On May 24, 2010, at least 75 Jamaican civilians were killed when police and military forces entered the West Kingston community in an attempt to apprehend Christopher “Dudus” Coke, a gang leader and community leader. Survivors tell their stories in a multi-modal ethnography project designed to provide a platform for West Kingston community members to narrate their experience, and to name and memorialize lost loved ones.
During the week of May 24, 2010, members of the Jamaican Army and police force entered Tivoli Gardens and other West Kingston communities to apprehend Christopher “Dudus” Coke. The incursion lasted four days. Coke was detained on June 22nd and then extradited to the United States. His trial took place on August 30th, 2011 and he is currently serving a 23-year sentence. A report of the incursion was called for in 2014 though a full list of the dead has not yet been released.
The ethnography project was started in 2012.
Tivoli Gardens is located in West Kingston, on the southern coast of Jamaica.
In May of 2010, police and military forces entered West Kingston communities to apprehend Christopher “Dudus” Coke, who had been ordered for extradition to the United States to stand trial on gun and drug-trafficking charges. As the “don” of the community and therefore both benefactor and gang leader, Coke’s supporters protected him, leading to a standoff with the security forces. The incursion lasted four days and at least 75 Jamaican civilians were killed, though according to community members the number is closer to 200. By the end of the week, Coke had not yet been discovered and the government imposed a curfew for the residents of Tivoli Gardens, effectively stopping movement in and out of the community until Coke was discovered on June 22nd and subsequently extradited. Coke pled guilty to charges and in June 2012 he was sentenced to 23 years, which he is currently serving at Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution.
In 2012, Deborah Thomas, Deanne M. Bell, and Junior “Gubu” Wedderburn, began work on an ethnography of “making life in and through violence” as a way of bearing witness to these events. The multi-modal project provides a platform for people in Tivoli Gardens to narrate their experiences during this state of emergency and to publicly name and memorialize lost loved ones. Working with community members, Thomas, Bell, and Wedderburn recorded around 30 oral histories, collected drone footage and archival film and stills, and took photographs and video of interviewees and the community to create the experimental documentary Four Days in May: Kingston 2010, museum exhibition Bearing Witness: Four Days in West Kingston, and a book by Thomas, Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation: Sovereignty, Witnessing, Repair. As affective engagements are unpredictable and different modalities produce different types of engagements, each piece of this project (film, exhibition, and book) speaks to gaps in others.
The exhibition Bearing Witness: Four Days in West Kingston opened at the Penn Museum in November 2017 and will be accessible to the public until December 2019.
Digital Humanities Forum
Vitale Digital Media Lab
Provost’s Interdisciplinary Arts Fellowship
School of Arts and Sciences
Annenberg School for Communication
Antioch Faculty Fund, Inc.
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