah. The second difference is that the Christians believe in one man, one wife, whereas the Muslims allow men to have as many as four wives if they can sustain these relationships financially. So much for that.
I hereby express my gratitude to Minister Fonseca and NICH for the recognition they gave me, and I also express my regret to my fellow awardees that circumstances made it impossible for me to attend the ceremony so that I could be there with them. Respect in particular, Leo Sanchez, and Allah’s richest blessings upon you.
Four and a half years ago, the iconic Pen Cayetano had organized a tribute to me in Dangriga, a tribute for which I was very grateful. I felt very honored. It is to be noted that the Garifuna people, while mainly Roman Catholics, are less subservient to the major religions in Belize than are the Creoles and the Mestizos. So much for that.
As a Belizean and a sports fan, I must give maximum respect to the accomplishments, on both the domestic and international scenes, of the late, very great G. Raymond Lashley. While he and my maternal uncle, Buck Belisle, were good friends and both members of the Colonial Band Association (CBA) club at the corner of Prince Street and East Canal, G. Raymond and I became, quietly I think, opponents because of his commitment to amateurism in Belizean sports, and my public support for some kind of professionalism in said sports. I hereby extend Kremandala’s condolences to his wife, the much esteemed Gretel, and his son, the very popular Ray.
In closing, I want to let you know that our newspaper has been experiencing changes over the last couple years which have resulted in the increasing importance of other members of the Hyde family, including one of my younger daughters and two of my younger brothers. Almost none of you know that the leading newspaper in Jamaica, THE GLEANER, was founded in 1834. Can you imagine the amount of personnel, structural, and philosophical changes which have enabled THE GLEANER to maintain its newspaper leadership in Jamaica for going on two centuries almost? Amazing. To survive, institutions have to change with the times. This is real.
Power to the people.