Beenie Man and Bounty Killer are among several dancehall celebrities outrages by the recent court ruling paving the way for schools to ban students wearing dreadlocks.
The Jamaican entertainment fraternity—artistes, actors, media personalities, deejays—is crying foul at the recent Supreme Court ruling that schools can ban children sporting dreadlocks hairstyles from entering their doors. Citing the backward, hypocritical step taken mere hours before the island’s Emancipation celebrations, several channeled their indignation into lengthy captions that are still streaming in as the reality of this rather embarrassing situation takes hold. Taking umbrage with the message being sent and the timing, they rightly pointed out that a hefty amount of the island’s appeal comes from boasting of being the birthplace of many locked legends such as Bob Marley, Buju Banton and Koffee.
The decision did not sit well with veterans artistes Spragga Benz, Beenie Man, or Bounty Killer as well as Konshens, Agent Sasco, Kabaka Pyramid, among others. According to Jamaica’s second-highest court, five-year-old Zahara Virgo’s constitutional rights were not breached when she was denied access to the prestigious Kensington Primary School due to her dreadlocks hairstyle back in 2018. While the written judgement outlining the full rationale has not been made available as yet, social media is calling out the classism and institutionalized racism that prevails in Jamaica today.
Spragga Benz, whose 17-year-old son was allegedly killed by Jamaican police humbly but explicitly requested an intervention—“Blessed love @andrewholness… if you see this Mr PM this situation is a shame to Jamaica to say the least. Can you address this please and thanks…This is unacceptable… ALL RASTAFARI PEOPLE with and without locks must stand against this discrimination in our island… #MiShame,” Spragga said. “A modern time now and a Rasta mek Jamaica nice” Tarrus Riley lamented in a video posted to his Instagram account in response.
Claiming that the day’s celebrations were “canceled until Rasta free’, Bounty Killer militantly defended the cause in his captions and comments section. “Idiot unno tek J’cans fah. Foh. No Emancipation with Discrimination.” He also reposted a throwback interview where he was asked, “How you feel about Rasta? What Rasta mean to you?” with his response being “I love Rasta cause Rasta is some people who try to bring di culture and di heritage and we history to the people, yuh understand? Rasta is the one who came about singing about the struggle and di life dat we live and we ups and downs yuh undastand?”
Many people share a similar sentiment, noting the convenience of using the Rasta image to promote Jamaica with the reality being that no real rights exist for the people in general. The country’s Attorney General, Marlene Malahoo Forte, has declined to further comment on the Supreme Court’s decision beyond previous arguments that the school’s policy was aimed at maintaining “an acceptable level of hygiene.”
In a press release on the deeply troubling issue that’s garnered international attention, the Prime Minister says he “noted with concern the developments surrounding the case and await the written judgement to determine the basis of the ruling. He added that it is “time to review and amend the Education Act to reflect a modern and culturally inclusive position that protects our children from being barred from any educational institution on the basis of wearing locs as an ordinary hairstyle irrespective of religious reasons.”
In the absence of any meaningful address or attempt to overturn the ruling so far, Jamaican Twitter jumped in with threads and memes that made it clear they thought the decision was incredulous and unacceptable.