THE late political activist, journalist and talk-show host, Ronald Waddell, was murdered on January 30, 2006, during what has been described as “the troubled period”, when it is reported that about 458 fathers were killed.
During an evening of reflection hosted in honour of Waddell’s 14th death anniversary, by the African Cultural Development Association (ACDA), a `clarion call’ was made for a check to be conducted on the surviving children of the dead men. It was also suggested that the survivors should be encouraged to pen essays on their experiences and feelings regarding the extra-judicial killings that had affected their lives.
Heston Bostwick, one of several speakers who made the call, is himself a political activist and a resident of the community of Albouystown, where the May 22, 1996 murder of young Jermaine Wilkinson at La Penitence Street, in the same community, had sparked a massive protest that lasted some six months.
The venue for the event themed, “Lest we forget, we are likely to let the same things happen again”, was the tarmac of the 1763 Monument, D’Urban Park.
Among others who spoke were Waddell’s then live-in partner, Bonita Harris; Sis Penda, Clementine Marshall, Vincent Alexander , Oscar Clarke, Ryan Belgrave, Barrington Braithwaite, Royston Peters and Sherlock Sampson.
“He lived and died for what he believed”, “everything was important for him”, “he was larger than life”, “he was a good man, partner and human being”, were some of the distinguishing characteristics that the close associates and friends of Waddell recounted.
Waddell was gunned down execution style on the evening January 30, 2006 in the driveway of his seaside home on the Rupert Craig Highway. Reports are that he had just gotten out of his car to open his gate, when heavily armed gunmen bearing high-powered weapons drove up and shot him.
Harris, who spoke passionately of her then live-in partner, disclosed to the small but attentive gathering that Waddell was gunned down on her birth date, January 30. Also, that the date of his death coincides with the day Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, familiarly known as Mahatma Gandhi, was assassinated, and the death anniversary of Coretta Scott King.
Recalling that Waddell always spoke of every story as having eight sides, she publicly expressed her appreciation to Waddell’s close friends, who were part of the struggle with him to right the wrongs and have been continuing the struggle. Harris told the gathering that following Waddell’s death and as a fitting tribute to his legacy, she established a “reading room” at ACDA. The facility which she emphasised is “a reading room and not a library,” is outfitted with all of the reading material Waddell possessed and other miscellaneous literature. The intention is for it to be utilised by persons as a quiet space to freely meditate and read up on African history and culture, just as Waddell had loved to do during his lifetime.
But Harris said she was “extremely distressed” to find during a recent visit, books locked up in cupboards and chairs stacked one upon another. In reiterating her intention, Harris chided, “If you want to honour his work, go and fix up that room, as it is it will be uncomfortable on his mind.”
Harris said, Waddell, whose mother had conceived when she was about 15 or 16 years old, stood for what he believed and had a very human side. He was passionate about what he perceived to be the wrongs meted out to “his” [African] people; the youths and unemployed and had frankly expressed himself on a programme named “Taking Care of Business” on Television Channel 9.
She also told the audience that Waddell, who had spent some time living overseas before returning home, was the holder of a law degree which he obtained at the University of Guyana, passing with Credit.
Belgrave, a relatively young activist, likened the work of the late Waddell as a revelation and not a personal struggle, adding that the radio programme he hosted was aimed at encouraging people to contribute to their own upliftment and development.
Addressing the gathering, Clarke recounted, “He [Waddell] was larger than life, he lived and was killed for it because he was successful and they saw him as dangerous. He spoke so that the youngsters could understand, they understood what he meant and moved to do something,” Clarke added.
Alexander, who noted in his discourse that Waddell was someone with his own way of leading a community, endorsed the sentiments by Harris, and applauded ACDA for seeking to share and keep his legacy alive.
He encouraged the gathering to be inspired to continue the journey, be re-energised and take the country forward.
In reminding that Waddell placed much value on education and practiced it, he said, “There was synergy between what he preached and did … say what you mean and mean what you say.”
Braithwaite referred to Waddell as “Solo”, his nickname in the community of Laing Avenue where they both grew up.
In a pointed remark that Waddell was “assassinated”, Braithwaite said prior to his death, and through his daily talk shows, the late activist had been attempting to empower young people, many of whom were unemployed Afro-Guyanese.
In addition, Waddell had been chronicling the unanswered deaths, referred to as extra-judicial killings, of the men who were, if not found dead with gunshot wounds, disappeared mysteriously, and have not been accounted for to date.
He had also called for the Afro-Guyanese community to begin to spend their resources in support of businesses of their own kind and in their own community.
Prayers, a libation ritual and a brief period of drumming before the speeches, were also aspects of the evening’s formality.