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The Tosh Family: Torn By Injustice, United By Love (And Cannabis)

Tosh Family with Jawara
Tosh Family with Jawara SHAUN CUNNINGHAM
 

“My brother still is confined to a bed, still unable to communicate, still cannot move with any intention, literally needs to be turned every two hours and every aspect of all of his needs have to be taken care of by somebody else,” shares Niambe McIntosh during a conversation about her brother Jawara and her family’s journey over the past couple years. 

Jawara McIntosh, Peter Tosh’s youngest son, followed his father’s footsteps not only in music, but also in Rastafarianism and cannabis advocacy. And these decisions have brought him both joy and grief.

A few years ago, Jawara was incarcerated for a cannabis-related charge. It was during his confinement at Bergen County Jail in New Jersey that the 39 year-old’s life would take a tragic turn. In February of 2017, Jawara was brutally attacked by inmate Kyrie Charon Baum, who caused severe brain injuries that have confined him to bed care ever since. 

Keep Moving Forward

More than two years have passed since the incident, and Jawara’s recovery has been slow but steady. His mother and his sister, Niambe, however, have been active.

Niambe Holding Order of Merit
Niambe Holding Order of Merit  PETER SIMON

“What I’ve been doing now is pretty much sharing his story, with the hope of being a voice for other families that have been affected by cannabis prohibition, as well as a voice on the platform for criminal justice reform”, Niambe stated.

Naturally, Niambe uses medicinal marijuana tinctures and vapes to treat Jawara, given the family’s close relationship to the herb. “Because I’m leaning more towards holistic care, a lot of things do come out of pocket,” she adds.

Interestingly, Jawara’s very limited mobility does not prevent him from smoking. “He hasn’t forgotten how to smoke…he’s not always super sharp with it, but by the fifth puff he’s got it down,” Niambe says. However, finding a supplier that can guarantee consistency in product delivery has been difficult, she explains.

A Long Love For Cannabis

As Rastafarians, both Peter Tosh and his son considered the cannabis plant to be sacred, consuming it and advocating for its spiritual and healing qualities. However, the Jamaican government has a lesser-known history of persecuting Rastafari communities, dating back to the pre-colonial 1930s. For Niambe, understanding history is crucial to changing the present.

“You know, Rastas were dragged by their locks through different communities and persecuted in that way”, she explains, “my father had been at home, minding his business with his friends, and had cops come to his house and drag him out and just beat him up, because of his strong stance and vocalization of sharing his beliefs on cannabis…and now it’s hitting another generation in my family.” 

She believes that Jawara’s original incarceration was largely due to racial profiling, an issue that has been consistently drawing attention to the public over the past decade. But Niambe is confident in the greater meaning of her brother’s tragic injury: “the reality is that I strongly believe he’s going to tell his own story. I do believe he’s going to be the one to have people understand what that journey is like, what persecution feels like, because he was attacked from the beginning as a black man with dreads.” 

Justice For Jawara

The family’s fight for justice, led them to the creation of the Justice for Jawarainitiative. Supported by the Peter Tosh Foundation, the initiative is ongoing. Nonetheless, they’ve already claimed one victory with the conviction of Jawara’s attacker to a 10-year jail sentence, Niambe says. Jawara received a conditional medical release and the civil lawsuit against the jail for failing to protect his human rights remains open. 

Niambe knows she needs to remain patient yet persistent: “It’s a system that’s very backwards, and state to state it’s very different…Some states that are very antiquated, have a jail economy. I remember Jawara telling me that he was incarcerated with a 17-year-old who couldn’t make $150 bail because he had a small amount of cannabis. And especially as an educator, I feel like these stories have to be continuously shared.”  

Jawara and his Mother
Jawara and his Mother  SHAUN CUNNINGHAM

Also very involved in Jawara’s care is his mother, Melody Cunningham. “Jawara’s mother has made a huge sacrifice for her son financially and emotionally during  this journey, which has been difficult for her,” a close friend of the family says.

In Niambe’s eyes, her mother is the reason she’s able to do what she does for Jawara. Melody spends countless hours daily on the phone with state health insurance officials, doctors, nurses, medical facilities, and suppliers to make sure that Jawara receives the care that he needs. Niambe couldn’t develop his holistic medical regimen and be an advocate for Justice for Jawara without her, the family assures.

Get SEEN

Moving the needle of social justice is crucial for the Tosh family, something Niambe wants to accelerate with the launch of their cannabis brand SEEN, under the PT Capital umbrella.

10% of all proceeds will go to the Peter Tosh Foundation, which supports Justice For Jawara as well as other initiatives fighting for adhesive social causes, she voices.

Justice For Jawara
Justice For Jawara  PETER SIMON

For the time being it remains unclear how long Jawara’s recovery will take, but his sister has faith in the power of the mind and holistic healing methods. And in the end, the journey this tragic episode has embarked their family on, has also brought along a positive note.

We’ve had to take the journey in a different way. There’s been so many people that empathized with our situation that this experience has also shown me the beauty of humanity”, Niambe concludes. 

To donate or to learn more please visit www.justiceforjawara.com

By: Javier Hasse Senior Contributor

https://www.forbes.com/sites/javierhasse/2020/05/20/the-tosh-family/#41556a93579d

POSTED ON: May 20th, 2020

Categories: EventsJawaraNews

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