Thursday, September 8, 2016

National Affairs: Long-haired Freaky Kids and Hope Road

Its 1976.

A generation ago.

He was a youngster, not as young as Zavier's three years mind you, but still very much a minor..

His parents, devout Ratafarians, has no doubt faced their own levels of persecution, this being 1976. Despite the meteoric rise of the "Gong" Bob Malrey and the increasing adulation abroad, Rastas  at home were still the collective public enemy - facing intermittent harassment from Police and unmitigated contempt from the "better" classes, whose own ranks were being thinned out by the deepening Socialist experiment, and the rampant violence.

Still, the parent of Jahboukie Myton(thanks Fragano Ledgister, from Facebook, for supplying the name and year), had high hopes and aspirations for their boy, that even within the entrenched divisions of this society, that he might find a place in a "good school" and thus get the critical leg-up needed to progress beyond their clearly humble station.

I don't at this moment know or recall the name of the school involved, but young Jahboukie was denied access solely on the grounds that, like his parents (and probably several others in his community), HE WORE DREADLOCKS. The parents took their protest to the media, and very soon, it was enough of an imbroglio to demand the attention of the then Prime Minister's wife, Beverly Manley who, along with her husband, had been robustly pressing to end the kinds of social injustice typified in the Myton case, and no less so here.

With Mrs Manley's help, Jahboukie was ultimately enrolled at the Jamaica House basic School (on the grounds of what was intended to serve as the official residence of the Prime Minister, and located - you guessed it! - on Hope Road, a hefty stone's throw southward from the Marley residence

Now, to the present, where even colleagues of mine, individuals more than old enough to have witnessed the struggle of "long-haired, freaky people" are siding with the administration of Hopefield Prep School, a school whose location a hefty stone's throw from Bob Marley's former digs on Hope Road offers a remarkable irony.

The school, as reported in the Jamaica observer (good work, Kimberly Brown) had the temerity to not only deny the child enrolment, but, to reply to the mother's protestations with insidious comments about "head lice" (over and above being untidy and dirty) .

Needless to say, when pressed by the journalist, the school reverted to the old standby: "No comment [at this time]". But to go from "head lice" to "no comment" is like trying to bring  vehicle from 100mph to zero within 20 feet, with a brick wall at the other end. Imagewise, things go splat!

So now the administration is clearly circling the wagons in the hope that this storm, like so many before it, will prove momentary and blow over without too much being extracted from the school, like say, an apology or worse, damages from a lawsuit.
word is, also that they have refunded the unquestionably hefty enrolment fee to the mother and have said that now - having been publicly exposed in their discriminatory practice - they will NOT  be accepting the child under any circumstances, even if the mother does relent and cut the child's hair.

Now, fence-sitters, anxious to avoid conflict, will say, there's no big deal; if that's the school rule, you simply find somewhere else.

Defenders of the school are saying rules are vital to preserve order, and that the school's policy was communicated to the mother beforehand (one wonders whether their acute sensitivity to head lice was similarly communicated to her).

On reading this missive, those same defenders will argue that Zavier is not a Rasta child and therefore is not being discriminated against, that as a boy, he must look the way the other boys do at the school.

Such arguments reaffirm the sad truth that we have not moved very far over the course of a generation. That it is still PERMISSIBLE  and DEFENSIBLE for a school in Jamaica, under the oversight of the Ministry of Education (as I believe all schools are now said to be, whether "private" or not) is inexcusable. With one nasty comment, and one dismissive wave of the hand, we are transported right back to 1976.

let's clear. Rules have purpose and  are vital to nay organization. Bu those which do not serve the primary purpose MUST be challenged

I have no idea where Jahboukie Myton might be right now, 40 years down the line from his defining moment. But I strongly suspect that a wry smile (and maybe a sigh of resignation) may be on his lips.

What will the next generation yield, if we fail to stand with this mother now?

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