“After large obstacles and disappointments, things that never went right, standing in places of darkness; where your left was the same as your right. Where you knew you were wrong, you knew you shouldn’t have, but “every man affi eat,” is true, where’s the lie? I found myself straying on roads I’ve never taken, doing things I’ve never thought of, I was disappointed in my own strategy, because “every man affi eat” is true, but sometimes the food that you eat can poison you” Daneil Creary

In this installment of Our Stories, Reggae artiste Romaine Davis explains how he became a man behind bars… For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise – white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth, if the lens are focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you would find a sharper, richer and truer image of the Jamaican experience… this is Our Stories!

Meet Romaine Davis – transcending reggae artiste

Romaine found his sound in the gift of a guitar.

Like many musicians, he has great love for the arts and seemingly used his love for music to guide his way. Growing up in Red Hills, Jamaica, Romaine was one of four children who spent most of his free time playing football and running tracks. A young Romaine remained passionate about his art, but the passion only acted as an escape and hobby, not quite a money-making venture. As the years went by Romaine had many run-ins with life and then with the law; he found himself in the tune of a guitar, in a dark and lost place behind bars.

As a child what did you want to become, what career path did you envision yourself taking?

I always wanted to be an architect…music, I was definitely a lover of music from the get-go, always knew that I had a gift of music, but at that younger age never really foresaw being a, well having music as a career, maybe just for the love of it.

I understand that you lived in the States for a great part of your life, what age did you leave?

I left Jamaica at the age of seventeen, migrated to the States, landed in Florida first, then went to New York where I stayed with my dad, and helped out around till I  figured out my own way.

Romaine as a child.

You said you figured out your own way, what do you mean? 

So I worked in a couple of restaurants, Golden Crust to be precise then some restaurants off Gonel road, ran a little community taxi cab service. I worked at a moving company, Ben Hur moving company…worked at another Golden Crust out in New Island Hempstead, and so my life was kind of among those jobs. Then I moved to Maryland where I just continued the survival process. In Maryland, I got into a little bit of trouble where I had to do some time. Spent six years behind bars, from June 2013 to October 25, 2018, and that’s where I kind of reevaluated my priorities, caught myself and started anew.

What was that experience like for you?

It was like a crossroads for me,  but  I got refocused and cried out to the Most High and had a one-on-one conversation with him. It was for me as vivid and real as any person could have. Within the conflict, it came that he had never left, that he was always with me. At a young age, I actually had a vision, it was just about me going away to [a] far away land and just being able to provide for my family during hard times or famine or whatnot. So I was wrestling with the father God at that moment about my situation and the fact that I’m going to be heading back to Jamaica, how can I provide for my family? And so I was literally demanding answers to stuff and he spoke to me and explained that vision. He told me that you know, basically, I’m at the place where I’m supposed to be at this given time, and I’m right on time with my vision. He explained that providing for my family was not a physical providing because he always had provided for us, for food and shelter. But this provision was of a spiritual provision and my family was the people that I was around that didn’t know about the Most High, and he basically told me these people are hungry, these people are lost, these people don’t know about me so you need to tell them about me, about the goodness and let your light be a reflection. So I told him that he had to help me get a guitar or something you know learn, because the only thing I could think about was music as a gift from him, and so he provided a gift instrument and I mastered a craft during that time. So I started practicing in 2017.

That’s deep! How did you initially get into music?

I haven’t been doing the music for super long professionally, but I’d say it started in Harlem New York when I used to work at Golden Crust. There was an artiste that was a regular customer there, he heard me singing at the cash register and said I had a nice voice, and offered to hear me out. He gave me a tune and told me to write something on it, and that’s where I got my first opportunity and where I wrote my first song; ‘missing you mama’. But through the turmoil and life challenges, I didn’t pursue it long after, because I got caught up in survival.

Romaine, his three siblings, and extended family

Based on your experience, what encouragement would you like to give to the young men of today?

Young men first of all I’m encouraging you to believe in yourself. To understand that with hard work, dedication, and resilience there’s nothing you cannot achieve as long as you put God first. Sometimes the dream seems so unattainable but don’t worry about too far ahead, rather do what you can in the day that’s given to you. That was a principle that being locked down taught me, and that’s how I got through it; when I started to focus on today as it comes and not stress about tomorrow.

This is valuable advice! Thanks for sharing your story Romaine!

After 6 years in prison, initially being deported to Jamaica to start from scratch, with his family and some friends being his main support, Romaine is now a musician who has recently produced an album labelled Simply Eclectic;

And though he is still walking, he walks in hope that one day he’ll run, and then fly..that his past will not alter his future, and that his story can be a message and motivation to other young men.

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