This book should be read by every Jamaican and any person who is interested in the real Jamaica. Not the Jamaica on trav
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English Pages xvii, 271 pages; 23 cm  Year 2012
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Just as European Jews were being emancipated and ghettos in their original form--compulsory, enclosed spaces designed to
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How can we navigate safely through our turbulent times? Personal revelation is one key! Elder Gerald N. Lund, million-se
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Pages 43, 45, 53—54, 56, 65, 69—71 are missing.
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Table of contents :
Cover Page......Page 1
Title Page......Page 2
TABLE OF CONTENTS......Page 5
“Thank you Jah”......Page 20
“Dollar Sign”......Page 54
“No Love for the Black Child”......Page 70
“Ghetto Youth Tribulation”......Page 99
“A Nuh my Music”......Page 116
“Dem Nuh Like We”......Page 142
“Sup'm a guh Happ'n”......Page 165
“Life we Living”......Page 209
First edition published in 2012 Second edition published in 2013 by Ghetto People Publishing Company Ltd/ On the Ground Communications 6 Cheriton Road Kingston 2 Jamaica, West Indies ISBN 978-0-615-51067-5 eISBN 9781483506340 © Ghetto People Publishing Company Limited 2012 Adidja Palmer and Michael Dawson All rights reserved. This publication may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers. Edited by Denneille Luke Cover design and Photographs by Keecha Gooch, Goochie Productions
for THERESA WILSON PALMER AND ESLYN LAMOURIA WILLIAMS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Acknowledgements Preface “Thank you Jah” “Mama” “Dollar Sign” “No Love for the Black Child” “Ghetto Youth Tribulation” “A Nuh my Music” “Dem Nuh Like We” “Sup'm a guh Happ'n” “Struggling” “Lifë we Living” Glossary Resources
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS It goes without saying that this venture would be nothing without certain persons. On behalf of Addi, I would like to salute all the souljahs who helped to make this dream a reality. However, we must first acknowledge the two ladies that are the inspiration for this book and without whom there would be no Adidja Palmer or Michael Dawson. Firstly, Theresa Wilson Palmer; I think the best way to capture the relationship between you and Addi is to depict that first night of his incarceration. You wanted to go in and see him at all costs not because Vybz Kartel was in jail but because your son was. However, despite not knowing how many days of incarceration were ahead, his only concern was that you did not see him behind bars as he was more concerned about your health than his freedom – that moment will touch me forever. He has such great love and profound respect for you. Even during that night, there was that spiritual communication between mother and son. A spiritual connection Addi has shared with me that he holds so dearly in his heart. The only time I have seen him emotional is when he refers to you, the kids and Shorty or other close family. I almost feel wrong writing about this because I don’t think I can do his feelings for you justice in my words except to say that I am sure that he is being strong and he is getting by because your love made him strong. Secondly, Eslyn Lamouria Williams (Patsy), my mother, mommy, I cannot do you justice in words either. You have been my mother, father, friend and number one fan all my life. I bet after the Honour Rolls and It’s A Smart World appearances I did on jBC along with the Catholic school education you provided me; you
probably never figured that your son would end up writing a book “bunning out Babylon” with Jamaica’s most notorious Dancehall Artist but Mommy you know I N I a Rastafari and Jah Works must be done. I thank you for giving me the foundation and the means to do this most important work of my life thus far. Prior to this, the high point of my career was cutting Miss Lou’s last birthday cake with her and doing Oliver’s play but I can say I have never been prouder than I am now to stand up beside the people of the Ghetto and speak up for the them. It is through my observation of your life and the lessons you and Grandma taught me about giving your heart and soul to those in need especially when they don’t ask or give you anything in return. Mommy, my number one goal in life is to make you proud of me and I hope this book makes you proud, I love you Mommy, you are my hero. To my wife Camille, it is very comforting to know that I have your love and support in all my endeavors even when you know they are risky. You have not only encouraged me but you have taken time out of your motherly duties and own workload to help me with mine. Joshie and Michael Junior, sorry about all the soccer matches and play time Daddy missed; I look forward to making it up to you. Kayla, you are my Princess and you exemplify what Addi explained to me what Gaza is – having your own identity, believing in what you believe in and work hard to achieve. To all the people who helped to work on this book, we thank you for your efforts and your bravery in speaking up for the Ghetto against Babylon. A very special thanks to Keecha Gooch or Goochie as Addi calls you for your efforts from day one until now. We have wanted to put a label on your hard work – researcher, editor, co-ordinator, administrator, creative 8
director – but I guess you have done it all. This project was our toughest but we did it. Our Senior Editor, D. Luke, words can’t express the gratitude we have for your consult, tireless work and dedication. Mr. Paul Burke, I often wonder what it would be like to do a business venture without your advice and guidance. Lonique ‘Marcy’ Chin, Anna “Sarayna” Edwards, RNM; those were some crazy all nighters we pulled at UWI dealing with the KFC as we edited in between Addi’s jokes. Mrs. Sam, thanks for opening up your business to be our office and making us feel at home. Oliver Samuels, Sizzla and all my other business partners; thanks for your support. Mark, Norman, Dahron, Nikki, Vijay, Cary, both Sharons and all the part time editors – big up. Camille M, Jan, Aisha and the rest of the Whirlwind crew, the work has only began. We have to take the message on behalf of Jamaica’s poor people to the world. It is an honourable task to be a voice for the voice less so let us do this job with the utmost zeal and vigour.
PREFACE The news keeps reporting that Vybz Kartel is in jail but I disagree with that. I can assure you that if you check the Correctional Department’s roster, no person with the first name Vybz and last name Kartel is listed as an inmate. There is indeed a man named Adidja Palmer in jail. His stage name, alias, moniker or whatever you want to call it, happens to be Vybz Kartel but for those of us who know Addi it would seem that, through this classification or association, the public, the police and the media have tried and convicted the controversial deejay Vybz Kartel that they love to hate and have Adidja Palmer serving Kartel’s sentence without the benefit of a trial. The title of this Section is “Preface” and I am supposed to give you a little preview of what is to come in the book. There are literary protocols to follow; a format to adhere to; appropriate words to use; an acceptable length to work within, all these rules to follow, but how do I do that? What is the “protocol” for what I am doing now? How are you supposed to write a Preface when your co-author is in jail, charged with double murder without being granted the human right to get bail? What are the rules concerning that? Are you supposed to pretend that it is not happening or do you acknowledge it and let the reader know how you truly feel? I mean, the irony is glaring. Addi is one of the most recognizable persons in Jamaica and his visa woes are well known – yet he is not able to secure bail when, with what little knowledge I have of the justice system, the key determinant of bail eligibility is the likelihood of the accused not turning up for trial. Now really,
where is Vybz Kartel going to hide in Jamaica or how many would not recognize him at the ports? Well, I admit, I do not have the strong will and determination like Adidja Palmer. When I last visited him, he told me “nuh worry MD, man anuh Girl Guide, Man a Soldier”, with the confident snicker I am used to. Understand, long before we wrote this book, Addi explained to me the fear he had of the police, in fact, the first email he ever sent to me explained that he felt they were out to “get him”. This is one of the things we have in common due to my childhood experiences with the police. He reminded me of the cry of police brutality by Peter Tosh, the unsolved murders of Biggie/Tupac and the seemingly endless stories of the demise of those who stood up to Babylon. He simply had a premonition that he was next. This book has been done for nearly a year and we kept waiting for the right time. After his arrest, I naturally felt this book would never be printed because it is the biggest attack against Babylon since Peter Tosh’s last album and we both know Babylon does not take attacks on them lightly – go ask Aristide, Castro or Mugabe. If Addi had a fear of Babylon before being incarcerated, imagine when certain things in this book are revealed – what is going to happen to him then? I sent Addi a message that we can wait until he is out to publish the book – how are you going to write things critical of the police and expect them to be impartial, they are only human? The response I got from him was that he wants to move full speed ahead and let the chips fall where they may. Yes, he may be incarcerated but his cry on behalf of Ghetto people will not be silenced. Please do not think for a second that Addi wants to be viewed as a martyr or as one sacrificing his life for the Ghetto. No, to be clear, he is just a Ghetto yute
angry at society for what it has done to poor people; he recognizes he has a voice and he is using it. Of course, I have concerns for my own safety, for that of my family and the persons who worked on this book with me. As an African of Jamaican birth, I act in the tradition of my people who draw on the strength of their ancestors. I remember Marcus Garvey saying that we as black men must stand up for that which is right and not be afraid of the consequences. Well, I am no Adidja Palmer and I am certainly not even worthy to carry the soles of Marcus Garvey’s shoes but I am going to ensure that this book is published on behalf of every voiceless person in the Ghetto. Every person who has been denied a job because of their inner-city address, every young girl forced to sleep with her boss just to keep her job, every woman who is treated like a “gyal” in the corporate offices of Jamaica just because she is poor; every child who bears scars from years of hearing how ugly they are because of how black their skin is or how big their nose is; every youth in lock up just because he can’t find the right lawyer or bail money; every person who has to use the bathroom in a scandal bag and is called a squatter and every man treated like a “bwoy” just because he mows the lawn or washes the car of the rich. I take the risk of publishing this book because of them with the hope that Jamaica and the powers that be will be forced to listen to the Ghetto people after this. Unlike Society, I do not blame you for your circumstance. I do not look down on you because you have no running water, or you can’t find school uniforms for your children or you have to live in darkness because there is no money to pay the electricity bill. There is no shame on you. The shame, the 13
disgrace, the dregs of society, in my opinion, is the majority of the individuals that sit in Parliament and allow this to happen. The blemish on Jamaica is those who allow big Corporations to come into Jamaica, charge poor people fees they cannot afford and whisk off billions to their home countries while poor Jamaicans suffer in deplorable living conditions unable to afford the basic necessities of life. The nasty people of Jamaica are not the ones who do not have water to bathe or flush the toilet but are the ones who make our water system inaccessible to the poor. So it is for all of you that I write this book; the voiceless who have been victimized. As I deal with my own fear of repercussions, I can only apologize to my family and loved ones for the ridicule that may come to them. From slavery days, we were taught to be good niggas; not to go messing with Massa or fight the House Niggas (in today’s society the ones in Parliament) but I am about to break that rule. For nearly 40 years it has been pent up in me and when I saw Addi’s bravery, when I heard his music, I felt it was time. To my children, Kayla, Michael Jr. and Joshua, I want to remind you of the letter that Che Guevera wrote to his children and I will borrow from his words and say the same to you as an attempt to explain why Daddy took this risk: “Your father is a man who acts as he thinks best and who has been absolutely faithful to his convictions......Above all be sensitive, in the deepest areas of yourself, to any injustice committed against whoever it may be in the world”
A BIG KISS from Daddy. May Rastafari guide and keep you always. I will always be at peace that you are blessed with the best mother and grandmother that one could ever have. Many people have wondered how this improbable collaboration came about. How could someone who is a known Garveyite collude with the “Bleacher” to write a book? How can someone who was nominated for a US Congressional Medal of Distinction be affiliated with someone who cannot get a US Visa? How did my Campion background find common ground with the Gaza? I will explain. I first met Addi, in 2007 through Ryan “Gary” Braithwaite a.k.a Gary Exodus who asked that I sponsor (through our company People’s Telecom) a peace initiative that Addi had in Portmore. Reluctantly, I did because the music that I heard from Vybz Kartel at the time was not to my liking. Gary knows that I n I a Rastafari and I stay away from certain things. However, at the event we exchanged courteous salutations and I remember commenting to my COO at the time, that I was taken aback by how extraordinarily well mannered Vybz Kartel was – not at all what I had experienced with other deejays. We did business again in 2009 and had our first meeting on a Sunday night at Gary’s house. It lasted for nearly two hours, one hour and fifty-nine minutes of which were spent talking about his kids, his ambition for their education and society’s ills. In fact, he started the conversation (that was to be about a concert) by asking what it would take for his children to get into Campion. He then went on to explain how he intended to set up their college fund and create financial security for them and the rest of his family.
I wasn’t as taken aback this time because by then I had heard Dollar Sign, Mama, A Nuh My Music, Dem Nuh Like We etc. I realized what Addi was reluctant to admit; that deep down he realized he had the gift of being a lyricist and the ability to put it on a Dancehall rhythm like no one else had. He feared however (my observation,) that being known as a conscious artist would give him a label that he did not want. Later on, things became a lot different during his interaction with Carolyn Cooper; he realized that what he had to say was more important than any song and out of that realization and our many discussions The Voice of the Jamaican Ghetto (or Gaza if you prefer) was born. If I had one word to describe Addi, I would say comedic because I have never known another person who would start your interaction each day with a joke. He is, however, more than that. As we worked on the book together, I saw that he had a mastery of “Ghetto Philosophy.” Once he was explaining to our researcher Keecha and me, how he handles all the scrutiny and criticism. He told us about his grandmother explaining that if a tree had no mangoes people would walk by it and complain that “nutten nah gwan fi da tree deh” but as soon as the tree started to bear fruit, people would stone it, climb it, get a stick and pull on it just to get what it had. As soon as they were done using the tree for food, his grandmother explained further, they would turn around and curse the tree again but would always stop cursing it while the tree was feeding them. So he sees his life as that mango tree. No one cared when he was an upcoming deejay but once he made it, the sticks and stones and yes bottles, have come after him. Of course, those benefitting from his achievements were his best ‘friends’ for a while but if they
saw a new tree or he refused to stop giving hand outs; the ‘friends’ became enemies. The thing Addi and I have most in common is our love for our mothers and children. I never thought I would meet another individual who loved his children as much as I do so it was easy for us to get along and talk for hours about them. I remember him calling me about 2 a.m. one morning saying that he had walked into his kids room and saw a channel that showed cartoons most of the day showing an adult themed cartoon during late night and how much he feared them waking up and seeing it. He then reminded me to not let my children watch that channel. In the summer, he complained that his schedule was not giving him enough time to spend with the kids. He wanted us to take both our children to Tracks ‘n’ Records but changed his mind about this and vacationing at RIU because the crowd would not allow him to get time with his family. I remember him taking the time to encourage Michael Jr to do well in school on his birthday and making a special birthday video for Kayla but most of all I remember him being the first person to call me when my mother had surgery. In fact, he encouraged me to take a break from us writing so that I could be with her. So that’s why this book is here. The desire for a talented deejay to speak to his “Ghetto people” in a way no one has ever spoken to them and an equal desire for one who grew up humble but has had the privilege of the best in life to speak on behalf of those from where he came. Okay, so the obvious question – how does a Garveyite deal with the bleaching. Addi is one of the most “black conscious” persons I know and through co-writing this book I learnt a lot about race relations and the history of racism in Jamaica from Addi. He will 17
forever be upset with me for what I am about to disclose but Addi is one of those people who knows natural psychology, that is, he knows how to use his art as Vybz Kartel to get into the minds of people. Addi knew that Vybz Kartel’s bleaching would bring to the forefront the biggest discussions on race relations that we ever had in Jamaica. In fact, after over a hundred years of people bleaching, there is now a television ad on TV that is anti-bleaching. There have been more columns, more round table talk, more discussion on Black Pride since Addi bleached. To Addi, I would like to say: Mission Accomplished, you sang the song “Where is the Love for the Black Child?” so many times and no one listened; now you have the whole world talking about Black pride – congratulations. Addi, though you have waited patiently, you won’t be at the launch, you won’t be there to see the little kids reading our book and learning to speak up for themselves. You never got a chance to get the Gaza Education and Literacy program (GEL) or the Theresa Palmer computer center that we were planning off the ground but finally Babylon is going to hear you loud and clear. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to join you as we speak on behalf of our people. Hopefully, after this, ghetto people will feel that there is always someone willing to speak up for them regardless of their circumstances. See you soon my friend, see you soon. I always listen to Bob Marley’s “Duppy Conqueror” and vision there are better days coming for you. We will soon forward to the little spot on Hope Road, eat a food and hol’ a reason. May Jah Jah bless and keep you until we link again.
“THANK YOU JAH” Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain, Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain New International Version (©1984) I start this book in the same way that I start each day of my life, with a Thank you Jah for giving me, Adidja Palmer, the inspiration to be Vybz Kartel. May the words on the pages of this book be well received. May it touch the hearts of the oppressors of my people so that they may treat the poor with compassion. May it be a tool that Society will utilize to understand ghetto livity so that they may change their impression of us and start treating ghetto people with respect whether they are helpers, gardeners, barmaids, drivers or any marginalized person in Jamaica. May it reach the desks of the prison officials so that they may implement more humane and positive procedures in our jails, so that our people can be welcomed back into Society after they have done their time. May it be a reference point for Jamaican males that have never taken the time to understand what our mothers, baby mothers, sisters and women in general, go through. Most of all, may it be a source of motivation for my people, especially the young ones, as they find their way through life in this lovely place, Xamaica – its original name before the genocidal Christopher Columbus came to plunder and destroy an entire Amerindian people under the guise of Christianity. It is with this hope that I have taken the time to write this book in between studio time and my role as a father. I ask that it is blessed. The hate from the haters is expected, but guess what,
Kartel is sending you a blessing too because the Gaza nuh bad mind. Come on, I know you are going to read this, that’s okay with me. The only way we can have a better Jamaica is if we spend the time learning from each other. “Thank you Jah” starts with the first two verses of Psalms 127: “Except the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain. Except the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” This Psalm was chosen because it is one of only two Psalms written by the great and wise King Solomon; the other one being Psalm 72 which deals with reverence and prophecy. We always hear that a chapter a day keeps the devil away and many people assume that this saying is referring to a chapter from the book of Psalms. That may be true but I don’t deal with the devil business so I choose to read a chapter from Proverbs daily. This brings up something I really cannot understand. If it is accepted by everyone that Solomon is the wisest man that ever lived, why does Babylon have us continuously singing Psalms while we could spend some of that time reading the book of wisdom sanctioned by Solomon – Proverbs? Incidentally, there are 31 Proverbs which will be an ideal daily word for each day of the month. Take it from Kartel, a Proverb a day keeps stupidity and idleness away. A Proverb a day makes one wise to the ways of the world. Now, not everyone can be like Solomon, though the prospect of 700 wives sounds quite enticing to many Jamaican men due to our polygamous roots, but by studying Proverbs you will at least have a different outlook on life and its challenges. I wrote “Thank You Jah” because, having been raised pon the Gaza. I understand the despair Jamaicans feel when they wake up each morning in a world of poverty, crime and 21
violence. With all this, it is easy to get discouraged but I want my people to know that there are reasons to be thankful. Also, there are strategies for making life better and things will get better if we apply ourselves and plan a way forward. Okay, I know what you are thinking. We hear it on the news. Between 2004 and 2010, Jamaica’s murder rate has been, on average, 1500. In 2005, 2008 and 2009 there were over 1600 murders reported. According to USAID, 1.6% of the population is living with HIV, and 1 in every 4 Jamaicans is living below the poverty line. There were recent years when on average, three days could not go by in Jamaica without at least one person being killed by the Jamaican police. These are statistics that are commonly published by ‘Society’ but poor people know the straight facts. If you live in the corporate area, you can multiply some of those ratios by 3 and if you live deep in the inner city, you have to multiply them by 5. If you are ever unfortunate enough to live in what Babylon labels as the ‘Garrison’, then you multiply them by 10. We know that an element of Babylon’s mind control is the distortion of data, facts and statistics. Furthermore, we can do our own research pon the Gaza. After all, what Babylon does not tell us is a lot of their data comes from so-called “random sampling.” How are we to know if they are not manipulating the data for their own benefit? Well, I hope this book serves as the equalizer as this is straight reality from a ghetto perspective. Personally, I have known at least two dozen youths who have died before age 30. Who knew that 15 years old would be considered middle-aged in sweet Jamaica? I know a number of innocent youths who have spent many nights in jail for a crime that they know nothing about. I have spent more than 22
20 nights in jail without being charged. So you as a Jamaican resident may say, Kartel, “you know di ting, so why you want us to say thank you Jah for waking me up this morning?” My opinion is still that we have good reasons to be thankful in spite of our bad circumstances, in spite of my first-hand knowledge of ghetto livity and ghetto despair. See, I know that life in the ghetto is like those turn-style doors you would see at the front of the big New York City department stores in the 1980s, the ones that go round and round and never stop as long as there is a force to push them. It is another day of struggle, another day of survival, finding something to eat, looking for a job, a roast, a hustle, just something to put a little money in your pocket; to protect your manhood so you don’t have to beg the bus fare to look for work across town. But as tough as that situation may be, every day we wake up is a chance to jump out from the revolving door and enter the stability of having a little work so we can provide something for our families. So, I know as you read this, many of you are saying, “but I thought I heard Kartel say he is not a Christian so how come he is singing and writing about Jah?” I am not sure at what point in the evolution of the world Christians acquired the monopoly on spirituality. As this is a very important point for me, I will further elaborate on this in the Chapter “Where is the love for the Black Child?” I want to highlight here though that there is a massive disconnect between the Euro-Christian churches in Jamaica and many youths in the ghetto. Note, I emphasize Euro-Christian which is just one form of Christianity, actually the form of Christianity that was used to enslave us. Keep in mind that Columbus (Comebruckus) was given money by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain to not only explore the New World but to Christianize it. It was only after 23
the Amerindians such as the Arawaks, Caribs and Ciboneys could no longer stomach the Christian slave system that black Africans were sought. Bishop Bartolome de Las Casas had written a treatise to explain why blacks were more suited for slavery and his point was further explained by Pope Julius II of Rome who took the view that Africans did not have souls so something such as slavery was not frowned upon by God because it at least brought them from their heathen lifestyle. Sounds familiar? It does, because in Jamaican Society today if you are not a baptized church-going Christian, you are also classified as a heathen similar to how Pope Julius II condemned black people centuries ago. Sometimes, I wish that the Gaza was around in those days when these men came off their ships, dressed in their stockings, short pants and funny hats to tell Portmore people that they are heathens so they should come and work for free and these men in stockings will show them salvation. I am confident you could stay from the toll road and hear those sailors begging for mercy when the Gaza done wid them. So my point is, Society expects people who do not identify with this symbol of their enslavement to not have any spirituality. Not so. Vybz Kartel is not a Euro-Christian nor am I Roman Catholic. I still don’t understand how a man in Jamaica who can’t even get a visa to reach Italy considers himself a Roman. Not being a Euro- Christian does not preclude one from giving thanks to Jah, it just may not be your Jah. For Kartel, it does not matter who your Jah is. Your Jah could be Life, Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Krishna, Yoga or Jehovah as long as it is a force of good; a force of livity. Let’s leave it there for now as I do not want to make this song a catalyst for a religious argument because the great Malcolm 24
X made the point in opening his 1964 Detroit Speech that we should keep debating about our religions to ourselves because it is an internal thing and that is where it belongs, inside us. Otherwise we would waste constructive time arguing about something that is a personal choice by definition and not subject to popular demand or public persecution like what Emperor Constantine dealt out to non-Christians. We now call September 11, 2001 “9-eleven” but the original 9-11 was in 364 AD when the Imperial Edict ordered punishment by death to all non-Christians. We are taught that Hitler was the person that started the mass persecution of Jews but this practice goes back to the 15th Century when Jews were persecuted in the Iberian Peninsula by a series of Spanish Inquisitions endorsed by the Pope. In fact, the greatest threat of World War III is no longer the opposing political ideologies of Democracy versus Communism; that tension died after the tearing down of the Berlin Wall cooled the Cold War. Instead, it is the constant religious ideological war between the Judeo-Christian alliance and the Muslims that is most likely to cause World War III. How ironic, religion is supposed to save the world; however, in actuality it is the thing that is most likely to end the world as we know it. Furthermore, our own legend, Denroy Morgan, one of the most spiritual men you could ever meet and the inspiration behind Rasta warriors Morgan Heritage, did say that if he had a choice between religion and politics, he would choose politics because politics usually divides the people in only two groups in most countries, however, religion creates multiple levels of division amongst people getting in the way of the love humanity should have for each other. Yes, we proudly say Thank You Jah pon the Gaza because we are no heathens, backsliders or worlians. No, we are spiritual people 25
who identify with a religion that reminds us of who we are and our livity. “Roll out the herb before me start yawning” Some say that in the song, I am thanking Jah for the herb, . Note well, I never mentioned marijuana explicitly. I am not an advocate for marijuana addiction or for its use by children. In fact, I don’t think that marijuana, like alcohol, cigarettes and other similar substances, is for everyone. However, outside of the use of substances prescribed or not, I do believe that some sort of meditation – calm, peace, moments with self, a period of unity between one’s body and mind – must be there to reflect on the day’s objectives. Jamaica is a “HAT” country, as our creole speakers would say, but not just hot from the heat that we get everyday but a ‘HAT’ country in the sense that the people are walking around on the edge where the strong forces of arrogance and ignorance clash frequently, exploding into many arguments and heated exchanges. I think this heat is a combination of the spark of a burning internal desire for better, kindled with the feeling of stagnation coming from the stink of the gullies or dumps that some of us are forced to live beside and triggered by the piercing gas pains that force themselves out of our hungry stomachs – it’s like we trying to belch the sufferation out of our chests. Yes, my people, Jamaica HAT but we have to have a strategy to go into the fire without getting burnt. Yuh eva si a heavyweight boxer before a big fight in Las Vegas? Notice how him jus calm, relaxed, eyes closed, nobody caan bodda him even if his opponent gets in his face and stares him down. That is why I spent so much of the song explaining the reflective mood that one must have despite the 26
circumstances. I am trying to depict to the larger audience what a ghetto youth observes as he walks through his neighbourhood daily. This neighbourhood walk is not limited to the youths trodding through the Jamaican ghettos but it could be the walk of my people hustling in New York – Buschwick, New Lots, Bed Stuy, Gun Hill Road, Church Avenue or my Florida thugs in Carol City, Miami Gardens, Lauderhill, Palm Beach or the man dem a fight de cold up inna Toronto and London. “Whey di Black woman future me asking, whey the system a do fi she” The experience of ghetto youths is similar wherever we are – a lot of fatherless kids, youths hustling on the corner, hungry faces trying to figure out how breakfast aguh dis mawnin. Then there are the single mothers. Bwoy, Gaza statistics show that 45% of Jamaican households are headed by women and this is confirmed by UNICEF. If you multiply that figure by the true ghetto unemployment rate, you will realize that one out of every three single mothers has no gainful employment in Jamaica. So when I say the system “nah do nothing.” I mean a little lip service here and political promises there cannot do anything of substance for our poor, single, ghetto mothers. That’s what I see on the Gaza as I walk there in the mornings but Kartel never gave up hope. I keep giving thanks and today I am humbled to have the Portmore Empire. “Turn round buss a kiss pon mi darling, tell her say honey mi a touch ina di street” Yeah man, in the song I say “mi buss a kiss pon me dahlin.” Real thing people, though it may shock some, ghetto youths 27
feel belittled when the woman that loves them, lives in despair due to financial hardships. She loves us, she knows the circumstances but we still wish we could give her the world so we buss a one kiss pon her. No questions asked, no reminders about the bills, no mention of the little wrinkles she is getting from the stress or that she hasn’t done her nails or hair in a long time. There is no money just a silent communication between you and her that the youth a “touch in the street” and just like the hunters in the caveman days, we must gather something, somehow, to take back to our families so they can eat. Pon the Gaza, we just say “nuh say nutten” that’s ghetto code which means, “I understand,” which is synonymous with the Rasta code “I ovastand” – no need to explain. My youths, we must pree the process, after we give thanks and say our good-byes to the family, we as ghetto youth have to guh look sup'm. “Mi vision say better days coming. A that mi a pree” I keep saying that I “vision” better days coming. Now, here is part of the reason I encourage my people to read Proverbs. There are so many lessons to be learnt from the book, especially in Proverbs 29 when Solomon jus roll out de teaching one after de odda. In Proverbs 29: 18, Solomon tells us that without vision the people perish. There are different types of visions. There is the out of body experience that the great Garnet Silk described in his song “Zion in a Vision.” Then there is the vision that King Solomon is talking about. We have a word for it in the ghettoes of Jamaica – it is called “preeing.” Preeing literally means looking at something and thoroughly analyzing it before proceeding to make a decision. This is what I am referring to when I say “I vision better days coming.” It is not an idle thought. It is a careful plan of what I 28
am going to do today, next week, next month and so on. I must first analyze yesterday. What tasks did I not accomplish yesterday? They must be completed today! Which of the things on my list are not that important and can be put off for next week? Which items on my list are absolutely critical? That’s the frame of mind that black people should maintain – plan and plan thoroughly. In Kartel’s life, family comes first; so my daily priority after I give thanks is to ensure that my kids well-being is attended to; then that of my other family members and the Gaza family. I have to see if I have interviews, appearances or travel scheduled. I then check on my various investments and business units. Being a musician, recording is unpredictable so I have to allocate time for things going beyond schedule. Sometimes, I have to be available for my kids’ school activities, supervise homework and yes there has to be the romance time because pon the Gaza we do it in “Slow Motion.” All this has to be accomplished before writing this book. So, when I say “vision,” mi naah just talk bout man wishing that one day things going to get better. No, it is me setting out a plan, managing my priorities and constantly evaluating so I can improve each day. Please do not think that I am encouraging this planning thing just because I am busy. Historically, it is planning that has led to success with both positive and negative outcomes. American international ambitions were based largely on the Munroe Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. Singapore emerged from a tiny country of immigrants to a world economic power through masterful planning. Slavery, mentally and physically, was made possible through serious planning by Babylon. Even the Holocaust and the movement of Jews were executed after 29
careful planning by the Nazis. So if they are planning, we have to plan too even if a hustle we a hustle. Whether a studio fi guh do a one dub plate, or wash a cyar round de road, or even wipe a car glass window, go hustle phone card – sup’m! That mother of your children, those youths that have your blood in their bodies, they are all waiting on you to bring home something. But Kartel, yuh a act like Jamaica full of opportunities? You might say. I know that Jamaica is lacking opportunities big time but we can’t watch that. The great Miss Lou said “we haffi tun we han and mek fashion”; so we can’t just say “nothing is going on, so mi caan bodda wid de give tanks this morning. Worse, mek plans to go touch the street to go look something because it is pure stress and rejection since Society doesn’t like to give ghetto youths work. We have to keep fighting! I am sure that’s what our ancestors said when the enslavers tried to capture them. Never forget we are descendants of kings and queens who were enslaved and fought for their freedom to give us the liberty we have today. Imagine if Sam Sharpe and Paul Bogle had said “bwoy, this rough so we dun fight, is better we gwaan chill because tings caan betta right now”. Where would some of us be today? On a plantation talking bout yes massa dis and yes massa dat! As for Kartel, you would be talking about a rebellious ex-slave name Adidja who never stop beat back the overseers. We were not always like this. The Egyptian empire was ours and visitors from all over the world marvelled at our creation. Timbuktu was once a great city in modern day Mali. The two greatest universities in the world were run by Africans. Don’t be fooled, as I say in the song, “None a Dem neva give we nothing,” so we cannot wait on Babylon. We came from slave to sergeant, from concubine to conqueror, why stop now? No excuses or cop outs. 30
Throughout the song, I highlighted the injustices that go through our heads in the ghetto every day. Many of our youths are imprisoned for non-violent crimes when they pose no threat to Society. I often wonder with so many bright people in Parliament, the Judiciary and other bodies, if they ever pondered this equation: Three children in a house MINUS the breadwinner EQUALS more suffering. My little son Adidja Junior can figure that out. If you must punish – punish, but what happens when the youths are left without the breadwinner at home? What does the mother at home do then? What does the system do for her? Do we have a Social Services department that provides some help? Do we have a job placement division that helps to get mothers of children with incarcerated fathers an interim job while the kids’ father is in jail? So if we don’t have these things, what do you think is going to happen? Our people are going to starve and suffer with more intensity. Starvation and sufferation leads to desperation. Desperation leads to who knows what. That’s why I big up the youths dem that refuse to touch the chrome (gun) because when the youth dem don’t eat for three days and there is no job...well what to do? “Ghetto youth we go on and on.” In the song, I mention that the “youths lost in the system” as I continue to remind ghetto people that they cannot sit and wait for the system to suddenly change and start helping us. Take the “free education” notion. Please don’t be fooled and confused by such things. Education is not limited to school fee or free tuition. Having your kids go to school without
paying is your legal right; you and your fellow citizens pay your taxes so it is not free! Secondly, education is not limited to school fees. What about auxiliary fees, book fees, lunch money, bus fare, school bag, geometry sets, pens, pencils, T-Squares, extra lessons, school uniforms, shoes, socks, tie, epaulettes – the politicians take us for fools ‘bout free education’. In the US, free education means books, free transportation, free or subsidized lunch, financial aid and the list goes on and on. So please, my people, there is no such thing as free education in Jamaica. It is just a con for us to worship misleading politicians. This free education thing is just the tip of the iceberg of how Society deals with ghetto people. I have bad news for ghetto people in Jamaica who believe in social mobility and acceptance into the middle or upper class. It may happen in other places but not here. Some people that aspire to be considered upper class believe that if they get the right job, make the right money, drive the right car, move into the right neighbourhood; then the ‘Joneses’ will accept them and they will become one with them. Not so, uptown Jamaica, don’t work suh. Once a ghetto youth, always a ghetto youth. In fact, they have names for us: skettel, ray ray, gengling, jing bang, bongo – the list of derogatory names is endless. The worse news is not only that you will never be accepted but would you believe they could not care less if you lived or died? Do you know how many times uptown people say that Jamaica’s problems will be solved if you just drop one bomb in Tivoli and one in Matches Lane? I am not generalizing here, certainly it is not everyone but a lot of the policy makers think that way so they set policies just to tolerate us. 32
Society says “just give them enough to breathe” because after all their system cannot run without ghetto people labour. In this system, who will sweep the yard, clean the toilets and wash the clothes if not for ghetto people? Who will work for $4000 per week and take sexual harassment from the boss man if not the helper from the country who has no choice but to try and hold on to the job that keeps food on her family’s table? Black women have been suffering from this kind of treatment since slavery and to this day the laws are too weak to protect them or Society just turns a blind eye because most of these women not just black – they are from the GHETTO! Who will lift the bags in the supermarket and serve the drinks in the nightclubs? Who will wash the car or paint the house at Christmas? A suh the system set. It is designed to hold ghetto people in a position of subservience to the rich and sometimes it is only through faith that ghetto people survive day to day so we say Thank You Jah. Ghetto people, don’t you dare think for one moment that Vybz Kartel doesn’t understand the system. In fact, I know it so well that I realized I had to trick the system for my survival. I made them think I was harmless, just having fun, just your ordinary everyday Deejay on a hype but what they did not know is my heart bleeds everyday for my people, JLP/ PNP, Gully/Gaza, Christian/Rastafarian. I think we are victims of Babylon’s system – I believe that should be the motto of Jamaica’s ghetto. I do fear now that Babylon knows I am not a cartoon, they may find a way to derail my mission. Despite all that, even when I see it storming, I keep envisioning a better day for all of us. So let us give thanks, meditate, plan out our day and together we can take on Babylon for a better tomorrow. Never allow Society’s judgment to get you down. We need to kill that notion that us 33
in the ghetto are simply sitting here waiting for a handout. We will have to raise our consciousness to a level of “nationhood”, understanding that we each have a role to play in the development of our island. There has to be some amount of letting go of past grievances and move toward working together with common goals. Those that are in the universities must learn what they can and come to the ghetto to share that knowledge. Let your Jah be your guide – each day when you wake up anywhere in Jamaica or in the world say – Thank You Jah, me wake up this morning.
“MAMA” Ok Kartel, you rich now; so you are going to dedicate a chapter of your book to showing off how you take care of your mother and make her live good. She lives in a nice house, kitchen is well-stocked and bank book fat, good for you but wi done know dat. How dat help the ghetto youth except that we feel bad that we can’t do the same for our mother? Now, I won’t lie. I will admit that the sense of pride and fulfillment that I feel in taking care of my mother is hard for even me to adequately articulate. Yes, DJ of the year, this award, that award for lyrics; but if I wrote 9 albums dedicated to her I could not sufficiently express my gratitude, love, respect and admiration for Theresa Wilson Palmer or mommy as I call her. This book is dedicated to her and I owe all my success to her. Mommy me love YOU! Mi swear from mi heart that Theresa Wilson Palmer is my queen. Having said all that though, my song and the feelings that I have expressed in the song “Mama” are not just about my gratitude for having the ability to provide material riches for my mother but also a desire to express a sense of eternal indebtedness for giving me life and nurturing me. I wanted to convey to ghetto youths that taking care of mommy is a big part of our duty but no matter how much money we make, we can never truly repay her for bringing us into this world. Since we cannot repay her we must therefore honour her every minute of every day that we are on this earth. If you listen to the third verse keenly, you will hear me confess that I know I cannot repay her but I am going to do my best “even if it is for a fraction”. Simply put, if I can do for my mother, a fraction of what she has done for me, my life would be
complete. Certainly, one way I will show my mother gratitude is by being the best father that I can be to my children and I think we must all share that sense of duty. By being good to our kids, we are honouring our mothers. Before going forward I want to pause and acknowledge something very important. I know many of you reading this don’t have your mothers in the flesh with you but I know you feel her spirit. In every success, every failure, every tragedy, every bit of joy, you know she is there. I feel for those who have lost their mother at any age at all, but I especially feel for the ones who lost their mothers at a young age. When you look at animals in their natural habitat, you see the mother bird teaching the birds that have just hatched how to fly; you see the ducklings walking in a straight line behind the mother duck; you see weaker animals willing to fight the king lion for their child's protection. The unique thing about a mother too, is that there is no judgment; just pure acceptance. You know how your brethren or your woman or even your own brother vex wid yuh over a simple misunderstanding, with a mother, there is hardly anything that a man can do for his mother to withhold her love from him. If you have lost your biological mother, I do hope that you have had some sort of mother figure in your life who, though she cannot replace your birth mother, gives you some kind of motherly love. For some of you it is grandma or auntie but we know that no matter who they are, a ‘mother’ never leaves you. I know this because even as I travel thousands of miles away, to Asia or Europe, I feel Theresa Wilson Palmer with me, and you know mothers have a way of being closer to you in spirit when you need her most. When I man in captivity behind bars, taking police interrogation or 37
dealing with another death threat; Theresa not just there, she is watching over me and preeing the situation to make sure her boy alright. Suh my youths, the same way mommy watch ova you no matter what, is the same way you must look out for her at all times regardless of the situation. A big way you can look out for mommy is to avoid her having to go to the jailhouse to check you over some petty larceny or idle behaviour. One of the things we don’t tolerate pon di Gaza is any disrespect to the mothers. That is why I am explicit in the song reminding all that our mothers never jus “carry me fi one month,” no – she carried us for nine months which is three hundred and sixty thousand, eight hundred and eighty minutes – yes, check it if you don’t believe – approximately 370,000 minutes or about 6000 hours of discomfort or 270 days of exhaustion. Whatever measurement you want to use, you will realize that motherhood is the greatest sacrifice. During that time she has morning sickness, night sickness, cold sweat, chronic fatigue, swollen feet, skin discolouration, food cravings and the only thing that ends this physical turmoil is nearly a day’s worth of horrific pain from her first contraction to the moment she delivers you- giving you life. To the thugs out there that feel nutn nuh hot like a police gun butt or box, try pass labour ward at Victoria Jubilee and listen to the mothers in labour screaming. So, how is it that after all that suffering to bring you on earth, how in the world can somebody want to disrespect their mother? That is straight madness. Typically, I don’t believe in corporal punishment because of its slavery connotations but I will support a public flogging for any man that disses his mother.
It gets worse too for these women. If your mother is not of the upper echelons of Society, chances are in Jamaica she had to work from 9-5 throughout the pain of the pregnancy. She typically would not have had a helper and then would have had to come home to cook, clean and do housework. There are more extreme circumstances that a pregnant woman goes through. In Jamaican public hospitals, two pregnant women may have to share a twin bed – is that not some violation of human rights or at least human dignity? After they give birth, they sometimes are forced to sit on a bench with their newborn until a kotch on another bed is available. Other times, a woman becomes so sick that she has to get bed rest, now imagine sharing a twin bed with different women in a labour ward for all seven months straight. Understand, this is Jamaica and there is still some prejudice and old time beliefs that negatively affect pregnant women in this country. In Jamaica, 40% of the female population would have been pregnant at least once before the age of 20. About 40% of women giving birth in public hospitals are between the ages of 15-24 and nearly half of that figure fall into the 15 –19 age bracket. Now let us talk some reality. Many of those children are borne out of straight incest or when the mother’s boyfriend abuses her daughter. Jamaica, we too hush hush about those things because we know that when some of those girls reach home both mother and father beat her for getting pregnant. To this day women of non-African descent in Jamaica are still getting beatings with hose and put out of the house if they are impregnated by a black man. Daughters of devout Christians get excommunicated because they have children with Rastafarian men.
Society likes to hide these things and sweep them under a rug but Kartel has no issue bringing these issues to the forefront without fear of repercussions because these things contribute to the suffering that our mothers go through above and beyond the labour pains. So hear what, anybody who ever dis them mother or them mother figure even one time in your life, after reading this section of the book, put the book down right now and go hug her up and say “Mommy me love you.” If she not with you, buy phone credit and call her. If you're in captivity, just begin to write that love note and call warden same time and beg him mail it. If mommy gone, just blow her a kiss – see it there, she catch it. Don’t wait on mother’s day like Babylon do it – love her everyday – alright come back and read now. I want you to understand what your mother goes through because I know that there are times when the mother-child relationship is strained especially with the thugs and their mothers which is rather unfortunate. They usually fall out at some point when the youth is becoming an adult and mommy still sees him as her little boy that needs her protection. When this point of manhood approaches, most youths feel bwoy mommy don’t understand say “man a man” and we have to deal with our things. For example, a youth may feel he just wants to be a Deejay and his lyrics wickeder than Kartel’s so why Mommy no want me to buss? She is telling me I could get a nice job as a printer with my uncle and forget the Deejay life. Or in other cases, mommy doesn’t want the youth to leave the peace and safety of the country and go move to town where they are killing people – she feel is best him hold a farm right there in the country and raise his children safe and secluded. Then, another time a youth say, my mother don’t want me to turn Rasta, even though I explain that once 40
my knowledge increase in H.I.M. there is no turning back. However, on the other hand, there are other mothers like Queen Theresa Wilson Palmer who taught me that I should "Fight fi what’s mine and “believe in your dreams". Please don’t think that it is accidental that Jamaican mothers can be polar opposites in how they raise their sons. Study history, particularly the Willie Lynch Syndrome which is part of the legacy of slavery and you will learn how Babylon purposely created these two types of approaches in our heads thereby finding yet another way of dividing the people. Understand that Slavery was not as far back as Babylon has tried to convince us. Analyze carefully and recognize that if you are over 50 today chances are your grandmother’s great-grandmother was a slave! Don’t be fooled black people; slavery was not many hundreds of years ago. A lot of our practices stem from learnt behaviour that we picked up during slavery. Watch how dem work the Willie Lynch Syndrome now. The aim was to create division on the plantation where some of the youths will be conservative and not challenge the status quo and then have another set who thug it out and want to burn down the Great House and the entire plantation ending slavery immediately. So the plan was to force one set of female slaves to be overly protective of her male child making him afraid of stepping out of the box, challenging the status quo or ever taking a risk and then make a few mothers encourage freedom. To create a good, well-behaved "nigger slave" (Willie Lynch's words,) these slave masters would whip the male youth for no reason, tying each of his feet to a horse on either side of his body; he would then beat the horse violently stretching the slave’s body to near death by tearing every muscle, intestine, 41
tendon and flesh. The slave is bleeding internally and externally while his mother watches. As the slave mother is seeing this, she does what we call in Jamaica, 'ban her belly' and say no, please massa let him go, I promise he will never give you (slavery system) any more trouble. The slave mother from that point on would have it planted in her mind that her main duty as a mother to her son is to ensure that he never does anything at all, legal or illegal, to upset Babylon. Babylon not stupid though. If everybody thought like that, he would have a bunch of united Martin Luther King types that believe in peaceful protests. However, Babylon believes in divide and rule, so Willie Lynch followers would advise them to let one or two of the slaves give trouble so you would have some rebellious Malcolm X type youths on the plantation. This way you have division and if a rebellious youth planning an attack, the peaceful man dem might inform. Luckily for Vybz Kartel, Theresa Wilson Palmer raised a rebel with a serious cause and from an early age she taught me that I have to keep fighting. Why do you think I handle the haters so well? What’s my secret you ask? Mama, mama, mama, my mother. Yes, it is Theresa Wilson Palmer’s training. That’s why I keep saying to the media, keep talking. My mother’s opinion is the only one that matters when it comes to criticizing Vybz Kartel. I want to say to her that I know it is not always easy. There is hardly a day that goes by without her son’s name in the paper being tarnished, ridiculed or criticized. Somehow, I went from being her adorable little son to everybody’s role model; expected to be who they think I should be and not who I am. I can only imagine how she feels when I am called derogatory names or blamed for things I know nothing about, but mommy, I block each stone thrown at me, take them up, put them in a bundle, use the big ones, 42
such as the gun accusations, as cornerstones and build up the Gaza foundation. I suggest that for all my people, every time somebody throws negativity at you, pick it up, brush it off, turn it into a positive and build up your character. Now if one should throw a stone at Theresa Palmer, it’s a different story because the Gaza would rise up. So you see it my youths, when mommy says no don’t do this or don’t do that, don’t get mad. Sit down and hold a reason, explain to her that you understand and appreciate her fears but as a man free from bondage you have to do what you have to do in order to support your family and even as a big man, we still want to know that mommy is in our corner. At the end of the day if things don’t work out is she you going have to run back to but then again if the risk that you have taken pays off then mommy criss because now you can take care of her. You can then explain to her your new-found knowledge with regards to how Babylon makes mothers scared and assure her you will take the steps along the way to protect yourself so that she does not have to worry. I hope that by taking Kartel’s suggestion, the youths and their parents can reason on a different level. So my youths, loving mommy is not just buying the house and the car. No lie, helping her financially is a great step but there are other ways. Simple “hug her up like we dancing a slow song” as I say in the song. Kiss her on the cheek or just take a walk with her. If you don’t have money you can mow the lawn, paint the house, sweep up the yard, cook some food, go grocery shopping for her or even follow her go church just so she can boas' sey her big son or daughter is there with her. Love has no cost, a little "Good morning mommy. How is my queen today?" "Goodnight mommy, you lock up the house 43
good?" "You eat good today mama, how the bad stomach?" Just love her. She deserves it. “Some gyal go a dance and dem pickney ah suffer.” I really don’t like to offend "dance-goers" because is them mek Kartel reach where him reach but in the song I mention some unfortunate behaviour by women. Straight to the point, do me a favour, don’t come to dance and leave the children at home alone. The children never beg to come into this world so you have to take responsibility. Going to a dance seven days a week is irresponsible parenting if you don’t earn a living from dancehall. We know the pretty girls like their Street Vybz rum and to be in VIP and they deserve it. Also, big man thing, mi thugs please don’t come dance come show-off with champagne when the same day your mother water cut off, fridge empty and light gone. How you going to be in the club partying and you mother at home, hungry? I don’t respect that and your mother does not deserve it. That’s not a man’s behaviour that’s a bwoy’s behaviour and a real woman does not want a boy as a lover, partner or husband. So be a man, take care of mommy while taking care of a girl. Never leave mommy out. On the topic of "bwoy behaviour", I addressed some very sensitive subjects in this song which I think as a people we need more dialogue on especially since they were once taboo. Yes, in “Mama” I touch on adoption and abortion amongst other things. Let me start with the single mother syndrome. Of all the women that get pregnant in Jamaica 85% are unmarried and many of those pregnancies are unplanned. It seems as times get harder, that number keeps growing. You know, Kartel tried marketing the “Daggering" condom as I 44
felt it would have expanded the reach of the safe sex message by aligning it with a slang that was admittedly crude but attention grabbing for youths. I can’t understand why, if you are developing something that can help to promote safe sex, why fight it just because of its name or is it that you would rather kids contract HIV than support Kartel? I don’t know the answer, but along with the risk of being HIV positive we also have an issue of being YWF positive. YWF, I call it “youth without fathers” which is a pandemic in Jamaica and I think it is criminal. There is one tribe in Africa that sentences a man to death if he gets a woman pregnant without him having a job. In other places, a deadbeat dad can go to prison, get his driver’s license suspended or even have his passport seized. I am not sure what laws we can implement in Jamaica but it should be criminal to have a child and not support him or her. What is sometimes worse is that some men are at "dances" drinking rum and redbull in the night when they could not even buy milk and baby formula that same morning. Gentlemen, you need to stop it – Vybz Kartel curse Babylon everyday about unfair imprisonment but if anyone of you go to jail for this reason, me not deejaying against it. You deadbeat dads ought to have your passports, driver’s license seized and your wages garnished – if your youth can’t eat, then you should not eat either. The YWF syndrome has other side effects that we do not like talking about. The first one is the mass production of "jackets" in Jamaica by young ladies that are not employed as dressmakers or work in garment factories. For those of you who don’t understand the phrase, a “jacket” in Jamaican talk is when a female deliberately or accidentally attributes the fatherhood of her child erroneously. Did I say it nicely enough? Usually, this happens out of fear, desperation or 45
irresponsibility but regardless, it is a practice that must stop because it is harmful to the child and the man that is tricked. Imagine raising children as yours until they are adults and finding out the child is actually your neighbour’s? Let’s call him Joe for the moment. If a man finds out early in a child’s life that he is unknowingly wearing a jacket and still raises the child as his, my respect to you sir – you are a kind man but invariably when the truth unfolds, the child is the one who is the most hurt so I am asking young ladies to be a lot more careful and responsible. If you think the story of Joes and jackets are odd in Jamaica, learn this, statistics show that 33% of Jamaican children are assigned the wrong father at birth. This means if you and five friends are joking about Joe’s activities, statistics show that two of you are jackets. Ladies, you must be careful who you sleep with especially if you insist on having unprotected sex. When you are pregnant for some wutless bwoy, you miss out on the pre-natal care that protects you and your child. The infant mortality rate in Jamaica is high due to this factor. Things like proper nutrition, post natal care, immunization and diapers are not provided thus guaranteeing the child a rough life from day one. When these things happen, pregnant women are forced to make tough choices. Abortion is one direct consequence of this level of irresponsibility. Let me stop to apologize to all women that have been victims of ever being called “babykillers” in the dancehall or elsewhere. It is an insensitive term and we must stop saying it now. Our people must evolve and have more regard for what our women go through. I am not necessarily condoning abortion or opposing it here, I am simply saying each individual experience is different and we can’t continue 46
to condemn these ladies. In Jamaica, nearly 40% of women get pregnant before the age of 21 so when women have abortions or give up their children for adoption, it could be for reasons beyond her control. For some it is due to rape, incest or many times due to the economy. Others are threatened by sick men who are too immature to handle fatherhood or never remembered that they were married when they decided to sleep around. Yes, some females are irresponsible but to err is human and our Society needs to be more supportive and stop ridiculing these women. Women who have abortions or give up their children suffer from longterm physical ailments and emotional issues like a lifetime of depression with suicidal thoughts. The Pregnancy Resource Centre of Jamaica estimates that there are between 20,000 to 30,000 abortions in Jamaica. However, with abortion being illegal, it is difficult to know the true figure. Sadly, statistics show that annually there are over 1000 reported botched abortions that are very dangerous and sometimes cause long term effects such as infertility and in some cases, death. In Jamaica, having an abortion is like getting a psychological life sentence for making an unfortunate mistake at 16. Our women have enough to deal with already so let’s start supporting them. Adoption is also another tough choice that some women have to make. For some, the reasons to do so are the same as for having abortions, however, in this instance the mothers feel that they are not in a position to care for the child the way another individual or couple can. This too is another reason why we have to be sympathetic. Shorty tell me dat plenty movie on Lifetime feature the long-term effects of adoptions and forced adoptions but with women being forced to be the 47
head of 45% of Jamaican households then what do we expect? We have to find a way to say that if a man is responsible enough to have sex, then he should be responsible enough to make sacrifices for his children. So, I want to make it clear, I am not chastising women who have taken these options. On the contrary, I love you all, so here is a kiss from Kartel – I hope you can rise above the circumstances of your decisions. I do want to highlight though that there are women who endure all those things on their own and raise their children. I wish the government would reduce the budget to ban songs and give some of it to places like the Women’s Centre that have pregnant girls as young as twelve and try to provide them with education. Please to the mamas out there, when your daughter comes home pregnant, I know you upset. It is understandably disappointing when her choice now conflicts with the future you had envisioned for her but she needs you. You know what it is to be pregnant so be there for her. The government needs more support groups and needs to stop dealing with the issue of sex as if it something that is not to be discussed. This generation is the first that gets its information from social networking so topics like sex are right in their faces. Banning songs and demonizing Kartel like is Romping Shop mek teenagers have sex is not the solution. There has to be more vocational guidance classes. Sex education must be taught at home and school and we must eradicate this system in Jamaica of abandoning teenage or unmarried pregnant ladies by families due to embarrassment. I would consider this book successful if just one mother, father, sister, brother or any family member would go seek out a family member kicked out by the family due to pregnancy and take her in and love her up. 48
Kartel has to talk about some things that Society is not too fond of hearing. I don’t know the exact reason but maybe it helps you to sleep better at night when you pretend certain things do not happen but we know they happen in the ghetto because we hear the crying out at night as women wake up from nightmares only to realize that their nightmare is actually their reality. The reality I am referring to is the infant mortality rate in Jamaica. Studies vary but there is evidence to suggest that the infant mortality rate is somewhere between 15 to 25 deaths per 1000 births. We know these statistics are not derived from perfect science but as a rule, when the statistics refer to something undesirable, it is worse in the ghetto. We can then surmise that our true infant mortality rate in the ghetto is at least 25 per 1000. For my people who were not math brains in primary school, that means that if 40 ghetto women go in the hospital to have a child, at least one will end up with a dead baby. This is a very important issue that is not often preed in the ghetto, so let me explain. If your child dies in the first four weeks, they call it a neo natal death. If your child dies in the first week, they call it early neo-natal or perinatal death. If your child dies during child birth, it is known as fetal death or still birth. If your child survives past a month but dies before a year of life, it is called post neonatal mortality. These incidents are collectively known as infant mortality. The reason I am highlighting this in my chapter on Mama is because I see our politicians go on the platform and shout how much they have brought inflation down, how much road work they have robbed – oops I mean, how much road work they have done and the promises of a great tomorrow. However, they never tell you that our infant mortality rate in 49
Jamaica is worse than our neighbours’ and smaller countries. It is worse than Cayman, Cuba, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Barbados, Turks and Caicos, St. Kitts, Nevis and Dominica. They do not tell you that a child is three times as likely to die as an infant in Jamaica than in Cuba which is 90 miles away. Mr. Politician, it is a secret no more because this is the Voice of the Jamaican Ghetto and we are revealing all the things that you are responsible for. The saddest thing about politicians ignoring this fact is that ghetto people have become complacent and have accepted this notion as “a just so it go – "baby dead sometimes". But no my people, we can do something about it. There are many causes of infant mortality. The main ones are lack of prenatal care, poor nutrition during pregnancy, drinking and smoking, child-bearing at an early age and not enough recovery time between pregnancies. Now ladies, again, you are my babies but you have to cut out the drinking and smoking while you're pregnant. Drinking during pregnancy can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS.) FAS causes the youth to have mental retardation, heart issues, facial disfiguration and a general unhealthy high risk life. If you smoke during pregnancy, the youth can end up being born premature, having a low birth weight, damaged lungs and a very unhealthy life. Do not accept the belief that a little drink here or there cannot harm; just cut it out for the youth's sake so they will have a chance to sing "Mama mama, mama, my mother" to you too. Now back to the YWF and the politicians. Young men, some of you do not even want to take care of the youth when they're born so I have a hard task in encouraging you to take care of the lady from conception. I know in the ghetto, there 50
has been traditionally an attitude that when the woman pregnant she miserable and you just want her to leave you alone at least until the youth is born. As I mentioned before, fatherhood starts at conception. She needs regular visits to the doctor, vitamins, certain food and yes, emotional support. This makes for a healthier child and gives your youth a better shot at life. I know this has not been strongly implemented in the minds of ghetto youths thus far but I am hoping this book can help give some infants a better chance of survival. Mr. Politician, I understand that this topic cannot win many votes. You cannot go on TV and say "this baby never dead or this baby live because of the JLP or PNP” It just would not be good politics but even though you cannot get votes for it, you need to take steps to learn from our neighbours how they sort out the thing and adopt those strategies so more poor people children can live in Jamaica. We need a plan now. Unfortunately, for you Mr. Politician, now that Kartel has written it, it is now on the agenda sir and our people are going to start looking into these things as we decide who earns our vote. In closing this chapter, I want to again reach out to those who have lost their mothers at an early age. I can’t imagine what you all must have gone through or are going through because I could not see Vybz Kartel existing without Theresa Wilson Palmer. However, despite the loss of a mother’s love in the flesh, she is in you and you owe it to her to carry her legacy forward so that one day down the line someone can say “you know that is Miss Thelma or Miss Lulu or Miss Zerrie grandson that mashing up the charts”. I am thankful again that Mrs. Theresa Wilson Palmer lived to see her son gather this success on her behalf because everything I am is due to you. 51
“Mama Mama Mama, my mother, My Mother.”
“DOLLAR SIGN” “Hustle the Money, Me a Hustle the Money” In the previous two chapters, I dealt with giving thanks for life and then showing love to one’s mother, whether rich or poor. Now, I am going to address another of my favourite subjects, but note well the order in which I have structured this book. I am not putting money before life or my mother so Chapter 1 was about giving thanks and Chapter 2 was about love for our mothers. There is a popular belief in our culture that when one thinks of money too often, one is greedy, gravalicious or in love with vanity but Kartel disagrees. In fact, I will go further. I think it is another mind game that Babylon plays on us. I mean, what do you think goes on at those golf clubs, gun ranges, polo clubs and wine and cheese parties that Society people go to on weekends? Well, let me assure you this much, they are not talking about the suffering pon di Gaza or how they will manage to find lunch money for the kids next week – no sir. They are discussing the fact that it is a tragedy that the vet has stopped offering doggie day care and that the ski resort in Switzerland is so booked this year that they may just have to settle for the French Alps or God forbid, they may have to spend Christmas amongst the ‘locals’. Imagine the shame for a Society lady, to have to buy her gifts on Constant Spring Road in the same store that her helper shops at, as if they aren’t both humans. I don’t necessarily have a problem with them discussing those things. Just stop telling us the ghetto youth when we have similar aspirations that wi ches too high or wi too brite. Wahp’n, wi nuh waa money too? So that’s why I wrote “Dollar Sign”, so
that my people can start having fruitful discussions about amassing wealth, financial security and investment portfolios. I start the song by repeating “hustle the money, me a hustle the money” to make the message subliminal. Read again and listen carefully. Haters and critics read again and listen carefully. It’s hustle the money – not steal the money, not take a gun and rob for the money, not start a Ponzi scheme and con for the money – just hustle the money. I stress the point repeatedly because there is a section of Society that believes that when ghetto youths acquire ambition for financial success it means that we are going to embark on some unscrupulous or illegal activity to rob people of their money. I often wonder why Society’s elites think ghetto youths don’t want the same for our families as they do. NEWSFLASH: Wi waa guh big school an drive nice car too, we would like air conditioning in our homes, we want our mothers to retire young and yes we want to be rich too. There, I said it. Vybz Kartel wants ghetto people to be rich. “Mi nuh have no time for jail time, that a waste time” I wrote “Dollar Sign” hoping that youths in Jamaica can have the same financial awakening that occurred in black urban North America in the mid nineties. Ironically, it was a man of Jamaican heritage, Busta Rhymes, who first highlighted the subject, saying there was a time when black youths were so broke we were “assed out” but now we have several money market accounts. Note well Busta’s title for the song – “Dangerous”. Somehow he knew that Babylon here, there and everywhere considers an urban educated ghetto youth with money as a danger to the status quo. If Busta staat it, den Biggie come done it. But hold on, is another man wid yaad 55
roots! Looks like the Jamaicans in New York have a different level of preeing the dollar sign. Biggie just took the whole thing to another level; he not only sang about money but he was talking about having crazy amounts of it, which was odd in the rap game as male bravado was generally the main subject. It was mainly about how well you rapped, how many girls you had or how bad you were. Money was not the main issue. Biggie rapped about fine clothes, fine wine and expensive cars, but the thing that sticks out in my mind is the line, “condo paid for, no car payment”. Bwoy how good and pleasant it would be in my community if youths could pay off their families’ mortgages and buy their cars cash. I pondered to myself, how can I get inner city youths in Jamaica to start thinking that way so that my country will not only be able to boast of a Biggie and a Busta but also a Diddy, a Fifty Cent and a Jay-Z? Many people know Diddy from dancing in videos and being Biggie’s key, but what you may not know is that Sean “Diddy” Coombs is a multimillionaire with investments in clothing, liquor and music production. Most importantly, he built a brand that caters to his people. Diddy neva baan wid “gold spoon inna him mout,” as Jamaicans like to say – his father was a drug dealer – but him hustle di money and look at where he is now. Diddy had a legal situation, a major brush with the law due to a shooting in a club when he and J Lo were ‘flexing’ but he decided that “jail time is a waste of time” so he kept on preeing the dollar sign and avoided further trouble, and look at him now. The rapper Fifty Cent has a similar story. That brethren was shot nine times hustling in a manner that I am discouraging, but then he changed his game to rap, diversified, got into clothing with G-Unit, took an equity position with Vitamin Water, produced other 56
artistes and now Fifty Cent is worth about 300 million 50 cents – more than a hundred times a millionaire. Jay-Z took preeing the dollar sign to another level; night clubs, a clothing line, music production, meetings with Warren Buffet, the cover of Forbes Magazine – Jay-Z, as rich as he is, prees the dollar sign so much even his wife is rich. Now I understand that not everyone can be one of these mega stars but to my thugs out there, pree di pattern. Diddy was on trial for a gun charge, Fifty Cent was shot and Jay-Z is a self confessed former drug dealer, but they all put down activities that could jeopardize their freedom and focused on money and they made it. That’s what we should all do. Remember, jail time is a waste of time so pree the dollar sign – nah stop seh it! A lot of Jamaican youths get their kicks from superficial kudos. Firstly, how many women you have (regardless of whether you can support them or not), then how bad you are (although badness can land you in jail) and if you are a big ‘baller’ (even though you’ve never played in a real game before). I don’t think the issue is that we were never born with ambition or don’t rate financial success. It is just that Society has taught us that long-term financial success is so distant for a ghetto youth that we don’t even bother focusing on it at all. Instead, we settle for living “hand to mouth”. However, as I studied great financial writers and thinkers, I realized that the crux of the challenge of making money is a mindset – hence “mind pon mi money and mi money pon mi mind, mi a pree di dollar sign.” Babylon plays another classic mind game on ghetto youths. We are told that friends, family and business shouldn’t be mixed and we must not do business with either of the two. Yet when I look at Jamaica’s biggest companies – all 57
inclusive-hotel chains, security companies, supermarkets and jewellery stores – I realize that they are mainly owned by families and sometimes friends, but hardly ever any relatives of African descent. So how does that work then? What are you really trying to say? That it’s okay to be in business with friends and family if you are of the right colour or last name – or is it a trick? Money must be prevalent in poor people’s head. Hustle the money, hustle the money – yuh hear! “30 Million fi a house up a Stony So mi nah stop hustle roun a Father Romie” In the song, I refer to a studio based at “Father Romie’s.” That’s not just a rhyme; Romeo “Romie” Braithwaite’s home is in the Havendale area in Jamaica and as far back as the 1980s it was the only place in what we call a residential neighbourhood that would welcome members of the dancehall fraternity. Yes, Romie is a father to many of the artistes coming up, but his home is a place where the mindset is money first – not a place for idlers. His son Gary continued the trend. In fact, Gary is a Campion youth and though many of his school friends are uptown, Gary always makes the ghetto youths feel welcomed around him. There are several places where as an artiste you can hang out, talk about music all day, and just have fun reasoning but I would rather be where the money is being made. As the book of Ecclesiastes says, there is a time and place for everything. People, I am from the Gaza. Some houses don’t even have a carport. Most homes in Portmore have one or two bedrooms in the original structure but in my song, I specifically made reference to a 30 million dollar home in Stony Hill. My people must possess that fierce ambition – a 58
definite ambition. I think it is more powerful, more realistic, when you are specific about the house or possession that you are going to acquire. Don’t just say a house or a car or that your youth is going to go to a prep school one day. No. Say I am going to live in Norbrook on that particular street, drive an S Class Benz and send my kids to Stella Marris Preparatory School. Be specific with it in your mind. Focus on it. Only then can it become a reality. Also, make it a point of duty to acquire financial knowledge. If you never did before, enrol in a business class, or buy books like “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki, Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” or any one of Donald Trump’s many books on business. Subscribe to Forbes and Fortune magazines, watch the business shows and read the financial section of the paper before the comics. The comic part is a waste of time when money is on your mind. Understand that financial knowledge is just like any other skill; you have to learn it and then live it. Notice, if a youth grows with his father who is a mechanic he knows about cars. He might not necessarily be a mechanic, but if a car breaks down he is the first one to jump out and try to fix it. It is the same with finances. I pointed out earlier that we are recently emerging out of slavery. The vast majority of Jamaicans are born into families that live pay check to pay check or borrow from Peter to pay Paul just to survive. Through no fault of our own we don’t have a legacy of strong financial knowledge so we have to work twice as hard to acquire it. The best some persons can do is to join a ‘partner’ and wait on a ‘draw’ that does not earn interest, hope they can get enough money from an NHT loan to someday buy a house or figure out where to get the highest 59
rate when their family sends remittance. I am not knocking the partner – I think it’s a good way of saving, and home ownership is home ownership whether with NHT or some other means. I am thankful that some of us have family to send money from overseas but we have to take it to another level – always “pree the dollar sign”. Ghetto people must take their finances to another level. We have to understand that money under a mattress does not earn interest nor is it insured. Rich people don’t work for money, money works for them through investments. In Jamaica, there is the Jamaica Stock Exchange and the Junior Stock Exchange. We can invest in Certificates of Deposits, Government Paper, stocks, bonds, debentures and a number of other investment vehicles. I think the country has learnt its lesson from the Ponzi scheme fallout and I know a lot of ghetto people are trying to recover from Cash Plus. It is for this reason that I urge financial education for my ghetto people. Many people believed things were okay because we heard government ministers on TV supporting Ponzi schemes and even allowing them to sponsor major festivals and shows. I recall a newspaper columnist naming two persons, now charged with fraud in Ponzi schemes, as Persons of the Year but still Society claims Kartel is a bad influence and mi neva tief nuhbaddy money! Now, if you the great ministers who always say you know everything support these companies, where are you to support ghetto people who have lost everything due to your negligence and improper regulation of these companies? Maybe you should have used some of the resources that were used to shut down dances to police these people. Nuhbaddy nah tief nuttn a dance! We in the business are investing in our economy, yet you shut it down. The truth
is that our government needs to pree the dollar sign. Their financial gurus are idlers and I don’t have time for them. Society likes to blame us poor people for Jamaica’s weak economy. It is neither true nor fair. The only creative thing I have heard where the government is concerned is how to increase and make new taxes. That does not make sense. In fact, there is a term for it – we have a ‘regressive’ economy. Recently they even tried to tax food staples and feminine hygiene products. Our government is so good at taxing that they found a way to tax Jamaicans overseas by putting a levy on calls coming in on a landline. Even US companies begged for us but our government said no and insisted on taxing our fellow Jamaicans abroad. The Custom’s Department recently celebrated the collection of 7.7 billion dollars in excess of the 98 billion dollars in revenue they projected. Now, they can say what they want. We know most of that money comes from people who work overseas and struggle to send things for their families, or our Informal Commercial Importers (higglers) who hustle by buying and selling. The tax man has now gone as far as to prevent persons from travelling due to delinquency in paying taxes which is confusing. If you want a deejay to pay his tax bill, why prevent him from earning money to pay you Mr. Taxman? How does that make sense? How can you punish a man for not paying while killing his livelihood at the same time? Are you sure you are not trying to kill his livelihood and are just using the tax issue as a cover? Pon di Gaza, we don’t take anything Babylon does lightly, they are always preeing the dollar sign, so we say Ghetto people must pree it too.
I am not naïve. I know a country needs taxes to run, but have we not gone too far when we want to tax basic food items and women ‘necessities’? Our debt (poor people never borrowed any of it) is over 130% of our GDP. Put another way, we owe about one third more than our economy produces. Congratulations Jamaicans! Even though the bank never lent you any money, you owe approximately $250,000 per person when you divide the total debt of Jamaica by the population. Hence, every man, woman and child even the baby on his mother’s breast, is born $250,000 in the hole. By the way, in case you did not know, some of that debt is from money Society used to bail out their rich friends when their businesses failed. May I suggest some simple solutions as to how we can pree the dollar sign as a nation? We already have Tourism accounting for approximately 10% of our GDP. Why not enhance that by introducing Casino gambling with Sports betting? Entertainers will get more employment opportunities, we will need dealers, supervisors, cashiers, security guards, bartenders, waitresses, cooks, maintenance workers, painters, entertainment coordinators, front desk personnel – you name it. Vegas, Macau, and Atlantic City would have nothing on us when you combine our beaches, weather and gaming. To the church that fights against this revenue, it is simple. Just do your part to ensure that the church brothers and sisters don’t end up going there, and if you must fight the casino, fight it fairly. Ask for rules to limit the amount of time Jamaicans can gamble, such as nights and weekends if you are truly concerned about gambling addiction. This compromise should not be too difficult because I know you have your bingos and offering plates; I am yet to find a church that does not have a “Church Building Fund,” but I say continue to eat 62
your food. Just allow poor people to eat theirs too. Aside from Casinos, we can also have off-shore banking. Little Cayman, next door to us is the fifth largest banking centre in the world and we are not even close to being in the top 50. We should take some of the resources from tax collections and establish an off-shore banking sector. Instead of levying phone calls, the biggest levies should be placed on imported food because we can eat what we grow. Look how Jamaican food nice! Everybody in the world wants some jerk chicken. Many companies come to Jamaica bankrupt and leave rich. Initially, the Spanish opened one hotel, now it is difficult to count how many they have along the coast. We can invest here if we just study the system and learn it. Statistics show that we earn more from Remittances than from Tourism, some analysts say as much as 50% more. Then if that is true, why is it that when tourists visit we dress up and dance and sing to them at the airport, but when our people come home wi screw up wi face and dig up dem luggage? Customs nah pree di dollar sign, dem a pree sup’m else. Whenever we travel, well at least those of us who get to travel, we feel as if we are being interrogated by immigration just to get our little stay, even though we are going there with our money to spend in their economy. Whilst this is happening, until recently, you could come to Jamaica on just a driver’s licence if you were an American. A man wanted by the US for over ten years, told a judge in Jamaica recently after he was apprehended that he came here just on a simple driver’s licence. Imagine if a yaad man try dat, him could not even reach Barbados! Regarding the Barbados situation, I don’t understand what is going on there because we had an understanding that the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) was to 63
encourage free movement of people between the islands. According to the Grand Anse Declaration in 1989 with amendments afterwards, there should be free movement within member states for Caribbean nationals to seek employment but they never got the memo in Barbados because Kartel could not perform there recently and at least 2% of Jamaicans entering Barbados get sent back annually. Truth be told, the GDP per Capita (how much money each person makes on average annually) in Barbados is about $19,000 USD and about $18,000 USD in Trinidad, so Jamaicans are simply going there to see what is going on in those islands that is not happening in Jamaica. This must be resolved, so that our people who can’t travel to North America can “hustle the money” in the Caribbean. I would like to encourage our small business people who make clothes, music and certain food items to pree the Caribbean so that we can increase our exports within the region since it is so difficult to get into North American markets. The government of Jamaica must immediately act to ensure that we receive the benefits from the CSME because it significantly expands the size of the market for us to sell our goods and services. As we expand our ambitions to look for money, we must do what Marcus Garvey said and look to Africa. I now cringe when I hear artistes talk about Ethiopia and Africa in general as a land of suffering. That’s just ignorant because the Ethiopian economy has grown by nearly 12% over the last five years. New found oil in Ghana, Angola and a little known African island state known as São Tomé is making Africa an investment hub for everybody but us. The Chinese have increased its investment into Africa 10 fold over the last 64
10 years, India just made some telecom investments and the United States continues to compete with Europe for business in Africa. Africa has 10% of the world’s oil, nearly 50% of the world’s gold reserves and is becoming the sixth largest holder of the world’s natural gas reserves. There is also copper, uranium, diamond, cobalt and several other precious metals. How many Jamaicans preeing Africa? Well Kartel is. Ghetto people, that’s how we have to pree it, hustle the money, hustle the money. It seems as if di Rasta man dem a pree the potential of Africa long time but Society to this day laughs at the “back to Africa” movement. If Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Liner was allowed to flourish, trade with Africa would be booming today, improving both our economies. Kartel doesn’t have many regrets in life but there are things that I have done which I believe I could have done differently, or not done at all as the case may be. One was a song that invited young ladies to take a certain thing in exchange for money, appliances, furniture and their livelihood. As I mature, that’s the type of song I try to stay away from. We don’t like to admit it in Jamaica but there are many women who stay in unhappy relationships for economic reasons. There are single mothers who stick with men simply because the country does not provide opportunities for them to advance to a point where they can support themselves and their children. Tragically, these relationships sometimes become verbally or physically abusive. I would like to request that Society create initiatives for these women so they have a better chance of stepping out of these situations and fending for themselves. In 1976, a university professor in Bangladesh launched a project that sought to explore the idea of issuing small 65
business loans to the poor with no collateral. Out of this initiative the Grameen Bank was born and still continues today to lend money, primarily to women, at no interest and with no requirements for impressive business plans and collateral. The early results showed almost 100% loan repayment by the women. This is a system we could model. After policies are implemented that make funding accessible to women, I would like to call on our female business leaders like Beverly Lopez, Jennifer Samuda, Thalia Lynn and Audrey Marks to mentor these ladies into strong business women like yourselves, giving them the financial independence to be free from abuse and controlling environments – teach them how to pree the dollar sign the way you do. Ghetto people please do not stop teaching your children the importance of money management and budgeting, but take out adequate life insurance on your spouses and yourselves so that your daughters never have to be in the unfortunate situation mentioned above. This goes for all Jamaicans; life insurance is vital. I can’t tell you how many lives have been affected financially when the breadwinner or one of the breadwinners for a family dies. In fact, life insurance is something that I think the rich use as a means to protect their wealth which is a good practice that we must take up in the ghetto. Ideally, there is a formula for calculating life insurance, which states that you should leave at least 80% of your total earnings for as many years as you think your dependents will need your income replaced. Therefore, if you earn $500,000 JMD per year, you should try and have insurance in the amount of $400,000 JMD per year for ever year that your family would have been dependent on your income in your absence. Along with life insurance, prepare 66
the Last Will and Testament so that Babylon doesn’t sit on your assets while your kids suffer. College funds, trust funds and emergency funds are a must. You need to teach your children these things so they can pass it on to the next generation and soon we will have a nation of people who are preeing the dollar sign. Ensure that your children buy what they can afford and advise them that getting a credit card or credit (more commonly referred to as hire purchase) at the furniture store is not always a good thing. If they used credit cards and run up $10,000 USD in charges, even if they were to pay back $250 USD per month, they will take more than 30 years to pay it off and pay the bank more than $100,000 USD by the time they are done. Soon they will be slaves to debt. Who do you think owns those banks and furniture stores? Not ghetto people. Do you see how many forms mental slavery comes in? The US suffered from a credit crisis recently which destroyed their economy. In a funny way, I thank God that poor people didn’t have credit cards through the financial meltdown, because if we did... bwoy, I don’t even like thinking about it. As we move forward in life, we must be careful of ‘no-money-down’ deals and credit card specials. If poor people overcharge for a product or service, they go to prison but when the rich institutions and banks do that in Jamaica, it is not called robbery – maybe just creative financing or sophisticated banking measures; infact, it seems like the more a company squeezes out of poor people, the more accolades Society gives them with Awards and plaques. “Dem si mum wid di purse an waan hijack it But tell dem petty robbing a nuh my hat”
Please heed my cautions in the song regarding robbing people. I really do believe when you rob a person, you rob yourself in ways you are not realizing. See, there is a social cost to an individual being robbed that is not always easily understood and that’s what I tried to explain in the song. For example, you and your brethren live in an area where money run pon di weekend because two dance keep – Friday night and Sunday in the day. Liquor buy, bar mek money, chicken man mek money, dressmaker, tailor, barber, and hairdresser – money is spent in the community. Some of your brethren start stealing jewellery and grab mommy handbag. Police start carrel di place and ban di dance dem. The bar where the trouble makers hang out loses its food handlers’ permit and liquor licence – next thing no bar, so all the money that used to run dry up. I also made a point in the song that if everyone’s economic situation was to improve I think there would be less struggle for the same limited goods thus less crime. Classic Keynesian Economics teaches us that the more demand there is for a product the higher the price. So with cost of living index increases continuing to outpace income increases, we are going to continue having the masses unable to afford necessities, which will in turn lead to crime. My people, we have to elevate ourselves from the mental slavery that Marcus Garvey preached about and work towards owning things; practicing self reliance which leads to self determination. I am sure if Daddy Marcus was alive today, he would say the same thing to us – black people hustle the money, hustle the money - pree the dollar sign.
“NO LOVE FOR THE BLACK CHILD” “Everyday we ah suffer, Where is the love for the Black Child?” This is the chapter I know a lot of you bought this book to read. In fact, I am willing to bet that many of you skipped the first few chapters and turned to this page. Why? At the risk of stating the obvious, you all want to see what the man who has gotten more attention for lightening his skin than any other person in the world (other than the incomparable Michael Jackson) has to say about black people. Well, if you are a Kartel fan, you would have heard many songs over the years where I refer to Black causes and Black issues. Let me be clear on this, I do not present myself as a “conscious Reggae singer” or “a Rastafarian solider” but I am conscious of what is happening with my race and from time to time I do put my thoughts in an idiom called Dancehall Music. Though I am not quintessentially a “conscious artiste”, I am not writing this Chapter to defend my blackness or perceived lack thereof. I mean no disrespect to those who want to debate my personal choices ad nauseam, but I think the world, and particularly my country, has bigger issues than Adidja Palmer’s skin tone. If I am wrong, I will apologize but it is my belief that poverty, hunger, our literacy rate, violence, national debt, the spread of HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy, IMF agreements, shortage of teachers, shortage of nurses, shortage of firemen, people not being able to find clean water to drink or a decent toilet to use, guilty pedophiles walking away scotch free, are more important to my country than my skin tone. However, none of the serious issues stated above have been debated EVEN HALF as much as the personal life of a single entertainer who
everyone is saying is crazy, the devil, worthless, prejudiced, self hating and evil. Why does the media then not cover the lectures at UWI that focus on poverty, crime and suffering but instead spend so many of their pages discussing me? “Where is the Love for the Black Child?” was never meant to be a rhetorical question when I wrote the song. No. I have often wondered since childhood, why it is that Black people hate each other so much, and why it is that other races hate us so much. The ironies of life are incredible. Prior to this Chapter, my song never got a single write up – no editorials, no forums and no conferences. No one said a thing about the lack of love for our race that I pointed out in my song – nothing at all. It was, oh well, another ghetto youth crying about being black and not getting any love. Where have we heard this before? Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Anthony B, Sizzla – yes yes, negroes, when we find you some love, we will let you know, until then will you carry on with your work because without the manual labour you do for us, we can’t keep getting richer and richer at your expense. AVALANCHE! I bleach my skin and the entire country starts to talk about black consciousness! Wow, hmm, so the guy who wrote the song asking where is the love for the Black Child and got no answers, bleached his skin and it caused a national and international debate about the same question that he was asking. Did I provoke the answer? No comment. All of a sudden this crazy person, as Babylon describes me as, is invited to the podiums of esteemed universities. I suddenly became the moral compass of a nation and even politicians want to have progressive dialogue. What was happening all those years when poor people had been bleaching, where were the psychologists and academia then? That, I don’t 71
know. However, I can tell you with certainty that my actions have brought about the most debate about Black Consciousness in Jamaica since the Rodney Riots. Rodney Riots? I bet most of you reading this book do not know what I am talking about. That is why I know there has never been any love for the Black Child in Jamaica. Attack me about my personal choice if you must, but Kartel is not the first Jamaican to bleach and I certainly won’t be the last. You can be sure I did not do it for “upward mobility” because I did it after I became financially prosperous. I certainly did not do it for physical appearance because di girls dem a run down the Gaza yute long before I was bleaching to the point that I didn’t know what to do. I did not do it for “social acceptance” because as an artiste at my level you seek the reverse; you crave for some privacy, an opportunity to do the regular things like run to the store, go buy a patty, or show up at a corner bar and drink a liquor or even say hi to an attractive young lady without it being blasted on the net the next day. So those three reasons that are commonly given for people bleaching cannot apply to me when one looks at it rationally with an unbiased eye. That is my truth, I am sticking to it, whether it is believed or not. “Babylon you nah go getway You aguh pay fi whey you to do ghetto youth” On a more practical note, when you take the emotion out of it; when you take your hate for Kartel out of it; when you look at the matter from a macro level; how come with the history of slavery, exploitation, and colonialism, people hardly ever question our white Head of State and the money it costs the country to keep her King’s House well kept? If Kartel 72
bleaches, I assure you it will never cost Jamaica’s tax payers a cent, but every single day of our lives, we pay for the cost of the Queen’s home. Again, this is not an issue that is often discussed in the public domain. The people who control the media set the agenda in the country and they have a way of preoccupying us with trivial things thus taking focus off the wastage of resources that hurt our country. Furthermore, Kartel is not the first to bleach nor will I be the last. This has been happening in Jamaica for as long as I can remember. In fact, it has happened all over the world. I think the greater question is, if everyone truly believes that bleaching is a sign of self hate by black people; what would make a black person hate his own skin? Is there a lack of love for the Black Child? This never started with Kartel, but I have said it before; this book is not about me. It is about my people so I am not going to use this to defend my personal choice to highlight my tattoos by lightening my skin as I have a serious love for tattoos and a strong desire to show them off. My inspiration in this music business is Tupac Shakur, the renowned West Coast rapper who pioneered the mass proliferation of tattoos by black rap artistes. Today, it is commonplace with African American celebrities, from rap artistes and basketball players to actors. When Tupac started the trend, he faced a lot of criticism because it was not common for black celebrities to show off tattoos. So when I decided I wanted to fulfill my desire to have tattoos all over my skin, I knew there would be backlash from a public not used to seeing this in Jamaica. I re-emphasize, I am an artiste; I get paid to entertain. My birth name is Adidja Palmer, I am 35 years old and I am an entertainer. When I am on stage, I am called Vybz Kartel, a 73
Dancehall Deejay who is lyrically inclined. I feed my family not by robbing, not by being a politician (not much of a difference there in my opinion), not by swindling, not by selling drugs but by entertaining as Vybz Kartel. Professional entertainers typically don’t wear the same clothing that the general public does; we typically don’t drive the same kind of cars nor do we go to the same events. I have done other things, for example, I wear braces without my dentist deeming them necessary. Was this about me having an issue with my teeth? I hope that one day Jamaica understands that professional entertainers entertain and do not confuse artistic characteristics with individual characteristics. The classic proof of this is demonstrated in some reality shows that are now on television; Gene Simmons a member of the group KISS does not walk around his house with a mask and leather screaming hard rock songs in his kids’ ears. At home, he is a dad, on stage he is a crazy member of KISS. Having made those points though, I do concede that there are some individuals who do bleach their skin or change their hair because they do not like the way they look or for social acceptance, for upward mobility, or finances. There are psychological issues there that we need to address. I have taken a lot of heat and abuse for my desire to highlight my tattoos on my skin; yes it has been quite exhausting and haters have used it as a platform to attack me. However, if my skin bleaching has led to bringing these issues to the forefront then for me it was all worth it because finally we may get an answer and find some love for the Black Children who have been bleaching long before Vybz Kartel was born. Let me also say this, I may have physically bleached but I daresay, it is the mental bleaching of our people that is more responsible for our negative circumstances. In fact, I believe that skin 74
bleaching for those people who are confused is just a symptom or an effect of years of mental bleaching. So, for this chapter, I want to examine my thoughts on why there is no love for the Black Child in my country and to some extent many other places. In Jamaica, there are certain factors that determine your destiny as a ghetto person. Spirituality, Politics and Economics are some of these factors, though not necessarily in that order. When I wrote the song “Where is the love for the Black Child?” I examined those three influential elements in our society and sought to figure out if they could cause some people to aspire to be another race. Where is love for the Black Child demonstrated in our spiritual life? Where is the love for the Black Child demonstrated in our economic life? Where is the love for the Black Child demonstrated in our political life? Let me start with politics. How many people in Jamaica really know who the true Head of State of the island is? No, it is not Bruce, neither was it Portia, PJ, Eddie, Manley (Joshua), Shearer, Sangster, Busta or Norman Manley in their time. Since Independence it has been a lady named Elizabeth Windsor and so I do not get in trouble, let me refer to her by her official title which is Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Hmm. We need to understand that most of what we were taught in school was wrong, because it is not slavery, colonialism, or history that put us in this situation of where we are Africans displaced from our continent with a ruler in Europe, but it is by ‘the Grace of God’. I shall offer no comment except to say we should at least be gender specific and recognize it as a Queendom and not Kingdom because the 75
British Empire currently has no king. Please bear with me, Vybz Kartel is not very versed on this monarchy thing so I might be a little shaky here. Her Majesty hardly ever uses her last name which incidentally came about in 1917 when, during World War I, people in England hated Germans so in order to hide their German roots and remain popular, King George V renounced his family’s German name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and changed it to Windsor – kindly remember this point. Oh, just so you know, Her Majesty, our Queen, married her third cousin – Prince Phillip, they have the same great grandmother – Queen Victoria. Among Prince Phillip’s many titles, he is also the Knight of the Garter. “That’s why when mi reach Jamaica House Mi tell dem every ghetto yute have a talent” Again, Kartel is not very versed on this subject, but can someone explain the logic, the rationale and tell me, where is the love for the Black Child when the Head of State of the country is not of the same race as 95% of its people? Not even an animal would willingly allow another group to rule him. Yes, the Lion is the king of the jungle and he runs the place because he is simply the most powerful animal there and others have no choice. Yet, you don’t see a pack of dogs willingly and gladly walking behind a kitten as their Supreme Leader. You would ask what’s wrong with those dogs, right? Could they not find a single dog in their pack worthy to be their leader? Do they not respect themselves? Have they no confidence in their self worth? Wouldn’t one of the dogs understand what a dog goes through better than the kitten? At what point would a dog aspiring to be the leader decide that he needs to start looking like a cat so the other dogs may look up to him? How are we showing the love for Black People by 76
making our ultimate leader one of another race? Yes, we understand that our forefathers may have had to settle for a foreign ruler during slavery and the strong colonial years, but since we are technically independent, why are we still expected to bow to a foreign Monarch who does not even mention Jamaica in her official title? Not even a stray dog would do that, but we do, and if anyone decides not to, they could be tried for treason. When there was debate about Peter Tosh getting a State Funeral, the big objection was that he sang a song about smoking chalice in Buckingham Palace. If it were an Ashanti King, a Zulu Warrior, Yoruba King or even a Xhosa (Nelson Mandela’s tribe) that we are asked to bow down to as black people, I would understand because Nelson Mandela could represent us better than an Anglo-Saxon. If it were a descendant of Haile Selassie I could understand because our first National Hero His Excellency Marcus Garvey said we should look to Ethiopia for our leadership. Even, most Christians cannot dispute the fact that there was a promise made to Isaac and Israel that as long as there is a sun and a moon there should be one to sit upon the Throne of King David. There is historical evidence that it is Selassie’s descendants that have that right today, so if we have to be a part of an Empire, if there is love for the Black Child, should we not pay homage to an African Empire rather than to a European empire that maintained its wealth through the robbing, raping and pilfering of our ancestors? If you show so much love, honour and respect to the descendants of the people who enslaved us aren’t we then showing our children that we do not love our black selves when we have simply ignored the hundreds of African Monarchies and chiefs without paying them any homage.
The lack of love for the Black Child does not stop in England politically; it is in our Cabinet today. Jamaica is a democracy. By definition it is a government for, of and by the people. It would therefore mean that 95% of the Cabinet of the country should look like the majority of its people. Not so. It is not a racist comment – it is a logical argument and we must try and understand why our children may aspire to be another race. When they look at the visible people in our Cabinet – our Speaker of the House, our Minister of Information, they just do not look like us. A young mind looking at the politics of the day, a young person versed in Civics who knows our true Head of State will deduce that people of a lighter complexion control this country politically. They will think that if they want to be a leader one day they may have to look like those people. This does not happen in most progressive countries in the world. Yes, Barrack Obama is the President of the United States, but the ethnic makeup of the rest of elected politicians in that country is a mirror image of its population makeup. In other countries like Japan, India or China, you simply do not see an Executive Branch that is dominated by people that do not look like the majority of the citizens. Perhaps, if we want to start some Black love in the country, we need to ensure that we place people that look like the majority of us into positions of power in some proportionate manner. I am not saying it is going to be a perfect science. You are not going to have 95% black politicians in Parliament but you can at least have something closer to that than what we have now. This is a controversial comment but it is not racist, it is based on what Marcus Garvey said – Race First! If it was politics alone that did not demonstrate love for the Black Child, the matter could be easier to deal with but the lack of love for the Black Child seems worse when we look at 78
it in terms of Spirituality. Contrary to what we have been taught as a way to justify slavery, long before Europeans knew Christianity, Africans were practising religion for thousands of years. We are only 2011 years AD – Anno Domini which means after Christ but Egyptian civilization existed at least 10,000 years Before Christ. The pyramids that you see in Egypt were built with space at the top specifically reserved for prayer as spirituality was strong through the Nile valley of Africa. There was a time when everyone had their own ideas of who the “Son” was but then Constantine, a Roman Emperor, decided to consolidate the story of the Christian Father and Son throughout the Roman Empire. Later a Pope commissioned Michelangelo to create an image of Jesus and he drew his relative; that image has been the image that blacks in Jamaica and the Caribbean primarily worshipped as the image of God. Even the most devout Christian will accept that God created man in his own image. With this universal acceptance of the image of God, it is only natural that each man would see God in the light through which he sees himself. Marcus Garvey was more specific with his view on how persons of African descent should see God. He said as black people we must look to Ethiopia (Africa) to see our image of God. This is where the love for the Black Child disappeared. Whereas Ethiopia had its own image of Jesus as a man of colour, Europe had the Michelangelo image of a Caucasian blonde hair, blue eyed man. When we were enslaved, our spirituality was enslaved because we were told that if we do not worship the man who looked like our enslavers, we would burn in hell forever. Think about what that did to our ancestors. You were taken from your homeland, put on a ship when you probably have never been on water before, packed like sardines to eat, sleep, vomit and defecate in the same place; this situation was 79
created by these people bearing the cross and praying to this man Jesus. In fact, some of the ships would have his name prominently displayed on them. Then you are brought on to these plantations to work or get flogged, live in servitude, have your women raped, and then on Sundays you are forced to go to church to worship this man that you are told did this to you. Yes, modern day Christians do not like to admit this, but during slavery, slaves were taught that their enslavement was just their lot – their cross to bear. This is what God wanted for them and a good Christian would never question God’s will so they served Jesus and God on Sunday by serving their Masters in the week without resistance. Even after we were freed physically, spirituality we were still told that we had to be like that man who did not look like us or we would have no salvation. Those of you who went to Catholic schools may remember that if you were late for school you had to bow down to pray to a white Mary – “Mother of God” and ask for forgiveness or blessings as the case may be. When the Rastafarian community (starting with Leonard Howell in 1930) began to follow Marcus Garvey’s instructions and look to Ethiopia for its spirituality, they were not only ridiculed but they were also punished. One of their first dwellings called Pinnacle was destroyed by the police. Years later they were slaughtered in the Coral Gardens Massacre, Montego Bay. They were called Black Heart Men and hunted, shaved, imprisoned and sometimes killed. One prominent Jamaican, Bustamante, was rumoured to have said shoot first and ask questions later when dealing with Rastafarians. The Rastafarian experience demonstrates the highest level of hypocrisy in Jamaica as throughout the world we use Bob Marley and other Rastafarian persona to market Jamaica but Society remains prejudiced against them. 80
When it comes to our spirituality, we are extremely warped in our reasoning especially as it relates to our hatred for the Black Child. If a young lady wears hair extensions, her family is likely to say she looks nice and is taking care of herself, but if she grows her hair naturally, most people in Jamaica say “lawd a Rasta shi a tun.” Or, they may say, “har hair bad,” or “shi neva get good hair.” Even the former Prime Minister’s wife Beverly Anderson Manley explained how she was ridiculed and chastised for keeping her African roots in dress and hairstyle. There are jokes made about people who maintain Afro-centric dress and other aspects of our African culture. There are songs that make fun of the great South African chief, Shaka Zulu laughing at how ugly he looks, there are songs that make fun of the African dashiki dresses that some black women choose to wear and there are people who still describe a man with thick African hair as a “bad ‘ed yute” so there is strong evidence that long before Kartel bleached his skin there was no love for the Black Child. It became very hurtful and personal at times. They would mention how big somebody’s nose was, or that their skin was “black like tar” or “big lip yute”, all a part of ridiculing prominent black features. So where is the love been for the Black Child? Sadly, this spiritual hate for the Black Child was instilled in our children from the moment they entered our formal education system. The first two things we teach them are these nursery rhymes adopted from the colonialists. We teach them that Baa Baa Black sheep only makes wool for the Master, his dame, and the little boy down the lane, none for himself or his family. Sounds familiar? Sounds like the black slave who cultivates sugar for Massa and none for his own people. If teachers are honest with themselves, in the 1970’s 81
when you sang this song and had us clap and sing it with joy, you would pick out the child with the darkest complexion as the Black Sheep and the Master the one with the lightest skin. I have heard horror stories about the little child who was selected to be the Black Sheep. That child would just stand there crying much to the dismay of the unknowingly brainwashing teacher who may remind her that it is nobody’s fault but hers that she black so. I don’t know about anybody else’s opinion but that was straight child abuse. However, it never stopped there. After a good round of racial ridicule with Baa Baa Black Sheep, the racial inferiority of Black Children was further shoved down their throats when they were then made to sing “There’s a Brown Girl in the Ring tra la la la la” right after. Now Mr. BC, this is where I think you are negligent. You ban an edited version of Romping Shop but you allow this kind of foolishness to be forced into our children’s innocent brains as early as infancy. How sick is it that a country with a colonial past will allow young impressionable children to sing such crap. It is mental abuse of our little children right there and it has to be stopped. Note the brown girl in the ring looks like a sugar in a plum. But we never get to say what the black girl looks like, because we already know that at home and in school she is told that she is ‘black like tar’, with a ‘picky picky ‘ed’, big nose, thick lips so nuh good man nah guh want har. That which I just described was kindergarten or nursery school. When they get to grade one, the system intensifies the brainwashing. We tell the children stand up and recite that the genocidal Christopher Columbus discovered Jamaica in 1492, or 1494 depending where you get your propaganda. This is where we teach our children that nothing major really happens until a white person does it. Remember the Arawaks 82
were living here before he came. So worst case scenario, it was they who discovered the island and he just invaded it. Imagine living in your neighbourhood for years and some men arrived with their flags and say, “hey, we discovered you.” I believe that any ghetto youth would destroy that flag but somehow the Ministry of Education in Jamaica has allowed our children to be taught that lie without any reservation. Christopher Columbus neva discova nuttn! He was an opportunist, a murderer, a liar and a thief but we are taught to revere him as a great man. We continue the brainwashing throughout our children’s secondary education and many leave school learning nothing great about black people. On the contrary, blacks are portrayed as an inferior, backward and subservient race that should be glad that whites helped them advance. On the Gaza, you have to pree things in a way that eliminates brainwashing. Everyone knows the greatest pyramids are in Egypt yet a man named Pythagoras gets credit for geometric triangular formulas – that can’t make sense. Civilization, all forms of it, started in Egypt and we know it. Why don’t we teach it to our children instead of the foolishness that we do? I would love to have learnt more about Timbuktu, the great city of Babylon, how Ghanaian law affected Westminster Law and how Europeans stole our architectural designs in Africa and built Europe based on those designs. Keep in mind, Europeans were just learning about government after Africa was having her 25th Dynasty. If we loved the Black Child we would have taught him that. We would have taught him about Carthage and Hannibal, King Tut and Nefertiti, Kenyatta and Lumumba, Biko and Tambe. We would have taught them about Menelek II and the victory of the Battle of Adawah where the Ethiopians defeated the Italians. We would have 83
taught our children that before European prejudice came in to place due to slavery, Africans ruled Europeans and three Roman Emperors were African; so were three Popes. It was white supremacy that destroyed the integrity of all those positions and created the racial hatred for Blacks. We must understand that Africa only started to be distant from the church when Constantine started to corrupt the church with Euro-Christianity. Euro–Christianity removed everything that was African from the church. It is Ethiopia that maintained the oldest form of Christianity in the world but because we do not love the Black Child in Jamaica, we do not teach that. If somehow children got past the brainwashing and could dismiss that they were ruled by people who did not look like them, they would enter the adult world as stable and functional, seeking to succeed in our economy. However, I believe as they enter adulthood they would realize that there is no love for the Black Child anywhere, including the business world. They don’t have to look very far beyond the business climate in Jamaica. Our country is 95% percent black and our first national hero was so selected because he taught us self-reliance, self determination and self ownership. I often wonder what would happen if Marcus Garvey and Paul Bogle were to somehow rise from their graves to see the legacy that they gave their lives for. They would have to fly on a foreign owned airline even though it would bear our name. When landing at the airport, they would be bombarded with advertisements from foreign phone companies and their African phones could only roam on one of their networks. I am sure Marcus especially would have figured the black owned phone company was somewhere too big to be at the Airport. He would be surprised as to how roughly Customs and Immigration would have dealt with him as one of their 84
own, but figured they were just having a bad day. Paul Bogle may have seen some British police in our uniform but think that it was just a costume because there was no way in the 21st Century that Jamaica could be importing police from Europe, not after what happened at Stony Gut. At some point, someone who loved them would say, Paul, Marcus, go back to where you’re coming from because you will be disappointed – there is still no love for the Black Child in Jamaica – oh, and it’s all Vybz Kartel’s fault. There is very little evidence of economic prosperity for black people because the majority of the Business Leaders who have won the big business awards do not look like us. I wonder who does better; some rich Caucasian youth who inherited his father’s business, easily got loans from his friends at the bank and expanded the business, or the black lady who was not born with much, whose family could not afford education yet she still managed to make something of herself? Most of the time, most of the leadership of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ), our manufacturing sector and other Business power brokers don’t look like us. The big supermarkets, the major wholesalers, hotel chains, jewelry stores, phone companies, major corporations, car dealerships, the land and the wealth of the country are just not owned by us. Young minds are very quick to realize that the most economically prosperous people in Jamaica do not have black skin. Things are a little better now but though we never had Jim Crow laws in Jamaica it was very well accepted that the front desk jobs at hotels, the teller jobs at banks, airline stewardesses and high profile positions went to people who were of light complexion. Therefore, some young children are not just crazy as Babylon tries to convince you, they alter their skin tone because they do 85
indeed feel it is better for their economic prosperity; not only to get a better job but maybe to one day win some award or to expand their business. In Jamaica, everybody knows it. Everybody whispers it but I want to put it out there in the open so that there may be some change in the economic landscape. I do not begrudge any person making an honest living, nor do I fight a man for taking advantage of all opportunities that are given to him. I salute all non-blacks who have succeeded in this country. I just want a system that allows more ghetto youths to have the same opportunity. There, I said it; I await my punishment from society. The hate for the Black Child becomes so powerful that it even affects the way certain races marry in Jamaica, there is still racial prejudice. There are plenty of stories of high profile persons in Jamaica who have been excommunicated from their families for marrying black people. There are Jamaican people that will not even acknowledge a black grandchild. Women of other races who have children with black men are called nasty by their families. Many adults born before independence will explain how they felt when they were not allowed on certain floors of lawyer offices, or certain schools or even certain churches. In order to protect their children from that same feeling they tried to marry someone of a lighter complexion so their children could become lighter and would not feel that lack of love for the Black Child. Well, there we have it, in the three factors that determine our lives – politics, spirituality and economics – there is still no love for the Black Child. One would think that as time passes some of these prejudices would have subsided, but during slavery and colonialism, our oppressors understood and applied the Willie Lynch 86
principles, especially the part where he taught the enslavers to keep the nigger’s history away from him because just 7 minutes of knowledge of his history could erase 8 years of brainwashing. The brainwashing that Willie Lynch and others engineered was meant to last for hundreds of years and my how it has lasted! Babylon flips our history and culture and makes us hate or make fun of the things that would have otherwise made us proud. Let’s start with the great John Conny. John Conny was a Guinean chief who would treat the European sailors like any ship docking at an international port of call today. These ships would have to pay landing fees, taxes, custom duties and were not given any special treatment just because they were white. The white slave owners were so afraid that his story would have gotten popular in the West Indies that they renamed him ‘Jonkonnu’, which became an evil silly dancer that would scare kids at Holiday time. This way, when a Black Child heard about John Conny he would not listen because he would think it is something evil and stupid like Jonkonnu. Even today our children all know Jonkonnu, but hardly anyone knows about John Conny. Then there was Three Finger Jack, the name slave owners used to brand someone who is a thief. Three Finger Jack was the son of an African who knew freedom and told her son about it all the time. Jack Mansong, (his slave name), was a man of extraordinary strength and size. He became very rebellious and soon kidnapped his Master and ran to freedom. A feat such as that was incredible in slavery days. For months he remained free and made his money by hijacking white persons, taking their goods and living off it. Instead of giving this man his due, clearly, the enslavers had to demonize him and make it known that he was a thief. Sometimes one man’s thief is another man’s hero. During slavery, a runaway had no 87
right to own anything so by Babylon’s law he had to be a thief. Instead of correcting that lie, we continue to show no respect for Jack Mansong and refer to thieves today as ‘Three Finger Jack.’ The story is similar with the Queen of Sheba. Ever notice when we were younger, almost every female dog was called Sheba? That was another way of discrediting the mother of Menelik I, Black mother of King Solomon’s child, the direct root of Haile Selassie. If they associated her royal name with a dog, then it would be difficult for us to see her as Royalty. How many times have you heard a dog called Victoria, Elizabeth, Charles or William? The same thing is done to black rights stalwarts. Marcus Garvey was made out to be a thief, Malcolm X a hate monger, His Imperial Majesty was made out to be a persecutor of his people, and the story goes on and on. Few, if any Jamaicans know that His Imperial Majesty not only housed the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia but also started African Liberation Day and was a source of influence for Nelson Mandela who declared in his book that he had never seen a more dignified black man prior to laying his eyes on His Imperial Majesty. Part of the strategy to maintain hate for the Black Child is to demonize any black person who tries to uplift the race. Hence, persons who want to elevate their race are afraid to act, as they do not wish to be branded evil, jailed or persecuted. Martin Luther King went to Jail, so did Nelson Mandela and Marcus Garvey. Malcolm X, Steven Biko, Medgar Evans, Patrice Lumumba and too many to mention here were executed. Even during the labour riots that we had in Jamaica 1938, the Caucasian looking Alexander Bustamante got a decent jail cell with food and a bed, while William Grant had to sleep on the floor and was beaten and treated inhumanely. 88
This hate for the Black Child extends to the English language that was given to us to replace our natural African tongue. We are told that Black Magic is evil, when someone has information on you and demands money its blackmail, when your song is banned it is blacklisted, the day the stock market crashed is black Monday and the list goes on. A black cat crossing your path is danger, so is a black bird but a white dove means peace and serenity. Can you imagine for me to get a visa, I have to have my name moved from the blacklist? Where is the love for the Black Child in the language you gave us to speak? Not only has Babylon taken our spirituality from us but they have even taken away our names. The names most of us have today are the names that were given to us by our slave masters. We do not even know our true ancestral last name before we were enslaved and branded like animals. In fact, we do not know which country in Africa we are from as the slave traders kept no record of us individually. The church considered us infidels and our transportation as slaves from Africa to the New World was similar to (if not worse than) the way we transport cattle today. Many of us assume that we are from the West Coast of Africa but we cannot even pinpoint the country because Europeans took the continent and carved it into pieces the way thieves share the spoils from a heist. To this day, there is no direct flight from Jamaica to Africa but you can pick choose and refuse to go to the land of the former colonial master on a daily basis, but only if you are ‘allowed’ through Immigration. Where is the love for the Black Child when our people have to travel through the land of our former slave masters, just to get an affordable ticket to our homeland? Can’t all the countries in the Caribbean get
together and have one direct flight to West Africa? Unbelievable! As I searched my history, investigating all mediums, I tried to find the love for the Black Child but could not find it anywhere. Ironically, I lightened my skin and everyone condemned me. All of a sudden there is an outpouring of love for black skin. Some of my executioners are women with false hair, multi-coloured contact lenses or others who have been using various agents to “cool down” their skin. All of a sudden, after 500 years they start to love the Black Child? Or is it me you hate? If you really loved the Black Child my song and this Chapter could not have been written. “Mr. Chin have him own Dem treat we like dog and still nuh give we no bone” In the song I mentioned “Mr. Chin have him own.” Immediately haters interpreted this as being a sign of prejudiced against Oriental people, who are usually affectionately called ‘Mr. or Miss Chin’ in Jamaica. However, what I was pointing out is that Mr. Chin has his own – his politics, spirituality and economics – sorted out. Ancient Chinese proverbs have gotten very popular as Confucius and other Chinese legends have many wise words to share, but the Chinese have seriously created a model that black people should follow. The Chinese used their Maoist form of government to build their country. Until the 1990’s, Western schools were teaching that this form of government would lead to economic destruction for anyone who followed it, but the Chinese had other ideas. They have their spirituality; no one can get them to give up their ancient symbols, and will not let their society be corrupted by Anti-Chinese cultures. 90
Most Chinese practice Buddhism –that is their religion governed by people who look like them. They developed an economy so powerful that former powerful trade partners are now pressuring them to make up the Trade deficit. That is, they are begging the Chinese to buy as much from the West as the West buys from them. The Chinese are steadfast and do not budge easily. The Chinese say history has no record of any nation that is built up by others, so they have actively spare headed their own development and they have done a masterful job. The Chinese stick to certain principles, like the philosophy that no country should ever allow its telecom, airline or media to be controlled by others; Jamaica has done the reverse. We give control of everything to others and allow them to set the rules that we live by. Why do we that? Simple, there is no love for the Black Child. If that which I pointed out in this Chapter is so obvious why aren’t there changes? To understand this we have to understand how we were socialized during slavery. Our colonial history teaches us that there were basically two distinct types of Negroes; the ‘house nigga’ and the ‘field nigga’. The house nigga seems happy and almost loves his circumstance as he gets scraps from the master’s table, enough scraps for him and his children to live a better life than the field slaves, and man did they flaunt that better life. They have to carry out Massa’s wishes, practice his religion, bow to his Queen, never speak out against injustice, inform on fellow slaves and almost love their oppressors more than they love themselves. Like Malcolm X used to say, we ended up loving our oppressors so much so that we tried to become a part of them. We will say “Massa we is sick boss”– we is sick? Are we are part of Massa? That too, was a Willie Lynch concept; to remove the idea of ‘self’ from the black man so he 91
would only see himself as property of the white man. I think that principle remains in effect in Jamaica today. The ‘house nigga’ follows the Victorian order and tries to eat, dress, talk and even play the sports that Massa plays as a means of showing he is better off than the regular field slave. Unknown to the ‘house nigga’, he was encouraging hatred for the Black Child because that is where the “us versus them” mentality started in Jamaica. That is where uptown versus downtown started; it is where the rich learnt that they are so much better than the poor and where people with lighter skin concocted the idea that they were better off than those with darker skin. The system has not changed much in Jamaica. During slavery, the owner in England was the Head of the Operation and the overseer/manager on the ground reported on the state of the plantation making sure that the owner’s wishes were carried out. Today, we have a Queen in England, a representative in the island and then there are the ‘house niggas’ who feel that their job is to ensure to keep the subjects in line. It is Vybz Kartel’s view that the majority of the politicians in Jamaica, the powers that be and Society have willingly or unwillingly subscribed to the ‘house nigga’ mentality. They act as if they are better than us because they are getting scraps off Massa’s table by working for Massa. In the same manner, they go on TV and talk about “our company” and “we this” or “we that” when they don’t own a single share in the company and they are nothing but a number – an employee that can be fired at backra’s will. Some of them go to their polo clubs, golf clubs and squash courts, not because it’s more enjoyable than cricket and football, but because they know that poor people can’t play those sports so they do it to show that they are better than us. They keep elite parties with high admission fees that ghetto 92
people cannot afford to attend. They even tried that with Carnival, but black people find di money – you can’t fight some black people’s need to be accepted by Society; they will make every sacrifice to be seen as part of Babylon’s hierarchy. Society pretends that they can’t even understand patois, let alone speak it. Most of them will make a fuss about St. Patrick’s Day and tea parties but shun Afrocentric events unless Damian and Steven Marley are performing. The ‘house nigga’ mentality is strong; the ‘house niggas’ are smart enough to know that you have to hang with the popular ‘Niggas’ from the field. Most of them would have called police a few years ago if Usain or Asafa walked into their neighbourhood or showed up to date their daughters, but now that they have achieved, Society run come hug dem up because they have now earned a place at your table – mi hope dem run all ah oonuh. That is why you don’t like Vybz Kartel, because no matter how successful I become I am still Gaza, I will always classify myself as a ghetto youth and I am not accepting any place in your high society. In fact, Society, what you going to do now that I live in Norbrook? When you come out on Sunday morning to get the paper, will you wave and tell me good morning, or run inside and call your realtor? Ah bwoy, never considered the possibility? Babylon it’s not just me, a lot of ghetto youths are getting rich through the music business. We are going to be your neighbours, our kids are going to be playmates and ah bwoy – your in–laws. Yes, dem love di teacha uptown and it could get scary for the haters of the Black Child because those off–springs are going to become your grandchildren.
The ‘house nigga’ concept is so deep, it even influences the way we treat certain parishes in Jamaica. St. Thomas is the parish that maintained most of the African traditions since slavery. In fact, the most violent rebellion occurred there. In the same way Haiti has been punished in the Western world for being the first black nation to gain freedom (through charging them for their freedom to the point where 45% of their GDP was used to pay back France as compensation for ending slavery), St. Thomas is still being punished for its role in the Morant Bay Rebellion. The area of Sea Forth was very instrumental in the Labour riots of 1938 and you can still find the most poco, reada man, herbalist, drum beater and spiritual rivers in St. Thomas. The spirit of our ancestors resides there and so non-black Jamaicans stay away. It was the last parish to get a high school; the Morant Bay High in 1963. When there is heavy rainfall, St. Thomas is cut off from the rest of Jamaica, as there are no proper bridges. The Bath River, a world renowned natural spring, has almost no infrastructure around it. Cane River, another wonderful river mentioned by Bob Marley in his song Kaya – no infrastructure. I think the ‘house niggas’ know that Paul Bogle’s spirit still lives there and they fear that one day black people will rise again, so to prevent that they demonstrate no love for the St. Thomas Black Child. There was once a telecom company that started a series called Secrets of the Past. They revealed some of the skullduggery that foreign companies undertook and their reward was an email from the government the next day, threatening to revoke all their licences. Peter Tosh was certainly not a bleacher but he cursed Babylon everyday and would get some serious police beatings for it. If they did that to private companies and the great Peter Tosh and tried to take away my 94
livelihood over a song, what will they do to me after the next paragraph is read by the powers that be? A lot of the secrets of the past are going to come out now. A Gaza mi come from, so I am not afraid Babylon, read this and when unu done ready, do whatever you need to do to me, I am no girl guide, man a soldier. As Ninjaman would say back in the days; Hear Dis! Part of the reason there is no love for the Black Child in Jamaica, is because one of our former black Prime Ministers, Hugh Shearer, banned all Black Power books in 1968. Why would any Prime Minister want to ban Black Power books in a predominantly black country? The answer is that the powers that be have hated black people so much that their hatred influenced the rules that black people had to live by. They banned gatherings and any talk of Black Power. Yes, you could not even have any books in your possession about Black Power, Malcolm X or any black freedom fighter in Jamaica. Sounds like elements of Apartheid but it was our black Prime Minister that did it and not a white regime. Not only did Hugh Shearer ban those books, but he also prevented the great author and lecturer Sir Walter Rodney from landing in Jamaica. Yes, the same Walter Rodney who wrote books like; ‘Grounding with my Brothers’, and ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’. The ban was also carried out in High Schools and students could not wear pins indicating their support for the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) or any other similar black group. Black people got in trouble in schools in Jamaica for loving the Black Child. Things got so bad in response to Shearer’s and the government’s treatment of Walter Rodney that there were riots; properties destroyed, buses destroyed and strikes everywhere. A declassified US telegram that was reporting to 95
Washington on the environment at the time indicated: “trouble seemed to be a spontaneous outburst of poor dark Jamaicans as a result of a long period of frustrating strikes and impotence...” These are not Kartel’s words; these are the words of the US State Department. We all enjoyed what we learnt from Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” movie, but the book on his autobiography was deemed illegal by the government. Do you now understand that when one says something is a crime one must identify who the criminals are? Jamaican Government, Black people – do you understand what Vybz Kartel is trying to say? These days of unrest after Walter Rodney’s ban became known as the Rodney riots. This was on the heels of the Coral Gardens Massacre where Rastafarians were rounded up like animals and killed trying to stand up for their faith. When Coral Gardens happened, Remember Bustamante (our National Hero) ordered that all Rastafarians should be shot on sight. Then Senator Shearer (before he was Prime Minister) asked that they be brought in “dead or alive.” Later on, as Prime Minister this black man Shearer instructed the police to “shoot first and ask questions later.” Another National Hero, Norman Manley also said, “These people – and I am glad that it is only a small number of them – are the wicked enemies of our country. I ask you all to report any unusual or suspicious movements you may see pertaining to the Rastafarians.” So there you have it, a man who banned black books in our black country is the man whose face is on the largest bill, the $5000 bill!!! In fact all these men who have spoken publicly in derogatory terms about black people without apology, have been honoured with being on the Jamaican currency at one point or the other – you condemned me but you have no issue 96
honouring these people with probably the highest recognition an individual can attain in his country. Therefore if you bestow such an honour on black haters, why do you wonder who taught Jamaicans to hate their own skin – take a look in the mirror leaders! To this day there has been no public apology to the Rastafarian movement for what these men did. The first two heroes you see when you walk into Jamaica’s National Heroes Park are the cousins Manley and Bustamante, who had very little good to say about black people. Norman Manley once prosecuted Marcus Garvey. So, yeah, Kartel has now revealed to the masses, there has been no love for the Black Child. Instead of blaming me, take a look at the facts. I have said it, let the chips fall where they may.
“GHETTO YOUTH TRIBULATION” Den if mi gone a prison, ah who aguh care fi mi young son Babylon still ah fight Ghetto Yute – but mi know one day better must come. Can anyone recall five instances in Jamaica where the little man took the big man to court and the little man won, setting precedence in Jamaica? Need more time to think? Go ahead, take another five minutes. Go as far back in our history as you want. Give up? If anyone finds five instances, please e–mail that information to the address provided in this book, as Kartel is a seeker of knowledge. I have reflected and researched, yet not one distinct instance of a little man taking the system or a big company to court and winning, comes to mind. This is ironic because though our justice system is modeled after that of the British, so much of our public policy is influenced by the US. To a large extent, the US Society has evolved as a result of landmark cases involving the little man going up against a bigger power in court and winning, setting the precedence for how justice will be served in the future. Let me highlight a few. A case very close to the hearts of Jamaicans is the 1954 case of Brown vs. Board of Education where a black woman in Kansas took the Board of Education to court with an initiative that ultimately led to desegregation in all schools in America. Linda Brown did this simply because she felt it was unfair for her children to be forced to travel a long distance just to go to a designated black school when there were great schools in close proximity to her home that were segregated (whites only). The Supreme Court agreed that the separate but equal
claim by the racists was unconstitutional. Then there was the Mapp vs. Ohio case in 1961, where a single case of an illegal search led to reform in the way search warrants are issued today, allowing for some protection of one’s home from unauthorized searches. Ms. Mapp was found guilty of having pornographic material in a trunk in her home, despite the fact that police searched her home without a warrant. She appealed and the Supreme Court agreed the search was unconstitutional. Ms. Mapp was freed and following her case a new rule was established – all police searches require warrants. A case that is much appreciated by Kartel is the 1966 case of Miranda vs. Arizona. The issue of a citizen’s right to remain silent and to have a lawyer present when being questioned was brought to the forefront because of an unfortunate experience endured by Ernesto Miranda who was tricked into giving a confession without his lawyer present. Since Miranda won that case, the US now has Miranda rights where the police are required to immediately advise an individual of their rights when making an arrest. This is important because Miranda did confess to a crime but was freed because the US court felt his human rights were more important than a conviction. Another case appreciated by Kartel is the case of Texas vs. Johnson. Gregory Johnson, an American, decided to burn the American flag in protest against President Ronald Reagan and big companies in America. Ruling in Johnson’s favour, Judge William Brennan stated that “the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because Society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable.” Based on Kartel's experiences, I find it utterly funny when a learned judge 100
makes that declaration, because in Jamaica it is the opposite. The government will prohibit any idea or expression it finds offensive or disagreeable because, well, because it can. We are government, you are poor people and we tell you what to do. If you don’t like it, we arrest you – it is that simple. “The system nah care fi we live or die” One will find that in each case it was just one individual who took on the system. In the case of Mapp and Miranda, they were already found guilty but by fighting for their rights, justice was served not only for them but for generations to come. Brown took on a powerful board and now Blacks can attend any school they choose and because of Johnson the government cannot simply ban everything they find offensive. I am not trying to paint a picture of the US as the center of legal rights or all things just; that would be unfair to those who still feel they have been victims of miscarriages of justice. In fact, prior to DNA technology and the Innocence Project, many languished in jail without help, but now we see persons being freed due to better investigative methods, sometimes 30 years after their original conviction. The point is, throughout Jamaican history, it has been the reverse. Our landmark cases simply highlight that it has been more of the same injustice from slavery up until now...correction, from the end of physical slavery up until now, as we are still mentally enslaved. Consider Jamaica’s landmark cases. There was a man named Sam Sharpe who, for the most part was a peaceful man who set out to do a peaceful protest in December in 1831. Like the many efforts of people trying to voice their grouses through peaceful means, the protest became violent. Sam Sharpe was 101
tried and executed – justice? To this day if one should fight against 'Babylon' –, whether peacefully or with force, one will still be reprimanded. Thirty–four years after Sam Sharpe’s ordeal, another national hero, Paul Bogle tried to seek justice for Blacks against the colonial powers. He too was tried and executed and for good measure George William Gordon was also hanged on October 24, 1865 because they felt he ‘influenced’ Bogle. How many times have you heard of a man in Jamaica getting convicted or arrested just by association? I know Kartel has often been labelled as a criminal, guilty because of association with criminal elements. Has anything changed? No other case in Jamaica highlights the justice system’s flaws more than the case of Marcus Garvey. Garvey was tried and sent to prison for contempt of court in September 1929. In his election campaign he swore that if elected, he would prosecute judges who were biased in their rulings. Yes you read it correctly; he was convicted for fighting corruption in the courts. Where are our landmark cases? Where are the cases that have changed the way poor people are dealt with? Where is our ‘innocence’ project? How many Jamaicans have been freed by DNA evidence? How many cases have been ordered reopened to seek justice? Where is the evidence of our heroes’ convictions being overturned? Has there been an inquiry into the Coral Gardens massacre? Did the three men who died in a Constant Spring Police Station in 1992 get justice? How about the seven men who died in Braeton or Michael Gayle who died at the Kingston Public Hospital after a police beating? It is odd that it is the recent Commission of Enquiry (“Days of our Lies” as it is popularly called) that truly highlighted for 102
me, in a very practical way, the flaws in the Jamaican system of justice. We learnt a lot from this ‘Days of our Lies’ fiasco as we were informed that a good lawyer in Jamaica gets paid an average of $250 USD an hour or $20,000 JMD per hour. Okay, the last time I checked, minimum wage after taxes is about $4,000 JMD per week. So a mother earning minimum wage will have to work for five weeks straight to pay for one hour of a good lawyer’s time, assuming she does not spend a cent on food or necessities. We know that realistically one hour cannot cover the bail hearing because you will have to compensate the lawyers for travelling time, waiting at the court etc. Now assuming the mother starves herself and her family to save money for the bail hearing and wins bail for $100,000 JMD, she would have to work five straight months, starve herself again, take the children out of school, forget about buying her blood pressure medication and save every cent just to post bail. In this calculation, I made ridiculous assumptions of a lawyer charging for only one hour of his time, because you need retainers and court costs etc. My point, no ghetto youth can afford a good lawyer and get bail without dissipating his family’s finances. So from the advent of time in Jamaica, we have a situation where a ghetto youth is innocent – not convicted of any crime – may have to stay in jail for years awaiting trial because of his financial status; hence my song – “Ghetto youths Tribulation.” “Mi ask as a ghetto youth please listen to my situation” In the song, I plead for the ghetto youth’s situation with regards to their ability to afford justice and fair treatment before the law. Amazingly, I wrote this song before the May 2010 State Of Emergency when the very oppressive measures I sang about worsened. I know it is difficult for my views to 103
gain widespread acceptance because people tend to look at the macro figures and say the ends justify the means. Hence, should crime fall due to draconian means, they would say good job. I suggest this thinking be revisited because every life is a life and though a ghetto youth may not be very valuable to the masses, he is massively important to somebody. So, I implore the powers that be, do your work if you have to but please, please, on behalf of the widows, the mother’s left behind and the orphans try and use tasers, rubber–bullets or stun guns – anything but deadly force on the ghetto youth. I hear that judges don’t listen to my songs. Correction, I hear judges don’t admit to listening to my songs because I am just too lewd. Still, I am sure there are judges out there who have used my rude bwoy lyrics on their wives or girlfriends. I am also willing to bet, when nobody is looking, their wives put on Zip or Irie and bruk out in front of the mirror. The female judges, shhh, Kartel won’t tell but I know I you love to buss a dance in the shower when my music is played. It’s all good though. I am asking the judiciary of Jamaica, if you never listen to another line that Kartel writes, please just listen to this song because I wrote it on behalf of all the ghetto youths and their mothers who have found themselves in a legal bind. I ask you to read this or listen to my song because I want you to have an appreciation for our situation. Our lawyers try but because they have not lived as we have, it is sometimes difficult for them to adequately articulate our situation in the limited time the court allows. The first line of the song says: “Ghetto youth tribulation, we get a bad reputation” 104
I deliberately made this my first line because I think one of our biggest problems as ghetto youths is that we suffer from a bad reputation based on pure ignorance rather than facts. Unfortunately, this ignorance stretches to the Courtroom and creates unfair prejudices in the minds of the judges. Do you know how many persons in Jamaica still believe that we only want to get up, smoke weed, drink liquor, party, look girl and rob people to support that lifestyle? Your Honour, it is not so. Yes, we love the girls and like to enjoy life but we need money to do it and when we innocently pursue employment, Society twists our efforts and turns them into crimes. Yes, the majority of Jamaican youths grew up in poverty or rather, destitution. Do you really know what destitution in a Jamaican household is? It is five people in one room, sometimes no light, no running water, not even toilet. I hate to be graphic but I want you to understand – diarrhea, period, cancer, baby diapers; your bathroom is a scandal bag, your back yard is the gully that stores those bags of refuse. Your dinner, if you are lucky to have dinner, is what uptown people serve their dogs. Children go to school barefoot, without lunch money, school books or bus fare. Old people with diabetes or high blood pressure simply bear the pain because there is no money for medication. Wounds turn to sores, sores turn to infections, infections turn to amputation, all because somebody could not afford a bottle of mercury comb that’s poverty Jamaican style “Mi feel poverty and starvation, whey you expect mi fi do.” Poverty breeds poverty. Society, please understand that when you grow up under these conditions, where you go to school hungry, without books, breakfast or bus fare; five CXC’s, 105
three A levels and an Honours Bachelor’s degree is more of a fantasy than reality. Understand that when a young lady applies for a job and you decide not to hire her because she honestly admits that she lives on squatter land, she feels violated by the system, so, as an act of desperation she sometimes does questionable and dangerous things to make money. Can you understand how marginalized ghetto youths are? Imagine for some reason, a youth gets a good education and meets a young lady from uptown – do you have any idea what it feels like for him, knowing she will never marry him because the family will never accept her nuptials with a youth from the ghetto? Can you imagine three youths working in a supermarket and something goes missing from the storeroom. One youth is from Norbrook, the other Havendale and the third one come from West Kingston. Who is the suspected thief? It’s always the youth from the West. Let me give you one specific example that I know of. This youth was a good youth, high school educated, with a few CXCs. He coached preparatory school football, was president of a youth club and an active member of his church – but his crime – still a ghetto youth. He happened to work as a security guard at night to supplement his coaching income. Unfortunately for him, he never understood Babylon’s system of justice. His friend who owned a BMW dropped him to work one day. The owners/ managers were so outraged by the vehicle he arrived in, that they reprimanded him, telling him to watch the kind of company he was keeping. To them, no law abiding citizen in that neighbourhood should be driving such a car. They did not care that the friend’s sister was a registered nurse in New York earning a large pay cheque and had sent money back home to buy the vehicle. A few days later, a property that he 106
was guarding got robbed by armed men. Miraculously the youth survived and went home counting his blessings, scared and shaken. He was awoken the next morning with guns in his face, roughed up and his home searched by senior members of the security company and the police. Why? There was no evidence to suggest any wrong doing. His supervisors said he acted courageously but that was not good enough – he was a ghetto youth with a rich friend – that’s the reputation that preceded him. He was forced to leave his job and eventually migrated. 23 years later, he is now in Canada doing well but he is still shaken at the thought that he endured such injustice just because he was a ghetto youth. 23 years later, the same owners of that company are lauded as business leaders and these are the very people that say that Dancehall is slackness. Wouldn't you consider this type of behaviour to be slackness? Go figure. In the song, I asked judges and Society to realize that when I, as an innocent man, am standing before you, you are only seeing my face. You are seeing my persona, my name on the court docket, the details of my case; but standing before Your Honour, is my kids’ lunch money, their bus fare, their dinner, mama’s medication, the light bill; yes standing before you is the man of the house who is not home to protect my daughter from rapists and criminals in my community. So I ask you kindly, for bail, not only to be out of captivity, but because I have to earn money to pay the lawyer when my case is called up for trial. I have to find this money somehow, without starving my children. I would also appeal to the lawmakers. Kartel is no attorney but can “I crave your indulgence” (big lawyer term) and ask that you work something out on behalf of ghetto youths.
When we are charged with non–violent crimes like the use of indecent language, possession of a stick of herb, breaching the Noise Abatement Act or even some minor traffic offence, can you give us the opportunity to pay our debt to society while still earning a living? Perhaps, you could give us house arrest with a strong curfew, where we can go to work, make a living, feed our families and still pay back society. Maybe you can let us out Monday to Friday so we can still work, take our youths to school, help them with their homework, and teach them how to take care of the house while we are gone. If you must incarcerate us, incarcerate us on the weekend. I read that Food for the Poor sometimes pays for prisoners to be freed where those prisoners are too poor to pay their own fines. Sometimes these fines are in the hundreds or low thousands, but ghetto people are too poor to pay for their freedom even when the courts grant it. Instead of waiting on Food for the Poor, couldn’t we teach those youths a skill? Have them earn some money then work for their freedom so they can go home to their families, now equipped with a skill. Society, have you calculated how much it costs to incarcerate a youth in prison versus his contribution to the economy if freed? Have you also measured the social cost of the breadwinner not being home? We should not waste any more money on paying enormous legal fees on spineless inquiries; instead we should spend money investigating constructive penal reform, so that our people are not just wasting away in prisons. These are the options we need as a nation in order to make educated decisions so that we can give young people the opportunity to transform their lives from one of crime to one of productivity. Society, tell me what you want, Incarceration or Opportunity? Society, please answer Kartel – which is better? 108
We don’t have to watch the prison documentaries on TV to know that prison is a rough life and though rehabilitation is the goal, in order to survive prison, a youth just might learn criminality and become a menace to Society when he is free. Sometimes a little mistake, a little misguidance, a little misstep, or a lack of home training may cause a youth to use an expletive and end up in jail or sometimes, when a youth is wiping a windshield he may get into a fight trying to defend his coins. That “defending of his own” may result in jail time for him. Later, Society reads in the paper that little Tommy who used to hustle fi di paper wiping windshields is now a “Person of Interest”, wanted for murder. How did he get there? Did he learn to kill while wiping windshields or was he forced to become a violent man defending himself as a youth in prison. We must also have a complete understanding as to what is considered “criminal.” I watched in amazement on TV where police pressured a handcart man for selling fruits and vegetables in the wrong place. Illegal vending, illegal taxi driving, operating this or that without a license (in Society’s terms) is translated in the ghetto as – “mi nah stop hustle fi di paper” – a phrase I keep repeating in the song. I also try to explain in the song that sometimes ghetto youths are trying to say to Your Honour – “mi waan food pon mi plate like any odda man.” When I have a car and my youth is hungry, I might ‘run a roast’ in the night as a taxi driver to see if I can make a little money to buy something so when the children wake up there is breakfast. Society please tell me, which is morally worse – letting the youths go hungry in the morning or try to see if I can run two trips before you catch me? If you catch me, I am a criminal – so what’s my choice, bad father or criminal? News flash: some ghetto youths would rather go 109
jail than see their child hungry. Society, please understand the choices we are faced with in the ghetto when you are drafting your laws to punish us. “Mi waan food pon mi plate like any other man Mi ah hustle and feds jus a collar man.” There are other times that a man might ave ah bredrin who can get a case of beer on consignment. If it is summer time and the new school term is approaching, do I get a case on consignment, go to Sumfest and make some sales or tell the children that Daddy is upholding Babylon’s law at all costs so no back to school money and no school September since I don’t have a vendor’s license? Or when my conductor’s license expires, do I allow National Water Commission (NWC) to cut off the water and allow my daughter to stay sick with a 101 degree temperature, or do I try to conduct on a bus without the ID in order to hustle some money so I can take her to the doctor or buy two children’s Cafenol and then renew my license? If she has a fever and I don’t have the fluids to keep her hydrated, she could die Your Honour. So what should I do Mr. Judge? Should I risk you convicting me or have my baby girl suffer – you tell me. Society, keep in mind that sometimes ghetto youth get into business, fill out all your documents, get all your licenses and conform to all your regulations. After doing all this compliance work, our contracts still get terminated for no legal cause or our intellectual property rights get violated because the Big Man takes advantage of us and justice is out of our price range. Tell me how can we as small business owners ever get justice with the current cost of legal advice? We have already established the range of what a top notch 110
lawyer charges – up to $4,000 USD for a single day’s work. Yes, I have documented proof – $350,000 JMD for a single day’s work. Let me explain something to those of us who like to think, “a big company can’t crush me because I have my lawyer”. Learn this reality. Big companies usually have a big law firm that they work with and a lot of judges are their former partners or classmates. These companies will show up to court with Junior Counsel and two other members of the firm – so that’s about $100,000 per hour that Mr. Big Stuff is paying out of his petty cash account. Then, that big law firm hires another lawyer who they “instruct” for about another $50,000 per hour. Hopefully, you have your calculator because this is how it actually works. You may think that the worst thing is that your one lawyer going up against this powerful group of attorneys but that is the least of it. Why is this point important? Because when you go to the court with your one lawyer against this company, even if it’s a little injunction that you are requesting from the court to prevent this big company from unfairly terminating your contract– the judge can deny your injunction and charge you for their big lawyers’ fees! There is one small company I know that this happened to, make sure you are sitting when you read the next line. The judge awarded costs that came to $1.3 million and in Jamaica if you can’t pay these costs in a certain time frame, the court allows that big company to “wind up” your company – which is a nice way of saying the little man is out of business. I know this is confusing because the small company man went to court to try and save his company from going out of business in the first place, but Babylon ave di ting set up like punishment for a little man who dares go up against the big company. Instead of helping you to save your company and all the jobs of the people working for you, the court instead helps the big man to crush the little man and 111
puts you out of business. In my song, I ask Babylon, as a ghetto youth, to change this system – I mean maybe give the big man a guaranteed 9 out of 10 wins but can you give us a bligh just one out of the ten times? “De system nuh care if we live or die” When you allow the big company to crush us Mr. Judge, you discourage poor people with ambition from starting businesses that compete with big companies or multinationals because when they seek your protection, you show them the door. Worse, after we try hard, you sit back and watch our destruction; we are therefore forced into another business that is a lot less formal because we can’t take the pressure. When this is done, Society calls us worthless and unprofessional and finds a way to get rid of us. For example, you might say we have the wrong sign on our door or our bar is a fire hazard. The Mayor then shows up with the news team, which further embarrasses poor people a little more, tears down the neighbour’s building and stares in the camera warning you that you are next. Is this how you encourage a little man to be an entrepreneur – by showing him you can destroy all he worked for in one day? There is no better example than the scrap metal industry in Jamaica. The government simply got up one day and said no more scrap metal business. They do not care about the jobs lost, investments lost, and financial devastation; no, it is one of the few industries controlled by Ghetto Youths. So there were a few crimes committed by some unscrupulous scrap dealers and in true draconian from – the industry ends with one speech by the Minister after a Cabinet meeting. I am sure if the right persons controlled the trade, Babylon would have never stopped it, they would just
have ensured that their friends and family were making a profit but like the dances of old, Ghetto People thing – kill it! So what do we do when this happens to our companies? Well there is a Fair Trading Commission (FTC) which has no teeth due to a case involving the Jamaica Stock Exchange some years ago. Since that case the FTC is unable to enforce fairness but can only investigate matters. Which other country in the world has a Fair Trading Commission that can’t enforce fairness? The Public Defender hardly gets involved in these things, so we just do not know where to go for corporate justice. There has to be change. Maybe we should send all the people who lose jobs to your doors and have you tell them that as a government, you have no agencies willing to fight for the rights of small business people to compete against the big companies. Will that work, Mr. Society? If we get too big, you pressure us; if we stay small, you say we are not compliant – what are poor people in business to do? Remember my first question about little man versus the big man in Jamaica? Let me ask another one. How many persons have ever felt shafted by certain utility companies? How many times do you get justice? We all know the names of those companies, if you are poor and Jamaican you have suffered at the hands of abusive pricing and billing practices, but you feel powerless to defend yourself. Due to the fact that we are powerless (pun intended,) we sit in the dark – youths unable to do homework. We have no water – youths can’t bathe to go to school because we don’t have water tanks. We have no Internet – youths can’t compete with other students – the suffering goes on. I am just pleading the cause of the ghetto people. We need some help. We cannot take on the utility companies on our own. Can’t there be just one neutral 113
office set up that can quickly resolve billing issues? Many times persons get utility bills that have incorrect figures, they are willing to pay, but they can only afford something reasonable. Sometimes they can’t afford to pay the full amount demanded before you switch off their electricity. Based on these facts, Vybz Kartel is officially asking the Ministry of Public Utilities in Jamaica to set up an office in each parish where we can file a complaint, pay something reasonable and still keep our service until the matter is resolved, so our children can live comfortably while the matter is being investigated. Build it please; we have many educated young people on the Gaza who would love to work there. Build it please; we don’t want our people to be accused of stealing service. Build it please, so we as Jamaicans can live in more humane conditions with a little less oppression. Thank you Judge, Thank you Minister, Thank you Society...I now ‘rest’ the ghetto youth’s case in your hands and await your response. Ghetto court adjourned!
“A NUH MY MUSIC?” “There shall not be transmitted through radio or television or cable services, any recording, live song or music video which promotes the act of ‘daggering’, or which makes reference to, or is otherwise suggestive of ‘daggering’. There shall not be transmitted through radio or television or cable services, any audio recording, song or music video which employs editing techniques of ‘bleeping’ or ‘beeping’ of its original lyrical content. Programme managers and station owners or operators are hereby required to take immediate steps to prevent transmission of any recorded material relating to ‘daggering’ or which fall into the category of edited musical content using techniques of ‘bleeping’ or ‘beeping’.” –Jamaica Broadcasting Commission in response to outcry over the song “Romping’ Shop”. “Arif lend me a pen mek mi write these guys.” Kartel is going to start this chapter with a straight confession. If you noticed in the intro of the song, I asked Arif to lend me a pen because I wanted to write these “guys” a letter. You know I don’t mix up with guys, so the letter that I wanted to write to them had no pleasantries. I just wanted to show them that I know they have declared a financial war on ghetto people and the Gaza is here to defend it. I am going to do everything I can to stop you even if Society tries to take my life or my freedom. Some say that notion may be far-fetched but you have attacked my livelihood, my reputation and my
ability to grow my business and I have survived that. As I say time and time again, artistes who oppose Babylon have suffered too many mysterious deaths for me to take anything for granted. To what extent will you go to get rid of me? I do not know for sure but I am not stopping my journey. The purpose of this song is to expose the system for what it is and stop the lie disguised as moral and noble purpose in your efforts to prevent ghetto youths from having houses and cars. This is not a moral war, it’s a financial war. Okay, now to my confession. While I was writing this song, I felt the urge to get a pen and just write a letter on behalf of ghetto youths to all these “guys” who want to come and tell us how to live, what morality is and control our thoughts like slave masters tried. As luck would have it, I didn’t just write a letter but di ting work out a certain way where I have now written an entire book with the purpose of highlighting said injustices. My concern is this; where will Society stop in muzzling ghetto people? At the time of me writing this song it was music, soon it will be books (though in another chapter, I show where books were once banned); poetry and everything that ghetto people can get their hands on to make money. I am not too worried about TV right now because ghetto people don’t own many TV shows or cable companies. So you can watch pornography and x-rated shows all you want but the day we start buying up cable companies or producing movies, then the banning will begin. “Why the Broadcast Commission come use intimidation All of a sudden dem a ban song” Yes, in the song, I singled out the Broadcasting Commission because they are the biggest threat to my ability to put food in 117
my children’s mouths but there is so much more skulduggery that goes on in Jamaica that I could spend every moment of everyday for the next 10 years writing letters and it still would not be enough time to write to the varied and numerous government agencies that keep up sheggery. Babylon, you have so many double standards; your policies are classist – sometimes racist – in their foundation, you perpetuate injustice on ghetto people with a brutal and heavy handed and you are corrupt. To put it in a Jamaican way, the powers that be in Jamaica are nasty, dutty and evil and kip up bay almshouse pon poor people. It doesn’t make sense for us to sugar coat the thing and put it lightly, let the truth be known. I apologize if I am too impassioned here, but my blood boils when I think about these things. Imagine a country with so much poverty, suffering, unemployment, crime, homeless kids, destruction of our environment, and the best Babylon can do is single out dancehall music and try to make it seem like it is the sole cause of Jamaica’s problems. What about the financial sector? What about the health sector? What about the education system, national security, social welfare? All those things are copasetic and it’s just dancehall that is an issue? How dare you come with such lies and deception to the people! And to make matters worse, you not only do it locally but you do it internationally as well. It is as if it is not enough for you to spread this propaganda across the island so you fight us regionally and internationally, causing a situation where your own citizens can’t even get a visa to perform in a neighbouring Caribbean island and earn foreign currency. This money that we earn overseas is brought to the island and spent in the economy to better the lives of Jamaicans. If that is not wickedness then what is? You think I don’t know that gun tunes and sex tunes are not the reason you all don’t like 118
Vybz Kartel? Now, this is the reason right here; you banned me the moment I became extremely popular because I am not afraid of speaking the truth about what I see being done to ghetto people. “Mr. BC don’t question my morals Mine unu mix up in all kind of despicable scandals” What is Dancehall? Though a lot of us who are dancehall professionals may have a definition, it does not really matter because that will be superseded by what Society says Dancehall is. Although it is our thing – a product of the ghettoes, like everything else, you all take it and act as if it is yours and want to govern it. Were you there when it started? Were you in the studio when we were making music? Were you there when wi haffi tek bus from Portmore guh town fi try hustle some studio time? Did you help us sacrifice when our families had to go without whilst we built our careers? Were you at Shanty Town, Prison Oval or Grove Road dances before Dancehall became cool and profitable? So if you did not do any of that, what in this world gives you the moral authority to stop us from feeding our families? Please, please do not insult ghetto people’s intelligence. We may not have your bag of degrees but that does not mean we are not smart enough to see right through you. You see, it’s perplexing, that you don’t even know what Dancehall is yet you want to set the rules. You’ve never spoken to the chicken man to have him tell you what Dancehall means to him. You’ve never ask the hairdresser how many of her clients did their hair on the weekend because they were attending some Dancehall event. Did you stop the Japanese that you saw at the airport coming down with a sick amount of yen to spend pon wi dance dem and ask them why they are coming to Jamaica? 119
Do you know about Front Line, House of Leo or Four Roads street dance where police invaded the dance like they just landed in enemy territory? Have you ever stood up in a corner dancing with your girl only to see Operation Ardent arrive on the scene telling all men in merina, suede shoes and dark glasses to go up in the truck and everybody else to go home fast? Have you ever paid your money, walked into a dance, bought a round of Guinness and police come bruck di selector needle? Remember they used to raid Front Line on Red Hills Road in the 80s when Exodus was playing on a Tuesday night. Then they pressured Super D out by Harbour View on Sundays, Lees in St. Thomas, Bodyguard in Clarendon and Dancehall everywhere else. So please, do not make it seem as if all of a sudden Vybz Kartel’s music is the reason you have decided to raid dancehall. If it was so, why did Buju Banton sing “Operation Ardent” in the 1990s? Just to clarify, it is not always in the night that these dances are raided. Remember the big raid out by Fort Clarence in Portmore some years ago where every man, woman and child got searched while at a beach party? In 2005, People’s Telecom kept a candle light vigil for peace on Martin Luther King Day but they made one innocent mistake. In support of the peace, some Dancehall artistes touch di microphone with some conscious lyrics. At about 10 o’clock police officers with high powered weapons came and raided the peace vigil with the late Professor Barry Chevannes as keynote speaker and an audience of mainly UWI students. People’s Telecom was a company that used to sell discounted longdistance and cellular service. Certainly Professor Chavannes was not keynoting any slackness, so locking down People’s Telecom’s event that night was not a part of a moral war, it
was a financial war – ghetto youths owned People’s Telecom and they never wanted them to own house and car. You see, Society will never understand what happens during a raid on a dance. Back in the 1990s, when a man had a special occasion a straight linen suit wid a boasy Clarks well clean him a beat. More time di linen suit cream or white suh di girl dem can see yuh inna di night. Those suits are not cheap. Yet when the police arrive at these dances, they order you to lie flat on the ground, whether the ground is dirt, mud or concrete. You have to lie down quickly or get kicked down. As a result the linen suit is ruined though you haven’t really worn it yet at this point. You could have a bad back, damaged knee or sprained arm – straight grung. It is traumatizing. You end up in the back of a truck and then off to Up Park Camp or some other detention facility – your crime? You went to the Dancehall. The promoters could have invested significant funds, vendors may have stocked their stalls and even the taxi man is ready for a little hustling in the night. All that commitment of resources is gone down the drain because a police officer decided that he just did not want this event to continue and in this financial war against ghetto people, he is empowered to do whatever he wants. “A nuh my music mash up Society I wasn’t around in 1980” Okay, so you are going to claim that the reason you do that is because of the music, which you call night noise, and as a result Babylon created the Noise Abatement Act. Now, I am not an idiot. I do understand that it is not feasible or reasonable to have a dance every night in residential neighbourhoods as this would affect people’s sleep. However, 121
music is a vibrant part of our culture from the days of slavery. So tell me, where are the community auditoriums for us to keep our dances in peace? Where are the many centres for the performing arts that the government has built that are equipped for Dancehall? You build them for the visual arts, you build theatres and you even donate millions for nude statues but there is not a single venue in the entire island of Jamaica built by this government exclusively for Dancehall. People, this is not Vybz Kartel’s opinion; this is an absolute, undeniable, blatant fact. And yet you earn so much tax revenues from our activities; GCT on the liquor, food, clothes, venue rental, equipment rental, light bill, security fees etc. So it is not as if Dancehall is a non-progressive venture. Why then can’t you put back some of the money that you have gained from it? We have heard of the amazing tax bills, the motor vehicle seizures, and the stop orders at the airports that you impose on Dancehall artistes - you can get yours so why won’t you allow me to get mine? Consider this people. If the government was sincere about promoting morality in our music, they would take just one of the Income Tax bills that they assign to a single Dancehall artiste and build a venue for Dancehall setting the rule that no one under 18 can enter the building! This would be extremely profitable for the government and allow us to promote our events without fear of being shut down, but this has not happened because it is not a moral war it is a financial war. Dem nuh want ghetto youth to have house and car. Please do not say that the money is not available because we know differently. The reason I can confirm that this is a financial war, is the positive support that the powers that be give other genres compared to Dancehall. Now, look how 122
backward thinking these people are. Earlier, I asked about the definition of Dancehall. If you search any reputable dictionary, Dancehall is commonly referred to as “an up tempo style of dance music originating in Jamaica.” When you search for calypso, it refers to a “nymph who kept Odysseus on her island...” and “a style of music that is originally from Trinidad.” When the meaning of Jazz is researched, it is clear that it is of a Black American origin while Blues is considered a genre from the southern United States. Now, Vybz Kartel is a musician, so I am not knocking any kind of music or set of musicians but what do you notice from these dictionary definitions? Only Dancehall refers specifically to Jamaica, so it is considered by the world as our music. Yet still the powers that be continue to ignore its development and instead invest millions of Jamaican poor people’s tax dollars in foreign music that does not benefit us but benefits another country. Jazz and Blues are clearly American. The United States has all the money they need to promote their music but instead our poor government spent $500,000 USD just promoting one Jazz and Blues Festival. This happened while they were banning Dancehall left, right and centre; resulting in promoters of prominent Dancehall shows publicly crying out that they could not continue due to lack of funding and the struggling economy. As early as 2002, the government gave the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival $200,000 USD and this did not include sponsorship from Air Jamaica. Later on the sponsorship from the government dropped to $75,000 USD starting in 2004 but then skyrocketed by over 500% in
2009 when the world and the country should have been in a recession. I always declare that than only a crazy dog fouls its own nest but somehow the Jamaican powers that be destroy their own music whilst building up others. What is sickening is that Society pretends there is some suitable explanation for this when everyone knows the reality – Jazz and Blues is a big uptown thing. Rich families flock to Montego Bay and enjoy the weekend in fancy hotels. Old uptown men prowl on young girls by enticing them with a weekend in Montego Bay to go to “Jazz.” During Jazz days, hotels are full all the way to Trelawny with the ‘big men’ and their young girls. Only about 5,000 overseas visitors come to Jazz so it is not foreigners filling all those hotel rooms. In fact, according to the Jamaica Tourist Board more than one third of the Jamaican patrons are from Kingston, St. Andrew or St. James. I know that a certain corporation requested more than 80 tickets for their friends and executives, potentially all at taxpayers’ expense. Society says that Jamaica receives up to $3 million USD from the investment in “Jazz” but isn’t Society known for exaggerating at times when it is self-serving? Even if that is close to being true, imagine the results if we chose to take $500,000 USD and pump it into ten Dancehall festivals. There is the multiplier effect of spreading the wealth across parishes by reviving some shows that died due to lack of funding and exposing our authentic brand internationally. See, when Jazz is marketed, the highlighted performers who are billed for the show are mainly non-Jamaicans and these advertisements run on major international TV networks for hundreds of millions to see. So instead of giving upcoming 124
Dancehall artistes like Shawn Storm and Popcaan the exposure, we give Country and Western artistes and R&B artistes free exposure when chances are they will never return to Jamaica except to collect money for paid performances. Why not expose our Dancehall artistes instead as we do not repatriate our earnings to any foreign country; the money we earn will stay here in Jamaica. Why would the powers that be do that to our people? Simple, it is not a moral war; it is a financial war against poor people. It is not a moral war it is a financial war, dem nuh want ghetto youth fi have house and car. It is not only through finances that Dancehall is sabotaged, it is also the way it is portrayed in a bad light compared to its closest rival in Caribbean indigenous music, Calypso. I read somewhere recently, where a carnival reveller said she can parade in her panty and a bra on the streets during Carnival and nobody will say she is mad. Please note that this is something she is doing in broad daylight. I think if a Dancehall patron ever tried that even at midnight, maybe the Commissioner himself would arrest her. It would be broadcasted all over the news as lewd, vulgar and disgusting acts by ghetto people. There would be calls for new rules and regulations to ensure that this “atrocity” never occurs again. But when it comes to Carnival, it is not an atrocity, it is “getting on bad,” it is “whining” or it is “Bacchanal.” Bacchanal, by the way means an “occasion of drunken revelry, orgy, bacchanalia.” You would think that Society would have an issue with this. Well if they do, they say nothing. In fact, they love it so much that they went as far as to implement Kiddies’
Carnival so that young girls less than 10 years old can gyrate in a contest! I consider that sick and I think that Kiddies’ Carnival or even putting the term Kid and Carnival in the same sentence should have been outlawed. However, I want to make it very clear, if this whining is being done by adults they should be allowed to get on as bad as they want because they are big people and nobody should be able to stop consenting men and women from doing what they want to do together as long as it is within the confines of the law. All I am saying, the same rules for uptown people’s music should apply to ghetto people’s music too. When one considers the application of the Night Noise Act to Calypso events then the hypocrisy becomes more evident. A friend once told me that he was staying at a New Kingston hotel and one morning at about 6 a.m. he was awaken to the beating of drums and revellers. He did not know if it was the second coming of the Messiah, the Poco people taking over Kingston, a riot breaking out or some enemy country bombing Kingston in a bid to start World War 3. He crawled to the window of his hotel room, to peek outside. It was not a war, nor a riot. No, the world was not coming to an end but there were people gyrating and dancing in the middle of the street getting on bad with police escorts smiling proudly and news crews taking pictures. Naturally, this was a shocking incident because this was a ghetto youth visiting the island. According to what he knows of entertainment in the ghetto, it stops at two in the morning. He knows that you don’t dare keep a dance in a residential area beyond the time stipulated with police around, so to see this happening was almost like a dream. But we who live in the ghetto know there is no fairness in these matters, is just suh it guh in Jamaica. We 126
realize that the truth is there is no moral argument; there is no move to protect our children from certain things. It is not about night noise – it is simply a class prejudice issue where our Dancehall is under threat by the powers that be. So again, big up my fellow calypso musicians. Vybz Kartel loves to see the girls dem move dem waistline. It is in our African roots to move in a rhythmic fashion but please ask for equality under the law for your fellow Dancehall artistes too. Defenders of Jamaica Carnival will say that we should look at the roots of Carnival in Trinidad and what it meant. I am dealing specifically with the Jamaican treatment of Dancehall versus Soca. Personally, I love Trinidad and I enjoy the hospitality that I am shown whenever I visit. In fact, each time I visit one of these islands, I wonder why the leaders in the Caribbean do not push for more regional integration socially and economically. I respect the way the entire country rallies around their music and I wish for the day that the power brokers in Jamaica will give Dancehall one half the support that Soca gets in Trinidad. When Carnival started in Jamaica it was a straight uptown thing - priced very highly and hosted at places that ghetto people do not frequently attend. In the early days, poor people would flock to the sidewalks to watch rich people guarded by security, gyrating on each other in the streets during the Sunday Road March (the day when the evil Dancehall could never be played). It made “wanna be uptowners” from Jamaican ghettos seek to do everything in their power to find money to buy a costume so that they could hang with the Joneses. Carnival in Jamaica is a very subtle but strong example of the secret psychological struggle of the ‘haves’ versus the ‘have-nots’. In Jamaica, there are a lot of things that start out as an uptown thing. Ghetto people then feel they have to join in that activity to be 127
accepted but once they are able to afford it, uptown moves on to another thing. The classic example of this phenomenon is the way in which nightclubs in Jamaica are patronized. They will start out with uptown people attending but as soon as ghetto people start showing up, the ‘uptowners’ move on to the next place. Almost every night club in Jamaica has had that experience. It happens even at beaches. Going to Hellshire Beach and hanging out with the locals in considered ‘uncool’ uptown so they go to Lime Cay to get away from us. When ghetto people started to take fishermen’s boats over to Lime Cay, uptown people decided to keep an annual party at Maiden Cay which is designed to be accessible to yachts only so they could finally have their day free of ghetto people. However, if this financial war stops, maybe ghetto people will buy yachts too. Where will my uptown friends go to get away from us then? They may have to go party in the middle of the sea. There is even a party called High Society. Ghetto people attend ATI, Frenchmen, Dream Weekend and even Chill in Miami, so what are you going to do rich kids? I know you are not worried about if you can party, but moreso where can you party without having to mingle with poor people. Yes, there have been some changes made with the approach to Calypso but it was only when the assault on Dancehall became so embarrassingly obvious that Babylon made some concessions in order to make the bias less noticeable. Kiddies' Carnival was stopped only after the issue of child endangerment became a subject of heated debate and the Sunday Road March of gyration on live TV was so blatantly hypocritical that Society was forced to halt it.
The treatment of Dancehall versus Calypso is just one example of the fight that Dancehall gets as opposed to other forms of art and entertainment. With any premium package order, you can have pornography delivered in the comfort of your living room 24/7 on your TV set. If that is not your style, then you can watch all the crime and actions movies you want. Some of the most popular movies in our culture are “Rambo”, “Scarface”, “The Godfather” and “The Terminator”. “Rambo” is synonymous now with war, “Scarface” suggests violence just by virtue of its name, “The Godfather” is a story glorifying the US mafia and “The Terminator” speaks for itself. I don't think there is any adult Jamaican who has not seen one of those movies. The lines “Say hello to my little friend,” “I will be back” and “Hasta la vista baby”, are all used on a daily basis in Jamaica and is a fixation in our culture for all ages. In fact, some kids get Rambo lunch kits, T-shirts and toys. From way back, Peter Tosh pointed out that when Christmas comes, we buy the youths toy guns. We portray the wicked pirate Henry Morgan as a great person and he is idolized in movies. When Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) was still the only channel, people used to wait up on Monday nights to watch Karate movies and Bruce Lee was as big a hit as the song “Everybody Was Kong Fu Fighting”. In Jamaica, we host nude weddings on Valentine's Day at a popular hotel and the world knows about it. Most pharmacies and some book stores have a wide assortment of pornographic magazines – local, international and even in Spanish. So how come with all the pornography with raw sex on the TV, dirty magazines in book stores where kids shop for their school books, war movies, the karate flicks and nude weddings, the only moral concern in Jamaica is my song Romping Shop, 129
causing an emergency ban on all songs with the word ‘daggering’? It is not a moral war it is a financial war, dem nuh want ghetto youth fi have house and car. “Mr. BC don’t question my morals, Mine unuh mix up in all kinds of despicable scandals Has anyone done domestic abuse; Treat dem wife like little gyal” Vybz Kartel is not fighting the people and their weddings or their soca music. I love “Scarface” but my point is that “morality” is a subjective, biased term and no one set of people should be allowed to impose it on another. Furthermore, if morality is your cause it should be an absolute – you must stand for that principle regardless of the economic implication. For example, some countries across the world are accused of censoring certain Western cultural components. These countries will not allow inappropriate content to be aired on cable networks simply because they are being offered significant amounts of money - they stick to their values. When some female American artistes are banned from performing in certain countries, the powers that be don’t care if it is a paid concert, free concert, adult concert, family concert; it is a principle that they are defending. My point is not to agree or disagree with the principle. Instead Kartel is highlighting the fact that in those countries it is a moral war but here, it is a financial war. An educator once wrote this in reference to me: “We must work together to stop enriching people like Vybz Kartel who create filth and are then paid when they release it to the public..” Wow, how nice of someone who does not know me to encourage people to take away my livelihood. To that 130
writer’s credit, that is one of the nicer things said about me and my music by academia. Dancehall has been described by many as decaying the moral fabric of our nation, jeopardizing the future of our children and the major cause of societal evils. I can assure you that when men rob houses at night, they are not coming in with a Dancehall CD; no, it’s the guns and knives that are glorified on television. It is not Dancehall that taught Jamaicans about kidnapping, ponzi scheming or how to rob armoured trucks, it is the shows that they watch on TV. By the way, have the powers that be seen some of the video games that our kids play on their game consoles or on the internet? Ah bwoy, Mr. BC a nuh my music you should be worried about. Society, have you watched MSNBC recently? Do you see how the child predators find young victims? It’s not through Dancehall but through the Internet. Just be careful that your obsession to stop “enriching me” distracts you from the real dangers to Society like child rapists, gunmen and murderers. I think Babylon showed their hands when they made the emergency announcement of banning all songs with ‘daggering’ and other similar terminology on a Friday with immediate effect whilst playlists for the upcoming weekend were already in place. If it was not an attack on the business of Dancehall we would have had meetings, dialogue, forums, and workshops – instead it was an ambush. If it was not a financial attack on Dancehall, you would have allowed us to bleep out that which you deemed immoral and not fit for air play. However, it is not a moral war, it is a financial war – it was admitted in that column – they don’t want me to be rich so I can buy a house and car like them.
Remember the United States’ Judge Brennan, who said the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because Society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable. I know that is America’s law but it sounds like it makes sense to me and should be applied in Jamaica. See, the thing with morality is it is not an exact science. You can’t take an element into a lab, pour it into a test tube and say if it turns green this thing is moral but if it turns red, it is immoral. You can’t make it the unknown variable in an algebraic equation and say well if X is greater than two this song is immoral. You can’t draw a diagram and use Pythagoras’ Theorem to figure it out. No matter what, you cannot measure morality with any unit of measure. Despite what Babylon says, it is merely a view, a feeling, or an opinion put forward by a set of people chosen at random by our god-like politicians who dictate how Society is supposed to run. Babylon traces the roots of the word morality originally from the Greek, then to the French before it was incorporated into English in the 14th Century to mean “the typical or proper behaviour of a human being in a Society”. Now we already know that what is typical in Society changes from time to time. For example, there was a time when slavery was accepted by the English and whoever opposed it was immoral. You know that due to the massive publicity, it was “Rompingg Shop” that did not conform to Society’s idea of morality this time. However, there was a time when Reggae was called Boogie Yagga – a derogatory term in the days of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Bunny Wailer’s “Crucial” was considered a political song and a lot of radio stations did not want to play it. There was a time when you could not hear Reggae on Sunday as it was considered sacrilegious. During the Gulf War, the British banned songs 132
like Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” and John Lennon’s “Imagine”. Speaking of John Lennon; the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and even Donna Summer’s music was banned at some point in time. In some Muslim countries, you cannot even listen to Bob Marley or instrumental Classical music – they will kill you. To reiterate the point, morality for one person is not the same for all, so no one has the right to dictate wrong or right because they are not Jah. This situation is more profound in Jamaica because there are two Jamaicas. One of the biggest fallacies one can come up with is “Out of Many One People.” As I said in my UWI lecture, Jamaica is one of the most duplicitous and divided countries as we are in no way one people. There is a clear “uptown” and a clear “downtown.” Dancehall is downtown music and that is why it is fought so hard. If Babylon could find a way to control it, it would be accepted. Let’s not be hypocritical, The Wailers were signed to Chris Blackwell, a Caucasian, and the group was an international sensation before it became accepted by upper class Jamaica. It is just recently since the Marley sons started to perform in Jamaica that Reggae became so cool to Society. Uptown is afraid of Dancehall. Why is this so? The reason is that Dancehall is one of the few places where uptown meets downtown on an even playing field. You have many uptown girls going to Passa Passa, Bembe and Weddy Weddy. Their worst fear; the worst fear of Uptown is that at one of these ‘equal playing field’ dances, an uptown girl may meet a ghetto youth and fall in love with him. Then uptown people will have Ghetto grandchildren and that is the point where everything will be banned. I know it, Society knows it, the powers that be know it, everybody in Jamaica knows it 133
and that is why you ban “Romping Shop” – God forbid your good, good uptown daughter came in it and fell in love with Vybz Kartel. Your grandchild’s father would then be from the Gaza, but let me stop before a lot of uptown fathers start having heart attacks. Society, the argument that Dancehall is destroying the morality of this country for our children is utter foolishness! Do you know what destroys the moral fabric of this country? It is the fact that during election time, young people in certain areas cannot wear a green shirt or an orange shirt because of the criminal brainwashing that you use to divide the people. It is the fact that during election time, schools have had to be closed and kids have had to lie on the floor to do their CXC exams. Babylon, you know I am not lying, that’s the truth. Why do you think the kids reject your tribal election rubbish and instead get involved with the ‘Gully vs. Gaza’ thing? It is because they are tired of you ‘politricking’ politicians. They don’t identify with you the way their parents did. Youths today don’t want war, they want to party, enjoy themselves and find a good job to get ahead in life. Mr. JLP and PNP, for the first time since the 1980’s, you are losing your grip on the minds of the youths. Instead of politically violent graffiti, youths have started to spray Gully or Gaza and you are vexed because your mind control is over. I am your worst nightmare because I tell them to pree the dollar sign and to not count on the lies of the MPs to support themselves. I am a challenge to your power and that is why you’ve banned me and what I represent. If youths start to feel empowered and distance themselves from politicians, clinging to something else, your way of making money as politicians will be threatened. This is not a moral war, it is a financial war; you don’t want ghetto youths to have house and car. 134
If it was just the music, you would not have told them to ban songs that you could simply have bleeped or omitted a verse or a certain line making it fit for airplay. By not doing this, you showed your hand and the public saw it. It was not the song’s content that you wanted to get rid of, it is the singers of those songs. It is my livelihood and the livelihood of Dancehall artistes that you are after. It is not a moral war, it is a financial war. This fake concern over putting our children at risk and suppressing slackness is null and void. What is slacker than the sexual harassment that goes on in businesses, shops and homes where helpers have to reside? Why don’t you ban that? What about the old uptown man, coming into the ghetto and “fooling up” the young girls with the promise of a job or scholarship? Why don’t you ban that? What about the pastors and other religious leaders who are now on trial for carnal abuse for sometimes two underage girls at once? Why don’t you ban that? You see, it is not about morality, it’s a fight against the ghetto. How many people have died due to “Romping Shop”? How many people died during the 1980 election? Try zero versus nearly 1,000. So shouldn’t we then ban those two political parties? Shouldn’t we shut down the churches where we find paedophiliac priests? The resources, money and time that you spend banning songs could be used for productive purposes. When referring to Dancehall they say that our children are at risk so that’s why they are coming after us. Why don’t they look at the real reasons why our children are at risk? Remember Armadale? Seven young girls were killed in a fire due to alleged negligence on the part of an officer. The majority if not all were poor people’s children. The place was in such a deplorable state that the Prime Minister closed it down immediately after visiting the location. Can you 135
imagine if one of the people setting up the press conferences to ban dancehall would have taken a drive down to Armadale before things had gotten so bad? You say, well, Kartel that’s just one incident. Yet while I am writing this, it is reported that over 100 juveniles are inappropriately placed in adult jail cells. The government and the teachers are at war – the government does not want to pay the teachers their money and they are owed nearly $4 billion dollars. When parents are told by teachers that they are going to strike they are not striking because of “Romping Shop”, it is because they are not getting paid. When the students don’t go to school, do you know the eventual result? In one year 5,000 students did not have a single CSEC pass – zero. Society, Kartel is not hiding these facts; I am telling it like it is so that Jamaica and the world can see the scapegoat that they use Dancehall for. If you are so worried about Jamaica, why didn’t you have these boards that you like to set up investigate the real problems? While you were watching our morality, Ponzi schemes wrecked Jamaica and poor people lost their money. Yes, the upper class lost too but they had alternative funds. We now know of the big political donations that the politicians got from the Ponzi schemers so naturally their friends would have hinted to them when the thing was about to crash, so again the rich collected and the poor man got stuck losing all his money, sometimes even his home, car and business. Where was the ban then? Why wasn’t more done? Dancehall artistes could not go to some countries to perform but these scammers were able to go into other countries and set up shop. They pretend now, but I heard politicians in Parliament defending some of these Ponzi schemes whilst demonizing Dancehall. It is not a moral war it is a financial war, you don’t want ghetto people to have house and car. 136
In the song, I continue to ask about the persons that set the moral authority. In Jamaica, we know the number of pastors that are now facing criminal charges for all kind of crimes from gun charges, to sex crimes to fraud. We have persons that have been placed in very high places by the Jamaican government that have allegations of conduct which I would consider immoral. However, the powers that be ensure that video tapes that may be shown as evidence are blocked and even with very strong allegations, politicians from both sides flock to these persons’ funerals lauding them as great Jamaicans. We can never be sure about the morality of these people that we appoint to tell us how to live, so we need a better system. Among the ironies of life, if you ask Jamaicans which set of people they think are the most corrupt, there is no doubt politicians will get the highest vote. So, we have a system where the most immoral and corrupt people in the eyes of the people are in charge of morality and are given the power to put their friends in high places of trust. Since I was a youth, I knew that Jamaica was always being controlled by the IMF. IMF tells you what you can produce, what you must eat, what you can export, how much you can pay civil servants, and how many persons to fire among other things. They basically run our lives but even they are without fault. Before the IMF selected a president, did they check his background? Did they know that he would end up with allegations of sexual promiscuity? You can’t know everything about any one. That is why you cannot give too much authority to any one individual. With regards to our members of parliament and ministers, we have no choice but to accept them because for the most part they are voted in through the democratic process (although some senators are appointed then given ministries to run). Kartel’s point is though, if the 137
man in charge of the most powerful body in the world, more powerful than even our own Prime Minister can have issues – why are we sure that the Broadcasting Commission is flawless? When I watch those press conferences, when I read those biographies, I see a lot of grey hairs and I see a lot of people having more than 30 years in education on the morality boards. Is that representative of Jamaica? Why do a handful of people have the right to tell everyone what to do? I asked in the song if we have done background checks on these “morality police” officers. Do we know for certain that they are not drug users or domestic abusers? How do we know what goes on in their bedrooms and if we don’t, why are they dictating what music I can listen to? In France and Italy, men use fine wine and candlelight to get their women in a romantic mood. In Canada, a man takes his girl in front of the fireplace and “make out” as they say. The Eskimo brings his girl into the igloo and keeps her warm but in the ghetto we deal with rude bwoy lovin. We talk to our girl and tell her how her body looks and feels good and the ways in which we would like to enjoy it. The women in turn will tell how ready they are for us – a suh wi do it. That’s our style. We don’t have a fireplace and not all our women like fine wine so why are you offended by the way we show love just because it is not the way you do it? I think I know why, it’s simply because there are two kinds of Jamaicans: the uptown, Victorian Jamaicans who want to be prim and proper and as European as they can be and the downtown Jamaicans who want to be as African, emotional and as exciting as our ancestors. Please, Society, don’t take that away from us. At the end of the song, I try to express that my music is just social commentary via a medium which the masses can enjoy 138
and appreciate. Every era has its individual style. In the 70s and 80s, the Rasta consciousness found a way to use slow beats to create a genre based on social commentary and delivered their lyrics in a ‘rootsy’ manner and they still got pressured. Peter Tosh spoke frequently about being beaten and detained by the police who continuously ridiculed him about who he was and the music he sang. I can assure you the Great Stepping Razor, Peter Tosh, never sang anything close to “Romping Shop” and according to his own words, Babylon nearly killed him. Again, we are all made up differently so what is offensive to one man, may be dear to the heart and soul of another. The differences are even more profound when you look at them on a global scale; different strokes for different folks. The Great Peter Tosh was not only a ghetto youth but he spoke about the poverty that he grew up with and he got ridiculed. If it was about morality, the singer of “Equal Rights”, “The Poor Man a Feel It” and “Fight against Apartheid” among many other classics would not have been harmed, but it is not a moral war, it is a financial war – they never wanted Peter Tosh to have house and car. Look at Ragashanti. He was not even doing music, just social commentary. For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Kingsley ‘Ragashanti’ Stewart is a doctor in the Social Sciences who understands the sexual psychology of our people. He used that training to provide us with a little comic relief in the afternoon, a little distraction from the hustle and bustle of life – maybe it is not what Society is used to, but our life is different from theirs. Guess what happened to the University Lecturer and Doctor who dared to oppose what Society would accept? He was kicked off the air and the ability to earn from his talent is now threatened. It is not about dancehall, it is not about a moral war, it is a financial war, dem nuh want ghetto 139
youth fi av house and car. Raga is a ghetto youth who spent his early days on the street, in jail and places of safety yet he still managed to make something of himself, but his crime? He created a show for ghetto people so the Society talk shows lost listeners and advertising revenue. Raga got so powerful, he could name his fees but the powers that be did not like that so they “fix him business” the way we know only Babylon can do it. I close this chapter as I closed the song: “My music is a reflection of the broader Society.” Interestingly, one of the members of the commission said if they don’t play our songs even with a bleep then that will force the composers and musicians to make music that is more appropriate. Correction, sir. Art is an expression of life and until you and your powerful friends change the Society that ghetto people live in, you will not be able to change the music. As artistes, we are going to keep telling it like we see it. It is our means of expression. Our forefathers fought so we could have a voice, so stop taking it away from us.
“DEM NUH LIKE WE” “Mi caan believe the police woulda lock up the taximan whey a hustle fi him family” Many people have told me that they are amazed that I would write a song in defense of taxi men based on their reputation as road hogs and bad drivers but we a ghetto youth and so are most taxi man so when everybody else them condemn from a macro level, I try to pree the entire picture before casting judgment. Now, don't get it twisted. Let me be abundantly clear. Reckless driving, drunk driving, careless driving, or dutty driving, however you want to term it, is dangerous, selfish and stupid and if someone dies from another's deliberate negligence, the offender should be charged with vehicular homicide. Too many people die on the roads in my country. Before 1993, we were hitting the 400 per annum mark. It has come down somewhat over the years but it is still too high. For Kartel, when I look at the statistics published, I see that of all the categories of people who are dying, it is pedestrians who are most frequently killed. In fact, though the National Road Safety Council has 10 different categories of people that die from road accidents, pedestrians – poor people - consistently represent 1/3 of the people who die. In June 2011, it was reported that Road fatalities decreased by 30% and showed improvements in almost all categories except one – you’ve guessed it, pedestrians. Society sometimes call us walk foot, as if not owning a motor vehicle is some kind of disease. Walk foot or not, a life is a life, please be careful on the roads.
Another interesting statistic is that over the years, more cyclists than motor bike riders have died annually – so poor people again are in the lead even when it comes to dying on two wheels. So there is no way, I would support bad driving because it is my people dying the most. I know that there is a social cost to road deaths, nearly 1% of our Gross National Product is negatively affected by road fatalities plus when a youth gets hit by a vehicle, and his poor mother has to go find money she does not have to bury her child. The breadwinner is gone suddenly adding more economic trauma for people already poverty stricken. Hence, when I started my song by saying “I can’t believe that dem would a lock up de taxi man who a hustle fi him family” I was not talking about those who do not obey the rules of the road but those hard working individuals who work hard day and night on Jamaica’s stressful and dangerous roads to take make ends meet. Again, there is no pretence here. This is the “Voice of the Jamaican Ghetto” and when certain things don’t look right, we have to speak up. Mi taxi thugs, di man dem can tek it easy more time. Kartel knows that most of you are ghetto youths and is just a food yuh a look but we want you to go home safely as well as the other road users, so I am just saying to please take it easy on the roads. I acknowledge that Jamaica has a terrible traffic problem stemming from lack of planning but we have to put safety first. Just to digress a bit, there is another thing that Kartel wudda like bring up, I know it is not the majority , I know it is only just a few careless ones, but di taxi man dem must stop entertain de young girls dem whether they are in school uniform or not. I am not accusing you of anything, not suggesting anything, from one thug to another, it just does not look right to see you and the school girls having friendly conversations and if something 143
should go wrong ,you are going to have a difficult time proving your innocence because if you look too friendly, opinions will be formed. So again, we make it clear pon de Gaza, whether you are a taxi man, tax man, sax man or bus man; drunk, reckless and careless driving is dangerous and needs to be curbed. All of us in the music fraternity have lost too many in this manner, from the great Jacob Miller to Craig Dennis recently. Road deaths have taken so much from our country; veterans like Neville Willoughby the broadcaster and two of our most distinguished footballers, Steve ‘Shorty’ Malcolm and Peter Cargill come to mind. By the way, something has been bothering me for a long time now and I must digress – why is it when football gets so many forms of sponsorship, from bus to money; why is it, that those big ballers have to drive from town go back to the country after a match? I don’t care if they felt like it, the powers that be should never allow that to happen again - it is mainly poor people pickney turn baller for Jamaica and we should protect them. Lastly, I want to mention Tiger, dancehall veteran, ghetto youth – and it hurt me to see, the way the man set today due to a bike accident, but I am proud of his fight to perform – you see how ghetto youth tough? I had to take the opportunity to clarify the meaning and theme of my song because Babylon has a way of taking good intentions and flipping them into something seemingly bad so that the message is convoluted. When I talk about police and taxi men, I am making reference to the sometimes draconian approach some rogue officers use when dealing with taxi men. Let’s face it, like I say in the song “look how times hard” and the crime rate is high. Should we not have some 144
regard for the man who goes out there to earn his honest bread instead of robbing people? I am not sugarcoating anything; I already acknowledge that youths that drive on the road should be more cautious but check their reality. Most people don’t even like driving in traffic. Jamaica’s roads are tough to deal with plus there are plenty of spot checks, to the point where I have heard visitors remark that they are surprised that a country with so much crime would have so many police officers available just to issue tickets – wouldn’t they serve a better purpose by protecting citizens and securing the place? So with police, hectic roads and traffic; I am sure it is not an easy job. The cars that these men drive seldom have air-conditioning and are very frequently at the garage. Very regularly, we read in the paper that taxi men are murdered in the middle of the night, murders that are so difficult to solve because of the nature of how they are executed. Every time a taxi man works at night, it could very well be his last night on earth. They have to drive in fear and play Russian roulette with their lives at night. Sometimes, the taxi men have to make some tough decisions. Do I stop at this red light at 3 in the morning and risk being robbed or do I drive off and risk getting a ticket? So taxi work anuh easy sittin and I dare say it is one of the most dangerous jobs out there after police and firemen. “Beg you a bligh fi the coaster drive again Memba dem have dem pickney fi feed” Sometimes, Babylon can forego aggressive laws and try to compromise. Let us work together for some solutions. How can we facilitate more designated areas for taxis to load and unload? Instead of ticketing and seizing, can we move to 145
training and dialogue? The taxi association and the authorities can sit together at a table without aggression or accusations and try working on solutions. See, most taxi men who I reason with are respectable, responsible adults that are simply trying to make a dollar in a tough economy. Globally, taxis are quite the same phenomenon. New York city cab drivers are notorious all over the world for the way they travel the roads of the Big Apple; it is crazy in New Delhi, Manila, Mexico City and all major global cities but it seems to me that in my country the taxis get the same pressure like any ghetto youth who is trying to make an honest dollar. See, Society isn’t going to do the work, is ghetto people alone run taxi. Even when an uptown man owns it, he is not driving the car. The uptown man, like everything else, owns the asset (this time a car) and gives a youth the car to drive charging him a daily rate whether he makes money or not . There will never be a day in Jamaica when we will not have taxis, so we will just have to find a solution together. Perhaps we can reallocate some of the resources that we use to pressure taxis and buses for other solutions to the general traffic problem. I mean more time you driving, you see all ten Transport Authority man pressuring maybe a one or two bus. Kartel would like to suggest that maybe you can leave 5 Transport Authority officers to pressure the bus but then put the other 5 to some productive measures. Two of them could be spending their time studying global traffic systems and learn how we can handle our escalating traffic problems. Today people have to leave certain parts of Kingston 90 minutes ahead of an appointment in order to reach on time 146
and that is a relatively small city. This congestion affects school performance, work ethics and the overall productivity of the nation. It is extremely dangerous too for other reasons. We know in Jamaica that if you have a medical emergency the last thing you do is call an ambulance because you are likely to die before one arrives. So on any given day in Jamaica’s capital, if you have an emergency in say New Kingston at 6 pm, your life may be lost as you will get stuck in traffic unable to have your emergency attended to at a hospital. ”Spend dah time fi build house cos nuff a we still kotch up in a one room” Maybe, one of the personnel who has the time to spare if you stop pressuring buses and taxis so hard can work on training manuals and classroom training for drivers of public passenger vehicles. This way they can explain to you their concerns and then we could amend the rules as a compromise. Maybe another of the personnel relieved from pressuring a single bus can go into the schools and talk to the students and teachers about proper bus etiquette because we hear so much on the news about lewd behavior on the bus by students in uniform. Then with another resource freed up, that person could study the public trams similar to the ones in Amsterdam which allows free movement into major thoroughfares. With alternatives such as this, busy roads like Waterloo Road, Hope Road and Constant Spring Road would be much less congested. There are solutions Jamaica, but we have to drop the slavery mentality approach. Remember when a slave ran away the Master would beat him, put him on the wine press or maybe 147
cut off his toe but we are past that now. We cannot solely use oppressive and forceful means to solve a problem. Babylon, we may still be slaves to your economic systems but we are no longer slaves; so if you want us to help to solve problems deal with us man to man. Drop the term “taxi bwoy” and stop abusing your powers by uttering the words, “me will seize the vehicle yu nuh bwoy.” We know you can do it but when just one more ghetto youth loses his livelihood it affects us all. We know you can do it but when you deal with us without respect and courtesy, don’t you think that breeds a discourteous and disrespectful reaction? There is something that we do not talk much about in Jamaica but it is one of the major reasons people with positions of authority abuse their authority without ever recognizing it. All of us could have grown up as a group of ghetto youths. Kick ball together, take the same bus, attend the same school; everything. It so happens that some of us may get positions of authority such as police, security guard or customs agent. Immediately, those individuals turn around and start acting like they are better than the rest of us and more powerful – better and more powerful than the man who you grew up with like a brother. See that is the legacy of slavery and it can be summed up in one word Absenteeism. Understand Jamaica, we had one of the highest numbers of absentee owners of slave plantations. When the owner was away, he empowered the overseer, and then the overseer would empower the supervisor, then the ‘house nigga’ and so on. We simply have not abandoned that hierarchical structure in our Society, so as soon as your own brother is put in a position higher than you, he starts to treat you the same way the house nigga treated the field nigga. Hence, most of the abuse one receives from the authorities is not necessary; it is just an embedded abuse by 148
authority figures starting with slavery and continuing today. It is a syndrome that Jamaica must rid itself of as violence begets violence and I can’t see a better Jamaica without violence being curbed at all levels so it must start with the authority figures. The confusing thing about the taxi man pressure is the fact that Jamaican roads are as bad as any road that I have seen in my travels as an entertainer and yet Babylon focuses more on the drivers than the roads. Everyone knows that the road issue is a way for politicians to make money. Is it possible that it is so difficult to fix roads in the 21st Century? As a tropical country we experience heavy rainfall and usually in the hurricane months we get some serious rain. In 2008 and 2010, Jamaica got some periods of rainfall that were not normal. Whenever this happens, places like Bull Bay are cut off from Kingston, people who live in rural St. Andrew have to stay in the hills and many places are isolated. It is an embarrassment to this country when you compare it to the roads in some other Caribbean islands and developing nations. Consider a place like Flat Bridge, from me was a yute, Flat Bridge has been dangerous and there is no proper railing; it still remains a single car road. You cannot convince Kartel, after all the bridges that I have seen in the world, that Jamaica cannot build one making it safe for people who travel between the corporate area and the North Coast. I feel I know why. ”Dem raise the toll more over Portmore” The technology is clearly there. Look at the Toll Road, that road rivals any highway in the world. The government contracted some French men to build the Toll Road. However, this road comes at a cost because Jamaicans will 149
have to pay a relatively high toll to use the road. So the reason we don’t have proper roads yet is Society knows that if they build the road properly without a toll, there is no future income to be had for them. In fact, the road situation will get worse because Jamaica now has an aggressive no-nonsense Contractor General who is preventing the rampant corruption that occurred for years in road work contracts, so unless they find a way to get around the Contractor General, it will be pot holes for you and me. Furthermore, we know that the technology is readily available in Jamaica because we see how good we are at building roads when a member of the Royal Family is coming through. The thing that is really amazing is that Babylon has no issue fixing just the roads that the Royals will drive on. So after the taxi man fight through pot holes travelling from Harbour View to downtown for years, a mere announcement that the Royals are coming and all the roads that they are supposed to drive on are fixed immediately. I figure the taxi man them probably wish that the Royals would come every year so that they would have good roads to drive on every day. It may seem amusing but that is the reality in Jamaica. I would like to request that the next time the Royals come, maybe they can visit all of the ghettos so that we can get some good roads there too. Now, no one is going to publish the statistics regarding the facts that I am about to discuss because Babylon doesn’t want you to hear it. Note the statistics mentioned earlier, pedestrians are the most likely to be killed when an accident occurs in Jamaica. A lot of people, especially people who own cars, blame pedestrians for this. I ask these people to be fair to poor people when making that claim. While in 150
crowded areas like Downtown Parade in Jamaica, pedestrians might be constantly crossing the road so motorists proceed slowly because they are not going to make the mistake of hitting anybody in downtown Kingston. Let’s just say it would not be a pretty picture when that downtown crowd engages the driver. However, motorists don’t drive slowly in other parts of town. In these instances, rich people in their cars look at poor people and say “hey bwoy, come out a de road” or “yuh tink you can beat out and duco.” Sometimes there is no adequate space for people to walk, pedestrian crossings are washed out and the truth is rich people in their cars have no regard for poor people. So though Babylon likes to pressure motorists for certain kinds of driving, Kartel would like to see stiffer penalties for those who violate pedestrian crossings or the pedestrian’s right to cross the road. If we do this systematically, drivers will have more respect for pedestrians and the road fatalities will go down. When you make a flex to the country it’s even worse. On some roads on the way to country, you see the poor people on the side of the road skillfully maneuvering, carrying their possessions and somehow managing to avoid being hit by the car coming around the blind corner. It is not as if the government cares to widen the road and put in proper infrastructure so these people don’t have to share the road with fast moving vehicles – after all, most of these people walking in the country are poor people. Only the rich in the rural areas have cars. Have you ever stopped to consider how dangerous it is for us to drive on those roads where there is hardly any space for two cars and pedestrians? What about the pedestrians who are small children crossing these narrow roads? You have to be thankful that you’ve never accidentally hit one. A government that cares for its people would look 151
into these things and create some safer alternatives. Whether it’s a pedestrian overpass or more highways to reduce fatalities, mirrors in strategic areas so you can see the upcoming danger – I am just a Deejay, so I don’t have all the answers but something mus can gwaan fi keep di people safe. ”Low the taxman cos u nah fix the road” The biggest issue with the road thing in Jamaica is the pot holes. Bwoy, what can I say except that in the song I put that “you tek people fi cartoon” because there is no place in the real world where anyone would believe that the actions of the various Jamaican governments is an honest attempt at fixing the roads. I didn’t know that when I wrote this part about poor people being treated like “cartoon” that the evidence would be so blatant. Just look at the fate of Clifton Brown, a very brave man who was explaining to a reporter the life threatening danger in his community. Society took him for a joke and they laughed him to scorn on television and the video-hosting network YouTube as if he is a cartoon. This road thing is no secret in Jamaica, the rich know it, the poor know it, the young know it, the old know it; but everybody is afraid to say it plain. Kartel will though. Hello world: the road work business in Jamaica is a political tool that corrupt officials use to make money, garner political support and win elections. So, if you fix the road properly once and for all, some politicians a guh tun fool or retire from politics because I don’t know how dem wudda even contest an election. It’s like that other trick Babylon uses where they could make a light bulb last almost forever but if they do that no more light bulbs will sell. No, Kartel not touching the light bulb thing in Jamaica because that would be considered 152
subjudicae (my people that means being forbidden from commenting on active case before the courts.) ”Poverty is such a heavy load” On the real though, the road ting get me upset! If you politicians want to take our money, try and find another scam. I know a lot of you did well with the ponzi schemes and pretend that you didn’t make any money. You get big political donations in exchange for favours, so stick to those scams and leave the roads alone. Ghetto people die when cars swerve from the pothole and get into accidents. Sometimes, I wonder when I see the monstrous holes in the ground if all politicians need glasses because those holes look like craters that could suck in a small car. Now, I can understand why it is not at the forefront of their minds like ordinary citizens because when you drive in Cherry Gardens, Norbrook and Stony Hill, you see a different set of roads. Mr. Politician, can’t you send the same men who built those roads uptown to build them downtown? How come when your roads need to be fixed, it is done quickly but ours are only fixed during election time or when the Queen is coming? Poor people dying, Mr. MP, cut out your slackness now. Leave some of the money alone so that decent roads can be built. People even getting washed away in gullies that you force them to drive through to avoid congestion – Where does it end with you politicians? Babylon is not simple-minded though, they find a way to make money out of every tragedy, yes, they even find a way to make money off bad roads. Ask any bus man how they operate. Transport Authority will pressure you on the road and check your steering wheel for stability. If it seems like the 153
alignment is slightly off they will seize your vehicle and take away your plates and tell you that you cannot get them back until it is fixed. Now, a well thought out policy would have rationalized that if there is no imminent danger you have 48 hours to fix the vehicle and come back so you can earn some money to buy parts and pay the mechanic, but when you live in a slavish Society like this, it is straight oppression. How can you, in a country that is notorious for the amount, size and danger of its potholes; seize a man’s vehicle, damaged by those very potholes you neglected to fix. It’s due to your corruption why we are forced to drive on bad roads. When these bad roads damage our cars, you charge us a fine so you have more money to rob – brilliant Mr. Politician, brilliant! Society, yuh si why some man get involved in illegal activities? When you are not allowed to earn an honest living and your children want to eat, what do you do? ”What happen to the nurse a Public Hospital whey government ah treat like dem a lickle gyal” Some people might say I am only making excuses for the taxi men but what about the other persons I mentioned in the song. “What happen to the nurse them a public hospital, whey the government a treat like lickle gal?” When an immature young man is seeking companionship from a young lady in Jamaica, he will resort to; let’s say fabrications because he feels he could not get through to that girl if he is truthful to her about his abilities and commitments. However, when he sees her as a “lickle gal”, he will tell her what she wants to hear, get what he wants from her and move on. You would think that with all that our nurses put up with, they would be deserving of maximum respect and the politicians would refrain from treating them like lickle gal. Before elections, the 154
nurses got a bunch of promises including double play. The poor nurses smiled when that happened and ran to the polls because they felt that they no longer had to migrate to survive as with the double pay, they could improve their lives. Of course, we all know what happened; politicians got voted in, no double pay for nurses. Consequences? Not in Jamaica, a jus so it guh. It is not just one administration that treats the nurse like lickle gal, this has been going on for years, different administration- same result. My conclusion, it is not the profession, the taxi man or nurse, the powers that be have no compassion for working class Jamaicans. Whilst they can’t give nurses their pay increase that is due, yet they have no issue ensuring that the politicians are well-paid, their government issued houses well refurbished for millions and some “criss” SUV with driver and security personnel to top it off. Those who criticize advocating for the poor say that Jamaica would be better off if we did more farming, eat what we grow and quit complaining about hunger in the ghetto. Well jah jah know wi try. ”You nah sentence white collar crime” Remember, prior to the Morant Bay Rebellion the poor people were asking the Queen to release some of the land owned by the Crown and give it to us so that we could get to farm on it but the Queen replied that they were just too lazy. Well, understand again, we never get nothing – when we were freed, there was an Apprenticeship system which was just another form of slavery. Yes, they would claim they gave us land to farm for ourselves but they made the rent so high that in a short space of time we ended up owing them more than 155
we earned and had to resort to working off the debt by giving the land owner our crops for free. We fought through that and over time we grew extra crops and started going to the market to sell them. We developed a thriving farming industry and Jamaican farmers were prospering. We transformed from Massa's slave to Mr. Farmer, a free man. Those days country life was simple and nice. Families had their fruits, vegetables, poultry, animals, and all they needed but what we need to know is that Babylon in foreign and Babylon a yaad, is the same. They both created policies to hold back poor people in the islands and create a system where we are practically slaves to them. ”Import products fi mash up the farmer” With the farmers doing well, it took some deep strategizing by Babylon to find a way to stop their progress but because “dem nuh like we” they found a way. As Jamaica moved towards the Garveyite dream of self reliance and self sustenance, the foreign powers realized that if this continued Jamaica would prosper and they would no longer need them. So when Jamaica needed help in other areas, they took the opportunity to destroy the local farmers and create a market for themselves. Jamaicans must understand this critical point, certain rich Western countries have the strength of cash and they use that cash wisely to control poor people if you not wary of them. They give their farmers strong subsidy money which allows them to produce farm products at a much cheaper rate than developing countries including Jamaica. They use their power and loan money to get Jamaica to allow these cheap products to hit our shelves and markets encouraging poor people to buy the cheaper imported food and forego the now more expensive local food. 156
People, who don’t understand this trick, will say, “bwoy di Jamaican farmer dem thief” but that is not the case, they are just producing the best they can without any protection from our government. To me that is unacceptable, because the government has a way of imposing very high taxes on other things that are not made here. So why not do the same with imported produce? I mean, as far as I know, televisions are not manufactured in Jamaica, so if a man buys a TV abroad and takes it home, he pays a ridiculous tax rate. Even if your car breaks down and you have to send for the parts overseas, they tax you even though you’re buying the part in the US and it is not affecting a single Jamaican manufacturer. However, the same government will allow produce into our country that competes with our products at low import duties. Yes, I know that the World Trade Organization (WTO) makes the rules but who are these rules benefitting? Who controls the WTO? Who sets their agenda? ”U nuh lock up white collar criminal” The primary responsibility of government is to protect its people from all kinds of abuse; physical, religious and economical. Babylon uses names like the Commonwealth and has Commonwealth Games and Commonwealth meetings. But what have you noticed about the Commonwealth? Most citizens of the commonwealth countries are broke – so the only thing common about the Commonwealth is that wealth is uncommon to most of the former colonies. The Gaza would suggest a better name would be the “Uncommonwealth” because some countries in the group are rich but most are poor. They keep using pretty names and advertising to make us think things are made in Jamaica when they are not.
As a youth, I drank a particular tea. The container had a man on the tin that looked like me – I was shocked to find out later that it was a foreign company that owned it all along. These companies sponsor Jamaican events and call themselves “Jamaican” except when we are not looking, the money goes back to their home country and we sit down with a free bag or towel, grinning, not realizing that when we don’t support our own, we are hurting our country. The Chinese say history has no record of any nation that is built up by others but it seems our politicians want to make history because they keep allowing foreigners to control everything. The way we talk, the light we use, what we watch, our toll roads, airports; you name it, foreigners have a hand in it. They have even started to get involved in our culture and politics. Not only did foreign corporations use their sponsorship money to tell promoters who can and can’t perform at major shows, but what they can sing and cannot sing. Di man dem even start war ova di cricketer dem; imagine that, West Indies cricket started to suffer due to non West Indian controlled companies fighting over the marketing rights of West Indians. If Jamaica is to become a great nation, we have to start by implementing a system of self reliance. I was amazed when so many persons got upset with me because I tried to create products that were Jamaican-owned to be marketed here. I also took a lot of criticism for creating Adjaheim Records. As Marcus Garvey said, man must own dem own tings. I don’t think fancy slogans and advertising are going to change the mindset of our people to encourage us to start supporting our own. It has to start from the youths are very young. Allow them to appreciate their own television shows as much as the foreign ones. Let them vacation in Jamaica and not just foreign. Expose them to some of our local fashion designers – 158
give them an appreciation for what is theirs. I am not against globalization, I am not saying boycott, I buy foreign things too but we need to give some of our business to local people. I think that is another reason why Babylon hated the Gully/ Gaza phenomenon because children started to identify with some entertainers that looked and sounded like them and had similar youthful experiences. Babylon took action to quickly curb it. Hello Babylon, understand, that part of the reason why we are effective is because we are proud of who we are so the youths no longer feel ashamed to be affiliated with ghetto as much as you want them to be. The Gaza is not a rich place, the houses are not fancy. We have no landmarks or Heritage Sites. We had no millionaires before the Gaza crew buss in Dancehall. Despite all that, a Gaza we say from maanin – Gaza wi proud ah. People all over the country would big up dem chest and start to build up “Empires” everywhere like the Portmore Empire if they were encouraged to build brands that mirrored our culture. However, Babylon smart. They saw what happened when Russell Simmons, Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs and Jay-Z threw out their brands of clothing, accessories and fragrances. The competing clothing lines lost tremendous profits as urban youths started to buy their clothing instead of the clothes made by people that are not from our communities. “Dem nuh like we” so they know if Gaza starts to expand with Branding in other areas, we are going to take business from them, hence, they try to eliminate the Gaza because we are an economic threat. We are not a gang, or a club or a charity; we are people who are proud of the ghetto that we come from and youths identify with what we are saying and appreciate it.
We stand up to Babylon’s injustice and we are certainly not afraid to talk about it – when Gaza talk, people listen, so it is best for Society to shut us up. Remember what we did for Clarks’ sales in Jamaica? Society does not want to see that happen again, the Gaza is too influential for their comfort. See most of the crime and violence that we sing about in Dancehall is a narration of what we see every day. Those in Society do not experience the same thing, so you incorrectly assume that we are glorifying it. No, we are not. We are simply putting the reality out there. We have many fans because we are the ones that are exposing what happens every day in the ghetto through Dancehall. There were days not too long ago when people were afraid to say where they are from. Come on, I know many of you out there know it is true. Remember when you went to school, you avoided telling people where you lived if it was considered a lesser neighbourhood than the neighbourhood of your classmates. Instead, you tell them where you rich uncle lives or you simply invent a place out of embarrassment. I think we have changed that pon the gaza and this generation is no longer ashamed of where there are from regardless of how poverty stricken the place is. Babylon, you are running out of options. You can no longer look down on us and act like you better than us just because of economics. So I will continue to say Gaza 4 life, no matter who want to leave the crew, fight me or criticize. When ghetto youths hear me say “Gaza 4 life” proudly, they no longer hold down their heads feeling inferior if they are from the ghetto – they are no longer ashamed of where they came from. Amazingly, for the first time in Jamaica’s history, some people, even when they now live uptown still refer to themselves as ghetto youths. Previously, everyone who moved uptown would almost pretend to their 160
new neighbors that they did not even know the place where they just moved from existed. This new found ghetto pride is having such an impact that even some uptown youths trying to claim the ghetto as their original home– maad, look what Kartel live to see! Can you imagine how uptown fathers vex when they hear that kind of talk from their kids because you know “dem nuh like we.” So I hope you understand why I wrote this song. Dem fight ghetto youth yes. Whether you are a taxi man, nurse or farmer – if you are poor or poor people pickney, Society just want to give you enough for you to survive. You are not going to get the pay you deserve, if you start a little business that they don’t like – they are going to destroy it. Our government does not even respect Jamaican elders, look at the current conditions of the people that work and pay their taxes for years. Out of respect for the pensioners, I will not print what they get paid because I am embarrassed as a Jamaican to acknowledge the manner in which we treat our elderly. I mean Jamaica is not a country where there are a lot of options for poor old people to enjoy their retirement, so the least you could do is give a decent pension to civil servants so that they can enjoy old age. In some countries with good pension and social security, every day is bingo, casino, cruise, dance class, golf, shuffle board; just a lot of activities for the elderly to enjoy. ”Mi granny follow up the system, dem treat her like garbage Father work 25 years, jus to pay up the mortgage” Where are the activities for our retirees in Jamaica? We will barely hold their hands to take them across the road safely even with our knowledge of road fatalities. There is a saying, 161
once a man, twice a child. Whilst these people were healthy and strong, they steered us, protected us; gave us opportunities so that we can become International World Bosses, athletes and artistes. Jamaica, we have to implement some formal programs to give more back to them other than the meagre check. Ministry of Social Security, I am calling on you to make these people’s retirement better. You can start to have free Internet classes for retirees, create some good volunteer programs so that they can feel active going to hospitals and schools everyday and most of all, give them a medium from which they can preserve our culture. Back in the day, there was no My Space or Facebook page, so much of our history was oral and we need to properly archive our family’s history and preserve our heritage before they go. Allow them to tell us stories about the things they experienced. There is a lot we can learn from retirees and there is a lot of room for them to enjoy life more if we just cared a little. ”Why dem fight the Rastaman in the street and use Rasta image pon ’tourist board’?” In the song I mention the hypocrisy present in the way in which we deal with Rastafarian men. When you travel the world over, people have this impression that Rastamen are held in high regard in Jamaica. One would think that as protectors of our history and spirituality, they would be revered and become our leaders but anyone that knows Jamaica, knows that there still exists religious, economic and legal persecution against Rastamen. I expanded more on this issue in the chapter “Where is the love for the Black Child” but in this song I point out how Rasta is used to market the country overseas but persecuted locally. Some Rastamen have 162
certainly achieved upward mobility from the days of Pinnacle to today but the majority of them are poor due to Society’s marginalization and condemnation of their industrious activities. So Babylon, until evidence to the contrary surfaces, until you prove me wrong; I will continue to believe you don’t like ghetto people. I think you find us to be an inconvenience and nothing more than pawns in your high-level chess game of life. “Move them squatters from here to there; tell the nurse them two false promises; lock up the taxi man” – check mate! I sincerely hope that after Voice of the Jamaican Ghetto, it will be game over for you.
“SUP”MA GUH HAPP”N.” “Give me a chance fi talk pon poor people behalf.” I start the song “Sup’m A Guh Happ’n” by asking for a chance to speak on poor people’s behalf because throughout our history, the poor and oppressed in Jamaica are never freely given a voice. In Jamaica’s history, once a voice for the poor emerges, it is muzzled or disappears in mysterious ways. My song is a warning to the powers that be. If we do not change the way the poor are treated in Jamaica “something is going to happen.” I am not an advocate of violence, but I have seen too many ghetto people killed standing up for their rights in this country and I think if the conditions of the poor don’t change soon enough, we could have a revolution on our hands. If the powers that be have no regard for the poor under regular circumstances my heart bleeds for the calamity that will reach my people if we decide to stand up for our rights. Again, this song is encouraging the powers that be to do something before what we saw in North Africa happens here in Jamaica. I am not a prophet but I did write this song before the Egypt and Tunisia debacle and whilst I am not taking sides there, I feel that Jamaica is on the brink of “something happening”. As a ghetto youth you develop a natural instinct as a means of survival. To survive, you have to be able to sense when the police will make a raid and round up random youths. You have to know when men from another community might attack yours so you pree which fence to beat in the event that this happens. Also, you have to be wary of thieves who may see your things and try to take them. In the ghetto, a man can
hol’ a fresh one evening, put on his clothes and when he walks outside he just gets a feeling that something bad is about to happen. There is no cloud in the sky but the place is overcast. The youths are playing in the street, di man dem a beat domino pon di sidewalk and the sound system is pushing out some serious tunes, but even with all that noise, the silence is deafening. You just feel it. It’s something you can’t explain to someone not from the ghetto. Yuh jus look pon yuh bredrin and seh, “Popcaan, sup’m a guh happ’n.” Malcolm X said when you have a powder keg and there are too many sparks around it, it will explode. That is what we are faced with in Jamaica; powder kegs of poverty, but on top of the poverty, Babylon hits us with more sparks. You give us more General Consumption Tax (GCT), you raise basic food prices, dish out more police brutality, raid more of our dances and stop wi likkle food. I am appealing to the powers that be, when “di pickney waan guh school and di madda waan guh shopp’n” and there is no money, “sup’m bound fi happ’n.” Yes, those sparks will cause the kegs to burst. Peter Tosh said there can be no peace until all men have equal rights and justice. Currently, poor people hardly have any rights, and justice for them is nothing more than a dream etched in their minds but never to be realized under this current political system. Haile Selassie said, “Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned... there is [will be] war.” So Vybz Kartel is not the first to say this, as great men have been saying the same thing for years. I think Babylon is making two erroneous assumptions. Firstly, Babylon feels that things are not as bad as ghetto people make them out to be and secondly, they believe Jamaicans are not 166
like Egyptians or Tunisians – we will not stand up for our rights. That is so far from the truth! Jamaicans are a proud, rebellious people but what Babylon tries to do is steal our history of revolt from us and give the impression that any freedoms we have obtained were given to us and not taken by our people. This practice of stealing our history is not accidental. In fact, it was taught by white supremacists like Willie Lynch and others. In their slave doctrine, the oppressors were always warned that if even seven minutes of their true history is released to the slaves, it could erase seven years of brainwashing and destroy the mind control of white supremacists. I will attempt to share some of the knowledge I have acquired through reading and reasoning over the years. I want to emphasize the point of the institutionalized brainwashing that we as poor, black, ghetto people have been subjected to in Jamaica. One of the biggest lies we have been fed is that slavery was abolished. This is a vicious lie for two main reasons. No one ever abolished slavery. NO! We took our freedom –learn dat! The only reason the enslavers gave up on slavery was because they could not take the pressure anymore. The slaves were giving them a hard time, burning plantations and destroying great houses. Economically, West Indian sugar was losing its viability as a cash crop, as Europe was finding substitutes and their conscience no longer allowed them to justify Euro-Christianity and Slavery on the same plantation. We were pressuring them but instead of teaching us that, Babylon created the illusion that they did us a favour by simply handing us our freedom on a platter as an act of kindness.
They did this first with books. A-Level students are told to read the book “British Slave Emancipation”. Now consider that name. Just by saying it, you are immediately enunciating the thought that it was the British who emancipated us and our fore-fathers had nothing to do with it. Lies! They give us politically correct books with fancy names such as “Sugar and Slavery” and “From Arawaks to Africans”, as if anything ‘glamorous’ happened during slavery. If the Gaza published such books, they would have been given names like “Robbery, Skulduggery, Rape and Murder, Just so Europeans can Have Sugar in their Tea and Money in their Pockets”, “The Genocide of all Genocides” and “Can we Have the Gold that you Stole Please?”. As for “From Arawaks to Africans”, I would call it “How the Europeans Killed the Arawaks then moved on to the Africans”. Aren’t those more appropriate names by far that truly represent what happened? Worse than the politically correct approach is the fact that governments, supposedly made up primarily of African descendants – or at least by their mantra, represent Africans – still celebrate holidays that symbolize when Europe eased the oppression and not the glory days when we rebelled. Confusing? Check this out; please pardon the graphic images. Imagine a man kidnapping and raping your daughter repeatedly over a number of years. During this time she would fight back occasionally. One day she escapes and is recaptured. Another day, she is able to hit one of her attackers, temporarily knocking him out. Eventually because of your daughter’s bravery and resilience, her attackers grow wary. Neighbours become suspicious and start complaining about the screams they keep hearing. All this pressure on her captors forces them to let her go for their own self interest and safety because it is becoming expensive, dangerous and 168
burdensome to keep her captive due to her rebellious attitude. However, as a last bit of humiliation, the same people who use to beat, rape and use her; offer her a minimal salary in exchange for compliance. Talk about adding insult to injury! Now, as her parent, someone she looks to for leadership and guidance, would you tell her to remember and celebrate the day they decided to stop raping her and offer her money for her services? Or would you think it is better for her to celebrate the days of victory – when she fought them and was victorious – when she made it so hard for them to continue mistreating her that her actions forced them to let her go? That is what I cannot understand about Jamaica and other black nations born out of slavery and colonialism. We celebrate Emancipation Day – the day they said, “Okay nigger, you are free”. We celebrate Independence Day – which I don’t really understand because the Queen is still the Head of State – the day they said, “Okay niggers, you can now rule yourselves but we will leave a Governor General in charge to watch over you.” That to me is ridiculous! Why don’t we celebrate as public holidays Sam Sharpe’s rebellion, Tacky’s war, the Morant Bay Rebellion and all the other days when poor people said, “We will not take it anymore” and then caused something to happen to change their circumstances. I am not sure how many know what happened in those days because Babylon, wanting us to feel that we never had any challenges, has given us Boxing Day when rich aristocrats would give the poor servants wat lef after Christmas, but will not allow us to celebrate August 17, the birthday of the greatest mortal man to ever live – Marcus Garvey, our own Jamaican.
Sure, slavery was rampant after they annihilated the Arawaks. But don’t be fooled, our reaction was nothing like the reaction portrayed in books and movies today. Hollywood portrays us as submissive, taking the whippings daily saying, “Yes massa” and “No massa” but black people gave them a warm time back then. When the British moved in on Jamaica in 1655, it was a yaad man name Ysassi who gave them hell the entire time. It took the British years to get rid of Ysassi. Even when they curtailed him, the pressure continued. Remember the pirate Henry Morgan – the wicked pirate in whose honour we foolishly named our great harbour in Port Royal? He was a British Governor who as early as the 1670s had problems with the slaves rebelling. My people, we did not take the pressure from the Europeans lying down – we kept saying “Sup’m a guh happ’n.” Even on the slave ships, with our feet in shackles, with no food and no bathroom, we still revolted. We went so far that the British were forced to sign a treaty with the Maroons. That treaty quelled things with a certain set of Blacks but the majority never gave up. Straight up, the first holiday we should celebrate is Tacky’s War. Tacky was a Coromantin slave from Africa. For many, this may be your first time hearing about that tribe, but the Coromantins were like the Gaza people. They would not accept slavery and control from Babylon and would not stop fighting. As a matter of fact, with the exception of the British, all Europeans were reluctant to challenge them for fear of their rebellious nature. Real ting people, Coromantins were conquerors. Nuhbady nuh affi dig up my family tree, I am sure di man dem from Gaza a straight Coromantin. We need to have some youths study and find the exact day Tacky started his war so that we can celebrate properly because he decided that not only was he going to be free but he and other 170
Blacks would rule Jamaica. Tacky never achieved all his objectives but he wreaked havoc in St. Mary. He attacked the plantations and took weapons. A lot of Whites and their families were killed and properties were destroyed. This made the Europeans realise that they could not continue treating Blacks as simpletons. If it was not for an ‘informer’ slave who revealed Tacky’s plans, who knows what would have happened differently? Tacky was such an imposing force that even after they killed him, war was in the air as he had set the stage for rebellion, a stage that the oppressors could not break down. Kartel wants to see the day Tacky’s war is celebrated as a public holiday. Babylon can keep Boxing Day; it’s just an insult to poor people. I was influenced by many stories in our history when I wrote this song but the biggest influence was really the Sam Sharpe experience. Sam Sharpe initially wanted a non-violent approach to solving the problems slaves faced – an arrangement where the slaves could be paid as labourers to ease their suffering. However, the oppressors would not accept any talk of paying black men for their work when it was so much cheaper to keep them as slaves. When these pleas fell on deaf ears, many slaves were fed up with the conditions and decided to take matters into their own hands. Over 100 plantations were burnt and dozens of slave owners killed leaving the British with no choice but to resort to full abolition to protect themselves from these fiery, determined slaves. Babylon, notice - pleas fell on deaf ears and there were significant consequences. For a long time we have been pleading for a better life in the ghetto. Just hear us and act! We don’t expect all our problems to be solved. We don’t anticipate you doing anything special for us but you must at least address some of the major issues affecting us. 171
Paul Bogle experienced a fate similar to Sam Sharpe. After Emancipation things were very rough for the freed slaves. There was poverty and of course they had no voice or franchise as most of them were denied the right to vote. Bogle had first marched 45 miles to Spanish Town in St. Catherine from Stony Gut in St. Thomas to Governor Eyre in order to present their grievances. He tried to warn Eyre that if things didn’t get better, “sup’m a guh happ’n”. The Governor never even met with them! This event is actually immortalized in Third World’s “96 Degrees in the Shade”. Many do not know that song is a tribute to the Morant Bay Rebellion but we know wi rebel music pon di Gaza. Before that attempt by Bogle, Blacks and missionaries wrote a letter to the Queen requesting Crown Land for farming so they the ex-slaves could feed their families. The Queen replied negatively, not only telling them that she would not help them, but that they simply needed to work harder, suggesting that they were lazy. Tensions grew and the powder keg got hot with sparks. A few days before the actual rebellion, the authorities arrested a man, and Bogle along with his crew went to the courthouse to protest and have the man freed. Still, Babylon would not stop. They issued 27 warrants for the arrest of Bogle and his cronies and that was when the powder keg burst. Bogle and a few hundred Gaza type men went to the courthouse and started a war. At the end of it all, hundreds died on either side and there was destruction of property. Again, the situation is the same in each case; the poor put their grouses in writing and they were basically ignored leaving them with no choice but to take matters into their own hands. The pent-up anger led to aggressive behaviour – sound familiar Babylon?
In the 1930s, workers across the Caribbean were displeased with their wages and treatment. Having no choice since free labour no longer existed, Babylon employed the children and grandchildren of former slaves and treated them unfairly. It was pretty much the same as it is today; Babylon pays poor people a wage just to give them enough money to survive and find lunch money, bus fare and uniform to come to work. As unrest grew in the Eastern Caribbean, Jamaicans of course were influenced by the resistance of their Caribbean brothers and sisters and they too started to protest their poor working conditions. Hence, we had the 1938 labour riots that started at Frome in Westmoreland and Seaforth in St. Thomas. Many people give Norman Manley and Bustamante credit for starting this, but although they took the unrest to another level, it was the poor ghetto, working class people that started it. At Frome in Westmoreland, the workers were protesting low wages and instead of acknowledging the workers’ plight, the Estate lined up a police force made up mainly of Irish soldiers to challenge them. Once again people, pree dis, the workers at Frome just wanted to discuss their situation; the powers that be ignored them and this led to national chaos. Babylon should learn from this because the two political parties that we have in Jamaica were largely developed based on those labour riots. In history, we see that change usually arises out of chaos, but the chaos and the loss of life would not be necessary if Babylon only listened to us in the first place. Society, Kartel hopes that you all listen to my song and understand its historical context. I come to you with the same pleas as my fore-fathers; the same plea that Tacky had in 1760, Sharpe in 1831, Bogle in 1865 and the Frome Workers in 1938. This is the reason for is writing this book. I am 173
making a general plea on poor people’s behalf in 2011. Society, please listen to me. The 1938 riots came right after the 1929 Depression in the United States that had far reaching effects. The US is just now emerging from the depths of a depression and the regional economic situation is now the same as it was then. Please do something or “sup’m a guh happ’n.” “The water bill last week we mi get; mek mi nuh want watch duppy show again Cos duppy show neva make me frighten so yet” You say that I am exaggerating when I say in the song that our electricity and water bills are scarier than horror movies. But in the ghetto we are truly terrified by our inability to pay them – that’s the main thing that keeps the heads of our households awake at night. See, in the ghetto, we can beat fence when the police are coming after us, we can handle gunmen, and when hurricanes are coming we can batten up, but against electricity and water bills – wi hopeless. It’s like the boss man has the meters functioning like robots; as soon as you miss one payment – click. We know that pricing is determined by the forces of demand and supply but in these two cases there is a natural demand – people in Jamaica love to bathe, wash our clothes and keep our houses clean. Since these are necessities shouldn’t the government make them more affordable to its citizens? Shouldn’t there be more of an effort by the government to make energy and water supply more efficient and affordable? Shouldn’t the government re-evaluate its privatization experiment and see where it went wrong and nationalize some of these industries? How come some people live alone in a room and certain bills are 20,000 JMD per month? How come? How come the lines are so long 174
in certain places with everybody complaining that their bills are clearly wrong? How come? How come our government allows certain companies to continue operations without an audit when the vast majority of their customers complain every day? How come? How come people are losing certain services even when their bill is absolutely wrong? How come? How come, you can live in the same place and get one bill in August for 20,000 JMD but get one for 50,000 JMD in September when nothing in your household changes? How come? Maybe if we get answers to those questions, certain rude people would not have to ask ghetto people, “How come?” – Dem brite! Most houses in the ghetto don’t have central air conditioning, pools and chandeliers. So although most of the advertisements about saving energy are geared toward us, we are not the ones wasting the energy as we cannot afford anything beyond necessities. I guess Babylon has a reflex action – if something is wrong just blame the ghetto whether the facts support the blame or not. Notwithstanding that fact, I am aware that we all must practise energy conservation as the protection of the environment is not only an uptown thing but it is a national responsibility. Funny enough, this is the one social issue that Uptown has to concede that we beat them to as many of us in the ghetto learn energy conservation from our parents. They would remind us every day that they cannot pay the bill. “Turn off the light!”, “Turn aff di TV if nuhbaddy nah watch it” and “Lock di fridge, yuh ah waste current” is what we hear growing up in the ghetto so we really don’t need the advertising geared toward us about energy conservation – we already do it as a means of survival. I do ask, however, that Society stop insulting poor people’s
intelligence by pretending that our energy costs cannot be lowered. Over 90% of the electricity produced in Jamaica is from imported petroleum so we are at the mercy of global oil prices, and when war erupts in the Middle East the price per barrel of oil increases. Oil rights surpass human rights and the decision to treat countries as friend or foe has nothing to do with politics but everything to do with oil. Have you ever heard anybody upset with the Saudi’s? Those men don’t allow women to drive, they have religious police and strict rules on malefemale interaction but hardly anybody sanctions them for their beliefs and practices. Mr. BC would love a work down there. Why? Oil. I say ‘big up’ to the House of Saud family in Saudi Arabia. If only Jamaica could find oil like that. Then everybody would leave us alone and allow us to strive. In Jamaica, we pay close to 30 US cents per kilowatt hour for electricity which is higher than many other countries at the same level of development, though there are alternatives that are as cheap as 5 US cents per kilowatt hour. Have you heard of men getting trapped in coal mines and dying? Well my people, yuh neva see smoke without fire. Babylon send poor people to the bottom of the earth, hundreds of feet below the surface to look for alternatives to oil. Along with coal, there is nuclear energy, wind energy, solar energy, hydroelectricity and many other alternatives. Yet there aren’t enough incentives set out by our government to encourage private enterprises to seek out their own alternative energy source – don’t know why. Amazingly, whilst our people bawl about the price of utilities, the companies that provide them seem to be doing very well. Our government must do more to open up the electric grid and encourage competition with new energy sources so we can 176
manage the payments. Mr. Babylon, instead of locking off the light in our homes, turn on the light in your brain and start making energy efficiency a priority. If you don’t do that and people have to live in the dark – “sup’m a guh happ’n”. The situation is the same with water, but instead of private companies pressuring us, it is the government that controls the water. Water is the staff of life and to be honest it is not as expensive as electricity but can somebody explain to me why in 2009 and 2010, in this modern world, people in the capital city of Jamaica could not get a drop of water from their pipes for six months straight in a place once known as the land of wood and water? Tourists all over the world come here to enjoy our water and our own Jamaica people can’t get a little to bathe? Some of the dams and elements of our water system have not been sufficiently upgraded since the 1950s. Every day, the government tells us that we must conserve; we must only flush toilets at a certain time, we must only bathe at a certain time, we can only get water two hours per day but they can’t tell us what they are going to do to alleviate the problem. When it rains pon di Gaza you can’t even leave your house because the roads are flooded, but at the same time there is no water in the pipe? Mr. Government, Kartel is warning you unless you invest in resources that result in the upgrading of our dams, the revamping of our wells and the overall protection of our water supply system, “sup’m a guh happn”. People can’t go through life without water and we are not going to take it this lightly the next time around when you force us to go months without water. That is inhumane. You see, I know that as usual, it is the uptown houses, hotels, big house pon di hill and the like that have their big water tanks so some of you have no clue what I am talking about. I 177
assure you there are places in the ghetto that have not seen a drop of water or water truck for nearly a year. Do you know how many communities in Jamaica still do not have direct access to running water? We will not have the true figure but over a quarter of a million Jamaicans in 2011 still do not have access to clean running water. At the same time, many communities are cut off from the rest of the country due to heavy rainfall. How dem suh wicked to poor people jah jah? In the ghetto, we don’t have any money to buy bottled water regularly, we don’t have friends uptown where we can go to shower in marble tiled bathrooms with water heaters and we don’t have money to buy food on the road everyday so we have to cook at home. We are simply begging for adequate water supply in the ghetto. Kartel believes that in a country surrounded by water with a lot of rainfall, it is inhumane to have people going months without water. If the people want to bathe, if the people want clean water to drink, if the people want to wash their clothes and there is no water – “sup’m a guh happn”. We know the drought is not the real problem; it is the drought in the brains of the powers that be. We in the ghetto feel like we sometimes can sneak in a little voice and speak up but somehow as soon as we get comfortable, that voice disappears. Remember Public Eye? Well those who are 35 and above will remember when Ronnie Thwaites used to have a radio show and you could bawl bout the light, the water and the roads. He would be on the case immediately or even go as far as to call those who are pressuring poor people, same time on the spot. We have Miss Barbara Gloudon, Dr. Orville Taylor, and Mr. Thwaites with his new show among others, but no show gives us a voice like Mr. Thwaites, Public Eye. Pree the name; eye of the public. Something is peculiar with the radio thing and 178
radio personalities though, and Kartel must point it out. I have no evidence to substantiate an accusation so I am not making one, but how is it that two poor people champions on the radio suddenly got sick and we can’t hear from them again? Remember Winston ‘Babatunde’ Witter who used to ‘give it to’ Society people dem about poor people oppression – boom, accident, and then never to be heard from with any degree of prominence again. Then there was Tony Laing on Power 106’s evening programme. Mr. Laing stood up for poor people, black people and ghetto people on every show that he did and was never afraid to challenge Babylon. Nex’ ting wi know him gone. Babatunde and Mr. Laing, feel better. Gaza might decide to invest in a radio station so the ghetto can have a voice so gwaan chill, we might soon forward yuh in the struggle again. Dervan, Dr. Taylor, Miss Gloudon, Ron Muschette, Muta and even Simon on Smile Jamaica; I see that you have poor people at heart but I know you can’t push it too tough because your careers would be destroyed. In the ghetto, we often get accused of blocking roads and having our demonstrations with homemade cardboard placards. We are not idiots, only a sick dog fouls his own cage but it is an act of desperation on our part, trying to get you to hear us. Please, I want the people to know that blocking roads was not always our first resort. We often sought to have dialogue so that the powers that be would understand our plight. With all due respect to Dr. Gomes and the Jamaicans for Justice crew, it should not take a white woman from a big organization to bring something to Society’s attention before you get involved. That poor mother, baby mother or even the little youths cried to you over the innocent dead body when poor people were controversially shot and you paid them no attention. Kartel believes ghetto 179
people deserve the same attention as a powerful woman in New Kingston who can articulate a complaint or put together a well written document. For years, we have been crying about Police brutality yet it took a certain video going viral to get people’s attention. There was a man lying on the ground helpless like a pig in sludge and in the YouTube video I saw him rolling in the dirt helplessly before the police fired shots, killing a man who was harmless at the time and offering no resistance. Every time our roads need to be fixed we call councillors, caretakers, MPs, ministers, senators and no answer. Do you know how many times we’ve taken the bus downtown from Portmore to talk to someone? We wait for hours and see no one. Sometimes when we go to the powers that be respectfully, they treat us like dogs and chase us from the building. They don’t show that on TV – just the protest, giving the impression we are just arrogant and unreasonable. The part you eventually see on TV was our last resort; it is usually not our first attempt at justice. Think about it, would we choose to take the time out to do all that if the matter that we were protesting about was heard? No. It is because all our pleas fall on deaf ears that we start mek up noise. Like it or not those protests work because Jamaica is all about politics and residents on TV protesting may lead to a loss of votes, so the politicians show up with promises so that the TV cameras can catch them in the constituency, looking busy and pretending to care. Look at the recent video that went viral with Clifton Brown trying to explain that when it rains in his community of Robertsfield in St. Thomas the residents are cut off from the rest of the country. He was trying to explain the dangers. He 180
was trying to explain that children cannot go to school, people cannot go to work and the community suffers. The video went viral and people all over the world saw it. Days later, the powers that be sent personnel to Robertsfield to start some kind of work to save face. After 60 years of suffering it took a viral YouTube video to yield results. Worse, there is also another video of a mature lady trying to explain that people were dying in her neighbourhood of Tivoli Gardens in Kingston. Like many people in the ghetto, her English was not perfect and someone took it as a joke, remixed it and the country laughed at a ghetto woman commenting on over 70 tragic deaths in her community. This person got space in the media and was written up as ingenious and talented. So Clifton Brown, a poor man lifting people on his back and carrying them to safety for money is laughed at, while the person making the video is hailed as a genius. I shall say nothing more on that matter except I often say in my songs that “Society tek ghetto people fi cartoon” – I need no further proof. I watch CNN all the time and people get sufficient air time without having to protest. They sit with Anderson Cooper and the world hears their complaint. Maybe if the media gave us air time we would not have to resort to protests and road blocks to be heard. Vybz Kartel is throwing this out there right now, I will partner with any willing media house to create a show called “Voice of the Jamaican Ghetto”. Each week you could visit the inner cities of Jamaica and instead of the media setting the issue for the night, simply allow ghetto people to speak their minds. I am willing to submit on behalf of all ghetto people that if you give us the chance, we will channel our protests in this manner and reduce the placards
and road blocks. I have some youths ready to produce the show; will you give us the opportunity? Society, we have major grouses like light, water and other bills that you may understand, but in my song I touched on something that you have never experienced and probably will never truly understand. I will try my best to break it down. In the song I say “dem lef di ghetto inna trauma” which is how youths feel when they struggle through poverty. I mention that they get an education – “qualified but don’t fit the criteria”. What I mean is, when a ghetto youth includes his address on his resume, he is almost always denied the job. It is one of the elements of class prejudice that we suffer from in Jamaica and one of the sickest kinds. Imagine, we don’t get anything in the ghetto and some of us still manage to fight the good fight and get an education. Yet when we do, you rob us of the opportunity to earn a fair living. Why do you think you read so many stories in the newspapers about well educated ghetto youths finding themselves in trouble? When sentencing, the judge criticizes them about having a good education and not finding work but what the judge does not understand is that they are unable to get jobs because of where they live. Does Society understand that every year some 40,000 youths are leaving school without a job? I understand that not all of them can be placed in full time employment but nuh lef dem suh. Even some sort of apprenticeship (not the slave kind) would be good. You can bring a youth to the tailor shop, teach him how to cut fabric or allow him to work at the garage and teach him a skill; the ladies can learn to do hair or nails as yuh ‘prentice’, just a little something for the ghetto youth. If you can’t pay a decent wage, you can give them bus fare and lunch money until an opportunity opens up. It is sad that Society just sits back and 182
leaves these youths with idle hands and when they get in trouble, you say they are worthless. What have you done to keep them occupied with productive endeavours? That’s why I believe “you don’t want us to float, you want us to sink like an anchor” because you refuse to give us fair opportunities for a better life. Note, I did not ask for an easy road, I asked for a fair opportunity. Everyone knows that class discrimination is happening in the work place and nobody does anything about it. Why don’t we implement some laws so that if a youth is discriminated against due to his address, there is an automatic fine and public embarrassment for the offender so that it does not happen again? If Society knows this is happening, why don’t we have addresses removed from resumes the way other countries remove race or religion from applications to discourage discrimination? Yes, you need the employee’s address for other reasons but you can get it after the interview, once he or she has been hired. Why don’t we have a hotline or some document at the Ministry of Labour for us to fill out when we are discriminated against due to our address? Babylon, if youths continue to be discriminated against without a strong policy to combat this “sup’m a guh happn”. I think one of the reasons Babylon gets away with a lot of these things is because of the purposeful division you created for us with your politics. Babylon has perfected the divide and conquer system because they know if we unite “sup’m a guh happn”. In the song, I mentioned how great it would be if Tivoli would link Rema and unite; imagine if Clansman and One Order would unite. The focus would be shifted from fighting against each other as ghetto youths to channelling 183
that energy towards Babylon to fight your system. Babylon, you think I don’t know that this is why you sleep well at nights? You think I don’t know that you’ve figured it out because you take comfort in the fact that if you keep us fighting over the crumbs, we will not focus on the loaf of bread that you are eating? Like Miriam Makeba said in her classic “A Piece of Ground”, don’t sleep too well. Do you know that in Tunisia, it was a simple incident that caused all the revolutionary activity now going on in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Brunei, Yemen and other areas? See, politicians in Jamaica don’t respect the little man but it was a little street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi who was trying to pay a 7 USD fine for his food cart when a police woman slapped him, insulted his family and spat in his face. Sounds familiar? Sounds like something that happens in Jamaica to the poor hand-cart men. In fact, something similar happened on December 17, 2010 here in Jamaica, and even in 2011 Jamaican police still confiscate handcarts. A country with so much crime and violence and yet it’s the handcart man that you all have strength for? Anyway, after that vendor in Tunisia was roughed up by the authorities, he tried to burn himself alive in protest because he had eight kids and was only trying to feed his family and Babylon gave him a hard time. Interestingly though, he only attempted to burn himself alive after he tried to complain to the local authorities and they refused to listen! Get the point? Just think about it Society. Maybe, just maybe, if they had allowed the man to speak, there would have been no revolution. Ben Ali would still be in Tunisia; Mubarak would still be ruling Egypt and Gaddafi would not be feeling the pressure as I write this. Do you need more warnings Babylon?
Dennis Brown and Bob Marley sang about revolutions but I am not sure they realized at the time that it was not going to be an armed conflict. Yes, there was some violence in Tunisia and Egypt mainly on the part of the government in power at the time, but the masses were peacefully protesting for the most part. My concern with all of this is that Jamaica already has a long history of controversial conflicts between the police and the people. There was Green Bay back in 1978, Coral Gardens in 1963, many incursions into Tivoli, the Braeton seven and so many others. My attempt here is not to rehash these past atrocities but to encourage ad nauseam the powers that be to give the people a voice. I have taken it up on myself to speak about some things on poor people’s behalf. Babylon, I eagerly await changes in our energy policy, water supply, employment discrimination, roads and all manner of injustices. Let us make these changes through dialogue before “sup’m happn”. I look forward to the media heeding my call for a program dedicated to giving us a voice. I look forward to swift intervention to complaints made by ghetto people so that sup’m bad doesn’t happen in my country. This is my hope, this is my prayer.
“STRUGGLING” “Fi de yute dem ina de struggle Ghetto yute Ike the teaha But we love life” In the chorus of the song “Struggle”, I send out repeated ‘big ups’ to the ‘thugs’ dem. Of course, some who have heard the song are immediately turned off as they do not understand what we mean in the ghetto when we refer to someone as a ‘thug’. Most dictionaries will define a ‘thug’ as a murderer, robber, vagrant or other derogatory monikers and somehow Society defines ghetto people as such. In Jamaica, poverty is worse than a crime; when you are poor, you are given many insulting labels simply because; well just because you are poor – no other reason. Just so my people in the ghetto know, the next time someone calls you a thug in a derogatory manner, just try and educate them. Explain to them that the word is originally Thugee which originated in India and described gangs that travelled in groups and committed murder in South East Asia, so calling you a ‘thug’ in its literal form is actually a sign of ignorance. Pon di Gaza and in other ghetto areas, we have a way of flipping the negativity that Babylon throws at us and turning it into a positive; so we sometimes take the words that Babylon use to humiliate us and make them into words that motivate us. You may know that there is this great debate in the USA and the world at large about the term nigger. As we have seen in movies and read in books, in order to hurt black people in the United States, prejudiced white people started to call them “niggers”. Well there was a time when a black man could not do anything about it, so he took that negativity and flipped it
around. Now black youths all over the USA, hail their brethren, “yo ma nigga”. Is it right or is it wrong? That’s not for Vybz Kartel to say, but sometimes in the Jamaican ghetto we have to flip negativity, otherwise we would just have to sit down and take Society’s abuse. So Kartel used the song “Struggle” to big up all the thugs, especially those who have passed on. See, Babylon has a funny way of doing things. You label us as downtown and not uptown, lower class, third class, dregs, squatters, ray ray and gengling. You call our neighbourhoods garrisons, squatter land and inner city. You give them nicknames like, dungle heap, back o’ wall, this gully, that lane etc. You don’t spend any money building up our neighbourhoods. Our schools are the worst in the country, when hurricanes come we are the last to get water and light and have our surroundings cleaned up. We are marginalized and treated worse than some of you treat your dogs uptown; yet, when we lash out, you call us thugs. Yes, we are thugs but not the thugs you try to label as. We are thugs because we fight the good fight. We are thugs because we don’t accept the derogatory labels that you give us and allow ourselves to become whatever you say we are. Despite everything you throw at us to keep us down, the thug that is inside of us fights back and makes a good life for us and our families. So as far as Vybz Kartel is concerned, every ghetto youth who struggles through this system is a thug. That’s right, Kartel seh it. Sam Sharpe is a ‘thugs’, Cudjoe - ‘thugs’, Nanny - ‘thugeisha’, Bogle – ‘thug of all thugs’. Please do not get it twisted Babylon. Don’t go writing in the paper that Vybz Kartel insulted our heroes; I am simply celebrating them from a ghetto perspective. In the ghetto, we look up to 188
these people because they refused to accept their circumstances and despite sure death, they fought for what they believed in. In Jamaica, we have a financial war where the haves are in control of the have-nots. This control was made possible due to their historic control of the resources that dictate the country’s operation. They own the land, the financial sector, they sit on the public sector boards, have controlling interest in the publicly traded companies, own the media companies, the car dealerships, supermarkets, cable companies – I mean you name it, it is full economic control. So that my ghetto people know, that is the history of the world right there. The person who controls the resources of the time controls the place. From the Stone Age, the caveman that controlled the most stones run di place. In the Iron Age, the same was true. When sugar was king the British Empire prospered by controlling the islands’ sugar supply. During the Industrial Revolution, it was the nations that first introduced automation and mechanism that ran things. Why do you think OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) members are so wealthy and powerful? Simple, they control the oil that keeps the world running. Have you noticed how Babylon always has an interest in OPEC countries? Currently in the Information Age, we see the massive wealth of Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. We in the ghetto don’t control anything – except Dancehall which Babylon is working hard to kill. So since, we were not born with anything, we just have to go “thug it out” and guh look it. “Mi grow with four sister one bredda Mother and Father keep we together 189
After ghetto life tough Iike leather Strong family ties keep us together” The first verse of the song goes into details about the role of families in our lives as we seek to better our circumstances. Let me remind ghetto people again of some of the sad statistics that impact our lives. Only 25% of our kids live with both parents; 45% live with single mothers and another 30% live with other persons who are not both their biological parents (neither father nor mother). Analyze the data. Do you realize that most youths in Jamaica live in a household that does not have both parents present? (Unfortunately the number of children living with fathers only in the research was so minimal that it went into the “other” category and never really affected the percentages.) We have to understand this in a historical context. It was ruined for years by the system of slavery and now economic factors force the migration of our people which continues to threaten the structure. Country people leave their districts to live and work in the city. Ghetto youths sometimes leave the ghetto to live with family in residential areas in order to get to work easily and Jamaicans on a whole travel regularly to try and make a better life for themselves and their families. It used to be England up to the 1950s and 60s. Then there was a mass migration into New York before Manley said five flights a day and a whole lot of rich people took one to Miami and never came back. During this period, our people moved to Canada, Cayman, Bermuda and all around the Caribbean. So the family structure in Jamaica has always had its challenges primarily due to economics. However, even with these factors, we still have to keep the family together somehow.
Pree this, mi thugs, in slave Society, the concept of a true black family experience was non-existent. You were Massa’s property to buy, sell, trade, lend and do anything that he desired. Real thing black man, I know it is hard to accept but in those days your wife may have been yours in spirit but her body was Massa’s or the overseer’s if they wished. Your beautiful little girl could be taken from you a week after she was born, a year after or on her sweet sixteen; it just depended on when Massa was ready to use and abuse her. As a child, every night you would go to bed not knowing if Mommy and Daddy would be there tomorrow. A man had to be conflicted in his head because he had no say in the fate of his family’s life or even his own, yet his natural instincts as a man caused him to want to be a good father whether he succeeded at it or not . Keep in mind that the family unit was really strong in Africa. There was no word for orphanage, no name for nursing home, no name for even jail because there was none. The village was your family and your family was your village. As Africans, we took care of each other. Society and other slavery apologists like to remind us that there were differences and some fighting between us and outsiders but not even they can dispute the fact that in the village we were one. Remember that we were stolen from Africa and deposited all over the West Indies with no regard for what would have been in our best interest. Today, we may call ourselves Jamaican, Trini, Bajan, Guyaneese, Bahamian etc; and yes I admit some of us are Gully and others are Gaza but we must not forget we all are one people; Africans of Caribbean birth. Psychologists will tell you that after living like we did in Africa, we must have naturally developed an internal defence mechanism and so we learnt to treat family as a temporary 191
structure. We had to keep in mind that we might lose them one day, so we had to stop valuing families as a permanent structure just to maintain our sanity. That unfortunate legacy must have lived on in some of us even today, which has now resulted in some people turning their backs on their entire families. I am amazed at the way some families live, it is almost like some persons quickly move away as soon as they can and do not even return to see their mothers for years. There is evidence of the breakdown of the black family structure in Jamaica when you look at those who volunteered to come to the West Indies, compared to us who were forced to be here as slaves. I know many people of Indian decent entered into arranged marriages as late as the 1950s in Jamaica. Though there aren’t any statistics to prove this, those marriages tend to have less incidents of divorce and a higher percentage of two parent households. The same is true for the Chinese. Still, despite the odds being stacked against us, we in the ghetto owe it to our fore-parents to maintain the family structure. The men (the ones most likely to abandon their families in Jamaica) have to reclaim their manhood temporarily lost to slavery and we must start now. If we are sincere as ghetto youths that we want to see a better Jamaica and we are going to rebuild our nation, I think it has to start in the home. The first step to achieving that goal black man, is be a father to your kids. No IMF, no GCT, no Commission of Enquiry, no JLP, no PNP, no Gully, no Gaza; nothing can help us change our country more than men being better fathers to their kids. Let us start in the Ghetto now. It is not just about supporting your kids financially – that’s great; in fact, it is paramount and as I said before it should be illegal not to. 192
However, there is more to being a good father than just spending money. Teach the youths right from wrong especially if you have the experience of doing some wrong in your life. Ensure your son does not make the same mistakes that you made. Show him the way around this world – from tying shoe laces to tying a necktie, from changing a tire to changing car oil. Dress him up for his first date, buy him nice cologne and squeeze on extra bills in his pocket so he can carry his date to the box section of the movies. Teach him about being a man; when to stand up, when to walk away, and when to run. Do not wait until he is of a certain age, start as early as possible. We as ghetto youths have this style where we leave the kids with their mothers all the time and only pass through when we feel like it. No man, those were the old days. From di yułe a baby, play wid him. You would be shocked to know how a little affection from Daddy in those early years can shape your son’s life. Another problem in our society is the limited role that fathers play in their daughters’ lives. I am not sure but I feel that there is something that is psychological there too because I don’t think black men develop good father-daughter relationships with their girls. Yes, her mother might take care of her hair, clothes, and teach her about her body, menstruation and other important aspects of the female experience but that’s not all. We must be aware that recent studies have shown that so much of what a young lady becomes in life is based on the relationship she had with her father and the man that she saw him as in her impressionable years. Yet in the ghetto there aren’t many father-daughter relationships because there are hardly any fathers around. If you don’t treat your little girl like a princess then she will not expect anything better from the men she dates. If you abuse 193
her, she will seek abusive men. However, if you love, nurture and respect her, chances are she will end up with a man who will do the same. Again, as with the boys, ghetto youths make sure that you and your daughter hol’ a reason everyday and that she knows that Daddy is in her corner. All this love is free and showing it does not cost much but the long-term effect is priceless. Simple things like taking the family to the beach every now and again, playing in the sand with the kids and playing a little ‘water war’ will have such an impact on those kids, you would not believe it. I cannot emphasize enough the role of family in the ghetto. As we fight poverty, having family support could be the difference between a prosperous life and a life full of strife. Anyone who knows Vybz Kartel personally will know that the most constant message on my BlackBerry Status is Family First. I’m not saying that my family life is perfect or that I am a perfect father but I strive to be. Yes, families will have differences, all families do. Some malice, fight like cat and dog; but blood is thicker than water. In my song, I spend the entire first verse talking about family because make no mistake about it people, we are going to turn things around in the ghetto and we are going to start with family. I continue in the song, “Mother and father keep wi together,” strong family will survive any weather”. For those who don’t know, in the ghetto we don’t have much yard space and our houses are very small. Many houses in places like Portmore are adjoined and there is hardly any privacy. In other places, we have what is known as a tenement yard which literally means many households built in one yard. As I said before, in the ghetto, we turn negatives into positives so even though they force us to live in one yard squeezing us in like sardines 194
in a can, we end up living good with our neighbours and we often become extended family to each other. We sit down and reason, discussing a future that is better than the current life that we live. It is important to have this bond in the community because outside of it there is a struggle. Given that there are limited resources in any region of poor people’s Jamaica there is often a struggle, sometimes even with the neighbouring community. Sometimes the struggle is for jobs, sometimes it is for the football field and even the stand pipe in communities where running water is scarce. When one lives under those conditions, oneness is important. If you are like us pon di Gaza, you have to have this extended family because as I say in the song, “we wish one day to get rich” and you need that support around you to achieve the goal. Under our circumstances, it is easy for someone to say, “You are crazy! You can’t find money for food and you want to drive a Lexus one day?” Yes, in Jamaica, we have what Marcus Garvey called a “crabs in a barrel” mentality where we keep holding each other back. I feel the wrath of this because when I was an upcoming deejay, no one cared how my hair looked or what I did in my personal life but since I became an ace deejay, everything I do becomes everybody’s problem and I am severely ridiculed and criticized. Now that I am supposedly making it, persons from all walks of life make it very clear that they want to see me fall. It is a problem we have in Jamaica that I hope will disappear one day but Massa did listen to Willie Lynch and did a great job dividing us. This division is also supported by the politics of this country. Keep in mind that resources are limited and politicians realize 195
this, so they use the resources that they have to bait loyalty and in the process create a dangerous disunity among the people. If you do not live in the ghetto, you would not know this but in a country where unemployment is high, jobs are the equivalent to rare diamonds for rich people. As a result, politicians issue jobs in exchange for votes. In 1980, when violence wrecked the country, politicians realized that safety was a major desire of ghetto people, so they armed them claiming to care about the people. Unfortunately, in circumstances like this, when election violence slows down there is no period of disarming, so the guns remain in the community and the politicians leave along with the illusion of full time jobs they promised before being elected. We are therefore left in the ghetto with guns, bullets and idle hands. What do you think happens next? Gangs are formed, the drug trade thrives and we get dubbed murder capital of the world – yes, that’s what happens when politicians use young impressionable youths as pawns in their quest for the almighty power. Sometimes the dreaded gun thing ends up being like the chicken and the egg cycle, which will never end without a paradigm shift in politics. As long as there are enemy garrisons, one area will feel vulnerable to attacks from the other and will find it necessary to defend itself. In the rush to defend themselves, some groups sell drugs, rob and do all manner of evil because after the politicians start the war, they leave the ghetto youths to fend for themselves. It is all good and well for Society to go on talk shows and present your solutions to stop gun crimes in Jamaica but those solutions are usually devoid of realism. Society thinks that somehow ghetto youths have a birth defect and we are just born loving guns, but for many, the gun is like their security blanket. It’s kill or 196
be killed. If you feel threatened in most states in the USA, you can go to a gun store and purchase a weapon for self defence as your constitutional right. Yes, there is a cooling off period and if you are felon, chances are you may be denied gun ownership but if you are without a conviction and feel threatened, you typically have the right to defend yourself. We do not have that right in Jamaica. Gun ownership is a Society thing; their lives are worth more than ours under the Law. If a ghetto youth, go to the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) to tell them his life is being threatened so he needs a gun to defend his family and home, chances are they will laugh at him. Hence, a man feeling threatened will go where he feels he can get one illegally. People, my point is, it’s a cycle. It is not a pretty story but this is the “Voice of the Jamaican Ghetto” so we are sharing the truth about ghetto life. There has been a lot of talk about peace in Jamaica and putting an end to crime but who are the true warmongers? The ghetto youths are just pawns in a brutal heartless political game. That’s the thing that makes me really angry. If you say I have issues, this is my issue. Yes, I confess I possess deep hatred for what the politicians particularly those of the 1970s and 80s did to my country. The politicians mash up mi country. They created the garrisons. This was a deliberate move by them. They wanted enclaves so they could be sure of votes. I still cannot understand why no Jamaican politician has ever been charged with a “crime against humanity” because what could be more inhumane than to create a 40 year tribal war just for votes? They created this, and the current politicians preserve it, then they proceed to go on TV and talk about a crime problem. It’s like a man coming to rob your house at night and turning around to call you the thief. 197
They say Jamaica is full of crime but who are the real criminals? Ghetto youths don’t control the wharf, airlines or customs and guns are not made here – so where did they come from? I will never deny that the ghetto is violent and that there are violent people there. Kartel is not trying to say that every ghetto person is a saint but I am making the point that there are more issues that cause crime than people who live outside the ghetto will realize. Not everyone in the ghetto gets sucked in by politicians as their cronies, only a small minority. Many others struggle to make life and to them I dedicate much of the song. Without certain educational opportunities, ghetto people are often locked out of the more glamorous jobs. In the song I big up the women “weh dance go-go and still keep yuh pride”. As explained before, nearly half of our women are single mothers and are left to provide for their kids by themselves. Instead of relying on a man who is possibly abusive, some women decide to make it on their own. They sometimes turn to exotic dancing or what we call ‘go-go dancing’ in Jamaica. There is also a recent trend where our young ghetto girls have started becoming ‘masseuses’. Kartel is not here to judge them; neither should Society because WE DO NOT KNOW THEIR SITUATION. I respect the fact that they are trying to earn a living without robbing anybody and “big them up” without apologies to anyone. They are ‘thugeishas’ because they take what they have and make a life out of it. I know most of them never grew up wishing one day to become exotic dancers. They had the same dreams and aspirations that uptown people have for their daughters. However, circumstances sometimes cause them to take on less than ideal roles. 198
”The gyal whey dance go go can still keep u pride” I wish that instead of ridiculing them, Society would start looking out for them. We know that the life of a “go-go” or a “masseuse” is very demanding, dangerous and challenging. They usually work odd hours; late nights and early mornings and most do not get paid vacations or any benefits, particularly health insurance. Vybz Kartel is calling on the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Youth to immediately get involved in this matter. First of all, any “go-go” establishment that hires under aged girls should immediately lose their licence and hopefully the person responsible for hiring that young girl is charged with a serious crime. We also know that even when a “go-go” is of age, the nightlife is very taxing. As “pretty like a colouring book” as these ladies may be, their “go-go” careers often end before they approach 40. There is no pension, there is no retirement package and so we would like to see something substantial done for them. On the matter of health insurance, the issue is not if there is sex in the champagne room but whether everyone is protected and safe. These women need medical benefits as much as civil servants or executives. We want to see some changes here and on behalf of my massage ladies, my “go-go’s” or anyone else they want to classify as sex workers, we need changes in your policies towards them now. We do not expect government to make their lives rosy, that’s not your job, but your job is to protect every citizen – even the prostitutes. Yes Society, those ladies -and they are ladies - need your protection. Whereas government is supposed to provide social services, sex workers need their family for emotional support. They don’t need to be ostracized; they get that every day from 199
Society An uptown girl will never know what it feels like to sleep with a man to get money for grocery, or school fee or even to buy baby food. It is traumatic and has serious psychological effects; they need their family around them for support. Once again, there is a song that I sang regarding exchanging sex for material goods, I am sorry. There are many other persons from the ghetto who may not be sex workers but who also make tremendous sacrifices for their families and these are the thugs that I big up in the song. Recently, political correctness has led to more respectable names but in Jamaica we call them helpers. Some people treat their helpers with respect and even call her Miss Cheryl or whatever her name may be but most people treat their helpers a little better than the way slaves and servants used to be treated. She sleeps in the maid’s quarters, which is usually the most undesirable place in the house. She often cannot eat from the same pot as the homeowner and her days are filled with taunting of how lazy or worthless she is for not helping out, as if a 40 hour week doesn’t apply to poor people. Her bags are searched daily and she is sometimes subjected to sexual harassment. If extremely qualified executives complain about sexual harassment, can you imagine what a young teenaged helper from the country goes through when she has to do a “live-in” job in a household with a powerful man? Kartel big up all Di helpa dem. Ladies, you are my babies and you are the ones who keep Jamaica clean. Many times, it is you who raise the kids when the rich ladies go out to do their nails, play tennis or take dance classes. Again, helpers’ families must treat them in a dignified manner because they are often disrespected at work The government must step up and create reforms in this area so that these women are treated fairly. So 200
my helpers, you are a next set of ‘thugeishas’, you have it rough but you “thug” it out to make life. It is often rougher for those helpers who have to go overseas. They may not be used to the cold or living with animals inside the house or other strange occurrences. Often times, they are not allowed to use the phones and their passports are held by their employers. During their stint, they may not have a single day off and there is separation anxiety as they leave their children, husbands and parents behind. We don’t inform pon di Gaza but let us just say due to certain travel restrictions many of these women leave their homes and do not return for years until certain things are sorted out. They will miss their children’s graduation, birthdays, Christmases and just miss out on their lives altogether. That hurts but it is a better life that they are seeking in the struggle so we big them up. I am not asking the USA to give Kartel a bligh for a visa, they have their rules and regulations that I must respect, but I am begging that they set up a system for these ladies. Classify them as “guest workers” so that their experiences will be better and they can be treated with fairness by their employers. They are not there to rob anybody, many of them are professionals - teachers, nurses, accountants but due to unfavourable economic conditions they are in your country trying to make life better for their families. Again, please USA Canada, Cayman, UK; all the countries where these ladies go to work - can you set up a decent Guest Worker system where these ladies can work under decent conditions? They are already suffering being away from home so can you allow them the same rights as your workers? I am sure if they have the option to get visas for such work, they would be happy to pay their taxes to you and contribute to your economy. Remember, they do not necessarily want to stay in 201
your country so you will have a taxpayer that will not require Social Security or Medicare type benefits in the future so you would definitely have an advantage there. I know that the issue of the affordability of Medicare and Social Security is a major one in the USA, so this is possibly a plus that economists have not looked into. I dream of a government in my country that would be courageous enough to tackle these real issues for ghetto people. Do you know how this country would change if these ladies could get a normal visa, work six months and come back? Do you know how many children would have their mothers, how many marriages would be saved and how much money would be brought back to the ghetto to help uplift it? “That’s why me shed a tear for the youths that die” Though the number of available positions has been reduced in recent years, many ghetto youths get jobs on cruise ships and we give thanks that they can make a living but again we need more humane conditions for them. Cruise ship life is rough, some of us in the ghetto can’t even swim and we are afraid of rough waters and the sea sickness is terrible but we are in the struggle so we just take a job on the ship to make ends meet. This is a thug life for us and so we thug it out even on the high seas. The contracts are very long, averaging nine months and some of the cruise ships treat the workers unfairly. They often work for tips, so no tips mean no pay. If a passenger has an unpleasant trip, he cannot get a refund from the cruise lines so he takes it out on the workers by not tipping. Solely based on the fact that we are Jamaicans, we develop a reputation that we are all drug smugglers so many countries even in the
Caribbean do not want us in their ports. As a consequence, Jamaicans sometime face discrimination in this arena. Not all the ports of call are equipped with affordable calling and money transfer facilities, so we are sometimes deprived of enjoying the reason why we work - our families. Depending on the contract, crew ship workers sometimes have to find their own way home or buy their ticket to return. The food that we love is not always available on board and some prejudiced passengers still treat us like we are their servants or slaves (notice how many times this comes up when we are supposed to be free). Yet, we ghetto youths still thug it out, even on the seas we a fight for a better life. Big up the ones already on the ships, I hope you get your dancehall tapes regularly. We have to believe better soon come, better must come my people. We know what you are going through for your family and we respect you for that as true thugs. A few years ago, there was a fire on a ship and a Jamaican died on board. You sir, are one of the thugs that have died that I shed a tear for in my song, because a work yuh a work, and death reach you. Rest in peace. The most renowned thugs from Jamaica that go overseas and ‘look it’ are the farm workers. Those men are the real thugs and yes, I know that you have some female farm workers too. I say big up to you ladies also. I don’t know where to start with the farm workers’ plight because they face so many issues. First, I don’t like the symbolism; we were forced to work on plantations when we were taken to the Caribbean initially and it is sad that we have to leave the Caribbean today to go look a living doing the same thing our forefathers were whipped to do. Nevertheless, it takes a big man to be a farm worker, very noble, real thugs. I know that like the 203
cruise ship employees and live-in workers, it is mainly ghetto youth and youth from the country that go on the farm work program so you know nobody in Society cares about them. Ever since I was a youth I have always heard that farm work life is rough. The work is wicked, you have to work up to 16 hours per day and if you are sick you are still forced to work. The living conditions are horrible, you are exposed to chemicals and snakes and even with all that you still get short changed on the pay. Of course the government does not make too much noise about this because they get rid of one ghetto youth out of the country and are happy for the foreign exchange so they allow the slave-like conditions to continue. For the ghetto youth who can’t find work in Jamaica, is either wi do di farm work or wi dead fi (hungry.) So we go, hoping for better conditions but this never materializes. It reached the point where two farm workers died on a farm in 2010. As usual, when Babylon’s skulduggery is revealed, they run in front of the camera and create the illusion that they care about these ghetto youth when the media catch on to the story. Again, it’s ghetto youths that suffer. We know di conditions bad from mawnin, they even made a documentary about it called “H2”; so why did two ghetto youth have to die before it got your attention? Kartel shed a tear for those two thugs that died on the Canadian farm in 2010 because we know you loved your life like everybody else. I am sure that you are not the first to die on a farm and you will not be the last. I hate the symbolism again but I am not criticizing a man for earning a living and I am not fighting the program. I am simply saying that it’s high time the government did something about it. In Canada alone there is an average of 6,000 Jamaicans working on farms. That is almost the size of a big community in Jamaica. In the USA, when a non-profit 204
organization tried to help the farmers with a pension and health plan, due to a technicality, the government prevented anyone using that group from getting a contract renewed. I don’t blame any other government for what happens to Jamaicans. A government’s primary responsibility is to protect its people and the many administrations and governments in Jamaica have failed these thugs and leave them to thug it out for themselves. It is irresponsible and unfair to ghetto youths to put them on a plane without certain guarantees before they head out to the farms in a foreign land. Several years ago, a farming company went bankrupt and many Jamaican farmers had to come home without being paid! How can our government allow that to happen to its own people? With the millions they pay the politicians, not one representative could have reviewed that farm’s financials to make sure that they were financially stable enough to pay the workers before allowing those farmers to get on the plane destined for that farm. All Kartel can say, my farming thugs, the ghetto youths that farming up North, just big up yuhself. I shed a tear for all farm workers who have died on the job. To the Jamaica government - Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Foreign Affairs - I have my eyes on you and I am expecting improvement in this area, otherwise we are going to keep pressuring you. I don’t want it to be misconstrued that it is just a certain level of skilled individuals that get pressured. We see it with our nurses, teachers and other professionals who go overseas expecting a fair deal. Some Jamaican teachers stay they were promised housing, certificates and then a Green Card when they were heavily recruited in 2001 by the New York school system. Most of them report that they still have no Green 205
Card and live under the threat of deportation. In fact, in 2004, some were sent home when their temporary visas were not renewed. This is sad because Jamaican schools are short of teachers and due to economics a lot of them migrate for a better life and end up getting short changed. Short changed a yaad, short changed abroad. The unfair wages paid by our successive governments force even nurses to leave the island for a better life. One report claimed that over 70% of nurses in Jamaica have migrated. One would think that since the health care system is so bad, the government here would do what they can to keep the ones that remain happy. Remember just recently, the nurses were promised a pay increase under a new regime? When it was time for them to get that double pay, what do you think the government did? They never lived up to the promise. So naturally the nurses are frustrated and would rather thug it out in the cold, so they go as far as Saudi Arabia and Europe to look for work just because no prosperous economic future is here for them in Jamaica. My nurses, my teachers, here and abroad, I know you thug it out and I shed a tear for all of you who never got a chance to come back to your homeland. “From mi have life everything criss” So Jamaica, in our ghettoes, we are struggling but most of us don’t take it lying down. Some of us fight the fight in Jamaica doing all kind of jobs to make a living. Others have to migrate to the cold, to the Middle East and even on the high seas. We in the ghetto salute you as our thugs – the ones who fight the hard fight for a better life for you and your family. Most of you who have left our shores are from the ghetto. Many of you never return or your family life is sometimes destroyed; that’s the sacrifice we make to survive and I only ask that the 206
government match your effort and support us in this struggle. We want the Prime Minister to visit the farms and ensure that they are suitable - the kind of place that he would be proud to have his citizens work The Ministry of Education should keep annual meetings with the teachers to make sure they are okay in New York or wherever they are. Some trade unionists should make some clandestine trips on cruise ships and see how Jamaicans are living on board. These are our people in the struggle and we really should not leave them to fight on their own. However, Babylon, whether you start to implement policies such as the ones I suggested or not, we are still going to make it. We are thugs, we thug it out. Vybz Kartel say it proudly, I shed a tear for all the thugs who have died in the struggle.
“LIFE WE LIVING” “Jamaica we need a way. Tell me how mi youth fi survive, how mi fi send him go school in this time, if mi don’t mek money. Politician come pon TV and show me this big pretty smile” In this, my last Chapter, I will share a little secret with you. I never intended to be the “Voice of the Jamaican Ghetto”. I only aspired to be a Dancehall Deejay. I enjoy deejaying and writing lyrics. I guess, willingly or unwillingly, an artiste portrays what he sees around him in the art form he uses to express himself. At the end of the day, as I reflect on my career thus far, I am no different. My art form is Dancehall. I grew up in Waterford, Portmore, St. Catherine, Jamaica. I am straight Gaza; that’s where I am from, that’s who I am. I am a product of two powerful influences in my life – my family and the Gaza. The Gaza is like any other ghetto in Jamaica, di same life wi livin’; di same struggle for a better tomorrow. More time when mi deh pon stage an’ do mi girl or thugs tune, I can barely hear myself because the crowd goes into a frenzy. The girls get wild and di man dem bawl “fawud”. When I sing a conscious song, I notice ghetto people closing their eyes, like dem ah feel di ting to dem heart. For example, when I sing, “Mama, Mama, Mama”, the entire crowd sings with me, with their eyes closed and their hands pointing to the sky. If I sing “Thank You Jah”, it is like a miniprayer for some members of the crowd, especially when I mention the lines “I vision seh better days coming”. I can’t tell you how many taxi drivers and bus operators big mi up for giving their
plight a voice and the lists goes on. Again, this was never my intention. I got into this deejay game as a hustle, because I felt I was good enough to make a living from it. I was young with no formal training; never went to ‘Deejay school,’ so I would not have known then what psychologists (who have over analyzed my music) say now – that when I sing these songs, it is my way of speaking about the ills that I have noticed first hand all my life but kept inside. My music is my way of telling my story, which is the story of ghetto people. Are my lyrics strong at times? Do I paint a very graphic picture of what I see? I guess I do, but what I see is very graphic too, so I think I would be doing my people a disservice if I were to make things seem better than they are. Do people in the ghetto threaten to kill your mother, father and even your baby in the crib if they are trying to get you? Yes, they do. Are there women who sleep with men for furniture, appliances and get money to buy food? Yes, there are women who do this. Are there women everyday who say, “Kartel come breed me”? Yes there are. Do people in the ghetto, refuse to stop smoking ganja regardless of the risk of going to jail? Yes they do. In this book, I have shared with you the thoughts behind a certain set of my songs, but there are songs that are a part of me, songs that are in me, that I sing everyday and get condemned for. I do wish that the next generation of deejays will sing about a Jamaica where there are no killings, youths in jail or women forced to sleep with men for money but that is not what my country is today. Should I be a hypocrite and sing that we are living in love and harmony, there is food on every table and everyone is happily married in respectful relationships? You have no idea how much I would want that, but until then, I am going to continue to tell the story I see and know despite the persecution. 210
I will be very direct with those of you who have bought this book and read it all the way to this Chapter. Do I regret the high profile position I have been placed in and the expectation people now have of me? Sometimes I do. See, I don’t want to be viewed as a role model, social leader, an activist or any such character but if my work helps my fellow ghetto people to have a voice, then what am I supposed to do – not speak up? I really don’t know. Understand that I am not perfect; I make mistakes every day, probably more than my fair share. Clearly, I am not high and mighty and righteous like a lot of other artistes claim to be. Instead, I live by a simple philosophy each day. I am going to be a better man today than I was yesterday, but that better man is not Society’s better man, it is not Babylon’s better man – it is the better man that I would like to be from my perspective. People must realize that I could not have gotten this far by being a total idiot. Newsflash: I know if I stopped bleaching when people wanted me to or if I did not get tattoos or braces or complied with all the other demands that Society puts on me, I would have about three times the fans I have today. I would not have lost the money I did because many of you refuse to buy my music or support my career. However, ladies and gentlemen, that it is not Vybz Kartel, nor is it Adidja Palmer because this man is willing to pay a financial price to be himself. See for me, the problem with living by other people’s rules and wishes, is that I am not sure at what point I stop being myself and start being who they want me to be. How do you become what people want you to be while still being true to yourself? Where do you draw a line? Do I say, “Okay Adidja, this part of your body and mind is for you and the other part belongs to Society?”
If I allow Society to control my life then I am no longer Adidja Palmer - I become Society’s interpretation of what they think the ideal man should be. I would then become boring, inauthentic, predictable, and would lose myself and my career. Sometimes I may do one thing, then in response there will be 38 comments on a blog. These comments are not suggestions, they are not advice - they are commands of what this man that they never met MUST do. I simply do not understand that logic, because it is not humanly possible for one man to do what 38 persons want him to do, all at the same time. So instead of complicating my life and trying to figure out how to satisfy the thousands of people who want my life to reflect what they each think it should be. I choose to be me. I choose to be me, because, whilst not a Eurochristian, I do believe in the cycle of life and that all humans are going to be accountable to some superior power one day. If Christians are somehow right and there will be judgment at the gates of Zion with St. Peter holding the key, I can’t say, “well St. Peter hear how it guh now. Is not me run my life innuh, so yuh cyaan punish mi. Is di Broadcast Commission did tell mi fi do dis, ah di politician ah Jamaica House tell mi fi do dat, it is the Christians who required those actions of me etc”. My career, life and legacy will be judged by my actions, so I have to be me. I can’t recall an occasion where when I am being detained by the police, a bunch of people running to the station saying, “detain me too because is me tell him what to do”. No, when I find myself with trouble around me, all the advisors somehow disappear. So no, I stand alone in your judgment and take my fate like a man. You have never heard Kartel try to find a scapegoat when I am attacked. In fact, have you ever noticed that when there is a mass exodus from 212
my side by my former artistes and associates, it is usually when the chips seem down. Every time they read the death notices for Kartel and the Portmore Empire, people disassociate from me in droves. I have sons, and one thing life has taught me about manhood that I must pass on to them, is that for every action there is a consequence and being a man, you must be prepared to accept those consequences. Your actions must be guarded. Many times when I am banned from countries, people expect me to get upset and speak ill of those countries but that will never happen. I understand I am a Dancehall artiste that speaks out against the establishment; I understand ghetto sexual psychology so I sing about it and I observe the crime and violence in the ghetto so many of my songs are a narrative of that experience. It is not that many of these countries are not exposed to crime, violence, sex, and antiestablishment sentiments; they are on television and they are on the net, yet they are all concerned with me. They are concerned that a man who has found a way to put Social Commentary in song in a way people enjoy, will be too influential to their young people. Though negative influence is not my intention, I understand their fears, but unless they get to know me or understand me, I will continue to be denied entry into many countries to earn a living. Though I am not Rastafarian I am humbled by the fact that up until recently Rastafarian artistes could not enter certain countries; simply because governments did not want those ‘rebellious’ lyrics poisoning the minds of their young. Ironically, those same governments lay out the red carpet for ponzi schemers and Rasta nor Vybz Kartel never mix up in them bangarang yet. Again, governments around the world, I respect your right to choose,
just as I ask you to respect my choice of art and my right to earn a living from it. What a choice I have made! I have defied any and every attempt to be muzzled, controlled, dictated to and now I have become the man who Jamaica loves to hate. People ask me all the time, “how does it feel to be the most hated man in Jamaica?” “My response remains the same; “how it should feel?” Do I roll up in the fetal position and cry like a baby? Do I take a crack pipe and smoke it till I die or maybe I should put a gun to my head and end it all? No, haters, you not getting off that easily because in all my madness, in all my attempt to entertain, I have done the most important thing that I am here for – I have fed my children, I take care of my responsibilities and I am trying to secure their future. When I realized I was on that path, when I saw my family prospering, I started to feel the urge to become that Voice of the Ghetto, and so I started writing down my thoughts almost two years ago. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a book, a memoir, or a blog, but after seeing the crowd’s response to my conscious songs I wanted to tell more of the story that I could not capture in 3 minutes riding a riddim. So I started writing, still unsure at the time if a book was what I wanted to do. I have mentioned that my primary responsibility is to my children, and I am very aware of what happens to people and organizations that constantly attack Babylon’s injustices. Bob Marley died of cancer from a supposed toe injury, then Peter Tosh was helplessly ambushed in his home situated in one of the most affluent neighbourhoods in Jamaica, where if two strange men walk police and security are summoned. Garnett Silk supposedly shot a gas cylinder and got burnt to death while Jacob Miller ate a piece of cane while driving which led 214
to his accidental death. Four of Jamaica’s biggest cultural singers, four freakish deaths – pon di Gaza, we don’t accept those strange occurrences without looking at it suspiciously. I see many of our most prominent cultural artistes get muzzled with some strange or petty charges against them like indecent language, harbouring fugitives and possession of weed when almost 5% of Jamaica smokes in peace every day. When I considered all these things I asked myself if I was prepared to meet some strange death. Nex’ ting yuh hear Kartel’s, blackberry exploded at the gas station and he got burnt to death. The truth is, I was not prepared at the time and I am still not completely prepared now to be separated from my children. Still, ghetto people have been crying out for a voice, so I decided to use this pedestal that Babylon has put me on and to shout out ghetto causes loud so that Jamaica, its Diaspora and the entire world can hear us. Even though I had these songs and thoughts, and made some attacks on Babylon, I never directly attacked anyone’s livelihood yet there is this huge bull’s eye on me. I’ve read stories of how I’ve died, gotten shot or received six stabs last night. My first thought is, don’t these people have a life? What goes on in an individual’s brain when they decide to make up a story about another and even make up the number of stabs I received while I am in my bed, sleeping at the time of the alleged incident? My second question is; does that person have a mother? How do you think mine feels when once per month she hears that her son died violently? People, I am in the music business. I may be on the road and out of touch and then my poor mother hears that I am dead and she is unable to reach me. If you want to kill me or my career, you can try that, but leave my mother out of it please. My third question has to do with their ethics, isn’t that just a low 215
thing to do, to call down death on another just to get a buzz on your web-site? Some people already have me off as dead, in fact, some people already know I am going to hell - so maybe Society has my time planned out for me more than I think. Nevertheless, I trodded on and you have now read nine Chapters of this book, well, hopefully if it is not banned. I chose to close the book with this chapter because that is what my conscious songs are about - the “Life we Living” in the ghetto. I am begging, (yes, I said it); I am begging that you do not “condemn the ghetto to hell”. I mention that I fear what will happen ten years from now if things are so bad now and continue to get worse. The most tragic thing about this “Life we Living” is the power of our politicians. They come on TV with this “big pretty smile”. I would smile too if I were them; look at the way poor people suffer and yet when they come into our communities looking for votes we treat them like royalty. They drive vehicles that are so expensive; nobody in the constituency can ever afford them; while we are left to ward off thieves and gunmen by ourselves they show up with two armed bodyguards; our kids are barefooted with worn out clothing, but they come out in pretty suits and designer sunglasses. Instead of cursing them about the way they have failed us as a country, we carry them around on our shoulders at party conventions and constituency meetings. They do not even have to put in the effort to walk! I believe that is why politicians smile so much; because they can’t stop laughing at us. While being carried, they are thinking, due to my skullduggery these people cannot even find food or water, yet they are glad to carry me around – too funny.
Ghetto people, look back on some of those videos. One usually sees some poor black people lifting a well dressed brown skinned man. The brown man is not even worried that he will fall because they would never do that to him. We may actually push our own children away so that the brown man’s entourage can come through. But look carefully, at the video. As you reach out to touch the brown man - as how people used to try to touch Jesus – you will notice the brown man almost holding his belly with laughter. Trust me, he is not happy that he left his 10- bedroom mansion in Kingston for the day to come ‘con’ some votes, he is just laughing at the fact that after nearly fifty years of foolishness, they are still getting away with it. They are even thinking to themselves, but that lady who just said she does not have money to buy her child’s school uniform has on a complete green outfit with accessories. A next one that said she can’t afford to take her baby to the doctor has everything from her nails to her hair in orange. Now ghetto people, do you understand why politicians are always smiling, and do you understand that they only get upset when this power that you give them is being threatened? Why do you think they quarrel with each other so much and encourage you all to kill each other? They are obsessed with this power and if they lose that power, who is going to worship them in the future? After getting all this free money, do you expect them to start working hard and for an honest living? After driving cars the government provides with armed security, what you want them to do, go take the bus? Consider the recent royal wedding. These people are the direct descendants of the monarchy that had robbed and raped our ancestors for years. Most of their riches of the Royal families in Europe have come from them stealing Africa’s 217
precious metals. The diamonds in their crowns and their rings all came from the blood of our people in Africa. Do we protest and demand that Africa’s riches be returned? No, in fact, we ridicule the Rastaman for making this righteous suggestion. We get up early in the morning (some of us even set alarms) to celebrate a wedding in the family that has been primarily responsible for the demise of the black race. Our media runs the story to the point where you would think it was one of our own family members got married. Don’t African princes get married too? Mandela’s children, Garvey’s children, Malcolm X’s, none of them? I think that is why the Royals smile so much too. They are saying to themselves, don’t these people realize that we got rich by stealing from their wealth? They don’t seem to have a problem with that so, why should we? Just smile and wave, smile and wave and try not to laugh out loud. Just smile and try not to laugh out loud, is what I think senior politicians in Jamaica tell the younger ones. Have you ever heard a politician admit to a wrong? I sing “Romping Shop” and nearly get crucified, yet I see politicians disrespect women on live TV and get re-elected to Parliament. We treat them like they are royalty, as if they gave us the gift of life, but Vybz Kartel is not into that. I am using this book to send a warning to the politicians. Hopefully ghetto people will read it so you will no longer be able to show up with a plate of curried goat and a crate of beer to win votes. My people will now understand that whilst the goat is nice (for those of you that eat goat) and the beer refreshing, we are selling out our children’s future when we give you the power to use us in your political game. We know that most of you are friends and probably sit and rehearse your pretend arguments in Parliament. We know after Parliament, you get together and 218
drink rum and maybe play some dominoes. Your children are often best friends in school and go down to Negril during the summer together. I bet when you are passing us on the roads, you say, what fools! Have you ever seen a sad face uptown? They laugh even when there is no joke, or so we think, but the joke is often on us. While we worry how we can find $80 to get downtown on a bus, they are wondering how fast their cars can get from 0 to 80mph so they can race with their neighbours. While we are worrying about finding money to buy a phone card, they are thinking about buying the store that sells the cards. While we are trying to figure out how we can hide from police to hustle some liquor at Sumfest so our children can go school they are making sure that their private box is exclusive so they do not have to mingle or interact with ghetto people whilst enjoying ghetto people music. Ironic, not really, “That is the life we live in Jamaica”. We need a better life and we need a better way fi wi pickney dem, so now I come to the main message that I want to deliver in this book. I get to the real purpose of writing this book, to try and see if some changes can occur for my people. I am not a politician, social activist, sociologist, pastor, community leader or any other such figure. I am suggesting the following just as Adidja Palmer, a Dancehall artiste who strongly believes that if the powers that be stop thinking about themselves and think about poor people instead, we could have a great nation. We can have this great nation without bloodshed or years of political bantering. We can start tomorrow. I honestly do not think you will want to listen to us but this is the ghetto talking to you. Here goes: 1 Truth and Reconciliation
The country needs a Truth and Reconciliation process. This should not be the typical jacket and tie event in some fancy conference center or in a nice hotel. It has to be done in a way so ghetto man and Babylon can sit at the same table without fearing persecution or repercussions from either side. This should be under a tent at the National Heroes Park. Yes, let the ghosts of our ancestors watch over the proceedings; let Society sweat a little bit and feel some of what we feel without air conditioning. Let uptown meet downtown and discuss these things with full immunity on each side. We have to go through all the major events that affected us in recent history; the 1938 riots, Pinnacle, the Rodney Riots, Coral Gardens, Green Bay, the 80 elections, Gas Riots, Tivoli Incursions, Agana Barnett, Janice Allen, Braeton 7, Michael Gayle – everything. If a police officer has a reason to vent, allow him to get it off his chest, if a criminal- alleged or -convicted, has to say something, let him say it. Let us bring closure to some wounds so we can move on together as a people. 2 Set the Date to Become a Republic We need to set a date to become a Republic. We know it may take years but if we can start the process now, the next generation will be born without the colonial shackles. It cannot be a ceremonial or figurehead President but one that is in charge of the Executive Branch as in the USA. Hopefully, we will take the opportunity to get rid of the two party system we currently have. We need to set an age limit of 65 for elected officials, no more than two terms for Presidents, Senators and other positions. Without it being written into law, everyone born before Independence should seek to retire from full-time politics and serve the country in other 220
capacities like sports, education, or mentoring, like Edward Seaga is doing. As a people, we should insist that we will not vote for the PNP or JLP in the new Republic. Those two bodies are synonymous with too many deaths, too much crime and economic turmoil. This way, it will be easier for a Ghetto youth to have a reasonable chance of being elected to the post of President of this country. 3 Decolonization We need decolonization in Government, decolonization in education, religion, and economics. After becoming a Republic we will need to get rid of certain names and titles. Instead of having Columbus Park and Morgan’s Harbour, let us have Cudjoe’s Park and Tacky’s Harbour. Knutsford Boulevard should be renamed Garvey Boulevard because Garvey taught us the most about business. Remove phrases like ‘His Worship’ from Mayors’ titles, because man should not worship man and I believe this contributes to certain mayors getting god-like complexes. Change the books that are read in schools and introduce the ones that reflect our pride as a country and a people. Stop marginalizing Rastafarians and other faiths that do not conform to the EuroChristian faith. In fact, we should incorporate Rastafarianism, our only indigenous faith, in the way we govern ourselves. Some principles of the Rastafarian way of life including peace, healthy living and true independence, can be tied into our own. Implement something like the Post Apartheid Black Empowerment Movement that South Africa has to ensure that the majority of the people in Jamaica can participate in its wealth. We need to get rid of Babylon’s holidays and replace them with ours. We need to research our
roots, learn our true names, tribes, language, exact place of origin – learn who we are. 4 Public Utility Reform We cannot continue to burden our people with the high cost of electricity, water and other necessities. Energy reform must be immediate and profound. It is our belief that if tomorrow morning, we just adjust our electric bill half the rate that it is currently, the entire country will be better by the evening. Crime would go down, education would be improved and the GDP would go up. The manufacturing sector could restart job creation so the cost of many products could go down. We have to ensure that at least 90% of the country has access to clean affordable running water and the “please call me” mentality must be removed from our Telecoms landscape, replacing it with constructive conversation. 5 Overhaul of Child Protection Laws The first thing we have to do is to solve this “jacket” problem where 30% of youths do not know who their true father is. I have no issue with a woman’s right to her body but I think she abuses that right when she takes away an innocent child’s right to know his father. If it is deliberate, it should be considered fraud and some kind of punishment should fit the crime. In the case of dead beat fathers, I admit I am extreme and I do not think there is a punishment that is truly severe enough to adequately punish a man who brings his child into the world and does not care for him or her. This phenomenon is worse, when the father can financially afford it and instead spends his money on attracting other women to impregnate.
The law must be changed to discourage this, just as it should be changed to examine the abundance of child labourers on our streets. We all have seen the ‘Star boys’, boys who wash car windows and girls that look too young to be working in the adult industry. We need greater emphasis on solving these problems, including holding the fathers accountable who force their boys on the street to wipe windows or send their daughters into brothels to earn a living because they will not provide for them. We must focus on better safe sex and family planning campaigns to positively effect change. Have children if you must but you must demonstrate your ability to adequately take care of them. We must also eradicate the ‘unofficial’ child prostitution and create stronger legislation to prevent men from ‘dating’ under aged girls and abusing young boys. Any politician, found to be friendly with or is himself a child abuser should to be forced to resign. This is important because some children who have been abused say they are often lured by these men with the promise of jobs through their political connections. When the youths fight back, they are found guilty, yet when a pastor finds himself in a Negril hotel room with under aged girls, he is not punished. The law has to step up and protect our children, even from their own parents. We have to investigate the sudden disappearance of young pregnant girls from their homes. They are sometimes sent away to protect the father, step father or sick family member who impregnates the girl. Yes, it happens Jamaica, we all know but do nothing to stop it. 6 Land and Agricultural Reform We have a big squatter problem in Jamaica; we estimate that about 20% of the population and about 40% of poor people are forced to live on land that is not theirs or face 223
homelessness. We know that ghetto people can wake up any morning and see a bulldozer coming to tear down their homes. Yet, when you drive through Jamaica you see a lot of fenced in unoccupied land. Why? Because some of it is unclaimed, belonging to persons who no longer call Jamaica home and have no intention of returning; some belong to the government but get lost in the system and remains unaccounted for. We need to examine this. Firstly, how was this land attained? And secondly, owners should either put the land to use or be forced to give it up. In the United States they have a thing called “imminent domain”, which means the government has a right to land that is vital use, even if it is being used by private citizens for non essential uses. The private citizen is compensated at fair market value and the land is put to use for the greater good. We know that due to our slave and colonial past, true land ownership at a minimum was flawed and that has to be reconciled also. There was never and has never been a fair transfer of land to the poor because it is only natural that the Crown Land was sold unfairly to friends of the ‘Crown’ and not to the poor that would farm it. We need to correct those ills and make some government land available for housing immediately. We can start with Kings House. Instead of allowing one couple to live there, we could build a community of high rise apartment dwellings that could put a dent in homelessness and squatting. How great an act it would be if the poor in Jamaica who were refused land by the queen in the 1860’s could get a decent home to live in on the property previously dedicated to her. We need to close down the fancy New Kingston offices of government Ministers and 224
rent these buildings to the Private Sector. We need to protect our farmers and not only introduce the best fertilizers, irrigation systems and pest deterrents, but we have to renegotiate our WTO commitments and give our farmers a fair opportunity to compete on the island with foreign goods. We need to provide security for them to reduce incidents of praedial larceny so crime on a whole can be reduced. The descendants of slaves in the USA were promised 40 acres and a mule and they never got it, but can we get ¼ acre, six chickens, some seeds and three months of water supply free of cost to start a small agriculture business? Radical, yes, but if we can just give each family a little start in life; at least just enough to feed themselves, the country can start heading towards better days. 7 Nationalism The support for local products should not start and end with Agriculture. If we are serious about building our economy we have to start working with fixing our negative Balance of Trade. We simply need to start exporting more than we are importing. There are certain things that we can’t help importing, like cars, appliances and other electronics. However, things like clothing and furniture can be made in Jamaica with support from Jamaican consumers. More importantly, we have to start supporting our own businesses. If there was more support for our products, foreign companies would not be able to come in and set up shop so easily. In the last few years, we lost our main beer, our airline, our power company, one of our major investment banks and even our own coffee. The one thing that we dominated, all-inclusive hotels, seems to be slipping away from us, as I have noticed the Spanish are building more and more hotels. Yes, let them 225
invest, but we have to be the leader in this industry to secure jobs for ghetto youths in the future. A lot of these hotels have foreigners in Senior Management positions; how long will it be before all levels of hotel jobs are given to foreigners? I am anticipating that Casino Gambling will be introduced and owned by Jamaicans so jobs can be created for the youths. I look forward to the day when Jamaica can become a big off-shore banking center where the youths can start investing their money at competitive interest rates. We need to amend certain laws; if foreigners are coming to invest in certain industries, they should have to partner with a Jamaican owned entity or individual, so that a Jamaican will always have ownership in all key industries. 8 Community Development There is a lot of crime in Jamaica and while we cannot fix this problem overnight, we can attempt to create activities that will deter individuals from crime. I believe each community should have a well equipped community center where sports, entertainment and youth activities can take place. I think Jamaica needs to realize that despite the strong efforts to kill it, Dancehall is not going anywhere. Instead of wasting resources on the Noise Abatement Act, I would like to propose an alternative. Allow each community center to have a dance one night in each month and give them a cut off time of 4:00am. I believe that if the residents know they have one night to release the tension, they would abide by your rules the rest of the month. It is called a compromise, which is where you and I sit at the same table and come to an Agreement on a matter. At the community center we can have mentoring, where athletes, businesspersons, heads of 226
religions, ex-convicts and members of the Jamaican Diaspora can come and speak to the youths -not to bully them, look down on them, or judge them. I would like to request that no politicians be allowed in these meetings, because once you show up the whole thing will be corrupted with your ‘politics’ and the entire Community Center will be turned into a political enclave. On a general note, for a better Jamaica, we need the politicians to stop misleading and corrupting the youths. Marcus Garvey founded a group called the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA); it was once 20 million strong across the globe. I think if we can create a small model of that group and have a 20,000 strong UNIA in Jamaica, the country will be better. I see corporate Jamaica sponsoring and joining Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis and others – that’s your thing but the greatest global movement to ever come out of Jamaica is the UNIA Society, you have to start supporting the UNIA now. 9 Change in the justice System We must first re-evaluate certain laws and get them off the books. I can understand a person getting a ticket for indecent language but to possibly see the inside of a jail cell for such a thing is ludicrous. The issue of medicinal marijuana and marijuana for personal use has to be rationalized and the use of the substance itself, decriminalized. US States like California and countries like the Netherlands addressed these issues and have thus far reduced crime due to illegal drugs and the need for punishment in their nations. We have to figure out a way to ensure that the cost of justice is more equitable and that “cheque book justice” does not continue to prevail in Jamaica. Our police force has to be deprogrammed from the original institution that was formed in response to 227
the Morant Bay Rebellion and start acting as if they are here to serve and protect us. In the ghetto, we want to live in harmony with the police but you must sit at the same table with us and treat us like equals. After all is said and done, most police and soldiers are ghetto youths so when either dies, it is a ghetto youth who dies, so the ghetto loses on either side and Society does not really care. Plea bargains must be put in place where justice can be served quickly and a man making a mistake and owning up to it can get on with his life. We have to be careful with encouraging ‘informers’; Jamaica is a country of ‘bad mind’ and people will take your name to police to get you in trouble, not in the name of justice, but to serve their own interests. In the US, prominent, successful lawyers sometimes take cases pro bono, where a defendant may not be able to afford adequate legal representation but is in need of an excellent lawyer. It is only through a method like this that a ghetto youth is going to get a fair trial, because most times court appointed attorneys don’t inspire confidence. There has to be some review of these cases that persons can ‘buy out.’ There are many instances where this practice is obvious and I do not hear of an investigation into these odd circumstances. 10 Man in the Mirror As I close this book, I have to admit that there needs to be a change in the Dancehall fraternity. Almost all of us are ghetto youths. Most of us come from little but we have worked hard to gain a lot. Unfortunately, many of these resources are wasted fighting each other. Now, I am no hypocrite. Man a man, and not everyone is going to get along, and I am 228
certainly not a man who is a follower. I do not believe in the ‘Kumbaya’ business weh man hol’ han’ an’ sing, because we all have our differences and by nature of our profession, our egos cannot be accommodate in one camp. However, Adidja Palmer would never want to see another Deejay get hurt, arrested or not make money. Mavado and I may never be friends, as too much has transpired but I do hope that he gets to walk his daughter down the aisle when it is time and I want him to live to see his grandchildren play in the mansion a man as talented as him will build. To the veterans in captivity - Ninja Man and Buju Banton - I dream of the day when you are both free and we can perform on the same stage together. Bounty and Beenie, you are veterans in this business and I respect your accomplishments. Without you dancehall wouldn’t be the same. We have our differences now but I still wish the best for you both, and continued success. You have held the fort for a while and I hope as elders you continue to be a mentor and buss more yutes. Shabba and Super Cat – you are the elders amongst elders and took this thing mainstream after Yellowman introduced it. Sizzla and Capleton, yuh bun nuff fiya pon di yutes still – you even come after me but ah nuh nutten still, you are entitled to your opinion of me and I respect your fight against Babylon; I hope you never stop. Always be careful of Society because Babylon doesn’t like ‘fire burners’. Keep your faith, is you two mek nuff yute turn Rasta and give up wrong doing. Bob, Peter, Bunny, Jacob, Dennis, Gregory, Spear, Bob Andy, Freddy, Sly and Robbie, Garnett; you laid the foundation for Reggae, taking it from ‘boogy yagga’ to what it is today. Beres, please stay away from my ladies because your voice just too dangerous. Shaggy and Sean Paul, you took the international baton that Shabba handed off and ran with it. 229
Then there is Spragga, Cobra, Sanchez, Pinchers, Ritchie Stevens, Barrington, John Holt, Wayne Wonder, Coco Tea, Tiger – you have all done well. Morgan’s Heritage, Third World, Steel Pulse, We the People, Sagi, Toots; all dem groups; Colonel Josey, Briggy and Charlie – respect. There are too many of you to mention here but big ups to you all and apologies in advance to those not listed here, my editors say I have to stop the list at some point.... Special mention to Stone Love, Exodus the Nuclear Sound, Metro, Gemini, Inner City, Jammys, Jaro, JamRock, all the foundation sounds and the current ones keeping the dances going like Links, Panther, Trooper, Matterhorn. Uptown – Renaissance and Coppershot, you forward in the Dancehall thing well. David Radigan in the UK, well done Old Chap. The question I ask myself as I look in the mirror is, what will all our legacies be? All genres have their heyday. There was Do Wop, Rock and Roll, Disco and R&B that all dominated the airwaves for a time and there is a possibility that Dancehall will lose its dominance one day. How do we want to be remembered? When they write about the 50 years of Dancehall’s dominance from the 1980’s to 2030, what will they write? As I said before, I hope that they write about Vybz Kartel as I am. The real me – imperfect, flawed, highly controversial, a man who was full of gimmicks and knew how to shock the crowd. Yeah, that’s me, but I hope they do not forget three things I tried my hardest to be more than anything else in the world: 1. A good father to my children 2. A great son to my mother
3. In this moment, I tried to be the voice of the Jamaican Ghetto. This book was written because of that third aspiration. I am not sure where I go from here, but you know with Vybz Kartel to expect the unexpected. At least I know that I did speak up. I spoke about things that were obvious but I mostly spoke about things that were secrets, taboo, hidden, embarrassing and sometimes dangerous. Why did I do it? Because I had to; I have to get it off my chest before I leave this earth or Babylon finally finds a way to silence me. I owe it my family, friends, neighbours, to tell their story, the story of the Jamaican Ghetto. As strange as it may sound, I hope you do not enjoy this book, I hope it disturbs you. I hope after reading you realize there is something wrong with Jamaica that needs to be fixed. I hope you will never look at a ghetto person the same again. I hope you will never see a young girl in a compromising position with an older man and not question what is going on. I hope you will never see a young man in jail and write him off as ‘wutless’ or bad. I hope you will never drive through the ghetto again and think that the zinc fences with graffiti, the pot holes, and the persons hanging on the streets are signs of a lack of ambition but a lack of direction and leadership from our politicians. Most importantly, I hope that you will not only hear but listen to the voice of the ghetto. I end in the words of Marcus Garvey – One God, One Aim, One Destiny, One Love. Until we meet again. I remain, yours truly – Adidja Azim Palmer – Theresa’s son.
GLOSSARY OF JAMAICAN (PATOIS) TERMS Ah Is A guh Is going to; Is about to Ar Her Affi Have to Av Have; Has Badda Badder; Bother Bad ‘ed Bad hair Badmind Used to describe one who is envious Bangarang Mix up Bawl (out) Cry; Shout; Scream Big up Highlight; Hail; Pay respect to Bligh Chance; Opportunity; A break Boogi yagga Uncultured or unkempt Breed Impregnate Bredrin Friend Brite Rude; Feisty Bruk out Carry on badly, in a lewd manner Bun Burn Cass cass Mix up Copasetic Ok; Fine Cyaa Cannot; Can’t Dash weh Through away Dat That Dem Them Deh so There Di The
‘Ed Eva Faada Fawud Fi Fiya
Head Ever Father Come For Fire The Gaza [Colloquial name for Waterford, a (di) Gaza community in Portmore St. Catherine, jamaica] Go-go Exotic dancer Gravalicious Greedy Grung Ground/Floor Guh Go Hol’ Hold Hol’ a fresh Have a bath ‘im His; Him Inna In; Into Innuh You know Lawd Lord (exclamation) Like seh As though; As if Likkl Little; Small Madda Crazier Mash up Destroy Mek Make; Let; Allow Sleeveless undershirt sometimes worn alone; Merina also called a wife beater shirt. Mi Me; My Modda Mother More time Often Am not going to; Is not going to; Won’t; Will Naah not 234
Neva Never Nuff Plenty; A lot Nuh No; Any; Don’t Nuhbaddy Nobody; Anybody Nuh seh It’s ok; I understand; It’s fine nuttn Nuttn Nothing; Anything Pickney Child Picky-picky Natural, kinky African hair ‘ed Pon On Pree Study; Think about; Consider Ramp Play Rasta Rastafarian Reada man Sorcerer (Also called an Obeah man) Roun Around; About; Approximately Seh Say; That Sell off Hot; Happening (slang) Sheggery Rubbish; Foolishness Shi She Skulduggery Foolishness Sup’m Something Sup’m a guh Something is going to happen happ’n Suh So Tek Take Tief Thief Til Until Ting Thing Tun Turn 235
Unu Waan Wahp’n Wat lef Wi Wid Widout Weh Yaad Yaadi Yah suh Yuh Yute
You (collective/plural) Want What happen; What’s happening Left overs We; Our With Without Where Yard; Home; Jamaica A member of the Jamaican Diaspora Here You; Your Youth; Young person
RESOURCES BOOKS Morrow, Alvin. (2003) Breaking The Curse of Willie Lynch. Rising Sun Publications. III Hillard, Asa G (1997,1998) SBA:The Reawakening of the African Mind. Makare Publishing Company. M Halcrow, Canes and Chains A Study of Sugar and Slavery. Heinemann CXC HISTORY CLR James A History of Negro Revolt (Fifth Edition 2005) Frontline Books Rodney Walter,The Groundings with my Brothers Bogle-L Ouverture Publications Willie Lynch and the The Making of A Slave Lushena Books, Inc. Doris Hamilton-Willie A study and Revision Guide for CXC Caribbean History: Resistance and Revolt. jamaica Publishing House Limited 2003 George G.M. James. Stolen Legacy. Miguel Lorne Publishing 1994 Carey Robinson. Fight for Freedom – The Destruction of Slavery in Jamaica. LMH Publishing 1987
Joyce Andrews. Bible Legacy of the Black Race. The Prophecy Fulfilled.Winston-Derek Publishers, Inc. Eric Williams. Capitalism and Slavery. Published under Licence from University of North Carolina Press. 1994 Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings) True Ark of the Covenant. Fetah Negast (The Law of Kings) Anthony Johnson Great Jamaicans BOOK ONE TEEJAY LTD. 2001 SPEECHES Malcolm X: The Ballot or the Bullet. Detroit April 12,1964. SONGS Morgan Hertiage Live in Europe 2000.“No: 13 Speech” VP Records. Garnet Silk. Zion in a Vision. Black Scorpio Vybz Kartel. Slow Motion. Street Bullies Riddim 2009