Blakka's Box: Remembering the old Trench Town

January 24, 2018
In this file 2013 photo, Marvin Hibberts from the Trench Town Ceramics and Art Centre showing off some of the many pieces they have created.

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." TS Eliot

Look here nuh, today I'm mentally exploring the time when there was no Rema or Jungle, just one Trench Town. I lived in the 'capture land' section, where board houses stood surrounded by zinc fences and a network of lanes. There were also the concrete 'knog' sections or the 'twelve shilling a month' schemes from lower First to Fifth Street. There were other schemes, some already built, and others emerging like Federal Gardens, Arnett Gardens, and Wilton Gardens. But everything was just one Trench Town.

Those days, I could walk the full length of the community, entering where West Road meets Spanish Town Road, to travel northwards with my back to May Pen Cemetery and the sea beyond it, and my face to the hills, passing the streets intersecting West Road, from First Street to Fourteenth street. Then I could turn right at the roundabout, returning southwards with my back to the hills, going down Collie Smith Drive, which parallels West Road.

That was before politics tore the town into two, by erecting houses in the middle of streets, walls in the centre of a community, and fences in the minds of people. I remember after a while, everything from First to Seventh Street became 'Rema', and everything from Eighth to Fourteenth Street became 'Jungle', and to cross that borderline during a period in the '70s was to put one's life at risk.

I also remember long before the Culture Yard, dozens of white people descending on the community to view the creations of one enigmatic artist called Leghorn Cogil. And I remember the sacred space of Brother Mortimo Planno on Fifth Street. Entering it meant stepping into a world of learning about Rasta and Africa.

And I remember serene mornings in my first year at Excelsior, walking alone in the rising dawn from my yard at the corner of upper First and Third Streets, across from White Street where Rose Town borders Trench Town, hurrying to catch an early bus. I remember some mornings, seeing two men jog around Vin Lawrence Park at the bottom of First Street. I didn't realise then how priceless that scene was. The joggers were Bob Marley and Allan 'Skill' Cole. This is not fiction or imagination. This is mental exploration!

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