Last week, as conflict increased in the Tivoli Gardens garrison and the Jamaican Police Force pressured residents to lower barricades blocking main arteries into the neighborhood as they pursued their hunt for “kingpin,” Christopher “Dudas” Coke, a fitting and somewhat ironic Juke Boxx riddim entitled “Damage Control” was released on the Dancehall.mobi digital music site. The riddim features tracks from a fiery Bounty Killer in suit with a pleading Busy Signal, a Buju Banton track that eerily foreshadows his recent incarceration, a guttural Elephant Man track with paranoid tendencies, amongst tracks from Spragga Benz, Wayne Marshall, Romain Virgo and Bunji Garlin. The three aforementioned tracks are the ones that particularly stuck with me as they seemed to have an obvious allegorical relationship to Jamaica’s current events.
As the events leading up to the holiday weekend seemed dire, it was wishful thinking for many of us that the situation would not escalate as quickly as it did Sunday afternoon, when Tivoli strongholds attacked numerous police stations in the area and police officers fired back. As a “State of Emergency” was called in the Kingston/St. Andrew area, Jamaicans held on to as many sources of information as possible as the media coverage seemed slow in yielding results and Twitter, newsradio and Facebook became the quickest way to obtain information. Sunday evening Prime Minister Bruce Golding addressed the nation in a four minute delivery that revealed very little and left the nation with no understanding as to what their current civil rights were under the “State of Emergency”– which subsequently would be revealed as close to null.
Bounty Killer & Busy Signal, “Summn a Guh Gwan”
As night turned over, a rumour spread that Dudas’ lawyer, Don Foote, had a scheduled meeting with the US Embassy at 10:00 AM Monday morning to discuss a possible negotiation that would bypass Coke’s Jamaican rights and carry him straight to the US for trial. To some this seemed like a very clever agreement as Coke’s father, the notorious and well-loved Kingston Shower Posse leader, Jim Brown (aka Lester Lloyd Coke), was burnt alive in a Jamaican prison cell in 1992 after his US extradition-provoked capture. By noon Monday afternoon the US embassy was denying any meeting with Coke’s lawyer, Foote, by 12:30 PM I had received a courtesy phone call from the US embassy, and by 1:00 PM army forces had entered the Tivoli neighborhood in search for “Dudas.”
Buju Banton, “Let Dem Know”
As the infiltration and takeover of Tivoli Gardens by forces proved true, the reported dead varied, due mostly to the fact that government officials only revealed details on those military officers and police force members that had been shot, injured or killed. Meanwhile reports were being made from inside Tivoli Gardens by residents that people were being shot, killed, burnt and bombed as one woman cried out on Nationwide News 90.3 from her land line in Tivoli, “Please help us!” By Tuesday, the numbers of civilians killed in the operation was rising from a possible mid-twenties mark to a more likely mid-forties mark with many more being held with no lights, food, or communication from outside. As news went international, speculation was made by some US and British correspondents that Prime Minister Bruce Golding had linkages to Christopher “Dudas” Coke that were much stronger then any previously had suspected (or wanted to acknowledge). Today one media outlet in the UK, Channel 4 News, questioned Jamaica’s High Commissioner to London, Jon Snow, if the allegations against Bruce Golding were true, but failed to receive any straight forward response.
Elephant Man, “Don’t Trust Dem”
While the policy framework of Jamaica has been jostled by this weeks events, the people are experiencing an overwhelming depression as they sit and watch the news with anxiety about what will happen next. Today, political forces are asking that heads roll, petitioning a most wanted list for some of Jamaica’s most well-known garrison and gang leaders. Meanwhile, Christopher “Dudas” Coke is still unaccounted for and Tivoli Gardens is in shambles. Allegations against the legitimacy of Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s political office are being made by international media and tomorrow, I head back to work. The Damage Control riddim was likely not intentionally clocked, however it is an example of the consistent expression of the issues that Jamaicans face. Even more so it’s a dark narrative on the underlying conversation of today’s current situation: extreme poverty and lack of jobs, neglect from government aid, a push towards violence for survival and a mistrust of the protective forces. A conversation that should be listened to closely and with gravity.
And sadly today another unfortunate death occurred in the midst of chaos. R.I.P. Oneil Edwards from Voicemail who was taken down by senseless violence early May.