Tue | Jan 18, 2022

Spoken word book dealer adds his own voice

Published:Sunday | May 5, 2019 | 12:14 AMSade Gardner - Gleaner Writer
Poet and author I-Nation.
Poet and author I-Nation.

A staple at your typical Afrocentric-themed event is book dealer Kirk Scarlett, with his station of meticulously laid out Pan-African books ready to feed the mind. Popularly known as I-Nation (and the streets’ minister of education), Scarlett has operated a mobile bookstore for the last 15 years. But there was something missing from his collection. His own voice.

Scarlett recently added author and poet to his résumé, through a self-published spoken word series dubbed 13, which included three ‘scrolls’ exploring the varied dimensions of black history, spirituality, and freedom.

For the 40-year-old, it was a natural transition. “Over the years, people have been asking ‘Where is your book? When are you going to write a book?’ and that kinda inspired me to do this,” Scarlett told The Sunday Gleaner.

“I was just observing the whole vibration of things happening and words started coming to me. Once you are an avid reader, you will eventually develop a passion for writing. It wasn’t so much of a surprise because I have always had this vibration about me.”


Scarlett shared that the inspiration for his first scroll was birthed after a conversation with a tourist, who was surprised that Jamaica had bald-headed nationals. “This was a white European, and his vision of Jamaica was this black paradise, so he was disappointed. It catapulted my writing in certain ways and inspired the first scroll. I knew what I wanted to express, so I knew I wanted to have a series of 13 scrolls eventually.”

He is pleased with the reception of the work and is currently working on the fourth to sixth scrolls. But there is one plight in his mission to educate.

“Sadly, we are not a reading nation. But I want to ignite a vibration for people to want to know more. People are very much sleeping, ‘cause the system group us into being permanent slaves. I’m trying to awake a certain consciousness.” His other work includes Start a Fire Kingston Blues published by World Wind Publishers.

Born in west Kingston, Scarlett said his world changed in 2003 when he attended a Rastafarian conference, which provoked an interest in Pan-African books. The following year, he abandoned his family’s welding business to ride around Kingston on a bicycle and sell books.

“Before, I was just in my own little world – I wasn’t proactive about making a change – but then I started reading some books like The Iceman Inheritance by Michael Bradley, First Steps to Freedom by Ronald Shone and Marcus Garvey, which really stirred a fire inside and allowed me to see things from a different perspective,” he said.

He is currently constructing a physical bookstore for his I-Nation Books enterprise, which he hopes to open in his community this summer.

“I am happy I am doing what I am doing. There are so many welders but few I-Nations. I can always weld whenever I need to, so I have no regrets about leaving that behind. I have seen where my work has paid off over the years, I see a kind of awakening and a whole reading vibration among the youths, and that is very encouraging.”