A riveting letter by Dr. Daniel Nicastro paying tribute to the many Jamaicans in the UK.
General

Letter To My Jamaican Friend

My Dear Sonji,

You know that my skin is white. I live in the Caribbean. Where else after Africa? You are my soul mate. You are Jamaican. Caribbean. You and the children live in London. To meet we have to travel. Colonial destiny? Bad economics?

Your English is perfect. Your Jamaican comes out only when you are in a good mood or you are vexed. The children are 100% UK. You and them are part of us but you all remain Jamaican first. Warm black Jamaican!

Now all of us, black, brown, clear, yellow and white have been branded. Visiting family has become suspicious. How and where does a Jamaican on another island get a visa to come and see you? Shades of costly trips to Barbados, to get or not to get an American Visa!

The concept of racial/political travel barriers is now globalized. How many more countries will join this human boycott? White countries are becoming entrenched. White Jamaicans have achieved equality when traveling. We are now black. Do immigration officials know what a mix we are in the Caribbean? Now thanks to entrance visas our black heart wrapped in white is finally recognized.

Sonji, I’m writing voicing my Caribbean frustration; an African frustration; to let the bredrens know what my thoughts on Jamaican discrimination are. All our discrimination!

This Caribbean man sits, thinks, watches, listens and talks. He always waits. He hopes his thoughts become loud words and he is heard. We are out there. I would like to be home. We are out there for the same reason: Survival, when our island home cannot provide; when it will not listen or accommodate and give you the qualifications I need and I have. Our politics are too local and self-centred. Grudging destroys the good you do. We have no choice … but to be, I have to be in someone else’s yard. Who am I that always carry my home in my heart?

You know Sonji, because you are Jamaican, your presence is larger. Jamaica and her defects are more visible. If I could enlarge any of our smaller island states they could be Jamaica with her defects. You are noticed because of numbers, good and bad. Only Jamaica could have given me you. You see Jamaica’s defects are all our defects but the defects loom larger, the larger you are, the further you travel. Defects are the inheritance from our past. A troubled pregnancy, a mishandled past and present. Independence given by their Pontius Pilate washing their hands of us.

Sonji, I’m writing thinking Visas. Thinking Jamaican targeting. We are victims of white ostrich’s, heads buried in the sand of righteousness, not seeing or hearing the truth. We are all targeted with Jamaica. We are suffering the erosion of our roots, the exploitation from our colonial past. It was divide and conquer. Education? Religion? God preaches love and brotherhood. How dangerous! Thank God for the arrival of the Moravians!

African values have been eroded. Africa is a fashion statement, but a leopard man remains a leopard man. What new world values are imposed on us? Why does America loom so dangerously large? What are our models? We have become less patient; when education lacks, more violent. Everyone reacts to violence but not the cause. Values have to have roots. I like to eat my corn on the cob not as corn flakes. Are we being subtly retrained as the next generation of enslaved? We are still subservient to the master and he still does not have my colour. Our independence balanced the master’s books. We are kept at a loss, our loss. Are they really spending money for our edification? Sonji, we are and will be, despite … We forgive but not forget. Forgiveness is not forgetfulness … Justice is always pending if punishment is not.

Sonji! How can I express my maturity after a multi-generation exiled as a slave or indentured worker? How do we factor manumission? Why we don’t talk about it? How many of us still feel oppressed.

So a lot of our bredrens have become violent. As violent as the act that tore us apart from the African continent. I am not violent but I can be violent and you wonder why? What would a lion deprived of his hunting ground reply? The bredrens have returned to being African warriors in a society with no African vocabulary. It’s in our genes. Where are the hunting grounds in the urban jungle? What happened to our initiation rites?

I am not Africa but I am still Africa. My tribal fight has become global. As a Caribbean, we dream Africa. No matter our origin, as Caribbean we are all bredrens. Of all of us, Jamaica has suffered the most; has fought back the most. Jamaica was born with violence. This is why we have returned to the African warrior roots. But to be a warrior today is to be criminal. The tribe we fight for is global because we have been abandoned to a cultural desert.

Because of the defects inherited, we now get visa restrictions. Is it easier to punish the whole family instead of dealing with our prodigal sons? Why is there always a conflict between social fixing and security?

Sonji, you tell me of English life. Frustrations. Racism. No respect. Hypocrisy. Today more than ever you are Jamaican. When I arrive in London with Air Jamaica to see you … no problem! I am white; I have a visa, but still the questions! Where are you staying? Why are you visiting a Jamaican soul sister? Why do you live in the Caribbean? Indeed! The occasional body search, right? My gifts to you and the daughters violated, taken apart. Should I lie on arrival? Should I change airlines? Should I change citizenship? NO! Man should talk loud. Protest their actions. Don’t avoid the harassment. Speak out. Make their actions ridiculous if no social fix comes.

Dear ex-master, study me. You have never sat in my yard to talk; to laugh; to cry; to dance to break bread. To make music with my bredren and me. How easy to ban us, trying to hide your responsibilities for the heritage you left us. You couldn’t destroy our drums. You changed my languages, but my word ‘though English; my sound; my diction my repetition, remains Africa. More in Jamaica I can say. Talk to me … put the Queen’s English on the shelf. Come to my yard. Talk and think with me in my Caribbean African English. Help me to be!

I am violent in your eyes. The violence is your violence. It’s a global violence of drugs, guns, gangs (tribes in an urban context), name brands and macho strutting. Sex being abused for the sense of freedom. Our women used and you, Sonji, have suffered it, for our male frustrations. The warrior has gone wrong. We all know why but prison is not the answer. As they bury their heads, they bury the accused. Visas are not a solution, only another erosion of freedom. The innocents are paying for the few. Sonji, be proud for being Jamaican. Be proud to be called Yardy. The easy way out was to treat us all as suspects, as criminals. I have gone through this because of my name and my birthplace. I am still subjected to it. I wonder if they would like it if we did the same to them? They are so many and they have so many criminals! Come visit me after I have investigated you — and please pay for your visa, thank you!

Was independence a prison sentence with a non-respected parole for crimes not committed? Would we grant you a parole? Why should we be exiled to live in Devil’s Island?

Their heads are buried in the sand but the vibrations of our drums, our reggae, like the steps of elephant’s, sing our song of freedom. It will reach their ears.

That’s all, Sonji. I wanted to write of my love for you and for our Jamaica and I have. I will see you soon. Remember you can still come to St Kitts. We still don’t need a visa for you. Thank you.

COPYRIGHT Dr Daniel Nicastro M.Arch

About the author

Dr DanielNicastro