“Who go save de people from the businessman? Who go save de people from Mr Politician? Who go save de people with dey crucial plan? Turn the whole world to ah viper nation…” —“Viper Nation”, Jahson Babb
In a panyard in Port of Spain a few people gathered for a small lime. The DJ was busy on his laptop selecting tune after tune and then he selected “Viper Nation”. The intimate crowd started to dance and bob their heads and although they never heard the rendition before, they hummed and tried to sing the words. Jahson Babb sat on a stool not too far off; a look of contentment on his face as he absorbed the people’s appreciation of one of his many contributions to the performing arts and literary world…
Ganda spreading and ah… People lying and jah, children dying while dem fake smiling…
“Viper Nation”… It’s a nice cool Friday evening and as I meet Babb to chat, I sing some verses silently. The poet and author of Trinidadian and British roots certainly has a way with words. The “Viper Nation” rendition is actually a spin-off from Viper Nation, the book (available on Amazon), which is an accurate and exciting philosophical analysis of the times we live in, inspired by a “one love” approach to 21st century living and loving. But there is so much more to the Point-a-Pierre born author of six books whose day job is really a clinical mental health therapist. I read between the lines of his raving resume—a first degree in Social Work, specialised in advanced mental practice at Masters’ level; a staple of local employee assistance programmes (EAP) organisations; publisher of six books in just 25 years—Beyond Soul, An Erudite Among Us, Being Lovable Is Being Happy, Viper Nation, Ghetto Youths Prayer Book, and De Street Poet—brainchild behind Beyond Soul Mental Health and Literary Initiative, community development activist to many local and international communities and more… Indeed, Babb is a talent factory blessed with the ability to shape the philosophies of all age groups, beliefs and ethnicities. His work is so relevant to the current times where people battle for freedom from not just slavery but systemic inequality. But it’s not time yet to discuss the Black Lives Matter campaign as I still try to understand the brilliant mind of Babb which cannot be bottled into any category due to his diverse nature.
Like who would come up with a book tittle like Ghetto Youths Prayer Book?
“Ghetto Youths Prayer Book takes a walk into the lives and times of Diamond, Crystal, Amethyst, Onyx, and others. Inner-city youths negotiating the difficulties of everyday life in this judgment time. The book explores their hopes, prayers, and fears as they trod through a world where angels fear to tread. This one is strictly for ghetto gems worldwide,” explains Babb.
She was now 33 years old with a 17-year-old son who was thugged out in these blood drenched streets…
As I read about Crystal’s journey in chapter one, I realise that Ghetto Youths Prayer Book could very well live in T&T these days which prompts me to ask Babb: “What and who influences your work?” He responds, “My work echoes real life experiences. I am also heavily influenced by modern-day psychologists and self-help authors, musicians, and poets, including Dr Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay, Dr Bruce Lipton, Kahlil Gibran, Paulo Coelho, Iyanla Vanzant, Richard Carlson, Mutaburuka, Ras Shorty I, Bob Marley, Tupac Shakur, Buddha as well as the pulsating multicultural life of Trinidad and Tobago including Twelve Tribes of Rastafari and Christian festivals. These events influence my expressive style.”
As we skim through more of his literary pieces like Beyond Soul which is a collection of poems and short stories influenced by spirituality and nature and An Erudite Amongst Us which is a gritty semi-fictional collection of thoughts and observations, we reach the burning issue—“Some detractors say all lives matter, it’s not just black lives matter… If so, why is there such a global systemic disparity regarding accurate historical documentation and acknowledgement of the efforts and achievements of such an amazing culture? Why is there over policing and scape-goating of many black communities? As we know, there are criminal elements in all races, yet as the song goes... ‘there is 95 per cent black and five per cent white’ in jails. If all lives matter, let there be equity,” he comments.
“Indeed, but the day will come when there is peace between the lion and the lambs, because we are really spiritual beings having a human experience. We just have to be guided spiritually as to our rightful role in this journey. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and the others had their roles to play and we do as well,” the internationally acclaimed creative who has shared the stage with Ras Shorty I and Ataklan to name a few, continues.
To close our conversation, Babb’s final Emancipation Day message (every word he mutters is a freedom message) is to not judge others but to embrace love and peace and to understand that beauty can emerge from anywhere and anyone regardless of origin and environment, which is why we end with words from his famous poem “Stacey” which speaks of his encounter with a prostitute—“I was amazed by her conservative, calm and beautiful spirit. I really expected a guttural, immoral person but I saw otherwise!”
It was a dirty, shabby dingy place, the only consolation was the beauty in her face… — “Stacey”