This is a distress call for St Lucian Justice...
When I got the call that Butu was in handcuffs, he was already in custody.
I broke down.
It was 1799 all over again. Lambert was dead, Pedre was compromised, Flore Bois Galliard had disappeared into the earth or from the very face of it.
The War of the Dasheen was lost.
I had failed all my soldiers. I took them past freedom to the verge of independence and then lost it all because I didn’t understand economics.
I could just kill myself.
I pulled myself together.
It’s 2014. I determined not to let Butu down. I wasn’t the same crazy old witch doctor that I was in 1794. I was an information warrior.
I put on my stripes and headed from my Palenque to Castries. I was not going to let my soldier down this time.
This time, I WILL NOT LET YOU DOWN...
WHO IS BUTU?
Butu is a young 21st century Neg. Like most of us, he made some really stupid mistakes. Unlike most of us, the system caught him in his net and accused him of a white collar crime.
It is one of the few white collar crimes prosecuted in St Lucia, in spite of no lack of white collar crimes. Ironic. And yet, consistent with history. Scapegoating is an essential element of the justice system. It has always been. Especially for Neg.
They accused him, arrested him, charged him and bailed him.
Since then, Butu has waited his turn for justice. He also picked up the broken pieces of his life. Unlike most in the circumstances, he didn’t just keep his head down and try to fly under the radar.
In the midst of a trial where he is accused of a crime, Butu flew his flag high. He took a hard shot at recovering his life.
‘This little light of mine…’
It almost worked.
Almost everyone reading this knows Butu as one of the most famous, intelligent and conscientious all of today’s St Lucia, at home and abroad.
It almost worked….
It’s all the same to neg like Butu and I. (Or rather, me and Butu, to use the correct Neg sentence structure.)
No matter what year it is, Butu is my soldier. My real, heartical soldier. My little brother. Butu is a guy who will buy me a pack when I ask for a cigarette, even though we’ve really been brothers since he joined my lie of work. Not just my brother. He is my bredren. An inextricable and essential part of the I and I.
But today, there is something more.
Today, he is not Butu. He is Noah Sifflet.
Today, he is my son.
My little criminal....
They have MY SON in custody. Their stinking, dirty detention hellhole. Their prep school for the university of crime in Dennery. Their human rights abuse factory.
They have my son.
OUR Son. They have our son.
Now I get it. All those mothers of convicted, crippled and dead young criminals who cry on the television while I vilify them and their sperm donors for neglecting OUR children….
All those weeping mothers of bad boys….
Now I get it…
I know why the mothers cry. Because now, it’s my son.
My little Negmarron...
IF THEY SAID IT WAS NOAH SIFFLET…
If they said…
Noah had embezzled some money from the bank where he worked. Was arrested. On trial. On bail. Making years of torturous, soul crushing court appearances. Enduring public humiliation that he may or may not deserve. Facing almost insurmountable obstacles to getting a job. To getting a girlfriend.
Not knowing if he can trust his friends. Not knowing who his real friends are. The insecurity. The shame. The guilt. The trauma.
Working his way out of the pit he dug for himself.
WHAT IF NOAH REALLY DID IT?
I’m just saying…so that we can imagine the worst case scenario. Butu, himself, is not yet innocent or guilty. So that’s undecided.
What if Noah did it?
What if I felt like I failed the only test that mattered?
But in the five years since he embezzled that money, he picked up his stupid, misguided, egotistical little ass off the ground and became one of one of the brightest, best young people that any of us know?
THE BATTLE FOR BUTU
I AM KENNA
If Butu is Noah, I am Kenna.
On any other occasion, I would be flattered and honored. Kenna is a Neg pioneer, not just an entrepreneur. Kenna put solar power on a van and had email on his laptop in the bush when most of us were on dial-up.
But being Kenna today is a slow dance through hell.
I am Kenna, fighting for a son who is still paying for something that the courts have not yet decided that he did or didn’t do.
I am not trying to make him escape justice. I am trying to get him out of custody FOR THE WEEKEND until I get the land valuation papers to a standard that satisfies Registrar Sharon Gardner that the surety worth at least 15 times the value of the bail.
His Uncle Errol, my brother, withdrew the surety for the bail without forewarning me. My son walked into court thinking he still had that surety. If I knew or he knew, my son would never be in this position.
Kenna and his brother Errol
I am Kenna, my green eyes turning grey with pain from this stab in the back from my own brother. I am Jason, thinking about Toussaint and Dessalines. Crazy Horse and Red Cloud. Malcolm X and whoever those bastards really were.
My love for my son is feeding the stifling economy with phone credit and fees and expenses and…
My love for my son is stifling the nation with days of lost productivity, as laywers and magistrates drink scotch at leisure while we patiently wait.
I am Kenna…
I am all the other Negmarron mothers and fathers who try not cry in the moment of battle when our children are in the teeth of the enemy.
I am Jason watching Butu’s father heroically taking chage. I am Jason, gathering intelligence, offering alternatives and making calls. I am Jason freaking out as Butu enters the wagon while Kenna negotiates a way for him to stay at Custody Suites in Castries instead of being transferred to The Place That Shall Not Be Named.
I am Jason running across Castries like a wet fowl, following the wagon so I can see Butu before visiting hours end. I am Kenna trying to get the deputy registrar, Anwar Brice, to have some reasonable goddam compassion for a Neg brother who only really needs a few minutes past closing time on Friday to prove his surety, but now has to wait til Monday.
I am Jason in the visiting area with Butu getting the call that everything might be okay. I am Jason walking across town with Butu and a cop, smoking a Benson instead of an Embassy because I’m so sure that the Neg won this one.
In the moment of greatest hope, the wind of freedom making my locks celebrate with dance, I am Jason, watching Butu walk out of the registry with a police escort. I am Kenna grasping at straws in the office upstairs.
All our best efforts have failed. We didn’t free my son. Noah has to spend the weekend in…that place. They have my son in custody.
I mean, his son. Kenna’s son. Kenna…
Kenna was broken by the day. I was just his lieutenant. But I bravely relieved him, making him as many comforting promises as I thought I could keep. I’ll do this. I’ll do that. I’ll call Sharon Gardner. I’m sorry I didn’t do it before. It’s my fault. Don’t feel bad Kenna. I’ll try to fix it. Sharon is a friend of mine.
Sharon was no fucking help at all.
NO FUCKING HELP AT ALL!!!!
Something about the procedure and whatever. I know the procedure. I was asking for 48 hours of Christian compassion. So much for that.
I didn’t have the guts to call Kenna, so I asked The Most High to lay him down to sleep while I do the only thing I really know how to do. I started weaponizing the words.
Butu’s macocotte, a maronesse named Pal accompanied me to a Neg general’s Palenque. We plot. We conspire. We plot and conspire some more. Then, I start to load the weaponized words.
When suddenly…I am back at the end of the day. Right at the moment of defeat.
I am Kenna walking away from Jason. I am Kenna holding back my tears as Jason watches me and holds back his tears. I am Kenna boarding the bus for Desruisseaux, my mind out of space and time, floating in black, blissful oblivion and then rushing back in torturous, torrential flashbacks of this, the worst day in hell.
I am Kenna on the verge of tears for hours. Hours. Bursting with sourness like a sad, force ripe mango, brutalized by the sun, instead of nurtured by it.
And I can’t cry. Not yet.
I get home and everyone wants to know every gory detail. And we gather like the ancestors round the fire with only the night for our friend, we, this family of eternal outlaws, while I relive the worst day ever so that they can live it for the first time.
I am Kenna trying to eat. Spacing out while the TV watches me. Waiting in suspense for the news anchor to mention my son’s name and send him one more step down the road to ignominy.
I am Kenna in the bathroom. On the bed. In the shadow in the yard. Alone for a moment. Smoking. The image of my son inside that place for the night emerges from the darkness.
That place that is written up in international human rights reports. That place where errant boys first learn to become hardened criminals.
The dam breaks. The flood is too much for me.
My son. Your son. My son.
I am Jason Sifflet.
I am crying into a notebook on the waterfront at Rodney Bay in the light of a lamp post and the shadow of a coconut tree.
I am Jason Sifflet, father of a dirty little criminal Negmarron. Whatever I did wrong as a father, punish me. But my son…
He’s trying to be better. Just set him free for the weekend while I do these documents over. Even if he really was a bad boy, he’s a good boy now and…
In the past.
He failed, in the past. But he didn’t fail this year. Not for five years. And I just need the weekend to give you what you need to be sure my land is worth more than the bail.
I am Jason.
If it really was Noah, I wouldn’t have the surety.
I would have to declare all out war on the justice system for me to help my son. It occurs to me perhaps I should do that now. Noah is four years old. I have a decade, maybe a little more to make sure that what happened to Butu, what happens to young Negmarron EVERYDAY, does NOT happen to MY son.
Yeah. I think maybe I should attack them now, before it’s too late.