BELIZE CITY, Sun. Feb. 21, 2021– Today marks the 56th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X by three gunmen in Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom. An Al Jazeera story today says that an ex-undercover officer in the New York Police Department (NYPD), Raymond Wood, had revealed in a letter published after his death that the NYPD and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) participated in a coverup of the assassination, including arresting Malcolm’s security detail right before the hit.
I believe Netflix has a television documentary which gives a lot of details about the assassination itself. Malcolm had to be removed by the white power structure, and he was, although black surrogates were used.
My sense is that this particular Black History Month has a lot of energy in the United States, and one of the reasons would be the right wing January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, which is the center of the American government structure in Washington, D.C. At the time of the attack, some American commentators pointed out that the last such attack on the Capitol had been carried out by the British in 1812 during a war between the Americans and the British.
Most younger Belizeans will be surprised to learn that there was such a thing as a war between the British and the Americans, after the Americans had fought for their independence from the British in the 1770s. But it is important for us Belizeans to learn the history of our part of the world, because we in Belize are still fighting to claim and consolidate our small nation-state, and the republic which threatens us, Guatemala, is very much an American favorite.
Belize (previously British Honduras) was a British settlement which became a British colony in 1862. The British and the Guatemalans, led at the time by Rafael Carrera, had signed a treaty in 1859, prompted by the United States, to delineate the borders of the British possession.
There are some people who say that when Belize achieved political independence in 1981, the British had wanted to get rid of us for some time before that. I don’t know about that because, remember, the British jailed Richardson and Goldson for sedition in 1951, and charged Price with the same thing in 1958. These men were all People’s United Party (PUP) leaders in our anti-colonial 1950s. The 1950s were a time when the forests of Belize were not yet completely exhausted where hardwoods were concerned, and the British company called the Belize Estate and Produce Company (BEC) still dominated the colony’s economy, and had to be protected by Whitehall.
Guatemala was a part of the original Spanish empire in this region, and became independent from Spain, along with the other Central American republics and Mexico, in 1821. The Central American republics broke away from Mexico in 1823, and began fighting amongst themselves, led, on the one hand, by liberal Salvador and Honduras (Francisco Morazan) and, on the other hand, by conservative Guatemala (Carrera), with Guatemala proving victorious around 1840 or so.
The matter of race surfaced big time in 1829 when the Black Indigenous Mexican president, Vicente Guerrero, declared slavery abolished in Mexico, which had been a part of what was known as New Spain. This is what led to the eventual separation of Texas from Mexico, because the Texans wanted to keep their slaves. Texas became a part of the American Confederacy which fought the U.S. Civil War between 1861 and 1865 in an unsuccessful attempt to maintain the enslavement of African Americans.
The Guatemala power structure is white Spanish and heavily capitalist, ferociously anti-communist. There was a resentment against the existence of a majority black population in Belize on their eastern border. We Belizeans were referred to as the “British blacks.”
The black civil rights struggle in America basically began with the Rosa Parks bus incident in Alabama in 1955, but in Belize we first began hearing of America’s race problem (on BHBS — the government monopoly radio station) in 1957 when U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower had to bring federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, to protect seven black students who were seeking to integrate an Arkansas school according to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Alabama and Arkansas were in the South, the former Confederacy. The Nation of Islam, led by the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, was mostly in Northern cities, like New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, and so on. When Malcolm X came out of prison in the early 1950s, he joined the Nation and soon became Mr. Muhammad’s Minister in the NOI’s high-profile Temple No. 7 in New York City, and then his personal brilliance and eloquence propelled him into becoming Hon. Elijah’s leading national and international spokesman.
But there was a split between Hon. Elijah and Malcolm after the assassination of U.S. president John Kennedy in November of 1963. Things became worse in 1964, and then Malcolm made the pilgrimage to Mecca (Saudi Arabia) and converted to orthodox Islam, the Nation of Islam being a version of Islam which preached that “white men were devils.” (Orthodox Islam does not differentiate between races.)
In the winter of 1967, I was in an all-white fraternity at Dartmouth College, where I did a lot of drinking to preserve my sanity. I was not as strong as the former Black Panther, Albert Woodfox, who spent almost 44 years in solitary confinement in a concrete cell in Angola, Louisiana’s notorious state penitentiary and the largest maximum security prison in the United States.
On reading Malcolm X’s autobiography (published after his February 1965 death) in the winter of 1967, I became fully black-conscious along Malcolm’s orthodox Islamic lines. But I was, you could say, a clerical in black-consciousness.
I was not aware that here in Belize there existed a tiny street, working-class Nation of Islam movement led by the one Charles X “Justice” Eagan, who had been deported to Belize in 1961 from the Atlanta State Penitentiary. His first two converts were Ismail Omar Shabazz and Rudolph Farrakhan. They were all disciples of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, whereas I was a follower of Malcolm X’s teachings. So the story of what happened after I met these men in late 1968/early 1969 should help to clarify for you, hopefully soon, some of the circumstances and history of the Malcolm assassination in 1965.
Power to the people.