Ronny Cush: a class act

Observer senior writer

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

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This is the 70th year since the Empire Windrush docked in the United Kingdom, carrying hundreds of West Indians seeking work to bolster that country's war-torn economy. Most of them were Jamaicans who settled in communities in London, the Midlands, Nottingham, and Bristol. The Jamaica Observer presents the ninth in a 10-part series featuring Jamaican entertainment personalities who were either born in the UK or grew up there, and how living in that country impacted their lives.

IN November 1968 when 13-year-old Ronny Cush arrived in London with his mother and younger brother Alanzo, he was struck by something as they left the airport that he never before envisioned.

“I saw a young, blonde woman sweeping the floor. I looked at her and thought, where I was coming from a white woman like that would have a black person doing the sweeping, and a lot more,” he recalled in his book, African Roots: Abridged Black History.

A white street-sweeper was the first of many culture shocks for Cush, who was born in Annotto Bay, St Mary. His mother took him and his brother to the United Kingdom after they were sponsored by his father; Chester, a younger brother, joined them one year later.

His new home, he told the Jamaica Observer recently, “was one of wonder”.

Cush added that, “I had read and seen some of the environmental features in books before I landed there. The climate was not friendly to me — I hated it,” he said.

At the time, the UK's West Indian population was rapidly growing, with Jamaicans comprising the largest contingent. This did not go down well with many whites, including hard-line parliamentarians like Enoch Powell.

Interestingly, Powell was Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton South West, an area in the Midlands where many West Indians lived. In 1968 he railed against mass migration in his infamous Rivers of Blood speech in Birmingham.

Living in Nottingham, it was not long before racial animosity inspired a sense of black pride in young Cush, who became a Garveyite. He dropped his birth surname for the Afrocentric “Cush” and, while he trained as an auto mechanic, found his calling in acting.

Cush was among a wave of first-generation West Indian actors who broke ground by appearing on British television shows like Love Thy Neighbour and Desmond's. He appeared in the Thames Television series The Bill, and several theatre productions.

During the 1970s he befriended actors such as Trinidadian Rudolph Walker, who played Bill Reynolds in Love Thy Neighbour, and Norman Beaton of Guyana who had the lead role in Desmond's.

Cush's biggest role came in Return of The Jedi, in which he played Grizz Fitz who fought for the Alliance against the Galactic Empire in that epic movie's closing scenes.

But after 20 years living in the UK, Cush decided to move to the United States (“I left England because I got tired of the cold climate”) and settle in South Florida, where he lives today.

An in-demand videographer, he directs music videos and advertisements for stores in the region. Cush has written two booksthus far, the other being Photography 411.

Both were released in 2017.

Cush's brothers are still in the UK but he rarely visits there. Though the weather and racial discord were challenging, he credits the country for developing his creative skills.

“I enjoyed my time as an actor; what I learned then still serves me well to this day as a director. I learned many skills from my colleagues in that business,” he said. “I have fond memories of that period in my life.”

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