Navigating roadblocks from David airport, while praying to make it home in a reasonable time, we studied the landscape from the back of a taxi driven by one brave taxi man who had paid way too much for gas and was charging us way less than we thought he should have. We passed at least 12 places where gas lines were 50-100 cars deep, waiting for gas that may or may not be delivered that day. High-profile SUVS, pick up trucks, Nissans, Toyotas, BMWs, Benz and a hooptie or two, all lined up patiently and impatiently waiting. People who may or may not be friends, chatted with each other to pass the time or had their eyes glued to their phones.
Michael and I were returning home, at sunset, from a tiring work trip having creatively left Panama a week before in the middle of a nationwide protest that is still seemingly endless. But this is less about the protest and more about one of my favorite Chronixx songs, Ghetto People, which ran around in my head throughout the journey and has stayed with me these four days later.
For three weeks, supply chains to the western half of the country have been cut off by roadblocks resulting in shortages of all types. For most of that time there has been very limited or no deliveries of propane, gas, diesel, medicines, fresh produce and more. For three weeks now our town hasn't received a single drop of gasoline. Some other supplies came by ship but no gasoline for us. The politicians and the indigenous groups and the unions and the on and on, rich and poor, native and migrant, expat and locals, proponents and opponents are waiting with bated breath for the Supreme Court to make a decision on the constitutionality of the mining contract that caused the protests.
To those in power, those raking in the dollars and those who hold the purse strings in question, in my best Chronixx voice I'm asking:
Where you gonna run now that the Gideon start When all the money that you robbed from ghetto youths ain't enough to fly you to mars When the system you defend start break down like a leggo When the whole world becomes a ghetto That's when you realize
The whole a we a ghetto people
We live at the tail end of Panama. Literally. Where the Pan American highway crosses the border to Costa Rica, hang a left and keep going on Route 44 until you almost reach the end. Eight hours driving or 45 minutes by plane plus a 90-minute drive from Panama City. It's our own piece of peaceful, Pacific paradise. But, when protests block the roads, we are among the first to run out of supplies such as gas and propane, and the last to receive. In our town, some would call it a small town, (but with 20,000 residents I don't think of it as small) some of us live in local neighborhoods, side-by-side with Panamanians who are construction workers, farmers, fishermen, domestic workers and gardeners. I am one of these. Our community is close knit and we take care of each other, passing bananas, plantains, papayas, soursops (guyabana) and whatever we have, over fences.
Nuh true you living uptown when the banks fall down Then the whole a we a ghetto youths
Some of us live in more affluent gated communities, or in much larger homes with beautiful lawns and gardens perched on the hill overlooking the town and ocean. Not rich, necessarily, but many with a little or a lot more means than rest of us.
A me poor you rich but when the pole shift Then the whole a wi a ghetto youths
Our town has people from a variety of nations, colors, hues, nationalities, gender identities and other types of diversities. Americans, Canadians, Germans, Dutch, French and of course, Michael and I, the Jamaicans. One day last week two propane trucks delivered less than 500 tanks to our town. The line ran more than 600 deep and the police resorted to giving out numbers to those in line. The town's diversity was on full display as even white expats with access to more funds than most of the locals, stood in line for hours hoping to be the recipient of a 30 gallon tank of propane to cook or heat their water. Eggs and chicken got delivered to a supermarket under the cover of night; but word got around and before long all were sold, in rations, to the crowd that gathered outside the store.
And me black, you white, but when famine strike Then the whole a we a ghetto youths
The water company sent out a notice that they were running out of water purification chemicals and may need to shut down shortly. Those of us who could afford or credit additional tanks bought those and filled up. For many others, however, it meant finding every gallon container and pot one could to gather and store water.
Thanks to our neighbors Dave and Dee, who did us a solid while we were away, we have rain barrels (retrofitted by Michael of course) and three additional tanks filled with water just in case the worst happens and we need to help our neighbors who could only fill gallon bottles. Thankfully the rains are still falling so no need to water gardens though I do need some sunshine to dry my clothes since my dryer is propane powered and well...we can't waste propane on that at this time.
When the night turn day White house turn grey Then the whole a we a ghetto youths
And me walk you drive But when there's no oil Then the whole a we a ghetto youths
A well-known Bahamian friend of mine who just published his autobiography, Fishinin' on the Rocks, (available on Amazon) tells the story of his touching down on Abaco in the Bahamas after hurricane Dorian. He wrote "the frailty of life and the true powerlessness of money struck me in that moment as I watched the scene unfold...in this moment there was no difference between the haves and have nots. If the haves were able to access their wealth, it would not be enough to prevent them from the hunger and despair of the past three days they had spent waiting at the airport with nothing but the clothes on their backs."
And when you cyaa tell Liguanea different from Tivoli Then you si seh wi a ghetto youths
When you cant tell Havendale from downtown parade Then a then you realize seh the whole a wi a Ghetto people
The Golden Rule tells us to treat people the way we would want to be treated. That's it paraphrased. The other rule that works with that is 'dig one pit then dig two' because but for the grace of God, good fortune, blessings or whatever positive reinforcement you subscribe to, we are ALL one disaster, one breath, one misstep, one second away from being someone in need.
Be kind. Be caring. Treat all people with respect, even if you disagree with their views. We are all just journeying through life on this beautiful blue planet, trying our best to thrive, even while we survive the negatives surrounding us. Let us be light; let us be love. Selah!
On that day when you trade yo rolls royce for a grain of rice That's when you realize seh
the whole a we a