Born Fi' Dead: A Journey Through the Jamaican Posse Underworld

Born Fi' Dead: A Journey Through the Jamaican Posse Underworld

by Laurie Gunst
     
 

Of the ethnic gangs that rule America’s inner cities, none has had the impact of the Jamaican posses. Spawned in the ghettos of Kingston as mercenary street-fighters for the island’s politicians, the posses began migrating to the United States in the early 1980s, just in time to catch and ride the crack wave as it engulfed the country. Feared and

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Overview

Of the ethnic gangs that rule America’s inner cities, none has had the impact of the Jamaican posses. Spawned in the ghettos of Kingston as mercenary street-fighters for the island’s politicians, the posses began migrating to the United States in the early 1980s, just in time to catch and ride the crack wave as it engulfed the country. Feared and honored for being “harder than the rest,” they would lay claim to their new American territory with outlaw bravura, and the raw dancehall music born of their world would define “gangsta” culture for a generation of angry sufferers in Jamaica, American, and England. Laurie Gunst spent a decade moving with the possemen, and Born Fi’ Dead is her unique account of this netherworld, the first to bring to life Jamaica’s international gangs.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A remarkable accomplishment . . . With clarity and power Gunst tracks down a complex, harrowing, and elusive story.”—Ekwueme Michel Thelwell, The Washington Post

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Nothing encapsulates the sad story of 20th-century Jamaica better than the name the island's poor give themselves-``sufferers.'' Their suffering is the result of political battles between left and right, the latter supported by the U.S. The posses-street gangs made up of very poor people brought up on American westerns, kung fu and Stallone and Schwarzenegger movies-were converted into political strong-arm groups; the warfare reached its high point in the election of 1980, with about 800 political killings. Many posse members then emigrated to the U.S., where they channeled their violence into the crack trade. Gunst, who taught at the University of the West Indies in Kingston and wrote her doctoral dissertation on Jamaica, explores the line between the underworlds of New York and Kingston and shows just how ill-fated the island has become. The title is island patois for ``born but to die.'' (Mar.)
Library Journal
This book's title comes from an anonymous poem and refers to the high odds of violent death among Jamaican gang members. Gunst, an academic who has taught in Jamaica, combines a history of Jamaican gangs with an account of her own personal experience with gang members. Tracing the origins of the gangs from the rivalry between two political parties in Jamaica, she then follows their evolution into drug-dealing on the island and in New York City. Through her narratives of her meetings with gang members, politicians, and other local people, Gunst presents a vivid picture of the unique culture of the gangs-called posses after the movie Westerns that strongly influenced their culture. She allows several members whom she befriended to tell their own stories, often in their own patois. These tales are inevitably tragic, filled with early deaths from drugs or guns, political exploitation, racism, and poverty. The book's structure is somewhat disjointed, following Gunst's peregrinations between the United States and Jamaica. This, along with the sheer number of characters, makes the story difficult to follow. Nevertheless, this remains a moving portrait of wasted lives caught in a culture of violence and self-destruction. Recommended for public and academic collections.-Ben Harrison, East Orange P.L., N.J.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805046984
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/28/1996
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.97(w) x 7.95(h) x 0.68(d)

Meet the Author

Laurie Gunst earned her doctorate in history at Harvard. Her essays have appeared in The Nation and The Stories that Shape Us: Contemporary Women Write About the West.

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