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The near two hour ride into rural St. Mary had finally deposited us at our destination. We were in Woodside, home to celebrated Jamaican author, academic, founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ‘Black Space Limited’, Dr. Erna Brodber.
The familiar sights came back to me, slowly at first as my sensibilities adjusted, then with a rush. Not much had changed since my last visit over a decade ago. There, perched on the gently sloping hill was the one room structure which doubled as church and community centre.
Even the few birds above who had turned out to see who the visitors were, this time, seemed familiar. The lush green of the undulating hillside stood in stark defiance to the baking heat surrounding us. Woodside was preserved in time environmental factors notwithstanding.
I was happy to disembark from the cool air-conditioned coaster bus, which stood throttling as the weary but excited passengers peeked out into the sleepy, rural Jamaican countryside town. I had previously been part of another group from the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus which had also journeyed to Woodside.
Then, it was mostly students registered in the ‘African Diasporic Women’s Writings’ course (E21G), taught by Professor Carolyn Cooper. She was also the chief organiser of that trip. I smiled as I recalled that I had got an ‘A’ for my efforts in that class. But I digress…
Naively, we had all thought of ourselves as budding intellectuals and academics, at the time, largely on account of having read through the very complex, though very entertaining narrative of ‘Jane and Louisa’. Named after the Jamaican Ring Game (nursery rhyme) of the same name, we had managed to convince ourselves that we were the heir-apparents to literary greatness, as a result of that small feat. Or so we considered it at the time.
The deceptive simplicity of the ‘Jane and Louisa’ story mirrored much of the manner of the woman who now stood at the door of the community centre, broom in hand, tufts of wooly white hair exposed. Erna Brodber had come to greet this new cohort of visitors to her hillside haven.
The security forces launched a massive offensive in one of Jamaica’s highly touted crime centres, Tivoli Gardens, four days ago. At the end, the body count in the West Kingston community registered seventy-three, including also some security personnel. However, there is still no sign of the man they are seeking. The most notorious fugitive this side of the hemisphere, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke has managed to elude their grasp.
Tivoli Gardens which is is reeling from the aftershock, following the upsurge in violence and instability, is also home to the internationally renowned ‘Passa-Passa’ street party event . ‘Passa-Passa’ is rightly the mother of all Jamaican streets parties. It is housed in what former Police Commissioner Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin referred to as ‘the Mother of all garrisons’.