John Flash drives up to a non-descript, seemingly deserted building on the outskirts of New Kingston. As he exits his Benz coupe, he notices one of the ever-present “coke-heads” off in the distance. She’s emaciated, dirty and hungry, but flashes a smile with what few teeth she has remaining. They’re discoloured and ravaged by cavities. “Yu want a good time sexy??”, she begins what will be an attempt at earning a few dollars, and ultimately scoring a hit from a crack-pipe. John ignores her, and heads inside with a passenger who has also exited the Benz.
Inside John listens as his passenger and another man initiate and make plans for a crack-cocaine deal. They discuss how to circumvent (and bribe) members of the police force, how to cut and distribute (including who’s turf will receive some ‘stash’, and who dem woulda haffi ‘done’ to expand new turf), and the final costs and quantities of shipment. John listens keenly, interjecting only rarely, and at one point he tastes a sample of the product to ensure its quality.
As the parties are deep in discussion, doors come flying open! Sirens pierce the silence, and commands blare over bullhorns, as security officials storm the building! The cops have been preparing for this sting for months, it turns out. All those plans that would have increased drug quantities and body counts on the streets, will remain just that – plans.
John Flash had been a hustler all his life. A few shady deals here, a few not-so-above-board ones there. People have been hurt by decisions he’s made in the past. People have died. He never cut a record in his life, never had a number one, never inspired a nation with profound and visceral lyrics that spoke to our very life experiences. The question is: “Would that have made a damn difference?”
Jamaicans have a beautiful and unique strength that shows in how we coalesce rapidly to defend or support our own, in times of good and bad. This unity, however, can sometimes be ill-conceived or misdirected, as I believe it may just be in the case of the U.S. vs Mark Myrie (a.k.a. Buju Banton or ‘Boojoo’ as the Americans pronounce it). Buju Banton’s first album as a rastaman, ‘Til Shiloh (Album at Amazon.com), was the anthem of my college years. Inspirational, intellectual, factual, his lyrics touched everyone! Even christians would recite, or at least quote some of his lyrics – their appeal knew no bounds. Truth is, Buju was already a favourite from the days of ‘Browning’ and ‘Batty Rider’, but this album, and subsequent ones, catapulted him into the realm of international reggae megastar, and more importantly, reggae icon. When we went on the annual Tag Drive that first year of university, Buju’s album played all the way to Portland and back, and NOT ONE individual asked the driver fi play anedda set a chune!
That will always be my best memory of Buju, surpassing even the sweaty fetes, hidden away in a dark corner or behind the sound box with the girl of my affection for the moment. Til Shiloh was a reflection of how Buju’s music grew up just as we did. Matured as we accepted maturity. Reasoned the way we would reason.
But all this admiration for a reggae icon, and willingness to support our fellow Jamaican, should not blind us from the facts of this case. Mark Myrie is at worst, guilty of conspiring to traffic drugs, or at best complicit in the dealings of drug traffickers. And lest we forget, the repercussions of the drug trade across the world are murder, robbery, rape, destruction of families, prostitution and corruption, among so many others.
If we look at the facts (and ONLY the facts) we have a man – let’s just say a man and not our beloved reggae singer – who attended a meeting where two other individuals were planning to distribute cocaine. If he was planning to start his own distribution network, he is a dastardly, greedy, selfish criminal – deserving of whatever time in prison he receives plus a hundred years more! If he was merely accompanying a ‘friend’ to a drug deal (and if you ask me, a man who tastes cocaine is probably aware that it is a drug deal), then he is guilty of poor decision making and associating with criminals and taking part in a criminal conspiracy – however passive his involvement.
Unfortunately, it also seems that US prosecutors had their sights set on the Gargamel from day one, and are on a mission to take down a high-value, big name target. Yes, the scales may just be tipped, and NOT in Buju’s favour, but he ‘left himself careless’ and made a terrible choice when he decided to attend that meeting in Miami, and by his involvement with these individuals prior to that fateful meeting. In life we are taught that our actions have consequences, whether good or bad. We are taught that wrong must be punished, and right should be rewarded. Life doesn’t always work the way it should, but for the most part we have it right.
Buju had it wrong.
Our only hope is that he receives a punishment befitting of his transgression, and doesn’t become the victim of a US vendetta. Many people have fifteen or more kids to feed and go about it the honest way. Here’s a suggestion: put some rubbers on yu willy – fifteen condoms are way cheaper than fifteen kids any day!!!
- US informant testifies in Buju Banton drug trial (pbpulse.com)
- Jamaican Reggae Star Buju Banton Begins Drug Trial in US (foxnews.com)
- Buju Banton’s battle with Babylon | Philip Dayle (guardian.co.uk)