Jamaican villain and culture at center of ‘Luke Cage’ season 2

Luke Cage, played by Mike Colter (Image Source: Luke Cage official Season 2 Trailer screenshot NetFlix)

Luke Cage, Season 2, continues to present a talented team of writers, composers, and actors that raise the bar. The second season has Luke Cage, played by Mike Colter, clashing not only with a new villain but also with another aspect of the Black cultural experience, the Jamaican in America. First, for some, there is an issue as to whether to refer to the villain and the culture as West Indian, Caribbean or Jamaican. For many, all are used interchangeably. But for the purpose of this article, we will use Jamaican.

After Luke Cage defeated Diamondback last season, the criminal empire of Mariah Stokes/Dillard aka “Black Mariah” collapsed leaving a power vacuum in Harlem. It is in this setting that a new crime lord arises from the immigrant Jamaican community who calls himself Bushmaster, played brilliantly by Mustafa Shakir.

Bushmaster played by Mustafa Shakir (Image Source: Luke Cage official Season 2 Trailer screenshot NetFlix)

Bushmaster’s back story is told in a series of flashbacks that reveal his connection to Mariah Stokes, played by iconic actress Alfre Woodard, and why he wants vengeance.

Through these backstories, we are told the story of the Maroons of Jamaica from whom Bushmaster derives his mindset. The Maroons were rebellious and escaped slaves from Jamaican plantations who fled to the mountainous regions of the island. It was there that these self-emancipated slaves formed communities that outwitted and fought the White slave masters and soldiers who tried to recapture them. For many Jamaicans, it is a point of pride that they feel separates them from other Blacks within the Caribbean.

The writers also tell the story of the Jamaicans who managed to get off the island and to America and became successful business owners. Inside that story were those Jamaicans who were also part of organized crime in Harlem and other parts of New York. The term “Yardies” is used in the series, which over time went from being a term to describe a Jamaican immigrant in the United Kingdom, to being used to describe a Jamaican gang member. The influence of the “Yardies” and “Posses” in criminal activity was also prevalent in America. But these activities were no different than other immigrant groups that included Italians, Russians, and Chinese as shown in the episodes.

Some Jamaicans who have watched the series have a few problems and they have taken to social media. One issue is the speech pattern or “patois” that the actors use as Jamaican criminals.

A Facebook user writes:

Yo 🤨🧐😤🤬who TF can I cuss out about these FAKE ASS West Indian accents in #LUKECAGE 🤨🤣😂

Another writes:

“But it’s very American to think that u wouldn’t be able to understand West Indians on TV”

“But mi know super GULLY teg-eh-reg rude bwoy weh super articulate when dem ah chat patois.Dat nuh seh dem cyant state fi dem case, an people won’t understand… ah english dem still ah chat … jus like ppl hunderstand Sofia Vergara wen she chat… gih di yardie dem ah chance too 😎”

Besides the language, some had an issue with the fact that a brutal, head chopping gangster was being portrayed as Jamaican. The point is brought out that the vast majority of Jamaicans are hard working and law abiding. The fact that there are very few Jamaican characters portrayed in media and now the most popular one to date is a criminal is hurtful. But this is also addressed in a scene during the series between Bushmaster and his uncle, who runs a popular neighborhood Jamaican restaurant. The uncle is proud of his nephew’s victories but ashamed at the image of Jamaicans in the community because of the brutality. The writers continue to make powerful statements about the Jamaican experience in America through music and imagery, like replacing the infamous picture of Biggie with one of Marcus Garvey in the office at Harlem’s Paradise.

Another great aspect of Luke Cage season 2 is that Bushmaster is practicing Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music. In the first episode of the season, viewers see Luke Cage knocked out cold by Bushmaster using Capoeira blows. Without giving out any more spoilers, it is safe to say that season 2 of Luke Cage is a must see that continues to show that “Black Heroes Matter.”

Mo Barnes
Mo Barnes

Maurice "Mo" Barnes is a graduate of Morehouse College and Political Scientist based in Atlanta. Mo is also a Blues musician. He has been writing for Rolling Out since 2014. Whether it means walking through a bloody police shooting to help a family find justice or showing the multifaceted talent of the Black Diaspora I write the news.