To whom we are forever indebted
“Igziabeher, let Jah be praised
Negusa Neghast, let Jah be praised
You better let him be praised”
— Peter Tosh
The young boys and men of North Hamilton, eastern Pembroke, aka “Back of town”, in the 1970s and 1980s were more often than not looked down upon by others and constantly harassed by the police. It was not uncommon to see patrols randomly stop and search residents and/or enter homes by force. For many, it was not much different from the scenes we saw happening in South Africa during the apartheid era.
Despite the unjust treatment, this only served to make them closer to each other and bond like family. Even without vast financial resources, no one ever went hungry and the older generation always ensured to give them “the look” that kept them in line. Violence was non-existent beyond a few hand-to-hand scuffles here and there. You see, many of them were actually biologically related with strong St Kitts & Nevis heritage.
Another key factor is that they had older stalwarts in the area who groomed them in the trades, social activities, community activities and sport.
Out of that family and community bonding, came a club based at The Central School (now Victor Scott Primary) by the name of Boulevard Community Club in 1973. This club served as a mecca of sport, mainly football for many youth from “back of town” and those who fully embraced the faith and beliefs of Rastafari.
For many, it was akin to a social revolution to see young persons openly reject colonialism, racism and traditional denominations. For the young persons of the area, it was as if the mental bondage of centuries was being lifted and that we no longer were going to be made to feel inferior to anyone based on race or social class. Most of all, we were now instilled with pride in being not only of Caribbean heritage, but as importantly, of African descent.
Watching many Rasta brethren take to the football field in the imperial Ethiopian colours of red, gold and green was a sight to see. Irrespective of the results, what was important to many was that our community and spiritual beliefs were represented by these men.
It is a challenge to properly describe the welled-up emotions of a lifetime of pride whenever I see one of these elders. More often than not, I do not get to tell them how important they were in shaping hundreds of young men who have gone on to lead productive lives. For that, I do apologise.
So, let it be known that their guidance, counsel, direction, mentorship and, most of all, protection, served as one of the key reasons why the police and others could no longer treat us as second and third-class citizens. Whether on or off the football pitch they truly represented the principle of builders of society. They were then and still are now. Conquering Lions.
My generation truly gives them thanks for making us the men we are today.
“Igziabeher, let Jah be praised”
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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