Sunday Gleaner readers got a glimpse of a letter from incarcerated Dancehall artist Vybz Kartel (born Adidja Palmer) to University of the West Indies (UWI) Professor of Literary and Cultural Sudies Carolyn Cooper addressing his incarceration and current legal situation. This is the first public statement from Kartel since his September 2011 arrest.
Dr. Cooper wrote an editorial from the viewpoint of a mother, her main argument being that his controversial persona Vybz Kartel is a stark contrast to Adidja Palmer. ”Vybz Kartel couldn’t be foolish enough to think that Adidja Palmer could get away with murder!” she states.
In the letter issued from the Horizon Remand Centre in Spanish Town where he currently resides, Kartel states his innocence:
“I am an innocent man who needs your help because I’m being painted as this evil ‘D.J. by day, don by night’ murderer who is society’s number one cause of crime and violence.”
According to him the police and media have already painted him guilty:
“The police is using the media to slaughter me and as such I don’t think I will get a fair trial.”
He tells Dr. Cooper that this situation is no soap opera:
“I can assure you that this is no movie to me. This is about my life and my freedom and I take them very seriously.”
Kartel even goes on to compare himself to inmates who he says are not put under the same public scrutiny as him:
Vybz Kartel remains in jail despite having copped bail on a marijuana possession charge, as well as in a murder case in which he and other men stand accused of killing St. Catherine based promoter, Barrington ‘Bossie’ Burton last summer. He still remains in police custody regarding murder and obstruction of justice related charges in relation to the murder of St. Catherine dancer, Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams.
Here is the article from Cooper below. Kartel’s letter is highlighted:
“‘Yu a Kartel mada?’ A dat one lickle yute ask me one Satday last month. Im dida walk an sell inna Tropical Plaza. ‘Weh yu seh?’ mi ask im. Im see seh mi lickle slow. So im ton i roun: ‘Kartel a yu son?’ Mi ask im, ‘Wa mek yu seh so?’ Im seh, ‘Mi see yu pan TV.’”
So I’ve now joined the band of aggrieved mothers who routinely appear on national news loudly protesting against the arrest of their sons who, supposedly, have been falsely accused of crime.
The youth must have seen the LIME TV interview at the Trench Town Bob Marley Tribute Concert in which I said I wanted to visit Kartel at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre. Quite an ironic name! There can’t be much of a view of the horizon from that vantage point. The May Pen Cemetery, perhaps; but that place of final rest cannot possibly be an appealing horizon for most prisoners.
It’s not easy to visit the Centre. You need a TRN card – the TRN number on your driver’s licence is not enough. You also need two passport-size photos, certified by a justice of the peace. You have to submit a formal application, which takes two weeks to be processed. And the prisoner has to agree to be visited. Last week, I got the temporary TRN card, so the distance to the horizon is decreasing.
The man and the role
On air, I did express doubts about Kartel’s guilt, based purely on my assessment of the DJ’s intelligence: Vybz Kartel couldn’t be foolish enough to think that Adidja Palmer could get away with murder! That is certainly not an indulgent mother’s stubborn affirmation of her son’s complete innocence. It’s a recognition of an essential distinction between the man and the role he plays as a DJ.
At the now-infamous lecture Kartel gave last year at the University of the West Indies, I asked him a penetrating question: Does Adidja Palmer ever disapprove of Vybz Kartel? His frank response was, “Yes.” I think Palmer knows that Kartel is an unstable character. Stardom really does make some intelligent entertainers lose their grip on reality.
Like it or not, Kartel is undoubtedly an international pop star. This January, one of France’s premier newspapers, Le Monde (The World), carried a story on the DJ in its Culture and Ideas section. According to the journalist, Arnaud Robert, it was “one of the most-read articles on Le Monde website the week it was published”. The story is illustrated with a box of Kartel’s signature cake soap and a photo of the DJ, naked from the waist up, displaying the much-tattooed canvas of his skin.
Guilty with explanation
Truth really is stranger than fiction. The same week the youth asked me if I was Kartel’s mother, I got a letter from my questionable son. Over the three decades I’ve been teaching literature at the University of the West Indies, I’ve received ‘whole heap’ of letters from Jamaicans imprisoned at home and abroad. Many of them send poems, asking for help in getting them published. Prison seems to bring out the creativity of criminals.
I once got a letter from a young man locked up at the St Catherine District prison for murder. He did not pretend to be innocent. He was guilty with explanation, a peculiarly Jamaican plea: “Miss, my action was not premeditated we had an on the spot arguement which developed into a fight knives were brought into play he got a stab and die.”
What is so intriguing about this man’s account is his poetic use of the passive voice. He did not stab the man. The man ‘got a stab’. The grammar of the sentence absolves the stabber of responsibility. The knives that were ‘brought into play’ apparently acted all by themselves. And the victim was so inconsiderate that, having got a stab, he took it upon himself to die!
Using media to slaughter
In his letter, Adidja Palmer (definitely not Vybz Kartel in this case) most certainly does not plead ‘guilty with explanation’. He declares that he is completely innocent. ‘So mi get it, so mi give it’:
“Dear Ms. Cooper,
Good day to you and i hope you are in the best of health and the highest of spirits, but I am not.
“Ms Cooper as you know i am in jail on numerous charges and i’d like to tell you that i am an innocent man who needs your help because i’m being painted as this evil ‘D.J. by day, don by night’ murderer who is society’s number one cause of crime and violence. The police is using the media to slaughter me and as such i don’t think i will get a fair trial. They are using the media to form public opinion of me that is so contradictory to the person that I really am. They (police) have tried my case in the public & found me guilty.
“Every single piece of alleged evidence, every new development in the case is thrown on t.v. as if this is a soap opera, but i can assure you that this is no movie to me. This is about my life and my freedom and i take them very seriously.
“My charges are merely allegations, but they are giving the public the impression that i am guilty and that is not fair to me or my family.
“I have been to court on numerous occasions and saw hundreds of accused men who are charged with heinous crimes like murdering children, killing police officers, burning & shooting whole families and i have never once saw police on t.v. discussing the development of those cases, much less every week, as in my case.”
To be continued.
Carolyn Cooper is a professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Visit her bilingual blog at http://carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com/. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
As the saying goes innocent until proven guilty, but Kartel come on. How can you compare yourself, an international artist with fellow inmates, expecting that your case would be discussed behind closed doors. You lived your life on the world stage, and you still living don’t it? So…ah wah???
With all due respect, I don’t ge the purpose of the letter nor the editorial. Afterall I don’t expect to hear Kartel saying “yes I did it” any time soon.” So what are they trying to accomplish here? Sympathy?
Kartel is no saint, and he may very well be innocent, but I would advise he let his lawyers do the talking, where it really counts. The music loving public can be very forgiving, so if proven innocent, he might get back to his music career… so let’s wait till the verdict nuh before any more public statements.
….and sidenote, I wonder if Kartel told Ms. Cooper to publish that letter. It was addressed to her, not me. Not Jamaica. Not the world.
What do you guys think? Does writing this letter in any way helps Kartel’s case?