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VIBE Magazine/Camille Augustin

Barbados: The History Is In The Root

Ninety minutes after the sun clocked in above New York City’s damp sky, passengers aboard a JetBlue flight were relieved to have escaped the forthcoming downpour. On its way to a country with an opposite forecast, the full plane descended from its 30,000+ altitude to land in Grantley Adams International Airport. A rippling wave of claps erupted from JFK commuters anxious to kick off their time away from home or return to their native residence.

Stationed 62 miles outside of the Caribbean Sea, Barbados is still climbing above the massive Atlantic Ocean, reaching 180 to 240 meters above sea level. Affectionately referred to as BIM by natives, the only island in the area not formed by a volcano is also known for utilizing its natural resources to build, sustain, or tell a story behind its infrastructure. Whether it’s the Molasses Bridge, formally known as Blackmans Bridge, which was constructed in the 1600s out of egg whites, egg shells, molasses and limestone (and still stands today in Saint Joseph Parish), or the preservation of mahogany trees which were once used to make furniture, the country not only takes pride in its generational culture, but also in the living organisms that tell their history better than a textbook.

Thanks to an ever-smiling tour guide named Marvin, we became privy to these gems during a trip around the island. Traveling through each of the 11 parishes can easily become a gateway back in time. Gigantic palm trees not only add to the vegetation of certain regions but also serve as markers for where plantations once were. Sugar cane fields are constantly being toiled in order to fulfill Europe’s demand for the sweet additive. Cotton is still in its early stages before being shipped off to Japan, while banana trees undergo their nine-month process of maturation. “The island is actually made up of 80 percent of limestone and coral, 20 percent sand and clay,” Marvin said.

While nature blooms up top, another natural resource sprawls below the island’s surface. Harrison’s Cave, which was discovered in the 19th century, is known as a “stream cave” since it carries water throughout its 2.3 kilometers stretch. Equipped with a hard hat and an eager mindset, ticket-holders were guided throughout the expanse’s curves to witness fountain-of-youth-like bodies of water. Surprise droplets from the cave’s ceiling also blessed the group as a reminder that it is still very active.

Nature’s slow pace and the careful manner in which it preserves its appeal can be translated to the residents’ outlook on their day-day. “Most of them are friendly,” Marvin noted. “As you go along, you’ll see they’re waving at you and you should feel free to wave back at them.”

A fish market by day, fete and filling eats by night, Oistins served as a much-appreciated introduction to Barbados’ version of a laid-back Friday evening. We were treated to hearty food at Pat’s Place with menu items like flying fish or mahi-mahi making it hard to choose the first nighttime meal of the four-day stay. The choices only became tougher as the days progressed—I was almost willing to risk an allergic reaction to try a breadfruit and lobster combination at Cocktail Kitchen (I settled on the country’s staple macaroni pie instead). Marrying flavors like the aforementioned is a technique our driver Shawn says is becoming popular in Bajan cuisine.

“What I’m realizing for here, they’re infusing a lot of different things now,” he says. “But really flavorful, to be honest with you. I think one of the days where you had rice and peas, fried chicken, fried fish, they’re more or less mixing things up now. Mix it up and see how it comes out.” That occasional muddle is always appreciated, but certain dishes still remain a distinct part of Barbados’ diet. From sting flyer fish, cornmeal coucou, or the aforementioned macaroni pie, everything that was cooked was destined for consumption. “Believe me, there are some places that can really blow your head,” Shawn says about macaroni pie. “Some people can really get it done just right,” even with a dash of sugar “to taste.”

While we took in the memorable sites during the greater part of the day, at night the festivities required a fresh batch of senses. Saturday (April 27) launched the country’s annual Reggae Festival. For the first evening, Bajan Buggy Nhakente, Jamaica’s Wayne Wonder, Spragga Benz, and the legendary Buju Banton performed their hits to a packed Kensington Oval. Looking out into the crowd felt like the majority of people in the country were within this space, eager to witness history.

With the lights toned to warm indigo, Banton sent the loud crowd into a trance backed by his angelic “Untold Stories” melody and the resounding “Champion.” Taking his time through the hits, he commanded each corner of the stage to reel fans into his timeless records. As Banton continues his “Long Walk To Freedom Tour” for his reggae fans, the genre also had its own spotlight earlier this year. UNESCO decided to add reggae to its World Cultural Heritage list, a feat Wonder says was “a long time coming.” Taking his time through hits like “Saddest Day” and the everlasting “No Letting Go,” Wonder dished on how he’s been able to preserve his longevity.

“I just live this music, you know? I don't think about the competition,” Wonder says. “I don't think about who is running the place. I just make music. And I don't think about that hate also. I just want to make music that soothes people. I don't think about the glamour and the glitter part of it, I just want to make good music. See, I can sing ‘Saddest Day’ 20 years after, 25 years after, so that's how I want to make music.”

That longevity remains a permanent feat for plenty of reggae artists. The following night, patrons filled Pirate’s Cove to witness headliners Busy Signal and Sizzla perform as if they were new artists. From start to finish, each musician ignited a contagious strain of energy, leaving you to want that continuous feeling of the live music heard at family gatherings growing up.

"I think the whole Caribbean has this musicality in its culture," says Jacqui McDermott, Sales & Marketing Manager at Ocean Hotels Group Barbados, during breakfast at Sea Breeze Beach House, our temporary yet otherworldly residence/oasis located on the country’s southern coastline. "There's such a good live band scene that's really nice." Wonder echoes this sentiment of live instrumentation within the genre. “Nothing beats live music, nothing beats live singing,” he says. “I've been doing it before auto-tune, so I like the original authentic vibe. Love live music.” That authenticity is one of the main ingredients to longevity, and can be said not only when it comes to the music, but living off the land.

One of Marvin’s parting statements summarizes the excursion, noting that whatever one may need, the country can provide. "This is Barbados," Marvin said. "We have everything."

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After announcing the release date for Chilombo, Jhené Aiko unveiled the album's track list on Wednesday (Feb. 26). The project features appearances from Big Sean, Ty Dolla $ign, Nas, John Legend, Ab-Soul and Aiko’s father, Dr. Chill.

Last month, Aiko released the track “P*$$ Fairy (OTW),” which will be featured on the LP. The album's other interesting song titles include, “Happiness Over Everything (H.O.E),” “Tryna Smoke,” “Born Tired,” “LOVE,” “Mourning Doves,” and the Sean-assisted, “None of Your Concern.”

 

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March 6th ✨ #CHILOMBO 🌋

A post shared by Jhené Aiko Efuru Chilombo 🌋 (@jheneaiko) on Feb 26, 2020 at 9:17am PST

In a new interview with Essence, Aiko spoke on the “healing” properties of her music and discussed how she maintains privacy in the age of social media -- especially with all the chatter surrounding her relationship with Sean after the two seemingly broke up and got back together.

“The internet has made everyone aware of their opinion,” she said. “As many people as there are in the world, that’s how many opinions there are. If you let that many opinions affect your own opinion, and your own way of looking at things, you’re going to be so confused. I just love the feeling of taking that away from people; their need to have to say something or have to give their opinion because I personally have never been that way—well maybe when I was younger, or high or drunk.

“Whether it be something with me and Sean, or me and my daughter,” continued Aiko. “I share about one percent of my whole being with the internet. Even in my songs, that’s literally one moment that I’m talking about or when I felt that way. There’s so much more to my relationship with my [late] brother [Miyagi], or with my daughter, or with Sean. People hear a song like ‘Triggered’ and they’re like, ‘Oh, do we hate him now?’ In the grand scheme of things that was like a moment.”

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Wrongfully Convicted Kansas Man Awarded $1.5 Million After Spending 23 Years In Prison

A Kansas man, who spent more than half of his life in prison for a wrongful conviction, was awarded a $1.5 million settlement on Monday (Feb. 24). Lamonte McIntyre sued the state last year under a newly-implemented wrongful conviction statute.

“Today, Lamonte McIntyre has been declared, finally and conclusively, a completely innocent man. That long-overdue recognition, along with the statutory payment and other benefits will help lighten a bit the heavy load he has carried,” McIntyre’s lawyer, Cheryl A. Pilate, told CNN on Monday.

The settlement includes counseling, access to state-funded healthcare benefits for 2020 and 2021, and a tuition waiver to cover his post-secondary education up to 130 credit hours.

McIntyre was wrongly convicted in the 1994 murders of Donald Ewing and Doniel Quinn. He was just 17 years old at the time and served 8,583 days in prison before being released in 2017 at age 41.

“We are committed to faithfully administering the state’s mistaken-conviction law as the legislature wrote it,” Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a statement. “In this case, our office worked diligently to obtain and review all available evidence, including evidence identified but not provided in the earlier judicial proceedings. We were ultimately able to resolve all issues, satisfy all of the statute’s requirements, and agree to this outcome so Mr. McIntyre can receive the benefits to which he is entitled by law because of his mistaken conviction.”

McIntyre is the third wrongfully convicted man in Kansas to be awarded a settlement after suing the state under the wrongful conviction law, which was enacted in 2018. Three additional lawsuits remain pending in “various stages of litigation.”

Since his release, the McIntyre has completed barber school and founded Miracle of Innocence, a non-profit organization helping the wrongfully convicted. McIntyre attends Penn Valley Metropolitan Community College where he is pursuing a business degree.

“I feel like a new person, I feel like I’m actually starting my life now,” he told ABC news affiliate KMBC.

See more on McIntyre’s story in the video above.

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Snoop Dogg Addresses Gayle King Comments On ‘Red Table Talk’

Snoop Dogg visited Red Table Talk to address his comments against Gayle King. In the episode, which aired on Wednesday (Feb. 26), the Doggfather explained his social media fury against King for bringing up Kobe Bryant’s rape allegations in an interview days after the his death.

“I let my emotions get the best of me,” Snoop confessed to hosts Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris. “I was frustrated on top of just venting.”

“I wanted to make sure that the message was across that we love Kobe, but be respectful of Vanessa [Bryant] and those kids. That’s what the whole intent was, to protect that woman and them babies over there because they are still grieving. Let’s give them some respect.”

Tyler Perry, Diddy, and Van Jones reached out to Uncle Snoop after he posted the blistering video calling King out of her name. “They didn’t bash me, they was just like ‘brother, we got your back if you need ‘anything’, but we think that you shouldn’t have said it.”

Snoop also received a phone call from his mother who checked him for his words about King. After the talk, he reached out to King privately before recording a public apology. Red Table Talk also reached out to King to invite her to appear on the show.

Nothing but love 🙏🏾🌹✨ tune in to @RedTableTalk today https://t.co/Ev7XsZQu7f pic.twitter.com/myEUwMLIO1

— Snoop Dogg (@SnoopDogg) February 26, 2020

Elsewhere in the interview, Snoop discussed the grief that he endured leading up to the deaths of Kobe and his daughter, Gigi, including the murder of Nipsey Hussle and the sudden death of his newborn grandson.

Click here to watch the full episode of Red Table Talk.

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