By Gerald Hausman
Santa Fe, NM, USA

My search for folklore in Jamaica took me across many bays and bridges and to the top of the Blue Mountains and the bottom of Trenchtown in Kingston.

It took me to the North Coast and the South Coast and deep into the Cockpit country, the so-called “Land of Look Behind” where a man could say, “Me no call, you no come.”
Gerald Hausman

In fact, there is a village there in Trelawney called “Me-No-Sen-You-No-Come” a village founded by slaves in the mid-1800s. A place of forlorn beauty bonded by unbound freemen who dared to resist or die.

I was everywhere I could be, scribbling by lantern light, firelight, moonlight and flashlight.

I went to Nanny Town and Maroon Town. Brownstown and Highgate where Oliver Cromwell once owned land.

My search kept me on the Jamaican mythological highway, riding not on a cranky donkey but in a spirited minibus named Irie One.

And I was reading the whole time. And interviewing people who have now passed unto and into Zion. I met the man who knew Marcus Garvey and the man who met Haile Selassie I and the man who cooked for Peter Tosh and despaired of Americans using salt on his Ital patties. I passed through the portals of myth so many times that I scarcely noticed the color of my skin or if any of me was actually attached to flesh and bone.

I met natural mystics, conmen and killers, cops and lock-up ghosts who had gripped the bars of Gun Court for so long they were reduced to hands that only sought the light of day.

I was at Sting ’87 when the field of thousands ran for their lives as gunmen fired on every living soul and the tide of flowing bodies swept us the 100 yards and my feet never touched the ground, the press of the crowd was so great everyone was lifted and raised, and if they had feet, they used them as paddles, but what sustained us was being carried in the treadmill of souls.

Eventually, fourteen years after living and teaching in Jamaica, I wrote a book called Rastafarian Children Of Solomon which was meant to be the flip side of the coin. The other side was Children of Sisyphus by Harvard professor Orlando Patterson.

Patterson wrote so eloquently about “the Dungle”, that part of the Kingston ghetto that shrank human lives to the oblivion of poverty – my own daughter was kidnapped there and lived to tell. She managed to break free, but my close friend Chuckie, who grew up inches from that oppression of humanity told me once, “Them strip me down, me own brethren, until me stand naked as the day I was born, on the hot city street for all to see while them search through every fiber of me clothing.”

I was doing research at the Institute of Jamaica when he told me that. I walked those streets, the pavement of downpression and heard Spreeboy, another friend who explained the exodus of city people to the country when the shooting was so rampant you heard it all day and all night. He hid in the cellar of his own house under a blanket where his puppies also hid out. Gunmen came down the stairs and he buried himself in puppies while the gunmen poked around with warm gun-barrels and he vowed, “If I ever live through this, I take my puppies and disappear into the mountains.” Which is what he did.

I bought him a surgery, many years later, with royalties from a book in which he was a main character. He had what they call in Jamaica a “bosun”, an old nautical term for hernia.

So I knew something about Dungle life and Dungle death. But I wanted to tell the other tale. The one about resurrection, deliverance from despair. Cedella Marley, Bob’s eldest daughter, said of my book that came out of this longing to tell the flip side of the coin – “Day by day, the elders who formed the foundation of Rasta in the 1920s and 30s are passing. Within Mr H’s pages you will meet a man who knew Marcus Garvey and an elder who met Haile Selassie I when he came to Jamaica. You will also meet younger rootsmen whose faith is constant and true. This book goes straight to the heart with truths that are seldom written but often said in my home country.”

Patterson’s book is not one you put down. I believe I have read it four or five times. There is Revivalism on the one hand and Rastafarianism on the other. The slums of Kingston where a man might say a prayer in the morning and be dead by nightfall. Prayers did not work as fast as bullets, but in the end, it was the Bible that won the war.

It is Brother Solomon in Patterson’s story who said, “The Emperor said it was true that he has land ready and waiting for us, that he was aware of our plight and suffering, and that the days of our suffering were near an end. He has agreed to send one of his many warships, one of the very types he used to destroy the Italian fleet, to take us back home.”

So it was Garvey’s old dream of repatriation. Back to Africa. To the roots of life. Freedom from black and white oppressors. Nyabinghi, full blown.

Some did actually return to Liberia and one that I interviewed, Spreeboy, said that “President Tubman, though dead, would rise as spirit again and take the people back. Fear not,” he said. “The Lion of Judah shall break every chain and give us a victory, again and again.”

I can still see and hear Spreeboy speak with fire in his eyes: “The Emperor’s milk-white short pants and his passionate, moist face promising delivery to Zion.”

He said much, much more, and I dutifully wrote it down.

Once it was this:
“Every village has its Samson
Every town has its David
Every heart has its Solomon
Every star has its Jacob, ever climbing upward.”

(Gerald Hausman photo credit: Mariah Fox)


Gerald Hausman is an award-winning, bestselling author and a regular contributor to Stay Thirsty Magazine. His latest book, Little Miracles – A Memoir, will be released in the Spring of 2019.

All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.