Mi Deh Pon Di Gaza!/Mi De Pan Di Gaaza!

 

Haaretz photo

Four months ago I got an email from an Israeli journalist, Nirit Ben-Ari:  “I am writing a feature article for the weekend edition of Haaretz on dancehall reggae in Jamaica.  It is so interesting and mind-boggling!  I read your Noises in the Blood (the part which is available online, because unfortunately the book is not available in Israel), and it was a fascinating read.”

Nirit’s first question was, “Do you think that the choice of the name ‘Gaza’ represents a political awareness and identification with the underdog?” I agreed and elaborated:  In Jamaican dancehall culture, Gaza is a symbol of resistance to oppressive political powers.  ‘Mi deh pon di Gaza’ (not quite ‘I am in Gaza’) signifies a constant struggle for survival like that of the Palestinians who are relentlessly fighting against Israeli domination. ‘Gaza’ is not so much a place as a state of mind.

You hear this, for example, in Vybz Kartel’s ‘Black Child – Pon Di Gaza’:

Mi see car for sale but mi cyaa buy none

Mi see house for sale, too

Tell mi when dah money deh a go come?

Ghetto yute lef school and cyaa see no future

Ten years from now tell mi

Wa a go happen to mi daughter?

If every day wi till the soil

An Babylon no share di spoil

Every day wi a suffer

Where is the love for the black child?

Mr. Chin done have him own

Dem treat wi like dog an wi still no get no bone

Tell mi, where is the love for the black child?

How mi fi live offa four grand a week, Lawd Jesus?

Dat a just fi mi son sneakers

Lawd God, mi bridge di water

Cyaa pay di bill mi ha fi back di light meter.

When mi get pay by Friday,

Everyting done by Satday

When mi tek one step forward

It come een like mi tek three step backward.

Babylon yu naa go get weh

Yu ha pay fi wa yu do to ghetto yute

Yu black bredda dem just hold di faith

Selassie I have a plan fi yu

When one ghetto youth drop out

Ten more born cau di journey continue.

Ten years from now tell mi

Wa a go happen to mi daughter?

If every day wi till the soil

An Babylon no share di spoil

Every day wi a suffer

Where is the love for the black child?

Mr. Chin done have him own

Dem treat wi like dog an wi still no get no bone

Tell mi, where is the love for the black child?
Eeh?  Not nice

Mi a lead out fi di ghetto yute, mi no care

That’s why when mi reach inna Jamaica house weh day

Mi tell dem, every ghetto yute have a talent

Babylon, why yu want fi see dem fail?

Dem naa no job, dem own di future

Is not di morgue, or is not di jail

Dis is not a threat is a warning

Babylon yu naa go get weh

Yu ha pay fi wa yu do to ghetto yute.

Mi black bredda dem just hold di faith

Selassie I have a plan fi yu

When one ghetto youth drop out

Ten more born cau di journey continue.

Ten years from now tell mi

Wa a go happen to mi daughter?

The prophetic warning of these lyrics is identical to the judgement of Bob Marley’s ‘Babylon System’:

We refuse to be

What you wanted us to be.

We are what we are

That’s the way it’s going to be.

You can’t educate I

For no equal opportunity

Talking about my freedom

People freedom and liberty.

Yeah!

We’ve been trodding on the winepress

Much too long

Rebel, rebel.

Babylon system is the vampire

Sucking the children day by day.

Babylon system is the vampire

Sucking the blood of the sufferers.

Building church and university

Deceiving the people continually.

Me seh them graduating

Thieves and murderers,

Look out now

Sucking the blood of the sufferers.

Tell the children the truth.

Observing Mental Slavery

Ever since 1992 when I first conceived the idea of a reggae studies centre in Jamaica that would attempt to tell the children the truth that is recorded in our popular music, ‘mi deh pon di Gaza!’  It has been an epic struggle to demonstrate the academic legitimacy of the enterprise.

Last week Tuesday’s malicious cartoon in the Observer is a classic manifestation of the mental slavery I’ve been fighting against.  Making a mockery of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Clovis represented Vbyz Kartel’s guest lecture at the University of the West Indies, Mona as a sacrilegious act, undermining the academic integrity of the institution.

There I am, with my bleached-out face, leading the donkey on which Kartel is riding. Poor Professor Shirley, with that quizzical look on his face, is obviously wondering what he’s doing in the midst of the rabble.

At a time when the University is suffering from severe budget cuts, Clovis insinuates that reggae studies is a complete waste of resources.  So a nerdy male student asks, “Is this mi parents spend millions fi mi fi com’ university com’ learn?!”  Ironically, this is the same language that is also derided in the cartoon.  ‘Patwah Docta’ is branded across my pubic region thus confirming the lower reaches of the Jamaican language.

There are other ironies that I’m sure our Israeli journalist would appreciate.  Kartel’s legal name, ‘Palmer,’ is of French origin.  It was the name given to a pilgrim who had visited the Holy Land and who brought back a palm branch as confirmation of the journey.  Similarly, a Muslim who makes the pilgrimage (or hajj) to Mecca takes the title ‘Alhaji.’

So in my subversive re-reading of the cartoon, the students who throw palm branches at Kartel’s feet are paying due homage to Mr. Palmer who has visited the Holy Land of the University of the West Indies.  Unlike Ragashanti, who is left outside the gates of the hallowed institution because of bad behaviour (as in Wednesday’s Observer cartoon), ‘Di Teacha’ is allowed to enter.

There are positive stories that do encourage me on my own pilgrimage ‘pon di Gaza.’  A colleague told me that she overheard her sons and their friends discussing last week’s column.  A couple of them who had been thinking about dropping out of U Tech decided they couldn’t.  If Kartel was going to get a degree they had to finish.  These are middle-class youths in Mona.  I keep wondering about the impact of Adidja Palmer’s admission to university on talented ghetto youth who want to ‘own di future.’

Mi De Pan Di Gaaza!

Fuor mont abak, mi get wan iimiel fram wan Izrieli nyuuspiepa raita, Nirit Ben-Ari:  “Mi a rait wan tuori fi di Haaretz wiiken piepa bout daansaal rege iina Jamieka. It so inchrestin an it mek mi ai dazl! Mi riid yu buk Noises in the Blood (di paat we de pan lain kaa, laik a spait, yu kyaan get di huola buk iina Izrel.  Di buk huol mi.

Di fos kweschan Nirit aks a, “Yu tink se wen piipl se ‘Gaaza’ dat miin se dem andastan di palitiks an dem a difen di sofara dem?” Mi agrii wid ar an mi spel it out:  Iina Jamiekan daansaal kolcha, Gaaza stan fi rizistans tu Babilani.  ‘Mi de pan di Gaaza’ (dat a no siem laka ‘mi iina Gaaza’) miin se evri die yu a put op a fait fi sorvaiv laka di Palistiniyan dem we a fait fi dem laif gens di Izrieli dem. ‘Gaaza’ a no wan plies; a wan stiet a main.

Tek far instans Vybz Kartel ‘Blak Pikni– Pan Di Gaaza’:

Mi si kyaar a sel bot mi kyaa bai non

Mi si ous a sel, tu

Tel mi wen da moni de a go kom?

Geto yuut lef skuul an kyaa si no fyuucha

Ten ier fram nou tel mi

Wa a go apn tu mi daata?

If evri die wi til di sail

An Babilan no shier di spwail

Evri die wi a sofa

We di lov fi di blak pikni de?

Mr. Chin don ha fi im

Dem chriit wi laka daag an wi stil no get no buon

Tel mi, we di lov fi di blak pikni de?

Ou mi fi liv aafa fuor gran a wiik, Laad Jiizas?

Dat a jos fi mi son sniika

Laad Gad, mi brij di waata

Kyaa pie di bil mi ha fi bak di lait miita.

Wen mi get pie bai Fraide,

Evriting don bai Satde

Wen mi tek wan step faawad

It kom iin laik mi tek chrii step bakwad.

Babilan yu naa go get we

Yu ha fi pie fi wa yu du tu geto yuut

Yu blak breda dem jos huol di fiet

Selassie I av a plan fi unu

Wen wan geto yuut jrap out

Ten muor baan kaa di jorni a gwaan.

Ten ier fram nou tel mi

Wa a go apn tu mi daata?

If evri die wi til di sail

An Babilan no shier di spwail

Evri die wi a sofa

We di lov fi di blak pikni de?

Mr. Chin don ha fi im

Dem chriit wi laik daag an wi stil no get no buon

Tell mi, we di lov fi di blak pikni de?

Ii?  Nat nais

Mi a liid out fi di geto yuut, mi no kya

A it mek wen mi riich iina Jamieka ous we die

Mi tel dem, evri geto yuut gat a talent

Babilan, wa mek yu waan fi si dem fiel?

Dem naa no jab, di fyuucha a fi dem

A no no maag, an a no no lak-op

Dis a no no chret; a waan mi a waan.

Babilan yu naa go get we

Yu ha fi pie fi wa yu du tu geto yuut.

Mi  blak breda dem jos huol di fiet

Selassie I av a plan fi unu

Wen wan geto yuut jrap out

Ten muor baan kau di jorni a gwaan.

Ten ier fram nou tel mi

Wa a go apn tu mi daata?

From Haaretz article

A di sed siem profisait an profisi iiina Bob Marley ‘Babilan Sistim.’  Jojment:

Wi naa ton wiself

Iina wa unu waan.

Unu si wi; a so wi tan

An a so it a go tan.

Unu kyaan edikiet Ai

Fi no iikwal apachuniti

Chat bout fi mi friidom

Piipl friidom an libati.

Ye!

A lang lang lang

Wi a chrod pan di wainpres

Ribel, ribel.

Babilan sistim a wan vampaya

A sok di pikni dem evri die

Babilan sistim a wan vampaya

A sok di blod a di sofara dem.

A bil choch an yuunivorsiti

A disiiv di piipl dem kyaa don.

Mi se dem a gradiyiet

Tiif an mordara,

Wach ya nuo

Dem a sok di blod a di sofara dem.

Tel di pikni dem di chruut.

Mi a obsorv mental slievri

Fram1992 wen it kom tu mi se wi fi set op wan senta iina Jamieka we uda chrai tel di pikni dem di chruut we rikaad iina fi wi myuzik, mi de pan di Gaaza!  Wat a fait fi shuo se fi wi kolcha a wan siiryos ting fi stodi.  A no wan juok bizniz.

Unu si laas wiik Chuusde bad-main kyaatuun iina di Observer! Dat a wan gud egzaampl a di mental slievri mi a fait gens.  Clovis tek Jiizas mek papishuo wen im dida raid pan di dangki iina Jeruusalem.  Azkaadn tu Clovis, Vybz Kartel kom iin laka Jiizas chruu im kom gi wan ges lekcha op a di Yuunivorsiti a di Wes Indiiz.  Dat a fi mek it luk laik se Yuunivorsiti a sin fi put Kartel pan di siem levl laka Jiizas.  An yuunivorsiti gaan tu notn if Kartel kyan a gi lekcha. An si mi, wid mi bliich-out fies a liid di dangki we Kartel a raid.  Puor Profesa Shirley im, wid dat kanfyuuz luk pan im fies, laik im a wanda a wan im a du a miks op wid di uop iip a uol niega dem.

Yuunivorsiti a sofa fram bad-bad bojit kot.  An Clovis wid im bad-main self a mek i luk laik se rege stodis a wan wies-a-moni sinting.  Unu si ou im tan bad! An ku pan di buk-worm miel styuudent im  a aks, ‘A dis mi mada an mi faada spen so moch moni fi mi fi kom yuunivorsiti kom laan!’  Di bes juok, dat a di sed siem langgwij wa Clovis a laaf aafta iina di kyatuun.  ‘Patwah Docta’ rait aaf big-big dong aanda mi wieslain fi shuo se a dong de so fi wi Jamieka langgwij fi tan.

Dat a no di ongl juok.  Mi shuor se di Izrieli nyuuspiepa raita uda lov disya wan. Kartel liigal niem, ‘Palmer,’ kom fram French.  Dat a di niem yu uda tek if yu go a di Huoli Lan.  Yu bring bak wan paam branch fi shuo se yu did go de. Siem laik out wen di Muslim dem go pan di jorni  (di haj) to Meka dem tek di taikl ‘Alhaji.’

So wen mi ton roun bak di kyaatuun pan Clovis mi si se di styuudent dem we a chruo dong paam branch fi Kartel raid uova, dem a pie rait an propa rispek tu Misa Palmer chruu im visit fi Huoli Lan – dat a di Yuunirositi a di Wes Indiiz.  Ragashanti get lef outsaid di giet a di huoli instityuuushan bikaaz a bad bihievya.  Nat di Teacha.  Im get fi kom iin.  Dat a Wensde Observer kyaatuun.

Varun Baker photo

Mi du get pazitiv vaibz fi di chrod pan di Gaaza.  Piipl tel mi stuori fi kip mi op. Wan uman we mi wok wid a yuunivorsiti tel me se si hier ar son an dem fren a taak bout laas wiik kalam.  Kopl a dem did a tink bout jrap out a U Tech.  Dem mek op dem main se dem kyaa jrap out.  If Kartel a go get yuunivorsiti digrii, dem ha fi finish.  Dem ya a migl klaas yuut iiina Muona.  Mi kip aan a wanda, if Adidja Palmer disaid im main fi go a yuunivorsiti fi chruu, wa impak dat uda av pan geto yuut wid talent, uu nuo se ‘di fyuucha a fi dem.’

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6 thoughts on “Mi Deh Pon Di Gaza!/Mi De Pan Di Gaaza!

  1. Clovis has gone too far this time…I was so shocked to see the cartoon and quickly left the observer site. They have stooped to their ultimate low by having signed off on such a cartoon. I am wondering if Clovis is just a gifted artist… it seems as if the Observer just pick up this artist without checking to see if he is fully understanding of the Jamaican culture and from whence he came. There are many people from various corners of the world who are benefiting from our culture because we thing very little of it. I don’t know this Clovis which I have written to the Observer about many times because of his prejudice behavior but I hope to goodness that the Observer will wake up before Clovis runs it to the ground….such a disrespectful cartoon of Jesus’ triumphant entry…

  2. Clovis naav no manaz!! Wen mi si di kaatuun laas wiik mi afi shiek mi ed. Yu brok dong di simablizm gud duo. A uop dem nuo se dem naago stap wi.

    So many of us are hegenomized subjects of the colonial framework, and only through our advocacy will this become apparent. Aal Ian Boyne im bout im a luk aagiment.

    “The fact is that the value-neutral, detached, non-judgemental perspective on dancehall has to be shelved for a more critical, reflective and thoroughgoing one.”

    A uu im a chrai chuo wod pan? kmt Mek dem gwaan yaa!

  3. Pingback: News Databank :: Latest News :: Mi

  4. What is great about the work you have done pon di Gaza is the space that you have created linguistically, politically and intellectually for a younger generation of Caribbean women and men. One love & many thanks.

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