Crime parables

Tarrus holds court at UWI

Observer writer

Monday, January 29, 2018

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CONCERNS and solutions for Jamaica's growing crime wave were expressed at a forum with singer Tarrus Riley at The University of the West Indies Mona campus in St Andrew, last Friday.

Dubbed 'A Conversation on Graveyard with Tarrus Riley: The Rise and Fall of Rude Boys', the event unfolded at the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre with Dr Sonjah Stanley Niaah, director of the Institute of Caribbean Studies, as moderator.

The visuals for Graveyard, a song released by Riley in October, set the tone for the forum. Directed by Nile Saulter, the video follows a young man involved in his family's fishing business but who is also a criminal. Even though he is warned by a relative to forsake his gun and change his life, he commits murder.

The cycle of poverty, scarce job opportunities, and limited education played out among the themes highlighted at the event.

The greatest concern raised for attendees, however, was the role of entertainers in reducing crime.

Jamaica's murder toll surpassed 1600 in 2017. Since the start of the year, more than 100 people have been reported murdered by the police.

Tarrus Riley believes it is unfair to lay the responsibility to help reduce crime on entertainers, and said everyone should get involved. He said education on gun control is one way of curtailing the problem.

“We should talk about guns in the household and in schools. We want awareness on violence, self-defence, and sex, and all of the things that we are being hypocritical and not talking about. We need to talk to the youth and show dem how it go and how gun go, and stop pretending that it doesn't exist in the real world,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

Riley said if artistes are to be held accountable for influencing young people, other professions should be as well.

“Yeah, there are gun lyrics, but you have gun movies, you have gun novels... When I'm educated pon a level, when I see a movie I can say: 'You know what, this is a movie, but life is not like the movie. This is a song.' I love nuff a dem rude boy song too, but guess what, me know that's music. I don't bash any artiste. When mi a exercise me waan hear two gunman lyrics too, but guess what, mi just know that's a song, it have a drive, it have an energy, we not taking it literal, so that's education. It's not at the foot of the musician nor the creative people, it's the people of the household to teach them what is real and what is not. If you don't influence your youths other people will or other things will,” he said.

Entertainers had run-ins with the law last year. Alkaline, Munga Honorebel and Ninja Man were the most high-profile. Alkaline spent four nights in police lock-up at Hunt's Bay in Kingston in February. He was detained after being questioned in relation to the January 13, 2017 murder of Rohan Morris in Maverley. He was, however, not charged and released. Munga Honorebel was arrested and charged in connection with the May 12, 2017 murder of Cleveland Smith. He currently awaits trial. He has declared his innocence. Ninjaman was sentenced to life imprisonment in December for the March 2009 murder of Ricardo “Ricky Trooper” Johnson.

The matriarch-dominated household was another factor raised by Dr Niaah as a crime influencer. Tarrus Riley countered that there are gangsters who were raised in homes with strong fathers.

Some of his possible solutions to crime include a better justice system, teaching people how to love each other starting from the home, fostering a more disciplined society where rules are enforced (a comparison to First-World countries, creating job opportunities, and engaging youth to hear their perspective.

Riley also told the Observer about his views on the “informer fi dead” culture.

“Informa culture has been here long before we born. When we talk about informa it is always pointed on one set of people. I don't like the vibe that is always the people against the system, and the system against the people or the people against the police. Who has the information to inform? Why is it always on the citizens to talk on dem bredda? Why is it not the big guys talking against the big guys? It's a big, complex thing.

So it's not just one set of people fi talk up, everybody fi talk up,” he said.

Tarrus Riley is no stranger to peace initiatives. Last month, he held his annual free peace concert in New Kingston.

He is known for songs including She's Royal, Lion Paw and Parables.




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