THE GLEANER, which has been Jamaica’s leading newspaper for all of my lifetime, to be sure, was established in 1834. What that means is that its editorial direction and management have been through many changes over the course of eight or more generations. That’s if we are talking about a single family, which I doubt.
The point I want to make is that this newspaper, AMANDALA, which was established in 1969 and became The Jewel’s leading newspaper in 1981, is about to mark 54 years of publication, and whereas for decades AMANDALA was considered an almost exclusively Evan X Hyde brand, this is no longer the case, beloved. The power structure at the newspaper today involves two of my daughters and two of my younger brothers. AMANDALA, therefore, may now be considered a Hyde family newspaper.
Let’s go back to 1834. This is the year when slavery was outlawed in British territories/possessions. The slaves in places like Jamaica and Belize were not actually freed in 1834: they were told they would have to serve four years of “apprenticeship” to their masters before they would be officially and legally freed. This emancipation took place on August 1, 1838, after slavemasters received various forms of remuneration, the details of which have never been explained to me. The only thing I know is that a few years ago it was said that Great Britain had finally completed paying remuneration to slavemaster families.
One presumes that THE GLEANER, being established in 1834, was originally owned by white, slavemaster families, but this is a presumption, a likely one, but a presumption still.
In the case of AMANDALA, we started out as an information bulletin, sort of, for the United Black Association for Development (UBAD), which was founded on February 9, 1969, in Belize City. We started out as a stencilled publication. In 1971, we bought an old letter press from Norman Bouloy’s Benex Press. In 1977, we made our great leap forward when the ruling People’s United Party (PUP), most prominently the one Said Musa, became our business partners (50/50), their capital injection enabling us to upgrade from letter press to the “modern” offset printing process. This was how we became competitive with THE REPORTER.
The history of THE REPORTER is very interesting and important for historians to know and understand. The massive power and popularity of the late Philip Goldson derived from his ownership of THE BELIZE BILLBOARD, by far the most powerful newspaper in British Honduras between 1956, when Mr. Goldson was forced out of the ruling PUP, and 1966, the year when Mr. Goldson made the fateful decision to reveal to the people of Belize, Bethuel Webster’s Proposals for a solution to the Guatemalan claim to British Honduras, even though Mr. Goldson had been sworn to secrecy by the United States and the United Kingdom.
It was in the year immediately following Mr. Philip’s exposure of Thirteen of Webster’s Proposals, 1967, that a new newspaper suddenly emerged in the colony. It was called THE CHAMBER REPORTER, and it utilized the “modern” offset technology, which had never been seen before in Belize. This technology enables one to reproduce photographs immediately in one’s newspaper, whereas with Mr. Goldson’s letter press, it was necessary to order wooden blocks with metallic photographs glued to them, a process which took days. THE CHAMBER REPORTER, financed by Belize’s leading businessmen, was a direct, deadly attack on Mr. Goldson’s financial base and his political power.
AMANDALA, if I may return to that subject, did not have any investment capital when it began publication in August of 1969. The newspaper survived because of, you know the deal, people power.
I want to close with a story about an incident which happened around the area of Monterey, Mexico, one night in early 1972. The late Ismail Shabazz and I were travelling from New York City to Belize by bus. We had left Belize in late 1971 after the December 1971 Belize City Council election in search of financial support for UBAD. A political novice, I felt that the Freedom Committee, based in New York City, would help us, after the NIP/UBAD coalition had been defeated in the aforementioned CitCo election. It was a desperate decision on my part, partly because my plane phobia had me travelling by road. Thank you, Brother Shabazz.
Shabazz and I parked our car in Corozal Town, took a bus to Chetumal, and then headed to Mexico City through Vera Cruz. From Mexico City, we took a bus to the Mexico/U.S. border, Tijuana, and from there we went to Los Angeles for a week, where we stayed at the home of the late, beloved Edgar X Richardson.
From there, we bused to New York City. The Freedom Committee held a meeting for us to address New York Belizeans, but all we ended up with was a motor to power the old letter press we had bought in 1971.
When we left New York in late January/early February of 1972 on the way home, a Mexican Customs official took us off the bus at the Texas-Mexico border. He had us seated on a bench for hours. Finally, he asked us what the torpedo-looking motor was for, so we told him it was for a printing press (prensa). After some while, he came back to us and said, in Spanish, “Listen, if the officers on the road ask you what this motor is for, tell them it is ‘para elevar,’ to lift things. If you tell them it is for a printing press, they will charge you a lot of money, because it is only rich people who own printing presses in our country.”
I was sleeping on the bus that night around Monterey when Mexican soldiers stopped the bus. Half asleep, I heard a lady cry out, “Jesu Cristo, hay bomba!” Then I heard an armed soldier: “A quien pertenece el motor?” I rose from my seat and he took me outside, to the cargo compartment of the bus, where armed soldiers were gathered. “Para que uso este motor?” the soldier asked. “Es para elevar,” I replied. And so, praise the Lord, they let us go.
So, you see, the Hyde family is not supposed to own a printing press. We do so because you, the people, have given us your support. I thank you.