Positive ‘VYBZ’ in Gaza City
THE entrance to the Waterford housing scheme in Portmore, St Catherine, is littered with spray-painted signs declaring 'We Love you
LA Lewis', but it is a different scene inside the working-class community.
The word 'Gaza' is scrawled on everything — from a cook shop to a mural bearing Jamaica's National Heroes. It is a show of widespread support for jailed deejay Vybz Kartel who grew up in the neighbourhood.
It is also where the lanky entertainer ran his Portmore or Gaza Empire.
Kartel is charged jointly with fellow entertainer Shawn 'Shawn Storm' Campbell, Kahira Jones, Shane Williams and André St John for the August 2011 murder of Clive 'Lizard' Williams at Kartel's home in Havendale, St Andrew.
Yesterday. High Court judge, Justice Lennox Campbell, began his summation of the case in the Home Circuit Court.
When the Splash team visited Waterford recently, a group of young men on Block 5 were enjoying a game of ludo while aspiring artistes rehearsed songs. No Games, a collaboration between Kartel and Gaza Slim (one of his protégés) blared from a nearby residence.
Despite the charges against him, support for Kartel (Adidja Palmer) is intact.
"Living in Waterford has inspired my decision to pursue music. Not only have I seen an' experience a lot here, but this is the homeland of the 'Wurl Boss', Vybz Kartel. He along with others help pave the way for artistes like myself," said Romaine Pottinger, a deejay known as Tussan Gaza.
A few blocks away, Marcus McDonald, operator of five-month-old VyTek Recording Studios, was busy 'voicing' several young acts.
"I open my doors to any good talents and Waterford is overflowing with that. The youths here use music as an avenue to escape any negativity that they may encounter," McDonald explained.
Some Waterford youth claim that since Kartel's incarceration nearly three years ago, they have been victims of police harassment.
"On (Kartel's) court days is like a campaign, they terrorise us. We are not saying that they should not do their job, but we hate the intimidation. We are not bad men... we just want to do music," Pottinger explained.
His sentiments were echoed by the circle of Kartel supporters around him, who say they have been hauled into police vehicles and driven around for hours before being released.
Also on Block 5 is a wall dedicated to Kartel and his Portmore Empire. His support here crosses the generation gap.
"Kartel is not that evil as society makes it seem. They pushed him against a corner and he fights back. It's not an inborn concept, is about survival," said upcoming poet and Waterford resident Richard Palmer (no relation to Vybz Kartel).
Eighty-seven-year-old Dorothy Bailey lives next to Kartel's childhood home. She recalled his antics.
"Oh Lord, I used to flog him whenever he would cut school... something that is common among young boys. However, he excelled academically and isn't easily fooled," she said. "All those things that I hear that 'Addi' do is hard to believe; I don't know him as that type of person."
None of Kartel's supporters believe he committed murder and are confident an 11-member jury will find him not guilty. Until then, they anxiously wait on the Gaza strip for their hero's return.