On July 20, 2012 as the hot Friday afternoon turned to cool evening and the rush of day transformed into an audience quietly being seated in front of the lilac glow of a huge, softly-lit crescent of a covering over the stage at Emancipation Park in New Kingston, decked with black, gold and green, boldly wrapping the huge trunks of massive and erect palm trees and gently hugging those of the smaller ones, Kwame Dawes again took to stage and there, warmed the anxiously awaiting crowd to a cool and magical evening of the birth of what would prove to be incomparable, literary satisfaction.
After all, look at the line-up of persons who took us on this mystical journey: Bob Andy, Peter Bunting, Hugh Faulkner, Hilary Nicholson, Nadean Rawlins, Derrick Wilks, Kellie Magnus, Carolyn Cooper, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, Gerrard McDaniel, Amina Blackwood-Meeks and Winsome Hudson. My personal favourite, if you know me, of course was read by Gerraard McDaniel. The simple reason being that in 1968 when my teacher, Mrs. Nelson taught her class that poem ‘The Song of the Banana Man’, by Evan Jones, a certain pride came with knowing that you could be independent and “free as dese mountains, free as this sea, I know myself an’ I know my ways and will sing with pride to the end o’ my days”. A heightened level of consciousness was awakened inside of me and many others in that class as we recited all seven verses, verbatim. The Banana Man was not just proud but also grateful and always “Praise God” for all that he was and for all else that he could be. He looked forward and I thank and praise God for the notion that there was audience participation because I and several others in the audience were so aroused from the moment Gerrard began to read, we could hardly maintain our composure. We were all children again from way back when; adults only with the great expectation, acceptance and awareness.
Then the audience welcomed Kwame to the stage again and again he read with patterns and modulations that kept your attention completely fixated and inflections that caused a powerful desire for more of his story…history – Jamaica’s fiftieth year as an Independent Nation from colonialism; except this time, leaving us in a place…suspended; hanging on the edges of our chairs, waiting, salivating for what we could find if only we had the book. His artful way now made you want to go and get that book before immediately. This brought us to the realization that we have to wait for the next fifty years before we can see Jamaica’s status. Even if we purchased a book, it could not reveal to us the outcome of either the chronus (chronological order of things) or the kiros (God’s order or the spirit of the time in which things will happen.)
The Rt. Excellent Norman Washington Manley and the Rt. Excellent Sir Alexander Bustamante, Fathers of this great, little nation, would have been pleased with Friday evening’s affairs. I warmly place my signature on the evening as another breath taken in the birthing of many more steps toward the celebration of Independence and Emancipation moving forward and romancing the evening’s events.
The evening would not have been complete without closing remarks, the ‘Unveiling of Exhibition’ by Dr. Carlton Davis (Chairman of NLJ Board), some sweet Jamaican riddim by the Calabash Acoustic Ensemble, (Wayne Armond, Steve Golding and Seretse Small), snapshots of smiles, group hugs and introductions in the unconquerably beautiful ambiance of Emancipation Park.
Our gratitude goes again to Kwame, the National Library of Jamaica and all of its sponsors.