Category Archives: History

Jamaican Independence Day: The 52nd Anniversary

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On this day in 1962, Jamaica brought down the Union Jack, and became an independent country.   From the Arawak to the Taino, through the Spanish and British colonizations, our history makes us sensitive to the quest for justice – not just for the oppressed on the Rock, but all people who are kept down across the world.

Steel Pulse stands with the spirit of Jamaica.  Yes, Jamaicans can be proud of our contribution to the arts, culture, music, and sports.  But there is much left to do. The answer has always been the people, and we long for a true democracy – one that includes all of us under the black, green and gold.

Jamaica, Forward!

H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie I – Earthstrong Thanks & Praise

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Born on July 23, 1892, Ejersa Goro, Ethiopia, H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie is a continual inspiration for Steel Pulse and millions around the globe.  We search for the truth and hunger for justice in his name.  To commemorate  His Majesty’s birthday, LIFE presents photos from H.I.M.’s  historic 1966 trip to the Caribbean.

The Lion of Judah breaks every chain.

Selah.

 

5 Years On: Remembering Michael Jackson

Hail Mi Irieites,

I’ve been reflecting on Michael Jackson and his artistic legacy.  He was a true son of music and a dedicated artist whose work we are only just beginning to appreciate.  The Michael Jackson experience was a result of his passionate love for music, for dance, for truth and justice.  It was Michael himself who said that he felt that art was the union of the physical with the spiritual.

Here is a clip of a rehearsal:

Michael truly was an unstoppable force, a talent few have ever seen in the world. When I see or hear the outtakes of his work, I feel a real sense of loss – for what might have been.  Still, we are blessed to have had him trod with us at all.

“Play the music, he cyan’t dead.”

Jah Bless.

P.S. – if you missed it, take a look at Spike Lee’s documentary.

Juneteenth: Freedom Day in the USA

Hail Mi Irieites,

I trust you’ve taken time out to acknowledge Juneteenth which is celebrated on the 19th of June since 1865. It commemorates the day when slavery’s abolition was put into its true effect despite the fact, that the Emancipation Proclamation was declared 30 months before, in 1865.

Here are the details:

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

So here is a day of true liberation that we will never forget.

Blessings to you all….

Farewell Mother Sister

Hail Mi Irieites,

Let’s take a minute to pause and remember Ruby Dee – civil rights activist first and actress second.

Dee and her late husband Ozzie Davis were well-known civil rights activists.  She was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Both Dee and Davis were both friends of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, with Davis giving the eulogy at Malcolm X’s funeral in 1965. In 1970, she won the Frederick Douglass Award from the New York Urban League. In 1999, Dee and Davis were arrested at the headquarters of the New York Police Department, protesting the police shooting of Amadou Diallo.

Steel Pulse were honored to share a moment where our lives intersected – through Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing.

Bless you Mother Sister… R.I.P.

 

A Visit to Pearl Harbor

Yes Mi Irierites, 

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With a day to spare before our next gig in Honolulu, we were fortunate to get the opportunity to see the historical memorial at Pearl Harbor.  I say fortunate, because since our very first visit to Hawaii, back in 1986, there has never been a relaxing moment to take time out and make this visit.
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Collectively speaking, we thought it would be a real shame if we were ever to mention to our children and grand children that we have been coming to Hawaii for almost 30 years and have never seen the site that experienced such a catastrophic event which the USA still regards, even to this day, as one of the most significant of events in their almost three century history.Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 1.19.07 AM
It was an enlightening observation.  Being here, had me connecting the dots on how the world was at that time.  Not that anything has really changed over the decades, but it showed me how hungry countries were in the struggle for power.  With Japan wanting China and the rest of Asia, Europe wanting all of Africa, and Russia’s spread of Communism, all of this created the inevitability of war.  It is no wonder that the legacy of imperialism and racism is what it is today.
Anyway, with 2,341 dying during the incident on Dec 7th, 1941, many that have survived have chosen to be buried among those that lost their lives that day.  The most recent joined the ranks in 2013.
Eight known survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack are still alive.  Two have already pointed out that when they die they wish to be buried among the rest of the victims.
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“All we are saying, is give peace a chance” – John Lennon.

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

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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,

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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.