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.


  1. I love your use of the word 'reason.' The youth council visited students to reason with them about gun violence. This says to me that they weren't there to merely talk to them, which is what many adults do. Instead, the youth council intended to uncover some deeper issues going on in the community. Much props to you and your compatriots who are sharing the stage with tomorrow's leaders. Very, very important work.

    p.s. you and the student do favor, which means that she favors me too ; )

  2. Hahaha, Darise. You love my use of the word 'reason' and I always love your comments. Lol. No, it's true though- a reasoning did take place. Yes, this is a very Rasta term and all of these students are not Rasta, but it's important that someone's talking WITH children who go through such tough experiences and not just TO them. Thanks for the props.

    Next time I see the little girl - Krystal is her name- I'll show her a pic of you and ask her if she agrees.

  3. May copious Jah-blessins rain down on u and yurs as u continue these crucial JahWorks! onelove sofree

  4. Give thanks, Sofree! Love and Ises...