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Tuesday, January 25, 2022
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From the Publisher

On more than one occasion over the decades, I have told you that there was a period of a few months in 1970, immediately after the late Ismail Shabazz and myself were arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy in February of that year, during which the real leader of the UBAD (United Black Association for Development) movement was the late Charles X “Justice” Eagan, who was later given the Muslim name of Ibrahim Abdullah.

Charles X “Justice” Eagan

UBAD became even more radical under Justice’s leadership, and it must have been around May of 1970 that he, Charles X Stamp, and myself were arrested and charged with housebreaking and stealing. Two non-UBAD individuals (Nathaniel Vasquez, a watchman, and his nephew, Patrick Vasquez) were also arrested and charged in connection with the same incidents. So that, when the case was finally heard in the Belize Supreme Court in its January 1971 session, there were so many accused that the courtroom authorities had to put chairs alongside the dock to seat everybody.

The chief witness for the prosecution was the late Alvan Jones, Justice’s cousin. Jones had turned Crown evidence, as it is said.

Justice and the two Vasquez’s were convicted and each sentenced to five years of prison time. Charles X Stamp and I were acquitted.

None of us was defended by legal counsel. This was remarkable, because the two “leftist” attorneys, Assad Shoman and Said Musa, who had immediately volunteered to defend Shabazz and me when we had been arrested in February of 1970, visited us three UBAD-ers once when we were held at the Queen Street Police Station, and we did not see them again.

Inside UBAD, our speculation was that Justice, against whom most of the prosecution’s evidence was directed, owned enough cattle and other assets at his More Tomorrow ranch to hire an attorney. This is a piece of history which I don’t understand.

Remember, Justice ended up walking out of prison, so to speak, in 1974 or thereabouts, when he was supposed to be visiting the dentist at the old Belize City Hospital. He made his way to the United States, with the help of the late Jose “Odette’s” Shoman, a couple people have said to me.

The subject of Justice arises because my Nigeria-based cousin, Marie-Therese Belisle Nweke, recently informed me, in the course of enlightening me about one of her grandnieces, Dr. Natalie Belisle, who is a faculty member at the University of Southern California, that Justice was Dr. Belisle’s granduncle, and that before he died in Chicago, Justice had sat Dr. Belisle down and given her a series of interviews, lasting days, during which he narrated his family’s genealogy and history, as well as the story of his life and his involvement with UBAD.

Marie-Therese revealed that Justice came from an “old and very, very wealthy land- owning Creole family (the Grey family) which was involved for generations in Belize’s forestry and wood exportation industry.” Old UBAD-ers may remember that in his speeches from the UBAD rostrum, Justice always referred to his parents as “Margaret and Grey and Luther and Eagan.”

Justice was an incredible individual. There is no other way to say it. At one time, he told me he had been in the American military and been shot in the Korean War, which was the early 1950s.

In any case, what I do know is that he was deported from the U.S. in the early 1960s after being incarcerated in Atlanta State Penitentiary, where it appears he had become a member of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam.

The fact that Justice led a tiny black movement in British Honduras was unknown to me when I returned to Belize in 1968 after an Ivy League education in the United States. Justice was more than twice my age, and knew far more about life and the streets than I did. I knew that he found it difficult to accept my leadership, which was based on academic qualifications. In every other respect, Charles X Eagan was my superior. That is why he became the unofficial leader of UBAD after I was arrested in February of 1970.

I hope that Dr. Natalie Belisle finds a way to educate us about what Justice revealed to her. Belize’s history has been hidden to too great an extent. For instance, the late Smokey Joe (Selvin Wade) revealed in this newspaper that a group of youth from British Honduras were taken by ship to the southern U.S. in 1944 to help in the American war effort in World War II. The late C. L. B. Rogers, who later became the Deputy Prime Minister of Belize as a People’s United Party (PUP) area representative/Minister, was on that ship.

It is my distinct impression that Rogers, Justice, the late Rupert Cain, and the late Reynaldo “Tata Tiddle” Smith, had crossed the borders of British Honduras as youth and embarked on adventures in both Honduras and southern Mexico. Cain was infuriated when I published this in an editorial several decades ago. This was an example of this newspaper’s taking colonial oral history and placing it in black and white for the benefit of generations to come.

If Justice spoke to Dr. Natalie Belisle for days, there is sensational information/history of which she must be in possession. I hope that she publishes in my lifetime. Roots rock reggay.

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