Month: June 2013

pt 5…dub poetics and personal politics by d’bi.

snake by wade hudson

dub poetics and personal politics…pt 5
by d’bi.young anitafrika

my liberation is my ability to let go of everything except love

d’bi.young anitafrika

gawn to foreign

by the time I left jamaica for toronto canada, I deperately wanted to escape the country. my mother and I had been separated for three years and the distance was an emotional black hole, consuming all my ability to remain balanced and grounded without my mother. coming to canada at age fifteen however, was very traumatic; culture shock, racism, the unbelievable and merciless cold. once I get past these, questions around identity, belonging and assimilation plagued me like horse flies. I hid behind make-up and a linguistic chameleon-like ability to simulate the canadian accent. I had a lot of practice in jamaica on the art of changing one’s identity. being from a working –class community in kingston and attending campion college (an upper-middle-class/upper-class school) where the wealthy and privileged sent their children, facilitated a hybridism of identity a at home and identities b, c, or d at school, depending on who I needed to be on that day. my experience in both home and school spaces was alienating at best and taught me first hand about the opportunism of oppression. interestingly enough however, when I came to canada I quickly began to recognize my conflicted upbringing in jamaica as home and safety, clinging to my jamaican-ness as my primary place of identification. it took me twelve years before I began referring to myself as jamaican-canadian; a hybrid.

as I became older and more exposed to the works of jamaican-canadian dub poets such as ahdri zhina mandiela, afua cooper, lillian allen, and the feminist theory of afro-americans bell hooks, audre lorde and tracy chapman, the multiplicity of my identity began to shard itself like broken pieces of glass, stabbing at my conditioned bigotries and creating internalized polarities. questions around queerness vs homophobia, working class vs privileged, xenophobia vs recognizing-everyone-as-an-immigrant-on-first-nations-territory, became the macrocosms to my micro concerns around attractiveness, intelligence, talent, and my future. always our different selves collide; sometimes destructively and other times growingly. new parts of ourselves become apparent to us. during the first four years of being in canada, new parts of myself burst forth as I grew; each making me more aware of the other. to be continued…

pt 4…dub poetics and personal politics by d’bi.

queen bee by che kothari

dub poetics and personal politics…pt 4
by d’bi.young anitafrika

change is fertile soil

in it i plant my today

-d’bi.young anitafrika

naming yourself
I was surrounded by poets growing up; everyday people who might not have put pen to paper or recited for an audience but whose bodies, faces, voices spoke the rhythms and rawness of their lives, and who expressed their feelings, thoughts and disappointments in powerful and distinct ways. more than just poets, they were storytellers whose storytelling resided in their spirits.

these everyday stories found their way into the music I grew up listening to; dancehall, reggae and hip-hop. lyrics chronicled the violence and anger of ghetto life as well as love, religion, sex and party-time. a growing political analysis was infused in some of the music; particularly conscious reggae music. artists such as burning spear, bob marley and the wailers, and big youth were consistently in solidarity with world-wide anti-oppressive movements such as the civil rights struggle in the united states of america, the anti-apartheid movement originating out of south africa, and the global movements of indeginous peoples to gain independence from colonial rule. dub, heavily influenced by conscious reggae music, emerging out of rastafarian culture, put the violence, anger, love, religion, sex, party-time, and freedom politics, expressed in the music within a socio-political framework; linking all of these to a marxist cause and effect dynamic operating within the communities. dub was able to begin to show the people how their lives were being marionetted by people who didn’t live in their communities; sometimes by people who didn’t live in the country. an analysis of systemic/systematic oppression, within the micro and macro-cosmic reality of the jamaican people peered through the lens of dub poetry.

I was fundamentally influenced by dub practitioners such as: anita stewart (my mother), mikey smith, jean binta breeze, cherry natural, oku onoura and linton kwesi johnson. these mentors were village elders (not because they were old—they were mostly in their early twenties when they began—but because they were wise) who harnessed the poetic energy of the people, refined it and organised it under a r/evolutionary anti-oppressive politic. they used language, political content, music, and performance—the four main elements of the dub tradition—to provoke, politicise and ultimately to exorcise and heal.

I was instantly attracted to that power, watching my mother perform at 4 years old. at 13, I began to call myself a dub poet. I wrote twelve or thirteen poems, recorded them and sent them to my mother who had been living in canada since the previous year. I would join her in a couple years, inevitably undergoing the redefining madness of culture-shock…to be continued…

pt 3…dub poetics & personal politics by d’bi…

i live in a zen garden

dub poetics and personal politics…pt 3
by d’bi.young anitafrika

there is a little girl curled up inside

she sits by her tree of life trying to decide

whether or not to open up her eyes

and see the beauty of what she has become

some time ago fear became her closest friend

holding her hands in the light

and with her eyes closed the monsters they won’t frighten her

what she can’t she she won’t know

then one day one hopeful day

the little girl grew up

what a creature to behold

but still wit her eyes closed

little come into our world, little girl bring us into your world

we need you 

-d’bi.young

how the body remembers

I sometimes feel deep rumbling anger within me. I cannot deny this. it has been very important in my work as an artist. I have grown to love and respect it because it is a potent source of energy.  this energy, when channelled from a place of love, is a powerful motivational tool for social change; anger at choices we have made as a species to perpetually inflict pain upon each other and everything else. anger at the numerous legacies of injustice left by the british, in ‘post-colonial’ (read neo-colonial) jamaica. these inequities were prime inspirational tool for early dub poets who chanted down racism, shadeism, classism, and sexism, among other issues in the late seventies, early eighties. imperialism is only yet another manifestation of humanity’s lack of self-knowledge; a macrocosm of the the microcosm of the potential for violence that exists within all of us. the early dub poets attempted to simultaneously critique systemic violence and alongside socio-personal instances of violence within their communities that resulted from an intricate and complex relationship of cause and effect between the two.

anger is the potential for change. it is important in the healing process. it shows us which parts hurt; which parts of ourselves need to be reclaimed. from this place of righteous anger, we claim our body (the most intimate space of oppression) as a site of expression, pleasure and resistance. watching the dub poets while growing up, I learnt that one of the greatest tools of storytelling is allowing the body to feel.

creating language is an attempt to name to our experiences so that they have meaning. the language that lives in jamaican people’s mouths is alive with animation. the jamaica nation language is a survival tongue that comes out of the belly of west afrika, dressed up in english (from imperialists who colonized jamaica the longest) vocabulary, grammar, and syntax with splinterings of awarak and carib (the indiginous people who lived on the land prior to the european invaders), french, spanish and dutch talk (imperialists who colonized jamaica for shorter periods than the british); it is by its very nature a site of resistance. language is essential in dub because the poet speaks the language of the people.  growing from the roots of colonial oppression, british literature was espoused as the highest form of literary expression, studied in primary, secondary and postsecondary institutions in jamaica. this literature was possessed with parallels equating blackness with evil, whiteness with good; blackness with stupidity, whiteness with intelligence; blackness with deceit and whiteness with honesty etc. early dub poets, while reading chaucer, shakespeare and wordsworth, knew that a part of their battle against imperialism was to interrogate the linguistic oppression met(er)ed out by the british. they wrote poetry that everyday working class jamaicans could identify with; street-corner conversations one has with a friend or stranger. in the oral tradition, language inhabits the body; therefore in telling a story it must live within you…to be continued

pt 2…dub poetics & personal politics by d’bi…

dbi-young-anitafrika-golden.jpg

pt 2…dub poetics & personal politics…

by d’bi.young anitafrika

as to the poets

do not follow them

do you not see how they

wander, distracted in 

every valley

- the quran

those poets are just saying don’t listen to the other poets. listen to us instead

saul williams

where to go from here 

into the abyss of uncertainty

my body refuses to surrender

to anything other than now

i want to wander 

distracted in every valley

not lost, nor found

priding myself on knowing

nothing about everything

and everything about nothing

i wonder

when curiosity is upturned

do questions vanish?

-d’bi.young anitafrika

jump out of the frying pan and jump inna fyah
the seventies, eighties, and early nineties—the years of my childhood and adolescence—were very turbulent times in jamaica. england, weakened by the expenditures of the second world war, could no longer hold on to its colonial settlements. jamaica won its independence in 1962. like many other former colonies, it was left with an underdeveloped economy, unable to sustain itself or feed its people. in the wake of the cuba missile crisis and the tensions of the cold war, america became acutely aware of the geopolitical significance of the caribbean. and regularly intervened in the affairs of newly independent caribbean states.

during the first rule of michael manley, jamaica flirted with socialism—making overtures to the soviet union and forging alliances with castro’s cuba. however, american interventionism complicated its development of a stable socio-economic and political structure. the country spun into insolvency on the neo-colonial hampster’s wheel of indebtedness. the imf and world bank—agents of elite US interests—lent money, conditionally. structural adjustment programs diverted the nations’ resources from health and education to service the interest on debts; furthermore, to make jamaica attractive to foreign investment and ownership, the nation’s currency was devalued.

the 1980 elections between the long standing people’s national party and the american-supported jamaica labour party was the bloodiest the country had ever experienced. the election of seaga and america’s invasion of grenada ended all hopes of the nation joining cuba in its socialist groundation. the society crashed into the harsh realities of extreme poverty. jamaicans were sold the american dream and with it, the tools for its subliminal and forced implementation: drugs, weapons, and ammunition. these goods were purchased with the blood of ghetto youths, as jamaica simmered then exploded with the anger of the oppressed.

this jamaica was the backdrop of my childhood. this jamaica midwifed the birth of dub poetry…to be continued

pt 1…dub poetics and personal politics by d’bi.

african queen by wade hudson

as the time draws nearer for summeroworks theatre festival where i will be storytelliing NANNY: maroon warrior queen, prequel to blood.claat, the first place in my sankofa trilogy, i thought i would share some context on dub and the herstory of the story. i will do this small parts…fulljoy…

dub poetics and personal politics…pt 1
by d’bi.young anitafrika

poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought
-audre lorde

the personal is political
in the tradition of dub poetry (a legacy descended from the afrikan griots) storyteller speaks in the people’s language, using music and rhythm, gesture and expression to tell the story and connect with the audience. this connection is symbolic of the poet’s personal commitment to community; being both responsible for and accountable to them. this commitment is woven into dub’s aesthetics and politics. the poet inhabits and reclaims troubled spaces, making the community aware of its capacity for change and love. this love is the genesis of r/evolushun; and is simultaneously micro- and macrocosmic, transforming the personal and romantic into the political and social.

I believe that politics is a product of experience, not just the imposed experiences of reality but the interpreted reality of understanding and choice. dub asks that the storyteller be in a consistent process of honest and integritous self-analysis and critique in order to do the same as a storyteller within the community. dub tradition has shaped and embellished my socio-cultural and political hybridism as a womban raised in both jamaica and canada; allowing me to draw new innerstandings from old experiences. dub also encourages me to constantly reinvestigate the philosophies that inform my art. my personal realities and political convictions are closely intertwined; so much so, that it is difficult to say exactly where one ends and the other begins…to be continued