1968. Photo by Doug Harris
My wife and I just laughed at the old drunk outside our house and wished he would go away, but sure enough when I got on the boat for the five hour ride through the jungle to the main town to reup on food, I noticed a man at the other end of the boat holding a 22 rifle. He didn't say anything to me nor did I say anything to him. But I learned he was a police officer in plain clothes.
As the boat made its way through the jungle in the river, I looked at the jungle grass and trees and occasional coon. After a time we arrived in Belize City and I departed the boat to my friend's house, some radicals I'd made the mistake of associating with upon arriving in Belize, then British Honduras.
The trip was made against the advice of my elder revolutionary sister in Mexico City, artist Elizabeth Cattlett Mora, who told me I would be going into raw colonialism if I went to Belize, but I ignored her since I was bored with Spanish and wanted to be around some English speaking black people, though I discovered the people in Belize spoke English in a dialect I couldn't understand, especially since they spoke so rapidly as they also spoke Spanish. I should have stayed in Mexico City.
My friends were not home so I entered the house which was not locked. I sat down and relaxed from the trip through the jungle. Soon I heard someone calling my name, ordering me to come outside. I grabbed a 22 rifle and thought about having a Black Panther style shoot out but decided against it and came outside to meet an undercover police officer who had me get into his car for a ride to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The Minister of Home Affairs read my deportation order:
My presence was not beneficial to the British Colony of Honduras, therefore I shall be deported and will depart on the next plane to Miami at 4 pm. Until then I would be placed under arrest.
I was taken to the police station and told to have a seat. I was not handcuffed nor put in a cell. Of course I reflected on the song of the drunk man. Soon I was surrounded by black police officers who pointed out the officers they said were black men with white hearts. The black men with white hearts did not come around me but soon I was encircled by black police officers.
I had no idea what was getting ready to happen and was feeling apprehensive, but when the officers had gathered around me in sufficient numbers, they asked me to teach them about black power.
I was shocked and overjoyed, yet couldn't understand why the police were asking me to teach them about black power when I was being deported for teaching black power. Nevertheless I told them about black power and reminded them that Marcus Garvey had come to Belize in 1923 and told them to get the Queen of England's picture off their walls. I said it is 1970 and you still got that white bitch on your walls. Get that bitch off your walls!
The police cracked up and said I was all ite and wished I could stay and the government would get rid of all the whites hippies who come down there to smoke dope. The police couldn't understand why the government would deport me since I was a teacher who could help them. After I finished my little rap, I sat down thinking how I was going to get my pregnant wife out the jungle. There was no way to call her. It would be days, maybe weeks before she would know I was deported.
A short time before the plane would depart, the undercover officer came for me and took me to the airport. As I resisted getting on the plane, I was literally thrown inside and the door closed. After a stop in Tegucigalpa, Spanish Honduras, the plane headed north across Cuba to Miami.
At Miami airport I was met by two gentlemen who were US Marshalls. They took me to Dade County Jail were I was put in a cell with ignorant Negroes who told me not to call them brother. I said nothing else to them.
After a few days I was transferred to Federal custody in Miami City Jail. When I entered the cell full of white Cuban suspected dope dealers, who I would learn were receiving 17 years whether guilty or not, they greeted me with "Brother, Brother, what do you want, what do you need? We are sending out for food, tell us what you want to eat?"
Having been exiled from America for several months, I ordered a hamburger, fries and milkshake. After the food arrived I ate and they asked me what else I needed. Did I need money or what? I told them I needed money to make a long distance phone call and they gave it to me.
I was overwhelmed by their sense of brotherhood and saddened by the treatment of my black brothers at Dade County Jail. I learned my wife was either back in the United States or would be home soon. I would be transferred to San Francisco to stand trial for refusing to fight in Vietnam. I felt the same as Muhammad Ali, no Viet Cong called me a nigger. I would never again ignore the song of a drunk man.