In this short writeup, I reflect on a workshop I designed and facilitated during one of the Centre for Global Studies’ Global Talks sessions at the University of Victoria. The interactive workshop centered on using applying theatre as a viable tool to perform the ‘not-yet’. I invited participants to brainstorm on issues that relate to refugees/internally displaced persons for collective action characterized by ‘educated hope’.
My current research is on violence and the ways that it can often dehumanize those who are already vulnerable. I am preoccupied with exploring how certain groups are targeted and the legacies such violations leave on the collective consciousness of a community. I am interested in the case of Jamaica specifically, because I was born and raised there but I am also interested in comparing Jamaica against other countries known for similar levels of state violence. Growing up in Jamaica I saw police violence first hand and I saw it often. The fact that the “Tivoli Incursion” has stayed with me 7 years after taking place, speaks volumes about the kind of mark it left on all of us Jamaicans, especially those who were home at the time. In the narrative to come, I talk a bit about Tivoli, about violence generally and how all us Jamaicans are implicated each time a baton is swung.
“Even though the captive flesh/body has been ‘liberated’… the ruling episteme that releases the dynamics of naming and valuation, remains grounded in the originating metaphors of captivity and mutilation so that it as if neither time nor history, nor historiography and its topics, shows movement, as the human subject is “murdered” over and over again” (Spillers, 1994: 459).
The bodies in Tivoli were disposable long before the siege. The people were poor and black, which, in Jamaica like so many other former colonies, translates into a kind of prolonged invisibility. The people of Tivoli were mired in a kind of poverty that saps your optimism but they persisted.
The community of Tivoli, in 2010 was controlled by the Shower Posse, which was run by the area Don, Christopher “Dudus” Coke. An international drug and gun runner, Dudus, helped to keep Tivoli afloat. The man is an enigma, who wasn’t only a criminal but in many ways was a lifeline for many in his community. When the U.S. government demanded that he be extradited, the Jamaican people held their breath. One of two things would happen, they would either come for him or we would give him up. I prayed they would come; have them do the work themselves. Our police and our politicians had been getting bloody on their behalf for decades and there is something about taking a beating at the hands of your own. It leaves collective scars that just will not heal. Instead, we rounded up teams, strapped with automatic weapons and sent them into people’s homes and their schools and their churches. When the guns were laid down, Dudus was not found and 70 bodies were hauled off to the morgue. What we saw here was the dynamics of naming and valuation unfolding. The people here had no value, no voice and their lost lives have become nothing more than a footnote in our bloody history.
The Tivoli Incursion of May 2010 left at least 70 dead at the hands of the police and the military. Tivoli was left battered after the siege. It hasn’t yet recovered with no sign that it will. But how we do we remember those that have been lost when much of the narrative about the Tivoli Incursion was that the right kinds of people were done away with? This is the kind of rationale that emboldens the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Defense Force (JDF). We are Tivoli and Tivoli is us. What happens when the uniformed and armed come for the rest of us? Who decides which communities and which people are disposable? Who decides which kinds of folk are worth our grief or our demands for justice? We decide. We are implicated.
They were and moments later they were no more, and they were altogether forgotten before they were even buried. They are in death, as they were in life, an afterthought in our collective consciousness. And our failing to remember them and grieve for them implicates us in their deaths.