Social Experimentation in Jamaica. (30.10)
I grew up outside of cities. The rare moments I spent in big cities were as consumer, a tourist. London was an urban experience, but it was relatively safe. Kingston is a different story.
Kingston is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Its geographical location between the drugs of South America and the guns from the USA makes the situation rough in the ghetto. With a crime rate as high as the skyscrapers, the entire city has a feeling of heaviness and economical oppression. People are poor and they make you feel it. I live in Downtown; in the kind of neighbourhood Internet’s blog don’t recommend entering for safety reasons.
Ikuma, the cook of the community lives in the room right behind mine, and I know that with the people I live with there is not much danger inside the place. Everybody knows that those guys are working for the good in the area.
Fleet Street is really a beautiful place to look at with the mural paintings and art pieces everywhere. But the work is not over, not any close to be. It’s the kind of places where trucks with cages and protection-fences drive by; written on the side of it: Missionaries of The Poor. That’s how two monks from one of the churches around came to bring candy to the kids. Protected in an ranger truck.
Urban Farming in Kingston is a lot more difficult to market than most people would ever imagine. I went with one of the guys to “chop up some compost for the yard”. We went cleaning the streets of Downtown Kingston with a machete and rate to get some greenness. As one can imagine, there is not much natural reserves and parks in the area. People live in tiny houses made of sink, or old buildings leftover for decades. Here I am, cleaning the streets at their feet. It is a very humbling moment, and I can’t help to believe that some stuff wouldn’t be the same if I grew up in such environment.
When some movie director from the New Kingston (high-tech part of Kingston) came to ask if they could film the murals for their movie project, the director came escorted by police officers and a few bodyguards in a black van. I guess they were not crazy enough to come out themselves in danger in those streets, who would anyway? Oh Fuck, -I do.
We heard gun shots during the lunch time today, an argument went wild a few blocks away, one of the dudes shot in the air. After a little moment, the natural sounds of the streets of the Kingston ghetto comes back, and life starts back again. Crimes and violence are part of the routine here.
As a foreigner, I have to adapt. In unfamiliar environment, I exist only to see, to witness. I am a moving camera. You don’t smile too much in those streets. You firmly look at your objectives, and politely speak your speech. You have to look as rough as the block, and be the product of your environment. I need to develop my skills camouflage, as a foreigner, especially as a white man. I can’t change my skin color, but I can fit my outlook and walking habits. There is no fashion in Downtown. My clothes will have to be dirty through my entire stay here.
I feel some kind of confidence when I walk around with the machete or some weaponry, yet truth is I am still the less armed guy around by far. Let down the ego, and keep it positive. I am blessed to witness. –
————– [Update 10.11]—- —————-
It has now been a while since I’m arrived here. I understand the place much better. I know where I can go to by my self, and where I can’t. The community’s balance depends on the cohesion between every member. I also understand the different human behavior expected in different situations. The interactions and relationship system in and out of the community is completely different from my island of Mauritius. Here, polygamy is very current. But it never happens through marriage. Man in their mid-twenties already has a few kids in charge from different girlfriends. They entertain a relationship with the kid, some do at least. But as the people tend to look a lot at the kids, they kind of get raised by the elders around them. Any uncle or cousin can take the place of mentor.
The Jamaican population is almost completely based on the slave trades of the colonial era, apart from the few Chinese and Indian workers that came after.
They say that the word Jamaica comes from an old African language where I-maka means: “The place I don’t want to be.” Through history the European has bought prisoners from African tribes and brought them to the American continent to work for the good of the Occidental institutions. The slaves that would be too rebellious would be brought to the Island of Jamaica so they do not interfere with the system in the states. Jamaica population is made from the most unfitted warlords of Africa. Some Kings have lost battles in their homeland and got brought down in a foreign land. The social segragation coming from the years of slavery is very strong. A lot Jamaican from uptown (richer) do not enter the zone I live in. Sometimes it can feel like paying for the global “white supremacy” that got Europe, America and Australia to its economical comfort. It’s a hard price to pay I admit. Jamaica is the source of key principles of black culture around the west nowadays. I can really see that the Reggae music is a lot more revolutionary than hippy in its home town.
They say I walk around like Muta !
Muta Baruka is a Jamaican poet. He never wears shoes. It’s one simple step that attracts the mind of the people from the difference of skin colour, and people like to talk about it. Since I’ve walk the same streets a few times a week, some of the rude-boy get to see that I’m with cool dudes, and why not get an escort. Everybody loves Life Yard: The gunman asks where Mauritius is, while the army truck with fully armed soldiers comes to politely ask if they can visit the rastas’ Yard. I get to meet with a few foreigners that work uptown or that comes with guides as the place is recognized by all tourist guides as the one thing to do to go local in Kingston. As the cultural scene is bigger in Kingston, I have some stuff happening. Building up the coherence between all of it.
Stay Tune. Rafiki.