DJ Afifa's on justice mission for Vanessa Kirkland

BY BASIL WALTERS Observer staff reporter waltersb@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 06, 2012    

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REGGAE selector DJ Afifa Aza, is on a one-woman mission to get justice for the family of 18-year-old Vanessa Kirkland.

Afifa has appeared at cultural events with placards either side of her to sensitise the public to what she believes is the injustice that took place on the evening of March 20 when Kirkland, a student at Immaculate Conception High School, was killed by police during a police operation along Spanish Town Road.

"I just kind of want to find a way to say, 'Yow, we need to check it. So I am trying to use art to make a point. To promote social justice, to make a point about activism. I am trying to use art to do that, so in my little way, I am trying to be creative, but still, trying to do something that's impactful," Afifa told the Jamaica Observer.

One of her placards read, "Why don't we love our Vanessa Kirkland the way we love Bob Marley", while the other bore the words Marley helped make famous, "Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights."

It was at the recent premiere of the Marley documentary at Emancipation Park in St Andrew where Afifa debuted as a sole protester.

"Because the Bob Marley I think that I remember is a Bob Marley that meant more than the extravagance that happened in the park," she said. "And how can this extravagance happen in the midst of so much injustice?"

Born Michelle Harris, Afifa grew up in Spanish Town, St Catherine, an inquiring girl who always wanted to know "why?"

She has evolved into a woman who continues to challenge the world around her. The Vanessa Kirkland cause is her latest.

"I am calling this piece (the placard she wears), the ghost of Vanessa Kirkland and I am going to be wearing them everywhere I appear for the rest of the year," she said. Every space, every audience that I get, I am going to be carrying something to remember Vanessa Kirkland because people forget her and people forget people like her."

Vanessa Kirkland was a resident of Greenwich Town, Kingston 13. According to the police, about 9:00 pm on March 20, Vanessa and five other persons were travelling in a Suzuki Swift motorcar when, on reaching the birthday party they were going at Norman Road, they were approached by a police party.

Residents said they heard gunshots which were allegedly fired by the police.

Vanessa died on the spot, while the other occupants, including a 14-year-old, were admitted to Kingston Public Hospital with serious to mild injuries. The incident drew national outrage.

Executive director of human rights group, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), Dr Carolyn Gomes, described the shooting as "alarming".

The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), which monitors questionable police action, is probing the incident.

Afifa says she will not rest until there is closure.

"I cannot charge the policemen who did it. There are certain things I am not able to do right now," she stated. "But what I am able to do, is to make sure that people at least remember that this injustice should not have happened."




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