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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 whirlwind!  Listen to the echo: “Me a real bad man.” 

 
 

 

The Sting Oracle

Ninja Man, Jamaican Politics & the Gun

By Aduku Addae

 

Note: In 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 proportions. 

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 other. 

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.

Flashback:

“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 ghetto youth. 

“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.  Stolzoff continues.

“[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 mold.” 

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 gun. 

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 bullets?

"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"  (p. 390).

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 much damage?

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 astounding.

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 again.  “The 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 whirlwind!  Listen 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 proportions.  Two bad men faced each other on the stage at Sting 2002.  They represented two very antagonistic forces in Jamaican society.  One represented the suffering/striving masses, the other represented the repressive hand of the overlord (a corrupt governmental superstructure).  They 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 gun.

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 people.  Jamaicans 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 madness

                        

hotta dan di hites of fire

livin heat down volcano core

is di cultural wave a dread people deal

spirits riled

an rise an rail thunda-wise

latent powa

in a form resemblin madness

like violence is di show

burstin outta slave shackle

look ya! boun fi harm di wicked

[from Bass Culture (for Big Yout)]

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 Sting concert.

*   *   *   *   *

African Revolutions

       By  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 your toes,

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 rainy season? 

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 bones.  We

 

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 having known

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 its earth.

Source: Zeleza

*   *   *   *   *

Guarding the Flame of Life / Strange Fruit Lynching Report

*   *   *   *   *

Hunger for a Black President  / Introduction I Write What I Like

Biko Biosketch   Biko Speaks on Africans

*   *   *   *   *

AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

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.     

Professor Perry 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 Caucasian babies.

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 indiscriminately.

*   *   *   *   *

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 World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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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 Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 24 February 2012

 

 

 

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