September 2019 Volume 15

Basil Waite Forever

Everton Barrett
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Ever so often there comes along a Fortis Brave who unconditionally pours his purple blood over everybody and everything in his path. Oftentimes all one would need to say is “I attended the college’ before striking up a lifetime friendship with the Dean of North Street, the devout socialist and defender of all things Jamaican. He never missed an opportunity to wax poetic about Cuba, the little Senoritas, and the soul of a people so willing to put their lives on the line for the Marxist revolution. Sometimes I would press him on the Senorita’s part as something told me it was all fantasy. You couldn’t help but admire this walking encyclopedia about little known communism and socialist facts, dates and times.

The convergence of time sometimes make me pious and I shudder to think I am anymore spiritual than my Brother next to me, but there is something mystical in my friend Basil Waite and the Right honorable Robert Mugabe ascending that stairway to the promised land on the same day.

He was unapologetic about the over-indulgences of the culture, we who lived away criticized so passionately. Basil saw pearls of cultural reemergence, of a people longing to come into their own that even dance hall counter culture insipidness should be encouraged. On any trip to Jamaica, if you wanted the real flavor of the island, you had to look Basil up. Yes, he was a man true to his convictions and through all this he was true to himself.

A seventies UWI graduate, he never seemed to have emerged from that glorious political period when colonies boldly stated their independence and sought to form alliances to forge ahead. Denied a US visa because of his stout political views, he never wavered, never had a hankering to come to the United States, instead saw himself as a proud Pan-Africanist who fought the good fight to educate all who would listen about the ultimate deliverance of Marxism. I sometimes would take cruel pleasure in tormenting him about the absolute misgivings of his precipice-dwelling argument. Life is a cruel arbiter, because I never got a chance to sit and have that last beer with him, so we could tally all the scores over the years to see whose existence closely paralleled George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Through all this, he had no detractors, no one who was uneasy in his company. He could bring together the most divergent in political philosophies. He sat with Ambassadors and Prime Ministers alike and he would always fittingly get them to a comfortable place. Today as he passed and we reflect on his contributions and his memory, give that brother a standing ovation and lets find truly meaningful ways of celebrating a life gone too soon.

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