Even as he was making a decent living as an entrepreneur, the music business called out to O’Neil. Confident of his ability and determined to succeed, he joined with his neighbourhood friends, Jerome "Craig "Jackson, Kevin Blaire, Robert Manning and Leonardo Grant to form a multi-talented group of singers. It was 1999, and the new century was to bring a round of success for the brand new group Voicemail.
One hit after the other, with popularity rising, Voicemail became highly sought after on the dancehall scene. The group became a trio - Craig, Kevin and O’Neil. Although O’Neil’s deep and distinct baritone was sure to provoke loud screams, the trio was known for their seamlessly interlaced voices. Their mantra was one sound, one distinctive look, a group that moved in unison and sang in harmony.
This complete image, professional demeanour and focused outlook did not happen by accident. The standards were maintained through O’Neil’s management style. It was he who administered the group’s business. While the other’s trained, O’Neil toiled. He made the deals and confirmed the bookings, planned the tours, coordinated the recordings and thought through the promotions. He was the foundation upon which Voicemail was built. The life of a performing artiste is a challenging one. No one knows this more than O’Neil’s life partner, Ingrid Smalling. With every late night, early morning and long, gruelling hours, Ingrid provided the strength and support that O’Neil needed to make it through the labyrinth that the music industry can be. Their daughter, Nehalis Nastacia Edwards provided her father with a month of joy, born five weeks before he passed. ‘Fun and gregarious’, a man of style, that is how O’Neil Edwards’ friends and neighbours from the Duhaney Park community describe him. Always “Ready to Party”, always ready to dance.
O’Neil Jason Charles Edwards left Jamaica a message, one last voicemail. The circumstances of his death and the time at which he passed are both significant. O’Neil’s last voicemail serves to point Jamaica and the Jamaican recording industry in a new direction. A direction that seeks to help to build a nation, take a nation ‘Higher’. His wish would be that everyone in the fraternity would hold up their hands higher, clasp them together in his memory, and move as one to help to heal nation in distress.
May 23 marks a public holiday in Jamaica, that really isn't much of a holiday... this holiday is labour day. Now I saw that labour day isn't much of a holiday because while normally holidays are days of rest and relaxation on the mind, in Jamaica labour day is primarily for the people to well... do labour. I guess we take the labour part in the name a bit seriously. Normally on labour day we get out and either get work done to our own households, finish some projects we didnt get around to doing, or if all is fine at home then people will go out and take part in community building projects. Maybe plant a few trees in the community, or paint a prep school or even something like painting a pedestrian crossing in the road. All these things are activities which your normally hear happening on labour day. However this labour day was not such a day, no instead on this particular labour day Jamaica found itself mostly on lock down thanks to one man...
Ok maybe I put that wrong, it wasn't really one man that caused it, but it is for the capture of one man, the man they call Prezzi. Melba has been properly keeping track of the weeks events but I feel like I needed to feel some form of normalcy in my life before I even attempted to write about what happened.
From Sunday the 23rd the PM gave notice that the parishes of Kingston and St. Andrew were under a limited state of emergency. As to what exactly this meant and what was to come frmo this, nobody is still not sure as there has been no official statement saying that the state of emergency means a) or b). So we have basically had to work off the events of the previous times when a state of emergency is declared.
However it was quite clear to everybody in Jamaica who has access to a radio or TV (which should be just about everybody), that something serious was going down. The Soldiers and Police went into Tivoli Gardens and neighbouring neighbourhoods to attempt to completely flush out Prezzi, and they were met with heavy resistance. They responded with of course their own force (the use of which may just have been excessive depending on how one looks at it), but from reports there were bombs flung into houses, and multiple people were shot. People will also remember reports (which were promptly denied, as if we are that stupid), of a plane circling kingston, this plane was obviously not Jamaican and it made repeated passes, but I guess everybody chose to ignore its existence.
**Taken from OGNR (Facebook)
I should also add that a facebook group was created called "On the Ground News Reports" which has really done a good job chronicling the activities that were taking place, in the eyes of the public. There were no professional journalists involved here, no CVM, or TVJ, just some concerned citizens who had cameras and cell phones and were willing to go out and get the news.
Either way, the violence continued for quite some time and spread away from just the Tivoli Gardens area to Red Hills road and to Spanish town. And throughout all of this students sitting examinations still had to sit their examinations, and nobody had (or actually still has) no idea where exactly the Prezzi is. He has seemingly been missing in action for quite some time even though there have been numerous rumours spread as to his location and his escape.
**Children ducking for cover while doing exams
All in all though, this labour day was a holiday that Jamaicans would very soon like to forget. The many deaths which accumulated, the state of emergency, the literal fear that alot of Jamaicans found themselves feeling...
Thinking about this I may have to change my original statement that there was no labour, instead it would be more accurate to state that Jamaicans minds laboured over the numerous happenings and possibilities of this day. Truly one of many more sad days to come for Jamaica.
Today, Thursday May 27, was my first day back to work since all hell broke loose in down town Kingston Jamaica on Sunday May 23. It’s amazing but all the streets down town that I drove on today bore no trace of any disruption or any signs of the war zone we witnessed on the news. Most businesses were open and people were out and about. I must admit that there did seem to be a sense of expectancy in the air as people moved briskly and with purpose. Employers were taking no chances as most workers were sent home early (about 3:00pm) so that they could be out of the down town area before dark.
But as much as people are trying to regain normalcy, the big question is, what next. The root cause of the problem still exists. Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke is still at large. Where is he? Will he cause a repeat of what happened in Tivoli Gardens over this past week to take place in another area? Already the security forces have come under gun fire in several other areas including March Pen, Spanish Town and on Red Hills Road. The residents of Tivoli Gardens had openly declared last Wednesday during their demonstration that they were prepared to die for Mr. Coke, their provider. Are there other communities that are beholden to him? Or is Mr. Coke in a position to purchase that type of protection.
Either way, people are still on hedge as no one seems to have the answer. Not to mention the mounting controversy over what took place in Tivoli Gardens. We keep getting conflicting reports on the number of persons dead. The residents of Tivoli Gardens (the same ones that were prepared to lay down their lives) are calling the media houses with cries for help. Why did they not take cover when it was offered? Where are all the guns? If they are not collected with the bodies then who removed them? The equation at this time is certainly not adding up.
One good thing we have seen happening this week is the surrender of several wanted persons. It would be a shame for us to allow the deaths of all the decent Jamaicans killed during this week’s operation to go in vain. It’s time for persons to tell what they know so that we can truly clean up our nation and rid it of the evil elements. If we continue to hide the weapons, be afraid to tell what we know then the criminals will win and we will be back at this place very soon.
Traditionally Reggae Sumfest has hosted a mixture of local and international acts that has distinguished the event as an eclectic mix of good music and performances. In light of the fiscal challenges, organizers gave great consideration to omitting international acts for this year’s Festival. Stakeholders agreed that international acts should be included on this year’s lineup as the mix of genre and cultures is the essence of the event and as such a cut back would adversely affect the marketability of the show.
As a result International R&B and Pop Star Chris Brown who emerged on the scene in 2005 and quickly rose to stardom with his self-titled debut album has been confirmed for the Festival . With the release of Graffiti his third album, the 20 year old singer-songwriter enters his prime as a widely accomplished multi-platinum artist. Chris is set to thrill the audiences and make history with his first Reggae Sumfest performance.
Patrons are certainly in for a treat as some of Jamaica’s top artiste have been confirmed for the event. The lineup include Shaggy, Beenie Man, Tarrus Riley, Jah Cure, Elephant Man, Queen Ifrica, I-Octane, Konshens, Stacious, Chino, Tessanne Chin, Gramps Morgan and Tifa, with promises of many more to come.
Reggae Sumfest is an annual event that provides an avenue for new and established local talent to demonstrate their prowess to an international audience as well as a wide cross section of the Jamaican society. The brainchild of several Montego Bay businessmen, Reggae Sumfest was first held in 1993. The show has traditionally featured top Reggae and Dancehall performers, Hip-Hop and Rhythm and Blues acts such as Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Ja Rule, Boyz II Men and Lionel Richie.
I firmly believe that all countries in the world survive with some level of corruption within it. Whether the government is democratic or socialist, money has to be made by some means or the other. But I can't really speak on all that but what I can speak on is the corruption in Jamaica and United States effectively calling us out on it. One of the things of being a third world conutry is that we constantly need assistance from others, this means we are always indebted to others. Check the shelves what are the things that are actually being made here and what is not. What are we exporting that is making the country any money? It is common knowledge that those who "make it" do it inspite of not because of the Jamaican government whether it be PNP or JLP.
So as Jamaicans we grow determined to do whatever it takes to earn good money, some of us take the traditional route education, degrees and desk job and all that while others are blessed with phyiscal abilities to make it in sports. Some of us can build on the massive foundation left by our musical fore fathers as I mentioned in Jamaican music and it's effect on the Jamaican economy Pt 1 http://www.jamaicanjournal.com/index.php/2010/05/01/jamaican-music-and-it-s-effect-on-the-jamaican-economy-pt-1, Jamaican music and it's effect on the Jamaican economy 2nd Part http://www.jamaicanjournal.com/index.php/2010/05/05/jamaican-music-and-it-s-effect-on-the-jamaican-economy-2nd-part and Jamaican music and it's effect on the Jamaican economy Finale http://www.jamaicanjournal.com/index.php/2010/05/12/jamaican-music-and-it-s-effect-on-the-jamaican-economy-finale various ways to make money has emerged from the music industry largely without direct funding or assistance from the Jamaican government. For the rest of us, we haffi look life in other ways often by hustling. Hustling in Jamaican parlance means anything you do outside of the regular 9 to 5 to make ends meet, legally or illegally. Now I won't be wrong in saying that this country has been running on gains made from drug money for years. He who shall not be named is just the most known of the drug lords that reside in this nation. He is the most known because he takes some of the earnings and give back to his community. Which trust me the government is not doing, he takes care of his residents why do you think they call him the president. Now I am sure he might have been guilty of heavy handed means in efforts to maintain control but he has to when everybody around you has the weaponry to kill you. You might have show some level of mercilessness in order to have people fear you. Now that post is only days away from being vacant the question is who will now lead the people's republic of Tivoli Gardens.
It’s now after 5:00pm, May 24, 2010, and as we say in Jamaica, ‘things no pretty’. Apparently we have been misled once again. This time re the meeting that was to take place with Don Foote the lawyer representing Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke and the US authorities. Since my last post I have learnt that there was never any meeting re Dudus extradition. So much for a possible resolution from that meeting.
The security forces have been in Tivoli Gardens since 11:45 and so far the reports are vague. Thick smoke can be seen rising from the area and loud explosions and heavy gun fire can be heard. Persons from inside Tivoli Gardens have been calling requesting help for themselves and their children. They claim that they were prevented from leaving when the authorities offered an escape. Whether it’s true or not doesn’t help the children that are now caught in this war. How many persons have been injured or have died is not yet known. We will have to wait for the dust to settle to find out.
In the mean time, Air Jamaica/Caribbean Airlines and other airlines have now cancelled several flights. Some Labour Day events were subsequently cancelled. The hospitals are only attending to emergencies. And so the cancellations are rolling in. Schools are announcing that they will be closed for tomorrow and workers are being asked to monitor the situation before venturing out.
What a mess, I hope Mr. Golding is very happy (I'm being sarcastic ). I do pray however that as bad as this situation is, we can learn from it as a nation and make some drastic but necessary changes to turn our nation around.
May 24, 2010:
This morning I awoke to news of continued incidents of violence in Jamaica. Personally I have not seen or heard any signs of anything from where I am, above Hope Road, only the occasional helicopter flying overhead. However based on news reports the anarchy has spread to beyond down town.
The new reporters have been doing a sterling job keeping the nation updated with up to the minute footage of incidents as they unfold. (I think I’m watching CNN). Reports are that six police men were shot two fatally, on Mountain View Road last night after responding to a lady who was herself shot while driving on that road. The Cross Roads police station was also shot up last night. So far there are no reports of any casualties from that incident. Road blocks have been mounted on Red Hills Road since yesterday and there has been continuous sporadic gun shots heard in that area. Hagley Park Road has had break-in to some commercial properties and gun shots have been exchanged between burglars and police men. Several road blocks have been mounted in the Spanish Town area and gun shots are being heard on and off. There are also reports of gun shots coming from Marcus Garvey Drive, Mannings Hill Roard, White hall Avenue, August Town and on the Water Front down town.
Despite all these horror stories, most people are trying to go about their lives, cautious but determined not to allow the lawless elements in our society to win. The Airports Authority has repeatedly advertised that the Kingston airport is open for business and flights are going and coming without incident. CXC and other vital regional examinations scheduled for today are still being held. Labour Day projects are still being executed. In fact while on the phone with one friend I heard her imploring her son who was on his way to Dover in St. Ann for the races scheduled today to be careful.
Personally I plan to stay at home today. "Coward man keep sound bone". The news had reported a meeting between the US Embassy and ‘Dudus’ lawyers for 10:00am today. We are all hoping that the out come of that meeting will offer a solution to the present situation. So far we have not gotten any word on the status of that meeting. Otherwise, the situation seems to be escalating. It was just reported that the security forces have now gone in to Tivoli Gardens in an attempt to apprehend Christopher “Dudus’ Coke and restore order.
Stay tuned I will continue to keep you updated as I get it.
Today, Sunday May 23, 2010 as my family and I relaxed at home in Kingston, Jamaica we received a call from a friend overseas.
“ Unnu alright?”
“Sure, why u asks”
“ Mi hear se Jamaica a bun down, 2 police station down town has been torched and riot de a Tivoli”
“Well, you know more than we, but with the extradition request for ‘Dudus’ being signed and with what has been happening this week, it could be true, I will call you back”.
With that I hung up the phone, turned on the radio and proceeded to call some friends. True enough, all hell had broken out down town and our beloved Jamaica was in crises. The situation was in fact so severe that a limited State of Emergency has been declared for the corporate area.
What exactly is a State of Emergency you ask, well according to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, “A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend certain normal functions of government, alert citizens to alter their normal behaviors, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale for suspending civil liberties. Such declarations usually come during a time of natural disaster, during periods of civil disorder, or following a declaration of war (in democratic countries, many call this martial law, mostly with non-critical intent)”.
What exactly are civil liberties, again I give you the meaning taken from Wikipedia; ‘Civil liberties are rights and freedoms that protect an individual from the state. Civil liberties set limits on the government so that its agents cannot abuse their power and interfere unduly with the lives of private citizens. Common civil liberties include the rights of people, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech, and additionally, the right to due process, to a trial, to own property, and to privacy’.
I must admit I am deeply saddened and outraged at what is happening in my beautiful and beloved island. The series of events that has led to this situation was avoidable. We appear to be getting a perfect demonstration of the adage, ‘Oh what a perfect web we weave when first we practice to deceive’. Now the entire nation must pay.
One encouraging but unconfirmed piece of news we have gotten today is that Mr. Coke ’Dudus’ is prepared to waive his rights to a trial here and is willing to be extradited. Could it be true or is it simple wishful thinking. If it is true what implications will it have on some of our leaders, after all they seem to have gone to great lengths to prevent this extradition. Is it too late to stop the anarchy already taking place on the island? Jamaicans, we need to find a way to break away from garrison politics. In the mean time we need to pray for as peaceful as possible solution to this present situation.
This week has been quite frankly the most exciting week we have seen for this entire year. Minus the fact that my Birthday fell in this week (sadly some events dampened my birthweek), it was truly one which brought alot of excitement to Jamaicans. I was really hoping to find a more... happier topic to write on today, but really and truly it wouldn't make sense because there is only one news item that is filling the thoughts of Jamaicans this week and that is the progress of the extradition of Dudus.
The week started with a rumour being spread through the general public about the possibility of the Prime Minister signing the order to have Dudus extradited to America and the resulting panic which occured because of that possibility. Yes business places shut down and sent all their employees home early, people sprinted eagerly to bus stations so that they can make their way home before the ensueing gunbattle which was bound to take place as a result. The traffic to get out of town can be described as simply clogged but people reached home on a day which was uneventful for the most part, but showed the depth of the issue in Jamaica.
The next thing which occured was that the Prime Minister gave a "heartfelt" speech outlying the "Major issues" at hand and also offering his "heart felt apologies". Of course I put all those words in quotation marks because really the speech was not so heartfelt as it was more of a "ok you actually managed to catch on to what I was doing and I didnt expect that so I'll make a speech to see if it will ease your mind", the only major issues that the people wanted to hear were not outlined (except for the part where he says they will be signing the extradition request), and he never really apologizes to the nation because for a "mistake" of this magnitude one can only expect that a proper apology would have lasted around 5 minutes long and the only words that the PM would be allowed to use are: I, Apologize, Am, Sorry, Please, Forgive, me - in as many different combinations and languages as possible. Yes I expect him to apologize the multitude of Jamaicans in all the various native tongues that exist here.
Following the speech the people in the garrison communities believed to be controlled by the strong man then went on lock down, as virtual battle lines were drawn and there was something of a "do it if you're bad" stand off between the policemen and the people of the communities. During this stand off the police calmly asked all the necessary people including Dudus' lawyer to simple have the man give himself in so that the loss of lives which more than likely would have occured in any other situation would not happen. However for the most part the country was quiet...
Until today where the feces seemed to have finally landed at its destination by forcefully hitting the blades of the proverbial fan. Today the all out war between the gunmen and Jamaica's lawmakers began and the results are being felt everywhere. Police stations were burnt down, officers were shot, gunmen went on a rampage in all communities - yes all communities as they have managed to reach as far as red hills road in their activities - and Jamaica is seeing just how far the people are willing to go for this one man. I was personally quite surprised when I checked the major international news outlets to see that the situation in Jamaica had garnered so much media attention that it was front page news over other major events such as the oil pouring into the golf and the recent plane crash in the middle east.
A state of emergency was declared for the Kingston and St. Andrew area and the power provider removed the electricity in the Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town areas in its attempt to assist the police in their work. In case you didnt know, a state of emergency is something which is normally declared only during war time or during a time where a problem arises that cant be solved by regular means. Most people now refuse to leave their houses as they are the only places which offer any form of decent security and I can safely say that right now as I am typing this I am listening to the sounds of gunshots from at least 5 different identifiable sources each sounding more powerful than the next but thankfully sounding far away (and I hope that it stays that way).
One can only imagine just how much our economy will be affected by such activities and hope that we will be able to safely recover from this event with our nation in tact despite all the International Media attention that is turned on to us. After all being a country that depends so heavily on tourism for its foreign exchange we cant afford to scare tourists away.
This is a time when one can only pray that all law abiding citizens will make their way out of this situation with their lives in tact.
Johnson who like Usain “Lighting” Bolt hails from Trelawney, Jamaica set consecutive 100 meters world records at the 1987 World Championships in Athletics and the 1988 Summer Olympics. His rise to prominence started at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Australia where he won two silver medals. Two years later at the Los Angeles Games, he won the 100m bronze medal behind Carl Lewis with a time of 10.22. A year later he finally whipped his arc rival at the 1986 Goodwill Games, where he ran 9.95. He also won Commonwealth gold at the 1986 games beating Linford Christie in the 100 m and later broke the seven-year old world record in the 60 meters with a time of 6.50 seconds. By the time of the 1987 World Championships, Johnson had established himself as the fastest man on the planet.
In Rome, he garnered instant world fame when he beat Lewis in a world record 9.83 seconds. That year he was named the Associated Press Athlete of the Year for 1987 and was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada. A year later he beat Lewis again in the 100m final at the Olympics, lowering his own world record to 9.79 seconds. He was later stripped of the medal and banned from Olympic competition for two years.
“The truth is I have been out of the limelight for a very long time. Many years have passed…Some may have thought I was the only one who took performance enhancing drugs. The time has come to speak the truth about my career and to set the record straight about what happened” he said. While Johnson has kept out of the glare of the spotlight, he has quietly been building his own empire. Today he is the President and CEO of The Ben Johnson Collection Ltd., a successful Canadian sportswear and casual line of athletic clothing and running shoes. He will launch his autobiography "Seoul to Soul" later this year and is still involved with athletics offering a vigorous personal training program at York University in Toronto. He also enjoys volunteer work and derives satisfaction from working with children's charities.