By Pablo Antonio Barrios
NEW HAVEN, CT — In spite of the inclement weather, people — including the young — turned out in their numbers, here in the home to the very prestigious Yale University, to mark, what organizers called “the maturity of the Honors Program War” which took place at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, on Wednesday, April 4, 1990. This academic conflict witnessed the “attempted” assassination of former Jamaican Councillor and UMass Boston Chancellorian Scholar Hon. Wilmot Max Ramsay who was wrongfully cited for plagiarism by a faculty member, Professor Fiora Antonia Bassanese, then Chair of the Italian Department. The disputed Ramsay Honors paper is the much discussed piece entitled “A Look At Dante And Petrarca’s Styles.”
Today’s event ironically coincides with the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Black Civil Rights Leader and Nobel Prize Laureate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The matter of race in America was a key and recurring theme of the event which was organized by a local group of Latino students. One member of the Latino group noted that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and pointed to the fact that “Councillor Wilmot Max Ramsay, like Dr. King, remains a symbol of hope in the struggle of race relations in the United States. For that reason we decided to award him today with our first Peace Award.”
The controversial Max Ramsay who boasts American honors from the reputable Boston City Council and the Cambridge City Council, both in Massachusetts, witnessed the gathering’s loudest applause, following a lengthy introduction which traced his “privileged” childhood in his native Jamaica; his years at Cornwall College; his historic rise to power, at 18 years old, in Jamaica; and in the words of Hon. Bruce C. Bolling (who himself became Boston’s first Black City Council President), he said, in 1982: “Wilmot M[ax] Ramsay, despite his age, was compelled to come out and stand for his [native] country [,Jamaica,] and show that ‘From a tender age, once you mean to serve your country, you can do it.'”
But, despite all the early honors and accolades conferred on the erudite Max Ramsay, the University of Massachusetts at Boston would become his most critical and crucial yet of battlefields to conquer through race, bigotry, academics, sex, among other areas of differences. Ironically, on becoming a Chancellorian Scholar at UMass Boston, Ramsay’s autobiographical essay, according to one highly placed source at UMass Boston, is entitled: “Making A Difference: My Story.” (1989). In 1990 when the Honors Program War commenced, the situation then was an international scuffle as Ramsay, then the Secretary of the UMass Boston Honors Program and “the first person of color admitted” to the Program, was a permanent resident of the United States. The War which was won by Ramsay with an “apology” from Professor Fiora A. Bassanese witnessed a conciliatory “response” which became a defining moment of the highly charged academic conflict. Other key figures of the War include Profesor James F. Brennan, then Director of the Honors Program, and current Provost of the Catholic University of America, CUA, in Washington, D.C., and UMass professor emeritus Robert Spaethling, a personal Ramsay acquaintance who was Deputy Provost of UMass Boston. In what amounts to a more subtle form, probably due to Republican politics, Ramsay and now demoted UMass Chairman of the board, Stephen P. Tocco, had a stand-off over recompense to Ramsay due to “pain and suffering” caused by UMass Boston. As it has been reported elsewhere, the idea of a ‘recompense’ for Max Ramsay would not materialize owing to the fact that then Chairman Tocco and Professor Bassanese, Ramsay’s accuser, are both white and Italian.
Following bouts of depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), documented factors attributed to the Honors Program War at UMass Boston, Councillor Wilmot Max Ramsay who was also Editor-in-Chief of The UMass Times, in 2005, “amid controversy,” graduated in Spanish and Political Science from his alma mater, the University of Massachusetts Boston but without a diploma which concerned many, including his long-time therapist, the Harvard-connected Linda Miller who was present for Max Ramsay’s 2005 Commencement and his father, Charles Adolphus Ramsay, also a UMass Boston alumnus, as his invited guests to the ceremony which was held on the morning of Friday, June 3, on the Campus Center Lawn at the University. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney intervened and Max Ramsay’s “well earned” diploma was “released.”
This act of fair play and goodwill, on the part of Mitt Romney, was an excellent gesture in race relations and has since earned the statesman the title of “Virgil.” Ramsay who was being anointed “Little David” by his Jamaican supporters, in 2005, on Tuesday, September 27, in what has been described as a colorful Boston ceremony, marked with glitter, he became an American citizen. This “surprise” Ramsay demonstration which coincided with the 23rd anniversary of Wilmot Max Ramsay Week in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, was interpreted to mean, in short: ‘He had issues with the status quo at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. However, despite that fiasco, he elected to become an American.’ The Jamaican American Wilmot Max Ramsay, it must be noted, from as early as 1982 here in the United States and a year later, in 1983, demonstrated extremely warm relations on the occasion, from accounts, of the State Visit to Jamaica by Vice President, later President George H. W. Bush of the US.
It has been discussed, in certain circles, that Ramsay who is a politician, public servant and statesman finds it difficult to transcend his early Jamaican conservative beliefs in favor of a liberal way of life in America. This matter, it is being believed, was to be explored in a question-and-answer segment that was called off by the organizers minutes before the function began. This last minute change, it is understood, was due to “some sensitive issues” which surfaced earlier today. Also, it has been further learned that Max Ramsay, who made one public engagement today to commemorate the Honors Program War, had to forego a prepared speech “after some deliberation” in order to accommodate “the situation.”
At 9:33 pm, tonight, to a packed house, former Jamaican Councillor Wilmot Max Ramsay accepted the first “Peace Award.”
In summary, Ramsay, who spoke in English and fluent Spanish, said:
“As we today remember the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. which, as fate would have it, coincides (or was it really a coincidence?) with my own personal dilemma 18 years ago today, and as we view the current situation, politically and socially, we get a sense that the climate of race has not changed much since 1968 and since 1990.
“It was therefore fitting, timely and indeed appropriate that, Senator Barack Obama, a product of a bi-racial family, should have lectured the American nation and people, through his spirited candidacy for the presidency of the United States of America, on the matter of race relations in contemporary American society. Even Barack Obama has been charged with plagiarism. Further, I want to believe that Senator Obama’s 2008 conference on the aged-old issue of race, here in the United States of America, will be heralded, long after the presidential campaign, as one of the most meaningful, appropriate and necessary panacea in bridging and binding the variety and rainbow of races that constitute this nation.
“I encourage you to “Speak English” but you also owe it to yourselves, your rich Hispanic and Latin heritage, to maintain your Spanish tongue. America is a collage of languages, like race and color, and America is richer today because of them,” emphasized Max Ramsay.
Ramsay, according to sources at his Jamaican alma mater, Cornwall College, has been a repeat first-placed winner of Class awards in the Romance Languages area of studies at the College, one of Jamaica’s finest. According to one source, on one occasion, at the institution’s awards ceremony, Ramsay struck “gold” when he took home the top awards for French and Spanish for that year. Though at UMass Boston he persevered, against all odds, and was finally rewarded with a Spanish Degree, it is being believed that he abandoned his former dream of furthering his French academic interests with the creation of the new Modern Languages Department, at UMass Boston, in 1990. Political Science, which was not originally on the agenda — in spite of him being an elected official — then became an addition to his beloved Spanish.
Though Max Ramsay did not say it in his own words that he endorsed Obama for President, it was clear from the reception he received that his audience shared his belief of Obama’s recent utterances on the matter of race relations in the United States as not share rhetoric on Senator Barack Obama’s part but a deep conviction of positive developments that can be reached through continued dialogue.
“It is through communication that we are going to surmount, defeat and conquer the American albatross (alcatraz) of bigotry and racism,” a cool Max Ramsay, the president and executive director of Global Youth Trust, Inc., GYT, a non-profit organization, uttered in the Spanish vernacular, to applause.
(Copyright @ LatinoArts, Friday, April 4, 2008)
[Copyright @ LatinoArts, Friday, April 4, 2008]