Lessons From the Rastaman

On the banks of the railway tracks on the outskirts of Cromarty Housing Scheme a suburb of Spanish Town, Sammy Dread lives alone in a little one room house adorn with a verandah that is made of ply board walls and zinc roofing. The literary equipped, the financially achieved and government critics often refer to such humble abode as a shack. The room is equipped and furnished with a bed, a table, a reading lamp and a book shelf, making him sufficed and content and so what to others a lifeless platitude is to Sammy a natural source of life. Sammy’s beliefs are that true wealth does not lie in the material possession of things but within an acquisition of knowledge, understanding and wisdom through the medium of Education. He is a staunch supporter of Marcus Garvey’s teachings and philosophies and never misses the opportunity to quote the decorative National Hero of Jamaica.

Sammy Dread stands about six feet tall and is strapping. He is very popular and respected in the adjoining poor and down trodden communities of Homestead, Bongo Town and Mc Vickers Lane where the employable, uneducated, unskilled and political recipients of food stamps, gully cleaning, street sweeping and construction laborers reside in abundance.

He earns his livelihood doing many different things, buying quart and drinks bottle then sells them to House of Ester, an agent of the soft drinks company of Denoes & Geddes, along with sculpting masterful crafts of images associated with Black Heritage and Culture, carved from Mahogany and Lignum Vitae wood; all of which are indigenous trees of Jamaican soil.

Sammy is characterized with great humanism and humility, loving, lovable and kind. A man who never fails to lend a hand without request, monetary or otherwise and of such the haves and indigents alike took to his charity. Yet, a memory more lasting than his generosities and sculpted pieces are the lessons of Levity, History, Religion and Philosophies that he teaches daily to the people of the communities.

To the single mothers of child rearing, he is the voice of inspiration and encouragement to their children to remain in school and try hard at their studies, while to the delinquent youths that can and were in many instances easily influenced into criminality by the treats of politicians and area dons, due to their state of poverty and deprivation, he is to them what guidance councilors are to hoodlums. The elders as well as his peers were always greeted and chatted to by Sammy and for them he was a voice of reasoning.

As I now reflect on what Sammy Dread meant to me, I recall the many quotes of Marcus Garvey, read to me by Sammy from the pages of the book entitled, “The Philosophies and Opinions of Marcus Garvey.” The one that have stuck in my mind which I herewith entail is as follows, “ Becoming naturally restless for the opportunity of doing something for the advancement of my race, I was determined that the black man would not continue to be kicked about by all races and nations of the world…I saw before me then, even as I do now, a new world of black men, not peons, serfs, dogs and slaves , but a nation of sturdy men making their impress upon civilization and causing a new light to dawn on the human race.” Those words of Garvey pass onto me by Sammy have provided me with a revolutionary will and a symbol of resistance as a shield as well as a weapon to fight the struggles of life with determination and zest.

Sammy’s concept of religion was that it is by the deeds of a person base on their own social conscience, that their true value to a fellow man and to society at large can be authentically measured. His vision of each person is that within the worst of us there is good and dormant as it may be only needs stimulation for real growth.

Today within the Jamaican communities at home and abroad there are many “Sammy Dreads” reaching out to the despised and rejected, giving them a hope which at best seemed hopeless, fulfilling their immediate needs, be it a bus fare , a lunch money or food. The author sincerely beg of the reader to be a Sammy Dread among the less fortunate and especially the youths, inspire and teach them so that in the future they too will provider others with the guide by which better can come.

About the author

Kharl Daley