The revolutionary heroes of those of us university youth who became rebellious in the 1960s were all university-trained. Muammar Gaddafy was a colonel in the Libyan Air Force who led a military coup. Nelson Mandela was an attorney who decided to do training in guerrilla warfare in Algeria and North Korea to fight the white supremacy oligarchy which ruled apartheid South Africa. Ernesto “Che” Guevara was a trained physician, born and raised in Argentina, who joined Cuba’s Fidel Castro to fight the professional military of the Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista. And the legendary Fidel Castro himself was an attorney who led a failed military attack on Batista’s Moncada army barracks in 1953, served two years in jail, and then immediately went to Mexico upon his release from prison, to study guerrilla warfare under a Spanish veteran of the civil war in Spain. (Guevara, incidentally, had been in Guatemala in 1954 when a CIA-sponsored coup ran the duly elected, reformist Guatemalan President, Jacobo Arbenz, out of the republic.)
The history of university education in British Honduras/Belize is really obscure. What is for sure is that bright, ambitious British Honduran youth had to travel to the United Kingdom if they wanted to pursue tertiary education. (The University of the West Indies was not established until around 1948.) Travel to the UK was by sea, four or five days from New York to London. (This was a dangerous voyage during World War II when German submarines were roaming the Caribbean and North Atlantic and shooting torpedoes at British shipping.)
The most famous British Honduran graduate of a British university was the attorney W. H. Courtenay, who would have travelled to Britain in the middle or late 1930s, I believe. Gilbert Rodwell Hulse was also a famously educated Belizean of the time before me.
With the opening of the UWI, Belizeans like Vernon Leslie, Dr. Colville Young, and Denzil Jenkins began going to the Caribbean university for their degrees. But many Belizeans continued travelling to the United Kingdom for their university qualifications. These included people like the attorneys Horace Young, Dean Lindo, and Joseph Grey.
There were white British Hondurans who went to the segregated United States for their degrees, and also those British Hondurans of a very light color who could pass for white.
For us students growing up in the colony in the 1960s, especially after Hurricane Hattie in 1961 opened up America for Belizeans with relatives in the U.S., I can say that it was in the United States that we wanted to go to study, if we could only get an opportunity. I grant that I may be speaking only for myself.
I thought that the British Caribbean countries were too much like Belize. I wanted to find out all I could about this America where the boxes and barrels came from, this America on whose Armed Forces Radio I listened to baseball, basketball, and American football games, listened to their superb singers like Brook Benton and Brenda Lee, and on whose manufactured products I read all the labels which said: “Made in the U.S.A.”
As fate would have it, I got an opportunity to go to the U.S. in 1965. I received the first four-year university scholarship the U.S. had ever given to a Belizean. My friends and relatives were very excited for me, and I think the general feeling was that I now had it made in life. I was blessed.
No one had ever come back to Belize from university abroad and said or wrote anything about any negative experiences they had had in British or American universities.
(I believe that when I left here in August of 1965, two of the British-trained Belizean attorneys, Dean Lindo and Joseph Gray, were partners in a law firm on Church Street. Gray, who I believe is Dr. Andre’s father, was later convinced by the ruling PUP’s Deputy Leader, C. L. B. Rogers, to join the PUP, lead the PUP’s Albert constituency (which was the domain of the Opposition’s Hon. Philip Goldson), and enjoy a guaranteed seat in the PUP’s ruling Cabinet. Mr. Gray was called a “Minister without Portfolio.”)
When I returned from America in 1967 on summer holiday, my father wangled a part-time job for me in the office of another British-trained Belizean attorney, V. H. Courtenay, whose younger brother, Derek, was also studying law in Britain at the time.
There were things which happened to me while at an American university between 1965 and 1968 which changed me substantially. I had not been prepared in any way for any of these experiences, and I felt that if my Belizean predecessors at foreign universities had said anything about their experiences to “pull my coat,” I would have been better able to survive the onslaught of racism and the years of being a nonentity without money in my pocket.
That is the main reason why I wrote a semi-autobiographical work called NORTH AMERIKKKAN BLUES in 1971. I didn’t want any other Belizean to be unprepared for certain experiences and phenomena which had radicalized me.
In America, I began to think like a revolutionary, but I never conceived of myself as a guerrilla or anything military. I would be a revolutionary writer. The sequence of events which led, after my return home, to arrest after arrest and persecution after persecution, was not foreseen by me. I never put myself in the category of my heroes — those university graduates who had dared to fight professional military forces trained and financed by brutal, racist oligarchies.
But, I met many Belizean heroes in my time back home. Through our organization, UBAD’s political education interacted with their bravery and benefited from that bravery. Today, those of our young people who are brave, shoot and kill each other. This is the massive change which has taken place in 54 years. We have made ourselves into our own enemies.
Power to the people.