I wish that you had been at Brother Nick’s funeral on Tuesday afternoon in Belize City, to find out how many people’s lives were touched by this humble man and how much he was truly loved. This was a man of great strength, both of body and of mind, but this also was a really gentle man, a man of calm and sensitivity.
Months before he died, Brother Nick asked me to speak at his funeral, the church service for which took place at the Mormon church on Cemetery Road. I believe the formal name for the Mormons is the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” Major controversy surrounds this church in the American black community, but this was the religion where Brother Nick found a home almost thirty years ago, this was the faith which gave him strength as he came to the end, and this was the congregation which stood for him. Yet, Wilfred Nicholas, Sr.’s credentials as a black Belizean revolutionary leader were impeccable.
In 1996, the core remainder of UBAD in Belize City reorganized itself as the UBAD Educational Foundation (UEF). Among the former UBAD officials who were active in UEF were myself, Brother Nick, Rufus X, Lillette Barkley-Waite, and the late Edgar X Richardson. The person who dominated UEF for many years, however, was Dr. Leroy Taegar, who had not himself been a UBAD leader, but who might as well have been, if you understand what I mean.
Like myself, Leroy is not a religious person in the denominational sense of the word. In UEF meetings, there were often sharp exchanges between himself and Brother Nick. Mischievously, I often provoked these exchanges between my two friends, because they made UEF meetings more lively. I knew that no matter how aggressive Taegar became about the failings of the Mormons, Brother Nick could handle it. Brother Nick could handle anything. He had the broadest shoulders you can imagine.
By the time UBAD had come to an end in late 1974, Brother Nick had become the officer to whom I was closest. His solidarity with me was such that I felt that this was a man I would never want to let down in any kind of way. Because of the UBAD incidents on the night of May 29, 1972, in Belize City, Mr. Nick had been terminated from his job at Ismael Gomez’s warehouse on Mosul Street. In 1959, Mr. Nick had married a lady who had four children previously, and by 1972 they had one of their own – the very famous Chickiblue. In 1972, therefore, Brother Nick had major family responsibilities.
In early 1970, when Charles “Justice” Eagan and I began hanging out a lot, Justice used to take me with him when he visited the said Melin Gomez’s business on Mosul. I have never seen an office so disciplined and professional as that one. Justice knew the Gomez family from their poor beginnings in Orange Walk. The late Melin was a stern and serious man, but when Justice entered the office, with me tagging along, Justice behaved as if he was himself the boss.
Of the UBAD people who marched that 1972 day of May 29 which turned into night, Brother Nick was probably the one with the heaviest home responsibilities. Brother Nick was the one who could least afford to lose his job. I think Sergeant George Heusner, the police photographer who made the complaint, may have been assaulted by a crowd and remembered Brother Nick in the crowd around him. Anywhere he was, Brother Nick had this impressive presence that would make you remember him. I can’t believe that Sergeant Heusner totally fabricated his story, but I also don’t believe that Brother Nick assaulted him.
Wilfred Nicholas, Sr., was arrested. Mr. Gomez became impatient with Nick’s legal travails, and fired him. I know that Nick’s wife was angry at UBAD, the organization which was responsible for Nick’s problems, and I could never have blamed her.
My decision to run in the October 1974 general elections as the sole UBAD candidate, was a symbolic one. I felt that I had to do something which would prove to those who were still loyal to me, Brother Nick most prominently, that we had to move on from UBAD. My 1974 defeat in Collet, however, was worse than I could have foreseen, for the UDP blamed me for the wildly popular Ken Tillett’s defeat there by a single vote.
The UDP’s venom reached the point where, when the ruling PUP’s leadership sent the late Ray Lightburn, late 74/early75, to reason with me, I listened. UBAD had been dissolved following the 74 generals. Things were desperate for me. I met privately in Belize City with the Deputy Prime Minister, C. L. B. Rogers (deceased), about four or five times. My most urgent request was that Brother Nick be employed on a regular basis. As a result of Mr. Rogers’ intervention, Brother Nick thus became regularized on the waterfront. This was during the time when the Christian Workers Union, which ran the waterfront, was led by the late Desmond Vaughan, along with the late Mike Rosado.
As I said in church on Tuesday, and I was glad to see Eckert Lewis there, Mr. Nick deserves public, state recognition for his work in boxing and with the youth. It would have been better while he was alive, but they can still do it after he is dead. Mr. Nick never sought fame. What he did, he did from his heart. There were so many of us who admired and loved him. So, the authorities shouldn’t feel that they can’t honor Mr. Nick because that would give old X credit. Hon. Michael Finnegan was in church on Tuesday afternoon. He can testify that Wilfred Egbert Luis Nicholas, Sr., was a hero of the Belizean people.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle. Amandala