Waiting in vain
Plea for help for family living in Marley’s crumbling boyhood home
The historic former home of late reggae icon Bob Marley remains a crumbling shell in Trench Town, Kingston, after fire gutted the top floor of the building last September.
Still living at the Second Street house are 47-year-old Yvette Gordon and her six adult children, who are waiting for the Government to come good on its relocation pledge and to designate the compound an official heritage site.
But more than a year since Food For The Poor had cleared lands next door to construct new homes for Gordon and several other tenants who occupy the ramshackle building, authorisation from the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) is still not forthcoming.
Architect Christopher Whyms-Stone, who has been involved in the Trench Town Culture Yard redevelopment initiative for years, told The Gleaner on Saturday that the local government hold-up has left the heritage site development at a standstill.
“We have been patiently awaiting the KSAMC to give us a letter of authorisation to use the land across the road to be the relocation property, for the Food For The Poor houses to be built for those residents,” he said.
Calls to Robert Hill, CEO of the KSAMC, went unanswered on Sunday.
Life, in the meantime, has been on pause for Gordon and her family.
“I worry every day that it will crumble on us. Sometimes mi cry, and worse now my daughter get a child and he is four years old now, and mi still deh here so,” Gordon said during a visit to the area on Saturday.
Although she has lived there for nine years, Gordon disclosed that since the fire last September, which destroyed the room that Marley and stepbrother Bunny Wailer shared as boys, living in the one-bedroom dwelling on the ground floor has become unbearable.
The ceiling, rendered porous by the fire, has left the one-bedroom dwelling susceptible to discomfiting leaks.
“I don’t know what the hold-up is, but I have been praying and hoping for the authorities to find a place to relocate us.
“I worry a lot about the building because at one point when I just move come, a piece of stone fell from the ceiling and burst mi daughter head. So mi know say it nuh safe at all. And now when rain fall, I have to line up pan after pan,” said Gordon, whose mother, before her, had also rented the property as cheaply as 12 shillings a month.
The two-storey structure has four living quarters, with Gordon, her six children – the youngest being 18 years old – and her four-year-old grandson all occupying a single bedroom.
“There is no bathroom and no toilet. It so good that I have relatives close by where I can walk go, but a nuh all the time people a guh comfortable with you coming around dem place.
“We have light and we have running water outside. We have to ketch water and keep it in a drum. I just normally bathe outside in the yard.”
Small and stoic, Gordon explained that an undiagnosed medical condition has rendered three generations of her family with extreme bow legs, limiting her employment prospects.
Her mother, who was also bow-legged, was a domestic helper who juggled several other day jobs to support her children.
“It was hard finding work because of my legs. I remember when I was trying to get work; all mi try, everywhere mi guh, mi cyah get nuh work. Dem tell mi say mi too short and mi can’t stand up long.
The family receives monthly welfare benefits under the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education.
Self-reliance and grit are time-tested values the Gordons continue to cherish. She credits her mother for that philosophy.
“My mother used to sell, she wash fi people, keep people kids, and even deliver baby. She really could help herself, and I am the same. If I had the money to build a shop, I would do that because I can help myself,” Gordon said.
In the meantime, Gordon remains hopeful that promises of help from Food for The Poor and St Andrew Southern Member of Parliament Mark Golding will come through sooner rather than later. She maintains a cheerful spirit, oozing religious faith.
“I just pray and seek God daily, asking for the help to move out.
“But what am I going to do? I have nowhere else to go. Life is like that. You have to make the best with what you have until better come,” said Gordon.