For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise – white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food, and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth, if the lens is focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you’d find a sharper, richer and truer image of the Jamaican experience…this is Our Stories!
Meet Lennox “Villa Flamez” Hales
Long before he learnt how to spell violence, Lennox could easily spot the barrel of a gun, he painfully witnessed his neighbours being laced with gunshots and learnt how to “duck” from stray bullets. For the 24-year-old Jamaican creative, growing up in Waltham Park, Kingston 11 was like trying to escape a never-ending action film reeked with gun violence. He eventually bowed to the negative pressure and got involved in a high school gang which activities left him permanently wounded and with a juvenile detainee record.
Many Jamaicans living in troubled communities pray for an opportunity to flee to a quieter neighbourhood. However, when I sat down with Villa Flamez, he said that the solution to the violence existed right in his community.
1.Why did you put the violence behind you?
After the judge give us bail… mi realize say everything mi did have just tek time a trickle away. Mi end up in this programme- THE H.O.L.Y. network, and Pastor James…him guidance, a deh suh now mi start see a different perspective on life…we use to go camp (December and Summer) and when mi look pan it that little intervention end up work for me… him don’t care how bad you be or how intelligent you be, because him have brain to… then mi start realize pickney (children) badder dan mi and (they were cooperating)…just realize people out there worse than me and a make do with the little what dem have so why mi haffi a pree that way?
2.So what does the acronym H.O.L.Y. stand for? Is it a church organization?
Not really. It stands for Healthy Ones Lifestyle Youth Network…the headquarters at 37 Waltham Park Road…mi go through the complete process and become Camp Counsellor…mi start learn more, and start go some places like uptown and visit all Blue Mountain on camping…’til mi go UN, become an ambassador for troubled youths like me. Me and mi other friends a represent Jamaica…mi see all these opportunities and mi not even finish high school…nuff people not even know that…den mi start immerse myself back in music…them give me a medium to produce (creative content) until mi start learn how to make movies.
3.What drew you to music?
Mi love poetry…you kinda speak out your whole heart…with a few lines. Music is poetry, you just say a few lines and it speaks a world of things.
4.So why do you want to express yourself in a few lines?
Mi nuh like explain myself…mi love when mi action speak to people…if you listen like Shakespeare and Maya Angelou, them say a world of things ‘bout politics, social issues in such a little summary but yet you get a whole lifetime of understanding through all a that…
5.How would you describe your music?
My music is truth…just simply that, speaking from whatever I see, feel and hear, from the souls that go by each day.
6.Deep! So where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
Almost reaching the peak of my career, almost solidifying myself as a lifetime artiste…Mi want to put myself in a position like a Bob Marley, a Vybz Kartel, A Beenie Man, a Bounty Killa…
7.Okay, do you want to be an influencer?
Yea atleast, I’m an influential person in anything that mi do…cause even when mi nah try make an impression, one and two people will come to mi and say ‘wa you do and wa you say a real thing’. Mi love inspire people to be more than what them know.
8.Now this song, When I’m Gone, what’s the inspiration behind it?
A really mi mother mi a talk to…at one point, to the life wa mi a live, mi did think mi a dead early…when mi gone, don’t make we passing be the end of you. We live, we dead. You might say gone too soon but no… a just the right time, we done serve we purpose and in a death we serve another purpose…so when we gone just use it to motivate you…everybody ‘fraid a death and that’s the only thing we sure about in a life.
9.Now finally, what’s your message to young Jamaican men who may get side-tracked by violence?
Don’t make your circumstances dictate your future, a nuh how you start a how you finish. If your start is just like my own; you in a world weh nuh cater fi you, a you haffi make dem business ‘bout you. If you make your past dictate your future, you will forever follow a trend of destruction.
Thanks for the words of wisdom and for sharing your story Villa Flamez!
Here is Villa Flamez’ latest song- When I’m Gone
Our Stories is a feature which sheds light on real, social issues in Jamaica through the inspirational stories of Jamaicans with lived experiences. Are you a Jamaican with a story to share? Contact us [email protected].