Arts & Culture

No disrespect, says Yasus Afari

Thursday, October 19, 2017

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POPULAR dub poet Yasus Afari is adamant that no disrespect was meant to local officials and the House of Parliament when he refused to stand during the ceremonial proceedings in Kingston on Tuesday.

“I did not wish to rain on the Government's parade or be defiant just to draw attention and publicity to myself, but my actions were in harmony with what I saw as the courageous and historic act being so discussed by both sides of the aisle,” he told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

The dub poet drew the attention of the House when he refused to stand during the rituals which accompany the opening proceedings of the session. The entertainer, who had arrived with a group of Rastafarians, sat in the gallery and remained seated as the mace was brought into the chamber and prayers said.

House Speaker Pearnel Charles halted the proceedings to advise that all persons seated in the gallery were supposed to stand or they would be removed from the House. The proceedings continued but the dub poet did not budge.

Yasus Afari said he had gone to Gordon House to lend support to a colleague, Kabu Ma'at Kheru, as members of Parliament debated expunging the criminal records of local historical figures including Marcus Garvey, Paul Bogle and Sam Sharpe, and as a Rasta he was not prepared to subscribe to what he describes as the Euro-colonial Christendom aspects of the rituals.

“No one prepared us for what was involved and so I took a personal, principled stance, acting in harmony with the ankh-cestors. It was not my intention to clash with the authorities as I don't wish to be divisive, but I consider myself a gatekeeper for the struggle and therefore acted on a position of principle,” he said.

“When I listened to the presentations of Ministers (Robert) Montague, (Phillip) Paulwell, (Olivia “Babsy”) Grange, (Alando) Terrelonge, Mike Henry, as well as Prime Minister Holness, as the passion and vision they articulated on the matter, I had no energy, inspiration or appetite to endorse the rituals of the House. For me, my actions were not inconsistent with what was being said by the Ministers. My actions were my individual sovereign right. I was just standing in counsel with those who have gone ahead,” he noted.

Yasus Afari stressed that should the situation arise again, he would excuse himself from the House during the rituals, if allowed to do so, and return to the chamber afterwards.

“Based on history, I cannot endorse this. My conscience will not allow me to do this as a natural, living, sovereign man. Furthermore, I was not prepared to be shouted at and coerced. I am sensitive to the pressures that the Speaker of the House may have been under, so I don't take his actions personally.”

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