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Saturday, January 22, 2022
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“Like the Freemasons, the Confederacy of the Humbled is a close-knit brotherhood whose members travel with no outward markings, but who know each other at a glance. For having fallen suddenly from grace, those in the Confederacy share a certain perspective. Knowing beauty, influence, fame, and privilege to be borrowed rather than bestowed, they are not easily impressed. They are not quick to envy or take offense. They certainly do not scour the papers in search of their own names. They remain committed to living among their peers, but they greet adulation with caution, ambition with sympathy, and condescension with an inward smile.”

– pg. 196, A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW, by Amor Towles, Viking, 2016.

In my younger, more militant days, there were a couple occasions on which I criticized my dad to the late Leroy Taegar. On those occasions, Taegar basically said the same thing to me: our parents’ generation had done what they could under the colonial circumstances for the upliftment of their families and our people. Respect was due.

Looking back, I would say some of my problems in life may have begun because I took “education” (the word) literally. I believe the English word “educate” comes from a Latin verb called “educare,” which means, literally, to “lead out.” So that, education is supposed to be a process wherein one is led out of ignorance into enlightenment.

But there are power realities in colonized societies, such as British Honduras was. Our education was not pure, so to speak: it was structured so as to praise and glorify the British, and condemn or ignore other peoples, especially the Roman Catholic Spaniards. (Long story.) Attending primary and high schools in British Honduras in the 1950s and 1960s, we were taught almost nothing about the French and absolutely nothing about the Russians.

This week a friend of mine sent an article to some of us which, I would say, considered the “accommodationism” of the late, great Sidney Poitier, a famous African-American movie actor who died this week at the age of 94. (I believe Poitier was born in the Bahamas.)

In response to that article and to my friend, I would say what Taegar said about my dad: Poitier and his generation did what they could under the “Jim Crow” circumstances for himself and his people.

But, Poitier was amply rewarded: with fame, with money, and with awards. There was an African American a few decades before Poitier, however, who was more talented than he, not only a superb actor, but a world class athlete and singer: his name was Paul Robeson. But you wouldn’t know anything about him, because he went against the capitalist power structure in the United States, and for that they “disappeared” his career. Real.

In Belize, mainly because of the fabulously talented Sandra Coye, we sometimes speak of the French Revolution, a very important revolution which occurred in 1789 and then precipitated the Haitian Revolution in 1791. But, we never speak of the Russian Revolution of 1917, which substantially affected the Mexican Revolution, which had begun in 1910, and precipitated the Chinese Revolution, which culminated with communist success in 1949.

Many of you know of Marcus Garvey, but what many of you don’t realize is that what was happening intellectually in Harlem (New York City) in Garvey’s time after World War I (1914-18) was seriously affected by what happened in Russia in 1917, which is to say, the working people had violently overthrown their tsarist monarchy and established communist rule.

The success of the working class revolution in Russia inspired courageous African Americans like Paul Robeson to dream of a change in the socio-economic realities of the United States of America. Robeson visited Russia and became an honored friend of the Russian Revolution, and a prominent acquaintance of the various working classes in Eastern Europe. He broadened his revolutionary horizons.

Garvey, for his part, rejected communism out of hand. He built an incredibly powerful black organization, not only in the United States, but all over the world. If you think about it, Marcus Garvey’s most lasting legacy to the world may be Rastafarianism, which may be described as a religion. His organization, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), was not able to withstand the onslaughts of the American power structure, and it was taken over by charlatans while Garvey was framed and incarcerated in Atlanta State Penitentiary in the late 1920s.

Sidney Poitier, I would say, basically made us feel good about ourselves as black people, but my friend’s article focused on how Poitier’s movie roles were “controlled” by the white power structure in America. There is a lot to analyze here. But these are the days of the internet, so you can do the research and find information and analytical pieces on Sidney Poitier for yourselves.

As black people in Belize, in our lifetime we have shrunk from being a clear majority of the population to being a clear minority. I have said to you that the Hon. Philip Goldson had to be sacrificed in order for this demographic change to be effected.

We live in a strange place, where we just experienced twelve and a half years of black Cabinet rule, from February of 2008 to November of 2020. Yet, we have incredible difficulty in finding any significant area where we, the descendants of slavery and colonialism, made any manifest progress as a people.

Yes, some of us became multi-millionaires. Just a few of us, mind you, and mostly attorneys. These were those of our people who “cut deals” with the real rulers. This is what Sidney Poitier did. He was a nice guy, beloved. Paul Robeson was the real warrior, and the real rulers in America kicked him all over the place. Such is life in the reality of the oppressed black people of planet earth.

Power to the people.

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