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Carlyle McKetty

Carlyle McKetty

By Carlyle McKetty—-

When a Village Fails its Young: The Tragedy of Buju and Kartel


Many of us are familiar with the proverb “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” and often repeat it but do we really understand the profoundness of this wisdom from our ancestors? On the heels of the conviction of Buju Banton, we now have the conviction of Vybz Kartel and many are asking why, while others paint a picture of conspiracy but just who are the co-conspirators?

Like Buju Banton, Vybz Kartel showed great promise at an early age and like Buju became a victim of the “bright is right” syndrome. The bright is right syndrome occurs when bright youngsters are repeatedly given a pass in the wake of incorrect behavior which tends to validate the behavior and leave them feeling invincible until a day of reckoning when the pass is not forthcoming because of the gravity of the situation.

Buju Banton

Buju Banton

Today, Buju and Kartel stand convicted not only because of their transgressions but also because of the failure of the village to properly raise its children. Notwithstanding their histories, both Buju and Kartel were invited to grace the University of the West Indies as worthy celebrities and not withstanding Kartel’s history and the evidence presented in his case, the media is reportedly bemoaning what it considers a lack of support from the music fraternity.

Yet, despite its own chronicling over time of Kartel’s path to his cell, a tale of talent comingled with vice, avarice, mayhem and corruption, the media’s position is understandable in the context of the nature of the village. The conviction of Kartel took place alongside the successful lobbying by the government sponsored Jamaica Reggae Industry Association, members of parliament and others, to exclude from anti-gang legislation, a clause which required that “A person may not use a common name or identifying sign, symbol, tattoo or other physical marking, color or style of dress or graffiti or produce, record or perform songs to promote or facilitate the criminal activity of a criminal organization.”

Vybz Kartel

Vybz Kartel

In a b-roll clip from the UWI lecture by Kartel, a beaming Professor Carolyn Cooper is seen querying Kartel about the distinction between Vybz Kartel and Adija Palmer and it is not surprising that Kartel would address the judge in his case by saying “My Lord, I bleach my skin and I am heavily tattooed also. My Lord, that is merely superficial; that is the persona of Vybz Kartel, not Adidja Palmer. My Lord, I think you will agree, I am a normal man. I even have a family, some of which are here today, including my grandmother, cousin and mother-in-law.”

Not withstanding that the murdered Clive “Lizard” Williams could not also be there, and the evidence presented in the trial, attorney-at-law Miguel Lorne is cited in the media lamenting that Kartel was found guilty on the basis that he had been making attempts to broaden his horizons and reform his life while he was on remand awaiting his fate. “He had actually started reading uplifting material like the Autobiography of Malcolm X, The Philosophies and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, The Promised Key and books on herbal healing. He was also seriously considering to stop bleaching,” Lorne told the Sunday Observer, seemingly oblivious to the evidence presented… as if being bright made it all right.

The sooner we get past the “bright is right syndrome” and put an end to “bright privilege” the better equipped the village will be to raise its children and I can only hope that day “soon come”.


Carlyle McKetty is co-founder and president of the Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music (CPR) and host of the popular talk program Real Talk on CPRLive.

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