I got an instructive email from Vybz Kartel last Wednesday in response to my letter to the editor published that same day (‘More on Kartel and bleaching’). I reproduce it here with his permission. Since the email was sent on his BlackBerry, the punctuation was a bit informal, so I did just a little editing for clarity.
“Ms Cooper, firstly, I’d like to wish you a pleasant goodnight (or morning depending on when u receive this email). Secondly, I’d like to say that I am the author of the song. Russian didn’t write a line. And if you’d paid as much attention to the dexterity exhibited in the song as you have to the perceived subliminal messages of self-hate blah blah blah etc etc, you’d have figured that out.
“Thirdly, neither ‘di gyal dem’ opinion or urs matter to vybz kartel. What matters is that my songs get so popular (as is the case with the one u and ur colleagues ‘a look a fawud offa’), I can provide for myself and my family which I have been doing and will continue to do so, especially with the help of people such as urself who, by giving so much energy to vybz kartel via articles like this, make vybz kartel ‘the talked about one’. Which is all I need to capitalise on the prize. I hope you people write about me every day of the week. Thanks and have a goodnight.
“Famously yours, ADIDJA ‘MICHAEL CAKESOAP JACKSON’ PALMER”
I sent an equally frank response:
“Mr Palmer, great to hear from you. I’ve wanted to link with you for a long time, so I’m glad you decided to get in touch with me. I don’t know if you saw my column on Sunday, as well as yesterday’s letter to the editor. Here’s the link to that column:
“I certainly agree with you that the more we talk about Vybz Kartel, the more popular we make you. I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, I’m quite proud of all the DJs who have been able to make a very good living from their craft. Mi know nuff people grudge unnu, but I am not one of them. I don’t know if you saw my column in which I strongly defended Rampin’ Shop when other people were attacking you and Spice. Here’s the link to that column: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20090222/cleisure/cleisure6.html.
“Thanks for clarifying that you are the author of the lyrics that Russian performed. So, in a sense, I was right that those are all your words. Then, as you say, I know my opinion doesn’t really matter to you. But, for what it’s worth, I think you’re such a powerful role model for young people, I’m hoping you would think about reclaiming your original skincolour, which I thought was quite fine. Yes, I know, that’s just my opinion.
“I see Michael Jackson is a role model for you. But he really was a tragic figure. My opinion again :=) Michael was such a cute, little black boy. And he turned himself into a monstrosity. Just look at the history of his face:
Michael Jackson was rich enough to manufacture himself but ‘im never turn out so right’. Something went wrong in the factory.
“Even if he’d had vitiligo, he didn’t have to end up looking the way he did. Anyhow, mek mi know what yu think about all of these opinions. And, given your appreciation of the role of the media in feeding celebrity, I figure you won’t object to my reproducing our email correspondence in my column on Sunday. So let me know if it’s OK with you. And in response to your P.S., ‘pretty’ is a word usually associated with females, as distinct from ‘handsome’, which usually refers to males.
“Then I teach a course on Reggae Poetry at UWI and the first assignment I give students each year is to select any reggae/dancehall song they like and analyse its literary qualities. As usual, some of the students selected your songs this semester. It would be great if you would come to one of the lectures and talk about your creative work. I can just see the headline, ‘Vybz Kartel lectures at UWI’. DWL. Looking forward to your response.
Mr Palmer readily accepted my invitation. So Vybz Kartel is going to lecture at UWI this Thursday at 7 p.m. on the topic ‘Pretty Like a Colouring Book: My Life and My Art’.
The Department of Literatures in English and the Centre for Gender and Development Studies are hosting the lecture, which takes place at the Undercroft of the Senate building. The public is invited to attend.
I’d actually like to see Vybz Kartel register as a student at the University of the West Indies and apply his considerable intellect in another sphere of influence. How many young men on the corner might consider the option of formal education if they saw Kartel in university!
Another cultural event this week to which the public is invited is the launch of the book Herbs of Jamaica, written by Ivelyn Harris, a seventh-generation Maroon herbalist. The launch takes place on Thursday at 3 p.m. in the Lecture Hall of the Institute of Jamaica on East Street.
Ms Harris has spent over 30 years documenting the healing properties of Jamaican herbs. These natural products have been tested by the Maroons for more than 300 years. Herbal remedies can improve sexual stamina; heal rashes, sores, stings and bites; relieve menstrual, urinary and prostate problems; and a host of other ailments. I wonder if there’s a herbal cure for the mental slavery, which is so vividly manifested these days in the plague of skin bleaching.