Greetings readers! I’m really excited about today’s post because it has provided me with the opportunity to amalgamate two features I am introducing for 2013 – reviews (primarily of books), and Real Men (i.e. interviews with progressive, positive Jamaican males who are making their mark on the world). Reading and writing have always been my first loves, and as some of you already know, I read for a degree in Literatures in English, so I decided late last year to start what I call ‘active reading’ again. There are tonnes of books on my list, so this is the first review. *happy dance*
I started reading an autobiography, Tried & True: Revelations of a Rebellious Youth by Dutty Bookman at the end of December and completed it on New Year’s Day as I really enjoyed it. Loved the narrative style and personalised effect achieved by the use of excerpts from his journals. I highly recommend the book. I found it to be an easy read, and a refreshingly honest, sometimes amusing, and highly interesting account of a young man’s spiritual awakening, personal trials, and passion to make a difference. I was impressed with it, especially being his first book, despite a few editorial glitches (which didn’t detract from the story for me really). It inspired me as a writer who writes to effect change, as well as a person undergoing a similar spiritual transformation, and by the end of it I had a lot of respect for the author and his story, so I contacted him for an interview (my notes are in brackets).
Get to know him a little more and go buy the book!
- What keeps you busy these days? How has your life changed since you published Tried & True? My life has been simple. I continue to live with my lady and our son who is now approaching two-years-old… any changes happening are usually associated with his growth, and I am enjoying the experience of fatherhood thus far. Apart from that, nothing much has changed. I’m still meditating revolutionary change. Oh! I started doing tai chi (Wu style). That’s new.
- You wrote about your experiences with three Jamaican media heavyweights – John Maxwell, Ian Boyne and Leachim Semaj – how did your encounters with these men help to shape your own writing? In terms of writing influence, it’s really only Mr Maxwell who had a profound influence on me. When I read his columns on a Sunday, I connected with his frankness and his relentless pursuit of truth. I eventually did a course with him and it was during that time that I learned his secret – ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH. Something so simple yet so rare today.
- Do you have any regrets about the demise of your radio show Reasoning? Are there any plans for a similar programme in the future? Regret is a thing I never really encourage with myself. Everything has a reason. I fail to learn. If I miss the lesson, then I will regret that. In the case of Reasoning, I learned way too much to regret. There are no plans for a similar programme right now but if a worthy opportunity came my way, I would give it consideration for sure. Right now I stream occasionally from my home. Music plus my occasional rants about social issues. There’s no set schedule for it; I just send out a few tweets and Facebook status updates when I’m on air. Whoever tune in just tune in. Good vibes.
- Allusions to your arrogance dotted the story, shed some light on how that played out in your life then, as opposed to how you handle it today. I grow up as a hype uptown youth. You know there are some people who genuinely believe their presence often matters more than others… Maybe that was me (haha). Eventually, a person like that will have to come face to face with the folly of their ways. Whether they learn from it and address it is really up to them. I wanted to show that aspect of myself because I was actively changing the arrogance to humility in my own way. By the end of the book, down to the very last sentence, I hope readers overstand (read: comprehend) why I feel like I have achieved success in that endeavour.
- Are you still heading in the direction of writing for arts/entertainment career-wise, or are you now on a different path? I don’t ever want to be viewed as an entertainment writer. Arts is not entertainment. Arts is indoctrination. Arts is serious business. Arts are the methods by which the culture of a people manifests itself in order to reinforce itself. I am a revolutionary with no gun, no weapons of mass destruction, and I feel strongly about arts and culture. Why is that? After man a nuh clown. Why you think Bob Marley did step to a microphone and sing “we’ll free the people with music” from those times? I know in my heart that healthy Creative Industries are a key component of liberation, so yes, I am still heading in that direction at the moment. My most exciting project right now is a book that I will publish as soon as possible. It is about the Reggae Revival happening right now in Jamaica.
- I found your accounts of your run-ins with the law to be hilarious, and very honest. How do you feel about those incidents now? I’m reading a book called The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. It explains how the system of mass incarceration highly resembles slavery and the old Jim Crow laws in the United States. It further shows how the “war on drugs,” originally declared by President Reagan, is the foremost tool by which the system legitimises the essential outcasting of predominantly Black and Latin people from society, even after they get out of jail, simply because they have a criminal record. So, yes, I always found my encounters with the law amusing because even though I never read a book about the justice system at the time, I already instinctively knew within myself that the poor souls charged with discriminating against people like me were not even aware of what they were doing in the bigger scheme of things. I still feel the same way.
- From your account, it seems as though your transformation to Rastafari was somewhat discreet, is this a deliberate writing strategy (where you didn’t wish to reveal too much about it), or is that how it really happened? When I wrote Tried & True, I was very much identified with a Rasta livity (read: faith and lifestyle) but I did not want to portray myself as defined by Rasta. I didn’t think it was fair to people who grew up strong in the faith that I, who had just really experienced a recent personal transformation aided by Rastafari, would be seen by my readers as representative of the true essence of Rastafari. At the same time, I do have a spiritual relationship with Haile Selassie I, and I wanted that much to be known in the text.
- You mentioned two very profound dreams about Haile Selassie I on pages 49-50, as well as physical manifestations of his approval of ‘Dutty Bookman’ through the universe (110), ‘Selassie drop’ and ‘Voodoo moon’ 112-113… how did these occurrences tie in with your spiritual awakening and/or assist you on your revolutionary mission? Dreams are important road maps. The more vivid they are the better. As I explained in the book, I was on the verge of a drastic change that I didn’t necessarily want to do. I was conceding to the system. Then I had a dream about His Imperial Majesty and suddenly I had a change of mind. That dream essentially taught me the true meaning of the oft-said “follow your dreams.” It’s not necessarily following your aspirations but literally you have to follow the signs in your dreams because, as Carl Jung would probably agree, these dreams are messages for you and only you from the collective unconscious. Then, as with the other instance you mentioned, signs come in the actual physical realm too. So that series of events that happened to me, I interpreted as permission to carry forth my work with the name Dutty Bookman, which is not my given name in this incarnation. Ever since around that time, I have made it a point of duty to pay attention to whatever my senses (physical and otherwise) detect.
- In an excerpt from the cover you said, “As a concerned human being who tries to do for others, it is important to remain true to oneself or otherwise risk being of no use to the revolution at all”. Given the journey you’ve had, and where you are now, do you feel like you’ve successfully mobilised the youth here (in Jamaica) and catalysed this revolution? I feel satisfied that I am playing my role, yes. I see things in motion that I don’t think would have happened without my energy involved at certain times. It’s a privilege to be one of the number. There’s a lot more work to do and I hope I can continue to make contributions as needed. Health and strength is all I require.
- Your speech at Liberty Hall – The Way Forward For Pan African Youth – was particularly moving and rather insightful. Do those views still stand for you? How would you restructure this address if you had the opportunity to speak at a similar gathering this year? I think it still stands. If I read it again, I might find one or two things I would say differently. I ALWAYS want to change something, which is why I try to condition myself to just do things and let them go. There comes a point where you spoil a thing by over-thinking.
- What are your views on the current status of Manifesto Jamaica now that you’ve closed that chapter? Well I wouldn’t say the chapter is closed. I’m not as heavily involved, but I try to check in once in a while to know what is happening. I believe in the people who are in charge of it as long as the stewardship of it is in line with their own personal growth as well.
- And finally, how do you feel about your book now? Is there anything that you’d have wanted to write differently? Like I said, I ALWAYS want to change things. I have not read Tried & True cover to cover since its publishing in 2011. Parts of it already embarrass me. Not like I regret anything, but I’ve already grown beyond some of what I portrayed in the book. In fact, I was already changing while writing it, but the purpose of it was to leave a record of my coming of age, so to speak. I had to just stick to the facts and try to transport my mind to the past self that I was describing to portray him properly.
- I’m introducing this Real Men feature to help shed light on Jamaican men who are actually working to make a positive difference, as opposed to the negative views that are often postulated, and you are my first 🙂 how do you feel about this stereotype? I think there are a lot of examples of negativity in our young men, but if we stop giving the media reasons to portray us in that way, then it will eventually have to end. Positivity is on the rise again though. Life is just easier when you live in love and respect others. If you genuinely feel love and respect in yourself, you will automatically put effort into your words and your actions. And it’s contagious. (I SO agree with this!)
- Feel free to add any last words/thoughts etc here… Your questions were so thought-provoking that I feel like there isn’t much more to add. I just want to bless up (read: honour and thank) everyone who read my long-winded responses. I hope they take away much usefulness from my words. Buy my book (it’s on Kindle too), read it, and come talk to me about it. I’m easy to find online. Give thanks.
Click to buy the book on Amazon here… it’s reasonably priced at US$11.99. You may also visit his website/blog www.duttyism.com and purchase autographed copies there for US$20/$25 depending on your shipping address. Oh! You should follow him on Twitter too @duttyBOOKman, and ‘like’ his page on Facebook here.