Category Archives: History

Wha’ Gwaan, Guam?

Yes Mi Irieites,

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 2.35.49 PMGuam 2014: Stylin’ in the Limo

After 3 days of travelling from the Caribbean, to the South Pacific, we have finally landed in Guam…. And got : “leid!” (pronounced laid). Yes, it really took us that long to get here.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 2.36.09 PMGuam 2014: Baruch and David Dread

The reception has been warm as usual, with that incredible looking limo waiting for us once more outside the airport.

Why can’t everyday be a Guam day?

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 2.36.31 PMGuam 2014: Roman, Dread, and Veronica

As tired as we were, we all went out to the “Jamaican Grill” restaurant. There we met two of our youngest ardent admirers, 13 year old Roman, and Veronica. These two guys were filling me in on the culture on the island.

To begin with I had no idea after coming here, for what must be the fourth or fifth time, that the country had been strongly influenced by the Spanish language and culture, for the past three and a half centuries. The formal name of the indigenous people are the “Chamorros,” who have called the island home for the past 4,000 years. Then it became a strategic point for the US before WWII. Japan occupied the place for a few years during the attack on Pearl Harbour. Now today, it is one of the many islands across the globe that has “Ragge Music” as their back bone and link to the world.

“Ferdinand Magellan and a Captain Crook
Pirates of the ocean glorified
Written in your books….”

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 4.15.04 PMFond Memories: Guam 2012

 

Farewell, Dr. Maya Angelou

Hail Mi Irieites,

As we celebrate the life of Dr. Maya Angelou, we must cherish her strength, her voice, and her commitment to justice.  The news of her death was, in her own words, “expected, but still unwelcome.”

And so it is with all leaders of the Earth. Their passing leaves a hole in the world, one that is never quite filled.

The title of her most famous work -  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings comes from a poem by Paul Dunbar, the son of parents who had known the injustice of slavery:

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,
When he beats his bars and would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –
I know why the caged bird sings.

It is easy to let the desperate troubles of the world drag us down, but Dr. Angelou is an inspiration for us all to never get weary – doing Jah Work.

Here she is with Malcolm-X in Ghana all those years ago:

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And here are a few quotes from this Queen of the Arts:

  • “I still get excited about any human being speaking or singing.”
  • “There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you.”
  • “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”
  •  “When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound.”
  • “The main thing in one’s own private world is to try to laugh as much as you cry.”
  • “All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells us that we are all more alike than we are unalike.”
  • “The best candy shop a child can be left alone in is the library.”
  • “I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music.”
  • “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
  • “If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.”

We were truly blessed to have had her here fighting for us all.  The caged bird is free at last.  Farewell, and rise!

A Portrait of Malcolm X on his 89th Earthday

malcolmbydavid

Yes Mi Irieites,

Here it is as promised, a portrait of Malcolm X, finished in time for what would have been his 89th birthday. If you have been following this, I had put up the preliminary sketch Feb 21st 2014 and did promise to have something presentable for this day.

I know I will get a few slagging offs from those who are defensive about this individual, but that is how life rolls sometimes. Just enjoy that I’m enjoying getting into other areas in my leisure time.

“Put away the misconception
That he came to teach us hate
So wake up from your sleep and slumber
Wake up before its too late”

In the meantime, Steel Pulse gives a shout to others born on this day May 19th: Grace Jones and Rohan “The Coffee Man” Marley.

And guess who I shall be painting next…

Bless!

A Tribute to Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (1937-2014)

Hail Mi Irieites,

carterboxing

Middleweight boxer, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, became quite a controversial figure in the mid-70s thanks to icons like Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan. Born May 6th 1937 in Clifton New Jersey (a mere 6 weeks before Joe Louis became Heavyweight Champion of the World), Carter, after serving a series of time in Juvenile centres, joined the US army at an early age. It was in the army that he became an active pugilist, going on to turn professional by age 24.

Unfortunately, his career was stopped in its tracks in June 1966, when the authorities wrongfully accused him of a triple murder that took place in a bar in Patterson (not Floyd), New Jersey. And although he was not identified by the survivors of the shooting, a trial took place the following year finding him and a friend that was with him at the time of his arrest, guilty. There he was -sentenced to life imprisonment.

Carter and his supporters contested the sentence over the years. Finally there was light at the end of the tunnel when the judge declared him a free man, in November 1985.

But like l said, it was the likes of Ali and Dylan that brought home to the nation the injustice served on this individual. Carter wrote a book during his incarceration in 1975 titled “The 16th Round.” Dylan read it and wrote a song called “Hurricane,” of which he went on to perform it at the Trenton State Prison; the prison where Carter himself, was “residing.”

In 1999, Denzel Washington starred as Hurricane Carter, a film of the boxer’s journey to freedom from behind bars. By this time Rubin Carter was already living in Canada and, talk about lightening striking twice, he was arrested once again. Only this time he was mistaken for a drug dealer wanted by the authorities. They realised their mistake when they acknowledged that Carter, then aged almost 60, was not in his mid 30’s like the suspect they were looking for.

Once again, I have lucked out on meeting this incredible person. But his quest for survival through the injustice will always stay with me. Rubin went on to be quite an active speaker at many events. He earned himself, among other things, two honorary Doctorates of Law, in 2005. Steel Pulse announced his death yesterday evening while performing to our fans in Vail, Colorado. The “Hurricane” passed after a two-year fight with prostate cancer. He was 76 years old. We share our love and condolences with his friends, families and the supporters that believed in his innocence.

R.I.P. Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Hail Mi Irieites,

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 7.51.29 AM

Sometimes the art of the writer creates a world bigger, bolder, and brighter than the one we live in.  Such was the case with Gabriel Garcia Marquez – the Colombian exile who was first a journalist and then one of the greatest writers who ever lived.  What impresses me most is his commitment to the truth and speaking the truth for all.  It was Marquez who said that he wanted governments to care about poor people, and that was what he was looking at when he evaluated a nation’s soul.  He made friends in high and low places, uniting people across the planet through the shared love of his art. That was his greatest achievement, and that is what artists have always aspired to. You will live forever, Gabo.

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 7.52.00 AM

Here is the last fragment from One Hundred Years of Solitude: “… races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth.”

I confess I must read more of his work, as should we all. “Love and justice through literature” – that was Marquez.

RASpect: Sidney Poitier

Greeting Mi Irieites,

Here’s another day to remember, ’cause today is the 50th anniversary when Sidney Poitier won best actor for the film, “Lilies of the Field.”

It was no easy road for actors of colour, like Sidney Poitier in Hollywood, so to be the first black actor to win an Oscar back in 1964 was an incredible feat in itself.

Sidney was born on February 20th, 1927 in Miami of Bahamian parents. In his early acting years there were drama institutions for “Negroes,” as the term was put in those days. But he was not too favourable by those who attended due to him being ‘tone deaf.” Being able to sing was a very important credential for black actors, therefore Sidney was immediately at a disadvantage, not to mention his mono tone Bahamian accent that he tried very hard to get rid of.

But more success snowballed his way. With the racial climate of segregation as it was in the USA, he was chosen to star in 3 films after receiving his Academy award: “To Sir with Love,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and In the Heat of the Night. (1967).

Acting is not Sidney’s only forte. He went to direct many a great films; “Stir Crazy,” starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, is one that I can immediately bring to mind. And come this August will be the 5th anniversary since he received his Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.

May I mention, that in our little ghetto world back in the UK as well as the Caribbean, Sidney Poitier was our pride and joy. No matter how brief he appeared on TV, we would stop whatever we were doing to watch who we thought was representing us…”Gwarn cuz, go deh!”

Ride On Sidney, ride on!

A Prayer for Rwanda 20 Year Later

Yes, Mi Irietes,

Today, April 7th 2014, marks the 20th anniversary of one of the saddest days in African history. It was the beginning of the Rwandan Civil War that lasted a good part of 100 days. It was estimated that a total exceeding 800,000 people were massacred during that time. That’s just about 20% of the population of which 70% of were of the Tutsi tribe; one of the three main tribes in the country.

The war started when an aircraft carrying the Rwandan President, Juvenel Habyriman and the Burundi President, Cyprien Ntaryamira, both from the “Hutu’ tribe was shot down a day before, while attempting to land in the capital, Kigali. Both Presidents and their delegates were all killed. And although things have been brewing between the Hutu and the Tutsi tribe for several decades, this was believed to be the catalyst that triggered off this genocide in 1994.

But this horror will also be remembered for the moral blindness of the UN, the USA and Great Britain. History condemns these nations for standing by and watching – without action. France too is condemned for giving their moral support to the governing Hutu faction, who carried out this genocide.

What was even more sad to remember, were the thousands prisoners that paid their captors to shoot them as oppose to be cut to pieces by their captors with a machete. The movie “Hotel Rwanda,” starring Don Cheadle, just cannot compare to the harsh reality that took place 20years ago.

Like I said …”It’s time to sip from the cup of peace, let’s strive for racial equality,”

Peace Party. Rwanda has made great strides and is rising from the ashes. But we – all humanity – must never forget. Love over Hate.

Remembering Marvin: 30 Years After

Hail Mi Irieites,

Though still out of action, I just had to take a few moment to think of Marvin Gaye, struck down 30 years ago today. I was fortunate to have seen him many years ago back in England at the American Embassy. It was not long after that he made his comeback hit, “Sexual Healing.” Not many acts can get a second chance of success, but Marvin certainly did ’til the tragedy happened.

His biography, Divided Soul - was a real eye-opener. I read it the moment it came out. While studying it, one could clearly see that he was destined to be killed by his father. As a matter of fact the gun that killed him was actually a Christmas present he had given to his father, Marvin Senior. An epic tragedy on every level.

May his children continue to be proud of the songs this man has produced for mankind.

More here >>

David Koff: A Big Up to “Blacks Britannica” director (24.09.1939 – 06.03.2014)

Hail Mi Irieites,

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 7.06.23 PM

With more tributes out there, we pay our respects to David Koff, film director of “Blacks Britannica.” David Koff, who died just over a week ago, age 74, was said to have had bouts of depression, ultimately taking his own life.

You will be missed, David, because you spoke up for justice when few had the courage. We salute you and your work.

Blacks Britannica” is a documentary that came out in 1978, depicted the social, political and racial issues throughout the UK at that time. This film became so controversial that it was banned from the UK for many years. Before it was made, not many outside Britain were aware of the plight and hardships faced by Caribbean migrants struggling to survive in a harsh England.

Our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones. Your spirit will be with us always. Selah.

(David and his producer was kind enough to offer any footage for us to use in the Steel Pulse film/ documentary which is now due for a late summer release.)

R.I.P. Philip Smart

Hail Mi Irieites,

psmart

A special tribute to one of the pioneers of reggae from the NY region; Philip Smart, engineer, producer, mentor and recording studio owner, out in Freeport Long Island.

Sad to say that Philip passed on peacefully, last week after a long bout of cancer. One of our last recordings at Philip’s studio was the backing tracks to “Put your Hoodies On,” a song dedicated to the murdered teenager, Trayvon Martin.

Many acts have gathered a momentum of success having worked at Philip Smart’s. Acts including: Shaggy, Sister Carol and more.

Philip, I’m sure that you will be proud to know the positive response our song has been getting on youtube since it’s release. With heartfelt condolences we come together in celebration of the life and legacy. One should have been named Philip “Smiles,”too for that beam of happiness always on your face.

Blessed King..

Celebration of his life starts today, March 8th between 12pm and 4.00pm.