My memory at times dishes up random pieces of my childhood and this time around it brought me back to some 32 years ago.
I was standing with my Father on First Street, Kingston 12 in front of the Tenement Yard now known as The Trench Town Culture Yard talking to none other than my beloved God-Father Vincent Ford affectionately called Tata.
He was as cool and confident as he has always been, sitting in his wheelchair with his back to the wall, watching the children as they played in the street. There was no Culture Yard then only the Tenement Yard with rooms where actual people lived. My Grandparents lived in that exact yard when they relocated to Kingston to raise a family.
I remember visiting Tata whenever my Father would take me and we would talk about school and school work. He always wanted to know how I was doing in school and made it one of his priorities to help my Father financially so that my school books were always bought.
The last time I saw him and spoke with him was after my Father’s death in 2002. I visited him in Arnett Gardens at the home he shared with his daughter after she took him away from his longtime address on First Street.
I was told of his passing a few years later while I was living in the USA. He died at the age of 68 on December 28, 2008 in Kingston. I regretted not getting the opportunity to say farewell to a man who was an inspiration to me and an icon to a community where he contributed so much to its history.
He was a simple man who possesed many gifts including the gifts of teaching and motivating. It was said that Tata was the man who taught Bob Marley how to play a guitar, he was the man credited for writing songs that Bob Marley sang including the memorable”No Woman Nuh Cry”.
His name is mostly forgotten in the greater scheme of things…Still one will always learn about him when they visit the community of Trench Town and the Culture Yard itself. One will hear of him from those whose lives he touched.
Tata was a diabetic who lost his legs due to his health issues throughout the years. He was confined to a wheelchair….Still, he remained the same genuinely honest, straight talking, larger than life and one of the most generous people I will ever encounter in my lifetime. He was, to me, also very wise and insightful.
His old room is still there….The small one bedroom on the left side at the very end of the building in the now almost famous tenement yard on First Street, Kingston. In the yard that holds so much legacy……So much history.
My Father grew up under the watchful eyes of Tata….Under the caring eyes of Georgie….Yes, Georgie who was mentioned in that very song “No Woman Nuh Cry”. Georgie I came into contact with not so much, I would see him mostly when he rode his bicycle through the community.
I remember visiting him at the the Bob Marley Museum when the Marleys decided to have him stay there…He had a small cottage in the back and would only interact with those people he held dear…My Father was one of those people and he would welcome him with open arms.
After My Father’s death Georgie would visit my Mother, he affectionately referred to her as Ms. Maggie (My Father’s name was Magnus and as a child was always called Maggie in short).
Georgie would visit her at Christmas time to bring her bottles of our Jamaican Sorrel Drink. He had made it himself…he loved anything that had to do with cooking and making stuff in the kitchen – food or drink.
Georgie was a bit different, eccentric is what I call it and only those who knew him well could understand him…..Only those few really understood him. He was considered a bit temperamental but had a beautiful soul….And for the times that I came in contact with him as a child and as an adult I understood him for who he was.
In my world Tata and Georgie are the legacy that our community had back when the village helped to raise each child….To my Father they were some of the people in his life who helped in shaping his childhood, the same people who later helped to shape my views of our Jamaican culture.
To me they were my Father’s Keepers.