Oh, yes. I had just swum ashore after diving into the harbor to escape the ship. I thought myself very fortunate until I began to look around and saw that I had not been transported to Eng-Land as I thought I would be. I was in America; specifically, in Staten Island. This was a setback, to be sure, but I had great confidence that I would do well in the land of opportunity. I had done well in every other thing I set out to do. I had been first in my class in Jamaica and the best bowler on my cricket team. I was first in Jamaica to be selected to go to Eng-Land to study at Oxford University. I had done well in Oxford. The only reason I was not back in Oxford at that time was because I had defended my mother from my father’s abuse and ran away. I would do well in America, I thought.
“What I discovered was something very humbling. I had done well up to then only because of my father’s position as a respected attorney in Jamaica. He was a cruel, hard man with many secrets to hide, but his position had put me in the best schools in Jamaica. Here, in America, I was just another Black mon and I couldn’t find anyone to play cricket with.
“When I began to be more realistic about my prospects, I took account of my true assets. No one cared whether I was educated and could talk literature, but I still had the gun that the Captain had given me. I had tucked it into my pants before I dove in the water. I learned that a Black mon with a gun is very respected in America, indeed the only way he is respected. So I began my livelihood as an armed robber.
“Unfortunately, I was not a very good armed robber. No one can go on threatening people with a gun without eventually being required to use it. I did not know how to use it and would not use it. To this day I don’t even know if it would fire if I pulled the trigger. Eventually, a brave man, who saw I lacked courage took the handgun away and had me put in jail.
“In jail, I learned about Rastafari from the other inmates. Even though I was a Black mon and my father was a Black mon, I learned for the first time the condition of the Black mon and saw that my father and I were both nothing but educated slaves. I committed the words of Marcus Garvey, our prophet, our John the Baptist, to my memory. He said:
“`When man fails to grasp his authority he sinks to the level of the lower animals, and whatsoever the real man bids him do, even as if it were of the lower animals, that much shall he do… For the last four hundred years the Negro has been in the position of being commanded even as the lower animals are controlled. Our race has been without a will; without a purpose of its own, for all this length of time.
“`… a man has no master but God. Man in his authority is a sovereign lord… This feeling makes man so courageous, so bold, as to make it impossible for his brother to intrude upon his rights…If four-hundred million Negroes can only get to know themselves, to know that in them is a sovereign power, is an authority that is absolute, then in the next twenty-four hours we would have a new race, we would have a nation, an empire, – resurrected, not from the will of others to see us rise, – but from our own determination to rise, irrespective of what the world thinks.’
“I was released from jail and given a little job so that I didn’t need to be a thief, but I was still a slave. Outwardly, I lived Ital, our way of living in harmony with nature. I did not eat meat, because to touch meat is to touch death. Nor would I put alcohol in my body, because putting something fermented in me would be like creating a cemetery inside me. I challenge you, if you followed an Ital diet for ten days and compared how you feel, when you are Ital you would have much more energy, what we call Livity.
“I let my hair grow in dreads. We do this so that we will resemble the Lion of Judah, which is our symbol. My hair got longer but I knew in my heart I lacked the courage of the lion. I was a runner; I had run away from my father, from my family, from Jamaica, and from the ship. I could not pull the trigger when the Captain needed me to, resulting in his death. Courage is the one essential quality. If a man does not have courage, then all the other qualities he has: faith, strength, intelligence, and so on, go to waste when they are needed most. I was still a slave to Babylon.
“I decided that I would get my courage, right from the source. I would get it from the lions. I used to slip into the zoo at night and see them. I would watch them pace in their den and see their bones move in the skin when they walked. They would lick one another tenderly when they lay down on the ground. They would roar and, even though a cage separated us, I was still terrified.
“I talked to them and asked them for courage.
“They said, `Come and get it, if you want it. We don’t give courage away. You have to take it.’
“I took a long time thinking about what this meant. How I was supposed to take courage? The mad idea entered my brain that I must climb into the lion’s cage and get it. Once an idea like that enters your head it is always there as a reproach to your fear. I had no illusions. I knew that it was dangerous to do into the lion’s cage, but I began to be determined to get my courage in that manner, or die trying because it wasn’t worth living without it.
“My legs shook as I began to climb the fence. It was very high, had few cross members to step upon, and was topped by a row of spikes. I shimmied up it, nonetheless, and, after taking a deep breath, vaulted over the spikes.
“I did not land in with the lions after I vaulted over the spikes, like I had expected. Instead, one of the spikes caught me by the pant leg and I dangled upside down over the lions’ den. They were sleeping, but I hung there, helpless, knowing that when they awoke, I would die.”
Just then, the nurse came and called Daniel in to get his x-rays. Everyone in the waiting room who had gathered to hear his story glared at the nurse, but Daniel arose, followed her in, and we were left hanging.
- Daniel, Part I: Testing (thenarrativeimperative.com)
- Daniel, part II: Jah’s Stories (thenarrativeimperative.com)
- Daniel, part III: The Banana Boat (thenarrativeimperative.com)
- Daniel, part IV: Gilgamesh (thenarrativeimperative.com)
- Daniel, part V: Rasta Talk (thenarrativeimperative.com)