Needless to say Clifton Brown of ‘nobody canna cross it’ fame has exploded into celebrity. His recent sets of speaking engagements across the body of the local media landscape testify to this, with even this author interviewing him on a programme called ‘To the Point’ on Bess 100FM sometime in the previous week.
Most people have wanted to know, perhaps with justifiable humour, whether he has travelled outside of Jamaica as a means of explaining his seemingly acquired ‘accent’ for which he has gained notoriety. Indeed, the curious case of Clifton Brown is that, he is a most unassuming gentleman, rather unflappable in the face of great ridicule heaped on him by the members of the middle-class media establishment in their arrogant presumption that only those who use the English Language (well) are intelligent.
In fact, it needs to be said that Clifton Brown has maintained much of his originality by insisting in almost all of the interviews done with him to date that his case of the inadequate bridge is still very much real. He has not veered from that position, even though it has been said he has since acquired a Manager and, possibly, a Booking Agent to take advantage of the rumoured earnings at his expense.
Note, I say rumoured not so much because I disbelieve that there is a cash register that keeps ringing up earnings unbeknownst to Clifton but rather to point out that the actual details of those earnings may yet be beyond his immediate understanding. This is not to imply that Clifton is not smart; just not savy enough, at this time, to understand the nuances of the earning potentials.
Indeed, I submit that I too am a little behind in my awareness of how this process actually works. Though, there is no doubting that the use of his intellectual property by the enterprising D.J. Powa is a key part of the problem.
Based on the last information received, the creative, young deejay feels that he both has a right to earn from Clifton’s efforts to represent his community’s lack of needed infrasture and has insisted that the remix of the news report is his intellectual product. Indeed, he has even gone so far as to create t-shirts with some of the more notable soundbytes from the TV J report, among them ‘the bus can swim’. Thereby, clearly making known his agenda – profit at the expense of the poor, on account of their desperate circumstances and, in the specific case of Clifton Brown, his evident lack of training in proper presentation skills and sufficient exposure to media.
In fact, it is necessary to say that media use and interviewing skills, as well as language abilities are all talents which are not easily mastered by most. Those within the confines of air conditioned television and radio studios with the capacity to edit themselves before broadcasting their messages know that only too well. They are also aware that, they are sufficiently ahead of the curve, given how dependent media are on the efficient use of language in a myriad of contexts. There is no excuse for ridiculing and laughing shamelessly in the face of one not as accomplished but who is nonetheless concerned about a very serious problem in his community. The safety of residents who remain at the mercy of the elements given their under service by civic and other government institutions is very serious business.
Indeed, that Clifton has taken it on himself to highlight that he is a Christian and not an artiste, though he has perhaps unwisely gone ahead to retain the services of a management team also speak to the nature of the problems presented by this exceptional set of circumstances. It highlights just how confused we can become after making what are clearly well intentioned interventions in terms of bringing attention to certain matters of egregious civic neglect. Clifton’s goodwill, in other words, has now been subverted, in part, by the disrespectful media narrative sustained in some parts of the public middle class culture to which we so often defer in Jamaica.
In this way, highlighting why the poor often do not get heard and understood in their efforts to gain access to the seats of power. This is perhaps part of why at election times people do not bother to ask about platform issues and elect instead to vote on the premise of who can finance their children’s immediate need for school fees, a graduation dress, or even more urgent a day’s meal. It is entirely shocking and especially disrespectful too that more members of the viewing public, have not made a greater public outcry against the evident exploitation and generally uncharitable manner in which Clifton and his well intended interview has been treated.
To suggest that, DJ Powa, however enterprising, has any claims on the language use of Clifton Brown and the contents of the TV J news report is ludicrous at best. Note, no one is denying his obvious creativity. As a matter of fact, so creative is he that his talents have been acknowledged in the CBS news report which further catapulted the unsuspecting Clifton and the eager DJ Powa to fame and, possibly, fortune.
However, hardly much has been said in all this as to whether the bridge needed in Mr. Brown’s community, as well as the host of others which remain underserved by the state is being addressed. Indeed, no one has indicated too whether Clifton’s rights are to be protected and safeguarded in the current context, given the wide circulation of the video in the US and the Caribbean and, possibly, beyond.
Mercifully, Professor Carolyn Cooper, who has resolutely defended the language rights of poor Jamaicans and is a known cultural theorist has offered to intervene on Clifton’s behalf. More power to her, I say. However, I would also urge her to ensure that the officials consider naming the, hopefully, soon-to-be-built-bridge in his community ‘The Clifton Brown Bridge’. And that, some of the proceeds earned from the mass marketing of his image abroad be used to ensure that any of his five daughters, should they so choose, may take advantage of the university education Clifton has openly acknowledged he aspires to but did not attain (for obvious reasons, lack of sufficient means). It is perhaps why he has opted to remind that though he is not an artiste, having been offered the opportunities to record Dub-Plates for several sound systems since the remixed news report went viral.
Say what you will, Clifton suspects that something big is happening around, though he also appears somewhat overwhelmed by how to take advantage of what might well be an opportunity. I endorse, wholeheartedly, therefore, any project to get Clifton that bridge so that he can cross to the other side safely, especially as we are now in the Hurricane Season which started on June 1 and is officially scheduled to end November 30. That said though, I strongly believe Mr. Brown is also to be paid for the use of his image, against his wishes (‘I am not an artiste!). The benefits accrued from the subsequent creation and sale of t-shirts with his soundbytes should also redound to him in a meaningful way…
…This way, both Mr. Brown and the other concerned residents in his community of Robert’s Field will be able to cross the Yallahs River safely whenever it rains!