ABENG: Understanding the Gendered Underpinnings of the Black Power Movement in Jamaica

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Hailed as a watershed in Jamaican history (Payne, 1988:14), the Rodney riots of October 1968 signified a renewed black consciousness in Jamaica and set the seed for mass protest against the lowly conditions of the country’s majority black population.
  Kimberley GreenPolitics, Society and Development in the Modern Caribbean How useful is  Abeng in understanding thegendered underpinnings of the Black PowerMovement in Jamaica? Word Count: 2!" words onl#$im%erle# &reenPolitics' (ociet# and )evelopment in the ModernCari%%ean 1  Kimberley GreenPolitics, Society and Development in the Modern Caribbean How useful is  Abeng in understanding the gendered underpinnings of the Black Power Movement in Jamaica? Hailed as a watershed in Jamaican history (Payne, 1988:14), the Rodney riots of October 198 si!ni"ed a renewed blac# conscio$sness in Jamaica and set theseed for mass %rotest a!ainst the lowly conditions of the co$ntry&s ma'ority blac#%o%$lation he  Abeng  news%a%er was formed in *ebr$ary 199 and stood tochannel the re+ol$tionary ener!y created d$rin! this e%och his %a%er will del+edee%er into  Abeng &s %a!es to re+eal thro$!h %ersonal o%inion, historicalacco$nts and (satirical) ima!ery how the lac# Power -o+ement was framed ine.%licitly !endered terms / will "rst consider how di+erse ideolo!ical %ositions%romoted thro$!h  Abeng  lay claim to the co0wor#in!s of race, class and !ender%ower str$ct$res in Jamaican blac# society e.t / will criti2$e the ac$telymasc$linist inter%retation of the -o+ement and the im%act this had onconstr$ctions of blac# masc$linity in %artic$lar 3astly / will !o in search of   Abeng &s feminist conscio$sness in the ho%e of for!in! a more holistic %ict$re of the contrib$tions made by men and women to this re+ol$tionary era*$sed with the scholarly in$ences of %rominent 56/ "!$res s$ch as7eor!e ec#ford and 6alter Rodney, as well as 7ar+eyite %hiloso%hy,Rastafarianism and the +iews of merica&s lac# Power "!$reheads,  Abeng  wasan attem%t to showcase di+er!ent ideolo!ical %ositions on the s$b'ect of lac#Power in one accessible medi$m his strate!y was later criticised as the fail$reof the news%a%er to %romote one reso$ndin! messa!e, with col$mnistlac#man& char!in!: he line which treats e+erythin! from the mo$th of the%eo%le as !os%el is no line at all; (ben!, 1< $!$st 199: 4) Howe+er / %osit=  Kimberley GreenPolitics, Society and Development in the Modern Caribbean that this attem%t at $nifyin! e+erythin! from the mo$th of the %eo%le; hel%edto re+eal the dominant male forces at %lay in de"nin! the conto$rs of the lac#Power -o+ement (hereafter the -o+ement) *or e.am%le, 7eor!e ec#fordem%loys  Abeng  as a means of %resentin! his conce%t of blac# dis%ossessionbefore a %o%$lar a$dience (Hill, =>>?:1=) his s%ans two articles across twoiss$es of the news%a%er and attem%ts to bolster his masses witho$t means;rhetoric (ec#ford, 198>:) by em%hasisin! the control of economic %owerwithin society, a !reater reliance on %rod$ction for domestic mar#ets and thedecentrali@ation of %olitical %ower; (ben!, 8 *ebr$ary 199: A) hiseconomically char!ed +iew of lac# Power is contrasted with the o%inions of col$mnist and Jamaican m$sician Ras e!$s who ad+ocates for the ideolo!ical%osition of Rastafarianism in his article How / Bame to Cefend Rasta; (ben!,1= %ril 199: =) Here e!$s describes the reli!io$s mo+ement as fo$nded $%onthe di!nity of blac# %eo%le; and follows with an endorsement of -arc$s 7ar+eywho, seein! his race in a de!raded state;, s%ar#ed oD the li!ht of some form of re0c$lt$rin! of blac# %eo%le; (ibid: =) he contrib$tion of e!$s em%hasises theleadin! force of racial conscio$sness that Rastafarianism came to re%resent in Jamaica (Bam%bell, 198<:1=1), and is held $% a!ainst ec#ford&s economic%osition to hint at the distinct brands of nationalism (7ray, 1991:148)characterisin! the -o+ement ira E$+al0Ca+is (199?:4) !oes f$rther to s$!!estthat it is within this notion of nation& as consistin! of diDerent !ro$%scom%etin! for he!emony; that the !endered character; (ibid:4) of nationalistdisco$rses can be more readily $nderstood F+idently hi!hly !enderedinter%retations of the blac# nationalist scri%t were left $nchallen!ed by  Abeng  infa+o$r of em%hasisin! the %olitical, socioeconomic and racial im%erati+esdeemed f$ndamental to the -o+ement his so$!ht to le!itimise theA  Kimberley GreenPolitics, Society and Development in the Modern Caribbean -o+ement&s defa$lt male +oices at the e.%ense of women&s +isibility within thenews%a%er  he %rocess of e.cl$din! women from nationalist disco$rses achie+es thatof normalisin! a masc$linist orientation of the lac# ationalist %ro'ect; (3ewis,=>>>:==), and this becomes e+ident in  Abeng  as the literary s%ace is dominatedby male assertions of lac# Power and nation, rele!atin! women&s %olitical +oiceto the mar!ins -ost e.%licit is the assertion in the *ebr$ary 8 th  iss$e of  Abeng $nder the headin!  History of Jamaican Heroes;: he blac# man cannot be %ro$d of bein! blac# $nless he #nows his %ast *or thisreason, F7 will write e+ery wee# the life story of the !reat men in o$r history-en li#e BGFE, O5G-, - HRPF, P53 O73F and 7RIFE; (ben!, 8*ebr$ary 199: 4 emphasis in text  )  he ass$m%tion here is that it is blac# men who dominate and de"ne the realmof re+ol$tionary history in Jamaica and, more so, it is only thro$!h an$nderstandin! of blac# male historio!ra%hy that one can lay claim to a %ositi+eblac# national identity here is nothin! in this statement to acco$nt for then$anced ways in which women also contrib$te to the -o+ement $ch eras$recontin$es as the news%a%er, tr$e to its word, be!ins to %$blish s%eeches andhistorical acco$nts doc$mentin! the teachin!s of !reat men; s$ch as -arc$s7ar+ey and Pa$l o!le, s$stainin! what Payne (1988:) has described as atradition of national heroes; for the %$r%ose of '$stifyin! the news%a%er&smasc$linist orientation he %ril < th  iss$e dedicated to the life of Cenis loly, aformer contrib$tor to  Abeng , is another case in %oint %%reciation for loly&snational eDorts is com%lemented by the memorialisin! of internationally re+ered"!$res s$ch as -alcolm , Patrice 3$m$mba and *rant@ *anon he only womanto feat$re in this iss$e is loly&s wife, a self0%roclaimed middle0class whitewoman whose contrib$tion Ks / Gnew Him; is framed within a e$lo!istdisco$rse that rarely de+iates from the third0%erson %rono$n and a%%ears more4  Kimberley GreenPolitics, Society and Development in the Modern Caribbean of a strate!y on the %art of  Abeng  to mobilise s$%%ort across race and class linesthan to %romote -rs loyly&s inde%endent +iews, as she asserts: /t was notCenis& belief, or ben!&s belief, that there sho$ld be a racist re+ol$tion; (ben!,< %ril 199: =) t this %oint / m$st stress that / am not, as 3inden 3ewis(=>>A:98) has warned, merely disc$ssin! men and masc$linity as a means of ne!ati+e reinforcement; or attem%tin! to belittle the achie+ements of the menmentioned abo+e Howe+er, and by em%hasisin! the ine2$itable +al$e %laced onmen&s %artici%ation in the -o+ement, / aim to show that the %ossibility of  Abeng transformin! the socioeconomic conditions of all  blac#s within Jamaican societywas a +ac$o$s eDort if not fo$nded $%on a radical de%art$re from race, class and !ender %ower str$ct$res that %ro+ed e2$ally as o%%ressi+e to Jamaica&s blac#%o%$lation  his does not belie the fact that blac# men of the -o+ement were themsel+es+ictim to hierarchical male %ower str$ct$res, as the followin! ima!e s$%%orts 1  he white male forei!n ca%italist; is %ositioned mani%$latin! the %$%%et strin!sof Jamaica&s then Prime -inister H$!h hearer, with 6alter Rodney&s (199:1A)%ro+ocati+e reference to the %olitical elite as im%erialist lac#eys; comin! tomind here $ch sentiments were echoed thro$!ho$t the news%a%er&s AA iss$esand aimed to dri+e home the Baribbean de%endency theory of ew 6orld 7ro$%economists (Payne L $tton, 1984:1) s$ch as the aforementioned 7eor!eec#ford s means of challen!in! this racial, class and e+idently !enderedhierarchy it was also necessary for blac# men to constr$ct a co$nter masc$linitythat stood in de"ance of s$ch o%%ression herefore this ima!e sho$ld be read asan attem%t to reartic$late the colonial %astM the ensla+ed blac# man is #e%t;,and #e%t down, in order to ens$re the s$ccess of the dominant socioeconomic%ro'ect (ec#les, =>>4:==9) b$t ne+ertheless remains de"ant and reco!nises the1 ee %%endi. 1<
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