Hard woman fe dead

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Annie Paul Annie Paul is a writer and critic based at the Univer­sity of the West Indies and au­thor of the blog, Ac­tive Voice (an­niepaul.net). Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com or tweet @an­niepaul.

PRINCE BUSTER died on Septem­ber 8 this year, roughly two weeks ago. I re­mem­ber feel­ing a deep sense of loss all day long into the next few days that was ex­ac­er­bated by the scant at­ten­tion lo­cal me­dia were giv­ing the news. On the day of the lat­ter-day su­per­star’s death, ra­dio and TV news­casts in Ja­maica car­ried it way down in their line-up. None of them even had the sad news as a top three item, as far as I re­call.

I didn’t know Prince Buster per­son­ally. I know that he was a cru­cial pi­o­neer of the suc­cess story that is Ja­maican mu­sic, and I love his mu­sic and his swag­ger­ing his­tory. When @Dahli­aHar­ris said, “The way in­ter­na­tional me­dia is pay­ing trib­ute to Prince Buster is amaz­ing. We need to teach our youth about our Ja­maican le­gends,” I com­pletely agreed. The news of Prince Buster’s death should have led news­casts in Ja­maica on that sad day, for this was the pass­ing of a le­gend.

Think about it. Had a pal­try politi­cian from the top two rungs of Par­lia­ment died, it would have led the news here, but some­one who helped to put Ja­maica on the map through mu­sic, some­one who in­spired so many peo­ple world­wide that when you Google his death you get a list of trib­utes pub­lished in all the top global me­dia – The New York Times, BBC, The Econ­o­mist, The UK Guardian, Rolling Stone – no, of course not – that’s sec­ondary news in the coun­try of his birth.

The Econ­o­mist’s trib­ute de­scribed Prince Buster’s life as “a chron­i­cle of the trop­i­cal tem­pest that is mod­ern Ja­maica” and ended by in­vok­ing his block­buster Hard Man fe Dead:

“In his 1966 record Hard Man fe Dead, Prince Buster sings the tale of a corpse who stead­fastly re­fuses to die. It’s an ode to the in­domitable spirit of his coun­try­men — and a fit­ting trib­ute to his own legacy:

“Now the pro­ces­sion leads to the ceme­tery,

The man holler out don’t you bury me!

You pick him up, you lick him down,

Him bounce right back, what a hard man fe dead.”

It’s at mo­ments like this that you re­alise there is some­thing se­ri­ously askew with the way Ja­maican so­ci­ety op­er­ates. This lop­sid­ed­ness also man­i­fests it­self in the in­abil­ity of the coun­try’s bour­geoisie to un­der­stand who Por­tia Simp­son Miller is and what she rep­re­sents to many peo­ple in this coun­try. “I’m a hard woman fe dead,” she said when she emerged tri­umphant from the in­ter­nal elec­tions of the Peo­ple’s Na­tional Party last week­end, hav­ing won 2,471 of 2,669 votes cast by del­e­gates.


This, af­ter a mount­ing cam­paign in the me­dia to dis­credit her in the weeks pre­ced­ing the elec­tion, on the grounds that it was time for her to go, par­tic­u­larly as her health seems in­creas­ingly to be an is­sue. The neg­a­tive cam­paign only seems to have spurred on the sup­port this grass-roots leader en­joys. In 2006, when Por­tia won the PNP’s lead­er­ship elec­tion for the first time, with the vast ma­jor­ity of PNP del­e­gates vot­ing for her, it was against the wishes of the ma­jor­ity of the party lead­er­ship at Cabi­net level, and in Par­lia­ment.

Un­for­tu­nately for the top

lead­er­ship, they soon re­alised that none of them could muster sim­i­lar sup­port from the del­e­gates and thus be­gan a decade of an un­easy coali­tion be­tween mid­dle-class and elite PNP lead­ers and Por­tia. Although some of them were in­volved in the cam­paign to has­ten her de­par­ture, they have now been told, in no un­cer­tain terms by the del­e­gates, that she will go when she, and they, are ready. With­out Por­tia, the PNP may never win an­other elec­tion, and that is the sim­ple truth of it.

As a wit once ob­served in re­sponse to snarky snip­ing about Por­tia Simp­son Miller’s lack of higher aca­demic de­grees, “Who say Por­tia don’t have PhD? Por­tia Have Del­e­gates. Seet deh? PhD.” An up­per St An­drew friend was bit­ter about Por­tia’s re-elec­tion as party leader, grum­bling that she needs to go, as she couldn’t

rep­re­sent the coun­try. “Why not?” I prod­ded. “No, man, she can’t speak for me,” came back the an­swer, and im­plicit in that state­ment was all the prej­u­dice and dis­re­gard too many of us feel to­wards the grass roots of this coun­try.

The sober truth, though, is that nei­ther can up­per St An­drew (and its coun­ter­parts) speak for the grass-roots any longer. That is why Por­tia still reigns – and why the pass­ing of Prince Buster should have been front and cen­tre of the news on Septem­ber 8, 2016. No two ways about that.


PNP Pres­i­dent Por­tia Simp­son Miller is full of glee as she holds four-year-old looka­like Tene­cia Kelly dur­ing in­ter­nal elec­tions at the Na­tional Arena last Satur­day.

In this 1964 file photo, Prince Buster per­forms at the May Fair ho­tel in Lon­don.

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