Leon “Bogo” Cornwall.

By *Jomo Sanga Thomas

(Plain Talk, July 26, 2019)

Forty years ago this coming December, I met a young Grenadian revolutionary. His name is Leon “Bogo” Cornwall. When I met him, he was deep black in complexion, tall, handsome, confident and full of energy. 

He had a charming, disarming smile. Cornwall was immensely popular among the Grenadian youth and he had a knack for organising and was a stickler for details. He was a major in the People’s Revolutionary Army and the junior minister for youth and sport in the revolutionary government, which was led by the charismatic revolutionary PM Maurice Bishop.

We were to develop a lifelong friendship that has endured to this day. He was the leader of the New Jewel Movement’s youth organisation, and I was then the leader of Vanguard Youth, the youth arm of the Youlou United Liberation Movement (YULIMO). As fate would have it, I was the contact person between NJM and the United People’s Movement. This job took me to Grenada dozens of times during the revolution, and Cornwall and I would meet once he was in Grenada.

In July of 1983, I made my last visit to Grenada before migrating to New York. I met with Cornwall and Ewart “Head Ache” Layne. In conversation, they disclosed that the party was engaged in a series of discussion whose outcome will determine whether the revolution survive or die. Apparently, the entire central committee of the NJM concluded that the revolution was so weakened, its cadres so tired and overworked, the pressures and aggression of the United States and Britain were so unrelenting that if radical solutions were not found and implemented, the revolution will collapse within six months. 

Cornwall, now a Methodist lay preacher — a return to roots of sorts, since he was in the Methodist youth movement in his formative years — told an audience at Frenches House last Saturday, that that flawed decision planted the seeds of doubts and suspicion among the revolutionaries and ultimately led to the implosion of the revolutionary process, the killing of PM Bishop and many of his ministers including Unison Whiteman and Jackie Creft, and ultimately to the U.S. invasion of Grenada in October of 1983. In 2007, I was his lawyer during the resentencing hearing that led to his release in 2009.

Cornwall told the mainly Methodist audience that those tragic events which saw him tried and convicted for murder, brought to the doors of the hangman cell, reprieved and eventually released in 2009, amounted to his true baptism of fire and brought him back, full circle to the God he praised and loved as a youth. 

Cornwall, who has been working as a counsellor at Richmond Hill prison and integrated into the Methodist church as a lay preacher, said he wanted to make clear that his return to the church and his acceptance of Christ as his personal saviour did not save him from the revolution; it saved him from sin. He defended the positive achievements of the revolution, especially those in health, education and infrastructural development of which the construction of the Maurice Bishop International Airport is the crown jewel. Cornwall pointed to many of the revolution’s failures, particularly its tendency to unleash “heavy manners” which resulted in many persons’ detention without trial. Cornwall blamed the strict discipline instilled in all of the revolutionaries; the puritanical and perfectionist notions which they all took as gospel as the seductive “drug” that led them to do things that brought on the revolution’s demise.

Speaking to prisoners at both the Kingstown and Belle Isle prisons, Cornwall told the inmates that they cannot now be sorry for themselves; they cannot blame others for the errors and wrong doings that landed them in prison. He beseeched them to use their time behind bars to better themselves so that they can make a sharp turn away from whatever caused them to do time in prison. He told the prisoners that the choice was theirs. Using a stone and a tennis ball, he dramatically demonstrated to them that they can fall like the stone and stay down or they can live the life of the ball. They can go down and bounce back.

At the Biabou Methodist Church, Cornwall told the congregation that they must reject the notion that God’s mission is to punish them. He told those in attendance that God’s true mission as reflected in the work of Jesus Christ was to save them from all sins and problems. He presented the novel view that those who presented the theology that God was a jealous, punishing God, inculcated in followers a bad idea because people who wanted to be Christ like, adopted notions as to what they thought God was.  He said this is why there is so much confusion in the world, even among Christians and religious denominations.

Cornwall, who spoke at Georgetown, South Rivers, Union, Mespo, Belmont and Diamonds, is convinced that the method and style of work of the Methodist Church has to be radically changed if the church is to survive. He called on the church to embrace the youths of the nation and find new and better ways to connect with them and bring the youth back to God.

He expressed the view that for the Methodist church to survive and grow it must come out from the four walls of the church and go into the communities, mingle with the people, identify and look after their needs, concerns and insecurities, while at the same time carrying forward the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Cornwall, who spent 27 calendar years in jail, says that while he has no interest in politics as a participant, he remains deeply concerned about the plight of the people in Grenada, the Caribbean and the world.

Cornwall, now 65 years old, remains energetic and full of life. He maintains the gift of garb and connects easily with people. Plain Talk is delighted that he was able to tell his story as he continues on his religious story to redemption and revelation.

*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com.

9 replies on “Christianity did not save me from the revolution”

  1. Rawlston Pompey says:

    FRIENDS FOREVER – LEON BONGO AND JOMO SANGA

    Sure, they share different ideologies- revolutionary and democracy.

    Even so, they are ‘…Friends Forever- Leon Bongo and Jomo Sanga.

    So a man ‘…Lives, so he Dies.’

    Obviously, he had to suffer for his ‘…secular revolutionary deeds.’ Likened to Nelson Mandela, there were ideals he had believed in.

    He may have been too ‘…brainwashed and to youthful to understand the gravity and nature’ of what he was getting into.

    He apparently had no idea of accompanying consequences.

    The apparent good thing about his personal experiences may have been his ‘…27 years of incarceration.’

    This would have given him adequate time to reflect upon his youthfulness and susceptibility in believing those more influential that his future and freedom and that of the Grenadian people then lie in ‘…Armed Insurrection.’

    Wonderful of him to share his experiences and to encourage others to reflect upon their own experiences.

    He is right though; ‘Christianity’ won’t save them from that which confronts them secularly, may be from ‘SIN.’

  2. No matter how you twist it and turn it,jelousy was the cause of the failure of the Grenadian revolution .They were like crabs in a barrel, the American was more than happy to intervene.

  3. Mr Jomo how do you think Mr cornwall will think about your decision to challenge the laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines to allow same sex .l have no respect for your decision . it hard for me to believe that people who believe in this way of life no GOD.as the speaker of the house you should step down.you are not rong legally but morally because you are representing some thing that legally and morally Rong so you should do the professor thing and step down.

  4. Ricardo Francis says:

    Jomo Thomas write about your years of revolutionary thinking with the Pharaoh leader, Ralph Gonsalves.

    Here are some questions:

    1.What secrets do you have for each other?

    2. Is the victimization and marginalization of your opponents considered revolutionary?

    3. Do you and the Pharaoh leader believe in Freedom and Democracy?

    4. Do you and the Pharaoh leader believe in a God and or in the Great Architect of the Universe?

    5.Were you and the Pharaoh leader indoctrinated together in the REVOLUTIONARY HALL OF FAME???

    6. When are you going to write about the corruption of the ULP and the Pharaoh Leader?

    7. Were you and the Pharaoh Leader planning and organizing to overthrow the government of Milton Cato?

    8. What oath did you and the Pharaoh take as a part of the revolutionary thinking?

    9. Is the BLACK SQUAD, the counter revolutionary arm of the ULP?

    10. Do you believe that some of the ISLANDS in the GRENADINES are under Apartheid? Why don’t you write about that?

    11. Do you and the Pharaoh leader believe that the People of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are on a PLANTATION?

    12. Do you believe that it is okay for our prime real estate to be sold to non- Vincentians?

    13. Why don’t you write about the TENDERS BOARD and any and all forms of alleged corruption?

    14. Why don’t you write about the alleged $400 million missing from the treasury?

    15. Why don’t you write about the corruption during the building of the Argyle International Airport?

    16. Do you believe that as Speaker of the House, that you can place your law practice priority over the people’s business?

    17. Do you and the Pharaoh know that every long rope has an end?

    18. Why don’t you write about the Taiwanese and the fishing in our waters?

    19. Why don’t you write about the NEGATIVES of Geo-thermal energy and the long term destruction of our country?

    20. Why don’t you write about the Richmond Vale academy and the Danes?

    21. Why don’t you tell the public about your expense account and that of the ULP?

    I have a lot more questions, but I will not make you wiser, at this time, by asking you more.

    The ULP and the Pharaoh leader can continue to squeeze, but I shall never surrender and or waiver my believes.

    Jomo Thomas, every rope has an end, it does not matter the length.

    I am very fearless and courage.

    Ricardo Francis, Prime Minister of St.Vincent and the Grenadines in Waiting and in the Making

  5. Jolly Green says:

    Thank you Sanga for exposing yourself as a part of the Grenada Revolution and its aftermath. It explains more why Gonsalves includes you in the solidarity process and why you have been rewarded with the position of Speaker of the House and have what I presume are paid positions on government committees etc.

    Mr Ewart Layne can never be forgiven for his past actions during the Grenada revolution years. Yes he took a law degree course in prison. Thankfully recently he was precluded by the Bar Association from practicing as an attorney because of his past record.

    Jomo its nothing to be proud of or be happy to be associated with, you should be hanging your head in shame.

    1. Rawlston Pompey says:

      JEALOUSY? NAAAH! – POWER STRUGGLE – TREACHERY

      The Revolution suffered over a ‘…Power Struggle’ that developed between the revolutionary leader ‘…Maurice Bishop and his Deputy Winston Bernard Coard.’

      The infighting led to other developments of which ‘…history and posterity’ would never forgive his treacherous Deputy.

      Bishop was said to be a ‘populist.’ He had ‘…popular grassroot support’ among the Grenadian people.

      His Deputy Prime Minister was reportedly so obsessed with power-sharing, as to have become ‘…Power-Drunk.’

      He became ‘…treacherous, ruthless and coldblooded.’ He was said to have shown no regard to the sanctity of life.

      Consequently, he reportedly engineered the demise of ‘…Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and several of his Ministers and ultimately, the collapse of the PRG and Revolution.’

      Bongo would have learned a lot from these developments and Jomo could write a lot more about the Revolution.

      Though neither the author ‘Jomo,’ nor his friend ‘Bongo’ did not say so, one shall follow the historical developments. Featuring ‘.Bongo’ was really not about the ‘…Grenadian Revolution of March 13, 1979.’

  6. Leon Cornwall should understand that the primary task of the Church is to preach the word of God as set out in his Bible and not to dabble in the work of others who are better equipped to deal with the world. If Leon has not understood that fact yet perhaps he need return to his bible teachers.
    https://www.mljtrust.org/sermons-online/acts-6-1-4/associated-with-the-king/
    The trouble with many individuals who enter the church body today, is that they confuse charity with Christianity. Today’s Churches seek memberships and bums on seats, with little or no concern at all, as to the true doctrines of Biblical Christianity. https://www.mljtrust.org/sermons/

    Socialist’s hero Karl Marx, expressed the view that “Religion”, of which Christianity is one of many of the world’s religions, the only one we might add that is God given. Karl Marx’s views, was that “Religion is opium of the people”. Therefore these pseudo Marxist like Jomo Thomas and Ralph Gonsalves only pay lip service to Christianity as it is indeed a religion, God given or not.

    The full quote from Karl Marx translates as: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”.

    Jomo, like so many of his so-called Karl Marxian socialist counterparts, be they in Cuba, Venezuela, or St Vincent and the Grenadines, their true sentiments remains attached to their pseudo Karl Marxian dogmas, therefore, I struggle to understand why this article on Leon Cornwall. More hypocrisy may be?

  7. HIGH SCHOOL-level LOGIC.

    ‘NEW’ JEWEL MOVEMENT was a MARXIST-LENINIST political group.

    A FUNDAMENTAL, BASIC, TENET OF MARXISM-LENINISM IS ATHEISM.

    THUS, ‘NEW JEWEL MOVEMENT WAS AN ATHEIST GROUP; ITS MEMBERS WERE ATHEISTS.

    ‘NEW’ JEWEL’S MEMBERS WERE GODLESS NIHILISTS.

    The FRUITS of that GODLESS ATHEISM were MADE HORRIFICALLY OBVIOUS TO US IN GRENADA,

    ST. VINCENT AND THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN – – – indeed, STARK NAKED BEFORE THE WORLD..

    The ‘NEW’ JEWEL MEMBERS MURDERED THEIR MEMBERS AND LEADERS, MOST OF THEIR OWN

    ‘revolutionary’ CABINET, including their coup-leader prime minister, and a pregnant female Minister of

    Education — they just LINED THEM UP AGAINST A WALL AND SHOT THEM TO DEATH.

    THEN, THESE MORONIC ATHEISTIC COMMUNISTS [self-styled ‘MARXIST-LENINISTS’] GRUESOMELY

    DISMEMBERED THE DEAD BODIES, CHOPPED OFF THEIR HEADS – – – AND CLANDESTINELY

    CARRIED THEM TO SOME REMOTE LOCATIONS AND BURIED THEM IN UNMARKED SECRET

    GRAVES – – – so that no-one would discover their dastardly, heinous, MURDERS.

    ‘NEW’ JEWEL WAS A MURDEROUS POLITICAL GROUP. GODLESS REPROBATES.

    NOW, by the same measure,

    YOULOU UNITED MOVEMENT, “YOULIMO” WAS A MARXIST-LENINIST GROUP.

    A FUNDAMENTAL, BASIC, TENET OF MARXISM-LENINISM IS ATHEISM.

    THEREFORE, “YOULIMO” WAS AN ATHEIST GROUP; ITS MEMBERS WERE ATHEISTS.

    ALL ITS MEMBERS WERE ATHEISTS.

    YOULIMO AND ITS MEMBERS WERE A GODLESS, NIHILISTIC, AND SUBVERSIVE GROUP.

    SVG, what does that tell us about YOULIMO . . . AND ITS MEMBERS ???

    YOULIMO and ‘NEW’ JEWEL were “brothers-in-arms”. Iron sharpens iron. One is known by the

    COMPANIONS HE KEEPS. YOULIMO KEPT IDEOLOGICAL COMPANY WITH THESE GRENADIAN

    MASS-MURDERERS.

    Both these subversive ideological groups BELIEVED IN AND PROMULGATED THE SAME IDEOLOGY.

    DOES THIS TELL US IN SVG SOMETHING ? Ponder, my friends and fellow Vincentians.

    Brother Jimmy Cliff: “TIME WILL TELL . . . TIME WILL ALWAYS TELL . . .!!! ”

    QUO VADIS, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

    HAIROUNA: The price of freedom is Eternal Vigilance !

    SAN VINCENTE, peyi nous tout !!!

    Always,

    Steve Huggins.

    Black Nationalist;
    Local Amateur Historian.

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