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On this page you will be able to keep up with the latest news from LKJ Records.

LKJ Wins Golden PEN Award from English PEN on 3 December 2012

Linton Kwesi Johnson was awarded the Golden PEN Award from English PEN on 3 December for his lifetime achievement in poetry and his record of activism. Johnson was not able to attend the ceremony at the Free Word Centre in London, but had made a video where he stressed how he has never sought validation from the arbiters of poetic taste in the UK, and that whatever he has achieved has been done on his own terms from a position of cultural autonomy. Thanking English PEN for giving him the award, Johnson also paid tribute to the country of his birth, Jamaica, and its global cultural impact, which he credited as one of the main reasons for his success. Fittingly, Johnson noted that he would be donating the money from the award to the LKJ Charitable Educational Trust, recently established by him to help impoverished Jamaican schoolchildren.

For more information see the interview in the Independent on Sunday 2 December 2012:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/linton-kwesi-johnson-classridden-yes-but-this-is-still-home-8373870.html

Also see LKJ’s video accepting the award:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oz1UlcTt7LM&feature=share

 

Nambo Robinson Music Tribute to LKJ

On 30 November 2011, acclaimed Jamaican musician Nambo Robinson posted on YouTube his tribute to Linton Kwesi Johnson. Entitled ‘Letter to LKJ’, it can be found here: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8_ZSTvSzKQ>.

LKJ said that it is a wondeful tribute and said to Nambo Robinson ‘I have listened to your music over the years and consider you one of the great pioneers of Jamaican music.’

Introduction to Lecture on African Consciousness in Reggae Music

The Ambivalence of Race in Jamaica

Your Excellency, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good evening. I consider it an honour to have been asked by Doctor Carolyn Cooper to give the inaugural lecture at the launch of the Global Reggae Studies Centre.

When I am in Jamaica I sometimes listen To Perkins On Line on the radio. A few days before Christmas I tuned in just in time to hear a caller berate a previous caller for talking nonsense about Africans. I have no idea what the previous caller had said. The programme’s host, Joan Williams, who was sitting in for Mr. Perkins, defended the previous caller, saying that the Africans she had met didn’t like Jamaicans who they regarded as mere descendants of slaves. The caller talked about Jamaica’s African heritage, invoked the name of Marcus Garvey, and mentioned a recent visit to Jamaica by an African head of state. Ms. Williams was having none of it. She declared that she was Jamaican, not African (as if ethnicity and nationality were the same thing); that she could not say what race she belonged to as she was too ‘mix-up’; and, furthermore, that Africans had sold us into slavery. And that was that. I must say that I was a little taken aback by how tersely the caller was dealt with by Ms. Williams.

Around the same time, just before Christmas, my sister gave me a Scotia Bank calendar for 2010, with a nice picture of on the cover of a handsome blonde-haired, blue-eyed white boy and a pretty black girl with their arms around each other. The calendar is beautifully presented with lovely photographs which attempt to visually portray Jamaica’s national motto: ‘out of many one people’. The English, Irish, German, Jew, Portuguese, Taino, African, Syrian, Lebanese, Indian, Chinese and Spanish are all represented. But the Welsh are not. After leafing through the calendar, the thought crossed my mind that if I was an outsider who knew nothing of Jamaica I would not have guessed that the country is over 90 percent black.

While I have been here in Jamaica, I have been reading Andrea Levy’s brilliant new novel, ‘The Long Song’. Set in Jamaica in the period preceding and after the abolition of slavery, ‘The Long Song’ chronicles the life of July, a girl born into slavery. I would like to share two brief extracts with you.

“ The tar brush, reader, is quick to lick. For a mulatto with a negro, or a quadroon with a sambo, will produce the misfortune of a retrograde child. And that dusky offspring will be sent nowhere but spinning back down to sup with the niggers in the fields. A mulatto with a mulatto, or a quadroon with a quadroon, will find you suckling a ‘Tente-en-el-aire’ – a suspended child. They will neither lift forward to white, nor drop back to negro.

Only a with a white can, can there be guarantee that the colour of your pickney will be raised. For a mulatto who breeds with a white man will bring forth a quadroon; and the quadroon that enjoys white relations will give to this world a mustee; the mustee; the mustee will beget a mustiphino; and themustiphino … oh, the mustiphino’s child with a white man for a papa, will find each day greets them no longer with a frown, but welcomes them with a smile, as they stride within this world as a cherished white person.” (pages 186 & 187)

“ When the watchman’s stone hut at the gate of Amity appeared in the near distance, July longed to assure this white man, before they parted that she was not a rough negro. No. She was a mulatto. Even though he may see her skin to be a shade too dusky, she wished him the comfort of knowing that she was not a nigger’s pickney, nut a white man’s child. So she breached that silence she had so hard determined to keep by saying, ‘Massa, you ever been Scotch Land?’ ‘Scotland?’ Robert Goodwin enquired with some puzzlement. ‘No, but I’ve heard it is very beautiful. But why do you ask?’ ‘Me papa be from Scotch Land’, July was pleased to be able to inform him. ‘Your father was a Scotch man?’ ‘Oh yes, he be from Scotch Land’ ‘Your father was a white man?’ ‘Oh yes. Me be a mulatto, not a negro.’ ‘A mulatto?’ ‘Yes, mulatto. You must not think me a nigger, for me is mulatto.’” (page 198)

Rigorously researched, ‘The Long Song’ credibly depicts a period of turbulence in Jamaica’s troubled history, and its impact on plantation life in this historical novel. And although Levy’s book is fiction, it nevertheless offers historical context to the Perkins On Line conversation and the Scotia Bank calendar for 2010. Ms. Williams clearly has a point about being racially mixed; and the Scotia Bank calendar accurately represents the multi- racial nature of Jamaican society. But both point to a persistent ambivalence about race in Jamaica which Andrea Levy’s novel dissects.

Notwithstanding useful sociological concepts like pluralism with notions of compartmentalisation, concepts like creolisation and hybridity, the fact is that race is an important dimension of Jamaican society and culture. It could be argued that our national motto is but a fig-leaf masking unpalatable truths – what Rex Nettleford would probably dub ‘obscenities’- about the nature of social relations in this country. It seems to me that official society is in denial about the politics of race in Jamaica, a denial that Mervyn Morris would probably describe as ‘almost pathological’. Moreover, it seems to me that although Jamaica has come a long way in coming to terms with the multi-faceted nature of our historical heritage, we still have a long way to go in the decolonisation of the mind.

However, ladies and gentlemen, that is not the topic of my talk per se. My topic is African Consciousness in Reggae Music and I intend to focus on lyrical expressions.

(Opening remarks to a lecture on January 3rd 2010 at the Global Reggae Studies launch at Villa Ronai, Stony Hill, Jamaica.)

Legality, Legitimacy and Vigilance

As we all know, the British National Party is a fascist, racist, xenophobic organisation, dedicated, like its National Front antecedent, to fomenting racial conflict. Their politics of hate has promoted and continues to inspire numerous racist attacks against, and murders of, ethnic minorities in the UK. The vast majority of whites have come to terms with the fact the UK is a multi-ethnic nation and find the views of the BNP abhorent. Hence the furore that erupted when BBC Television decided to offer the BNP’s leader, Nick Griffin, the chance to participate in ‘Question Time’, their flagship programme of political debate. Buoyed by the publicity generated by the BBC’s cynical ratings ploy, Griffin has announced his intention to contest the Barking constituency at the next general election, where his party has about a dozen or so local councillors.

The BBC defended its decision to give the BNP a platform on the grounds that the party has significant electoral support and that their inclusion was consistent with its public broadcasting ethos. It is the business of government to ban extremist organisations from pubic media, argued the BBC’s Mark Thompson, not the corporation’s. Moreover, it was argued, the BBC would find itself in a difficult to defend charge of censorship in the courts. The controversy is all but forgotten but, to my mind, leaves a number of unanswered questions.

Democracy is a sham if it is not at least about playing by the rules. In the light of the High Court ruling that the racist constitution of the BNP is illegal, why were they allowed to contest the by-election for Glasgow North East on 12th November 2009 where they lost their deposit? I have asked a number of people this question without getting a satisfactory answer. Yes, the BNP have declared their intention to change their memebership rules which exclude non-whites. But it was with the same racist constitution, ruled illegal, that they contested Glasgow North East. How can a political party whose membership rules are deemed illegal be allowed to contest any election under our electoral laws?

If or when the BNP change their illegal constitution, I am sure they will find a way to circumvent the law, calculating that they will not be inundated with applications from blacks, Asians, Jews and immigrants. I assume that the law under which their constitution was ruled illegal was passed after the election of their 2 members of the European Parliament and their last batch of councillors. But if it precedes their election, what would be the implications for their legitimacy?

The ’significant support’ that the BNP enjoys reflect a wider resurgence of fascism and xenophobia in Europe and Russia during the last two decades. It is at times of economic crisis, like the current global crisis, that the enemies of humanity seize the opportunity to exploit the misery of poor working class whites, scapegoating ethnic minorities, igniting ethnic strife. Those of us who know about the history of racist and fascist attacks and murders cannot afford to be complacent. Our watchword must be vigilance.