By Nazma Muller
I can't identify exactly when I started this trip. You could say that it started when Columbus arrived in Moruga, on the south coast of Trinidad, and turned that paradise into a plantation. His arrival brought my African, Indian and Chinese ancestors, and completely modified the universe of my indigenous people. During the last 500 years the trip to redemption has been in development: since the conquest of the Iere [original indigenous name of Trinidad] by the Crown of Spain with the approval of the Catholic Church, going through wave after wave of immigrants, until this crossroads of history in which we all cling precariously to our position in this perfect and more modern incarnation of Babylon.
All immigrants are trapped here, in an increasingly chaotic plantation, trying to “pass it” and wishing that “criminals” don't catch us. But, as Tosh clearly sang on the radio through the soundtrack of my Creole childhood on the East-West corridor of Trinidad: “Everyone is crying for peace / No one is crying for justice… Tell me, who are the criminals?
You better believe that the personal is political. But not in the dishonest, brazen and cunning way in which the puppets of the PNM [Popular National Movement, current ruling party of Trinidad and Tobago] and the UNC [United National Congress, current opposition party] give themselves the great life. On this small island, if your family has no money, your life options are limited. Given my origin, I would probably have gotten pregnant during the sixth grade of high school if my mother hadn't broken her back to send me to Holy Name Preparatory. That's how I avoided falling for the Common Entrance Exam scam, and ended up in the Holy Name Convent sitting next to 1%.
Although it belonged to 99%, I was lucky to have access to a very good academic education. I was able to enter the University of the West Indies to study sociology. There I met a tutor named Dauius Figueira, a radical thinker whose obsession was drug trafficking. At that time I thought he was a leftist, since he talked about cocaine, ganja and gang murders. This was before they executed Dole Chadee and his band. At that time I did not understand the rapid and irrevocable way in which drug trafficking and the oil boom would change to Trinidad, but not to Tobago.
Then I traveled to Jamaica to work as a journalist, and well, the rest is history. I guess it happened when The Jamaica Observer sent me to Ocho Rios to cover the Reggae Sunsplash. It was during the first night under the stars, after listening to the ska and the rocksteady hits for hours and after the great and wide musical repertoire of these people unfolded in front of me, that my life changed.
For the past 25 years these revolutionaries have inspired and enlightened me, from intellectual giants like Louise Bennett, Rex Nettleford and Barry Chevannes, to musicians like Buju, Beenie and Chronixx.
As a reporter I could see the ghettos, the boardrooms, the concerts, the mansions, the north coast, the fabulous hotels and the streets. I was even threatened by a man and dodged a bullet during the elections. I also had the opportunity to study the Rastafari livity [vital energy]. As a contributor to Caribbean Beat magazine, I interviewed Ziggy, Stephen and Skip Marley; and as an activist I was part of a Ryerson University panel with Bob Marley's granddaughter, Donisha Prendergast, whose film work includes the movie Rasta: A Soul’s Journey.
The ganja has been a source of inspiration, meditation and medication during my trip as a Caribbean of the working class and mixed race, trying to break through in this capitalist world. As a writer, she has helped me create and explore the borders and borders of my own mind. As a preventive medicine, it has helped me not to get sick and not suffer from any habitual and non-communicable disease of this lifestyle. And as a student of Castro, he has given me the courage to criticize the status quo. And that is why the State does not want the masses to use ganja, because it makes us conceited and makes us believe that we are equal to them. And then, without realizing it, we started talking about rights and we want a “change”.
For me, the struggle to legalize the ganja is a way to pay off the debt I have with my African ancestors for their years of unpaid work. Debt that has not yet been paid by the British, and that they may never pay, even if the Caricom Reparations Committee continues to preach in the desert. First I want a repair from my own Government!
In The Color of Darkness, a film about the work of the most important Rastafarian researcher in Jamaica, the late Barry Chevannes, men like Marcus Garvey, who tried to elevate themselves and their people through self-reliance and entrepreneurship, are analyzed. Rastafari have used ganja as a sacrament and as a means of survival, but they have paid a heavy price. Like many “baldhead” brothers who sought refuge and comfort in the therapeutic and calming effects of this herb.
Natural justice laws require that the grievances suffered by our people be corrected for their color and race. The vast majority of detainees and convicted of possession, cultivation and trafficking of ganja in the last 50 years are African or dougla. As the mother of a child, I feel compelled to act before he is old enough to become another statistic.
Nazma Muller is a Rastafarian, writer and defender of cannabis born in Trinidad