I Refuse To Be Your Slave: A Writer’s Manifesto [A.K.A Fuck Dis Shit!]

In 2014, Jamaican roots reggae artist Kabaka Pyramid released “Never Gonna Be A Slave”, a charged emancipatory call delivered on the Cane River riddim produced by DJ Frass records. I didn’t sing along to it. Rather, I cushioned my fear of pronouncing those words by making myself believe that I was paying attention to the message. Never gonna be a slave, what did he mean? And why was he so bold as to pronounce, in such an elegant and militant way, the he wasn’t willing to fuck around by buying into a system built to reject him?

Kabaka would rather do work that fulfills his soul. He refuses to sell out to any corporate mechanism which contributes to the dehumanisation of black people; to a complex set of principles which gang up on individual freedoms and safeguards our downward spiral. His words rang true; the song remained on repeat and became a daily mantra for me. My heartbeat surged and tinkly-winklies sprouted on my skin as he toasted: “We nuh stick around fe boost dem economy”.

Writing is what I know, and I do it to the best of my abilities. Always. I’m the yute which Kabaka addresses. I knew from the jump that operating within restrictive corporate frameworks wasn’t why I came into this world. I knew that agreeing to being ordered about in exchange of a paycheck every month-end would be betraying everything that I stand for.

But I also knew that hunger is real; that I didn’t want to depend on someone else for my livelihood; that I do not want to be poor. So I became a freelance writer, not immediately after graduating, but some 6 months afterwards. I did the employment thing in-between and it confirmed every theory I’d held prior.

So, fuck this shit, I thought. And then I bounced.

In two years since the song got released, and before that, I stood on the flanks and watched publications treat words as an after-thought. I’ve noticed a trend: they start big, with a promise, then dwindle to the lowest common demoninator: producing click-bait driven by thoughtless, uninspiring drivel. I knew from the jump that it’s because publications, on-line and print, figured that directing money towards everything else BUT the writer upon whom their business model’s survival is premised was a smart thing to do.

How are yougize so naar, I thought?!

It’s because they don’t care man. All these editors and marketing people and whoever the fuck draws up budgets, they don’t care about the writer. And good stories. And paying good money to get writers who’ll do the legwork and deliver their best writing at every turn and on any topic imaginable. So I’ve decided that no, I’m not going to listen to someone lie to me about their budget being cut. Because I know that there’s always money in the machine. However, the machine decides where money should be channeled and currently, it’s not in my direction.

So why continue to cosy up to the machine while engaging Kabaka’s words? Would there be a higher form of dishonesty? How am I going to explain to my future self that I’m poor? Will it suffice to say that I sold myself short and agreed to fuck-off sums which demanded that I do drenching work for next to nothing? How though, howww?!

So fuck it. Fuck your institution, fuck it all, eat a phat one!

Fuck dis shit!

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