Equal Rights, lizard spray, gay “havoc” downtown

herbie miller
Herbie Miller

I’ve been all over Kingston – firstly to the music museum, where I talked to lovely Herbie Miller about Joe Harriott.

I also saw their exhibtition of record covers “Equal Rights and Social Change”, named for Peter Tosh’s “Equal Rights” album.  It tells a fascinating history of growing social political consciousness, through ska and reggae.

Not without humour, here’s Tosh outside Buckingham Palace. Note the word-play – Buckra mean Black Man. It’s my camera flash giving Tosh’s groin a celestial glow, in case you wondered.

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Check out my unicycle

 

 

 

 

 

Downtown Kingston is a far-cry from the shiny uptown. It’s a colourful and crumbling place – many of the pavements lined with traders selling anything from saucepans to plimsolls and ramshackle shops, Road travel – whether by car, moped or bike – is a dangerous and reckless business. It struck me that my dad’s infamous bad driving (no such thing as a white line or indicator), may well have been learnt and honed here.

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Vincent Chang, owner of Purity Bakeries, kindly took me on a tour of the downtown streets where China Town used to be. The old Chinese Benevolent Association is still there – dusty and disused, but the building itself was fascinating – three floors looming up over the busy streets. The floors used to be full of beds where those in need would sleep. On the top floor, the old altar is still there, statues and pictures. The Chinese began moving out because of the anti-Chinese sentiment on the island – there were anti-Chinese riots throughout the last century. Many went to Canada, but there’s still a Chinese presence here, but the old community that lived and worked on Barry Street and Orange Street has gone.

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Did you know many Jamaicans don’t like lizards and kill them with a spray? Poor lizards. I’ve only seen one or two since I’ve been here, but I find them quite sweet. Here’s one I coaxed out from behind a picture at Annie Paul’s house. Tanya Shirley, Kei Miller and I were there for drinks and to argue about lizards.

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Don’t hate me

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a massive poetry crush on Kei Miller. He’s too good. Here he is reading some poems from the collection he’s working on “The Cartographer Maps His Way to Zion”

Lastly, I’m sure you all remember Dudas Coke, the big Kingston don, being hunted by the police through the yards of Kingston for extradition to the US, for drugs and guns. It was all over the news in 2010. They caught him boarding a place, wearing women’s clothes. I’m not saying the two things are linked, but there are now, apparently, a group of flamboyant young gay men causing havoc in Kingston – their criminal activities – robbing, attacks, vandalism, seems to have reached urban myth status. Here’s the Gleaner’s coverage “Gays Wreak Havoc”.  Jamaica’s homophobia is notorious, so who knows what the truth of this story is…that this group of men are openly and overtly gay has caused outrage. I’m not condoning crime, and I’m sure it’s much much more complex than I’ve suggested, but a little bit of me thinks…good on them!

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