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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rodney Reasoning

©2011 K.Omodele
It’s 12:35 p.m. one damp April day in Lower Manhattan. The Malone Construction labor crew’s collective spirit seems subdued by the gray, spring-time air. They slowly crumple up paper bags; dispose empty plastic bags and bottles, while palavering away the rest of their lunch break.
Rudeboy braces his back against a steel column, digging his gums with a toothpick. “Yow. Mi see di Vibez Kartel lecture at UWI* pon Youtube the other night. Maddd!”
Spence, the three-week-new laborer on the site, pulls down his specs and looks up at the six- plus, stick-thin youth.
“When yuh say ‘maddd’, wha’ you mean?” Spence asks, raking work-bent fingers through his steel-wool, smoke-white ‘fro.
Rudie removes a Newport from behind his ear, relights it and sucks the smoke into his magga** chest cavity. “Then, you nuh see how the man handle the UWI crowd? Intelligent and smooth…stylist,” he replies, a river of smoke winding around his words.
Bajie pours the remnants of coffee from his Thermos, and then authorizes himself into the reasoning like some member of parliament. “Finally, you and me can agree on something, Rudeboy. He surprised me. He actually held a decent position, though I wouldn’t exactly call that intelligent.”
“Wha’ you woulda call it, then?” Rudeboy gestures in the air with his cigarette like a music conductor. “How many entertainers you know that coulda hold their own inna that kinda university lecture setting?”
Dreadie, forever a voice of reason, throws in his two shillings. “Rudie, Kartel mek a mockery of the academic platform. A UWI lecture? That suppose to be serious. Wha’ yuh seh, Trevor? You see it?”
Trevor guzzles the last of his water, rumble belches then says, “The man treat the whole thing like a self-serving, press conference. And mek it worse, he tried tie-in Marcus Garvey and Walter Rodney.”
Dread shakes his forefinger. “Yuh catch that? When he said ‘Sir Walter Rodney’?”
Rudeboy bull-rushes in with an interjection. “And wha’ happen to that?”
Dreadie whips out a hand-kerchief and waves it like a matador at Rudeboy. “Is Doctor Walter Rodney. Not Sir.”
Spence adds. “Kartel mussy confuse Walter Rodney with Sir Walter Raleigh.” Chuckling. “How you fi confuse the Brother, di Comrade, professor of African studies with a ole pirate.”
The whole crew cracks up, even Rudeboy.
At precisely 1PM, they grab their helmets and drag themselves into the building.

It’s now around 5:15 and the crew is trudging up Broadway toward the Park Place subway. Each man is seeking the no. 2 train, destination: Flatbush. ‘cepting Bajie of course, who, true to his contradictory form, is the only one catching the E to Queens.
Spence continues the reasoning from earlier. “Y’know, Rodney’s legacy LARGE when it come to the University… graduated there; taught there. As a matter of fact, when Hugh Shearer kick him outta JA, is the UWI students first tek up protest. And is that protest lead to the Rodney Riots in ‘68.”
Rudeboy now looks puzzled. “The government kick him out? Fi wha?”
“Actually, they barred him from coming back into Jamaica,” Bajan says. “Sent him right back to Guyana. Is Trevor them homeboy.”
Spence cut his eyes at Baj. “Kick him out beca’ they label him the single greatest threat to Jamaican security at that time.” Realising he is commanding Rudie’s full, yet confused attention, he continues. “See, Rodney taught African history. Plus he preached bout Black Power and was a Garveyite, which scared the hell outta them. Then he was a Marxist that chastised Capitalism and classism.”
Dreadie injects. “So you know that had them paro .”
“Hold on, now!” Bajie stops them. “Garvey was a capitalist. Rodney was a socialist. How in the hell he gon be a Garveyite?”
“How yuh mean? Is not me say so! Rodney proclaim himself a Garveyite. And in any case Garvey dealt with community and Rodney with Communalism.” Spence answers. “Anyhow, Rudie, they labeled him a subversive element when di man come venture down inna the ghettoes and gullies, talking with poor people and reasoning with Rasta youth. Rudebwoy, yuh need to read Groundings With My Brothers.”
Rudeboy nods. “I seen it.”
“Yuh read it?”Dreadie asks.
“Ehn-enh. But I know them kill him down inna Guyana, right?” Nodding at Trevor.
Trevor clears his throat. “Yeah man. Is like a Malcom X type ah thing. His own matty Black brother kill him. Boom him up.”
They reach the subway entrance .
Dreadie adds. “The President of Guyana himself-Burnham, order the hit!”
Before they descend down underground and part ways with him, Bajie smirks. “I surprised you didn’t claim the C.I.A. Oonu*** damn conspiracy theorists.” He runs down the steps taking two at a time and heads for the Uptown side.
Spence cries out. “Cho! But then who yuh think sanction it? Nuh di C.I.A.? Is them behind all the political fuckery back in them days. All up to now!”
The rest of them swipe their cards, and as they make way down to the Brooklyn side, Dreadie nods in approval.
“Yeah yuh right. But yet still, Burham had it out for him.”
They reach the platform. Up the platform towards the escalator, three youths gang up on a fourth, beating him down. The construction crew looks on as the gang pulverizes the helpless boy, slicing his face with a box-cutter.
“One thing for sure though, Rodney influence Rasta in nuff a them small Eastern Caribbean islands. Notice how them Rasta deh in Grenada militant, bad. They all help overthrow Gairy. Is Rodney that. Everywhere that man went, when he see the establishment oppressing and victimizing the poor, he sound out against it.” Trevor responds.
But everone is now focused on the scene up the platform. 
Trevor continues, as he begins making his way toward the ruckus. “That’s why nuff government couldn’t stand him. They ein’t want no talk of revolution. And besides, the Cold War was being fought right down there in the West Indies- Cuba, JA, GT, Grenada. We ein’t stand a chance, bout we aligning weself with either one a them Super Powers.”
Dreadie declares, “Vampires. Babylon them!” and unsheaths a hammer while stepping up the platform.
“True! The whole a them.” Spence says. He grabs a screw driver from his utility belt.
The construction crew picks up pace. Burst into a rush up the platform, drawing tools from their bags and utility belts as their train rumbles toward them in the distance.
The clack-clack of the train riding the track grows louder.
The platform vibrates.

*University of The West Indies
** extremely slim, skinny
***you, you all


  1. I love the way you take history and bring it current in a very engaging way. SALUTE! The Abeng and the Conscious Pen is a serious blessing to I

    Ras Kofi

  2. Bless Up Ras Kofi... Give thanks! Trying to till the soil, as a Farmah! One Love!

  3. kaya i think u r relatively sweet n charming!

  4. i like the way u gave a little history lesson

  5. i love the u make history lesson into an intresting love sarah "BLESS UP"

  6. @ should put a name beside your comment so I can know who you are. Thanks, though.

    @Tanya and Slim (Sarah)...thanks for reading and I hope I can share more history in an interesting way. Thanks for stopping by. your comments are precious.


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