By Shelly-Ann Thompson, Freelance Writer
Little Matanyah with mothers (from left) Sister Pat, Emo and Rebecca.
Christmas is a time of togetherness and a period when family members show each other how much they love them. However, within the Morgan family, headed by reggae singer Denroy Morgan, every day is like a festive holiday. It is by no means an ordinary nuclear family, but they express their love and care for even the youngest of the family line each and every day.
THE FAMILY structure of the Morgans may be unusual to the Western world, however, it is imbued with love, togetherness, prudence and a 'divinely' love.
This Rastafarian family is a mixture of the extended and the nuclear structure. At the helm is one man and two wives that manage four households, 30 children and 64 grandchildren.
Meet Sister Pat (Gail) and Sister Emo (Hyacinth Morgan), Denroy Morgan two wives. (He's legally married to Sister Emo).
Morgan, musician and father of the famed Morgan Heritage and LMS groups, has overlooked the laws of the West and taken upon himself two wives. However, the union is not disliked by the family as all the children accept each wife as their mother and the wives, themselves, exhibit no signs of animosity or distress of sharing the same husband. They are, however, very happy, sharing ideas of raising children and making family decisions. They are also quite comfortable with their 'polygamous' relationship.
There are four houses belonging to the Morgan family that line the Blue Mahoe Boulevard of East Prospect, St. Thomas where they live. Two of the houses are in the same yard, one containing the first wife and the other, some of the younger children. Sister Pat and the Heritage group live in the other two houses.
With some of the children gathering around a dining table to listen to their parents being interviewed by Flair, they looked on anxiously. The men hand over or retrieved a chair whenever a woman stepped into the room and Morgan acknowledged each person's presence, even the smallest that skipped into the room half-way through the interview.
The wives met Mr. Morgan at different times. One relationship started in Jamaica more than 40 years ago and the other began 15 years ago in the United States. He also had another wife, Sister Pearl, who died of lung cancer 15 years ago. In all, Morgan has 30 children with his wives 15 with his first wife, Sister Emo; six with Sister Pearl; another six with Sister Pat; plus three from another relationship.
Morgan notes that he is legally married only to Emo because the Jamaican law prohibits him being legally married to two women at the same time. He said, though, that both unions have been sanctified by the Almighty and his children.
Fifty-eight-year-old Emo says that she is not affected by having another woman in the family. She adds that before Pat was brought into the family she and her husband discussed the issue and the decision was taken by both of them.
"Like in the Bible or in Africa, the woman also decides. It is a family decision. He came to me first and told me that he has met this woman. We talked and we reasoned, and then we both decided that it was okay and then we brought it to the children."
SEARCH FOR A CRAB
In recalling how she met Morgan, Sister Emo had smiles all over her face. The children listening drew a little closer to hear the love story. "I used to see him pass my house and I would say to my friend 'him nice'. I noticed that he also wanted to talk to me but he seemed shy so I found something to break the ice."
In opening the communication channel she told him that she wanted a crab to eat. With that, Morgan said he went searching for a crab and luckily found one right at the back of her home which was close to a cane field.
"It wasn't crab season or rainy season but there was the crab waiting for me," he recalled. Eventually, when the crab came it was forgotten as the true meaning of fetching the crab began to unfold.
"The crab was for the reasoning. Dem forget everything 'bout the crab," chuckled Gramps, one of the sons.
That was in 1961. Unlike with Emo, Morgan was not shy when he approached Pat at a Twelve Tribes of Israel meeting in New York. They did not start communicating, until Pat's friend initiated a telephone conversation. This was three months after Morgan's second wife, Pearl had died in August 1988.
DRAWN BY HIS SPIRIT
Many women are drawn to men because of their outward appearance but Pat says that it was Morgan's inner spirit and honesty that won her heart. "His spirit drew me to him... he was calm and honest. Then when I met his family, kids and saw how they obeyed him I knew he was a good man."
Sister Pat is a Trinidadian who was raised in New York. Before meeting Morgan she was a clerk at a hospital in Brooklyn. She has two sons from a previous relationship. That relationship, she says, was dishonest, and therefore Morgan's honesty won her over. Pat is now the mother of Morgan's youngest child, an 11-month-old boy.
Pat says that accepting the Rastafarian faith and becoming Morgan's third wife was disturbing for her family and friends,
especially her mother. However, when they realised that she was happy and saw the respect and love that surrounded the family they began to accept her decision. "My mother thought I was going crazy. She couldn't understand the change and worried about if I'm doing the right thing. But when they see the 'livity' and that it works for me and that I am comfortable, they are happy for me."
In describing Morgan, the wives both said he is a real father to his children and one who gives from his heart.
"His spiritual belief is shown in his everyday living. A joyful person who is sometimes rough and strict but who has a lot of hospitality," says Emo, continuing that she knew from the first day they met that he was a godly individual.
In adding to Emo's sentiments Pat notes that Morgan is an honest individual and says most men should try to achieve this quality. She says that shortly after they met in New York, Morgan told her 'straight-up' about his wife and children.
"That didn't bother me because I like a man to be honest," she says.
The wives say they do not concentrate on the fact that they are sharing the same husband. Instead, they put their strength into ensuring that the family has divine love and that every child receives his or her basic needs.
"It must be the will of God that chose him to do this and for it to run so smoothly... if God chose this to happen who am I to question the Almighty?" asks Emo. She states that the possibility of having another man in the family is not considered.
"Remember that what a man does, a woman cannot do the same. Furthermore, it does not cross my mind because I know it is not proper to think like that," she concludes.
Their sleeping arrangement is also straightforward, they note. The women live in separate houses and it is usually left to Morgan to decide where he will rest on a particular night.
"Whenever time he chooses to be at one or the other, is his decision," says Emo. And when he chooses, his decision is respected by the wives without grievance. She explains that when they lived in the U.S. the family had a big house and that she and Pearl had separate rooms. She noted that the family does not stand for that which may cause problems in the home.
"We don't think like that. 'I want you, so you can't leave tonight'. That will bring a tug-o-war. We live a godly life. We do not want war or envy in the midst of us," says Emo.
Pat, 40, adds that she has been fully happy and comfortable for the last 15 years in this arrangement, and adds that it is better to know that her husband is next door and whom he is with than being miserable and worried trying to figure out if her man is out again cheating on her.
"Then someone comes and knock me over my head for their man," she says.
"It is a mutual understanding. We have an understanding that he has to spend time with her and she does the same the other way around."
They say the relationship is more divine and dignified because they bring it together rather than it being an outside relationship that is held secretly by the husband.
"I made a decision to do this for I was told before the relationship started about his wife and family, and I'm doing OK. We get along very fine and we thrash things out as a family," she says.
The family constantly prays together and each wife is treated equally by the children and they are likewise cared for similarly.
SATISFYING THEIR NEEDS
Morgan, hearing this, did not interrupt the women's sentiments as if he is confident in himself that he is fulfilling both of their needs. He says that with the assistance of his Saviour, he manages to satisfy his wives' needs.
"I help them to find the truth for themselves. The truth of everything because there is two sides to every story."
It is complete understanding and togetherness within the Morgan family, with sleeping and living arrangements, roles and duties modestly figured out, the wives' birthdays and anniversaries are also celebrated. Yearly plans are made as to who will do what and where anniversaries will be spent.
"Sometimes we go away, take time out for ourselves to wherever we want to. Doing things separately is not a problem," says Emo, whose wedding anniversary is April 22.
Fifty-eight-year-old Morgan maintains that men should stop the 'matey business', that is only
hurting the women and making life worse than what it can be.
"Go back to the ancient order of life. With honesty as a central focus, the family with both women can work," adds Morgan.