‘Jamaicans being held hostage by violent culture’: Lisa Hanna says death threats support her point on music
She said disgusting comments aimed at her, including death threats, over her view on music being produced by incarcerated deejay Vybz Kartel, only justified her point. Against that background, she said Jamaicans must be prepared to have a national discussion on the issue.
“The undisguised violence and vulgarity of the disagreements posted and the sheer volume of anti-social attitudes were like megaphones screaming at Jamaicans to wake up and smell the decay into which Jamaica’s proud history of decency and mutual respect has plummeted,” Hanna wrote in a post to her social media page on Monday.
Hanna, in a radio interview last week, reportedly said that she believes music produced by Vybz Kartel, from behind bars, should be banned from public airwaves, because he is a convicted murderer and because of the negative influence his songs may have on children.
Her reported comments triggered backlash from Kartel fans, many of whom posted derogatory comments and death threats against the former minister on her social media page. Police have since launched a probe into the threats.
However, Hanna said when it comes to women’s and especially children’s rights, she speaks without fear of any reprisal. She encouraged other Jamaicans to do the same.
“Every day, every Jamaican is faced with choosing between what’s right versus the new normal. But our courage is being held hostage by a culture of aggressive abuse and violent threat that passes for disagreement,” Hanna said.
“Jamaicans can’t any longer pretend we haven’t created an alternative culture. We can’t pretend this culture is ‘normal’ or healthy,” she continued.
“I pray that all Jamaicans who value common decency will find the courage to push back against this new normal and defend Jamaica’s true culture. If we lose this battle, however unpopular the battle or its choosing may be, we will have lost Jamaica.”
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See Hanna's response in full below.
From my life’s experiences I’ve learned courage has no limits.
Courage can be perceived as stubborn or unreasonable. Courage can force you to stand alone on principle. Courage can create the perception you’re choosing battles unwisely that could adversely affect personal ambition. But courage has a responsibility to future generations to take a stand, and act in a manner that’s in our children’s best long term interest. Courage forces you to recognize that this coincides with Jamaica’s best interests.
For example, when Norman Manley stood up against the world at the United Nations and declared Jamaica would ban trade and travel with the apartheid Government of South Africa, he stood alone. He stood for what was right. He chose a most unpopular battle – one that appeared unwinnable at the time. Jamaica was the first country in the Western Hemisphere to take such drastic action. Norman Manley had the vision and courage to believe he would be vindicated by history.
Over 50 years later, Jamaica finds itself at another historical crossroads. Every day, every Jamaican is faced with choosing between what’s right versus the new normal. But our courage is being held hostage by a culture of aggressive abuse and violent threat that passes for disagreement.
I’m an unapologetic lover of music including dancehall. But there’s no necessity for some artists to use music as a medium for promoting violence and abuse of women. The Data confirms that violent and sexually explicit lyrics have negatively influenced many Jamaican youth’s thought processes through increased feelings of hostility and aggression.
These negative influences are exacerbated when we turn a blind eye to radio airplay of new productions by persons we know are incarcerated so may have been abetted by corruption in our prison system. This reality necessitates us being urgently honest with ourselves. We should be prepared to have a national discussion about messages glorifying criminality being conveyed to our children that’ll ultimately bring deleterious consequences. These messages have been pushing us towards a different society from the one in which we all say we want to live. I commented publicly on this recently and the media house chose to give my comments a particular headline which encouraged others who choose to conflate the issues and completely overlook my central message.
That’s par for the course. But the disgusting comments on my social media pages exposed the dark and vitriolic underbelly of this new normal and justified the point I was making. The undisguised violence and vulgarity of the disagreements posted and the sheer volume of anti-social attitudes were like megaphones screaming at Jamaicans to wake up and smell the decay into which Jamaica’s proud history of decency and mutual respect has plummeted.
When it comes to women’s and especially children’s rights, I speak out without fear of any reprisal. My record on these issues speaks for itself. Early in 2016, Jamaica moved up 52 places on the UNICEF Kids Rights Index to be ranked 51 out of 163 countries. Between 2013-2105, the number of children in state care qualifying for tertiary education moved from 2 to 60. One young man scored over 11 distinctions gaining entrance to Medical School. It was pure joy to see the beauty on their faces and the pride in their step when their first prize giving ceremony was held outside the walls of the Child Development Agency. These achievements resulted from the Youth and Culture Ministry staff’s hard work. We coordinated with other Ministries and agencies to implement key government policies. Results of these integrated efforts included the separation of children from adult correctional facilities; teaching the Arts (dance and drama) to girls at the South Camp Facility; placing more children with families; assisting more children with therapeutic care via a mobile counseling clinic; and building child-friendly spaces at police stations across the country.
But I believe the most effective decision was to treat every child in state care as our own, not a government statistic. We provided mentorship, love and new possibilities. Something as simple as granting one little girl from Maxfield Park Children's Home her wish of being dropped to school on some mornings helped immeasurably to build her self esteem. She recalled how good she felt to be able to converse with someone on issues important to her.
That little girl lives in a country mired in crime and violence fuelled, in part, by the lack of opportunity; an ineffective educational system; weak, dysfunctional or non-existent family structures; and inadequate resources for our security forces and social intervention. But one of our most socially debilitating yet often ignored problems is the moral decay within our value systems. We cannot continue to abdicate our social responsibility and ignore the messages we send to our children through some of our music and via the general disrespect we sometimes show to each other.
Jamaicans can’t any longer pretend we haven’t created an alternative culture. We can’t pretend this culture is “normal” or healthy. We can’t tolerate this alternative culture currently in ascendancy yet pretend to have zero tolerance for crime. It’s time we admit this alternative culture promotes and encourages violence against and contempt for women. We can’t defend what’s, on its face, unapologetically misogynistic and immoral while pretending to crack down on violence against women and children.
I pray that all Jamaicans who value common decency will find the courage to push back against this new normal and defend Jamaica’s true culture. If we lose this battle, however unpopular the battle or its choosing may be, we will have lost Jamaica.
Lisa Hanna, MP
27, February 2017