On August 13, 1969, the first issue of the Amandala, the organ of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD), rolled off a Gestetner machine in Belize City. For the next three editions, the newspaper was given away to members and supporters of UBAD.
After the third edition, however, a charge of 5 cents was charged. Since that first edition 50 years ago, and despite the changes in technology, Amandala has continued to be a staple for the reading public and a voice for the voiceless Belizeans in our midst.
The UBAD organization, which was formed in February 1969, was a cultural organization which aimed to instill a sense of self-love and pride in Belizeans of African ancestry by emphasizing the rich history of African peoples and fusing it with what was happening in the United States, from which the “black and proud” slogan was brought home to Belize.
UBAD’s rhetoric was militant. In fact, it was too militant for the then colonial society to simply absorb, and so, the powers that be set themselves on a mission to crush Amandala and its young revolutionary leaders in its infancy.
The number 17 issue of Amandala, which was published on February 20, 1970, caught the attention of the powers that be, and Amandala’s publisher and editor, Ismael Omar Shabazz, and Evan X Hyde, were arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy for a satirical article entitled “Games Old People Play.”
“Sedition is a political crime,” Amandala publisher and chairman of Kremandala, Evan X Hyde, told us in an interview this morning.
“It was a way to attack the organization before it revived, because UBAD had allied itself with the People’s Action Committee (PAC) that was led by Assad Shoman and Said Musa.
“PAC had its own publication named Fire, and so Amandala became ‘Amandala with Fire.’
“But that alliance didn’t work. I didn’t really analyze why, and then came the arrest for sedition in January, 1970,” Hyde said.
At 23, Hyde became a revolutionary in colonial British Honduras.
“I felt that I owed it to the African-American students to support their fight against racism and so on, and that kind of revolutionized me,” Hyde said.
Hyde explained that due to his youth and inexperience, he did not realize what he was getting himself into when his UBAD organization decided to support Philip Goldson in the City Council election in 1971.
“I was young, and got myself into some deep waters,” he said.
We asked the publisher to outline the technological changes that Amandala went through after the Gestetner period.
“We got an old letter press in about 1971; it was a Chandler and Price letter press. The motor never worked, so we used to pump it by hand,” Hyde explained.
“The major development in Amandala technologically came in 1977 when the PUP led an initiative by Said Musa; me and my family invested half-half with Said Musa, and we got the offset press that enabled us to compete with the Reporter Press … And I think that by 1981, we had become the leading newspaper,” Hyde recalled.
“The present challenge is the internet and social media. How do you see Amandala faring in this new era?” we asked him.
Hyde explained that in the US, a lot of newspapers have folded because of the internet, and the newspapers that have survived are those which have invested in top-notch reporters.
“The most important thing for me to say is to express my gratitude to the people who have supported us. Their loyalty to us is real, and I don’t get a chance to say thanks to them individually,” Hyde said.
We asked the publisher to reflect on the future of Amandala in this technological era.
“There is a changing sociological landscape. I have no idea going forward. Do you know that the Gleaner, Jamaica’s leading newspaper, has been around since 1834? There had to have been several points where major adjustments have had to be made,” Hyde explained.
“At the height of Amandala’s popularity, we diversified into radio and then television, because these are important methods of communication, because our people are not being properly educated as far as reading is concerned,” Hyde went on to say.
Hyde recalled one of his classmates, Carlson Gough, who is an engineer whom he went to school with from Standard 3 at Holy Redeemer primary school, all the way to SJC sixth form.
Hyde recalled that, during a conversation he had with Gough a few years ago, Gough told him that to learn mathematics, you have to know how to read. He’s an expert, Hyde said.
“You have to know how to read the text, and Belizeans are not being taught to read because social media employs methods of communication that are not formal. Serious writing is important, because ideally, you have to learn how to read,” he said.
The half-a-century journey that Amandala has made has been remarkable, and even dangerous at times, but the newspaper remains committed to its core principle of being a voice for those less fortunate Belizeans for whom hardly anyone ever speaks.
As the leading newspaper, Amandala has never been afraid of speaking truth to power, even though that could be a costly exercise at times.
The newspaper, however, continues to persevere, although the journey gets difficult at times; Amandala continues to mean “power to the people.” The newspaper has never forgotten how it got here – not through the support of the rich, but the support of the poor and marginalized Belizeans. It is a debt that we will continue to pay.
==========================Editorial: 50 years of Amandala – never wavering
Today, August 13, 2019, marks the 50th year since the Amandala newspaper came into existence, on Wednesday, August 13, 1969, and we pause to celebrate, and to reflect on the journey of this remarkable newspaper and its iconic leader, its publisher — Evan X Hyde.
For fifty years, since it first appeared as an information sheet about the activities and objectives of UBAD (United Black Association for Development), the weekly (presently bi-weekly) Amandala has been the most exciting Belizean production. For a short period it was only exciting, and then it became the most important too.
There is excellence and there is longevity, and when they meet we have greatness. It is not possible to separate Amandala from its publisher because he is the reason that the newspaper is what it is. X Hyde, a trained writer, has explained that his dream was to become a novelist and playwright, but in little Belize he got caught up in politics because of his passion for his people, and his art and his cause merged and found expression in these pages.
One of the Amandala publisher’s many important contributions to Belize is his capacity to recognize talent and his zeal to give it every opportunity to flourish. There have been many contributors to the Amandala story, and on this important occasion we mention two of the most storied — Glenn Tillett and Adele Ramos.
Glenn was a young, aspiring writer when he came to the Amandala, and his shared passion with the publisher must have struck a chord, for he soon had full reign over the paper’s weekly news features, and every opportunity to hone his craft.
When Adele returned to Belize from studies abroad, and offered her services to the Amandala, the publisher remarked that his organization didn’t have the finances to pay a talent of her caliber, but his organization also couldn’t afford to not hire her. It did, and the news stories she researched and wrote for the newspaper set the bar in Belize at its highest standard. They are considered some of the finest, in quality and accuracy, ever produced in the country, anywhere.
Amandala’s columnists always have wide latitude to express their opinions, unfettered, as long as they are honest. Amandala’s readers never have to worry about hidden agendas. The publisher of the Amandala, who maintains a “From the Publisher” column, and had written almost all the editorials in the newspaper over the years, never throws stones and hides his hands. His insistence on intellectual integrity might be as great a contribution to Belize as his writing excellence and his passion for the things he believes in.
Those who pick up the torch when the Amandala publisher passes it on, as he must one day, must not only be true to the cause, they must also revere intellectual integrity.
Originally, the Amandala was a stenciled newsletter whose primary purpose was to report on the objectives and activities of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD), which had been formed just a few months prior. Ismael Shabazz, the secretary/treasurer of UBAD (which became a political party in August of 1970), was listed as its publisher, and the organization’s president, Evan X Hyde, did most of the writing.
Shabazz and X Hyde were brought before the Belize Supreme Court in July of 1970, for seditious conspiracy, after the latter’s creative flair got them into trouble with the establishment. The court found the pair “not guilty”, and sometime during, or shortly after the trial, Shabazz, a spiritual leader, and mechanic, handed over the reins of the paper to X Hyde, the trained writer.
UBAD’s purpose was to uplift the masses in Belize, especially the most downtrodden, the darker-skinned children of the slaves, and among its core missions were voting rights for 18-year-olds, freedom of the air waves, and the teaching of African and Indian (Mayan) history in Belize’s schools. It started out as a cultural organization, morphed into a political party, and dissolved in November of 1974 when its sole candidate in the general election that year, was defeated at the polls.
No longer the organ of UBAD, but still firmly grounded in the mission of lifting up the masses, the Amandala embraced the new path of a national newspaper.
Amandala attained national status, becoming and maintaining the position as the most widely read newspaper in the country, but there are members of some demographics that regard the Amandala with a certain amount of suspicion. This is fueled to an extent by confusion about the name of the organization that gave birth to the Amandala. This confusion is encouraged by rivals, for their purposes.
In the world of the British, who controlled Belize up until 1981, one’s cultural status and one’s economic chances improved the closer in appearance one was to the colonial master. Some members of the light-skinned tribes, including the lighter-skinned Creoles, did not readily accept UBAD’s message that black was beautiful, and they didn’t grasp that their lighter color, which gave them advantages here, did not count for anything in the larger world.
The publisher of the Amandala had been exposed to the system in the USA, a country where all non-white people — black, brown, red, and yellow — were classified as black, and it was his view, and that of many leaders of UBAD, that Belizeans should accept that we were not white, and that we should unite, so we could better face the world that was now under the domination of the Americans.
The perception, encouraged by some, that the Amandala’s concern was only for a certain segment of the population, and the newspaper’s readiness to challenge the status quo, have dogged it over the years, with many businesses and institutions never, or rarely ever, doing business with the organization.
Some purists believe that challenging the status quo is not enough, that the newspaper could do more investigative journalism, dig deeper behind the issues. In the early 1980s the newspaper published an article from a Mexican newspaper that suggested that in some way then Prime Minister, Hon. George Price, and a member of his government, were not blind to the drug trade that was beginning to increase in our country.
The immediate response of the government was to declare that the Prime Minister was a sacred cow, and the accused member of his government too. The men could have depended on their declaration of innocence, and asked the Mexican newspaper to provide evidence to support its insinuations, but they chose to slap the Amandala (and other media that had published the same article), with a lawsuit.
The judge in the case might have penalized the media minimally, considering that no independent media in Belize had the finances to carry out an investigation to prove a charge made against our leaders in a foreign newspaper. The judge, however, dropped the full weight of the gavel.
Fast forward to the Sanctuary Bay scandal and we see the present Prime Minister declaring himself a sacred cow. The laws which allowed drug dealers to hide behind Prime Minister Price’s coattails are the same laws PM Barrow just dusted off for his purpose. The two major political parties are both armed with a battery of lawyers who work to insulate them from scrutiny.
We live in precarious times. A few years ago a promising, impressive young journalist for this newspaper was murdered, and the law authorities can’t explain why he was killed and can’t find out who killed him. A senior journalist from one of the newspaper’s close affiliates (KREM TV) was physically, publicly roughed up by the police in the service of the government.
Some businesses do not support the Amandala, and governments have turned their wrath on the newspaper, but in this adverse environment the organization perseveres in providing information with integrity, in creating jobs in the media and also in sports and entertainment, and also in continuing the legacy of UBAD through the UEF (UBAD Educational Foundation).
In the most difficult times the newspaper has survived through the Grace of God, and the support of the people, who respect the organization for its hard work, and its dedication in providing the unspun truth. Through 50 years the support of the people has never wavered, and the Amandala has never wavered in its commitment to them.
Amandala means Power to the People.From the Publisher
On this day, the occasion of our newspaper’s fiftieth anniversary (no development concession), I would like to express sincere gratitude to those of you who have supported us from creation and enabled me to take care of my parental responsibilities.
At some point in my high school career at St. John’s College, encouraged by the late John Stochl, S.J., I had thought of becoming a professional writer. I guess, thinking about it after all these years, the brothers Herbert and Ernest Cain had been professional writers (and printers) with their Belize Independent in the early part of the twentieth century, as had Dr. Frederick Gahne with his Guardian in the latter part of the nineteenth, Hon. Philip Goldson with his Belize Billboard in the 1950s and 1960s, and the late Rudy Castillo, who did a lot of the writing for the ruling People’s United Party (PUP) in their various information publications during their glory days in the 1950s and 1960s.
For myself, when I thought of becoming a professional writer, I was thinking primarily of, aspiring to be like, people like Roger Kahn and Arnold Hano, brilliant writers who did feature articles in the monthly American sports magazine called SPORT, which was imported into Belize by a business called Hollywood Magazines, operated, and I suppose owned, by one of Mr. Rudy Castillo’s sisters, incidentally.
Oh, how I used to dodge the monthly arrival of SPORT. The lady proprietor must have been amused by my repeated visits. Once I got possession of the magazine and brought it home, I still had to wait, and wait, and wait, until my dad, who was a voracious reader, got first crack.
I was a soft child at school, losing more fights than I won, and prohibited from playing with the neighborhood children in the streets. The Gillett youth, from Cubali Alley I believe, were working at Carlos Romero’s bakery across the alley from where I lived at #3 West Canal Street before Hurricane Hattie in 1961. They had to come into the Hyde yard to play marbles and tops and a little caparuche.
As the core of my anniversary column, I want to talk about a “21” basketball tournament, I think it was for first and second forms, at S.J.C., where, if my memory is correct, the finals ended up between my team and me – Norman Alamina (from Caye Caulker, I believe) and Haldane Burn, against Hector Yorke’s team – Hector, Percy Mutrie, and a small but very macho Hispanic named Raul Villanueva.
The matchups were Raul guarding the much taller Haldane, Percy against the taller Alamina (whose sister, Ilna, had taught my class at Standard IV at Holy Redeemer Boys School in 1957), and me against Hector. Percy and Alamina were in the middle around the basket, Raul and Haldane on the wings, and Hector and I could be described as the point guards.
If I had known as much as I know now, I would have moved Norman out of the middle and let Haldane post up against Raul. But that might have caused a fight. Raul, who wore jewelry and fancy shoes, was giving up a tremendous amount of height to Haldane, but Haldane, who went on to become a national basketball star in Belize some years later, was soft, like me. Raul would threaten and intimidate him to the point where I worried about Haldane sometimes. Raul had a deadly, deadly shot from l5 or 18, but he should never have been able to release it with Haldane guarding him.
Anyway, just by the by, Percy Mutrie had a sexy younger sister named Marian who was going to Pallotti and liked me. But she must have thought I was older than I was. I was scared of girls, and would go to all kinds of lengths on my bicycle to avoid her. Boy, oh boy. We’re talking almost six decades ago.
For me, the centerpiece of this anniversary column is Hector Yorke (a younger brother of Roland and Edgar), who died in Los Angeles as much as three decades ago. Hector was something special. When he came down the middle off the top of the key, it seemed to me, trying to defend him, that he was moving in every different direction at the same time. Hector Yorke was a real problem.
I believe we won the tournament. We had a big height advantage with Norman Alamina, not to mention Haldane. But that was a bitter series. A few years later, a Jesuit scholastic by the name of McElroy, took a baseball game between Wesley College, led by Arthur “Paulie” Usher, and St. John’s College, with myself as the pitcher, lightly. It must have been difficult for an American to appreciate the seriousness of the rivalry between the city high schools in 1964 – primarily S. J. C., Wesley, and Michael’s. (Technical was just beginning to come on strong.)
In 1969 I married a young lady who had attended Wesley Primary School on Albert Street. Many years later she told me that whenever the primary school year came to an end in those days, around April or so, she and her posse would march to the area of Augusto Quan where they would clash with some of their Holy Redeemer Girls counterparts coming down off the Swing Bridge. Innocent I man had no idea all this was going on back in the day. Perhaps some older policeman somewhere may remember something.
There are very few of us Belizeans who became educated who were dedicatedly roots. Amongst these I would rate attorney Simeon Sampson highly. Most of Belize’s educated people became educated in my colonial time by segregating themselves from roots, and that is why the history of our city and our country is so skewed. The people who can write nitty gritty ignore the real history of Belize.
Over the last two weekends, I spent many hours travelling with Rufus X in Crooked Tree, his dad’s home village, and Lemonal, his mom’s home. I listened a lot to Rufus, his friends, and their family members, and I learned a lot. These were families who basically worked for the Belize Estate and Produce Company in the rural and bush when BEC ruled Belize. There is really nowhere you can go in Belize where you can read a real history of villages like Gallon Jug, Hill Bank, and the aforementioned Crooked Tree and Lemonal in the days before $250 concerts took over in town. You know who is to blame for that lack of information and history? The people who are to blame are all your stuck up educated Belizeans with their noses up in the air. Well, how about the politicians who take their orders from white supremacy?
I should not speak this way to you, but I am tired and angry after all these decades. Imagine now, the Jamaicans appear to have actually taken over Belize theater and are telling us the stories they choose to narrate. Belize, Belize, there has been a power structure in place which oversees the secretive and systematic crushing of everything that is authentically roots Belizean. This is the reason all the foreign immigrant oligarchs now lord it over us and we “petty men walk under (their) huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonorable graves.”
Power to the people. Amandala.Amandala