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WHEN LIFE IMITATES ART

 

By Marcia Hutchinson

Sunday, June 20, 2010.

 

Recently, I went to see one of the best performances I have ever seen in a theatre. The Harder They Come is a musical based on the film of the same name starring Jimmy Cliff. The first half of the play was a veritable romp through my childhood with the perfect soundtrack. Most of the songs in the play were played by my dad when I was a very young child, the rest were sung in church by my mother. The cast contained all the stock Jamaican characters from right down to the duplicitous preacher and the 'good time' girls.

The play opens with a Nine Night, the traditional Jamaican 'wake' which lasts for nine days and is as much a celebration of the life of the deceased as mourning his or her passing. I have been to many night nights starting with my own father's and they always leave me thinking deeply about the meaning of life and how we would like to be remembered. Jamaicans almost revel in their mourning. I know funeral junkies who turn up at anyone's funeral just to be part of the emotional outpouring, it's the ultimate weepie. One part of the play has the hero telling his mother that his grandmother (her mother) has died and all the money has been spent on a big funeral. She is aghast, not at the loss of her inheritance, but at the fact that she didn't get to go to the big funeral.

What was (and still is) most striking about the musical though is how closely the plot mirrors that currently playing out in Jamaica of suspected drug dealer Christopher Coke. The 'hero' in the play is a drug dealer who falls foul of the police, (his former accomplices), who then hunt him down in gun battles all over the Kingston.

The locals protect him rather than hand him over to the authorities. It begs the question why so many people are willing to fight (and die) to protect Coke? My sister, a teacher, lives very close to Tivoli Gardens the epicentre of the violence that has so far claimed over 70 lives. She says things are not as bad as the international media make out but life is still hard.

There have been a number of accusations that Coke has, until now been protected by his links to the Prime Minister Bruce Golding but the pressure from the US has become so great that Golding has to be seen to be 'doing something'. One thing is clear Coke cannot have managed to run a huge international drug operation without the complicity of many in authority.

The question is, will they catch him alive and actually manage to extradite him to the US, or will he, like Rhyging the hero of the Harder They Come, go out in a blaze of gunfire like his father and brother before him, because, of course, dead men tell no tales.

Marcia Hutchinson studied law at Oxford University before practising as a solicitor for ten years. She changed direction in 1997 establishing Primary Colours to meet a need for high quality culturally diverse educational resources. She has written for a range of publications, including the Guardian, The Yorkshire Post and the Caribbean Times. She was recently the subject of ITV's My Yorkshire. She speaks regularly at conferences and other events on education for diversity.

 Marcia is available to comment on all aspects of education for diversity and issues around multiculturalism in schools. For further information please contact  marketing@primarycolours.net


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