I did not realize until very recently that I was born with an extra parent. She is kind, yet firm. She reminds me that my Blackness is beautiful, that my love is endless, and that I am the perfect mix: raahtid and Lover’s Rock.
In my earliest memories of my childhood, she was always there, filling the air with her gentle voice and teaching me lessons that have carried me into adulthood. She drowned out my frustrated cries with her song, a voice sweet like a ripe mango on a summer day. And when it came time for me to learn about who I was and where my people came from, she was always there. My citizenship didn’t matter. The fact that I lived in the States didn’t matter. She made sure I knew who I was. She whisked me away to Peter Tosh’s mausoleum in Bluefields and taught me about the Mystic Man’s fight for equal rights. It was in part through her that I learned my Black skin was not a badge of shame and that my history did not begin with enslavement. We have a history, a homeland in the East, and we’ve been chanting down Babylon from the very beginning. She reminded me that, though in the States, Jamaica was never that far away.
There was one time, my mother and I ventured off to a stage show. Maxi Priest was putting on a free show for Mother’s Day at a Miami park and we had to go. There was no way we’d miss a free performance of “Wild World” and “Close to You.” I stood there, proudly, the only teen in the crowd who didn’t look like their parents forcibly dragged them to see someone they had never heard before. I sang, I rocked, and I sang some more, as if I was the little girl distinguishing between cassette tapes in our 1998 Honda Accord. My second mom was there, of course, watching over me as my voice chanted off-key. I got lost in the vibes and closed my eyes. My hips swayed and my head bobbled, following the sweet, sweet staccato. My body floated above ground and I was lifted to another realm as she and I danced our ever-present dance. I was transformed. My pains and worries no longer mattered in this altered universe.
And she never left me lonely, the beat in her soul could revive me on even my weariest days. Her roots and courage reminded me to get up, to stand up for my rights. She was there during college final exams, my guiding light. I even wrote my final undergraduate thesis in her honour.
For a time, her song had faded, still omnipresent but somehow overshadowed. I wondered how, how could someone so powerful, so revolutionary, fade into the background. There were versions of her I would see in others and yes, while cultures are shared, they should never be appropriated. You could imagine my surprise when you returned to me a few years ago, still sweet, still radical, yet reborn and revived. She’s latched onto a whole new generation and has lent her voice for us to absorb.
At the peak of my adulting, a growing Afro-Jamaican woman, her resurgence brought new teachings that I could only fully grasp during a time when maturing meant more than paying bills; it meant seeing and understanding the world we live in. At a time of Black Lives Matter, heated campus discussions, and protests across the nation, I retreated to her lessons to guide my budding philosophy. I took up books, not to study quadratic equations, but to study our people. I read about neocolonialism, the Coral Gardens Massacre, the taxes imposed by the IMF that our likkle (but still tallawah) island could never repay.
I had the opportunity to see Chronixx live in 2015 and was forever changed. For one, the performance managed to bring together all the West Indians in North Carolina’s not-so-big Caribbean community. Ganja smoke permeated the condensed in-door venue against the ubiquitous red, green, and gold color scheme. Everywhere I looked locs swang and simulated gunshots busted alongside the drums. I was entranced by the music, our music, and its ability to bring soul, ancestry, and revolution all in one. Through his performance of Capture Land, my lessons new and old suddenly made sense. As most young adults, I started to question everything. Why do I cream my hair? Is the lie I’d been fed as a child really to make my life easier? Or does it stem from unattainable white standards of beauty? Capture Land is a seamless history lesson, describing how the island went from Columbus a mek a wrong turn and kill nuff Indian to the teifin Queen from England. If you’ve never seen Nabil Elderkin’s short film of the same name, the need for repatriation becomes evident. I am forever enlightened, forever learned, and forever grateful that these lessons have helped me manifest into the person I am. Here come trouble world; this new generation and I will not be silenced.
Who would I be now if it wasn’t for her love? I honestly don’t know. I have learned pride and repatriation through her, and I can only pray we give her the credit that she is due. A true lioness, she has been our salvation even when we forgot her power. Even when she hits, we feel no pain. We owe it to her to keep the legacy pure and to continue spreading her messages across the globe.