The Men We Carry in our Hearts: The Audacious UPP Eight


A few years ago, I had a reading to do in order to write a comparison essay. As
I opened the text to begin the assignment, the topic of an essay in the text
jumped out. So, the assignment was set aside because the topic needed

The story was called “The Men we Carry in our Hearts,” and it was a tale about
the men who had built the United States of America.

As thought-provoking as the topic was, interestingly, it was not about
presidents, aristocrats, bureaucrats or investment gurus. Surprisingly, it was
about the humble men who had built the railroads and the streets and worked
the coal mines and the cotton fields.

How heroic that the true builders of that nation were recognized and homage
paid to them, and I could think only of the true heroes of our times.
I remembered a period of selflessness acted out by those who became known
as “The UPP Eight.”

That day was a beautiful, sunny day with bright prospects for all who dared to
dream of a better Antigua and Barbuda, and as I rounded the corridor on the
east side of the Ministry of Finance, I could hear voices chanting,
“Accountability! Accountability!”

I looked over the rail facing High Street and saw the source of the voices: a
strong contingent of the United Progressive Party bearing different placards.
Upon entering the door to the main office, a few of the UPP picketers were just
ascending the stairs. It appeared that they were there to visit with the
minister and respectfully asked for him.

When told that he was not in, they stated that they would wait. They shared a
light moment with the staff as they chatted and laughed together.
When the minister came up the west stairway and entered the door, it
appeared that the UPP men knew he was there. But no one could have
envisioned what happened next.

These men, with one accord, stood side by side, locking arms together, and
standing elbow to elbow. Their faces were like flint, backs erect, shoulders
squared, as they declared to the Minister, “We are here to stop you from
taking office today.”

He tried to push past them. His driver and bodyguard sprang into action,
trying to break through. Other men came from other offices, trying to break
their rank, but they were resolute and united in their stance to preserve this
noble nation.

The desks shifted and equipment almost fell, but no one could stop them.
Their feet were firmly planted on the floor as they had one purpose, and they
would not be deterred from fulfilling it.

The police were called and swiftly arrived; even Truehart Smith, the then
commissioner, was there.

With one accord, The UPP Eight voluntarily sat, crossed-legged, on the floor,
reinforcing their position and making it more difficult to be removed by the

Commissioner Smith had no alternative but to read them their rights in this
position, for they were not intimidated, but still in control.
After being read their rights, the men continued to sit resolute, awaiting their
dispatch to the police station. No one spoke or showed any sign of fear of
reprisal, knowing that their mission was accomplished and their fate was now
in the hands of God.

The police back-up vehicle arrived and the eight were escorted peacefully to
the van. They were whisked off with pride and dignity intact because their
stance had been selfless and courageous.

What an example these men were to us that day. Men of no notoriety, of no
fame, and seeking no glory but a love for their beloved nation.
My heart swelled with pride that men of my colour and of my Antiguan and
Barbudan descent could dare to stand for the nation – and not self – in my

Today, I hail Baldwin Spencer, the trade unionist; Wilmoth Daniel, the
business manager; Hilson Baptiste, the restaurateur and entrepreneur; Harold

Lovell, the teacher and geologist turned lawyer; Alister Thomas, the assistant
director of culture; Ralph Potter, the human resources officer; the late Tim
Hector, the newspaper editor; and the late Vaughn Walter, the public servant.

Today, I honour the audacious UPP Eight: For their selfless struggle and
audacity to pioneer peaceful dissention and rebelucion. For the building up of
this twin-island nation of Antigua Barbuda. For daring to make the name of
Antigua and Barbuda great.

From the bottom of my heart, I salute you, for you are the men we carry in our
hearts. Hip hip hip hooray!

Ephrathah James