Winston Rodney Dashes Another Fire Under The Genovese Explorer
It might not be his favorite holiday, but this Monday may be Burning Spear’s best Columbus Day ever. The roots reggae legend has been calling Christopher Columbus “a damn blasted liar” since 1980, when he dropped Hail H.I.M. On a crucially crucial album that includes cuts like “Road Foggy,” “African Postman,” and “Cry Blood Africans,” it’s still track #2 that bangs the hardest. Over a chugging bassline and a zippy horn figure, Spear chants a relentless critique of the colonial curriculum and conventional wisdom that “Columbus discovered Jamaica.” But as Spear inquires with righteous indignation, “What about the Arawak Indians and the few black men who were down here before him?” While it’s true that Columbus landed in St. Ann’s Bay—the birthplace of both Marcus Garvey and Winston Rodney—on May 4, 1494, paving the way for Juan de Esquivel to usher in 150 years of Spanish rule over Jamaica until 1655, when the British drove them out and took over for the next three centuries (hence the Wailers’ “400 Years”).
Twenty-nine years ago, Spear was a voice crying out in the wilderness, but nowadays his point of view has gained wider acceptance. According to a recent AP report, Columbus’s stature has declined so much that some school districts will not be closing in observance of the holiday. One fourth-grade class in Pennsylvania went so far as to put Columbus on trial this year—charging him with misrepresentation and thievery. (He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.) Nationwide, increasing numbers of students have a dim view of the intrepid Italian explorer—except of course when he gets them a day off from school. Their views on reggae music, however, remain unchanged and the Spear keeps on Burning. Let it go…