There were things I did not understand about what happened on the night of May 29, 1972, in the streets of Belize City, and there were things I understood but never discussed in these pages because the implications for our organization (UBAD – the United Black Association for Development) would have been divisive and confusing.
Today I want to say that I am firmly convinced that Wilfred Nicholas, Sr., lost his job at the Ismael Gomez company on Mosul Street based on an untruth. There was a police officer by the name of George Heusner assigned to take photographs of the UBAD march that night, and when the march became a riot and then an insurrection, Heusner was attacked by a mob and someone stole his camera. Wilfred Nicholas, Sr., an officer of UBAD whom I fondly called “Podgorny’ or “Gorny” in reference to a Russian government official at the time by the name of Nikolai Podgorny, was a great and loyal UBAD officer.
In the United States, there are many different foundations funded by the major corporations and universities which make sure to finance scholarly research into the detailed history of important incidents and events. This is not so in Belize, and it is no use lamenting the absence of scholarly research here. Nothing ever frigging changes.
It was years before I realized that the loss of his job negatively affected Gorny’s home life in a serious way as a husband and father, because this was not a man who ever, ever complained. This was a he-man.
After UBAD dissolved in November of 1974, the ruling People’s United Party (PUP) reached out to me in early 1975 after the PUP lost the Belize City Council to the Opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) in December of 1974 (following the PUP’s unprecedentedly narrow general election victory in October that year, less than two months before.)
When I was a young man, I was uncomfortable with Rt. Hon. George Price’s personality, and so I told the PUP leadership I would prefer to sit with Deputy Premier C. L. B. Rogers, which I did on perhaps four occasions over the course of a few weeks.
The first thing I told Mr. Rogers was that he had to find a regular job on the waterfront for Wilfred Nicholas, and Mr. Rogers did so. Previous to that, I believe Gorny used to “ketch and kill” on the waterfront. Men don’t usually like to talk these things, but a regular job is an incredibly stabilizing force in a man’s life.
A week or two ago, Nuri Muhammad, who I believe was leading the Nation of Islam at the time of the May 29, 1972 uprising, interviewed Norman Fairweather via Skype for KREM Radio and Television. (Norman, who now lives in New Jersey, was the Secretary-General of UBAD at the time and played the most sensational role in the 1972 events.) But the only person I’ve spoken to who listened keenly to the show is Rufus X, who was a UBAD officer at the time of the rising.
The 1972 UBAD rising, in other words, has been buried in history, and the younger generations of Belizeans have no interest in it because absolutely no research has ever been done on it and younger Belizeans know nothing of that moment.
The power structure, which was British colonial at the time, did the same thing to my generation where the 1919 Ex-Servicemen’s uprising was concerned. We were never told anything about it. A vital narrative was obliterated.
But since 1972, nationalist political parties have run Belize’s power structure (education system), and Belize actually achieved political independence in 1981. How come nothing has really changed here? Are the British still running things?
Power to the people.