I was an undergraduate student at Pace University in the early 1970's when Rex Nettleford gave one of the most brilliant and inspiring speeches I had ever heard. And it wasn't even a formal speech. He was simply giving a few remarks before a demonstration of Jamaican dance by the touring Jamaica National Dance theatre Company (NDTC) in the school's gym. They were in town for an engagement at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
That is where I heard the phrase, "revenge with rancor." My take away: despite injustices of the past, work hard, succeed, do well and you will have revenge without bitterness.
I also came away with a new appreciation for dance that day. He explained how it was important to maintain our culture and how we should see beauty and value in those aspects of our heritage we might be tempted to denigrate.
And so it was that while in Kingston last year, I was in attendance with friends and family at the NDTC performance at the Little Theatre on August 1st, Emancipation day. I hadn't seen them in a while but this little company Rex Nettleford had founded was still going and going several decades later. The evening featured a wonderful new work by Nettleford, Apocalypse. The mostly overseas crowd gave a standing ovation to the evening's performance.
I had a couple of opportunities to interact with Rex last year. He was on Supreme Carib radio in Atlanta one morning when I joined host Barrington Douglas in asking him questions about educational trends in Jamaica. A few days later I chatted with him briefly at the Benevolent Missions of Atlanta function where he was guest speaker. He seemed so fit and trim then that I was really surprised to hear of his passing.
He was truly one of Jamaica's towering giants: A man who never forgot his past despite his greatness.
A man without rancor.
To read more about Rex Nettleford's amazing life:
JIS: Famous Jamaicans - Rex Nettleford
New York Times: Jamaican Scholar and Educator Rex Nettleford dies at 76