This coming Friday, February 9, 2024, will mark fifty-five years since the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) was organized in Belize.
For years and decades after UBAD was dissolved in late 1974, I would write articles about the organization in this newspaper. But once we succeeded in holding the first (and only) black summit in Belize, in September of 2003, I felt that there was really nothing more for me to say.
I was only 21 when I became the president of UBAD, because the first president just upped and left Belize for New York City (never returned) after a few weeks, and leadership was thrust upon me. I tried to do my best.
Eventually, however, the power structure here succeeded in dividing us at the leadership level in early 1973. Once that happened, UBAD was dead in the water.
Several former UBAD officers and members returned to Belize from the United States around the same time, in the latter part of 1993, and that is when the idea of a black summit first occurred to me. But the United Democratic Party (UDP) had come to power a few months earlier, and, similarly to the old National Independence Party (NIP), the UDP basically saw itself as a party which was more representative of black Belizeans than the Rt. Hon. George Price’s People’s United Party (PUP).
Thus, the UDP in power would have felt that they were adequately representative of black Belizeans, and they would have viewed an attempt by former UBAD elements to hold a black summit as unnecessary, and even disrespectful to them. This was my personal, considered opinion.
Since February 9 of 1994 would have been the silver anniversary of UBAD’s founding, I projected a black summit as an event which would coincide with our anniversary.
Today, 2024, black Belizeans are now a minority, maybe 20 or 25 percent. Everybody’s gone to the States. At the time of UBAD, however, we Belizeans of color would have been maybe 60 or 65 percent of the local population. There has been a massive and dramatic change in Belize’s demographics since the time of UBAD.
In 1993, however, Belizeans of color were still substantial in number, maybe 40 or 45 percent. In any case, I felt that the ruling UDP would do everything in its power to prevent Kremandala from staging a black summit in early 1994. I believed that there were a couple black leaders of some credibility whom the UDP could and would use to undermine a black summit initiative. So I decided to attack these two in the newspaper and neutralize them. This was a very bad mistake on my part, and the fact that I apologized to these two brothers in a formal meeting organized by Virginia Echols did not make my mistake any less egregious.
We finally managed to hold the black summit in September of 2003, and it would not have been possible without the cooperation of the late Dr. Theodore Aranda of Dangriga. (The National Garifuna Council boycotted the summit.) I believe I am in possession of the 14 audiotapes we made of the two-day event, and I know that YaYa Marin Coleman received financial assistance from a source in the diaspora to digitize the tapes.
It may be that it doesn’t make any difference any more, because our people took advantage of different opportunities to migrate to America, and today the majority of black Belizeans are in various parts of the United States.
The two-day uprising in Belize Town in July of 1919, which was referred to historically as the Ex-Servicemen’s Riot, was a really huge event. But it was not until a British university history professor, the late Peter Ashdown, wrote of this event in the 1980s that Belizeans of my generation learned the details of the uprising. The history of the 1919 uprising by the majority black population of Belize Town had been swept under the historical rug by Belize’s power structure in collusion with their academic servants.
UBAD was hardly as significant as 1919, but this newspaper kept its story alive, and then the 2003 black summit finished the story.
55 years after UBAD was formed, Belize’s power structure, except for St. John’s College, still refuses to teach African and Maya history. I have heard it said, interestingly, that Belize’s students have too heavy a curriculum workload. My position is, of course, that if our children and youth don’t know who they are and where they came from, they will be more likely to go astray. That seems quite logical to me. But in Belize, logic does not rule. I know it, and you know it.