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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Jab Jab: The True Essence

Grenada Jab Jab
Okay, I know. Carnival is still months away. Despite this truth, however, the carnival celebration context is not the only context in which the Jab Jab masquerade can be talked about. Jab Jab is much more than just masqueraders gyrating through streets during carnival celebrations. 
So, in what context am I speaking of Jab Jab? I am speaking of Jab Jab as consciousness in action. As an awareness, fueled by a passion, that can and should be channeled, not only as masqueraders on the streets of Brooklyn during Labour Day, or during the Trinidad and Grenada carnival celebration, but to inform us in the fight for positive world change. Think about it! Thinking of Jab Jab in this context, however, requires us to, not only rethink our modern view of the Jab Jab masquerade, it requires us to remind ourselves of the true historical reality of the Jab Jab.
What is the historical reality of the Jab Jab? The word Jab, in English, simple means to strike with quick short blows. This is indeed an aspect of the Jab Jab masquerader. Armed with ropes and chains, [and snakes today, to frighten spectators] one has to pay compensation to the Jab Jab or else be jabbed with ropes and chains. Of course, this jabbing is a pretentious action, but it has a significant historical connection to the story of black human beings and their person-hood and humanity.
As a word connected to the carnival celebration, the word jab has its roots in the French word “Diable,” meaning “devil.” Thus, in the Grenadian context, Jab Jab, as it is used, means “devil, devil” or “double-devil.” Certainly, the masqueraders are not the devils themselves. They are instead acting out the actions done by a people they believe to be devils. In this context, the Jab Jab masquerade can be interpret as one group of people abusing another and forcing them into providing or performing some type of act [giving money to the Jab Jab in the carnival celebration context] against their will.
The question then is this: Who is the devil or devils, as demonstrated by the Jab Jab masqueraders? The answer can be found in the Jab Jab historical connection to the fight against slavery and the freedom that follows. There are different stories of how the Jab Jab masquerade in carnival came about. First, however, we have to remember that before the emancipation of slavery, the slaves were not allowed to partake in carnival celebration. After emancipation, however, the formally enslaved Africans were able to take part in the masquerade and began using, what is called, Cannes Brulees or “burnt cane” to paint themselves black and greasy as a commemoration of their freedom.
L.M Fraser, in History of Carnival, gives this story as the origin of Jab Jab. Fraser writes that:

“In the days of slavery whenever fire broke out upon an Estate, the slaves on the surrounding properties were immediately mustered and marched to the spot, horns and shells were blown to collect them and the gangs were followed by the drivers cracking their whips and curging with cires and blows to their work. After emancipation, the negroes began to represent this scene as a kind of commemoration of the change in their condition, and the procession of the “cannes brulees” used to take place on the night of the 1st of August , the date of their emancipation… After a time the day was changed and for many years past the Carnival days have been inagurated by the “Cannes Brulees”. [Traditional Mass Archive]

In Haiti there is the Lanse Kod, who are masquerading people that paint themselves as black and greasy as possible, to resemble the African slaves, and carries ropes and chain, as a representation of the brutality of slavery and the Haitian freedom in 1804. This very context is the essence of the Trinidadian Jab Molassie, [Molassie come from the French patois Mélasse, meaning Molasses] and the Grenadian Jab Jab.
Haiti Lanse Kod
Trinidad Jab Molassie
Yes, indeed. Jab Jab is an artistic metaphoric expression of freedom. That is the Jab Jab essence. Thus, as we celebrate the 20th celebration the Rwandan genocide, in the light of the Jewish Holocaust, the Albanian genocide, the ongoing actions of Muslim killing Christians and Christians killing Muslims, and other grave harms that we human beings have brought and continuing to bring upon each other, we must think of the Jab Jab in the context of a consciousness in action. In the context of an awareness that is informing our action towards promoting world peace, freedom and human rights for all. That is true Jab Jab.
Sure the Jab Jab dramatization is the mockery of the evils visited upon our black Africans ancestors by the white colonialists. Thus, these colonialists were the devils. However, we cannot let the Jab Jab spirit begins and end there. There are many evils in today’s world and their perpetrators transcend “race” and color. Therefore, as a people who are the Jab Jab essence; a people who embrace the consciousness of the Jab Jab, we should not let that awareness remain in the historical past. Let it be active. Use it and promote it as the awareness in the continuing fight for freedom and human rights for the many, many people around the world.
The high intense energy that the Jab Jab family demonstrates during the carnival seasons should also be channeled into fighting against those who act on the urge to demonize and marginalized minorities at home and abroad. The Jab Jab awareness should not be limited to just a celebration. It should be a consciousness that is used to foster the rights for freedom of speech, self-expression, and others' human rights. It should be used as an awareness to promote and protect gay rights, lesbian rights, nonbelievers rights, believers rights, women rights, etc. Our Jab Jab calypso and soca songs should echo a call for those rights to be upheld and protected. To me, this is the true expression of the Jab Jab essence.
So my Grenadian people, my Caribbean people, next carnival, as we blacken our skin and conjure up the African awareness of the Jab Jab, remember its true representation, and let us together, in the words of Jab Jab singer Tallpree, “play a wicked Jab” for the protection and promotion of human rights for all human beings, rights for animals, and for all of nature.

Jab Jab!

Here is a Jab Jab song. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Where To and How Soon?: An Analysis

I would like to believe that, as Grenadians, we are all concerned about our country's future. To many of us, however, the economic future of the country today seems desolate. Vast unemployment since the beginning of the economic down turn is ongoing.
Lately there has been chatter about the New National Party (NNP) administration and their attempt at fixing the economic problems the country is facing. One person that is out spoken about the economic problem and the NNP administration's ability to remedy it, is former Attorney General of Grenada, Lloyd Noel. He voiced his concerns in the Grenada online news forum NOW: (Article can now be found in Caribbean News Now). Mr. Noel expressed concerns about the moving forward of, what he termed, the old, but new political party, who is in, to use his words, “the driving seats.” “How the controllers are going about resolving the problems,” as we move forward, Mr. Noel asked, especially in the context of the NNP taking victory in a clean-sweep, having, according to him, “total control and no opposition to even question any of their actions of omissions.” As a result, Lloyd Noel sees the road ahead for Grenada as being bleak, and dangerous.
My politics and Lloyd Noel's, I believe, comes from two different places. I share no affiliation with any political party. My loyalty lies with my country. However, as a concerned citizen, I too share Lloyd Noel's concerns, especially about the seemingly unchallenged position of the NNP.
Lloyd Noel reminds us that with the world economical down turn, the country was hard hit. He writes that “the general state of the Nation's economic affairs was in very serious shambles,” and this is what led the NNP to win with such mandates. In fact, many Grenadians hold the view that, not only the global economic down turn, but the NNP government, after their thirteen years tenure, was responsible for contributing to the economic problem the country is now facing.
It is certainly true that the National Democratic Congress' (NDC) administration was dealt a bad hand. However, as the nature of politics dictates, the country's problems became the NDC's problems the very minute they took office. Thus, even if we believe that the NDC administration was not allowed enough time to solve the problem, the fact is that they lost the latest election. The NNP team was able to make a narrative that showed the NDC rule as a failed regime, and the people bought the story.

"... as the nature of politics dictates, the country's problems became the NDC's problems the very minute they took office."

The table is now turned. The NNP administration is back in the drivers seat, and as Lloyd Noel states, “nine months have gone by since the total control started – and the hue and cry seem to be that things have gotten worse rather than better. A lot of people who were employed have since lost their jobs.” In fact, Lloyd tells us that in the midst of this economic hardship “the controllers upon taking over the reigns of power in February, added back the 5% of MP's salaries the NDC Government had taken away a year or so before the elections.” They even went farther, “giving themselves another salary increase of 6%,” and while they stuff money into their pockets, the controllers are looking to level tax increases on the economically strapped population. Here is a question: Are there any other ways the government can raise money to deal with the country's debt, other than pushing their hands into the pockets of unemployed people? I think there are.
Indeed, these actions taken by the new controllers are troubling. These are things we all should be concerned about. I am pushed to ask, are these controllers really concerned about the country, and the people? I think that they are. However, people get blinded by the feel of power.
The main question we should ask, however, is: What can we do? Indeed, we may not have a political opposition. Nonetheless, it is we the people that employ these controllers, and it is we, the population, to be the opposition. We have to make our voices heard. March, protest and demand our government do the right thing.
There are, however, those who think that what I am asking for is futile. Because, my call for the population to be the opposition that Lloyd Noel is concerned about, demands the people to look at politics from a rational, nonpartisan prospective, and most Grenadians seem to view politics through tribalistic lens, which, by its very nature, is partisan. Politics in Grenada are highly sectarian. The supporters of one political party become the enemies to those supporting the other side. The House (NNP) vs. the Hart (NDC); Green things, t-shirts, handkerchiefs (NNP) vs. Yellow things, t-shirts, handkerchiefs (NDC). Whole political campaigns take the form of a gang warfare, to the expense of the real issues and concerns to be addressed. The political party with the most gang members wins the day. As a result, we end up voting into office people that are unable to solve the country's problems. Of course, I know that I am pushing it by using this gang warfare analogy, but, I think the visual imagery is warranted.
So, how then can we solve this problem? I believe that if we – via our educational system – promote and educate the people to be critical and rational thinkers, the ability to rationally analyze political issues will be much better off, and Lloyd Noel's concerns about not having an opposition, whether from a political party or from the populace, will be obsolete, hopefully.