Monday, April 11, 2011

Solace on Bobo Hill (Bull Bay, Jamaica)

Jamaica, Bull Bay, Bobo Hill...

This is the outside of the guest house where I slept. I spent a great deal of my time in this house being that I came for the Sabbath, a day of rest- no work, no writing, no phones, just very chill.

The view from my guest house on Bobo Hill.

The sun sets.

Quaint cabin

Such powerful artwork on display in my guest house.

His Imperial Majesty (painting)

Think this photo captures my mood while on Bobo Hill pretty well.  Yes, I used my camera's self-timer.  Stop judge mi!

The Sabbath service is coming to a close.  The priests are proceeding out of the tabernacle. 

From left: Tiffany, my coursemate, Priest Ijah, moi, young Princess who lives on Bobo Hill (ooh, I forgot her name) and Priest Joshua

Monday, March 14, 2011

On My Mind: Vybz Kartel, Haile Selassie I, and Mutabaruka

I attended a lecture at UWI last week given by Vybz Kartel- yes, Vybz Kartel a.k.a. 'di teacha' (?), and current king of dancehall known best for his sexually explicit and highly controversial lyrics.  "Bleach-out face" man, however, has become his latest nickname.  In several of his latest songs he boasts about his use of cake soap, a skin lightening agent, which has, in his opinion, contributed to his skin being "pretty like a coloring book."  The title of the lecture, which was prompted by Carolyn Cooper's column in the Sunday Gleaner that denounced Kartel's skin bleaching as an act of self-hatred, was "'Pretty as s Coloring Book:' My Life and My Art."

Now, I should state that it's been almost an entire week since the lecture, but I've been back and forth when it comes to formulating my opinion of the reasoning Kartel uses to explain his skin bleaching practice.  Prior to the lecture, I listened to him on New York's Hot 97 radio show with Cipha Sounds and Rosenberg.  Of course, Cipha Sounds got right to the heart of the matter asking Kartel to explain the change in his skin tone from a rich, chocolate brown to a ghostly yellow (this was Cipha's own description- hilarious.)  To my utter surprise Kartel quoted His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I as a means of explaining why skin bleaching is OK.  Haile Selassie's words, spoken during his 1963 address to the United Nations and later adapted in Bob Marley's classic song, War, are "Until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes...the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained..." He quoted H.I.M. yet again at the lecture held at the UWI campus.  As a matter of fact he began his lecture with this quote and even asked a student from the audience to expound on it.  This shows that given the amount of negative controversy he's been receiving as a result of his lightened skin, he's decided to use (manipulate, misconstrue, distort, etc.) the words of H.I.M. in his defense.  Now, really people - Rastafarian or not- do we honestly and truly believe that Emperor Haile Selassie's historic words are relevant in this situation?

I attended another Rastafari Youth Initiative Council meeting yesterday where Mutabaruka was the guest speaker.  He, too, touched on the absurdity of Kartel attempting to lead the public to believe that the words of Haile Selassie could be referenced as a means of condoning his practice of skin lightening.  One point Mutabaruka made was that if the color of a man's skin doesn't matter, why change it? This is what Kartel has done, yet he insists that he's comfortable with his natural, Black self.  I'm not convinced.  Yes, he is one individual person.  So, why should how he feels about his Blackness or how he portrays this publicly matter to me or anyone?  Only because he is by far the most influential person among persons age 15-24 in Jamaica.  I'm just saying...

I'll stop here, as I'd like to avoid steering this post in the wrong direction.  Looking forward to your comments. 
Hundreds of students gather on the UWI Campus to hear 'Di Teacha'

Peace and Love.

Monday, February 28, 2011

3 Years in the Making

Negasi is 3 today-yay!! Can you imagine? It's been 3 years since he was re-introduced to the world (still trying to figure out what he was doing here before.)

Negasi celebrated his day at school having treats with his friends.

I'll share with you some photos of Negasi's progression since he was 'unearthed' until today...

True Pisces..notice the fish tail.

2 of Negasi's favorite cartoon characters.  Concerned? Just a tad.

He's awoken to a celebration.  No, his excitement level didn't increase much more than this.

His class of mainly boys.

Trying to handle the ice cream situation (it's always a 'situation' when it comes to ice cream.

That's young Shawn at the head of the table. He and Negasi are good friends.  I admire Shawn for his level of maturity.  He opted not to wear a party hat because of the discomfort it caused him, nor did he want an ice cream cone. He said it was too messy.

Peace and Love.

Friday, February 25, 2011

What to make of "RastaMouse?"

The BBC has got a hit on its hands with the new children's cartoon, "RastaMouse."  The main character is a Rastafarian mouse who fights crime...what do InI think??? Reinforcing stereotypes or instilling cultural pride?  Feedforward please!!

Also, check out this post on Repeating Islands, a blog I follow for a look at how the individual who plays the main character's voice perceives the show's concept and message.

Here is a link to the official RastaMouse website.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jamaican Resort's Idea of Entertainment Strangely Reminiscent of Sensationalization Surrounding African Women's Sexuality circa 18th Century Slavery -

We visited a beach on Jamaica's resort town of Ocho Rios a few weeks ago.   Who did the hotel hire to entertain the shiploads of tourists?  See below.  Any thoughts?  Oh, there was a minstrel-like man performing, as well.  Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of him.

Peace and Love (amidst the madness)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rastafari and Resistance (Giving thanks to Horace Campbell for the title)

The past few weeks since I last blogged have been beautifully busy...Beauty & in the business being handled. (Sigh) I digress.  What I mean by this is I've been flanked by guests for the past 3 weeks- an old friend, my sister, Darise,  and Negasi's Dad once more.  Also, research has been moving along in a "healthy" manner.  I've begun a second course related to my work here in Jamaica entitled Rastafari in the Global Context, and with each Rastafarian artist I meet and interview I am introduced to at least another.  Good stuff.

Negasi and I sealed this past weekend up by attending the Rastafari Youth Initiative Council's monthly general meeting, which was held in the community of Shanti Town in Linstead, St. Catherine this month.  A group of close to 20 RYIC members all boarded a chartered bus this Sunday leaving from Country Farmhouse in Vineyard Town heading to Linstead.  We hadn't made it far before the bus was pulled over for a "routine" stop by armed policemen. The stop was made in downtown Kingston close to Coronation Market ( I am uncertain of the exact road we were on when stopped.)  Upon being stopped the driver paused the music of the Nyabinghi drums and Rasta chanting that played from a CD provided by one of the members.  After reviewing the driver's documentation, the police officer decided to issue a ticket to our driver for failure to wear a seat belt and for not having a badge, which I believe is a requirement for drivers of coaster buses in Jamaica.  In the ten to fifteen minutes it took the police officer to contemplate whether or not he even felt like issuing a ticket, then actually write the ticket for our driver, some members on the bus began to chant [down Babylon.]  Watching as the police officer began to catch on to the words of the chant and quickly become incensed, I became uncertain as to how the whole ordeal would end.  It wasn't long before we were all ordered off the bus for a "routine" search.  So, with Negasi asleep in my arms, I disembarked with the others to allow the police officers to "do their job" (of disrupting a busload of peaceful individuals who, on that very afternoon, were headed to carry out the urgent task of empowering and mobilizing Jamaica's marginalized communities.)  What ensued was a blatant act of discrimination against Rastafari- threats to arrest, accusations made by the officers of possession of ganja, and, of course the knowledge that a busload of Christian churchgoers would not have been dealt with in the same manner.  To make a long story short opinions (stereotypes) were exchanged, voices raised, and warnings issued (one of the officers warned that my taping of the ordeal was an offense- he'd do well in the NYPD! :D) before we were allowed to enter the bus again and continue on our journey...

Intimidating, no?
Outside of the bus after being ordered off to allow for a search. Nothing was found.

Police officer as he searches ones' belongings left inside the bus. 

View video of part of the whole exchange below.  Followers, PLEASE post feedforward on the issues that arise in this video, spoken and unspoken, into the "comments" section of this post.  


Anyway, a little negativity couldn't sabotage what we set out to do.  The meeting was an immense success, positive vibes all around.  Issues such as the dangers of medical vaccinations that we are often required to give our children, the importance of eating ital, repatriation and reparations were addressed. Ras Tyehimba of was the guest speaker for the meeting.  Here is a group photo of the gathering. 

PEACE & One Perfect LOVE, always...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Looking to Re-build a Community & Re-tracing Rastafari's Roots

Past few weeks? Irie. 

My involvement with the Rastafari Youth Initiative Council really shifted into full gear following my return to Jamaica after a much-needed trip home (Shout out to my whole fam.)  Yes, this means more work, but I've begun to look at more (enjoyable) work as my spirit's food...  So, I'll be working with the RYIC, which has been in existence for about 2 years and has over 100 members in and around Kingston, to plan one of their biggest annual events, a celebration for Empress Menen's Earth(birth)day in March. Myself and the entire youth council are very much looking forward to this event.

In a collaborative effort to improve low-income and crime-ridden communities throughout Jamaica, members of the RYIC and Donisha Prendergrast, grand-daughter of Bob Marley and creator of an upcoming documentary on Rastafari's international presence, made the trod to Tredegar Park All-Age School in St. Catherine this week to reason with the students on the recent violence that's taken place in their community.  The visit was meant to be extra special for the school, as Julian Marley and several other up-and-coming reggae artists would be accompanying us. Oh, and it was special indeed- most of the students asked each of us what our relation to Bob Marley was- Whoo!! This got a little out of control. Hahaha.

Anyway, Donisha acted as the MC for the afternoon inviting different students up to the stage to share their thoughts and personal experiences related to the gun violence in their community.  All I can say is that this was extremely heart-wrenching.  Every student (ages 5-12) who took the mic had at least 2 members of their immediate family taken by gun violence.  Even worse was that some of these young people could recount in great detail their loved ones' death.  A little girl pointed to a tree on the school grounds and told us that it was there that her father was shot three times, once in the head, chest, and leg.  Heavy stuff. Heavy stuff.   On a brighter note, the visit did allow the students to express the many feelings manifesting in their young, yet seasoned hearts and minds. What they loved even more was being able to ask Julian Marley questions, the most popular question being 'Who ah yuh fadda?'

Tredegar Park school students looking on as we introduce ourselves.
Reasoning with the students.

Young schooler as he asks Julian Marley a question.

More questions- of the same sort.

Julian Marley poses for a photo with the students (as some marvel at his locs.)

This little girl came up to me and said, "Miss, mi friend dem tell mi seh mi favor yuh."  I say, "Really? I don't see it." So I ask her to take a photo with me.  As soon as I look at the photo I'm like "oh S!@#, it's my mini-me!"  What do you guys think?  Do we look alike?

This little girl is named Amaya.  She was brave enough to take the stage and tell us about her father's death by gunmen.

Our visit to Tredegar Park All-Age School ended in a round of performances by recording artists, Dax Lion, Calico, Kabaka, and Kelissa, along with some impromptu performances by the school's very own aspiring musicians.  Following the performances, each student was given a notebook with Bob Marley's picture on the cover.  In their new notebooks, the students wanted autographs. Yes, I was bombarded by students who wanted my autograph!  And, they thought they were the ones who felt special that day.

After leaving the school we headed up to Pinnacle, the site of Jamaica's very first completely self-sustainable Rastafarian community.  The site was owned and founded by Leonard Howell, the man cited as being the 'first Rasta' because he was the first to have openly hailed Haile Selassie as the Messiah, something that was unprecedented during his time.   The visit to Pinnacle was a pleasant surprise for me, as it was on my 'to see' list both for my Fulbright research and my own personal interest.  We were given a tour of what remains of Pinnacle (it was raided by Jamaican police in 1954 and the 4,000+ Rastas inhabiting the land were forced to relocate.  Many of them became squatters in Trenchtown) by Sister Hodesh and young lion, Tafari.  Before I move on to the photos, I must say that what took place at Pinnacle was really a travesty.  A large Rastafarian community was well on its way to what people the world over are trying to achieve in their homelands today - self sustainability, and the government (it's believed 800 armed? policemen participated in the 1954  raid) forcefully terminated an entire community's livelihood.  On site were a bakery (Sister Hodesh recalls that the best bun in Jamaica was made right there at Pinnacle,) a water well, many homes, farms, schools, and of course, an expansive ganja farm.  Above all this, Pinnacle sat on top of a hill that offered a glorious view of Clarendon, Kingston, and St. Thomas.  Have a look see...

View from Pinnacle- St. Thomas?
Another great view...
Painting of Leonard Howell
The Tabernacle
Water well once used by persons living at Pinnacle.  The government of Jamaica, however, cemented the bottom of the well prohibiting its use.

Donisha and I listen as Tafari tells us about some of the hardships he and his mom are facing.

Peace and Love as always.