The Woyingi Blog

Woyingi Links of the Week: August 28th to September 4th 2012

What the Woyingi Blogger stumbled upon over the last week

Britain

Africa: Hollywood’s Invisible Continent

Eritrean British journalist Hannah Pool wrote this article in 2011 in The Guardian. In this article which promotes the Film Africa Festival and discusses the need for us all to watch more African Cinema, she asks:

How is it that stories produced by Africans, be it film, music, or literature, are still considered niche, worthy, or somehow “less” than art created by non-Africans? At best, African cinema is considered “art house”, African art is labelled “craft”, and African literature must focus on the big three (famine, war or poverty) to be deemed authentic…If Africa is only ever viewed through a western prism, how can you expect to have anything other than a deeply unbalanced view of a continent of more than 50 countries and 2,000 languages?

She bemoans the difficulty faced by African filmmakers to get their films distributed in the West:

Why do film distributors never come under fire for failing to adequately distribute African cinema? And why is it assumed that white audiences prefer Africa to come with a thinly veiled colonial backdrop, which usually involves a white hero saving a poor downtrodden country from itself? Blood Diamond, anyone? Africans are now telling their own stories. It’s time the rest of the world started consuming them.

Guyana/Britain

Grace Nichols Returns to Guyana

I have discovered BBC’s awesome Learning Zone sites which provides video clips and ideas for teachers to explore a variety of topics in class. The site includes videos featuring the poetry of Guyanese British poet Grace Nichols. The videos include readings of some of her poems. In the clip, Grace Nichols Returns to Guyana, Grace reflects on her trip to her homeland Guyana. In another clip, Grace Nichols-“Even Tho”, Grace discusses finding her voice as a poet and the use of Standard English versus Creole. Unfortunately, the video is only available fro viewers in the UK. I found a great video interview with Grace Nichols where she discusses and recites her poem Island Man on Youtube.

Kenya/United States

US group raises red flag over chemical in Coke

In Business Daily Africa, I came across this article by David Mugwe which contains some startling information for people who drink Coke. According to the US-Based consumer advocacy group the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the level of the cancer-causing chemical 4 methylimidizole (4-MI) in Coca Cola are too high, the highest levels recorded are in the Coca Cola sold in Brazil and Kenya. According to the article about their findings on the CSPI site:

The carcinogen forms when the ammoniated caramel coloring used in colas is industrially produced. Coke began using a less-contaminated caramel coloring earlier this year in California after the state required a cancer-warning notice on soft drinks with excessive levels of 4-MI.

But according to Business Daily Africa, there is no intention to change the level of this carcinogen in Kenya:

The Coca Cola office in Nairobi said there were no plans to change the formula, saying its products were safe. “All of our products are safe and comply with regulations in every country where we operate. Regulators throughout the world have approved the use of caramel in our products,” said Norah Odwesso, the Public Affairs and Communications Director for Coca-Cola Central East and West Africa Business Unit. She said the company was not changing its formula and, therefore, would not affect the colour, taste and quality of its drinks. The firm does not agree with the State of California’s decision to require a warning label on some food products containing trace levels of 4-MI.

You can view more information about CSPI’s findings here.

Nigeria

A FarmVille for Africa

Nigerian start-up Maliyo Games is profiled in the BBC Online’s Technology Section. The company creates online games for the African Market. As one of the company’s founders, Oluseye Soyode-Johnson, states:

We looked at the local culture, the local attitudes and trends, and we tried to make games out of them,” Obi says. For Maliyo, that meant creating local characters, and putting them in familiar environments. In a game called Okada Ride, you are the cheeky driver of one of the many motorbikes (Okadas) that can be found on the streets of Lagos. In an effort to get to your office as quickly as possible, you pilot the bike through traffic, and avoid potholes, policemen, and other obstacles that are common on Nigeria’s streets and roads.

The article also discusses the African mobile market where smartphones do not yet dominate, but that is quickly changing. According to South African-based Tech Consultant Andrew McHenry:

The biggest trend right now is probably the rise of $50 to $100 Android-based smartphones across the continent. As we see more of these devices come online, you’ll see more native application games with in-app purchasing becoming available.

Many of these phones are being sold by Chinese companies. Hugo Obi, also with Maliyo Games, notes some of the challenges involved in drawing in the African market for phone apps:

Traditionally, Africans don’t use credit or debit cards to purchase things on the web, or on mobile devices. So, we need to think about how we’re going to give people opportunity to purchase these games, or make in-app purchases

The games currently on offer through Maliyo include Mosquito Smasher,  where to get to smash annoying mosquitoes, Kidnapped, where you have to save your neighbourhoods who have been kidnapped and held for ransom, and My Village, for those nostalgic for the rural life they have left to come to Lagos. If you want to learn more about Maliyo Games, visit their website and view this video interview with the company’s founders.

Somaliland/Canada

Fahima Osman, surgeon and DOVE Role Model

Dove Soap has complied profiles of Female Role Models which have been posted on YouTube. American singer Mandy Moore introduces these videos. Somali-Canadian Fahima Osman is profiled. Here is the description of her profile:

Fahima wanted to be a doctor from age 5. Along her journey from Somalian refugee to heroine of her community, she faced quiet racism and discouragement. Now, as the first Canadian-trained doctor in her community, surgeon and volunteer in Somaliland, she should be famous for inspiring women and refugees everywhere with her determination and success.

The video can be viewed online here. In 2011 Fahima won a John Hopkins Global Health Scholarship. She is studying at John Hopkins School of Public Health. She states:

My career goals are to improve access to health care resources in rural communities, particularly in the field of breast cancer. The research skills acquired at Johns Hopkins School of public health will allow me to increase the body of knowledge in access to health care services disparities and find ways to improve access in underserviced areas in North America and in Somaliland.

Uganda

How to share the wealth of Uganda’s oil?

Catherine Byaruhanga reports for the BBC about the current debate brewing in Uganda about how to ensure that Uganda’s new found oil weath is shared fairly. There is already local concern from farmers and fishermen that they are being displaced from government land around Lake Albert because of the oil exploration. Tullow Oil is currently the biggest player in Uganda’s oil industry. They say they are building clinics, schools and roads so that local communities benefit from the growing oil extraction industry. Fears of government corruption surrounding the burgoening oil industry have already been raised but Ugandan Ministry of Energy Spokesman Bukenya Matuvou dismisses them. You can watch the video report here.

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Woyingi Links of the Week: August 8th to August 27th 2012

What the Woyingi Blogger stumbled upon over the last few weeks

Jamaica

Taboo…Yardies Documentary

I came across the website for the documentary Taboo…Yardies by  Jamaican American filmmaker and former model Selena Blake. According to the site:

The concept of the documentary Taboo…Yardies is to explore the perception of Jamaica as an Island that is saturated with homophobia by providing Jamaicans who are pro, con and everywhere in between this highly controversial issue an opportunity to share their own realities. Additionally, the film gives a voice to those Jamaicans who dare to speak up and out about the intolerance and violence towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, particularly as it pertains to an individual’s human rights. We hope to give viewers an opportunity to decide for themselves whether to view Jamaica as a homophobic culture is perception or reality. More importantly, we hope Taboo…Yardies becomes a vehicle that spurs an open an honest conversation that ultimately promotes respect and tolerance for all people regardless of sexual orientation. This documentary is unashamedly in support of human rights and against violence being advocated and/or perpetrated against LGBT Jamaicans.

The Trailer for the film can be viewed here. The site also includes a blog with posts related to LGBT issues in Jamaica. I believe that Blake is still fundraising in order to release the film.

Kenya

24 Nairobi

24 Nairobi is a funky multimedia project that includes original photography and writing exploring the life of Nairobi. It includes a piece by Caine Prize Award-winning Kenyan writer Yvonne Owuor. According to the site:

The 24 Nairobi project is intended as a showcase of a modern African city through the eyes of its own photographers. A lot of times cities in Africa are viewed through the narrow lenses and stories of missionaries, career war photographers and aid workers.

24 Nairobi brings together local, regional and international creative professionals to evolve powerful and realistic images and narratives that would reflect the working-life diversity, cultures, energy and dimensions of cities in Africa.

This is an alternative, innovative, realistic and professional African perspective. All the photographers reside in Nairobi and grew up or now call Nairobi “home”. This aesthetic has now been captured.

Tanzania

Stop the Serenget Sell-Off

Avaaz.org is a web movement that tries to raise awareness about a variety of social justice issues and runs online campaigns related to these issues. Avaaz.org has taken on the issue of African land-grabbing by running an online campaign to raise awareness about the possible displacement of Maasai living in the Serengeti so that their land can become a big-game hunting resort. They hope to get a million signature on a petition addressed to Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete in order to prevent this sell-off. The petition reads:

As citizens from around the world, we call on you to oppose any attempt to evict Maasai from their traditional land or require them to relocate to make way for foreign hunters. We are counting on you to be a champion for your people and stop any attempt to change their land rights against their will.

Unfortunately, the Avaaz.org site does not provide many details about what exactly this land grab would involve; it doesn’t even mention what corporation is looking to purchase the land. Luckily, I was able to find more information elsewhere. According to the site CorpWatch, the company is the United Arab Emirates-based Ortello Business Corporation which was also involved in the displacement of Maasai from their land in 2009. The Tanzanian government denies that there is a plan to evict the Maasai, according to a recent article in The Guardian. In a 2009 Guardian article by Alex Renton, a safari camp run by Ortello Business Corporation is described as follows:

This is the field headquarters of Ortelo Business Corporation (OBC), a safari company that does not advertise in brochures or on a website. Set up in 1993 by a UAE defence minister close to the Dubai royal family, it exists so that Gulf sheikhs and millionaires can play in the north Tanzanian wilderness, over an area, Loliondo, that is larger than Hampshire.

Renton also discusses the Tanzanian government’s “development strategy” which is welcoming such camps.

This sweep of low hills and savannah is just one of many tracts of land that the dollar-hungry Tanzanian government has pawned to foreign investors. The country’s “development strategy” says there must be a million tourists by 2010 – and it seems that officials will do anything necessary to make that happen. One quarter of the country has been earmarked for “conservation”. Generally this means development for safari tourism, with the people who live on the land in question often forcibly excluded by the government.

If you would like to sign the petition on Avaaz.org click here.

Woyingi Links of the Week: August 1 2012 to August 7 2012

What the Woyingi Blogger stumbled upon this week

Uganda

Police Raid on Historic Ugandan Pride Event

Ugandan GLBTTQ rights activists in Entebbe organized a historic weekend of Pride events, including a private beach party and march. Unfortunately, the party was raided by police and several activists were arrested, although they were eventually released without charge. The fact that charges were not laid is not surprising as the bill to make the “promotion of homosexuality” illegal has not been passed in parliament yet. The beach party and march was organized as a private event, in order to avoid police attention, however, it appears that the police were notified somehow. Jamaican GLBTTQ rights activist Maurice Tomlinson was the Grand Marshall of Uganda Beach Pride March, which took place on the grounds of the Botanical Gardens on the banks of Lake Victoria. He was also arrested during the raid. Tomlinson, who was the first winner of the David Kato Vision and Voice Award, in honour of murdered Ugandan GLBTTQ Rights activist David Kato, had this to say about the experience, quoted in an article by Dan Littauer in Gay Star News:

After a very confusing and utterly disgraceful performance at the station by the police (including the officers insisting we all sit on the bare floor until we were processed, one officer pushing a young female to the floor and another verbally abusing the 60-year-old female anthropologist from Makerere University) we were all released without charges or an explanation.

Prominent Ugandan GLBTTQ rights activists Frank Mugisha, winner of the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and Kasha Nabagesera, founder of Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG), a Lesbian rights organization, and winner of the 2011 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, were also arrested and eventually released without charge. After the arrests, FARUG published a press release condemning the police raid and calling for activists to not be deterred from continuing with further pride-related events.

Comparing Conflict Resolution in Bosnia and Uganda

A Bosnian colleague of mine, Jasmin Mujanović, forwarded me this article by Ugandan activists Richard Obedi. The article is entitled “Bosnia – identity should go hand-in-hand with reconciliation“. Obedi, based on his experience working on conflict resolution in Uganda, shares his reflection on possible solutions to the Bosnian situation. I found this really refreshing because I really want to see more exchanges like this between activists from different countries where there has been violent conflict because they are in a far better position to understand each other’s situations and offer advice than people who have not lived through violent conflict. Obedi describes the current situation in Uganda:

Ever since Uganda attained its independence, the country’s youth have been confronted with social economic and political problems, whose root causes have not been effectively addressed. There is increasing ethnic tensions, acute land pressures, widening economic divides, deepening socio-political cleavages and corruption. Ethnicity, politics and economy intersect to shape Ugandan society across the whole country. Country-wide, Ugandans identify more closely with their respective tribal identities than with the broader Ugandan national identity. Other problems include civil conflicts, land conflicts, corruption, ineffective and inappropriate education systems, unemployment, HIV/AIDS, rapid population growth and abject poverty.

However, Obedi concludes his article on a hopeful note, offering possible routes out of conflict for both Ugandan and Bosnian society:

Reconciliation is important in conflict prevention, co-existence and nation building. It is an over-arching process which includes the search for truth, justice, forgiveness and healing. It involves finding a way to live alongside former enemies; not necessarily to love them, or forgive them, or forget the past in any way, but to foster sense of co-existence and co-operation that lays the basis for a better life together. BiH urgently needs to pursue a comprehensive process of national reconciliation. And of course, this should be executed in good faith and in a manner that achieves sustainable peace and development, whilst building a dynamic and harmonious society.

Richard Obedi, a graduate of Makerere University’s Population Studies Program, is the founder of The Populace Foundation-Uganda. The humanitarian organization promotes reconciliation and peace-building among conflict-affected communities. The organization is non-profit, non-sectarian and non-partisan and focuses on the particular needs of vulnerable communities such as women, children, and the elderly. The Foundation has worked on resolving conflicts between the Acholi and Karamojong peoples of Northern Uganda.

Angola

Luanda-The Most Expensive City in the World

British journalist Barbara Jones with the Daily Mail visited Luanda, which she considers to be the most expensive city in the world. In this article, she notes the staggering prices of many items in Luanda. She writes:

A one-bedroom apartment in the city centre costs £7,500 a month to rent. A pizza is £16, tomatoes sell for £7.33 per pound and gym membership will set them back a staggering £5,000 a year. Only the guns are cheap. An AK-47 costs just £19.

Luanda’s is so expensive because everyone wants a piece of it, as Angola is not the second-largest African oil exporter after Nigeria, there is money to be made here. Jones writes:

But this is an oil-rich country that looks forward to a predicted 12 per cent growth in its economy this year. While major powers lick their wounds over collapsing markets, Angola strides forward at breakneck speed, confident of double-digit growth for years to come.

Shiny new shopping malls and satellite cities of condominiums and bungalows are springing up to hasten Luanda into the 21st Century.

Expats are attracted by generous salary packages, free private education for their children, a driver and 4×4 and two business-class trips home each year. No wonder Mercer, a leading firm of financial analysts, has put Luanda at the top of its annual expat cost-of-living survey more than once, as has the respected ECA International ranking system.

Politicians hanging on to power, super-rich businessmen with government connections, Chinese construction companies and expat oil executives – everyone wants a piece of the opulence that is today’s Luanda.

Even Angola’s former colonizer, Portugal, is coming to look for a piece of the action, as Jones writes:

Two weeks ago, Portugal’s Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho came with his begging bowl. Formerly the colonial master of Angola, Portugal is now broke and in debt, its economy shrinking by almost three per cent this year.

Passos Coelho manfully announced that ‘this is a good time to strengthen our bilateral relations’ and Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos somehow managed to keep a straight face. ‘We are aware of Portugal’s difficulties and we are open and available to help,’ was his careful reply.

There won’t be bailouts from Angola, but massive and canny investment. Angola is effectively buying Portugal, a supreme irony.

The country that plundered the African state for more than 300 years for its slaves and its natural resources now watches helplessly as Angolans buy up prime real estate in Lisbon and develop luxury housing where its politicians, its army generals and its businessmen smugly install themselves for long holidays.

But this wealth is only being enjoyed by a fraction of the population. Jones writes:

Two-thirds of Luanda’s five million residents live in shanty-town squalor. Sheltering beneath little more than cardboard and planks of wood, families cook over open fires, scavenging through rubbish on the street.

Billions would need to be spent to make Luanda an attractive destination. Venturing up to the eighth-floor cocktail bar of the Hotel Baia overlooking the South Atlantic, it is disturbing to look out of a picture window and into the pitiful lives of shack-dwellers who have set up home on a dirty mudbank.

Small children and mongrel dogs play with plastic rubbish in the filth, wading into a putrid-smelling lagoon that serves as their lavatory. There is no electricity, no running water. Along with two-thirds of the country’s population, these people live on less than £1.28 a day.

During Angola’s civil war between the Russian and Cuban-supported People’s Movement For The Liberation Of Angola (MPLA) and the American and South African-supported National Union For The Total Independence Of Angola (UNITA) guerrilla forces – the last knockings of the Cold War – millions of families fled the countryside for the comparative safety of Luanda city.

Here they have lived the life of refugees ever since. Their rural areas are strewn with land mines, agriculture and industry was destroyed. There is nothing to return to.

A lot of this poverty will continue due to government corruption. Tranparency International ranks Angola 168 out of 183 on its corruption perception index in 2011.

Exploited Zimbabwean Migrants Working in Angola

I found a story about exploited Zimbabwean migrant workers in Angola on the Transparency International website. According to Transparency  International:

Eager to find work, Leeroy told us how he had responded to an advert calling for professionals in the electrical, plumbing and carpentry field to work in Angola. He said that the recruitment company – a foreign owned firm – helped process the visas for him, and five of his colleagues, enabling them to emigrate to Angola.

After working in Angola for a month, Leeroy says he and his colleagues were suddenly informed by their employer that they had not been issued working visas, but humanitarian ones. Apparently the recruitment firm had told Leeroy that Zimbabweans are poor and would work for free food and accommodation instead of a salary.

Far away from home and without an income, it is easy to see how many people could become trapped in a cycle of dependency – becoming homeless and jobless if you refuse. In fact, Leeroy and his colleagues only managed to come back home after the intervention of the Zimbabwean embassy in Angola.

On their return to Zimbabwe they came to Transparency International – Zimbabwe’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre, told us their story and asked how to lodge a complaint against the recruitment company.

Namibia

The Sterilization of HIV-Positive Women in Namibia

The Namibian High Court has ruled that the human rights of three HIV-positive women were violated when they were coerced into being sterilized. The women filed the case back in 2009 and were supported by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC). It all started when the women came to public hospitals and requested caesarean sections in order to reduce the risk of passing on HIV to their newborns. They were told that they could only have the procedure done if they agreed to be sterilized at the same time. This judgement allows the women to pursue damages against the government. However, it is a bittersweet victory because the court dismissed the claim that the women were discriminated against because they were HIV-positive. According to the article about the case in IRIN:

“We were not very happy with the judge’s decision on discrimination – maybe it’s the way we presented the case, focusing more on informed consent than on discrimination – we will talk to our lawyers and strategize on whether to appeal or accept the judgment,” said Jennifer Gatsi-Mallet, executive director of the Namibian Women’s Health Network, which assisted in bringing the case to court.

Nigeria

Nigerian Gets International Dentistry Award

Prof. Emmanuel Adekeye, the first professor of dental surgery, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, received a Lifetime Achievement award for his work on maxillofacial deformities.  He received the award at the 2012 Biennial World Cleft Lip and Palate Congress, which took place in Mahe in Seychelles. According to Chidi Okoye writing in the Daily Times:

Adekeye, a University of Edinburgh alumnus, pioneered oral and maxillofacial surgery in the northern part of the country, and played a foremost role in the conception and establishment of the surgery department of the ABU Teaching Hospital.

During his 30 years of active service, the professor had over 70 publications both in local and international journals. He also trained more than 16 Nigerians and Ghanaians as residents in oral and maxillofacial surgery, up to consultant status.

Kenya

First Gay Kenyan to Run for Political Office

Daniel Kuria, founder of the Kuria Foundation for Social Enterprise,  is running for a Senate seat in Kiambu County, Kenya. Why this is news-worthy is because he is the first openly gay Kenyan to run for political office. In an interview with Identity Kenya, The Kenya Sexual and Gender Minorities News Service, discussed his campaign:

I think the issue of sexual orientation may come up. I do not think it has any bearings on my capacity for leadership, and I will certainly be urging listeners and Kiambu voters in particular to look at the leadership qualities.

One of the things that we shall also address is ethnic entrepreneurship, where we the people have become commoditised on the basis of our ethnic origins. So the ethnic kingpins ‘own’ us and trade among themselves into coalitions – on the basis of the size of the people they ‘own.’ This is neo-slavery and the saddest part of it is that most of us are willingly taken ourselves into this form of slavery.

Haiti

Haiti’s Gold Rush

Jane Regan, coordinator of Haiti Grassroots Watch, was interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, about Hait Grassroots Watch’s report “Gold Rush in Haiti!: Who Will Get Rich?” The shortened version of report was published in The Guardian and also in Haïti Liberté. The investigation was made possible in part by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and discusses the activities of two mining companies in Haiti, Eurasian Minerals and Newmont Mining Corporation. In her interview, Ragan explains that she found about about this situation from a Haitian farmer and community radio journalist. According to Regan:

This story was brought to the attention of me and my students, who are all Haitian investigative journalism students, by a guy who’s probably about 65 years old. And it was a—he had a letter in his hand that said that Eurasian Minerals has the right to explore in 16 communities. And he said, “We’re worried because we heard that gold mining can sometimes pollute the water, and we’re farmers.”

Regan dismisses the argument that these companies will bring jobs to Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere:

Well, hundreds of jobs in a country of 10 million people, and you’re taking out how many acres or hectares of agricultural land? And also, these are very low pay—they’re low-wage jobs. Haiti has been through these mining booms before. Reynolds was in there exploiting bauxite. There was a Canadian company in there that took away a lot of copper. I think at the boom period, there were 900 people working for a couple of bucks a day. So, that’s not really the way to develop Haiti or help the country fill its state coffers.

The most important thing is for Haiti to look around the hemisphere at countries who are doing a good job of trying to protect the interests of their country and of the environment at the same time as they take advantage of what’s under the soil. So, for instance, Cuba, where nickel is—the nickel mining is owned mostly by the government; or Peru, where they’ve now started to push back against the very company, Newmont Mining; Bolivia—Morales government says, “Yeah, we have lithium. We’ll exploit the lithium. Thank you very much. If we need your help, we’ll call on you.”

Early Black European Lives: Joseph Knight (Scotland)

Posted in Countries: Jamaica, Countries: Scotland, Early Black European Lives, Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade by the woyingi blogger on October 31, 2011

I don’t know when Joseph Knight was born or when he died. I first learned about his story while watch the BBC Documentary Series A History of Scotland. Joseph Knight’s story is also the basis for the novel Joseph Knight by Scottish author James Robertson, a novel with has been ranked as one of the 100 Best Scottish Novels.

Cover of the Novel Joseph Knight

What we know of Joseph Knight’s life has been documented for posterity in the records of his case, (“Joseph Knight, a Negro of Africa v. John Wedderburn of Ballindean“) against his master, John Wedderburn which was heard by the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1778.

Joseph Knight is said to have been taken captive as a slave from Guinea in West Africa when he was about eleven or twelve. He was brought on a slave ship to Jamaica. John Wedderburn was a Scottish plantation owner who had made a fortune in Jamaica after escaping the persecution of Jacobites after the battle of Culloden (He subsequently named his plantation Culloden). Wedderburn took a distinct liking to the young Joseph when he saw him for sale. Wedderburn bought the boy, named him after the captain of the slave ship he had been brought to Jamaica on, Joseph Knight, and kept him as a house slave. This meant that Joseph was not subjected to the back-breaking work in the sugar fields of the plantations which even Wedderburn testified later in court would have probably killed the boy. Wedderburn even had Joseph baptised, which was quite uncommon for slaves at the time, and allowed him to be taught how to read and write by the same schoolmaster who taught Wedderburn’s own children. About nine years after purchasing Joseph, in 1769, Wedderburn decided to leave Jamaica and return to the more appealing climate of his Scottish homeland; he took Joseph Knight with him. Wedderburn settled on his estate called Ballidean. But Joseph was growing up, and although allowed to quarter with Wedderburn’s house servants he was still a slave and was not paid a wage, although he was given pocket-money. Joseph asked to acquire a trade and so Wedderburn paid for him to apprentice with a barber in Dundee. During this time, it is likely that Joseph learned of the case of the fugitive slave James Somersett who had successfully appealed to the court in England to be freed from his master in 1772.

Joseph became involved with a female house servant named Annie who became pregnant. This greatly displeased Wedderburn who dismissed Annie, but allowed her to stay at Ballindean to give birth, paid the doctor’s bills and for the funeral of the baby when it subsequently died. However, Joseph continued his relationship with Annie, who had moved to Dundee, and again fathered a child with her. Joseph wanted to be able to work to support his family and demanded that Wedderburn either give him a cottage on his estate for his family or give him wages so that he could provide for them. Otherwise, he was going to leave. Wedderburn refused these demands so Joseph left. Wedderburn successfully appealed to the Justices in Perthshire to enforce his rights of property against Joseph and Joseph was arrested and returned to Wedderburn. As Maclaurin, Joseph Knight’s lawyer in the case Joseph eventually raised against Wedderburn at the Court of Session in Ediburgh, said, according to the court documents which have been written as dialogue in James Robertson’s novel:

‘It was at this point that Mr Wedderburn applied tae the Justices o the Peace o Perthshire tae prevent his taking aff in this mainner, on the grounds that he had aye treated him kindly and furnished him wi claes, bed, board and pocket money, and that in consequence o haein acquired him legitimately in Jamaica he had the richt tae detain him in perpetuity in his service for life. The justices, all, let it be said, guid freens o Mr Wedderburn’s and some wi their ain interests in the plantations, upheld his petition and the pursuer was arrested and returned tae him.’

Knight could not accept remaining as Wedderburn’s slave. He appealed to the Sheriff of Perth who decided in his favour, as he found the laws of slavery that applied in Jamaica did not apply in Scotland. Wedderburn than appealed to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Scotland’s Supreme Civil Court at the time, arguing that Joseph Knight owed him lifetime service. The case was considered so important at the time that it was given a full panel of judges, including a central figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, Lord Kames (Henry Home). Knight’s lawyers argued in his favour on several fronts including raising the fear that Wedderburn intended to send Joseph back to Jamaica, where the slavery laws would mean that Joseph could be punished for desertion. According to Maclaurin in Robertson’s novel:

The defender, Mr Wedderburn, has been at pains in aw his written submissions tae the court, tae emphasise his kindness and generosity tae the pursuer. We will leave aside, for the moment, whether these words can ever be applied tae a relationship founded upon ae man’s absolute power ower anither. But we note that he seeks frae the court no jist the richt tae the pursuer’s service in perpetuity, but also the richt tae send or cairry him back tae Jamaica if he should choose it. He insists that he has nae intention o daein that, but, as he acquired him legitimately there, he must be entitled tae return him there. Whit, though, would be the purpose o assertin that richt, were it no tae exercise it? My lords, if Mr Knight behaved in Jamaica as he has done here, that is if he claimed his freedom and acted upon that claim, he would be subjected tae the maist horrific punishments for desertion. Are we tae believe that if he were sent tae that island, it would be for his security and happiness and the guid o his soul?

According to the National Archives of Scotland (NAS):

The records relating to the Knight v Wedderburn case survive among Court of Session records in the NAS (reference CS235/K/2/2). They consist of five bundles of papers, including an extract of process by the Sheriff Depute of Perth (20 May 1774), an extract of process by the Lords of Council and Session (30 May 1774), and memorials for John Wedderburn and Joseph Knight (1775). Of these, the memorials are the most interesting. In their respective memorials each man presents his side of the story and legal arguments concerning the definition of perpetual servitude. Wedderburn blamed Knight’s relationship with another servant, and her subsequent pregnancy, as the cause of a falling out between master and servant and Knight’s desire to leave his service. Knight’s 40-page memorial includes an account of his life (including his baptism and marriage in Scotland), evidence – partly in French – on enslavement of Africans by their chiefs as judicial punishments, and descriptions of the miseries of slavery in the colonies.

The court found in Joseph Knight’s favour. According to judge Lord Kames:

….the dominion assumed over this Negro, under the law of Jamaica, being unjust, could not be supported in this country to any extent: That, therefore, the defender had no right to the Negro’s service for any space of time, nor to send him out of the country against his consent: That the Negro was likewise protected under the act 1701, c.6. from being sent out of the country against his consent.’

According to Lord Auchinleck, the father of another figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, James Boswell, and another judge on the panel who voted in favour of Joseph Knight:

Although in the plantations they have laid hold of the poor blacks, and made slaves of them, yet I do not think that is agreeable to humanity, not to say to our Christian religion. Is a man a slave because he is black? No. He is our brother; and he is a man, although not of our colour; he is in a land of liberty, with his wife and child, let him remain there.

Joseph Knight won his freedom from Wedderburn but we know nothing of his life after this. Was he able to find employment and support his family? What was life like for his children in Scotland being of mixed race? James Robertson, in his 2003 novel Joseph Knight, mixes fact and fiction by having John Wedderburn hire a Dundee private detective to go looking for Joseph Knight 25 years after the court case. In a 2011 interview, Robertson discusses his novel, which won the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Award in 2004:

I first came across a brief mention of the story of Joseph Knight in a book about Dundee in, I think, 2000.

There were gaps in the historical record – not least being a complete absence of information about what happened to Knight after he faced down his master John Wedderburn in court – but this simply meant that fiction came into its own as a means of reconstructing the past. In fact, the cast of real-life characters – Knight and Wedderburn themselves, other planters, slaves and their families, Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, and all the eccentric, hard-drinking judges, philosophers, poets and lawyers who made Enlightenment Edinburgh such a vibrant place – was so extraordinary that it was tempting (though not very) to tone them down a bit to make them more credible. As I gathered information, I became fascinated by the profound humanity of some of the people in the story, which was matched only by the hypocrisy of men in Edinburgh coffee houses debating what constituted a civil society while enjoying the products of slave labour thousands of miles away.

Somebody directed me to an aphorism of the Nigerian writer Ben Okri: ‘Nations and peoples are largely the stories they feed themselves. If they tell themselves stories that are lies, they will suffer the future consequences of those lies. If they tell themselves stories that face their own truths, they will free themselves for future flowerings.’ This gave me the key to what I felt the book was about: Joseph Knight, or his story, came to symbolise a Scotland full of possibilities, past, present and future. I’d always been interested in how different times can speak to one another, how our understanding of ‘then’ can influence our understanding of ‘now’ and vice versa, and here was that same thing happening again.

…Despite good reviews and the reception of both the Scottish Arts Council and Saltire Society Book of the Year awards, and although many readers have told me how much they enjoyed it, of my four novels it has sold the least well. I don’t know why this is, but it makes me all the more grateful that it got the recognition it did back in 2003–04. You can never tell what books will survive their own times – many bestsellers are gone and forgotten a decade after first publication – but I like to think that someone, some day far in the future, may pick up Joseph Knight and find that it opens a door for them into the strange but perhaps not irrelevant world of Enlightenment Edinburgh and Scotland’s deep engagement with slavery and the plantations.

Further Reading:

Slavery, freedom or perpetual servitude? – the Joseph Knight case (The National Archives of Scotland) article available online

Guardian Review (2003) of the novel Joseph Knight by James Robertson by Ali Smith available online

Extract from James Robertson’s novel Joseph Knight available online

Interview (2011) with James Robertson available online

Scotland and the Slave Trade (National Library of Scotland) article available online

Scotland and Abolition by Rev. Dr. Iain Whyte article available online

BBC Radio Play Review: Choice of Straws

BBC Radio 4 rebroadcast an adaptation of Afro-Guyanese writer E. R. Braithwaite’s novel Choice of Straws. The BBC Radio 4 website describes the radio play as follows:

Choice of Straws by ER Braithwaite. London’s East End 1960. Twins Jack and Dave Bennett are a happy-go-lucky, rootless pair of Teddy boys. If they do occasionally rough-up a black guy it’s just a game to them. Until a victim in Whitechapel fights back and Dave pulls a knife. From the writer of To Sir With Love.

Jack…..Harry Hepple

Dave…..Luke Norris

Michelle…..Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Mum…..Ellie Haddington

Dad…..David Hargreaves

Ruth…..Annabelle Dowler

Mr Spencer….. Alex Lanipekun

Officer…..Stephen Hogan

Dramatised by Roy Williams

Director Claire Grove

About the Play

Edward Ricardo Braithwaite is best known as the author of To Sir, With Love, the 1959  novel that was adapted into the 1967 hit film To Sir, With Love, starring Sidney Poitier, and the hit song To Sir, With Love, sung by Sidney Poitier’s co-star Lulu. His lesser known novel, a Choice of Straws, was originally published in 1965.

Choice of Straws is told from the perspective of Jack, a White East Londoner, who usually follows along with his Twin Brother Dave, who, while being inadvertently stabbed while attacking and killing a Black man, ends up dying in a car crash in a car driven by another Black man, a Medical student named Bill Spencer. Jack tells the truth to his parents about what happened and tries to dodge police inquiries. He also begins to discover himself as an individual, no longer in his brother’s shadow. This involves getting a girlfriend (Ruth) and losing his virginity while pursuing a romantic relationship with Bill’s sister Michelle.

Through Jack’s relationship with Michelle, Braithwaite revisits the divisions that race and class construct in people’s lives that he explored in To Sir with Love. In To Sir, With Love, the educated and sophisticated Afro-Caribbean Teacher is a victim of racism, however his pupils are victims of classism, which has meant that they have received a completely inadequate education to prepare them for anything but work as common labourers. Jack is working-class while Michelle is middle class and has a university education. She ends up ending their relationship for fear that Jack is just using her in order to experience dating a Black girl. This has happened to her before. Even the issue of Jack and Dave attacking the Black man is complicated by the fact that late in the radio play we learn that their father was assaulted by Black men during the 1958 Notting Hill Riots.

Choice of Straws doesn’t provide any easy answers to the racial and class conflicts that still divide Britain into many small islands, but it is a great exploration of these divisions and is itself an action of walking in the “other’s” shoes.

About E. R. Braithwaite

E.R. Braithwaite was born in Guyana in 1920. He was raised in a relatively privileged Afro-Guyanese family, both his parents were graduates of Oxford University. He served in the Royal Air Force as a pilot during World War II. He attended the University of Cambridge where he earned a doctorate in Physics. Like many people of colour in Britain after World War II, despite his qualifications, he found it hard to find employment in his field so was forced to take a job as a teacher in East London. The book, To Sir, with Love, was based on these experiences. Braithwaite pursued a career in social work and ended up getting a job finding foster homes for non-White children for the London County Council. He based his second novel, Paid Servant, published in 1962.

E. R. Braithwaite, photographed by Carl Van Vecten

Braithwaite’s books were banned in Apartheid-Era South Africa until 1973. At this time, Braithwaite applied for a visa to visit South Africa. His visa as granted and he was given the status of “Honorary White”, which gave him far more freedoms  and privileges than the indigenous Black population. He wrote about his experiences traveling in South Africa in the memoir Honorary White, published in 1975.

Braithwaite has worked as an educational consultant and lecturer for UNESCO, as the permanent representative for Guyana to the United Nations, as the Guyanese Ambassador to Venezuela, and as Writer in Residence at Howard University. Most recently, he has been a visiting professor at Manchester Community College. He now lives in Washington, D.C.

About the Notting Hill Race Riots

The 1958 Notting Hill Race Riots raged over the August Bank Holiday in Nottingham. Although dismissed by police at the time as just hooliganism perpetrated by White and people of colour alike, In 2002, theLondon Internal Metropolitan Police released documents related to the riots which told a different story:

The Met commissioner was told that of the 108 people who were charged with offences ranging from grievous bodily harm to affray and riot and possessing offensive weapons, 72 were white and 36 were “coloured”.

It is popularly believed that the riot began on the night of Saturday August 20 when a 400-strong crowd of white men, many of them “Teds”, attacked houses occupied by West Indians. Among the victims was Majbritt Morrison, a young white Swedish bride of a Jamaican. She was pelted with stones, glass and wood, and struck in the back with an iron bar as she tried to get home.

The internal police witness statements provide graphic evidence of the motives of the mobs – at one point crowds several thousand strong roamed the streets of Notting Hill, breaking into homes and attacking any West Indian they could find.

PC Richard Bedford said he had seen a mob of 300 to 400 white people in Bramley Road shouting: “We will kill all black bastards. Why don’t you send them home?” PC Ian McQueen on the same night said he was told: “Mind your own business, coppers. Keep out of it. We will settle these niggers our way. We’ll murder the bastards.”

The fact it is believed one of the first people attacked by Whites was  a White woman in a romantic relationship with a Black man  just demonstrates how subversive such unions were perceived as at the time. My own mother used to be called a “Nigger Lover” and “Race Traitor” jokingly by her family members when she married my father. The level of contempt that White women who agreed to be in romantic relationships with men of colour at this time, and in some places even now, is a phenomenon which I feel has not been explored well enough in anti-racism circles’ discussions around White Privilege.

The Notting Hill Carnival, an annual street festival led mainly by Britain’s Trinidadian and Tobagonian community, began in 1959 as a community response to the Notting Hill Race Riots. The first festival was organized by Claudia Jones, a Trinidadian American Communist and journalist who had been granted asylum in Britain in the late 195os after having been imprisoned and eventually deported from the United States due to her communist activities. In 1958, she founded the West Indian Gazette, the first newspaper printed in London for the Black community. She is considered “The Mother of the Notting Hill Carnival”. Black Academic Carole Boyce Davies has written her biography, Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones. The title of the book refers to the fact that Jones, who died in 1964 due to heart disease and tuberculosis, is buried in London’s Highgate cemetary to the left of Karl Marx.

About Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Mixed Race British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw has recently gained recognition in the United States as the star of the cancelled J.J. Abrams’ TV Series Undercovers. I can’t help but suspect that Undercovers partly failed because it had two Black leads playing “non-traditional Black roles”. Of the top of my head, I can’t think of any American TV Series with Black Leads, other than comedy series, that have survived very long. Despite this, Gugu’s beauty and talent has been “discovered” and we will be seeing more of her on the American screen. Gugu was born in 1973 in Oxford, England to South African doctor Patrick Mbatha and English nurse Anne Raw, who met while working together at a hospital .  Her full name, Gugulethu, means “Our Pride” in Zulu. She is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. I first saw her in the British Sci-Fi  TV Series Doctor Who, portraying Tish Jones, the sister of Doctor Who’s First Black Companion, Martha Jones. In 2009, Gugu played Ophelia opposite Jude Law in Donmar West End and Broadway Production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. We will  be seeing her  on the big screen soon in the comedy drama  Larry Crowne starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts and in the American Supernatural Thriller “Odd Thomas“.

Further Reading:

E.R. Braithwaite

To Ricky with Love by Caryl Phillips (2005 Guardian article available online)

Notting Hill Race Riots

After 44 years secret papers reveal truth about five nights of violence in Notting Hill by Alan Travis (2002 Guardian article available online)

The Forgotten Race Riot (2007 BBC article available online)

Long History of Race Rioting (2001 BBC article available online)

Profile of Claudia Jones available online

Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Interview (2009) in The Guardian available

Interview (2009) in The Telegraph available online

Video Interview (2010) available online

Black British Literature

Black British Literature since Windrush by Onyekachi Wambu (BBC History article available online)

BBC Radio Play Review: God’s President Mugabe of Zimbabwe

God’s President Mugabe of Zimbabwe is a play that was commissioned by BBC Radio 4 for its Friday Play Series to mark the 30th anniversary year of the Independence of Zimbabwe. According to the BBC Radio 4 website:

Kwame Kwei-Armah’s play tells the story of the tense negotiations around the Lancaster House Conference, and the road to Zimbabwe’s Independence.

On 4th March 1980 the Shona majority in Rhodesia was decisive in electing Robert Mugabe to head the first post-independence government as Prime Minister. Six weeks later, on April 18th, Zimbabwe celebrated its first Independence Day.

On the 21st December 1979, following three months of talks, the Lancaster House Agreement finally brought independence to Rhodesia following Ian Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965.

Margaret Thatcher’s government had invited Bishop Muzorewa and Ian Smith, and the leaders of the Patriotic Front, led by Joshua Nkomo  (Zimbabwe African People’s Union/ZAPU)and Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe African National Union/ZANU) to participate in a Constitutional Conference at Lancaster House in London, to be chaired by the foreign secretary, Lord Carrington.

The purpose of the Conference was to discuss and reach agreement on the terms of an Independence Constitution, and to ensure that elections should be supervised under British authority to enable Rhodesia to proceed to legal independence and the parties to settle their differences by political means.

Each scene of the play takes place on crucial day of Zimbabwe’s history, some of these days are well-known, others are not. The play jumps back and forth in history and goes back as early as 1960 and as late as 1980, covering twenty years in the history of Zimbabwe’s independence movement. British Zimbabwean actor Lucian Msamati (best known for his role as Mr. Matekoni in HBO’s No. 1 Ladies, Detective Agency) plays Robert Mugabe.

18th November 1971, in Salisbury Prison, Rhodesia

Alex Douglas Hume, the British Foreign Secretary under Prime Minister Heath  and Bishop Muzorewa of the United African National Council visit Robert Mugabe and Edgar Tekere, who have been imprisoned by Ian Smith’s government. They are there to discuss the proposed constitutional settlement. The British government wants to get Tekere and Mugabe’s opinion.

Mugabe and Tekere feel that the proposal is just British capitulation to Ian Smith’s demands. Hume argues that the mechanisms are in place to lead to majority rule eventually. Bishop Muzorewa also objects to the proposal.

17th May 1979, Office of Lord Carrington, Britain

Lord Carrington reflects on Margaret Thatcher’s speech in regards to the crisis in Rhodesia. The British are considering recolonizing Rhodesia, establishing a constitution that both sides accept, then leaving. Margaret Thatcher doesn’t want to be seen as a racist by the Commonwealth and has sent a video of her speech to Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda in order to assure him that she supports Black Majority Rule.

3rd September 1979, Havana, Non Aligned Movement Summit, Cuba

Zambian President Kaunda is meeting with Robert Mugabe and challenging him on his squabbles with Nkomo. Kaunda doesn’t want to see more of his people die because Mugabe is behaving in a reckless and criminal fashion. Kaunda threatens to shut all of the ZAPU bases in Zambia if Mugabe won’t accept to negotiate a peace at Lancaster House.

10 September 1979, Lancaster House, Britain

Lord Carrington observes that Nkomo has come separately from Mugabe and they are both staying at separate hotels and have different PR representatives although they are both members of Zimbabwe’s Patriotic Front.  Bishop Murorewa arrives with Ian Smith; they are both members of the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia delegation.  Edgar Tekere arrives with Robert Mugabe.

10 September 1979, Lancaster House, Opening Plenary Session, Britain

Lord Carrington presents the proposed constitution for Rhodesia with which Britain will be prepared to grant independence. Lord Carrington expresses his anger that a cease-fire has not been called during these negotiations. Mugabe accuses Bishop Muzorewa of betraying the nationalist movement for siding with Ian Smith and defending thee rights of the White Minority. 

In the bathroom, Robin Renwick, who works in the Rhodesia Department of the British Foreign Service, meets Tekere and expresses his hope that, even if  official talks break down, he and Tekere can keep communicating.

Renwick asks if Tekere knew Mugabe before the liberation struggle because they seem so close. Tekere says he knew Mugabe would be their leader from the first time he spoke.

20th  July 1960, Highfield Township, Salisbury, Rhodesia

Robert Mugabe has participated in demonstrations against and been chased by riot police. Tekere encourages Mugabe to speak to the crowd of demonstrators. Mugabe is hesitant because he doesn’t know what to say. Tekere tells him to just talk about his experience in the demonstration. Tekere introduces Mugabe to the crowd, explaining that he has three university degrees and has just returned from Ghana. Mugabe finally speaks. He says that Ghana was the first African state to gain independence and his expresses his admiration for that country where Africans are in control of their own affairs. While in Ghana, Mugabe realized that in Rhodesia Blacks are taught to worship the White man. Mugabe encourages the people in the crowd to stand up for their rights.

Tekere tells Mugabe that he is going to introduce him to Nkomo and invites him to join the party. Tekere tells Mugabe that he would be a great spokesperson. Mugabe states that he is a teacher in Ghana but Tekere says that now Mugabe’s job is to fight for freedom in Rhodesia.

10th September 1979, Lancaster House, Britain

Bishop Muzorewa is meeting with Lord Carrington on his own. Carrington emphasizes that if there is no settlement the British will not lift sanctions against Rhodesia. Carrington tells Bishop Muzorewa that his party needs to accept that White Privilege will come to an end in Rhodesia.

10th  October 1979, Lord Carrington’s Office, Britain

The land of White farmers will be protected for 10 years in the proposed constitution. Mugabe says that this war is mostly about land and is angry about idea that Blacks will have to compensate Whites for the land they stole. Lord Carrington wants Mugabe to sign off on the constitution. Carrington informs Mugabe that he will only negotiate with Bishop Muzorewa and Ian Smith because they accept the proposed constitution. He tells Mugabe and Tekere that their attendance at the conference is no longer required and that they should keep in mind that Britain will be lifting sanctions on Rhodesia so they will facing a war with an economically revitalized country.

Mugabe is fed up with trying to negotiate with Carrington and decides to go over his head.

15th October 1979, Lord Carrington’s Office, White Hall, Britain

Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Sir Sonny Ramphal, who Mugabe has contacted, confronts Lord Carrington about his decision to expel Mugabe, Tekere, and Nkomo from the conference and accuses him of treating Mugabe like a child and being too close to Bishop Muzorewa and Ian Smith. Lord Carrington states that he thinks Mugabe is an unreasonable monster. Ramphal informs Lord Carrington that there are rumors that he had a separate meeting with Bishop Muzorewa, making it clear to him that he would get Mugabe, Tekere, and Nkomo to leave the negotiating table. Bishop Muzorewa discussed this meeting in a letter which has been leaked to African newspapers.

Ramphal says he can get Mugabe back to the table. Lord Carrington accuses Ramphal of being too close to the Africans. Ramphal explains that there are things he can get Nkomo and Mugabe to agree to that Lord Carrington can’t. 

15th October 1979, a Hotel in Central London, Britain

Ramphal, Mugabe and Tekere are meeting. Mugabe is furious that in the proposed constitution Blacks will have to buy land from Whites at market price. Ramphal says that he spoke with President Jimmy Carter and America will contribute to the land resettlement fund to buy the land so it will not have to come from the new Zimbabwean government’s budget. 

18th October 1979, Lancaster House, Britain

Tekere and Mugabe show up with a signed copy of the constitution, much to Lord Carrington’s surprise.

Now, the transition to democracy can be discussed. Lord Carrington says that Britain will return to Rhodesia for two or three months to monitor new elections.

Mugabe flips out and demands that their be a new Chair instead of Lord Carrington. He then storms off.

Robin Renwick tries to speak with Tekere before he goes off to follow Mugabe.

25th October 1979, Lord Carrington’s Office, White Hall, Britain

Bishop Muzorewa is meeting again with Lord Carrington. Lord Carrington asks Bishop Muzorewa to stand down as Rhodesian Prime Minister during the transition period because if he stays in power it looks like he is getting an unfair advantage. As he was only elected six months earlier, Bishop Muzorewa is not happy with this proposal. Lord Carrington assures the Bishop that British intelligence says that he is sure to win the election again and that Mugabe won’t be able to get his campaign together in only a few months so Muzorewa should not worry.

7th November 1979, Lancaster House, Britain

Lord Carrington is meeting with Robin Renwick. Lord Soames will be appointed as the New Governor of Rhodesia during the transitional period, although he knows nothing about Rhodesia.

14th November 1979, Lord Carrington’s Office, White Hall, Britain

Lord Carrington is happy that Bishop Muzorewa has agreed to step down as Prime Minister of Rhodesia. He reflects on the fact that in 1974, Ian Smith released Mugabe and his comrades from prison, only because the South African government asked him to. But then these former prisoners started getting killed. It looks like they were only released so that Ian Smith could take them out.

18th November 1974, Cambazumo/a Service Station, Salisbury, Rhodesia

Edgar Tekere picks up Mugabe in a car, Bob Marley music is playing on the radio. They are heading for the mountains at the border with Mozambique where they will walk to safety. They are fleeing assassination attempts by Ian Smith’s mercenaries. They have learned that Ian Smith’s mercenaries have sneaked into Patriotic Front camps and slaughtered men, women and children.

6th December 1979, Hotel Room in Central London, Britain

President Kaunda is meeting with Mugabe. He assures him that the Patriotic Front should not fear attacks by Ian Smith’s mercenaries as there will be a Commonwealth Monitoring Group stationed in Zimbabwe to ensure that the cease-fire is maintained.

14th December 1979, Press Conference , Hotel in Central London, Britain

Mugabe holds a Press Conference criticizing the negotiations and demanding that the international community become involved in order to protect the Zimbabwean people from the Rhodesian Security Forces.

14th December 1979, Hotel Room in Central London, Britain

Lord Carrington is angry about Mugabe’s Press Conference. Mugabe demands that Patriotic Front (ZAPU and ZANU) militias be permitted to have a central assembly point in Rhodesia so they are not vulnerable to attack at the country’s borders. He will only sign the Lancaster Agreement if his is allowed.

21st December 1979, Lancaster House, Britain

Members of the Patriotic Front delegation, the Zimbabwe Rhodesia delegation and the British delegation sign the Lancaster House agreement. Despite this, Mugabe expresses that he feels wronged and cheated.

20th February 1980, Election Rally, Harare, Zimbabwe

Mugabe and Tekere return to Zimbabwe after five years in exile. Lord Soames has been threatening to kick them out of the elections but if that happens, they have declared that they will consider the forces of the Patriotic Front absolved from maintaining the Lancaster Agreement, particularly the ceasefire.

4th March 1980, Harare, Zimbabwe

Nkomo’s Part, ZAPU has won 20 seats. Bishop Muzorewa’s party has won only 3 seats. Mugabe’s ZANU has won 57 seats. Although he has won, Mugabe says that the fight has only just begun.

18th April 1980, Zimbabwe House, Harare, Zimbabwe

Bob Marley has been invited to perform for Zimbabwe’s first Independence Day. Mugabe is so excited to meet him. He explains that Patriotic Front soldiers sung Marley’s songs while they fought the resistance struggle. Marley will be performing the song he wrote in support of Zimbabwe’s freedom struggle, Zimbabwe.

Bob Marley expresses concern with what he sees going on in Harare. He says that he doesn’t just want to perform for “Uptown people” and doesn’t want to see ordinary people being beaten by police just because they want to come and see him perform but were not invited. Mugabe agrees to organize a free concert for the masses on the next day.

Bob Marley quotes from the song Zimbabwe  “Soon we will see who is the real revolutionary”.

Carrington, Renwick asks if they got the right man, relates that there have been reports of atrocities in the north, Carrington says that it’s Africa so a strong leader is needed, not sure

Personal Reflections

I’m not sure if you can consider this play “entertaining” in the traditional sense; however, for those of us who are interested in how politics actually works, it is a great play and incredibly informative. Dramatically speaking, there are many interesting moments which could be considered even poignant if you are knowledgable about Zimbabwe’s post-independence history. For example, the fack that Edgar Tekere was so close to Mugabe, that he actually was the one to encourage Mugabe to become a leader in his party, is ironic given their current rivalry. Bob Marley quoting from his song Zimbabwe by saying “soon we will see who is the real revolutionary” is very striking, as it has become quite clear that, although a Black Nationalist, Mugabe has seemed particularly inconsiderate about the lives of poor Zimbabweans and the fact that he at first only organized Marley’s concert for the political elite and their guests foreshadows this. Rasta Ngwenya describes Bob Marley’s first concert in Harare as follows:

In fact, the first official words uttered in Zimbabwe, following the raising of the new flag, were: “Ladies and gentlemen, Bob Marley and the Wailers.”

Twenty minutes later, Bob and The Wailers started their set. As soon as the first notes rang out, pandemonium broke loose in the enormous crowd gathered by the entrance to the sports stadium: the gates shook and began to break apart as the crush increased, the citizens of Harare, both excited and angry at being excluded from seeing these inspirational musicians.

As clouds of teargas drifted almost immediately into the stadium itself, the audience on the pitch fell on their feet in an attempt to protect themselves. The group members tasted their first whiffs of the gas and left the stage. “All of a sudden,” said Judy Mowatt, “you smell this thing taking over your whole body, going in your throat until you want to choke, burning your eyes. I looked at Rita (Marley) and Marcia and they were feeling the same thing.”

“I feel my eyes and nose,” remembered Family Man, “and think, from when I was born, I have to come all the way to Africa to experience teargas.”

Bob, however seemed to have moved to a transcendent state. His eyes were shut, and for a while the gas didn’t seem to have an effect at all. Then he opened his eyes and left the stage.

Backstage, the group had taken refuge in a truck. Outside they could see small children fainting and women collapsing. It looked like death personified to Mowatt, who briefly wondered whether they had been brought to Zimbabwe to meet their ends.

She persuaded someone to drive her and the other I-Threes back to the hotel, only to discover on the television that the show had resumed. After about half an hour Bob and the Wailers had gone back on stage. They ended their set with Zimbabwe, a song Bob had worked on during his pilgrimage to Ethiopia late in 1978, and which became arguably his most important single composition.

Bob was just coming offstage as Mowatt and her fellow women singers returned to the stadium. “Hah,” he looked at them with a half-grin, “now I know who the real revolutionaries are.”

It was decided that the group would play another concert the following day, to give the ordinary people of Zimbabwe an opportunity to see Bob Marley.

Over 100 000 people-an audience that was almost entirely black- watched this show by Bob Marley and The Wailers. The group performed for an hour and a half, the musicians fired up to a point of ecstasy. But Bob, who uncharacteristically hadn’t bothered to turn up for the sound check, was strangely lacklustre in his performance; a mood of disillusionment had set in around him following the tear-gassing the previous day.

After the day’s performance, the Bob Marley team was invited to spend the evening at the home of Tekere. This was not the most relaxed of social occasions.

As the henchmen strutted around with their Kalashnikovs, Mills was informed by Tekere that he wanted Bob to stay in Zimbabwe and tour the country. “Bob told me to say he wasn’t going to, but the guy didn’t want to hear me.”

While Bob remained in the house, Rob Partridge and Phil Cooper sat out in the garden. “I could hear,” said Cooper, head of international affairs, “Tekere saying to Bob, ‘I want this man Cooper. He’s been going around putting your image everywhere. He’s trying to portray you as a bigger man than our President.’ I could hear all this.

“Then Bob came out and said to us, in hushed, perfect Queen’s English; ‘I think it’s a good idea for you to leave’.”

“Partridge and I went and packed, and took the first international flight out, which was to Nairobi. About five months later Tekere was arrested and put in jail; he had been involved in the murder of some white settler.

I was particularly fascinated to learn about the roles played by Zambia’s President Kenneth Kaunda and Indo-Guyanese politician and former Foreign Minister of Guyana, Sir Sonny Ramphal, who is played by the writer of the play Kwame Kwei-Armah.

About Kwame Kwei-Armah

Kwame Kwei-Armah is a British playwright, actor, and singer. He is the First Black Briton to have a play staged on London’s West End when his play Elmina’s Kitchen was staged in Garrick’s Theatre in 2005. He was born Ian Roberts in London. His parents are immigrants from Grenada. He changed his name to Kwame Kwei-Armah in his 20s after he traced his family’s roots to Ghana.

Further Reading:

Zimbabwe’s History: Key Dates (BBC News article available online)

Zimbabwe at 30 Audio Slideshow (BBC News article available online)

Joshua Nkomo’s Obituary (BBC News article available online)

Viewpoint: Kaunda on Mugabe (BBC News article available online)

House of Stone at 30 by Farai Sevenzo (BBC News article available online)

Lucian Msamati Cut His Teeth Doing Political Theatre in Zimbabwe. Now He Has a Lead Role in Alexander McCall Smith’s Rose-Tinted Vision of Africa by Aida Edemariam (Guardian article available online)

Interview (1980) with Lord Carrington by Time Magazine (Time article available online)

Interview (2000) with Lord Carrington by David Frost (BBC News transcript available online)

When Bob Marley Caused a Riot in Africa by Rasta Ngwenya (article available online)

Video of Bob Marley performing Zimbabwe, with lyrics available

Profile of Kwame Kwei-Armah (article available online)

Interview (2008) with Kwame Kwei-Armah available online

Interview with Kwame Kwei-Armah available online

Film Review: The Harder They Come (1972)

Posted in Films, Jamaican Film, Jamaican Music, Reggae by the woyingi blogger on January 30, 2011

Film: The Harder They Come (1972)

Director: Perry Henzell

Starring: Jimmy Cliff

Country: Jamaica

Genre: Action/Music

The Harder They Come, directed by White Jamaican Perry Henzell, is the first film made by Jamaicans for Jamaicans. Up until this film was made, Jamaica had been a popular film location because of its beautiful beaches and lush tropical forests, however, much like the country’s tourism industry, the films did not depict the harsh realities of Jamaican life. The Harder They Come is a grim portrait of a brazen criminal you just wants to be famous.

Ivanhoe Martin, played by Black Jamaican reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, arrives in Kingston from the countryside after his grandmother’s death. He has brought along several possessions, including a mango for his mother but all are stolen and he arrives at his mother’s shack with nothing but the little money remaining from the sale of his grandmother’s house. His mother, who is devastated by the news that her mother has died and she wasn’t able to attend the funeral, tells Ivan that he must return to the countryside because if he stays in the city he’ll just become a criminal. He also informs him that he can’t stay with her. He leaves her shack but as he is walking out the door she asks if he has brought a mango and he tells her that the mangos didn’t grow well in the countryside that season.

Ivan tries to find work but he has no skills and there is no shortage of labour in the city. But he persists. He gets work from “The Preacher”, who his mother has refered him to. He also develops an interest in Elsa, who he sees singing in the church choir. She is the ward of the Preacher. Ivan joins the choir just to get close to Elsa. At one point in the film, we see images of choir-singing at a revival juxtaposed to images of Elsa and Ivan naked on the beach. Elsa is seduced by Ivan and eventually leaves her home with the preacher to live with him. But she soon realizes that Ivan isn’t at all serious and seems to expect her to find work to support them while he goes and tries to become famous by making a record. Ivan pursues record producer Hilton, who agrees to record Ivan’s song “The Harder They Come”.

There is a Chinese Jamaican character in the film who works closely with Hilton producing records. This character reminded me that one of the leading record producers in Jamaica in the 1960s was Leslie Kong, who was the first Jamaican producer to get international hits. He started his career as a record producer after meeting Jimmy Cliff, who was singing a song outside of Kong’s family’s record shop/restaurant/ice cream parlour in the hopes that Kong would record him. This inspired Kong to launch his own record label, Beverly’s. He recorded Cliff’s song “Dearest Beverly”, thus also launching Cliff’s musical career. Kong recorded with the likes of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Desmond Dekker. He died young of a heart attack in 1971, allegedly due to a “curse” cast on him by Bunny Livingston of The Wailers because of a dispute over the release of the album, The Best of the Wailers. Kong died about a week after the album was released.

Hilton tells Ivan that he will distribute the recording and get it played by DJs but Ivan must sign over his rights and he will only receive $20 for the recording. Ivan refuses as he believes that he deserves much more money. Ivan tries to get his song played by DJs at clubs and at the radio stations but all refuse as they have agreements with Hilton only to play recordings he gives them. Disheartened, Ivan agrees to sign away his rights and only receive $20 just so that he can get his record played but Hilton takes revenge but telling DJs not to play it too much because he thinks Ivan is a trouble maker.

Ivan gets into the ganga (marijuana) trade with the help of his friend Pedro as there isn’t other work for him to do. But Ivan soon realizes that people like him and Pedro are just low-level dealers and are not making the real money. But at one point, to avoid getting caught by the police, Ivan kills a police officer. During this scene, we see a flashback to an earlier scene in the film when Ivan gets whipped for having slashed the face of a man who stole his bike. We realize that Ivan is afraid of receiving more corporal punishment so he kills the police officer. Ivan goes into hiding but he is ratted on by his friend Jose Smith. Ivan is able to escape from the police who are after him, killing most of them. Ivan then goes on a spree through the city, robbing people, stealing cars, and at one point demanding that a photographer take pictures of him at gun point. He wants to send one of the pictures to the local newspaper to be published. He seems proud that he has achieved fame because of his ability to avoid getting caught by the police. Hilton starts getting Ivan’s record played now that he’s a famous criminal and it becomes a hit.

The police decide to force the local people living in the slum who are surviving off the ganga trade to give Ivan up. They stop the ganga trade so no one is able to make any money. People in the slum begin to suffer, including Pedro’s son, Rupert, who Elsa has grown close to. Elsa decides to turn Ivan in so that the trade can start-up again.

Ivan is supposed to escape to Cuba by boat but he is unable to swim out to the boat in time and is left on the beach. He decides to go down in a blaze of glory in a shoot-out with the police.

The Impact of The Harder They Come

The Harder They Come inspired a novel of the same name by Michael Thelwell. The novel follows Ivan but develops the plot further; including giving the reader a portrait of what Ivan’s life was like back in the countryside before he came to the city.

The film brought reggae music to an international audience and although the film was not well-distributed, its soundtrack was, paving the way for the success of Jamaican musicians like Bob Marley. The film is referenced in the legendary British Punk band The Clash’s song The Guns of Brixton, a song with has obvious reggae influences. From the song:

You see, he feels like Ivan

Born under the Brixton sun

His game is called survivin’

At the end of the harder they come

Personal Reflections

I didn’t really like the character of Ivan at all. He frankly has no admirable qualities, other than blind determination. But this didn’t stop me from enjoying the film. The “realness” of the film is what captured my attention, as well as all the small moments that make up a portrait of slum life in Jamaica. From Ivan’s mother asking, so sadly, if he brought a mango for her from the countryside, to an elderly drunk laughing at Ivan when he sees him running the streets with a gun and only his underwear on, you can tell that this is a film meant to resonate with people in Jamaica. Its gaze isn’t from outsiders looking in but for insiders finally having a chance to see themselves on-screen. One of the most brilliant moments of the film is at the end, during Ivan’s final shoot-out with the police on the beach, we shift from seeing the shoot-out to seeing an audience of Jamaican movie-watchers laughing with excitement at the image of Ivan on-screen confronting the police. We had seen a similar audience, equally as excited, watching a shoot-out in a  spagetti(Italian-made films copying the style of American Westerns) starring Franco Nero earlier in the film. It is as if Henzell is trying to say “We have our one anti-heroes, our own outlaws to watch, admire, and be entertained by. We don’t need to consume the stories of others. We have our own stories.” That said, is this really an image these people should be looking up to? As Julianne Burton observes:

The action of the final scene reverts to the massacred sob and the cheering crowds at the Rialto. Jose’s contemptuous dictum that the hero can’t die until the last reel rings in Ivan’s ears an he faces his own posse. Amidst the indistinguishable shouts of the audience, one cry—“Ivan”—stands out because it was absent from the original scene. Whether it is an indication of Ivan’s mythification of his own death in order to face it, or a cry from the masses of his downtrodden countrymen/women who (either, at that moment or long after his death) hail him an a hero, is not a crucial distinction. In both cases his is revealed to be a hollow heroism.

Further Reading:

The Harder They Come by Michael Dare (article available online)

The Harder They Come: Cultural colonialism and the American dream by Julianne Burton (essay available online)

Interview (2001) with Peter Henzell available online

The Harder They Come Musical Website

Radio Documentary Review: Arise Black Man The Peter Tosh Story

Last week, I had the chance to listen to Don Letts’  BBC Radio 4’s Documentary about the life and work of Peter Tosh.

Here’s the description:

Peter Tosh found international fame alongside Bob Marley as a member of The Wailers. As a solo artist he released several landmark reggae albums and even recorded with the Rolling Stones. But he was more than just a successful pop star: he was a revolutionary and a hero to many of Jamaica’s poor. He spent his life as a strident campaigner for civil rights and for the legalisation of marijuana. He was more militant and political than his former band mate and his uncompromising arrogance often landed him in serious trouble. For that reason, as this documentary reveals, his life could be as brutal as the way it ended. Grammy award winning film-maker Don Letts explores his career.

The documentary opens with excerpts from interviews with people who knew Peter Tosh:

Peter Tosh was the Malcolm X to Bob Marley’s Martin Luther King. One was the arouser and one was the healer. But Peter was much more on the side of militancy. (Roger Steffens, Reggae Historian)

His songs have been recorded by Eric Clapton, Peter Gabriel, Jackson Brown, Ben Harper, Chrissie Hynes from the Pretenders, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, Sinnead O’Connor. (Wayne Jobson, DJ and producer)

Peter was adored as a revolutionary in Jamaica. He was so charismatic and he was saying  very much what the people thought. (Vivien Goldman, Journalist)

Don Letts’ opens the documentary with the following statement:

Peter Tosh was not your average rockstar and as a person you probably won’t even like him. He could be arrogant, unpleasant and intimidating. But for me he was also a completely awe-inspiring performer, a revolutionary who stood up for the equal rights of the Jamaican poor and Black people all over the world. They always call Bob Marley the Reggae Rebel but Peter Tosh was far more militant and political than Bob ever was. His uncompromising attitude often caused controversy and landed him in serious trouble and as you will hear his life could sometimes be as brutal as the way it ended.

As Bob Marley archivist Roger Steffens states:

He made a guitar out of wire and a sardine can and taught himself to play by watching an older man who actually had a guitar.

According to Jamaican-American Wayne Johnson, producer of the documentary Red X, about Peter Tosh:

I think with him growing up in Jamaica during the colonial days in the 50s and so it was you know as Peter said you never saw a Black school teacher, or a Black preacher or a Black bank manager or anything like it was all English people who came down and took the big jobs and therefore you know eventually you would want to rebel against this especially with the church where he was forced to go to church two, three times a week and every day he was singing “O Lord wash me and I’ll be as white as snow.” You can’t oppress anybody worse than that you know and so Peter said it was almost like apartheid in those days.

In a 1983 BBC Interview, Peter Tosh explains:

I was the first one in the group who played music. I used to play my guitar. I used to play  the keyboards. I taught Bob to play guitar and I taught Bunny to play guitar because it was a part of making your music perfect see. And in those times is like we had a good voice but we wasn’t creating music that music that much it was just singing people song and singing people son and the people been telling us that we sound good why don’t go to the studio so we got together once and we did some recording recorded the first one which was Simmer Down and the people loved it. It sold well.

 As Vivien Goldman explains:

I don’t think I’ve ever had as many arguments with anybody in my life as I did with Peter Tosh.I remember once I was interviewing him, he was like “Women are inferior to men!” I was like “Why is that?” you know “Oh look at the docks , if you go down to the docks a woman can’t pick up a heavy bag and carry it the same way a man can.” And there was you know there was quite embedded in Rasta certain things for women their period was regarded to be unclean but he was really into it “Oh!!!!” you know  “ Are you having your period? Should you be in the room with me know?” I was like excuse me, I’m here as a working professional matey.

Further Reading:

The Guardian’s Review of Arise Black Man The Peter Tosh Story by Elisabeth Mahoney

Roger Steffens’ Reggae Archives Website

Vivien Goldman’s Blog

The many voices of Rastafarian women : sexual subordination in the midst of liberation by O. Lake (essay available online)

Saint Lucia’s Creole Heritage Month

Posted in Countries: Saint Lucia by the woyingi blogger on November 1, 2010

October is Saint Lucia’s Creole Heritage Month. Saint Lucia is a small tear-drop shaped Windward Caribbean Island.

It is home to two Nobel Laureates, Derek Walcott, who won the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature and Sir Arthur Lewis, the first Black person to win a Nobel Prize in a category other than peace, he won the 1979 Nobel Prize for Economics, the same year St. Lucia gained independence from Britain.

According to Kennedy “Boots” Samuel:

Creole came out of the African colonial experience. One of the things the colonial system tried to do was wipe out the culture of the Africans, but the Africans always found ingenious ways of preserving their culture across the generations and the Creole language creole language (krēōl`), any language that began as a pidgin but was later adopted as the mother tongue by a people in place of the original mother tongue or tongues.  is a classic example. They preserved the deep structure of their language, the syntax and the semantics, by hiding it within the words of the dominant colonial language. It was referred to as ‘broken French’: ‘There go the natives trying to speak our French language without speaking it properly,’ but in reality, it was a totally different language operating under the guise of French vocabulary.

Saint Lucia's Flag

Creole Heritage Month is organized by The Folk Research Centre. The month culminates in International Creole Day, which takes place on October 28th but Saint Lucia also celebrates Jounen Kweyol on the Sunday which is closest to  October 28th. The island’s first Jounen Kweyol was celebrated in 1983. A day-long Creole broadcast of news and entertainment highlighted by a radio link-up with the Creole-speaking island of Dominica took place. This was a landmark event for a language that historically has been ignored and even suppressed in favor of English. Creole Heritage Month events are usually organized in selected rural villages where Kweyol language and culture are strongest. The national dress, Madras (a plaid-like material), is usually worn by community members at these events. Walaba, an indigenous sport similar to cricket, is played.

According to their website:

The Folk Research Centre (FRC) was established in 1973 as repository for cultural heritage, a vehicle for research, study, recording and promulgating Saint Lucia’s rich heritage.  It houses an extensive library of publications, audio visual recordings and photographs and is the major study centre for work carried out into Saint Lucia’s folk culture by both nationals and visiting researchers and students.  

The FRC’s primary thrust in public sensitisation and promotion of Creole culture culminates in October with Creole heritage month.  Jounen Kwéyòl celebrated at the end of October, is a community based celebration of Creole food, music and folk traditions and is observed in conjunction with Journée internationale du Créole.  Jounen Kwéyòl has grown since its inception in 1984 and has gained so much momentum as to become one of the most anticipated events on the national calendar.

The FRC is dedicated to the values of koudmen, the spirit of cooperation, and the responsible stewardship of Saint Lucia’s cultural heritage and resources, and as such is committed to cooperation with other local, regional and international bodies in its efforts to promote a global understanding of culture in development.

Although most Creoles have their origin in a mixture of French and indigenous and/or African languages they are not mutually understood. For example, Saint Lucia and Dominica’s Creole is not understood by Haitian speakers of Creole.

Further Reading:

Saint Lucia Folk Research Centre Website

St. Lucia’s Creole core: language and culture play a key role in this Caribbean nation’s struggle for a new path to economic development by Suzanne Murphy-Larronde (article available online)

Johnny Cash at Cinnamon Hill

Posted in Countries: Jamaica by the woyingi blogger on July 31, 2010

I’m currently reading Cash: The Autobiography by the late Johnny Cash, the legendary American country music icon whose life the film Walk The Line is based on.

The first chapter of the book is entitled Cinnamon Hill, after the home Cash had in Jamaica. I didn’t know that Johnny Cash lived in Jamaica at any time in his life. In 1982, Cash and his family experienced a traumatic home invasion. Yet, Cash decided to keep his Jamaican home.

Johnny Cash bought the house from his friend, businessman John Rollins, in the mid-seventies. Cinnamon Hill was built in 1747. It was originally owned by the Barretts of Wimpole Street, the family of 19th Century poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The house had survived the 1831 slave revolt that had destroyed many of the other great houses on the island. This same slave revolt is credited with having brought to the attention of the British public the horrors of slavery, helping to lead to its abolition.

Cash writes about Cinnamon Hill:

The past is palpably present in and around Cinnamon Hill, the reminders of other times and other generations everywhere, some obvious, some not. For more than a century this was a sugar plantation worked by thousands of slaves who lived in clusters of shacks all over the property. All that remains of those people now, the metal hinges from their doors and nails from their walls, lies hidden in the undergrowth on the hillsides or in the soil just below the manicured sod of the golf course that loops around my house. I doubt that the vacationers playing those beautiful links have any idea, any concept, of the kind of life that once teemed where they walk—though perhaps some do, you never know. (page 34)

Johnny describes living with ghosts, who he and his family considered harmless. The family’s real experience of terror was when their home was invaded by three young men, who took 11 year old John Carter hostage, holding a gun to his head. Cash cooperated with the thieves who he realized were not cold-blooded killers but rather poor desperate addicts (Johnny could recognize this because of his own experiences with addiction). The thieves even early on got water for Cash’s cook who thought she was having a heart attack and after locking up Johnny’s family and guests in the cellar, the thieves gave them some of their turkey dinner because they did not want to completely ruin Christmas for them.

In the aftermath of the invasion, the Jamaican prime minister, Edward Seaga, got involved and had members of the Jamaican Defense Force dispatched to guard Johnny’s home. There was fear that if such a public figure decided to leave Jamaica because of its crime it might affect the entire tourist industry. The thieves were soon caught and all of them ended up dying while in custody. Johnny was troubled by these deaths. He writes:

How do I feel about it? What’s my emotional response to the fact (or at least the distinct possibility) that the desperate junkie boys who threatened and traumatized my family and might easily have killed us all (perhaps never intending any such thing) were executed for their act—or murdered, or shot down like dogs, have it how you will?

I’m out of answers. My only certainties are that I grieve for desperate young men and the societies that produce and suffer so many of them, and I felt that I knew those boys. We had a kinship, they and I: I knew how they thought, I knew how they needed. They were like me. (page 41)

This is the Johnny Cash who recorded an album at the notorious Folsom Prison. He could sympathize with criminals because of his own background of desperate poverty picking cotton in Arkansas and his battles with addiction. Johnny decided to stay in Jamaica; he just hired a private security firm to guard his house.  In conclusion, he writes:

Today I can look back and see that some good came from it all. When I take my walks and golf-cart rides down to the sea, I’m often stopped by local people who greet me warmly—“Respects, Mr. Cash, respects”—and I can’t count how many times I’ve heard gratitude for my decision to stay in Jamaica. And since the robbery I’ve been more involved in Jamaican life in various ways that have been very good for me. Today I feel truly at home in this beautiful country, and I love and admire its proud and kindly people. (page 43)

The Jamaican Prime Minister at the time of Cash’s death, P. J. Patterson, sent a representative to Cash’s funeral.