Independent Lens


Driver Radio: Jamaica, Episode 4

With their parents' own immigrant journey from Jamaica to America in mind, the Brodie brothers travel through the heart of Jamaica, to Mandeville and Montego Bay, in hopes of better understanding where they come from.
All Routes Lead Home | Driver Radio: Jamaica, Episode 4

AIRED: September 21, 2020 | 0:12:44

-So, what song is there that every Jamaican can sing?

[ Dramatic music plays ]

-Hold on there, Tingle.

[ Laughter ]


-We're Ron and Don Brodie, first-generation Jamericans.

When we were little, our parents would bring us to Jamaica

to learn about our heritage.

-You think this one is good? -Yeah!

-Now we're back to navigate our own route,

with help from local drivers along the way.

This is "Driver Radio: Jamaica."


In 1970, our parents migrated to America, leaving Jamaica behind.

Back then, it was common to leave

in search of better opportunities.

[ Mid-tempo music plays ]

-The mission seemed a little bit like a selfish task.

-We wanted to understand more about where we came from

and more about our parents.

I've only been there a few times in my life.

-And then we were gonna try and navigate

through some of our memories and look for more family.

-Growing up, we would skateboard,

we'd bleach our hair, we would play loud music and punk rock.

We weren't Jamaican enough.

-Our inlet was meeting a lot of the locals.

-Real rough in Jamaica! Yeah! [ Laughter ]

-By the time we were old enough, we befriended taxi drivers,

and we'd go down into the Hip Strip and go look for trouble.

They showed us our country and our culture.

-The mission --

retrace a former route from Kingston to Mandeville,

then forward into Montego Bay.

At this point, we'd typically radio for a driver.

But for this adventure,

we thought we'd try something different.

-It's a longer journey,

so we decided that we would try the local bus.

-It felt like a more authentic way

of looking at the people that create this lovely island.

Bredren, why you look so pop-star, huh?

You walked through my set. You know we're rolling camera.

To get us started, we enlisted the help

of a local bus conductor named Bubba.

[ Air horn blares ]

We went to go and look for Bubba up at Stony Hill a while back

just to kind of pick his brain a little bit

about how this was all gonna be possible.

[ Horn honks ]

-Although Stony Hill seemed like a bustling stop,

Kingston's bus park was on a whole nother level.

-There are no bus numbers.

They have their routes printed on some of the buses.

But some of them, you can only tell by the way they look --

you know, the color they are, the flashy ornaments,

how you can recognize it from afar,

and then when you get closer, you can see it's your route.

-For our first leg, we'd need to find a bus

headed from Kingston to Mandeville.

[ Engine idling ]

[ Mid-tempo music plays ]

-This is a way of self-exploration.

-We just wanted to experience it

maybe how our parents might have experienced it.

[ Horns honking ]

-We'll look for you again, huh?

-This is a reliable ride... -Yeah, bredren.

-...with a great group of people.

[ Mid-tempo music plays ]

-Mandeville was a space I loved, man.

It's got a heartbeat to it.

I have distant memories

of traveling through that area when we were kids.

-I could barely even remember. We were so young.

Just kind of picturing my father

hanging outside of the gas station or local disco there.

You feel energy.

-It just feels cooler than everywhere else.


-Shortly after our father left Jamaica,

our grandfather passed away.

He had a church on the hillside that overlooked this red river.

-We'd never have the chance to meet our grandfather in person.

-Dear Lord watching over us,

we've come into town to visit Grandpa

for him to hear our message.

[ Down-tempo music plays ]

We're grateful that we have you watching over us.

What you've passed on to our father

has now been manifest into the two of us.

-Thank you, Reverend Wilbert S. Brodie.

We love you.


[ Thunder rumbling ]

[ Line ringing ]

-Hey, Dad. Guess where we are.

-We're in Mandeville, Dad.

-Yeah, man.

He said tell Don Brodie and the whole family he said hi.

[ Laughter ]

We sat on the bus for about three hours.

-Waiting for the bus to load.

-This piece of rain just didn't let up at all.

-It's literally one and ready, and then you're about to leave.

-The next leg of the mission was from Mandeville to Montego Bay.

[ Down-tempo music plays ]


-I got the call from Leanne

to say that I must meet you at Pier 1.

I would say, "How are they reaching?"

And Leanne said, "They're coming down by the bus."

I said, "Okay.

They're gonna get an experience."

[ Down-tempo music plays ]

[ Indistinct conversations ]


-How you doing, sir?

-We were worried about reaching Mo Bay

and being able to link with our cousins.

[ Indistinct conversations ]


-Montego Bay by 8:00.

[ Engine revs ]

-When we come back to Jamaica,

the objective is to visit family.

-When we landed in Montego Bay, we felt home.

-Growing up, that was a big time in life,

when the twins were born. [ Laughs ]

Everywhere there was family. they spent time.

-[ Shouting indistinctly ] -[ Laughs ]

-Seeing Leanne and David -- We ran up on them.

-How was it?

-I felt so accomplished.

I just had to give my cousin a big hug.

Getting pulled over in a country that's run by Black people

is a pleasant experience.

-[ Laughs ] -Yeah. It's totally different.

-Growing up, you guys were so far from Jamaican.

To see that you guys come back so in love with Jamaica,

it's so heartwarming.

[ Line ringing ]

-This is the biggest love letter to my mom and dad,

to say thank you.

-Hi, Mom! -Hi, Auntie Lorna!


Yeah. We found everybody.

-It looks like they know Jamaica now.

-I told Mom we were okay.

-I don't know. But we love you. -[ Laughs ]

-There's a lot more to see. It's not over.

Jamaica can't done.

-The trip continues.

[ Birds chirping ]

-Look at all these chickens.

[ Mid-tempo music plays ]

-All routes lead home in Jamaica.

That's our heritage.

And just like navigating all complex things...

-I kind of don't want to be on camera, though.

-...managing the route takes practice.


-This was just practice.

And so we say forward a yard.

We soon come.

There's even more to discover.

Until then, continue to scan the radio waves.


-Greetings in the name of His Imperial Majesty,

who reveals himself

in the personality of Emperor Haile Selassie I.



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