Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Religion’s Impact on a young Jamaican Psyche

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

― Issac Asimov

This week I think it reasonable to open my article with a quote from a Sci-Fi writer as we are living in some really sci-fi times, with bizarre cults and a fracturing society. I want to examine how religion affects the minds of Jamaican youth and how it impacted mine. Here is my story…

 At age 10, I became an atheist. Today as it pertains to God I am agnostic leaning to atheist, as a Rastafari, my faith is hinged on pan africanism, afrofuturism and a spirituality more akin to archaeology and anthropology of everything African... From ancient gods to ancestors. However, how did I become this person, how did a 10 year old in Norwood, Montego Bay become an atheist or an agnostic?

Well I attended many churches. First one I mainly remember well is Holy Trinity out by Westgate, where my beloved Grand Ma was a devout member. I remember my terrifying christening there... a ritual that I resisted since it wasn't my own volition. I remember the Father well, a well mannered enough man but that church bored me to tears and was steeped in Montego Bay's social politics. Or so it seemed to me as a young one. Then when I began attending Mt. Alvernia Prep Catholicism was introduced to me but my domestic set up was anti Catholic to a degree and very wary of homosexuality and catomite altered altar boys, and from my young perspective seeing their church attire and sometimes smoking priests gave even the young me the impression this place was at once too liberal in some regard and yet wound up in chants and ritual, and was just as boring in sound and song as Anglican.

My mother dabbled in the world of Pentecostal church with one Pastor Nigel who was killed in a house robbery at Bogue. She would eventually settle at Hillview Baptist church where many a community youth I were familiar with went and so I felt comfortable there and the service wasn't that boring... and by the time I was in grade 3, I had watched The Robe and Jesus of Nazareth so many times that I one day became so stupefied by Jesus' sacrifice and peaceful way that I to my chagrin then said to my mother that I wanted to be " A fighter for Jesus". An incident my cousin Camara Brown and brother Dax Pessoa never fail to remind me about or gimmicks me about and oh how I cringe hearing the tale repeated. My family was elated, especially my mother. And like a well brainwashed soldier, high on Jesus hopped up an reinforced by Peter Parker Spider-man and his motto of great power brings great responsibility, Star Trek and Data's and Spock's brands of stoicism and utilitarian logic "the good of the many outweighs the good of the few".

Imagine the melee of ideas like these in the mind of a black child that believed his mother sang young gifted and black to him, whose grandma was in the UNIA... Imagine the mind molded in a Christian yet pan African household... I was charged up... a young black superhero... young gifted and black... I was the X-Men, Malcolm X-Men School for gifted... “Mi start get up early go church walk by mi self, go Sunday school, stay for big church, trying to get more moral more good a try understand God’s will... What did he want me to do etc? Granted hormones had become a problem, I went to church religiously and imbibed the message though as an early puberty child, I was lusting after the young girls in tight dresses, plus maybe some of my mother’s friends in all their church dress plumpness and pulchritude.


Beyond that I was good and ready to be a saint… I really did consider being a pastor… eeek! Oh I prayed to have wisdom like Solomon after al my mother wanted my middle name to be Nestor god of wisdom and my father wanted it to be the wise nesta Marley, I prayed like Samuel to be chosen, to ask for wisdom and granted health and length of days… “yep be a wise 'gallis' like Solomon and not to be gal clown like Samson.” Oh how silly I was. But I took spiritual matters and science very seriously from the day I was born. These meant everything to me, them and Africa… so they had to collide.

As in the back of my mind was marinating a debate that had happened one Sunday on the verandah, my father and uncles were debating God. My uncle Hugh Thompson a devout atheist was at it against my uncle David Brown a very religious man, they had asked my father to weigh in and I remembered his words well, "If Zeus and such are Greek and Norse and Roman mythology, then our religion might just be Jewish mythology" and forever that moment it dawned on my that I simply assumed Christians were right. But that didn't cause my divorce psychologically from church.

It came one Sunday when my Sunday school teacher were giving a Sunday school lesson on revelations, it was my common entrance year, but what in the sermon caused the great divorce and moment of cognitive dissonance is when she informed be Jews get a second chance on Judgement day but gentile which we all were would be judged and if not found worthy would be tossed in hell fire... how could even God be sort of racist and biased and if he didn't rather me or black people it can't work and I wanted no more part in it and maybe it was Jewish mythology and not my story or mythos. I would years later find out Pessoa is a Jewish last name but little comfort anyway. And so I wrestled with it inside. And when I mentioned it to friends they all looked scared or told me not to think so much. When I told my mother it became a family crisis for all of high school. I was recommended to speak with this person or that parson... only for all my questions to come up unanswered but everyone wanted me to just accept without irrefutable proof or sound logic and science that God is real... I was no longer the good son but now spaced out, a possible high school weed head even though I never knew what a spliff was, I was wayward etc.. I was a victim of fads, they said I was easily swayed.

The tribulations of not walking in religious norm followed me to the UWI, where in my first semester a big argument with Ms. Kitty after she attacked me as the devil worshiper (I wonder if she remembers that!), whilst I was reasoning with someone else on Atheism. She and that debate led a portion of people to dub me as devil boy... ironic that at home in my community I was called Jesus… but I was persecuted over my opinion and belief. So when I say I understand the rigors of being ostracized by Christians and Christianity to be ridiculed and persecuted despite all my logic and scientific methodology, my critical thinking.... I understand how a religion can put enmity in family, the familiar and the familial.

So let us not heap scorn and condemnation in the Pathway congregation... Who controls your mind... is it Mark Zuckerberg, Rachel Maddow, Jewish myth writers who goads yours mind and prompts your ideas who coaxed you and cajoled your brain? Did the influence of external thought and ideas from outside u ever make u take stance and divides from friends and family?

About the author: Yannick Nesta Pessoa B.A. is Jamaica’s first blogger, a Social Advocate, Community Activist and Philosopher. Follow on Twitter & Instagram @yahnyk. Follow on Youtube @ and Reply to yannickpessoa@gmail.com

Sunday, April 10, 2022

A Concise History of MoBay

Montego Bay is the most urban setting in St. James. An early map of Jamaica has Montego Bay listed as “Bahia de Manteca” or “Lard Bay,” so called because of the lard making industry made possible by the hunting of wild boars which populated the surrounding hills. Montego Bay was a sugar and banana town but the sugar factories were closed and bananas are now shipped out from Kingston and Port Antonio.

Montego Bay is Jamaica’s second largest city. According to the Planning Institute of Jamaica, Montego Bay is also among the top five fastest growing urban centres in the country. The growth is spurred by tourism, which is the major foreign exchange earner for the parish of St. James. The high number of tourist attractions and resorts in Montego Bay provide employment for hundreds of Jamaicans. Over 80 per cent of the entire parish is dependent on tourism.