I do not want any trouble, and there may be more important things to occupy newspaper pages, but nevertheless I draw your attention to the verbal gaff by the great songstress Etana on a popular television programme last week.
I did not appreciate the way the television interviewer, in his narrative, expressed that Etana, a new mother was “body conscious”. That did not add to the interview and he came off as slightly chauvinistic in his dry verbiage. Likewise, in her attempt to inspire “little girls” she spoke of self-acceptance as a model to follow. That is commendable. All that aside, the way she conducted herself throughout the interview is exactly how not to answer questions if you want to build your clout as a “roots artiste”.
So, let us examine the facts. First of all, everyone wants better. The sentiments she expressed on the television programme may be her idea of a better life for herself and her family. I can respect that. However, what was missed here is the responsibility she has, as one who gained much from Jamaica and Jamaicans, to ‘big up’, enhance or highlight Jamaica’s cultural legacy as an ambassador for the same culture.
Making excuses for Donald Trump’s less than graceful remarks can hardly be punctuated as being conscious of the human condition or supporting the oppressed people of the world and their culture from whom you draw material and support for your art; the same people and cultures that embraced her singing of ‘roots and culture’ music. Pandering on the race of Donald Trump’s wife made Etana seem less than aware of the facts. Speaking out against injustice requires a deep sense of care for those who get no justice. The benefits given to Americans are as a result of years of unrest and demonstrations by artistes, activists and politicians who include Jamaicans like the great Marcus Garvey and Harry Belafonte, who incidentally used his success in music and culture to give students from Kenya scholarships so they could study in America; one of whom was Barack Obama Sr. That trip produced President Barack Obama.
Etana is right about the injustices in Jamaica and the lack of accountability for the mistreatment of those seen as helpless by those in authority. However, as an artiste, it may be the lack of 911 access why she was able to create those lovely lyrics, in
Wrong address, because you may admit that from your pain came a higher, more conscious purpose.
The sentiments expressed on the television programme seem far removed from Etana’s roots; and if not her roots, then our roots — those of us who wish to build a better Jamaica. They resembled the watered- down, diluted and misinformed version of the roots she so eloquently sang about.
Etana doesn’t owe anyone anything, but the Jamaican people who must contend with failed 911 calls are core supporters for now. They need her to inspire them so that the systems of the nation may advance. More than immigration and education, the people need inspiration to become better. Nothing great was ever done without inspiration.
The same Jamaican people who Etana says in your interview are marginalised and unaccounted for, in many ways are depending on her to inspire and help them cope with the marginal circumstances through the music. I am one such Jamaican who was patiently awaiting her next project and, instead, I was pre-empted with these ‘Trumped up’ thoughts baited by the interviewer.
My dear sister Etana, maybe a simple crash course in the history of the Trumps of this world, modern world politics and other world affairs would better help you to properly articulate for your people how they might live the emancipated life, regardless of circumstances like lack of access to 911. If your words were indeed the full story, and not edited or skewed to convey another meaning, then your narrative would be close to a house slave who got a taste of the master’s luxuries in the plantation house, and easy access to 911 calls, so you abandoned your people who are depending on you to free them.
In the words of Malcolm X: “I pray that God will bless everything that you do, I pray that you will understand the problems of the world, and where you fit in to help solve those problems.”
I also hope you stop stereotyping people at the airport, because that would mean they have the “wrong address” and I too have experienced similar stereotypes when I hopped off an Air Jamaica plane as a black man in the past.
To my brothers and sisters in the arts, we have a responsibility. The only way to our liberation is organisation.
Donovan Watkis is an author and cultural artige’. His latest publication is
Jr’s Hope: Thoughts On Improving From Up The Street.
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