On the same day that marijuana will be legalized in Canada, a documentary biography of the late, great Reggae pioneer Peter Tosh, will be featured at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Stepping Razor: Red X, will be presented by Canadian icon Nicholas Campbell as part of the free Canadian Vault series in the city.
How poignant that it should be released on the same day millions of Canadians will be (legally) lighting-up, after the Trudeau administration legalized recreational marijuana in the nation, as well as officially pardoning those who've previously been convicted of possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana, the now-legal threshold.
For, in 1978, at the ironically-named One Love Peace Concert, in Kingston, Jamaica the founding member of The Wailers, and writer of the anthemic "Get Up, Stand Up" called out Jamaica's two leading politicians, and famously cited Peace, as "the diploma you get in the cemetery."
Six months later, he was arrested for possession of marijuana and brutally beaten by police for over an hour, until one of the officers claimed, "he is dead." Tosh survived by playing dead but the point had been made.
An advocate for equal rights, and marijuana legalization, and an opponent of racism and political oppression, the "Bush Doctor" singer routinely felt the scourge of the authorities; singing, "So there'll be no more police brutality, no more disrespect for humanity."
Tosh's turbulent life came to a cruel, and violent end in 1987; he befriended a man and helped him find work after a lengthy jail sentence, only for the man to take advantage of his kindness and demand money at gunpoint from Tosh. Claiming he had no money in the house, the man, along with his two accomplices, began opening fire recklessly, killing Tosh instantly, along with disc jockey Jeff "Free I" Dixon, and Herbalist, Wilton "Doc" Brown.
The miscarriage of justice for the Tosh family didn't end there. On Father's Day weekend of 2013, Tosh's son Jawara McIntosh (commonly known as musician "Tosh 1"), was arrested in New Jersey for possession of 65 pounds of marijuana, and after a long legal battle, and a bail posting of $200,000, "Tosh 1" — sentened to a year in Bergen County Jail — finally turned himself in, in January 2017.
Within a month, McIntosh was almost lifeless in Hackensack Medical Hospital, handcuffed to the bed despite being in a coma — state protocol. He had been badly beaten by an inmate.
It wasn't until Oct. 2 of this year when "Tosh 1" was finally released from hospital, and is expected to make a full recovery - albeit a long one.
His sister Niambe, told the Jamaican publication The Gleaner her brother's arrest was "never supposed to happen — all over marijuana, and we'll continue to fight for him."
Niambe also told PeterTosh.com that they're using his story as an advocate for marijuana legalization in New Jersey, on the Federal level.
When he was elected as Governor of New Jersey in 2017, Phil Murphy promised to legalize the drug. Full legislation has yet to be achieved.
"Tosh 1's" arrest in 2013 was part of the state's clampdown on marijuana use, and resulted in the highest number of arrests for small possessions of the drug, for over two decades. It also led to alarmingly-high, racially disproportionate cannabis arrests.
Nick Campbell's Stepping Razor originally came out in 1992, but with the original "bad man" of reggae posthumously celebrating his 74th birthday this Friday, and the progressive developments in Canada this week, raising awareness of the discrimination the Tosh family faced through its patriarch, can once again have people chanting, "stand up for your rights."
Nicholas Campbell's Stepping Razor: Red X plays TONIGHT as part of the Toronto International Film Festival's "Free Vault" series.
You can show support for Jawara McIntosh ("Tosh 1") with the hashtags; #justiceforjawara and #legalizeit