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.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In and around Kingston: A trip to Port Royal

Over the weekend, we took a trip to Port Royal, a place I always imagined would be of greater interest to a man just because of its association with old-time pirates and battleships.  Then, I thought, "Well, Negasi is a man, right?"  Sure enough, he was crazy about the idea.  He's on board with anything pirate-related.

OK, so I will give you a brief (taken from the internet) synopsis of Port Royal before I get to photo sharing.
Port Royal was called "the richest and wickedest city in the world". It was founded in the 1650s by the first British settlers who came to Jamaica. The town grew up around Fort Charles and soon became packed with traders, shopkeepers, innkeepers, soldiers, buccaneers and pirates. There were also a number of craftsmen including carpenters, bricklayers, tailors, goldsmiths and silversmiths. By 1690, there were between 8,000 and 10,000 permanent inhabitants at Port Royal. Some houses were three or four storeys high. Everything was available including bars, taverns, restaurants, coffee houses and brothels.
At a few minutes before 12 midday on Tuesday, June 7, 1692, an earthquake struck Port Royal. A huge tidal wave destroyed ships in the harbour and carried one of the ships into the middle of the town. Many of the buildings were destroyed and most of the city disappeared into the sea. Over 2,000 people died and more than 3,000 had serious injuries. Many of the victims were swallowed up by the earth. There is a very exciting story about Lewis Galdy; he was swallowed alive into the earth by one shock and then was thrown into the sea by another shock. He swam until a boat took him up. Galdy lived forty-seven years after his miraculous escape and is buried in the St. Peter’s Anglican churchyard in Port Royal. (Big up yuhself, Jamaica National Heritage Trust Website for this bevy of information.) Pretty interesting, no?
This appears to come a little too naturally to him, don't you think?

Negasi as he tells a very detailed story of how 'the pirates' would go into the garden you see behind him and play football.

Fort Charles, canons...

More canons...

The Giddy House-tilted at a 35 degree angle by a 1907 earthquake.  This structure used to serve as an artillery storehouse.

Some folks who took the tour with us. They stand upright, yet leaned over in the Giddy House. 

Better pic of the slant.

Lo and anchor!