The report brought back memories of a time and place long gone. We’re talking about the untimely death of Bruce Greenaway, and our recollection of the death of a member of the Rastafarian faith by the name of Ababa Brown back in the 70’s. Actually, the brutal and high-handed behaviour of police towards the Rastas back in the day (1970’s and 1980’s) gave rise to cries of ‘advantage’ by many scholars, poets, writers and calypsonians in written, spoken and sung entreaties. For example, The Mighty Chalice sang a lament entitled JUST FOR WAN CHALICE in which he testified, “Just for wan chalice, an empty chalice / Policeman beat me, ah didn’t have no tampie / The chalice was empty, but Babylon jail me . . .”
In WHO KILL MEH SISTER, King Obstinate heart-wrenchingly calls on the authorities, “Tell me, what are you doing about the tragedy / Police up and down in van, dey lockin up Rastaman, dey harassing Tim Hector, but dey can’t find who kill meh sister.” (May Ethlyn, the dear sister of Paul ‘King Obstinate’ Richards, whose killer has never been brought to justice, continue to sleep in peace). King Obstinate also sang another great classic called, Ah COMIN’ DOWN TO TALK TO YOU, in which he wails, “At de last election de Rasta say you plan fuh gi all ah dem land / But instead dey get bang, and police gi dem brain concussion.” Sigh!
But that type of law enforcement/ army brutality was a thing of a terrible distant past – a past where those entrusted with power and authority routinely manhandled people that they deemed worthy of punishment and ‘heavy manners.’ Members of the Rasta community were particularly singled out for the extra-judicial meting out of ‘heavy manners.’ Indeed, they would crudely cut the dreadlocks of the faithful as a means of killing their spirits and humiliating them. And it was not in Antigua alone. Who can forget the gruesome saga of Ras Kabinda Habre Selassie aka Desmond Trotter in Dominica? If you recall, he was sentenced to be hanged for the 1974 killing of a ‘white man’ during Carnival celebrations there in 1974. Many felt that the charges were trumped up, and that he was framed because of his political activism and his strident Black Power rhetoric and writings. He was eventually released from prison circa 1979, after an international outcry and appeals from people of goodwill. Last we heard, Ras Kabinda Selassie, now an elder in the Rasta faith, is living in Ethiopia. (By the way, the highly-esteemed Ras Kabinda was defended by a bright young radical lawyer named, Maurice Bishop. Bishop went on to become the leader of the New Jewel Movement that seized power in Grenada on March 13, 1979). (see Short Shirt’s, STAND UP GRENADA)
Yes, it was a sordid chapter in Caribbean history where the Rastafarian movement so often would come in for enormous law enforcement brutality. Let us not forget the infamous Coral Gardens incident in Jamaica in 1963 when Rastas all over Jamaica were rounded-up, beaten and tortured by police and military personnel. Many were killed. For shame! Thankfully, and to his credit, our Prime Minister, the Honourable Gaston Browne, has apologised for the many atrocities heaped upon Rastas by the authorities here in Antigua and Barbuda in years past. He has embarked on an effort to repair some of the damage done to the community. Apologies and reparations have also been forthcoming in a number of other Caribbean countries.
But we digress. That was then. This is now, and we’re merely talking about the memories that were conjured up by the demise of the aforementioned, Bruce Greenaway. Today, we are faced with his death; he was allegedly last seen in the presence of army personnel. His body was found at Indian Creek this past Easter Monday. According to his heartbroken family, as reported in yesterday’s DAILY OBSERVER [May 26, 2020], “When we saw his dead body, you would think he was born with deformities. There is visible evidence that he was beaten badly. . . he died of strangulation . . .”. Sigh! Mind you, the OUTLET newspaper carried several articles questioning the behavior of law enforcement personnel back in the 70’s in the case of the previously-mentioned Ababa Brown who reportedly “died from wounds consistent with a beating” while in their custody. Sigh!
Of course, we do not wish to rush to judgment. The investigation is in an “advanced stage” according to the police Public Relations Officer, Inspector Frankie Thomas, and we applaud the swiftness with which the authorities appear to be dealing with it. Colonel Telbert Benjamin, the Chief of Defence Staff has also indicated that the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force has completed its internal investigation and duly submitted its findings to the police. All well and good! After all, the blood of Bruce Greenaway cries out from the soil for justice! His distraught relatives are also making the same plea. As is the Member of Parliament (MP) for St. Paul, the constituency from which the deceased hailed, the Honourable E.P. Chet Greene. The MP has called for this case to be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
Noteworthily, longtime community activist, Gregory “Driftwood” Athill was one of the very first to raise an alarm at the circumstances surrounding the discovery of Greenaway’s body. Driftwood made a call for a robust investigation, and we will not forget his sorrowful appeals on our very own VOICE OF THE PEOPLE broadcasts. Greenaway was somebody’s son, somebody’s brother. He was a part of us. He was blessed with two precious daughters – one barely ten years old, and the other, all of nineteen years. What do we tell them? Their spirits are crushed, and we can only imagine the terror and heartache that they’re experiencing. Not to mention the interminable sleepless nights, pillows drenched with tears, and the burning questions: “Who beat daddy and snuffed out his life? Who snatched him away from us? And why?” We here at NEWSCO can feel their pain, and we’re asking the self-same questions. We will not rest easy until the person or persons who committed this heinous crime is brought to justice. In the meantime, we will keep the bereaved family in our prayers, asking the good Lord to cover them with His blood and comfort them in their hour of grief.