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.
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  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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