Ninja Man, Jamaican Politics &
By Aduku Addae
December 2002 Popular Dancehall DJ Ninja Man (known
officially as Desmond Ballentyne) incorporated a
realistic theatric piece in his act on the stage of the
Annual Sting Concert in Kingston, Jamaica. He, the
original badman DJ, confronted the most notorious badman
police in Jamaica (at that moment), Senior
Superintendent of Police Renato Adams. The
confrontation, in the view of many, was of epic
|All the elements
were there for the mythic drama - the struggle
between good and evil. In the excitement most
commentators missed the significance of this
confrontation, its theatric representational
force, its portentous quality, and the visionary
prophetic symbolism of the two heralded bad men,
one representing the ghetto and the other
representing the state, confronting each
The 30,000 people in
attendance at the event were reported to have cheered
the badman DJ but not the policeman!
Since the article was
written Renato Adams, the arch-demon, having
orchestrated the slaughter of four persons (including
two women) in Crawle, a rural village in central
Jamaica, has fallen further from grace, abandoned by the
very politicians and police leadership that appointed
him to murder the ghetto youth indiscriminately. The
indomitable Ninja Man, in contrast, has been reported to
be awaiting a sign from “God” to go forward and do
his work. This servant of God is a man of the gun. How
the "wicked" must tremble at the specter of
this son of the wretched of the earth sallying forth,
gun in hand, doing the work of the "GOOD GOD."
If Rhigin was John the
Baptist, Ninja Man is the Messiah himself! It promises
to be a "baptism of fire." How the tyrants
must quake when after only a few months of their best
effort their "Crime Plan" has failed.
Here then is my take
on the events at Sting 2002, Kingston, Jamaica.
It seems reasonable to say that the real reason that Desmond Ballentyne,
a.k.a Ninja Man, was not arrested at the Sting concert is that
he is a “money maker” for the promoters.
It seems reasonable to say, also, that this mighty
syndicate is more powerful than any one man, even a man as
deadly as the Renato Adams, for, as the saying goes,
"man bad, man badder." The story, however, is not
fully told with these observations.
It is far more intricate, a far more interesting tale, as
we shall soon see.
As folks make history collectively, individuals distinguish themselves –
often against their will. The
criminal Ivanhoe Martin (Rhygin) is a folk legend and universal
hero-figure. (Doesn’t that just blow you mind?)
This is the paradoxical role which the self-avowed “bad
man” inhabits. This
needs to be comprehended. The key to understanding this is to
separate the performer from the bad man.
Let us see if we can use The Harder They Come as a launch pad to
throw some light on this little matter of Bro’ Desmond’s
sensational performance at Sting 2002.
“A low, approving, anticipatory, visceral growl rose from the audience,
becoming a joyous, hysterical, full-throated howl of release, of
vindication and righteous satisfaction as Django, grim-faced and
alone, the very embodiment of retribution and just vengeance,
raked the masked killers, hot, bloody destruction spitting from
the Gatling gun on his hip. Men were torn apart, picked up and flung to earth in
grotesque spinning contortions.
The giant bearded face, tight jawed, crazy eyed, each
line and furrow magnified 100 times, glared out at the audience,
a powerful and primal force, an avenger in a sombrero”
(Michael Thelwell, The Harder They Come,
Grove Press, Inc., 1980, p. 149).
The Wild West is revisited over and over in the drama of life in
Kingston’s ghettos. It
has formed the blueprint for self definition by generations of
“Many rudies superimposed the drama of the Wild West onto their familiar
ghetto landscape, modelling themselves after the cowboys on the
movie screen. They
emulated the gunslinger mentality and romanticized the figure of
the outlaw. . . .
“Even today this fascination with western motifs is a large part of the
dancehall rude boys’ expressive repertoire, as is evidenced by
the names that entertainers adopt, such as 'Josey Wales' and the
'Outlaw Terry Ganzie'. Norman
Stolzoff, Wake The Town And Tell The People (Duke
University Press, 2000, p.82).
Yet it is not quite as simple as that.
“[E]ven while the rude boys were attracted to American popular cultural
forms, they, like the Rastas, were attempting to carve out a
cultural style that rejected the society’s dominant cultural
It is this rejection of the prevailing social and cultural norms which is
at the core of the oracular appearance of Ninja Man on the stage
at the Sting concert held at JamWorld (December 26, 2002).
Brother Desmond was a medium of the ancestors – a
bringer of signs to the people.
The oracle took the form of a scene from an old Wild West movie.
It was an unimaginative restaging of the shoot ‘em
flick. To wit,
Bro’ Desmond "decked in leather cowboy outfit amidst the
strains of a western song, . . . unapologetically instigated a
series of taunting lyrics about the police, while declaring
himself a 'real bad man'.
After engaging the frenzied crowd in friendly banter, he
boldly and persistently challenged the feared Adams to come on
stage. . . ."
(Jamaica Observer, December 28, 2002.)
The suspense builds. "When
the latter [SSP Renato Adams], with trademark dark glasses, made
a measured entry to deafening silence, the tumultuous applause
from the record [breaking crowd of] thousands quickly followed."
We were set up for a moment of high drama – the
showdown. Alas! What
we got was an anticlimax, for the outlaw simply surrendered his
But did he? Simply? Let’s
break to The Harder They Come.
"One man? No man nutten can’ go so. That one man could escape, apparently
unhurt, from what the press called a fusillade of police
"After killing three and wounding two (policemen). . . . It rang with
too many cultural metaphors and had too much of the quality of a
movie, a definite star-bwai movie, too"
A psychological "muderation" took place at Sting 2002.
And it was as unbelievable, in every sense, as was the
Rhygin escapade. For
the question is still: How could one man get away with doing so
Rhygin is the epitome of ghetto manhood.
"Single handedly and unaided, he had killed . . .
armed men, themselves intent on his life." (It is the
ultimate act of survival and this is the essence of life in the
ghetto – survival). In
the mind of the ghetto youth this is a hero of legendary
stature. If the old
rude boys had to invent or adopt (and adapt) heroic figures for
their roles in the ghetto drama the new rude boys are able to
find these in the folkloric tradition of the ghetto.
The drama now unfolds as ghetto theatre on the dancehall stage.
Ninja Man is not Billy the Kid. He does not inhabit the Hollywood tale.
He is not walking in the blight of John Wayne’s shadow.
He is a dramatist, with a contemporary Jamaican voice,
cast in the role of Rhygin.
Even as Rhygin was standing at the gates of eternity he was not afraid.
In fact "[h]e had to fight the laughter that rose up
in him. . . . He realized with great astonishment that Babylon,
with all their long guns, were afraid of him."
Ninja Man boasted of his arsenal of “long guns”. The implication is
The Gorgon of classical mythology is a horrid beast having snakes as hair,
wings, brazen claws, and eyes that turned anyone looking into
them into stone. As
in Greek Mythology so it was on the stage at JamWorld.
The Don Gorgon declared, “Mi a gi yuh mi gun …
because mi want yuh fi declare amnesty fi all guns.”
Adams turned to stone “seemingly rooted to the spot” (Jamaica
Observer). It is the scene from The Harder They Come playing over and over
police raised their heads – but were frozen by fear or
disbelief at this apparition.” It is, indeed, an apparition – a very frightening spectre.
Rhygin was a master of propaganda. Ninja Man is a mass agitator.
Rhygin sent a photograph to the Editor from his leer.
Ninja Man posed for reporters in public. Rhygin had silent, obscure, ghetto sympathizers. Ninja Man
holds sway over a nation. (30,000
cheered for him on stage.)
If Rhygin was the wind, Ninja Man is the reaping of the
to the echo: “Me a real bad man.” It is a line from The Harder They Come, almost
verbatim. Not a
step has been missed, it seems, since Rhygin’s one-man
propaganda campaign. Things
only became more unbelievable.
Theatre is said to be a mirror held up to society.
One presumes that the image in the mirror is a
reflection. (In this case it seemed like reality.) However realistic the presentation, the personalities are
only actors. Both
Ninja Man and Renato Adams are cast in theatrical roles.
It is all the more powerful because they inhabit these
roles inadvertently. We,
who are observers, the audience, have the task of uncovering the
meaning conveyed in and through their stage play.
We were treated to the spectacle of a historic struggle of mythic
bad men faced each other on the stage at Sting 2002.
They represented two very antagonistic forces in Jamaican
represented the suffering/striving masses, the other represented
the repressive hand of the overlord (a corrupt governmental
stood face-to-face, good against evil.
The stage was set for mortal combat between archetypal foes.
Ninja Man seized the initiative and gained the high
ground. He stripped Adams of his armour, the image that he hides
behind, his lawman persona.
"He told Adams: 'We don’t like you and you don’t
like we. Mi a di original gold teeth, front teeth gunman DJ and you a di
original gunman police. I
giving you this gun because gunman fi stop shoot people and you
fe stop shoot ghetto boy. All
de youth whey a carry gun you fe tek dem and train dem an’ tun
dem ina police'" (Jamaica Observer).
Ninja Man nailed it straight on. The
only difference between himself and Adams is that he is a DJ and
Adams is a police. They are both equally destructive to the
youth and the people. It
is an uncompromising truth.
Ninja Man goes a step further. He
indicates the solution to the problem.
Both types of gunmen, the police and "bad man,"
should stop shooting people.
He surrenders his weapon in a gesture symbolizing his
resolve to this purpose. Adams did not make a similar gesture, not even in the context
of this "comic farce." In this it can be seen that the
state bureaucracy has no intention of being part of the
solution. They have
nothing to contribute, not even the symbolic surrender of the
Adams searched for a voice and, coming up with the voice of "authority,"
he spoke of a "mandate." But this false mandate
propels him into a debacle.
“Adams responded: 'Ninja, I thank you for this
opportunity and I appeal to all those out there who have guns to
bring them in. . . . You will not be charged. . . . I say
again, you will not be charged'" (Jamaica
Observer). Needles to say, no one from the crowd responded.
He was unaware that Ninja Man had struck a mortal blow.
Adams stepped into a public relations fiasco singing to
the tune of his undoing, “It’ll soon be done.”
Indeed, it had been done – irreparable damage to the façade
of a courageous JCF.
Thus "[n]either Police
Commissioner Francis Forbes nor other members of the police high
command were available for comment yesterday (December 28 2002)
on Adams media statement on the issue which fuelled an
assumption that a gun amnesty was in place" (Jamaica
Observer). This kind of behaviour is
tantamount to a tactical retreat under fire.
Ninja Man put the entire high command on the defensive.
Minister Phillips confirms that it is a retreat when he tells us that
"there [is] no formal immunity from prosecution for persons
who hand in guns." On
second thought it is far from a tactical retreat – it is a
route. Says the
minister, "[p]eople from time to time turn in guns which
they have in their possession where the officers on the ground
make a judgement (on whether to forego charges)."
In other words, every constable is a
Magistrate and jury all wrapped up in him/herself.
There is no more precise a definition of anarchy than
this. So the chaos
in Jamaica is exposed even more graphically in light of this
theatrical incident. Ninja Man gives up his gun and the
underbelly of this corrupt society is ever so shamefully
exposed. This is
clearly no surrender!
Ninja Man helps us to see that there is no other law in Jamaica but that
of the gun. Every
gunman – police, DJ, or plain bad man – is the law in and of
himself. It is a rogues paradise, little different from the days of
Henry Morgan in Port Royal. It would be crazy to give up one’s
weapon in this context. Ninja
Man kept his Berretta pistol!
Where the lawman failed to find a credible voice, the bad man DJ
found his civic voice.
He echoed the aspirations of the people and articulated
their genuine needs. "[A]
way must be found to get rid of the guns and find jobs fi
de yute dem inna de ghetto jobs and food fi dem pickney dem” (Jamaica
Gleaner). Jobs for the people and
food for the children. It
is a humanitarian imperative!
And this is coming from a ghetto gunman DJ while the
elected government is besieging the communities, subjecting the
people to the horrors of martial law and the threat of the gun.
The irony is profound.
“Power here [in the Caribbean] is more naked than in any other part of
the world,” wrote
C.L.R. James (The Black Jacobins, Vintage, 1963). Power is not experienced as
the “collective will of the people” but as the whimsical
acts of brutal and unprincipled individuals.
In the Jamaican context power is objectified.
It is the gun. This
aberration finds expression in every facet of the life of the
have developed fetishism. They
sing songs and dance in celebration of the gun.
It is now their god, the provider, the peacemaker, the
protector, the all-powerful cosmic force.
Ghetto people have learned through the most brutal experiences that the
gun is the most compelling force in the society.
It is certainly the only thing which stands between them
and the corrupt bastards that rob them of their humanity.
Ninja Man has shown them (the people) not to fear the
gun, or the hand that wields it.
He has shown them that it is imperative that all the
people take hold of this totem and divest it of their collective
power, restoring it to themselves.
Bro’ Desmond standing in front of 30,000 of his admirers vilifying the
enforcer is a demonstration of disgust and contempt for the
dishonourable Caesars who have set themselves against us. Ninja
Man symbolizes the spirit of heroism which is characteristic of
the Jamaican people. This spirit of heroism is simmering just
beneath the surface waiting to burst forth to reclaim dignity
and generations of lost hope.
Nothing can deny this force.
In the words of the poet Linton Kwesi Johnson:
is a whole heappa
passion a gather
like a frightful form
like a righteous harm
giving off wild like is
hotta dan di hites of fire
livin heat down volcano
is di cultural wave a
dread people deal
an rise an rail thunda-wise
in a form resemblin
like violence is di show
burstin outta slave
look ya! boun fi harm di wicked
[from Bass Culture (for
Violence is di show. These are the signs of
the times. The ‘bad
man’ is in the leading role because he posses the antidote for
the oppressor’s venom. This
is the meaning of the oracle which manifested on stage at the
* * *
Mukoma wa Ngugi
Her womb pressed against the desert to
bear the parasite
that eats her insides like termites
drill into dry wood.
He is born into an empty bowl, fist
choking umbilical cord.
She dies sighing, child son at last. He
couldn't have known,
instinct told him - always raise your
arm in defense of your
own -Strike! Strike until they are all
dead! Egg shells
in your hands milk bottle held between
you have been anointed twice, you strong
enough to kill
at birth and survive. You will want to
name the world
after yourself but you will have no
name- a collage of dead
roots, tongues and other things. You
will point your sword
to the center of the earth, duel the
world to split into perfect
mirrors after your imperfect mutations
but you will be
too weak having latched your self onto
too many streams
straddling too many continents, pulling
patches of a self
as one does fruits from an from an
orchard, building a home
of planks with many faces. How does one
look into a mirror
with a face that washes clean every
He has an identity for every occasion -
here he is Lenin
there Jesus and yesterday Marx -
inflexible truths inherited
without roots. To be nothing to remain
nothing, to kill
at birth - such love can only drink from
our wrists. We
storming from our past to Jo'Burg eating
wisdom of others
building homes made of our grandparent's
gathering momentum that eats out of our
earth, We standing
pens and bullets hurled at you, your
enemies. Comrade, there
are many ways to die. A dog dies never
why it lived but a free death belongs to
a life lived in roots,
roots not afraid of growing where they
stand, roots tapped all over
the earth. Comrade,
for a tree to grow, it must first own
* * * * *
Guarding the Flame of Life
Strange Fruit Lynching Report
* * *
Hunger for a Black President /
Introduction I Write What I Like
Speaks on Africans
* * *
* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * *
Sex at the Margins
Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry
By Laura María Agustín
This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * * * *
Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
* * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
24 February 2012