11. Father And Dreadlocks
Written by Valden Dixon
Performed by Charlie Ace & Scorcher
7” single (Studio One, Jamaica 1977)



Hail daddy man. So what happen?
Man come home for the holiday
Yes  I
What happen, arrange up a nice draw of herb for the I for later nuh.
Danny, Ah who that, nuh Parson son?
Yes  I
Him turn Rastaman!
Man sight the fullness, you know?
Yeah! Parson send him one son to college, fi go study up religious knowledge
So one day the boy decide to come home for holiday
But when he entered his home something strange happened
He wasn’t wearing silky suits
And he wasn’t wearing big heel boots
He was wearing dungarees and sandals
And he was wearing a beard
And when him move it stand from his head
I say Parson frighten ‘til him almost drop down dead
When him see natty dreadlocks down to the ground
So his dad looked at him and said ‘My son, my son, what comes over you,
What happened? You passed your GCE, now you in UC, what happened?’
He said ‘I worked morning, noon, and night to get you there, what happened?’
He said ‘Daddy, you would not understand like I do, but Jah has called upon I.
I have sight a Promised Land.
Daddy, I know the way you feel, but one day you will understand.
He said ‘My son, what is your plan for the future?’
He said ‘Daddy, I plan to serve Jah, for ever, and ever, and ever.’
He said ‘Daddy, I plan to use my education to defend human rights, equality, and justice, throughout the universe.’
This time the mother was in the kitchen, cooking the Best Dressed Chicken, so she run when she realise that her son was home,
to greet her one son, when she see natty dreadlocks, she almost drop down dead
She said ‘My son, my son, what are we going to tell the people around the neighbourhood?’
He said ‘Mum, tell them the power of Jah is moving on.’
Yeah. Say him pass him GCE, and a sit up in a university, sit up a U.C, say up a U.C
This a natty dreadlocks race, natty dreadlocks race, natty dread win the race.
Jah! Is moving on.
Daddy, tell them daddy, yah.
Natty dread locks race, natty dread win the race.


In his day Charlie Ace (born Valden Dixon) was an enterprising fellow. A popular if perhaps under recorded MC, he made singles for an array of producers in Jamaica during the 1960s and 70s in addition to running his own record labels for a while. Charlie Ace was also the master of ceremonies for the band the Now Generation, and from the back of his customised and brightly decorated van, operated the Swing A Ling mobile record and tape distribution service.

This recording, made in 1977 for Clement Dodd’s Studio One label, finds Mr. Ace in fine storytelling style, and although we have no idea of the story behind Father and Dreadlocks, we’ve no reason to doubt its truth, that the student’s announcement of his commitment to human rights and social change as described by Mr. Ace, really happened.

Nor do we doubt that the young person’s experience was by any means an isolated incident, if only because the sixties and seventies was a period when being a student in Jamaica, and the Caribbean, involved at least a passing familiarity with a project of social transformation which had in some ways laid the basis and gone beyond the kind of liberation theology espoused by the young student in Ace’s narrative. So much so that the instigator and main exponent of this project was regarded as a threat to the security of the Caribbean by the British, Jamaican, Guyanese, and American governments and was for much of his life the subject of close scrutiny by the intelligence agencies of those governments. His name was Walter Rodney.

Walter Rodney was born in Guyana in 1942 to working class parents. His father was a tailor and his mother was a seamstress, and they were both active in the formation of Guyana’s anti-colonial People’s Progressive Party. Political activism was a family affair and by the time he was eleven years old Walter Rodney was attending organisational meetings and handing out party literature.

Rodney attended the Jamaica (Mona) campus of the University of the West Indies [UWI] and graduated in 1963 with a first class honours degree in history. By that time Rodney had made a name for himself as a young radical, campaigning in 1961 for Jamaica’s withdrawal from the West Indian Federation, a postcolonial alliance run by Great Britain.

In London Rodney completed his post graduate studies at the School of African and Oriental Studies, and maintained his interest in all things anti colonial – attending meetings on the future of Guyana, and joining a study group led by the Trinidadian Marxist polymath CLR James.

In 1966 Rodney completed his PhD in African history. His doctoral research on slavery in the Upper Guinea coast would be published in 1970 as A History of the Upper Guinea Coast, 1545-1800. With meticulous attention to the details of historical documents, Rodney dismantled the claims and assumptions of western historians of Africa, and presented future scholars with a new precedent for understanding the histories of oppressed peoples.

Rodney worked briefly in Tanzania at the University College in Dar es Salaam, and in early 1968 he returned to Jamaica to teach history at UWI. He was part of the University faculty for nine months. On May 13 he convened a meeting to discuss the idea of Black Power. Three hundred people attended. Three weeks later Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis. Dr. King’s murder marked the rise of the Black Panthers and the socialist Black Power movement. King’s death also marked the transition from non violent protest to armed struggle between the Black Panthers and the police – a transition initiated by widespread rioting across America.

In addition to radicalising the students of UWI, Rodney also developed friendships and dialogues with Jamaica’s working poor, the unemployed youth who had turned to gang culture, and the no less despised Rastafarian communities. What was unique about Walter Rodney was that he didn’t appear to have any time whatsoever for the idea that the interests of Jamaica’s poor could be served by the middle class intellectual elite that made up the island’s political and ruling class in the six years since the island had been granted its independence, and whose failure of governance and self interested political vision had created the conditions of poverty in which a growing number of young Jamaicans found themselves.

Rodney believed the best way to get the process of social transformation moving was to engage directly with the sufferers, and this was why for the nine months he was in Jamaica in 1968, he could be found, more often than not, in the ghettoes of Kingston, sharing his knowledge of the history of Africa and the Caribbean with the poor. This perspective on the role of the intellectual and this idea of dialogue and engagement was not only politically unfashionable (neither of the island’s two parties were interested in making themselves so available and few intellectuals of the time seem to have followed his model); it was to prove downright dangerous.

In autumn 1968 Rodney left Jamaica to attend a Congress of Black Writers in Montreal. When Rodney returned to Jamaica, he found that Prime Minister Hugh Shearer had banned him from entering the island.

The ban sparked a full-scale riot, the largest act of civil disorder in Jamaica since a mass rebellion initiated by sugar and dockworkers in 1938. The Jamaican authorities considered Rodney a threat because they believed, perhaps not without reason, that he was fast becoming a focal point for the growth of Black Power in Jamaica, and that more than anyone else, Rodney could unite the island’s disparate and disaffected social groups across the class divide.

The Jamaican authorities American counterparts in the CIA and the FBI were just as wary of Rodney: the last thing any of them wanted was for Black Power to gain a foothold in the Caribbean. Cuba had already created a model for Soviet funded self governance which was proving hard to dismantle. Maybe they thought Rodney had the makings of another Castro…

Michael O West, author of  Walter Rodney and Black Power: Jamaican Intelligence & US diplomacy, speculates that the Jamaican government responded to the riots with enough restraint to allow the violence to accelerate, giving them sufficient grounds to discredit Black Power and ban Rodney. The ban turned Rodney into a kind of exile, a state from which he never fully recovered but which he nonetheless used to the best of his advantage. He and his family stayed in Cuba for a while, and then returned to Tanzania, where they lived for four years.

In Tanzania Rodney taught at Dar es Salaam University. He became part of the struggles for African independence. His writings and activism informed the sixth Pan African congress and he also continued to engage with the poor in Tanzania and neighbouring East African countries as he had done in the slums of Jamaica, and these dialogues informed Rodney’s second book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, which was published in 1972.

One reading of the book has it that with this text Rodney ‘systemically destroyed the myth that prior to European intervention Africa was a ‘backward’ continent characterized by its own local form of slavery. He explained that while Africa is extremely rich in minerals, fertile soil and raw resources, its people became impoverished due to the systematic exploitation by the European capitalist powers. The Europeans imposed an export-driven economy on the continent, exporting raw materials and slaves and then importing finished products. Instead of investing locally in schools, hospitals and roads, profits were expropriated into colonial coffers.’ That was from Chris Gonsalves’ text for socialismandliberation.org, Walter Rodney: Revolutionary thinker and fighter.

In 1974 Rodney returned to the Caribbean to accept the position of Professor of History at the University of Guyana. When the government reneged on the appointment Rodney stayed in Guyana. He joined the recently formed political party, the Working People’s Alliance, and became one of the party’s leading figures. He had become to all intents and purposes a proselytiser for a post colonial consciousness whose aim was to bridge the race and class divide between Guyana’s Indians and Africans (the old divide and rule tactic implemented by Guyana’s former British rulers and kept in place by the island’s political classes), to create the conditions for working class self governance, and to extend a democratic process by which this could take place.

By 1979 Guyana was in political and social turmoil. Unemployment was high, the country was riven by strikes, protests, and government corruption. That year the WPA became an official political party and initiated a campaign of anti governmental dissent, to which the government responded by imprisoning WPA activists and leaders.

In July 1979 Rodney was arrested after two government buildings were burnt down. For the next nine months Rodney and his fellow activists were subjected to continual harassment by the Guyanese authorities, which included an attempted murder. In June 1980 Rodney’s adversaries got lucky. A remote controlled bomb was detonated in his car in a Georgetown backstreet. In her online biography of Rodney, Mary Ann Wilder informs us of a report in the Guyana Chronicle of 21 March 1999 which claimed that the main suspect of the murder was a Sergeant Gregory Smith, a soldier in the Guyana Defence Force who subsequently lived and died in exile in French Guiana.

Along with its Marxist imperatives, its grass roots activism and nascent internationalism, Black Power in Jamaica died a noisy, albeit quietly orchestrated, death. The definitive document of Rodney’s nine months in Jamaica is his pamphlet The Groundings With My Brothers, a series of lectures by Rodney based on his dialogues with the Rastafarian community.

The Groundings With My Brothers was published in 1969 and in spite of its brevity became a major text in Caribbean revolutionary thinking, reverberating through the region’s political and consciousness and seeping into Jamaican popular music, at first through explicit reference (and here we cite Cecil Bustamante Campbell aka Prince Buster’s Doctor Rodney (Black Power): ‘To be black and have ambition in Jamaica is a dangerous thing. Doctor Rodney! The black world made a new discovery – Doctor Walter Rodney! It’s a scorcher - don’t you torture - Doctor Rodney’) and later implicitly, in the Rastafarian liberation theology of songs like Father and Dreadlocks, as a trace (which may well have given the song’s author the slip), or better yet, an echo of an unfinished dialogue between Rodney’s brand of revolutionary socialism and the socially committed theology of Rastafari.



Walter Rodney and Black Power: Jamaican Intelligence & US diplomacy, by Michael O. West, from the African Journal of Criminology & Justice Studies AJCJS; [ISSN 1554-3897] Volume 1, No. 2, November 2005

Walter Rodney: A Biography

Walter Rodney: Revolutionary thinker and fighter by Chris Gonsalves, Socialism and Liberation magazine July 2007

Walter Rodney [1942 – 1980], by Ann Elizabeth Wilder in The Grenada Revolution Online

Doctor Rodney (Black Power), by Prince Buster’s All Stars FAB 7’’ single (FAB 82 UK 1969)



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