Highlights — 21 August 2019 — by Bilal Morris
SEARCH FOR “AMANDALA”!

A PEOPLE’S VOICE, A PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT, A BELIZEAN REVOLUTIONARY SPIRIT!

Returning home to Belize after my migration in April of 1981 just a few weeks after the 1981 Heads of Agreement revolution that rocked the Belizean nation heading towards independence, it was always my desire to see where the revolutionary AMANDALA newspaper was located in Belize City, Belize.

It is interesting looking back at it now in this 50-year anniversary of a Belizean newspaper that gave me national pride, love for country and the identity of self, that in reading the Belizean publication so many times living in Belize that its place of origin was never known to me before.

 Knowing about the Prisoner Creek area of Southside Belize City so well as a boy before the popular Belcan Bridge came about that further divided the developing Belize City into its northern and southern sides, my father, who was the watchman or security guard for Bradley’s Dockyard, moved his family into a house on the dockyard that was rented to him through some kind of subsidized housing from the boat building company.

And so the Lake Independence area, that came straight out of the old Prisoner Creek that was the humble beginnings of AMANDALA the newspaper, was an area of Belize City that should have been known to me so well, being that it was an area where my family lived before. Why the curiosity in me never ventured across town from where we later lived as a family after my dad left the job at Bradley’s Dockyard, puzzled me as to my venturing out to search for the Belizean “school” that became the catalyst in my entire educational life.

Two years later on my return home to Belize City, the thought of finding where AMANDALA was became more interesting to me than ever before, and so the long walk across the city that once appeared to me so easy to cover had suddenly become like a drive across the vast freeways of Los Angeles, California. It is amazing how the mind of absence from space works after being away from somewhere for just two years.

Winding my way down Lake Independence’s Partridge Street of Belize City towards my final destination, the sight of what appeared to be the AMANDALA newspaper press comes into view. My mind searched for context, clues and landmarks along the way that would bring me back to the area when my family lived there. But there were none. It was a joy, though, to see how much that area of the city had developed from the times that we lived there when there was no Belcan Bridge across the waters of the Belize River. Then after walking and day dreaming at the same time a few more yards towards the small ruggedly-built wooden structures of what at the time to me appeared to be just shacks, the newspaper press sprang from out of the hot humid day into clear view.

This was it, AMANDALA, the mysterious space of thought in my mind that spread like a wildfire as a Belizean news brand across the city that one can still hear the paper selling boys of the 1970s calling out, “Maan’da’la!” Making a complete stop while staring and being totally shy as to go any further to inquire whether that was the spot, the element of surprise got even worse to see four black Belizean men assembling quite leisurely, carefree and totally relaxed in the yard adjacent to the two small bungalow structures.

Realizing that they saw me standing by the gate looking totally stupid in amazement, one of them, who I found out later was Odinga Lumumba, came to the gate and inquired about my identity with a mean stare. After explaining to him the reason for my travel from L.A. to my present stop, he invited me inside the gate.

Because of the story of the search for AMANDALA and its intriguing personality, Evan X Hyde, Odinga introduced me to the “X”, who was dressed in a short pants cut to the knees and a shirt cut at the two sleeves that opened up showing his bare chest. His black and proud persona was obvious to me as that mark of Belize’s first black power organization that was known as “The Crowd Called UBAD”. My reflections of X Hyde in the 1970s was this cult of personality speaking at the UBAD meetings from the podium at the corner of West and Glynn Streets of the city near a club called “Harlem Square” where my family later lived.

Sleeping in a hammock under a tree was another legendary UBADer, the one and only “Poppa Treetop”, that became quite known to me seeing him selling the AMANDALA newspaper in its humble beginnings in the streets in the 60s and 70s during the days before my migration for the first time in my life at 19 years old from the shores of my birthplace. How nice and free the life of the city appeared to be seeing “Poppa Treetop” chilling after my coming home from the hustling and bustling life of one of the biggest cities in the United States. He was one of the senior members of UBAD before its demise in the 1970s.

And moving around in a somewhat smooth fashion as though there was absolutely no trouble in the world was the radical one, Rufus X, as he and the “X” played table tennis on a large table that was placed in plain view across the yard.

The others that were there were not too known to me, except Cecilia Usher, known to all as “Ces”, who called out my name to come over to her place of office that was a small open room that was visible to the outside yard. “Ces”, who was AMANDALA’s first secretary, was typing articles for publication, it appeared, on a typewriter erected on a wooden mahogany desk. She greeted me, it being the case that she knew my family in the days.

Being humbled in seeing the appearance of what had appeared to me at first in my mind of perhaps a more affluent place for a newspaper headquarters, my eyes scanned every corner of the large yard with much surprise. My curiosity and apprehension were satisfied in that my journey back home to Belize had rewarded me in such a way as to see the struggling and grassroots beginnings of AMANDLA, its publisher Evan X Hyde, and some of the men that were called UBAD.

Ismael Shabazz, one of the first editors and publisher of the AMANDALA, became known to me before in Los Angeles as the brainchild behind another newspaper he pioneered there called the, “Belizean Focus”, that appointed me as the editor. Shabazz, who was also the treasurer of UBAD, had also formed the BREDAA organization, the Belize Rural Economic Development of Agriculture through Alliance. He brought the UBAD and AMANDALA spirit with him to the U.S. and became a legend in his own right.

In welcoming his enthusiastic guest, the “X” asked Odinga to take me out to lunch as a token of goodwill to a young Belizean brother whom he had impacted immensely for the better good. Since then Evan X Hyde has been one of the most benevolent persons in my life and one who has always showed me a deep sense of respect, kindness, and love.

 As my heart saddens with what the not too distant future may will for AMANDALA as Belize’s voice for the voiceless and downtrodden, we here at “Belizean Legends” want to express our deepest admiration and love for a Belizean legend, Evan X Hyde, his Belizean comrades in struggle, and the powerful grassroots newspaper of Belize that their movement of a people built.

Let’s stand with AMANDALA, the power to the people.

(Photo through the courtesy of the Belize’s most widely circulated newspaper the AMANDALA)

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