Jamaica at 60 St Ann

NAME OF FEATURE | THE GLEANER | MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2022 10 Paul H. Williams/Gleaner Writer AS THE Gleaner team was about to enter the town centre of Claremont, St Ann, we saw a Rastafarian man jerking meat in front of a shop. Interesting, so we stopped. A big pot of soup was also bubbling. That one was for the vegetarians. When he was told we were looking for someone who was born in 1962, he uttered, “Yea, man, mi a Independence baby”. The search was over. The pencil-slim chef was born on September 1, 1962. By the time he was 14, he was creating a stir in his home and at school. “Was the first Rasta at Ferncourt, 1975,” he revealed while nodding towards the hill in front of us. There it was, Ferncourt High School, where two of his siblings, too, attended. One went to St Andrew Technical High School and another to Excelsior High School. “Mi inna school. Second grade mi start grow mi hair. A pure fight, man. Mi knowwhat mi want. Mama? Daddy? Daddy all draw himgun one day, say him ago shoot mi. Give mi money every day fi go trim. And mi tek it and cook and eat food. Mi and dem bwoy,” he recalled. His conversion was inspired by the persecution of Rastafarians and negative things that he had heard about King James and some other famous Europeans, he said. Some of the books andmagazines he was reading at Ferncourt were also a factor, and so was the CopticTimes, published by the Coptic Church, a radical branch of Christianity. “Mi read mi book an den mi realise say a false prophet dem a gi wi,”he said. Yet, despite the opposition at school and in the community to the wearing of dreadlocks, there was not much discrimination at Ferncourt. He has fond memories of the school that folklore says was so named because of the ferns that used to grow around the tennis court of the compound. There was mischief in his eyes when he mentioned a certain teacher who had a potent case of halitosis. Becoming a Rastafarian also meant changing his diet significantly. So, the pencil-slim chef has not eaten meat since he was 14. The transition was easy as he was already turned off from the sight of blood and raw meat, his father being a butcher. “It turn me off, I couldn’t even swallow the beef. Couldn’t swallow it, chaw it all day and couldn’t swallow it. So, mi say ‘this is not for me’,”he recalled while attending to the chicken on the grill. Because of his new diet, his mother gave him an oil stove so that he could stop cooking his peas on her gas stove. “And mi live fi see the day when doctor put mi madda on the same diet that mi deh pon all my life,”ListonWhite, the Rastaman, recollected. She had a slew of lifestyle diseases, which doctor’s medications could not cure. “When Mama dead, a waa lickle string hold up her heart. Every organ in her body dead. When Mama dead is a lickle pharmacy left at the house… three different doctor a give three different set a medication.” One of the values he was taught by his mother was to share, to cook extra food in case somebody happened by. So, from time to time, he does just that, especially with food that is not sold off. “A love, man. Mama teach wi about the value of loving people. Fi mi madda was a great teacher. Mama was the teacher. Mama teach wi so much,” he said in a subdued tone and with a faraway look in his eyes. As it relates to Jamaica’s political Independence, themanwho returned to Jamaica 10 years ago after spending 37 years overseas said, “Nothing going on, but we still a enjoy weself … .Wi no independent yet…member say is the Queen still governing ….Wi can’t be independent until the Queen let go, until wi onwi own,”the manwho excelled in English and accounts at Ferncourt High said. And, for his own milestone, his face lit up when he said, “This yah year yah, 60, feel sweet, and mi fit and strong same way. How much young people a live fi seemi age.”He is having a party on September 1, but is uncertain about how August 6 is going to unfold. In his own spirit of independence, White said he had been making his own money from he was a “lickle bwoy” in school, as he believes in working for his bread. His father, being a businessman, was a trailblazer for him. One of his wishes is for the freeing up of lands so that the “lazy” youths can find something to do. White himself would do very well with some of the idle lands that are all over the parish. Apart from selling chicken, festivals, fish, vegetables, soup and conch along Main Street in his ‘Off The Grill’ business, he cultivates a variety of produce, some of which are ingredients for the soup he sells. He has been cultivating yam, pak choi, arrowroot, beans, etc, since he was in school. When he was asked why he, a Rastaman, sells meat, including goat meat, for a living, he said he sells to those who want it. There is a demand, and money is a big factor. “But, Rasta no chase down money and vanity?”was the next question. “Den a wha wi a go do without money?” was the quick retort that came with a puzzled look. Theman who gets up at five every morning continued, “One ting mi kno, mi no have no regret in life for nothing a do. Mi live an learn. Mi can’t correct the mistakes, cause no man no perfect. One ting mi know, mi at peace wid God … . Mi at peace wid miself. Mi all right. Mi just want moremoney. More money mi want right now. More money mi waa fi live.” Healthy Independence baby wants more money and land Liston White of Claremont, St Ann has not eaten meat since he was 14 years old, but that does not stop him from selling it to those who eat it. Liston White of Claremont, St Ann grows his own food, some of which are ingredients for his vegetable soups. PHOTOS BY PAUL H. WILLIAMS jamaica at JAMAICA AT 60: ST ANN