Extract from Anna Kasafi Perkins, “Confession of a Jamaican ‘Flatalik'” in Shared Visions:
I grew up in the 1980s in a low income community in the Parish of St Andrew in the southeast of Jamaica. During our preparation for Confirmation, some of us chose to wear small wooden crosses as a sign of our faith and our desire to help the poor. We were a strange minority among Adventists, Pentecostals, Revivalists and others. A group of Rastamen in the community took every opportunity to taunt us with their Rasta skills at wordplay, calling us “kraasiz” (crosses), which was a reference to the crosses we wore but also a play upon the Jamaican word “kraasiz”, which is always in the plural and means adversity, bad luck, evil or trouble. So a person experiencing great adversity might exclaim, “Unu si mi krazis!” (Do you see my crosses!) Taken literally, this is a reference to Christ’s cross and to the Gospel admonition to take up one’s cross and follow Christ (Lk.9. 23; Mt. 16.24), but when used to refer to people it is a form of insult. The Rastas also taunted us with the neologism “flatalik”, again a clever play on words and sounds – “Catholic” and “flatter”. In the Jamaican context, a “lik” is a hard strike which causes someone to “flatter” (fall to the ground and flutter/convulse). Essentially, they were taunting us for choosing the white man’s church, the church of the oppressor. The history of the European Catholic Church and its sins against the African people has not been erased from the minds of many Jamaicans – despite the indigenization of the Jamaican Church and a theological anthropology that recognizes human dignity in all persons.
Watch Anna Kasafi Perkins give the first of three lectures in the Grace Kennedy Lecture Series on “Moral Dis-ease, Making Jamaica Ill? Re-engaging the conversation”.