“If a Wharf boy and Dodds boy can become a very good entertainer, an excellent community servant, and a very fair artist, then surely there is hope for everybody.”
That’s the philosophy driving the 2015 Community Independence Celebrations awardee Winston Carlyle Yearwood, known to most of Barbados as Cassius Clay.
The citation for this award, presented at the launch of this year’s celebrations at the Speightstown Esplanade, detailed a life moving from a street urchin hanging around the Bridgetown Wharf to imprisonment at Dodds, and becoming an able-bodied seaman, a boxer, an entertainer, and community worker.
“His story is one of struggle and persistence, but also one of victory. What he has been able to accomplish and how he did it should be a source of inspiration for those who feel at times that there is no way out,” said Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley, who presented Cassius with the Spouge Award on Saturday evening last.
According to the citation, a three-year stint in Dodds provided his first real home.
“It was during this time he decided to make something of himself as a community servant.”
Inspired and encouraged by teacher Warren Waithe, he resolved to pass on the kindness of his tutor to youthful strangers.
He left Dodds in 1963 and worked as a seaman roving the Caribbean; but not seeing a future in this occupation, he decided to be a professional boxer, having been in the sport boxing for several years.
“During a training session, the similarities between Winston Yearwood and the brash young American Cassius Clay
(later Muhammad Ali) was noticed.
“Their habit of predicting the manner in which their fights would end was so uncanny that Winston Yearwood, aka The Ovaltine Kid at that time, was persuaded to call himself Young Cassius Clay after he had accurately predicted
the round that he would knock out one of his opponents.”
The name stuck, and today few people know Cassius’ real name.
Cassius boxed just over 30 years until 1992, winning almost every possible Barbadian title, and went on to serve as a member of the Barbados Board of Boxing Control for years.
But boxing was not enough for this man of many talents, and even while throwing punches as a professional, “he discovered that he could make crazy stunts, balancing his bicycle on his chin, flying headlong through a square with half a dozen sharp knives, fire-eating, walking on sharp nails, sword balancing, bottle dancing and tightrope walking”.
He began performing his various acts at nightclubs
With his band The Generation Bridge, Cassius successfully released his first record in the 1970s, the hit tune that travelled far and wide overseas –– Sweeter Than A Sno-Cone.
He is now deeply involved in charity work, focusing on the youth, and is credited with involvement in the development
of women’s cricket in Barbados.
Cassius, also a recipient of the Barbados Centennial Honour on January 1, 2001, frequently returns to Dodds
to give inspirational speeches to young men.