Ruel Reid Better Tek Up Police Work

Two spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below. The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy. It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

 

CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING

41HuQHM0IILKei Miller, one a fi wi top-ranking writer, win big prize inna April fi im novel Augustown. Same so him spell it. One word, one ‘t’, like how wi pronounce it. One Caribbean Media sponsor di prize: 10,000 US dollar! Di Bocas lit fest inna Trinidad & Tobago gi di prize to di best writer outa three category: story, poem an essay. Inna 2014, Miller did win first prize inna di essay category fi im book, Writing Down the Vision.

Inna Augustown, Miller still a write down di vision. An im sight di way Babylon system inna Jamaica fight down black people culture. Look how long teacher an police a tek set pon black people hair! If it no comb down flat-flat, it no civilise. It ha fi trim. Worse if a dreadlocks. Inna di first chapter a di novel, Ma Taffy a wait fi her grandson Kaia come home from school.

See di first sentence ya. An a judgement too! “Blind people hear and taste and smell what other people cannot, and what Ma Taffy smells on this early afternoon makes her sit up straight … . The smell is coming down John Golding Road right alongside the boy-child, something attached to him, like a spirit but not quite.”

 

‘DRY-EYED TRUTH’

 

 

Ma Taffy smell a ‘autoclaps’: “She asks her grandson in a careful and measured way, ‘Who has done this to you, boy? Tell me now.’ She asks it so calmly that Kaia too forgets to cry or blubber as he had been doing earlier. He reports the simple dry-eyed truth. ‘Is the teacher, Grandma. Is Mr Saint-Josephs who cut off my dreadlocks.'”

An a no Kaia one. Police arrest Ras Clarky fi nutten. An dem let im go without charge im. But not before dem cut off im dreadlocks. Oonoo know how long it tek fi grow one full head a locks? An wat locks mean to Rasta? An police dis cut off big man locks swips? Fi nutten? No, not fi nutten. Fi put Rasta inna dem place. Mek dem know seh dem a no smaddy.

Bob Marley gi strength to nuff Rastaman, Bongoman, Congoman, Binghiman an uman an pikni fi resist gainst di system:

“Keep your culture!

Don’t be afraid of the vulture!

Grow your dreadlock!

Don’t be afraid of the wolf pack!

Rastaman, live up!”

 

‘NOT HAIR POLICE’

 

thGleaner publish one article by Christopher Serju pon Friday, June 16 wid disya headline, ‘Not hair police – Ministry will still allow latitude with school grooming policy’. Ministry of Education a go lef di police work to di school dem. But all a di school dem no private. Dem can’t do weh dem feel like. Ministry supposen fi educate dem bout wa dem can an can’t do.

Hear wa Mr Saint-Josephs did tell di principal bout Kaia hair: “Dreadlocks! Like some little dirty African from the bush, and sitting right there in front of me, so brazen with his hairstyle. No, no, no! I will not tolerate it.” Ministry not supposen fi tolerate teacher lacka Saint-Josephs.

Inna one next article by Christopher Serju weh Gleaner publish pon Saturday, June 17, im report seh im ask one student, Alnast·zia Watson, bout wa Ruel Reid seh.  See di answer ya:  “‘We are really calling on the minister to intervene because you can’t leave it to the schools’ discretion to come up with these policies. Somebody (else) needs to review them,” Watson argued, adding that most of the sanctions are ridiculous.

“‘You can’t deny students the right to an education and lock them out of school for half an inch off the skirt. Oftentimes, some of them (teachers) go outside with tape measure to measure the skirt. If you need a tape measure to measure, then it couldn’t be that bad. So we do want the minister to intervene and for some amount of consultation with students because, when consultations are being made, they are made with parents. My mother and father aren’t the ones wearing the uniform. I am the one wearing it!'”  Ruel Reid better tek up di police work, if im know wat good fa im an di school pikni dem.

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

 

BocasKei Miller, wan a fi wi tap-rangkin raita, win big praiz ina Iepril fi im novl Augustown. Siem so im spel it. Wan word, wan ‘t’, laik ou wi pronouns it. One Caribbean Media sponsa di praiz. 10,000 US dala! Di Bocas lit fest ina Chrinidad & Tubiego gi di praiz tu di bes raita outa 3 kyatigori: stuori, puoem an ese. Ina 2014, Miller did win fos praiz ina di ese kyatigori fi im buk, Writing Down the Vision.

 

Ina Augustown, Miller stil a rait dong di vishan. An im sait di wie Babilan sistim ina Jamieka fait dong blak piipl kolcha. Luk ou lang tiicha an poliis a tek set pan blak piipl ier! If it no kuom dong flat-flat, it no sivilaiz. It a fi chrim. Wos if a jredlaks. Ina di fos chapta a di novl, Ma Taffy a wiet fi ar grandson Kaia kom uom fram skuul.

Si di fos sentens ya. An a jojment tu! “Blind people hear and taste and smell what other people cannot, and what Ma Taffy smells on this early afternoon makes her sit up straight. … The smell is coming down John Golding Road right alongside the boy-child, something attached to him, like a spirit but not quite.”

 

‘DRY-EYED TRUTH’

 

Ma Taffy smel a ‘autoclaps’: “She asks her grandson in a careful and measured way, ‘Who has done this to you, boy? Tell me now.’ She asks it so calmly that Kaia too forgets to cry or blubber as he had been doing earlier. He reports the simple dry-eyed truth. ‘Is the teacher, Grandma. Is Mr Saint-Josephs who cut off my dreadlocks.'”

An a no Kaia wan. Poliis ares Ras Clarky fi notn. An dem let im go widout chaaj im. Bot nat bifuor dem kot aaf im jredlaks. Unu nuo ou lang it tek fi gruo wan ful ed a laks? An wat laks miin tu Rasta? An poliis dis kot aaf big man laks swips? Fi notn? Nuo, nat fi notn. Fi put Rasta ina dem plies. Mek dem nuo se dem a no smadi.

Bob Marley gi schrent tu nof Rastaman, Bongoman, Congoman, Binghiman an uman an pikni fi risis gens di sistim:

“Keep your culture!

Don’t be afraid of the vulture!

Grow your dreadlock!

Don’t be afraid of the wolf pack!

Rastaman, live up!”

 

‘NOT HAIR POLICE’

 

Gleaner poblish wan aatikl bai Christopher Serju pan Fraide, Juun 16 wid disya edlain, ‘Not hair police – Ministry will still allow latitude with school grooming policy’. Minischri a Edikieshan a go lef di poliis wok tu di skuul dem. Bot aal a di skuul dem no praivit. Dem kyaahn du we dem fiil laik. Minischri supuozn fi edikiet dem bout wa dem kyahn an kyaahn du.

intoleranceIer wa Mr Saint-Josephs did tel di principal bout Kaia ier: “Dreadlocks! Like some little dirty African from the bush, and sitting right there in front of me, so brazen with his hairstyle. No, no, no! I will not tolerate it.” Minischri nat sopuozn fi talariet tiicha laka Saint-Josephs.

Ina wan neks aatikl bai Christopher Serju we Gleaner poblish pan Satde, Juun 17, im ripuort se im aks wan styuudent, Alnast·zia Watson, bout wa Ruel Reid se.  Si di ansa ya:  “‘We are really calling on the minister to intervene because you can’t leave it to the schools’ discretion to come up with these policies. Somebody (else) needs to review them,” Watson argued, adding that most of the sanctions are ridiculous.

“‘You can’t deny students the right to an education and lock them out of school for half an inch off the skirt. Oftentimes, some of them (teachers) go outside with tape measure to measure the skirt. If you need a tape measure to measure, then it couldn’t be that bad. So we do want the minister to intervene and for some amount of consultation with students because, when consultations are being made, they are made with parents. My mother and father aren’t the ones wearing the uniform. I am the one wearing it!'”  Ruel Reid beta tek op di poliis wok, if im nuo wat gud fa im an di skuul pikni dem.

 

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

RUEL REID HAD  BETTER DO  POLICING

 

Kei-Miller-wins-700x400Kei Miller, one of our top-ranking writers, won a big prize in April for his novel Augustown. He spells it just like that. One word, one ‘t’, like how we pronounce it. One Caribbean Media sponsored the prize: 10,000 US dollar! The Bocas lit fest in Trinidad & Tobago awards the prize to the best writer out of three categories: fiction, poetry and non-fiction. In 2014, Miller won first prize in the non-fiction category for his book, Writing Down the Vision.

In Augustown, Miller is still writing down the vision. And he ‘sights’ the way Babylon system in Jamaica fights down black people’s culture. For so long, teachers and police have consistently attacked black people’s hair! If it’s not combed down flat, it’s not civilised. It has to be trimmed. Worse if it’s dreadlocks. In the first chapter of the novel, Ma Taffy is waiting for her grandson Kaia to come home from school.

Here’s the first sentence. And it’s a judgement too! “Blind people hear and taste and smell what other people cannot, and what Ma Taffy smells on this early afternoon makes her sit up straight … . The smell is coming down John Golding Road right alongside the boy-child, something attached to him, like a spirit but not quite.”

 

‘DRY-EYED TRUTH’

 

Ma Taffy smells an ‘autoclaps’: “She asks her grandson in a careful and measured way, ‘Who has done this to you, boy? Tell me now.’ She asks it so calmly that Kaia too forgets to cry or blubber as he had been doing earlier. He reports the simple dry-eyed truth. ‘Is the teacher, Grandma. Is Mr Saint-Josephs who cut off my dreadlocks.'”

And it’s not Kaia alone. The police arrest Ras Clarky for nothing. And they let him go without charging him. But not before cutting off his dreadlocks. You know how long it takes to grow a full head of locks? And what locks mean to Rasta? And the police cut off a grown man’s locks just like that? For nothing? No, not for nothing. To put Rasta in their place. Let them know they are subhuman.

bob+marley+dreadlocksBob Marley gives strength to many a Rastaman, Bongoman, Congoman, Binghiman and woman and child to resist against the system:

“Keep your culture!

Don’t be afraid of the vulture!

Grow your dreadlock!

Don’t be afraid of the wolf pack!

Rastaman, live up!”

 

‘NOT HAIR POLICE’

 

The Gleaner published an article by Christopher Serju on Friday, June 16 headlined, ‘Not hair police – Ministry will still allow latitude with school grooming policy’. The Ministry of Education is going to leave the policing to the schools. But all of the schools are not private. They can’t do what they feel like. The Ministry is supposed to educate them about what they can and can’t do.

Here’s what Mr Saint-Josephs told the principal about Kaia’s hair: “Dreadlocks! Like some little dirty African from the bush, and sitting right there in front of me, so brazen with his hairstyle. No, no, no! I will not tolerate it.” The Ministry should not tolerate teachers like Saint-Josephs.

In another article by Christopher Serju, published in the Gleaner on Saturday, June 17, the response of student, Alnast·zia Watson, to Ruel Reid’s statement is quoted:  “‘We are really calling on the minister to intervene because you can’t leave it to the schools’ discretion to come up with these policies. Somebody (else) needs to review them,” Watson argued, adding that most of the sanctions are ridiculous.

consult_3“‘You can’t deny students the right to an education and lock them out of school for half an inch off the skirt. Oftentimes, some of them (teachers) go outside with tape measure to measure the skirt. If you need a tape measure to measure, then it couldn’t be that bad. So we do want the minister to intervene and for some amount of consultation with students because, when consultations are being made, they are made with parents. My mother and father aren’t the ones wearing the uniform. I am the one wearing it!'”  Ruel Reid had better do policing, if he knows what’s good for him and the schoolchildren.

Bob Marley’s Literary Legacy

Bob Marley is one of the finest poets Jamaica has produced. His skilful use of language – both English and Jamaican – compellingly affirms his highly charged literary sensibility. Biblical allusion, proverb, riddle and Rastafari symbolism are all potent elements of his creative writing. His words require the careful critical attention we usually give to poets who don’t know how to sing.

In “One Drop”, Bob Marley vividly defines reggae as a “drumbeat … playing a rhythm/resisting against the system.” And the central concern of his songs is, most certainly, beating down the oppressive social system. Babylon, the whore, the fallen woman of St John’s Revelation, must be chanted down in fiery poetry.

The Rastaman’s chant against Babylon echoes the fall of biblical Jericho. The power of the spoken word is brilliantly manifested in the distinctive language of Rastafari. With upful lyrics, Rastafari condemn downpressors of all stripes. And they teach a revolutionary philosophy that puts truths and rights at the very centre of the new curriculum.

In “Crazy Baldhead”, from the Rastaman Vibration album, the theme of revolution resounds. The social institutions of Babylon are seen as dysfunctional – the educational, religious and penal systems. “Brain-wash education” must be rejected and the con-man/crazy baldhead sent running out of town:

Build your penitentiary

We build your schools

Brain-wash education to make us the

fools.

Hateraged you reward for our love

Telling us of your God above.

We gonna chase those crazy

Chase those crazy bunkheads

Chase those crazy baldheads

Out of town.

Here comes the con-man

Coming with his con-plan

We won’t take no bribe

We got to stay alive.

ROBBERS AND SELLERS

Marley’s lyrical “Redemption Song”, from the Uprising album, is a classic example of the songwriter’s literary skill. The opening lines telescope time, compressing a whole history of exploitation and suffering into minutes:

Old pirates, yes

They rob I

Sold I to the merchant ships

Minutes after they took I

From the bottomless pit

Marley’s use of the word ‘pirates’ confirms the fact that many heroes of the British empire were nothing but common criminals. Sir John Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake were key actors in the slave trade, earning great wealth from the business of human torture. But Marley also reminds us that Africans were implicated in the mercenary enterprise of transatlantic slavery.

The ambiguous placement of Marley’s neutral ‘they’ inextricably links both the robbers and sellers. There is no real difference between the ‘they’ who rob and the ‘they’ who sell. True, if there were no buyers, there would be no sellers. But the instinct to exploit seems to be our common inhumanity.

iaap2In “Redemption Song”, Marley also acknowledges the divine hand that enabled victims of enslavement to rise from the bottomless pit of horror that was the Middle Passage:

But my hand was made strong

By the hand of the Almighty

We forward in this generation

Triumphantly.

This triumph requires of us a song, as the Melodians so plaintively chanted in Rivers of Babylon. Putting to music Psalm137, verse 1, they, like Bob Marley, knew that song is therapy:

Won’t you help to sing

These songs of freedom?

Cause all I ever have

Redemption songs.

HEAD-DECAY-SHUN

Redemption SongsBob Marley appears to be contrasting songs of freedom with redemption songs. There’s a popular hymnal, Redemption Songs, that was first published in London in 1929 or thereabouts. It has become part of the religious culture of Jamaica, regularly showing up at wakes. The title page describes the book in this way: “A choice collection of 1,000 hymns and choruses for evangelistic meetings, solo, singers, choirs and the home.”

Redemption Songs seems to have come to Jamaica with evangelicals from the United States. It was my friend, Erna Brodber, a historical sociologist and novelist, who persuaded me that Marley is actually rejecting “redemption songs”. They are part of the Euro-American religious legacy. And that’s all he was once forced to have.

But there’s another meaning of redemption that I think we should also take into account. Redemption is the act of buying oneself out of slavery. The religious and commercial meanings of ‘redemption’ converge in Marley’s song. Redemption songs are also songs of freedom. There is divine grace – the hand of the Almighty. But there is also the practical justice of freeing one’s self from both physical and mental slavery.

Marley’s Redemption Song is both a rejection of evangelical Christian orthodoxy and an affirmation of a new redemptive vision. So, Marley pays tribute to Marcus Garvey, who prophetically declared, “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind.”

But Garvey does not stop there. He gives a profound warning: “Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind.”Garvey is advocating a new kind of education. Not ‘head-decay-shun’, as Rastafari mockingly describe colonial schooling. If that’s all we ever have, we will continue to be enslaved by old notions of redemption. Like Bob Marley, we must create our own new songs of freedom.

Paying For Emancipation

images-7Britain’s Black Debt is the intriguing title of a provocative book launched to much fanfare earlier this month by the University of the West Indies Press. The Nyahbinghi House drummers and chanters set the tone of the occasion. ‘Black Liberation Day’, ‘Open de Gate Mek We Repatriate’, ‘Four Hundred Million Black Man’ and ‘Every Time We Chant Nyahbinghi I an I Waan Trod Home a Yaad’ were some of the ‘heartical’ chants that heralded the launch.

The book’s author is Prof Sir Hilary Beckles, distinguished Barbadian historian and principal of the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies. In Britain’s Black Debt, Beckles tackles the contentious issue of reparations for both the genocide of the indigenous peoples and the enslavement of Africans in the so-called West Indies. Christopher Columbus lost his way to the ‘East Indies’ and our region is now stuck with a name that perpetuates the great discoverer’s error!

viewer-1The cover of the book brilliantly illustrates its theme. The main image is a 1966 photograph of Queen Elizabeth II with her cousin, George Henry Hubert Lascelles, the 7th Earl of Harewood, on his sugar plantation in Barbados. The property was bought by one of the earl’s relatives in 1780, along with 232 slaves. In the background, at a respectful distance, is a large group of well-dressed, carefully choreographed spectators, mostly white, whose body language suggests decorous delight at finding themselves in the presence of royalty.

TAINTED WEALTH

Beneath the photograph, there’s a row of shackled Africans: three children; three women, each with a baby wrapped on her back; and seven men. Two black overseers with guns are keeping them all in line. The enslaved humans are the literal subtext of the main story about colonial masters and their loyal subjects. Beckles compellingly argues that forced labour in the Caribbean is the foundation of much of the wealth of Britain, including that of the Royal Family.

images-2Beckles pays tribute to Eric Williams’ revolutionary book, Capitalism and Slavery, first published in 1944. There, Beckles argues, Williams “constructed the framework for the reparations case”. Beckles does concede that Williams “stopped short of making an explicit call for reparations”. But, he asserts, the book “still represents the most persuasive articulation of evidence” that “Britain’s magnificent, enviable industrial civilisation emerged from the foul waters of colonial slavery”.

The Earl of Harewood died on July 10, 2011 at the age of 88. His obituary in the London Telegraph substantiates Beckles’ case: “The Lascelles family had made their fortune in the West Indies. An 18th-century ancestor, Edwin Lascelles, had built the magnificent Harewood House in the family estates in the West Riding of Yorkshire”.   Harewood House is not a house. It is a palatial monument to capitalist greed.

images-3

Harewood House

And its owners have no shame about the source of their tainted wealth. The Harewood House website states quite matter-of-factly that, “[b]y 1787, the Lascelles family had interests in 47 plantations and owned thousands of slaves in Barbados and across the West Indies. The Lascelles weren’t unique – most merchants of the period were involved in the slave trade”.  And Harewood House is now a tourist attraction. It costs £14 for adults to tour the ‘house’, including staterooms, and £10 to visit just the grounds and below stairs. Class privilege comes at a price.

LUNATIC PROPOSITION

The most startling fact I learnt at the launch of Britain’s Black Debt is that the British government had wanted emancipated slaves to pay reparations to their former masters for the loss of their service. A lunatic proposition! Where was the money supposed to come from? The Haitian people had been forced to borrow money to pay reparations to France for claiming their freedom. In the case of the British, it was they who were claiming freedom from us. True, rebellious slaves across the British colonies had fought for freedom. But, in effect, Emancipation was designed to free the British government of all legal and moral obligations to the formerly enslaved.

Sir Thomas Buxton

Sir Thomas Buxton

The abolitionist, Sir Thomas Buxton, had urged his fellow parliamentarians to pay reparations to emancipated Africans. But, as Beckles notes, “[T]he British Parliament, densely populated with slaveholders and other beneficiaries of slave investments, did not take Buxton’s suggestion seriously”.   Eventually, the British government decided to pay reparations to slave owners on behalf of the enslaved. But no reparations were to be paid to the primary victims of this demonic crime against humanity.

It’s bad enough that some British MPs still don’t take reparations seriously. But why do most of us, the descendants of enslaved Africans, act as if the idea of reparations is a big joke? Is it because we believe the lie that slavery was good for us, taking us from ‘savagery’ to ‘civilisation’? Have we not read Walter Rodney’s brilliant book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa?

AFRICAN RENAISSANCE

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was established on May 25, 1963 in Addis Ababa. A primary mission of the organisation was to end colonial rule on the African continent. On May 26, 2001, the OAU was rebranded as the African Union (AU). May 25 has come to be known as African Liberation Day. It is an occasion to reflect on the protracted struggle of Africans on the continent and in the diaspora to reclaim the right to determine our own destiny.

PrintThe theme for the 50th anniversary celebrations is ‘Panfricanism & African Renaissance’. If we are serious about the rebirth of the continent, reparations must be put on the agenda of the AU. And if we are to escape recolonisation by the International Monetary Fund, reparations must be put on the CARICOM agenda.

Reparations is the urgent message Professor Beckles took to Ethiopia last week, where he addressed a conference that was convened ahead of the 21st African Union Summit. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is there. I hope she knows she must speak out on behalf of Rastafari and all those heroic Jamaicans like Paul Bogle and Sam Sharpe who have long been fighting for reparative justice.

Cali P to give ‘Reggae Talk’ at UWI

Cali-P-20110131CThe very popular ‘Reggae Talks’ at the University of the West Indies, Mona continue on Thursday, April 11 at 7:00 p.m. in the Neville Hall lecture theatre (N1). First it was Jah9, then Protoje, then No-Maddz. This week’s speaker is the Swiss reggae artist Cali P who now lives in Jamaica.

In an exclusive interview with Gleaner writer Jordaine Delahaye, Cali P, whose legal name is Pierre Nanon, said, “I started writing lyrics and singing in Switzerland when I was 14. There were positives and negatives living there. Looking on it as a whole, I had a lot of moments where I really didn’t want to be there because I felt unwelcome. Not being white there makes people treat you like a foreigner at all times, and that can get really annoying”.

Born to a Swiss mother and a Guadeloupian father who is a Rastaman, Cali P knew where to turn to escape the alienation he felt in the land of his birth.  He feels much more at home in his adopted country.  The title of his talk, which will focus on his artistic development, is “musicCALI-sPeaKING”.

‘Bring In All Rastas, Dead Or Alive!’

Sir Alexander Bustamante

Sir Alexander Bustamante

Those are the infamous words of Sir Alexander Bustamante, national hero and first prime minister of independent Jamaica. Bustamante’s turn of phrase comes straight out of the Wild West: “Wanted dead or alive.” Bustamante apparently conceived all Rastafarians as outlaws in a Hollywood western who had to be exterminated by any means necessary.

Issuing a death sentence, Bustamante literally turned all Rastafarians into villains. Guilty or innocent, they could no longer expect to enjoy the protection of the law. All Rastafarians were completely demonised and became victims of comprehensive state brutality. How did this come about?

images-6Half a century ago, at about 4 a.m. on ‘Holy’ Thursday, six bearded men set fire to a gas station in Coral Gardens. They were armed with machetes, guns, bows and arrows. I suppose it was cowboys and Indians, Jamrock style. The leader was Rudolph ‘Franco’ Franklyn, who had a big grievance against the owner of the gas station, Ken Douglas.

Franklyn and several other bearded men had long been squatting on land in Coral Gardens. They lived in relative peace until the land was sold to Douglas. Naturally, the new owner asserted his right to the property and attempted to drive the squatters off the land. As is often the case, the squatters refused to budge.

During one of several attempts at eviction, Franklyn was shot by the police. He survived but was told by a medical doctor that he would die sooner rather than later from a bullet lodged in his body. Determined to take revenge on his assailants, Franklyn sought allies to launch his counter-attack.

DREADLOCKS AND COMBSOME

images-3At the time, there were two groups of Rastafarians living in MoBay: the dreadlocks and the combsome. The dreadlocks lived on Railway Lane and the combsome squatted in Coral Gardens. Franklyn irrationally proposed that both groups of Rastas join forces to burn down Montego Bay. The dreadlocks rejected the scheme on the basis that Rastas defend ‘peace and love’.

Franklyn, who seemed to subscribe to the philosophy “I don’t give a damn, I done dead already”, pressed along with his plans. Instead of burning down all of MoBay, he settled for Douglas’ gas station, an obviously flammable target.

http://www.songstube.net/video.php?title=Zombie%20Jamboree&artistid=6603&artist=Harry%20Belafonte&id=131586

On the morning of the attack, there was only one attendant at the station, Mr George Plummer, who fled for his life to the nearby Edgewater Inn Motel. He, clearly, had no shares in the company. A Mr Marsh, who was at the motel, foolishly ventured out to investigate the matter. In a most unfortunate turn of affairs, he was murdered. By midday, seven others lost their lives, including Franklyn.

According to a Gleaner report published on April 13, 1963, “The Montego Bay Fire Brigade had responded to the fire alert at 4:53 a.m. from the house of Dr Carol Delisser. The blaze at the gas station was brought under control after 5 a.m. led by Supt Sydney Burke, who joined the police squad that rushed up from Montego Bay under Inspector Fisher. Five vehicles, including two civilians, started into the hills after the Rastafarian gang. Among those chasing the gang was Mr Causwell, who was on his way to Kingston but decided to give some help to the chase.

Rose Hall Great House

Rose Hall Great House

“They drove through two miles of rough terrain from the ruins of Rose Hall Great House. The search party ran into the gang or rather ran into an ambush. The bearded men attacked from an overhanging cliff above. In the fight which ensued, two of the gang were shot to death and Corporal Melbourne and Mr Causwell were cut down. By then, it was discovered later that Headman Fowler had been already cut down about a mile from his home on Tryall Farm.”

The day’s gruesome events became known as ‘the Coral Gardens Incident’. But this was much more than an isolated ‘incident’. Franklyn’s murderous rampage was a sign of the fundamental inequities of Jamaican society. Landlessness is a recurring a problem which has never been properly addressed by successive pre- and post-Independence governments.

WINSTON CHURCHILL’S CIGARS

images-1The response of Bustamante’s government to the terrible actions of six bearded men was brutally excessive: “Bring in all Rastas, dead or alive!” Why should all Rastafarians be exterminated because of the actions of six men, especially since the ringleader had already been killed? Bustamante’s irrational call signified much more than a need to restore the peace. The Coral Gardens ‘Incident’ was a chilling episode in a long history of state violence against Rastafari.

In 1954, under the premiership of Bustamante, a major Rastafarian encampment, Pinnacle, was burnt down. The camp was located in St Jago Hills, close to Sligoville. Pinnacle was a productive agricultural hub, yielding rich crops such as cassava, peas, corn and, of course, ganja. Maintaining African traditions of collective labour, Pinnacle flourished under the leadership of Leonard Howell.

images-2French journalist Hélène Lee, author of The First Rasta: Leonard Howell and the Rise of Rastafarianism, published in 2004, proposes that Howell was the first Jamaican ‘don’ in the best possible sense of that word. He was a don in the British sense of a university professor. Howell was a Garveyite who valued scholarship.

He was also a charismatic community leader who gave hope to landless Rastafari who left Kingston’s concrete jungle for the hills of St Catherine. Pinnacle comprised approximately 5,000 acres, even though Howell owned only a conservative estimate of 150 acres and, possibly, up to 400.

Winston Churchll

Winston Churchll

According to anecdotal evidence, much of the ganja produced at Pinnacle found its way to the warfront during the Second European War. Ganja was seen as therapy for the troops. It was even rumoured that Winston Churchill’s famous cigars contained much more than tobacco. In 1953, Churchill visited Jamaica, staying at the Tower Isle hotel. Was there any connection between his visit and the destruction of Pinnacle? I leave the answer to conspiracy theorists.

Protoje to lecture at UWI

Protoje20130220CThe Department of Literatures in English, University of the West Indies, Mona continues our series of ‘Reggae Talks’  on Thursday, March 28  at 7:00 p.m.  This week’s  featured guest is Protoje.  He will speak on the topic, “Music From My Heart”.  The venue is the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre in the Faculty of Humanities and Education.   Copies of his latest CD, “Eight Year Affair” will be on sale for $1,000.  The public is invited to attend and admission is free.

Taking Dennis Brown’s Name in Vain

   Image    The Crown Prince of Reggae has been royally dissed. D Brown’s duppy must be well vexed.  I expect he’s somewhere over the rainbow composing a wicked tune, and even wickeder lyrics, about the disorganisers of the tribute concert in his name. The Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JARIA), Leggo Records, Sounds and Pressure and the Dennis Brown Trust are all going to be haunted for quite a long time.

       Since the inception of ‘Reggae Month’ in 2008, Dennis Brown’s name has been inextricably linked to the celebrations.  His birthday on February 1 has been a convenient date to launch the month’s activities. And the Dennis Brown Tribute Concert is a high-profile event. This year, the concert has been postponed two times.  First, it was lack of sponsorship; then security.  This is a very bad sign.   ‘Reggae Month’ seems to be in trouble.

The new date for the tribute concert is March 3, more than one month after Dennis Brown’s birthday. It’s like celebrating Christmas in January. There’s only one good thing about the postponement of the tribute.  Well, it may turn out to be a cancellation after all but let’s be optimistic for now.  In any case, the ‘cancelposting’ of the show proves that there’s nothing sacred about ‘Reggae Month’.  It doesn’t even have to be February!

Bob MarleyI suppose the rationale for dubbing February ‘Reggae Month’ was the fact that    the King of Reggae and the Crown Prince were born on the 6th and 1st respectively.  But instead of holding the whole month hostage to those two birthdays, I think we should free up February from all of the reggae-related events that have been compressed into the shortest month of the year.

I’m proposing that we celebrate the birthday of Dennis Brown and Bob Marley in February and that’s that.  If we want a ‘Reggae Month’, let’s find a less hectic season.  Cynics are already saying that ‘Reggae Month’ was intended to upstage ‘Black History Month’.  You know how ambivalent we are about blackness in this country. Be that as it may, there are eleven other months from which to choose.

International Reggae Day

images-6 I think July is an excellent candidate for ‘Reggae Month’.  There’s Sumfest, our international reggae festival, in the last week of the month.  And we shouldn’t forget the heroic efforts of our own cultural activist Andrea Davis to establish July 1 as International Reggae Day (IRD). The brand was launched in 1994 – almost two decades ago – as a “marketing platform for Jamaica’s creative industries and global Reggae culture”.

In a billboardbiz article, published on July 1, 2011, music journalist Patricia Meschino underscores the worldwide reach of Andrea’s vision: “Enabled by the proliferation of internet usage in the mid-90s and the rise of social media in the late ’00s, IRD now encompasses a vast international network of online newspapers, magazines, radio stations and other web based platforms, each tailoring their content on July 1 towards examining the power and potential of the island’s signature rhythm while highlighting the finest in Jamaican and international reggae, made by veterans and upstart artists alike”.

images-5 In the early years of the media festival, Andrea’s company, Jamaica Arts Holdings, promoted high-level workshops and full-scale concerts.  Celebration of IRD has become much more virtual over time largely because of lack of sponsorship for live events.  It’s a familiar story.  In the case of the Dennis Brown Tribute Concert, we may very well have to settle for a virtual, if not virtuous, staging this year.

‘Reggae Month’ Sound Clash

images-7    Whatever we decide about the scheduling of ‘Reggae Month’, we will still have to resolve the problem of clashing events.  In theory, JARIA’s calendar is the definitive guide to what’s on.  But it seems as if organisers of events don’t bother to consult JARIA.  They just do their own thing.

Before setting the date of my Global Reggae book launch, I checked with JARIA.  The only other event on their calendar for the 17th was the Jamaica Music Museum’s ‘Grounation’, scheduled for 2:00 p.m.  It was unlikely to clash with my 6:00 p.m. launch.

Then, out of the blue, the Dennis Brown Tribute Concert was rescheduled at exactly the same time.  Not even JARIA appears to have consulted JARIA!  Or, if they did, they must have decided that the launch of a book on the globalisation of reggae in ‘Reggae Month’ wasn’t all that important.  Then again, they may have assumed quite wrongly that people who read books don’t go to reggae concerts.

Seriously, though, the clash wouldn’t have mattered all that much really.  Patrons obviously do have the right to choose.  Except that Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus, Jah9 and Protoje, who had all graciously agreed to make a cameo appearance at the launch, also needed to perform at the rescheduled Dennis Brown tribute, based on their earlier commitment.  Fortunately, No-Maddz and Cali P, the other ‘brand-name’ performers for the book launch, were not on that ill-fated show.

GlobalReggaeCoverWhen Ras Michael apologetically telephoned to let me know that he couldn’t make it back to PULS8 in time to do the invocation, I have to admit I called down judgement on the engineers of the clash.  I hadn’t realised how potent my words were.  Within an hour, Ras Michael called back to say that the show was cancelled.

Of course, I don’t actually take any responsibility for influencing the decisions made by the organisers of the tribute concert. It’s not my ‘judgement’ that mystically caused postponement.   ‘Me woulda never diss di Crown Prince’.  Hopefully, Dennis Brown will be honoured appropriately some time this year in a tribute concert that lives up to his name.  Respect is most certainly due, whatever the month.