A selection of tweets, including from reps of the accused, immediately before, during and after the tension-filled moments leading up to the jury’s verdict of guilty against Kartel and three of his four co-accused. Includes video of Lizard Williams dancing.
Dec 13, 2013 newscast on Kartel trial detailing video and bbm evidence presented by prosecution
Well, i was wrong. I fully believed that Kartel and co. would walk; because of the weakness of Jamaica’s justice system, the strength of the defence team, and because the powerful are rarely tried, let alone found guilty in this society. But no! In a dramatic, rapidly unfolding denouement yesterday afternoon the nearly 3-month old Kartel trial came to an emotion-filled climax. Amidst rumours that one of the jurors, ‘No. 3’ to be precise, had tried to offer the jury’s headwoman a J$500,000 bribe, the jury decided 10 to 1 that Kartel, and three of his four co-accused were guilty of the murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams, a young dancer whose body has yet to be found.
Lizard’s sister, Stephanie Breakenridge, sat in the courtroom sobbing every now and then as the final moments arrived. In all of the circus around this celebrity court case her brother, seen in the video above dancing and bigging up the Gaza Empire, had been virtually forgotten in the media coverage of the trial, except perhaps as its subject, in cold, clinical terms. His terror-filled texts had been read to the courtroom earlier in the trial but otherwise very little was known of the young man who thought his moment in the sun had arrived the day he was adopted by Kartel and his group.
Word on the verandahs is that the DPP Paula Llewellyn, Judge Campbell, Prosecutor Jeremy Taylor and his team were determined to use this case to showcase the ability of the Jamaican court system to deliver justice, surely if not swiftly. I congratulate them on their determination to demonstrate that justice is not as elusive in Jamaica as many of us have been led to believe…let’s hope the Kartel trial sets the bar for all trials in Jamaica from now on.
As Dah’Mion Blakey said on Facebook: The same rigor with which this case was pursued should be extended to ALL; uptown, downtown, popular, unpopular and indifferent!! #JudicialReform#SocialJusticeForAll
Finally, many of us thought that Kartel would have got off because the jury would have felt too intimidated to find him guilty. Clearly they didn’t. This too was something the DPP must have been keen on establishing, to signal to potential jurors and a timorous public that the all-abiding fear that curtails the carriage of justice too often is perhaps overstated and unnecessary. Of course we have to wait and see and hope that none of the jurors face repercussions for their decision.
Below is a curated collection of tweets that will convey the atmosphere yesterday in Kingston, especially downtown where the Supreme Court is located. There are tweets by @Iamthekartel, a Twitter account supposedly speaking for Kartel, along with many others which capture the climax of this sensational court case.
Aung Suu Kyi’s release, the Gaza situation, and Jamaican dancehall
Free at last! As i write this the world is celebrating the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, held captive for 15 years by the ruthless military government of Myanmar/Burma. What a moment! There aren’t too many women–or men– like Suu Kyi, willing to sacrifice their freedom of movement in the name of moral principle, something completely lacking in politics today. Suu Kyi is an alumnus of my Alma Mater in Delhi, the venerable Lady Sri Ram College, whose initials, LSR, were said to be synonymous with Love, Sex and Romance for male students at Delhi University. Clearly besides being a source of girlfriend material, LSR has also produced stellar leaders with the moral fibre of the redoubtable Aung San Suu Kyi. I think of her as the Orchid of Steel.
Closer to home and the mundane, my daily trod was enlivened yesterday by a Skype interview with an Israeli journalist, Nirit Ben-Ari, who contacted me last week with the following request:
I will be honored and thankful if you interview with me for the article I am writing for Haaretz newspaper on dancehall culture in Jamaica. I am mainly interested in your interpretation of the term “Gaza” and its possible implication of awareness of global politics. Do you think that the choice of the name “Gaza” represents a political awareness and identification with the underdog? I am also interested in your view on the global “gaze” on dancehall culture and the dangers of misinterpreting and misunderstanding dancehall culture outside of Jamaica. What do you think about the dissemination of dancehall images globally?
In response i sent her the paper i had given at the Reggae Studies Conference earlier this year: Eyeless in Gaza (and Gully): ‘Mi deh pon di borderline’; essentially i was trying to document and comment on the effects of the feud between two of Jamaica’s top DJs, Vybz Kartel (Gaza) and Mavado (Gully) that resulted in the words ‘Gaza’ and ‘Gully’ being spraypainted or otherwise inscribed on surfaces all over Kingston, but also in places like Trinidad, Barbados as well as Brooklyn, London and the generalized Jamaican diaspora. I excerpt a relevant bit from my paper below:
“’Gaza mi seh’ means ‘Fight for what you believe in against all odds, against all adversity.’ When I left the Alliance Vybz Kartel came under so much pressure, I said to Black Rhino and others we need to form a group. But we need a perfect name. The first war was just happening in Gaza, Israel was bombarding them but the people were fighting back regardless, and Vybz Kartel said to Laing (Isaiah Laing, prominent promoter associated with the annual Sting show), we’re going to use that name coz it means to me–dem people deh serious and dem nah back down.”
Indeed. Just like Aung San Suu Kyi. She nah back down needa. Interestingly, Kartel steered clear of the reason he felt obliged to look for a suitable name for the Portmore community associated with him, in the first place. The backstory is an interesting one umbilically connected to the complicated discourse around masculinity and sexuality in Jamaica. Yet the details of why the community of Borderline in Portmore came to be rechristened ‘Gaza’ is one the media had never considered noteworthy enough to mention let alone dwell on.
But back to yesterday, I can’t tell you how cool it was to be sitting in my living room in Kingston talking directly to Nirit in Tel Aviv, complete with images of ourselves and the rooms we were in. Viva Skype!
Nirit explained that she had wanted to read Carolyn Cooper and Donna Hope’s books on dancehall culture but they weren’t available in Tel Aviv and she had ordered them on Amazon but hadn’t recieved them yet. In the meantime someone referred her to my blog which is why she asked me to help her with the background on the use of the word ‘Gaza’ in dancehall culture. Interestingly Nirit works for an NGO named Gisha “an Israeli not-for-profit organization, founded in 2005, whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents.”
Like Aung San Suu Kyi the Palestinians have had their freedom of movement severely curtailed by the state of Israel. As the Gisha website explains:
Since the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel’s military has developed a complex system of rules and sanctions to control the movement of the 3.4 million Palestinians who live there. The restrictions violate the fundamental right of Palestinians to freedom of movement. As a result, additional basic rights are violated, including the right to life, the right to access medical care, the right to education, the right to livelihood, the right to family unity and the right to freedom of religion.
Gisha, whose name means both “access” and “approach,” uses legal assistance and public advocacy to protect the rights of Palestinian residents. Because freedom of movement is a precondition for exercising other basic rights, Gisha’s work has a multiplier effect in helping residents of the occupied territories access education, jobs, family members and medical care.
Funnily Nirit told me that a Palestinian friend of hers got a chance to spend two months in Jamaica and was exulting at the thought of getting away from it all to a tropical island far from the rigours of life in Gaza, only to arrive in Kingston and find the word ‘Gaza’ graffiti-ed all over the city. You can read the first person account of Lisa Hanania’s visit to Kingston here.
Vybz Kartel was certainly aware of and sympathetic to the Palestinian cause but sympathetic is actually too weak a word to describe the admiration he expressed for the people of Gaza in that interview with Cliff Hughes: “…dem people deh serious and dem nah back down” and “’Gaza mi seh’ means ‘Fight for what you believe in against all odds, against all adversity.’” On the other hand i’m not sure how widespread Kartel’s view of the Palestinians is. Could one say that most of Dancehall’s ‘core constituents’ (to use Ragashanti’s apt term) are sympathetic to those ‘trapped in Gaza’? I don’t know.
What i do know is that Jamaican dancehall’s focus on Gaza has had an interesting ripple effect. When i tweeted a few days ago about being contacted by an Israeli journalist about the name Gaza in the Jamaican context one of my tweeple, Sweden-based @johannakey said “I’ve done a story on the same subject. There’s a Swedish song about it here.” The song Real Gaza mi seh! is so addictive i can’t get it out of my head. It’s a beautiful song, in which connections are made between Gaza, the curtailment of Palestinian civil liberties and universal oppression, using the vehicle of dancehall and the refrain “If you kill one of us, you kill all of us…the whole world is Gaza mi seh”. Listen to it below:
Eyes of the world pon the Gaza mi seh…
Well dem say Gully, dem say Gaza dem say Congo and Kinshasa Everywhere i turn i see pure passa passa I remember Kid Frost used to talk about La Raza It’s all tribal war people can’t take it no longer
Hopefully one day the residents of Gaza will–like Aung San Suu Kyi–regain their freedom. Till then Gaza mi seh!