"And as I don the amulet bearing the seal of the Conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah, I keep in mind my vow…to make the world a better place for all; a world of future, a world of love, a world of paradise!" - Drew McIntosh, Dread & Alive
I caught up with Nicholas "Nico" Da Silva, author of the Dread and Alive comic book/novel series, while he was holed up in a cabin in North Lake Tahoe, California, finishing the latest Dread & Alive (D&A) novel. We reasoned on his deep Iternal connection to Rastafari, exchanged ideas about the state of modern society today and discussed the coming of age of Drew McIntosh, the hero of D&A, and how he seeks to champion the stories of countless voiceless humans across the planet seeking justice.
Examiner: What does Rastafari mean to you?
Dread & Alive: To me, Rastafari means being close to Mother Earth, being in a state of naturalness. Rastafari is acceptance of Self without feeling the need to make change for others. It is the "Ital" lifestyle of peace and respect, living pure and free of chemicals. Rastafari manifests in my life through everything I do, and the way is shown to me through the honest life of my youth, my daughter. My daughter loves me for who I am, nothing more or less, and she is comfortable with herself as a person on this planet. This to me is Rastafari. I knew that D&A protagonist Drew McIntosh, protector of Mother Earth, was a Rasta from the beginning…
Examiner: How were you brought to Rastafari?
Dread & Alive: Rastafari came to me through music first. It was the lyrics and rhythms of reggae that opened up my thirst for knowledge, and ultimately created my desire to learn the history of Rastafari, Jamaica and oppressed peoples of the world. Bob Marley's music allowed me to accept the passing of my father, whom I had lost at a young age. Bob's lyrics brought back the lessons my father taught me as a child, and called me to embrace these lessons and follow in the footsteps of these great men. Part of my intention with Dread and Alive is to shine a light on Rastafari across the world. D&A mixes cultural fact with fiction, allowing youth to learn about where they come from without boring them like traditional history texts.
Examiner: How does Rastafari influence your writing?
Dread & Alive: Rastafari is with me here in several ways...
Through the creative development in D&A's main character, Drew, I point out characteristics of Rastafari that many people do not know or overstand about the faith. Drew's mindset is that of a Rasta, he makes the decisions he does because of his faith. Though he is a hero of the people, he is not perfect, and definitely makes human mistakes, but he remains strong in his faith, which ultimately leads him to making good choices in life.
Examiner: What is the focus of the Dread and Alive Series?
Dread & Alive: Humanity needs a great leader to arise from our midst. We live in an age where our leaders have been removed. There are many gaps that needs to be filled. Drew McIntosh is a Rasta and the voice of the people. He travels the world helping the less fortunate, standing up for the voiceless, and fighting money and power hungry eco-villians that feed on exploitation of the "have-not's". The story follows Drew and his heroic exploits as he battles the dark forces of Babylon, empowered with a sacred amulet created by the ancient Maroons of Jamaica. As Drew says, "I am the Roaring Lion, protector of the animal world, to which all humans belong ... Me don' love fighting but me don' love wicked either!"
Examiner: Who is the intended audience of D&A?
Dread & Alive: D&A can be read by anyone ages 8-years old to adult. My intention is for people of all ages to remember what it feels like to be a kid and daydream. The youth of today see characters on TV and they gravitate to them, look up to them. It is important that these role models be a positive vision of the future and represent qualities that they will want to embody as adults. That is where Drew McIntosh and Brandy Savage, protagonists of Dread & Alive, come in as positive role models to stand for this vision of the future for our youth. I first published D&A in 1997 as an original short story, inspired by the Maroons of Jamaica and the music of reggae legends Bob Marley & The Wailers, Peter Tosh, Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse, Third World and Burning Spear. Dread & Alive blurs the line between comics and music, so whether you are a youth into fantasy or an adult with a passion for conscious reggae music and history, D&A has a place for you.
Examiner: What surprising thing did you learn while writing this book?
Dread & Alive: Drew McIntosh is a Jamaican Maroon. The Maroons are descendants of African slaves who escaped from slavery and were living in freedom, in secret communities established in the mountains during the era of slavery on the island of Jamaica. Due to this displacement, Drew never has the sense of being at 'home' in his country - this is where I felt very much alike to his background. My father was a traveling Engineer, and as a youth I spent much of my time living in foreign countries. My mother is Brasilian, and though I spent my first young years in Sao Paulo, my family moved across Europe, and I attended school in both Germany and Italy. I spent my high school years in Saudi Arabia. So, just like Drew, I didn't really have one place that I could call my home. This created a deep connection between my spirit and that of the Jamaican Maroons from Cockpit Country. This perspective gave me an appreciation for other cultures and an easily adaptable personality - other qualities that Drew and I share! I also learned that when the English attacked Jamaica in 1655, the Maroons resisted conquest, and the treaty ending the First Maroon War made Jamaican Maroons the first sovereign, autonomous community in the Americas. Up until today, the Maroons, as well as the Boboshanti Empire, exist outside the mainstream social structure of Jamaican society and remain a huge influence on Jamaican culture.
Examiner: Tell me more about Drew McIntosh, the roaring lion, protector of the animal world to which all humans belong. Was he inspired by anyone you know or wish you did?
Dread & Alive: Drew is a mix of several people in my life. He has the admirable characteristics of my father, who, when I was a child, would take his bible and visit the hospital to comfort strangers. His spirit echoes that of Bob Marley, Burning Spear and Blach Uhuru, freedom fighters and revolutionary voices of the oppressed. He contains the strong faith of my mother, and harnesses my own desire for people to pay it forward and treat kindly our neighbors and fellow humans on this planet. I strongly believe we need to go back to this mindset as a society, and in order to begin we need strong visionary leaders to inspire the people to begin making these changes within ourselves and our communities! Drew McIntosh is a leader of this revolution for the mindset of our youth and in representation of Rastafari!
Examiner: Describe Dread and Alive to someone for the first time.
Dread & Alive: D&A is a mix of adventure, thriller, mystery, education and a dash of horror. For every issue there is a reggae soundtrack, featuring a local artist, that ties in with the theme and story. This creates a unique storytelling plus music experience that is the D&A trademark. Each story combines cultural fact with fiction, meant to edutain - both educate and entertain - an audience of any age level.
Examiner: Give us 3 Good to Know facts about D&A:
Dread & Alive: Brandy Savage is the D&A Heroine. She is a strong, feminine character who stands by her man, Drew, and firmly on her own two feet.
D&A sheds light on the slave trade and the connection between Africa and Jamaica, teaching that we need to know where we come from in order to get to where we are going today.
D&A is a heroes journey through the chapters of Drew's life, sending the message of universal love for helping others through each timeless adventure.
Examiner: Any advice for aspiring writers/artists?
Dread & Alive: My advice for any aspiring writers and artists is to "Tink Diffran" - think different - which is also the name of the official apparel and accessories line for the Dread & Alive series, launching on April 20, 2013. "Tink Diffran" is all about projecting your own self into the world. I encourage writers to explore your history, draw inspiration from real events, and mix fact and fiction for compelling storytelling. Always write your thoughts down so you can refer back to them. And finally, collaborations work - do not be afraid to partner with someone for the bigger vision. If you are a writer, find an artist to collaborate with, and visa versa. And finally - keep reading! Knowledge is power!
Examiner: What is a defining moment in the D&A timeline so far?
Dread & Alive: I am honored to have been invited to be a part of Jamaica's 50th Anniversary. Through this recognition I realized that fans of D&A in Jamaica do not have access to purchasing the actual books or comics. I had to figure out a way to get D&A to the people of Jamaica, and solved this issue with the internet and mobile devices through something called 'responsive design'. The D&A website will fit to any screen - so the reader will not have to pinch to zoom in or out - assuring anyone can read D&A on any internet-ready mobile device! Another milestone we are excited to launch is our interactive feature in which readers can actually talk to Drew on the website! I look forward to sharing Dread & Alive and Rastafari worldwide!
On March 23, 2013, the D&A website will be relaunched with a one-time membership fee of $35 that will give complete access to all D&A comic books/novels, a one-of-a-kind Dread & Alive t-shirt not sold anywhere, plus a copy of issue #0 signed by the Author himself.
During our interview, Nico mentioned to me his desire to give back to indigenous cultures and spread the D&A message across the world. After mentioning the Natural Leaders Program, a leadership training program for at-risk and underserved youth that I manage and co-produce with Founder Jon Nash, he immediately stepped up to be involved. A few days later, Nico shipped me a small library of books and comics which we sent to Costa Rica to use as reading materials for a small community in San Juan!
Many Thanks to Nicholas "Nico" Da Silva, spreading positive livity to our youth and sharing Rastafari through storytelling, the true Rasta way of life. Bless up!
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