'Tosh's music inspired me'

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 24, 2019

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Global cannabis activist Steve DeAngelo was last Thursday recognised with the Equal Rights and Justice Award at the fourth annual Peter Tosh Awards.

DeAngelo, an American, was recognised for his more than 40 years of advocacy for the legalisation of ganja and more recently his Last Prisoner Project, which seeks to obtain the release of persons still incarcerated on ganja charges especially in parts of the world where the weed is now legal.

He was not present to accept his award, but head of the Peter Tosh Estate, Niambe McIntosh, told the audience at the Peter Tosh Music Festival two days later, that DeAngelo continues to lead the way and carry on her father's legacy.

“This individual may not be popular in Jamaica, but he has been trodding on and is a real stalwart in the cannabis industry, helping to legalise cannabis but now transitioning over to the cause of equal rights and justice. There is a quote from him where he says he will not rest until every cannabis prisoner is released. So we as the Peter Tosh Museum wanted to honour and celebrate this individual and present this award,” she told the audience at the concert staged at the Pulse Centre in New Kingston.

DeAngelo responded to the award via a video, noting that it was the music of Peter Tosh that got him through some of his darkest days and still offers him the courage to press ahead with his advocacy.

He described the late reggae icon as a general in the army fighting the battle against stigma, and one who endured brutality and trials in order to bring about the level of acceptance many are experiencing today. DeAngelo described Tosh's music as the marching orders for the army, inspiring the troops to stand up for their rights.

“On a personal level, his songs got me through some of the darkest, most challenging times of my career in the 1980s and 90s, times when it was scary to be a cannabis activist, and he reminded me 'I am that I am'. Even when the prohibitionists tried to convince me that I was a vicious criminal, he reminded all of us that there cannot be peace without justice and that an injustice done to one of us is an injustice done to every single one of us. And when we were tired, weary and discouraged, Peter's songs promised us a new day, a day of redemption, a day of reckoning, a day when our oppressors would have no place to run and no place to hide, the 'Downpressor Man' would be on the run.”

“It continues to this very day when I consider the hundreds of thousands of cannabis prisoners still incarcerated across the world. Peter's songs inspire me to keep on working, keep on struggling, keep on moving until we bring every single one of them home to their family. When I consider the millions of people who are still suffering needlessly because they don't have access to the world's most precious, valuable medicine I am recommitted to make sure that we keep on moving this movement forward until every single person on this planet who needs this plant has it legally and safely and has it affordably,” he continued.

Other awards weent to: Douglas Gordon who received the Legalise It Award; culture minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange who was presented with the stepping Razor Award; and Cedella Marleywas recognised with the Bush Doctor Award.


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