It was World Environment Day at the University of the West Indies (UWI), and the lecture hall was filled. Student activists, members of several Kingston communities, schoolgirls and boys, educators – and various hangers-on like me who would probably fit into the “uncategorized” section. It was a great mix.
It didn’t matter who was who, anyway. The important part was the air of enthusiasm and getting things done. It is something I have grown accustomed to with Youth Crime Watch of Jamaica (YCWJ) – an organization whose birth I assisted at back in 2004. YCWJ is an affiliate of a Miami-based non-governmental organization which now has many overseas branches; it was founded in that year under the auspices of U.S. Ambassador Sue Cobb‘s far-reaching “Building Bridges” program.
As soon as I saw the smiling face of YCWJ’s Project Manager Edward Dixon I felt that glow of satisfaction. Edward smiles a lot. He is hands-on and his presence is both reassuring and inspiring. I was also greeted by the bright and impressive display from the United Nations Environment Program‘s office. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is one of the sponsors of YCWJ’s Biodiesel Initiative, which we were all there to see happily launched. The UNDP implements the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program, which has had an active presence in Jamaica since 2005. It has funded over US$2 million worth of grants to over sixty non-governmental, faith-based and community-based organizations - such as YCWJ. UWI has also provided tremendous support – in particular, the Departments of Physics and Chemistry. National Bakery has also helped, as well as the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica which shared important information for the program.
OK, so what’s biodiesel? Well, in the case of the YCWJ initiative – which is an eighteen-month pilot project – it is fuel derived from waste vegetable oil. It’s a great source of alternative energy that can be used to fuel generators. In fact, the project has already been going since last September; during this time, YCWJ has collected approximately 1,500 liters of waste vegetable oil. Laboratory tests show that more than 80% of the oil collected so far is good enough quality to be converted into biodiesel.
A little scientific nugget here, that I must share with you: Mr. Rudolf Diesel (yes, the name sounds familiar) actually discussed the use of peanut oil for fuel on August 10, 1893 – the day on which he fired up the very first diesel engine in Augsburg, Germany. August 10 is now International Biodiesel Day. Prophetically, Mr. Diesel said more than a hundred years ago, “The diesel engine can be fed with vegetable oils and would help considerably in the development of agriculture of the countries which use it…The use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today. But such oils may become in course of time as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of the present time.”
Back to Jamaica, 2013. Youth Crime Watch hopes to collect approximately 30,000 liters of oil. You can drop off your waste vegetable oil at UWI’s Department of Chemistry, and a number of the inner-city communities and schools in which YCWJ works. The group has also set up a call/text/voice message number through which people can contact them if they need waste oil to be collected: 585-1529. Of course, restaurants and hotels have a lot of waste vegetable oil from cooking, as well as households; so businesses and individuals, please don’t throw it away – have it recycled and turned into fuel! With its focus on social entrepreneurship, YCWJ hopes to turn this into an income-generating activity. There will be a collection roster for the oil, and there will be a trophy for the school that collects the most oil – to be collected in five-gallon containers and in drums for larger entities. In March, the project procured a biodiesel processor to assist with the conversion. It’s made of stainless steel and it was, according to Edward Dixon, “a tedious process” to procure it from overseas. It now processes 190 liters at a time.
At the moment, those schools that YCWJ works with in its Saturday Program on the UWI campus are actively involved in the project. These include Rennock Lodge All Age, Melrose Primary and Junior High, Maverley Primary and Junior High, Cockburn Gardens Primary and Junior High, Norman Gardens Primary and Junior High and Calabar Primary and Junior High, all in Kingston. The communities of Trench Town, Arnett Gardens, Nannyville Gardens, August Town and McIntyre Villa are also very much engaged.
Next month, YCWJ will embark on an important stage of the project, and one that it hopes will ensure its sustainability. Over six weeks, it will train thirty students and thirty community members in principles of environmental stewardship and sustainable entrepreneurship, as well as aspects of alternative energy solutions. There will be training in soap-making (using glycerol) and in business plan development. The training will include the production of a Standard Operating Procedures manual.
One community member, Kemar Garrison from Trench Town, arrived fresh from his graduation as an Environmental Warden (“about two hours ago”) and entertained us with his fresh, upbeat dub poetry. His humor and optimism was contagious. He ended up surrounded by a large group of schoolchildren from the audience, who joined him in an impromptu performance of a well-known poem in Jamaican schools about environmental protection. They garnered huge applause. Many Jamaicans learnt this poem at school and still love it. Please find the full text below, courtesy of my dear Twitter friends @MizDurie, @jcankash and @anhavana.
In 2011, Jamaica spent US$2.4 billion on fossil fuel importation; and let’s not forget the emission of greenhouse gases. Deputy Dean of UWI’s Science and Technology Faculty Professor Ralph Robinson pointed out that biofuels form part of the solution to greenhouse emissions,
And we must all continue seeking solutions, creative ones. We must shake off our continued, dogged devotion to fossil fuels, and look to the future. This tremendously collaborative, focused, people-based initiative is another step in the right direction. As Mr. Diesel said so many years ago, it may seem small, but…
Christine Whitely, a resident of Trench Town noted, “Youth Crime Watch has taught us the importance of partnership.” She “gets it” now. And as Edward Dixon observed, the communities and the schools “are the real reason we are here.”
A note on YCWJ’s Saturday Program, supported by UWI’s Department of Management Studies. Since its inception in 2008 hundreds of young people have benefited from a special program, which brings them up to speed in the all-important English and Math skills for the Grade Nine Achievement Test. YCWJ’s Executive Director Dr. Deon Edwards-Kerr expressed her enthusiasm for this program that empowers vulnerable youth. Congratulations to all who support and sustain this initiative.
I wonder why the grass is green
And why the wind is never seen?
Who taught the birds to built a nest
And told the trees to take a rest?
O, when the moon is not quite round
Where can the missing bit be found?
Who lights the stars, when they blow out
And makes the lighting flash about?
Who paints the rainbow in the sky
And hangs the fluffy clouds so high?
Why is it now, do you suppose
That dad won’t tell me if he knows?
- From cooking oil to biodiesel (solarbuzzjamaica.com)
- Using Biodiesel In Automobiles (autoinsurancecenter.com)
- What is Biodiesel? (infotainmentnews.net)
- Converting Your Diesel to run On Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO (greenerlivingideas.wordpress.com)
Global Environment Facility
Youth Crime Watch of Jamaica launched: Jamaica Information Service (2004)
Youth Crime Watch of Jamaica: Dogoodjamaica.org
The heat in Kingston this week has been a dictator, beating us all into submission. I have spent the week cowering at home (two inches away from the fan) or hiding in air-conditioned cafés.
And it’s only June. As one Twitter friend just observed: “This rain need fi fall an dun.” (translation for non-Jamaicans: “This rain needs to fall and get it over with.”)
Shock and horror: Friday night frolics for many Jamaicans were somewhat overshadowed by the disturbing news that one of our athletic heroines, Veronica Campbell Brown, tested positive for a banned substance, a diuretic called Lasix (furosemide). Ms. Campbell Brown has won gold medals and broken all kinds of records, and Jamaica has been justifiably enormously proud of her over the past few years. Now, many are in denial, believing that it must be an error, a “set-up” even. Others are pointing at the big, bad United States, which they claim is the sports doping center of the world; the athlete lives and trains there. Many others are just hoping it’s not true. We will have to wait and see.
The Church again: Meanwhile our ultra-conservative, dogmatic, religious anti-gay activists are sharpening their keyboards/pencils and ramping up their opposition to a case that will be coming up soon in court. More details later this month. Long live the Status Quo!* Long live the Patriarchy! Long live the Normal and the God-fearing! *Not talking about the UK pop band of the 1960s…
The death of the animals: I did not mention the horrific slaughter of 32 sheep and 18 goats at a farm in St. Catherine last week. An armed gang invaded the farm and tied up the caretaker, then killed his entire stock of animals and carried away the meat. I commented on the issue of praedial larceny in April, thus (and I might as well repeat it here – nothing has changed: “Poor farmers: Another kind of thieving…is what is called “praedial larceny” (a term I had never heard until I came to Jamaica). This means stealing farm produce and livestock, which hard-working farmers have reared and grown. In other words, taking their livelihood away from them…I cannot understand why this criminal act, which goes on year after year unabated, is not taken more seriously by law enforcement and the courts. Perhaps it is because it affects rural residents, and we really only care about what happens in Kingston and a couple of other towns. I don’t know. But I believe the penalties should be much higher and the pursuit of these criminals should be aggressive and unrelenting. This isn’t happening. And when someone spots an alleged goat thief, an angry and frustrated mob attacks him.” National Security Minister, over to you! (And the meat must have gone somewhere!)
Ganja gone high-tech: So a high-tech marijuana farm was found in a big house on the outskirts of Kingston. Most of the comments seem to be along the lines of “Good for them, you’ve got to make money somehow.” Yes indeed, times are hard. One word of warning, however: a doctor whom I know and respect told me recently that he is seeing more and more young people (not only men) coming to his office with psychoses, directly related to ganja-smoking. Jamaicans (especially those who smoke themselves) believe it is harmless. I believe otherwise.
Ganja conference: Meanwhile, the energetic pro-ganja lobby is holding a Cannabis Conference in September here in Jamaica. This will presumably be an entirely one-sided affair and a platform for Lord Anthony Gifford et al to air their views. I hope they all enjoy themselves. I do agree with them though that using one spliff as an excuse for the police to harass, abuse and imprison a young man is not right and the law could be corrected.
Online=scary: We all know about the dangers of cyber-bullying. It has been going on for a long while, but it seems our police have just caught on to it. Of course, there are many pitfalls and hazards online, especially for young people – some pretty nasty stuff going on. But perhaps the police could figure out a way of using social media to actually find some of the missing persons they think have fallen prey to it. It’s a good way of getting the word out, you know! Tech entrepreneur Ingrid Riley spoke on radio on the topic and sought to point out the many positive aspects of social media. It’s a tool, and as such it depends how you use it, she says. But it’s clear the police regard it as the latest fearsome menace of the modern world.
Tapping the diaspora: The fifth conference with members of the diaspora is opening in Montego Bay. What is the Jamaican diaspora? It is the many thousands, even millions of Jamaicans scattered across the globe, but mostly in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. These conferences are a bit like CARICOM meetings in the jaundiced eyes of many Jamaicans. They are seen as “talk shops,” where all the challenges, issues, problems and possible solutions are aired, and then…what? I would love to see lots of investments and joint ventures and the like flow from these biennial meetings, but it doesn’t seem to happen. Like so many things in Jamaica, we talk and talk – but these confabs are not “fruitful” as politicians like to say. Reality hits. Things are not as attractive as they might sound in a comfortable room, with air-conditioning purring and a good cup of coffee at hand. The two major constraints to the diaspora digging in its pockets and spending its hard-earned cash are still there: crime and bureaucracy. Successive governments have not addressed these issues. It just goes round to round.
Having said all that, I would love to see some meaningful projects and partnerships come out of this conference. Something fruity. Sorry, I mean fruitful.
What IS the matter with the National Water Commission (NWC)? The government agency is reportedly dragging its feet on projects already funded by multilateral donors. They have not yet got off the ground and the excuses are manifold and complex. But listen, the NWC has been stumbling along for years, awash in what seems to be chronic inefficiency and waste, lack of resources and a kind of inertia that results from both. There is talk of privatizing water. Do you think this would help, dear readers? At this stage, I don’t know whether I am for or against it.
No reason to panic: Meanwhile we had the “don’t panic, folks” routine from the Bank of Jamaica this week, over the issue of the declining Jamaican Dollar. As a member of the long-suffering Jamaican public, reeling from the effects of recession, huge tax increases and soaring prices, I don’t feel I can listen to any more of these rationalizations. Not right now, anyway. I’ve had it.
Petchary Awards today go out to:
- The Government of Japan and the World Bank for funding a project to improve the lives of the disabled in Jamaica. I would love to see more of these projects funded that will really help the most vulnerable in Jamaican society. It is an empowerment project – skills training, special education. Very good!
- Javed Jaghai, our articulate (and brave – I won’t say unafraid because I think that is not true) gay rights activist. He tackles the issues head-on. Take a read of his blog post, below.
- The energetic Ms. Tanya Batson-Savage for the launch of a truly delightful children’s book, “Bolo the Monkey” - published by her very own Blue Moon Publishing. Tanya is also to be congratulated for venturing forth full-time into the world of publishing. I wish her the best of luck. Go out and buy the book! Only J$500 in local bookstores… It’s a treat.
- Ms. Stephanie Saulter for her new sci-fi novel “Gemsigns” - I missed the launch last week but wish her all the best with it. Published by Quercus Books in London. Check it out!
- That dedicated microphone wielder Andrew Cannon of CVM Television. His reporting on the vexed issue of customs (fees etc) this week was informative.
- UNICEF’s representative in Jamaica Robert Fuderich (he might as well have a permanent spot on my “honors list”!) again for his refreshingly outspoken remarks this week. After four years here, he is irritated by the divisiveness, finger-pointing and point-scoring going on among those involved in protecting and caring for Jamaica’s children. Please! Let’s work together! And again – too much talk, not enough action. How is all this helping the children?
- Also to UNICEF for sharing a very useful online Directory of Services for Children in Jamaica. It’s in a pdf document here:
- Finally, to the Rain God who granted our wish… Since I started writing this we have had a deliciously refreshing shower!
Sadly, more Jamaicans have lost their lives to violence in the past few days; two were teenagers. My condolences to their grieving families.
Nathaniel Brown, 18, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Goston Smith, 27, Woodstock/Claremont, St. Ann
Killed by the police:
Christopher Wilson, 17, Yallahs, St. Thomas
Related links and articles:
Disbelief! Jamaicans line up behind VCB despite positive tests: Sunday Gleaner
IMF rep says without key policy changes, Jamaica will remain in economic rut: Gleaner
BoJ says fall of J$ within expectation: Jamaica Observer
The value of the dollar is just a symptom of Jamaica’s underlying problem: Keith Collister column/Jamaica Observer
Stop lying to us! Sunday Gleaner/Letter of the Day
Focus on Vision 2030 at Diaspora Conference: Jamaica Information Service
Example of excellence in the public sector: Dennis Chung column/Jamaica Observer
Build new schools, government urges overseas Jamaicans – but red tape, crime scaring away investors: Sunday Gleaner
Customs fees oppressive: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
High-tech ganja farm found on church-owned property: Jamaica Observer
Ganja lobby fires up: Jamaica Observer
2013 crime stats parish by parish, Jan-April 2013: diGJamaica.com
Gunmen raid animal farm: Jamaica Observer
Farmers cower as heists continue: Gleaner editorial
Black tank project lacked transparency: Gleaner
”Seaview High”: Home to stray animals, haven for criminals: Jamaica Observer
Court date set for cops charged in connection with schoolgirl’s death: RJR News
Cops involved in fatal shooting of St. Ann man taken off frontline duty: RJR News
Gays made, not born: Peter Espeut column/Gleaner
Gay rights clash with the freedom to be intolerant: Son of St. Mary
Father-child interaction crucial to development: Dr. Sandra Knight op-ed/Gleaner
UNICEF official: Too many unhelpful quarrels: Sunday Gleaner
Police establish link between social media, missing persons: Jamaica Observer
Parliament’s sectoral debate. Yawn. newsandviewsbydjmiller
Japan funds project to improve lives of people with disabilities: Jamaica Observer
”You’re moving too slow, NWC” – International agencies say Commission taking too long to implement projects: Sunday Gleaner
Inside the Cockpit Country: Conservation workers want to end deforestation, pollution: Gleaner
U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela E. Bridgewater gave this lecture on June 6, 2013 at the University of the West Indies. I thought I would share it with you. You can also find it on the U.S. Embassy website at
Good evening and my thanks to the organizers of this evening’s forum: The Mona School of Business & Management, the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, and the Women’s Leadership Initiative, Principal Gordon Shirley, my friend Minna Israel – thank you for inviting me. To my colleague ambassadors and members of the diplomatic and consular corps; the students of the University of the West Indies, staff of the U.S. Mission in Jamaica, friends all, good evening.
Challenges Facing Women Executives was the topic that the organizers proposed to focus on. And let me say from the onset that females execute at all levels – at home, in the community, in the office and in the board room. In fact, we execute this or that — household budgets, shopping, getting children to school, caring for ageing parents, hiring and firing in an office setting, — you get the picture.
As an introduction, you heard Denise Herbol, the Mission Director for USAID, share her observations about some of the cultural challenges women face in male-dominated societies, and the Embassy’s Public Affairs Officer Yolonda Kerney speak of her experiences in managing work-life balance and some of the issues working mothers face. I thank them for speaking so candidly and sharing these personal experiences and I know we’ll delve more into these challenges at the conclusion of my presentation.
Recently the New York Times published an article examining the percentages of female executives among Fortune 500 corporations in the United States. They found that women make up only 16 percent of directors at Fortune 500 companies, 4 percent of chief executives at Standard & Poor’s 500 companies, and fewer than 10 percent of chief financial officers at S&P 500 companies. On Wall Street a small but increasing number of traders and executives are women, but still only 3 percent of hedge fund assets are managed by women.
Although there are fewer hedge funds run by women, a recent Harvard University study found that those hedge funds headed by female executives outperformed funds run by men.
Another study of retail investors found that men traded 45 percent more than women in their own accounts, but earned 2.65 percent less. Outside the investing and trading sphere, there are also scores of studies about how women enhance the organizational environment. If, and I emphasize, IF, there really is such a thing as “a female style of leadership” evidently it can yield better performance — a recent review of the S&P 1500 index found that corporations led by women performed better, that is to say, they yielded higher profits. In academia, universities led by women had higher rates of matriculation than universities led by men.
Now my intent is not to have a battle of the sexes. We don’t need that fight as there’s enough to do simply as females, but note please that some scholars and advocates for women do not consider the study of differences between men and women to be legitimate. To them, such research is insulting because it sets up the idea that women perhaps require different treatment.
But for those who had any lingering doubts about women’s abilities to lead corporations and organizations and produce stellar results, those results are in and the survey says: there is nothing wrong with women’s innate abilities to lead. So why are there so few women executives?
Might there be issues in academic preparation? Men and women who aspire to executive leadership often choose business as their academic discipline, so let’s look at the statistics: According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, in 2012, 43 percent of people who took the business school admissions test were women. Last year more than 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees in the United States were awarded to women. In 2010, the number of Ph.Ds awarded to women in the United States was greater than the number of Ph.Ds awarded to men for the first time in our history. So when it comes to academic preparation, there is certainly a strong cadre of women preparing themselves to be executives. So what exactly is the problem, and why aren’t more women rising to the top of their fields? This is where the conflict lies in seeking a remedy to the problem of too few women executives – we can’t agree on the cause of the problem. Depending on which rationale you believe, the remedy differs.
The first explanation is plain ole sex discrimination. Women in some fields entering the work force are sometimes met with overt hostility and resistance. I have experienced the resistance, the wonder, and the “how did she get here ahead of me” syndrome.
And then, there’s the opposite approach of overly benevolent attitudes that are patronizing and can do as much harm as outright discrimination. But remember, hostility is not required for discrimination to exist. Stereotypes can create different or lower expectations for women even when no hostility exists. Some researchers tell us there’s not so much an issue of resentment or bias toward women, so much as a preference for men.
We must be aware that subtle forms of discrimination confront us daily. Various means of hampering and slowing down the process of women’s development have to be acknowledged and brought to the attention of managers or supervisors.
In her introduction, our USAID Director told us about cultural prejudices against women that made it difficult for her to do the job the USG sent her to do. In some cases, people just are more comfortable if a man is in charge, even when that man’s female deputy is clearly the brains of the operation.
Sometimes the issue is compounded by the added layer of racism. Too frequently people become uncomfortable in speaking about racism, but let’s be honest, we all know it exits –subtly or overtly, and if we all are honest with ourselves we would do well to engage in a bit of self introspection and seek to determine if we hold views, impressions, prejudices that are race tinged. Yes, all of us of every race or ethnicity should engage in such introspection from time to time.
I recall that when I arrived in South Africa on a diplomatic posting, I discovered that I was the only African American officer at our very large embassy in Pretoria when I accepted my assignment there in 1990. But as I prepared for the assignment, determining whether there were other African Americans or females did not enter into my equation. In fact I didn’t even think about it or consider it important.
I was one of only two females in the predominately male political reporting section which was a very large section owing to the nature of our engagement and dialogue — the other female officer an entry level officer, whom I developed a wonderful relationship with and shared mentoring tidbits. And as I developed a special relationship with Mr. Nelson Mandela as the officer assigned to cover the ANC, which was not at that time a political party but a liberation movement, our mission and our country would be the beneficiaries of the unprecedented access I gained to the ANC and to the dialogue and cooperation that our embassy developed and the positive working relationships we forged that helped with that historic transition. It takes time to diminish these notions of racism and/or male superiority, but I am living proof that we have and continue to make progress. And that’s a very good thing.
A second explanation of why there are so few female executives is more complex, and theorizes that male-driven culture does not allow women to succeed. Women’s values and approaches can be different, and when entering the work force women may find that the male culture is not to their taste or are driven off. Those women who do succeed adapt to the “male culture.” In other words, women need to become “like men” to become corporate executives, or so the theory goes. I have never subscribed to that notion or to the theory that there are necessarily male or female solutions to problems, but there are effective and ineffective solutions to problems that both men and women must utilize.
I have had outstanding male and female bosses — Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leaps to mind — and the thing they had in common was tremendous attention to detail, an insistence on being prepared, and a willingness to listen, energy, drive and hard, smart work not being afraid to stand up to a wrong and discipline individuals who could benefit from a positive intervention. Good leadership is not the exclusive domain of male or female.
Another issue at the forefront impacting female executives is having and caring for children. Although more men today are happily involved in child rearing more so than their parents or grandparents, it is still women who function as the primary caretakers of their children. This is the struggle for “work-life balance” that Yolonda spoke about in her introduction. Gone are the days when we tried to pretend that small children do not need their mothers, even when their mothers have returned to work after birth. It’s for this reason I am so proud to say that every U.S. Embassy and Consulate have clean, clearly identifiable lactation stations where our employees who are nursing mothers may pump breast milk.
The competing demands of work and childcare continue well beyond infancy, so we see the need to care for children is often greatest when women are in their 30s and 40s, a period that is the prime time of their careers. Some managers – men and women – fear that working mothers are on “the mommy track” and that just because they have children, they are less committed to their careers. This could not be farther from the truth for so many women who juggle the competing demands of motherhood and career, and thrive with both.
Some women choose to focus on their children either by not competing for promotions, or working part time, or leaving the workforce for a period of time. All of these approaches working mothers take are legitimate, and each woman has to make the decision that is best for herself and her family. But I caution executives and managers not to make assumptions about a working mother’s priorities, rather, let her performance and initiative inform you of her intentions and her potential to rise. Just think about it — doesn’t it make sense to think that a woman who has raised well adjusted, happy off spring under challenging circumstances might just bring something extra of value to the work environment?
Support for each of these theories can be found in the repeated studies. No matter which premise you believe, the end result is that men significantly outnumber women at the highest levels of commerce, and women in corporate America are paid less than men performing the same work. I must say that when I went to work at one of my university teaching positions, I entered with a salary higher than the males on the faculty (I was the first female to be hired on that faculty); but, I had negotiated my salary prior to accepting the position and the university had recruited ME based on my qualifications and the needs of the Department. We soon over came the male disgruntlement when word got out about my salary and became wonderful colleagues, and friends, to this day.
I must share that on my first day joining that faculty, I ventured from my office building on a new campus to find the student union, and the chairman asked me to bring him some coffee back. I have to admit that I was a bit taken aback because I had to first find my way to the student center building and then get his coffee and lug it back to our office building. I didn’t particularly like this because, right or wrong, I thought is he having me to fetch coffee because I am a female? So I tried to settle a bit and simply said, “Hey, why don’t YOU come along with me and show me around and we’ll share a coffee together.”
As the first and only female on the faculty, I was more than a little novelty, and there was a bit of green eye as both male and female students signed up for my classes in numbers as they had heard about my work and activities about the THEN young prof from another university where I had taught. Well they flocked in and many flunked out. Performance pays and that’s what won the colleagues over and the students’ respect, which I am really proud to say, continues to this day as they stay in touch wherever I am over the world. I don’t like to dwell on problems without considering solutions, so I want to here offer some suggestions and tools that have helped me on my journey.
We’ve talked about various data relative to executive level work in the traditional business environment, but but let me give a few personal reflections about the United States Foreign Service which is under the personnel management of the U.S. Department of State. Change in recruiting and hiring practices for our diplomatic corps came as a directive from the Office of Equal Opportunity. This office had been mandated to do so by the Secretary of State who recognized the need to make opportunities for employment available to females and minorities and that our diplomatic efforts around the world should reflect better the makeup of our increasingly diverse society. Such a policy has enriched our Foreign Service and strengthened our country’s ability to engage with people around the globe.
In 1982, only seven of the 134 United States ambassadors were women, compared to 43 today. In 1985, just 3 percent of senior Foreign Service officers were women, but in 2010 more than half the new recruits for the Foreign Service were women, and we expect that they will rise to the highest ranks of our diplomatic corps. We see repeatedly that when women are allowed to compete, they succeed.
Now to continue with solutions. First, find and be a mentor. I was fortunate in that I had several individuals along the way who mentored me, and most of them were men primarily because there are so many more men in our Foreign Service. But the females that I encountered along the way were positive role models to whom I could turn for advice and guidance. Further, it was actually a male senior officer and later Ambassador at the Department of State who approached me about the Foreign Service when I was a university professor. He worked in the Office of Equal Opportunity I mentioned earlier, and every time he saw me he told me how few people of color were in the U.S. diplomatic corps, and how even fewer women there were. He just stayed on topic and kept reaching out to me. I finally was convinced. And I take mentoring seriously, continuing to reach out. Outreach must be more than a word — it must be a deed.
Mentoring is an extremely effective management tool and he benefits can be immeasurable. We have implemented in the Foreign Service a formal mentoring program, pairing seasoned staff members with aspiring officers. This is not just diversifying your workplace, but it is a good and effective managerial tactic. I am so proud to have several people I am proud to call “mentee.” We should not be afraid to give a chance to our colleagues when we are in positions to do so.
During my tenure as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs I subsequently was moved up to Principal Deputy and often served as Acting Assistant Secretary. I had responsibility for personnel issues and identifying persons for key positions. I saw the list of ambassadorships opening and thought of a superb officer who had the requisite language skills, and other management and leadership experience. The individual happened to be a woman, and I reached out to her as I considered her ideal as a possible candidate.
She couldn’t believe I would think of her and was shocked and surprised, happily and when I told her I needed her response quickly, like in over 24 hours as the White House needed candidates to consider, she phoned me back the next day and say, well if you think I can do it, I’ll go for it. And the rest as they say, is history. She was nominated, confirmed and served in an outstanding manner in her first ambassadorial post. She said so often, she wanted to be like me and could not express her gratitude in my belief that she could do this job.
Affirmative action is often a testy subject, but I want to be clear that it does not mean taking jobs away from males or other females. It gives the opportunity for jobs to categories of employees who have not historically had a chance to compete for those jobs. Competition is the key. Additionally, executive and professional women must network, network, network. We must network not only with other women’s groups, but with our male partners. We cannot and should not further our positions of equality in isolation from men. Professional women must network across class and socio economic lines – this is key to learning and benefiting from the experiences of others. We needn’t spend precious time inventing a wheel that is already operational. Please always remember that we can learn something from everyone, even if it is something we ought NOT do. Value and respect everyone and remember that it never hurts to say a kind word or share a smile. All of these actions are elements of mentorship.
Secondly, right at the beginning of your career, examine the courage of your convictions. We all have to be willing to take some risks, and it may be that you have to take an unpopular position because you really believe it’s the right thing to do. My accepting an assignment in South Africa as an African American who grew up in a segregated community and attended segregated schools, was a risk — was I ready to experience this kind of treatment all over again? I have a reputation as being willing to have open, frank conversations that some other people just aren’t willing to have.
And that’s what I did in South Africa, and that’s one of the many reasons I had a successful and very productive tour, including two promotions during a six-year tour. Being open and frank might be a bit unusual for a diplomat! But it’s a core conviction I hold, and I have taken that with me during my career as a professor and a diplomat. Remember it is not what you say, but how you say it. Figure out what is core for you, and hold on to that – it has served me very well.
Finally, realize that transformation and growth are a natural part of any career. Very little in our lives stays static, so we have to decide how we will embrace and guide change. I was sent to South Africa during that country’s period of transformation to help forge a new relationship between its post-racial government and the United States. I am proud of that work, but the things of which I am most proud in my career are the comments from girls and women where I have served who tell me I inspire them.
It’s why the U.S. Embassy brings Dr. Mae Jemison, the first woman of color in space, to Jamaica to tell little girls it’s ok to love science and when a young girl says she believes she can become an ambassador for her country because she’s met me and has proof it can be done, that is the most beautiful transformation ever – transformation of belief in what is possible. Everyone won’t like what you do or how you do it, or maybe they won’t like you; but you will know what’s right, and in their hearts, they will know also.
The process of work place and self transformation must be ongoing and represent a decisive and steady break from the past. Breaking from poor past practices is more than a break, it is reforming to travel the same paths more efficiently and developing new paths. Corporations hoping to be competitive and successful have to look at their employees in a new way. Transformation, my sisters (and my brothers), requires a few things I consider important:
Everyone within the company, firm, corporation or organization must share complementary core values; the organization should balance legitimate and essential needs for profit and growth with concern for the environment, for human welfare and fulfillment and for the health and well being of all is stakeholders. I mention here the importance of health, and this is where executives and senior staff have a responsibility again, to set an extremely important example about how we care for ourselves. We must not be shy about condemning and ending domestic violence against us – it is a violation of our human rights.
Women must fight to ensure that health research and environmental standards address the health of women. We must ensure that when national decisions are made, economic decision and political decisions that affect our future, that women are at the table. And around the table, we must be armed with facts about our petitions and positions and be ready to lobby to get them accepted. We know that physical fitness is equally important to substantive training and mental prowess. Support your staff in setting and meeting health goals.
If we are to transform, we must be able to be flexible and to accommodate rapid change, and generate continuous innovation and creativity; there is no one right way of doing a thing; and we must make every attempt to encourage all members of the organization to be partners rather than individuals who happen to work together. And while it is important to always respect authority relationships, we know that those in authority now — those executives, those managers, those leaders we look up to and report to — were somewhere else before getting there and that you may well be that person one day sooner or later. So don’t let statistics, organizational theory or someone’s doubts about you weigh you down or diminish your aspirations. Many women have come before us, we have and will continue to make strides.
I leave you with these thoughts in a poem, “Be Good To You”
Be yourself – Truthfully
Accept yourself – Gratefully
Value yourself – Joyfully
Forgive yourself – Completely
Treat yourself – Generously
Balance Yourself – Harmoniously
Bless yourself – Abundantly
Treat yourself – Confidently
Love yourself – Wholeheartedly
Empower yourself – Prayerfully
Give of yourself – Enthusiastically
Express yourself – Radiantly
Ladies, always keep in mind that when you find ways to transform yourself or your workplace, you then are able to transform community and our world. I look forward now to taking your questions.
- Angela Ahrendts, Burberry CEO, Is First Woman To Become The Highest-Paid Executive In Britain (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Golden Skirt (c-suitexx.com)
- Untapped Potential for Expanding Women’s Entrepreneurship Holds Promise to Grow the U.S. Economy, According to Kauffman Report (kauffman.org)
- ION Expands East Coast Presence, Adds Executive Women of New Jersey as Seventeenth Member Supporting Gender Diverse Corporate Board Leadership (prweb.com)
- Here are the top ten cities for women entrepreneurs (venturebeat.com)
- Women Entrepreneurs-The Time is Now (theformationscompany.com)
- Kathleen Rogers: Fixing the Green Economy Gender Gap (huffingtonpost.com)
- Girls Innovate! Holds Second Leadership Forum for Women & Girls (prweb.com)
Jamaica is bleeding. I feel it is not only the blood seeping from the veins of those who have been murdered by their fellow citizens – including the police. It is the slow and exhausting drip, drip, drip of life-giving energy from the country. Since I wrote my mid-week update on June 5, I have had a growing sense of this. Maybe it’s the increasing heat of early summer that’s getting to me.
Dead children: The Director of UNICEF in Jamaica, Robert Fuderich, is a forthright man – which I love. He gave a speech this week, expressing distress at the murder and abuse of Jamaican children. So, the head of UNICEF is upset. So are many Jamaicans, by the way. Is the Prime Minister upset, one wonders? She is a woman who, as I have said before, has often expressed her love of children in speeches. Could she have made a statement about the recent shocking murders? Even that? Better still, could she have visited the families and the communities affected, to grieve with them and to express her condolences? I am not demanding that Portia Simpson Miller responds in every case, but a nice appropriate public gesture would have been good. Too late now, by the way.
…and neglected: The National Road Safety Council is expressing deep concern at a huge (400%) increase in child pedestrian fatalities on the road this year. But this does not surprise me. Yesterday, the Gleaner’s front page story reported that children are being dumped on other people to look after, etc. As if this is news? Why don’t we realize that children aren’t adults. They are vulnerable.
Where is the Prime Minister? Have we seen or heard from her since her return from Africa? I have scoured the Jamaica Information Service pages, looked under the Office of the Prime Minister – and find nothing at all that relates to her. Has she made any speeches? Maybe I missed something. No ribbon-cuttings or ground-breakings? Is she sick? Is she on vacation? (I am not trying to start rumors – just trying to explore possible explanations).
Women suffering too: You may have noticed that women are murdered every week. Whatever the motivation – sometimes a jealous lover, other times gang violence – it is becoming increasingly common. I remember when the murder of a woman was a shocking and unusual occurrence – now it’s commonplace. The Jamaica Observer’s Karyl Walker (whom I have criticized recently) wrote a very painful report in today’s newspaper about a young woman who has ended up on the street, abused and unwanted. Can someone please help?
And talking of trips: I know, I am obsessed. As I asked in my last bulletin, what actually took place in Africa? What did the Prime Minister and her large delegation achieve? Since we paid J$8.6 million for the trip, I am still hoping for a report card. But it’s been two weeks or so since they all came home, laden with souvenirs no doubt. So, I don’t hold out much hope. Now, we understand that our amiable Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke will soon be off to China, with a small delegation, at the invitation of the Chinese Government (hopefully the Chinese are paying, so taxpayers don’t need to dig into their pockets again for this one).
Dusting off the begging bowl: Meanwhile, the Finance Minister has just returned from a trip round Europe - he might have to wait for the flood waters to subside, though. I am afraid he may end up getting us into deeper debt (although Europe is not exactly flush with funds at the moment). It’s just a thought, but if we are going for growth rather than plunging ourselves into deeper debt, perhaps a trade and investment team, with a few private sector representatives, would have been be smarter? He has at least commented on the trip, though. See below.
Psychological barrier: On Friday morning word went out that the J$ had reached 100/US$1. It closed slightly above. A collective shudder went through the Twittersphere and radio talk shows. This is the end, we all declared – or the beginning of the end. In theory, of course, the devaluation might benefit us by making exports cheaper. Oh, but…We’re not exporting anything are we? Where is the Jamaica Exporters’ Association? Long time, no hear.
Elusive growth: As Dr. Damien King, economics prof and head of our local think tank CaPRI tweeted a few days ago, “The average growth rate of the world’s poor countries over the last decade was 6%, cutting worldwide poverty by half during that time.” But again – that doesn’t apply to Jamaica, does it? We can’t manage any growth at all, at the moment. None in sight; and more worryingly, no clear strategy for growth.
“We don’t want INDECOM, we want outcome!” The police killed five people, since I last wrote, and in the space of a little over 24 hours. This was the cry of one resident – which made me laugh a little, as Jamaicans have such a way with words. But very serious too. I know that the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is working as hard as it can but is hampered (by very late police reports, for example) – but can’t blame people for getting impatient.
Another twist: You may be tired of hearing about this saga by now, but just to let you know that Doran “mongrel dog” Dixon is back in the race for the presidency of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, who have changed their mind and allowed him to run, after all. Meanwhile Mr. Paul “cocaine injection” Adams is not suffering any ill effects (he’s not running, anyway). I only hope that a sensible woman is elected to the presidency. I am tired of the male egos…
Earth matters: You know I am a big fan of CVM Television’s “Live at Seven.” I am glad that the program turned its attention to a whole bunch of niggling environmental issues that are not going to go away – the beach at Negril, for example.
Untouchable Usain: Some of my tweeps have been following the French Open tennis tournament, and were thrilled to see our very own Usain Bolt presenting the trophy to Rafal Nadal. I was a bit surprised. I thought it was usually rather dull officials (or royalty in the case of Wimbledon) who did this. The spotlight is supposed to be on the winner of the trophy – not on the presenter. I am told that Bolt is a “celebrity” so it is acceptable, and we are all proud of his achievements. But celebrities have a habit of popping up all over the place, like Kim Kardashian. I just thought it inappropriate, and upset several people on my Twitter timeline by suggesting that it was. Don’t get me wrong – I love Usain as much as anyone and have often praised him in my blog, but I don’t want it to get to the point where people say, “Oh no – not him again!” whenever he makes an appearance. He is worth more than that.
Still so much good things to say about…
- Dr Jean Beaumont, who has been doing great work as head of the USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project. What could be more important than reading?
- Health writer Eulalee Thompson, who has a new blog and a new consulting practice. Find her at
- Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater, who delivered a terrific speech on women’s leadership at the University of the West Indies‘ Faculty of Law on Thursday evening. I couldn’t make it, but hear the place was packed. I do have a copy of the speech, which I intend to post on this blog shortly.
- Dr. Rosalea Hamilton for her piece on nine-day wonders – with specific reference to the Richard Azan/Spaldings shops issue. Dr. Hamilton concludes, “It is time we move beyond complaining about our situation and seriously press for governance that is accountable to the people of this country.” Make your voice heard and put some pressure on.
- The Jamaica Medical Mission. We do tend to take this almost continuous stream of visiting medical teams, mostly from the United States, for granted. They often pay their way and sacrifice their vacations etc. to come over here and help Jamaicans who simply cannot afford to access our public health system. They are absolutely marvelous. I know the Jamaicans whom they treat appreciate their work; I hope the rest of us do, too. (This group of 157 doctors, nurses etc comes over every year and will treat at least 3,000 indigent Jamaicans).
- Nice to see an interesting report by environmental reporter Petre Williams-Raynor, now with the Gleaner. Check out her attractive blog, too. By the way, public consultations on the boundaries of our precious Cockpit Country are still ongoing. There is one in Kingston this week – I must check details.
- The Gleaner for two things: Firstly, its editorials have really hit the nail on the head in the past week. It’s worth reading them all. Secondly, on Friday evening its continuous, accurate tweeting of the World Cup qualifying match between Jamaica and the United States was streets ahead of the competition. Sprinkled, too, with marvelous photos from one of my favorite photogs, Mr. Ricardo Makyn. See a couple of the photos below…Hats off!
Petchary’s Pet Hate of the Week: Mosquitoes are plaguing us. Thank God for the electrifying plastic tennis racket – or the zapper, as it’s called in our house.
Petchary’s Quote of the Week: “Children are not just the future, they are the present” – Robert Fuderich, Director, UNICEF Jamaica.
The tragedies continue. Each Jamaican’s death is a tragedy for the families, friends. The following Jamaicans have died violently just in the past FOUR days:
Sophia Smith, 47, Mandeville, Manchester
Dwight Robinson, 28, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Jerome Anthony Gooden, 33, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Ricardo Lawes, 28, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Omar Smith, 32, Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Killed by police:
Unidentified man, Kitson Town, St. Catherine
Junior Guy, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine
André Ledgister, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine
Kemar Thompson, Waterloo Villas/Tredegar Park, St. Catherine
Jevon Reid, 21, Granville, Trelawny
Related links and articles:
World Environment Day: June 5, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Thanksgiving service for the Jamaican Dollar will be held at… ThinkJamaica.wordpress.com
“Jamaica debt burden a threat to human development” – UNDP: Gleaner
”Don’t panic over sliding dollar”: Gleaner
Final chance for Jamaica, says Financial Times (commonsenseja.wordpress.com)
Minister Paulwell urges Jamaicans to access energy fund: Jamaica Information Service
Port divestment proceeds to dredge Kingston Harbour: Gleaner
Minister Hylton sets record straight on logistics hub: Jamaica Information Service
Anti-gay Christian groups undermine democracy: sonofstmary.wordpress.com
Gay rights activist seeks to challenge Belize and TT laws: newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com
Jamaica Observer accused of staging story involving gays: Perceptual Post
Discusion on homosexuality/All Angles/Television Jamaica, June 5, 2013
Homosexuality: Choice or innate: Dr. Tammy Haynes blog
”We have the numbers”: Church leaders confident enough religious Jamaicans in island to prevent change to buggery law: Gleaner
Woman beaten, robbed, raped in Kingston: Sunday Observer
Handling of rape cases irks Montague: Sunday Observer
Allman Town wants closure to boy’s murder: Sunday Observer
G2K writes to OCG regarding dead silent Richard Azan probe: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
Another nine-day wonder? Rosalea Hamilton op-ed/Gleaner
More work needed on Spaldings market probe – Arscott: RJR News
More road blocks in Claremont as residents continue protest: RJR News
Jamaica leading project to address underachievement in boys: Jamaica Observer
Montaque questions Nicholson on status of reported rape cases: RJR News
Condoms aren’t aphrodisiacs: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
The crime of “uncontrollable”: Patrick Lalor op-ed/Gleaner
Cabinet approves new policy for pregnant schoolgirls: Jamaica Observer
UNICEF concerned about child killings: Jamaica Observer
Disabled, elderly should get free health care – CaPRI study: Gleaner
Reading coaches initiative making a positive difference: Gleaner
Dixon back in the race: Gleaner
Animation could mean jobs and serious business for Jamaican youths: World Bank
Trench Town Ceramics and Art Centre – Using art to save the youth: Gleaner
Downtown Kingston vendors protest: Jamaica Observer
3,000 indigents to benefit from medical mission: Gleaner
Petre Williams-Raynor environmental blog
Inside Cockpit Country: Project eyes conservation of key biodiversity areas: Gleaner
Four years ago today, fire broke out at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St. Ann. Seven girls – wards of the state – died as a result of the fire, and eleven were injured. It was a real pleasure today to meet some of the girls who survived this horror, and who are doing their best to move out beyond that horror. I think their day was an emotional one but also filled with hope. I will write more about this.
Devaluation of dollar welcomed by IMF: Well, some of us might have figured this out already. The steady drop in the Jamaican Dollar seemed inexorable and there was really very little comment on it from the Simpson Miller administration at the time. It was just…happening. The rest of us were saying, “What is going on? Help!” as it steadily dropped, day after day. Then suddenly the battered J$ (often depicted in cartoons wrapped in bandages and sticking plaster and hobbling on crutches) pulled itself to a screeching halt at 99 or so to the U.S. Dollar. Well, well. Our friends at the Implacable Masters Fund (IMF) approve of this; and, in fact, say they would like to see our dollar plummet a little bit more, stopping at, let’s say… What do you think? Where should it stop? This, by the way, is the “flexible exchange-rate regime” mentioned by the Jamaican Government in its April 17 Letter of Intent to the IMF (the link is below). Flexible is such a nice…flexible word, isn’t it?
I wonder if the Jamaican public can be as flexible as the Jamaican Dollar has turned out to be?
Trinidad start up weekend: Good luck to Ms. Ingrid Riley, our tech entrepreneur and inspirer extraordinaire, who is in Trinidad now at her Silicon Caribe Startup Weekend. 57 pitches! I attended a Jamaica session; it was lively and abuzz with ideas. I love Ingrid’s regional (Caribbean) approach, and wish more of us were doing that…
Duppy story: According to CVM Television news, a certain house in rural St. James is giving some trouble. In case you haven’t been following it, all kinds of drama has been going on in this very ordinary-looking little house. It has created lots of excitement among the local residents, who can be seen hurrying down the path to the house to witness the latest phenomenon. My husband is almost convinced that there’s a real duppy (to my non-Jamaican readers, that is a ghost) – and so am I. A poltergeist, perhaps? A mysterious fire on top of a wardrobe (could be an electrical short circuit, but…) And objects thrown out of the house when it is empty? A local was hit in the head by one such “missile” and bled profusely. Once bandaged up, he felt pretty good, escorted down the road from the clinic like a real celebrity. What’s going to happen next? I hope it’s not all special effects…
Is the JEEP warming up its engine? Remember JEEP – the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme? We haven’t heard much of it lately, but the Government has now found a way to create jobs by employing people to build concrete walls instead of zinc fences in selected Kingston communities. I suppose the concrete will screen off the poverty better – it will be harder to glimpse the earth-bare yards. But, Mr. Housing Minister, you know it won’t make any real difference. It’s just cosmetic. The same poverty is just a stone’s throw away…
African : It was announced today that our Prime Minister had flown off to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, along with the Foreign Affairs Minister, four other government officials, plus her support team (I am not sure how many people that consists of – it is always reported in government press releases as a collective noun). They will be back next Tuesday. One of the radio stations this evening stated that the cost of the trip, in recognition of the African Union’s fiftieth anniversary, will be J$8.6 million. I wonder what the Ineffable Masters Fraternity (IMF) thinks of such expenditure. I can think of a thousand different ways in which that money could have been spent for the benefit of the Jamaican people (the Armadale survivors, for example).
Yay! That money could, perhaps, have been spent on a few more real toilets that flush in Jamaican schools. But sixteen schools in western Jamaica must be groveling with thanks that they do, in fact, have real toilets and not stinking, dangerous holes in the ground, any more. Thank God for Petro-Caribe, anyway. Last time I heard – about a year or two ago – around 200 schools still had pit latrines. Hopefully the number has dropped considerably. It is baffling to me that this can still be an issue in 21st century Jamaica. Perhaps this should come before tablets?
Some things bring out the Great Cynic in me: Recent comments by our Finance Minister Peter Phillips filled me with great weariness. Waxing philosophical and presumably not sticking to his notes, the goodly Minister started to wonder out loud why Jamaica is in its current economic state: “How did it get to this? At least part of the answer, I believe, has to do with the nature of our political processes and the absence, up until recently, of effective paradigm oversight and absence of transparency.” What does this mean? Can someone translate? OK, let me try. The politicians have done nothing to create an “effective nation” (the Minister’s words) since Independence (until the current administration came into power). That’s how it “got to this”. By actually not leading (that’s the oversight part) and by keeping the people ignorant (absence of transparency). Something like that, perhaps?
The young and the generous: In a Twitter exchange just last night, my friend Jean Lowrie-Chin reminded me (the Great Cynic that I am) that the younger generations of those “big” families that have chosen to stay in Jamaica have not only prospered, but are “giving back” to their country. She cited young Adam Stewart, who heads the Sandals Foundation. National Bakery has started its “Bold Ones” Project to encourage youth entrepreneurship. And the young Mahfoods have taken up the mantle of the amazing charity that does so much good work, Food for the Poor. Jean is right – I must try to curb my innate suspicion of the privileged and powerful. I wish all of them had such good intentions as these gentlemen, and that they could all give back…more.
Get well soon: I have no doubt that heading the Police Federation, a union that represents the rank-and-file police force, is a highly stressful occupation. The current chair, Raymond Wilson, has actually been a number of years in the post, off and on. Mr. Wilson has been in hospital for the past few days, after suffering a heart attack at a relatively young age. I wish him a speedy recovery.
By the way, I hope the Reggae Boyz thrash that English football team from north London, Tottenham Hotspur, when they play them tomorrow. Oh, how I would love to see that happen! As a dedicated Arsenal fan (in case you didn’t know) I was delighted that the Gunners denied Spurs a Champions League place again when the English Premier League season ended. And I’m quite satisfied with our team’s strong performance this year, after a lousy start to the season…
It is encouraging to learn that “major crimes,” including murders, have fallen. I hope that this trend will continue. But I am keeping in my thoughts the families of the following Jamaicans whose lives have been taken in the past three days.
Dwayne Brown, Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Selvin Hincklewood, Kingston
Killed by the police:
Noel Williams, 42, Rose Town, Kingston
Jerome Spence, George’s Plain, Westmoreland
Related links and articles:
IMF concludes staff visit to Jamaica: imf.org
Letter of Intent to IMF from Jamaican Government, April 17, 2013: imf.org
IMF gives us reality check: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
J$ depreciation an important correction, says Fund: Gleaner
Phillips, IMF defend “strenuous” fiscal target for Jamaica: Gleaner
CHASE Fund, sports continue to reap big benefits from SVL: Jamaica Observer
Child extortionists: Judge, JPs step in as students make thousands of dollars a day: Gleaner
Tablets in schools, yes, but please…! Oniel Mantack/Op-ed: Gleaner
An assault on human dignity: Jamaica Observer
Normal school not for teen babymothers: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
Erase the stupid idea of giving students condoms: George Davis column/Gleaner
Fourth anniversary of Armadale fire: RJR News
Sounder logic from the other Mr. Thwaites: Gleaner editorial
Deal with bullies before… Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
INDECOM concerned about police records: Gleaner
Crime now at uptown doorsteps: Jamaica Observer
More cops to be hauled before courts: Gleaner
Top-level probe into reports of contract on lives of prosecutor, investigator: RJR News
What violence-torn St. James – nay all Jamaica – can learn from Flanker: Jamaica Observer editorial
U.S. to give special training to MoBay firefighters: Gleaner
Political parties alone can’t do it – Phillips: Jamaica Observer
Is migrating Senate President a coward? Jamaica Observer
G2K wants answers from Contractor General: Gleaner
Shady dealings: Public sector workers under scrutiny… Gleaner
Prime Minister to attend African Union 50th Anniversary: Jamaica Information Service
Stop magnifying wasteful high-rollers: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
Freudian slip or Gordian knot? Gordon Robinson column/Gleaner
Today is Malcolm X’s birthday; he would have been 88 years old. Tragically, his young grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, was murdered on May 9 at a Mexico City nightclub. But here’s a little Caribbean connection: Malcolm X’s mother Louise was born in Grenada - but she had a very sad life, too.
Well, with that useful and important fact stored away, let’s look at the last few days in Jamaica…
The voice of morality: Our pious Minister of Education, the Reverend Ronald Thwaites, told Parliament this week that he is not going to allow young Jamaican students to be “groomed” towards homosexuality (demonstrating his own mistaken beliefs on the subject); and that although he approves of (the right kind of) sex education, condoms in schools are out. None of us were surprised at this, were we – after all, the Minister’s Catholic faith strongly influences his prescriptions for our youth. The television program All Angles confronted the issue of condoms in schools last week with youth activist/commentator Jaevion Nelson, retired school principal Esther Tyson and the head of the guidance counseling association. The latter two both toed the Minister’s line as expected; were confused by the statistics Mr. Nelson produced to strengthen his case for contraceptive assistance in schools; and clumsily tried to catch him out, once or twice.
But a big, big silver lining: The same Minister folded his hands, turned his eyes to heaven and announced a change in government policy towards pregnant teens in school. Amendments to the Education Act and Regulations attached thereto will ensure that schools will keep open a space for a child who has had to leave due to pregnancy, so that she may continue her education afterwards. Huge kudos to Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith for her strong lobbying on this issue; and to the Minister for seeing the sense and fairness of it. The Minister also announced a couple of pending measures that have ruffled the feathers of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association; more on that, probably, later. I don’t always agree with our overly preachy Minister; but at least he is trying to right some of the hundreds of wrongs afflicting our education system, one by one. He has some tricky issues to tackle, indeed.
“I’m so frustrated by this experience”: A quote from CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company Kelly Tomblin on the seemingly very long and slow deliberations by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) on who should receive the contract for a new 350 mw power plant. I can imagine how she feels. I often fail to see whether government agencies like the OUR, the Bureau of Standards (of toilet tissue infamy), the Urban Development Corporation and others do any good for the Jamaican people. I guess they provide jobs. How else do they serve our interests?
The truth is swimming away: In an enlightening radio interview with a frequently stuttering Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies on Thursday morning, it transpired that Davies’ junior minister Richard Azan told him two different stories about whether or not he knew that rental money was being collected at his (Azan’s) own constituency office for illegally constructed shops. There actually appear to be three different versions of this conversation, all aired on broadcast media. However, clearly Minister Davies seems to think that his junior minister means well, even if he has broken the law. He is eager to do good in the community, so let’s “give him a bligh,” nuh. The grammatically challenged Junior Minister had told Nationwide in an earlier interview, “Yes, I make a mistake for building the shops” (sic). But saying “My bad” sometimes has consequences, right?
This is a true patriot, Rev. Redwood: As I noted in my last blog post, the now-departed-on-a-jet-plane Senate President Reverend Stanley Redwood only dug a deeper hole for himself by responding to the cutting criticism of a Gleaner column in a letter to the newspaper. He actually called himself a patriotic Jamaican. The acerbic columnist Gordon Robinson today gives us a better idea of a patriotic Jamaican – one who has no choice but to struggle through our ramshackle health, justice and education systems with no special privileges, but who tries to help his fellow Jamaicans and ensure his family thrives.
Fresh face: Members of the 51% Coalition (including myself) are delighted at the appointment of a young attorney-at-law, Sophia Frazer-Binns. Great to see another woman in the Senate, and we look forward to her contribution. We note also that Ms. Frazer-Binns has some experience of working with youth. Good, too.
Two key meetings: J-FLAG and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) had two key meetings this week: in recognition of International Day Against Homophobia, J-FLAG held a forum on homelessness and forced migration among the LGBT population; and the JCSC launched two publications arising from its lengthy series of consultations with communities on “People Participation in the National Budget Making Process.” Congratulations to both organizations for their efforts to keep seeking solutions to some of Jamaican society’s most intractable problems. I will be writing more on these meetings in the next week – in particular, on the “disconnects” between Jamaicans and Jamaicans. Need to overcome these…
Rooting for the children: Huge big-ups to the JN Foundation for providing desperately-needed funding for the Spanish Town-based non-governmental organization Children First. I had the honor of working with this organization on several occasions and have always been impressed by founder Claudette Richardson-Pious’ deep understanding of and clear-eyed focus on the complex and difficult lives of youth at risk. Since it is still Child Month, here are two other individuals who are quietly working on behalf of children: Deika Morrison of Crayons Count; and youth advocate Kemesha Kelly, who works with young people in St. Ann. Great role models.
Collecting: And Help JA Children, the lobby group formed one year ago, is busy collecting items for children in state care this month. Take your food, toiletries, clothes, books, magazines and other goodies to Kia Motors c/o HJC, 2 Chelsea Ave, Kgn 10. Tel: 920-5000. It will be hugely appreciated!
Kudos to Vaz: It’s Labour Day on Wednesday, when people undertake all kinds of tasks to make life better for their fellow-Jamaicans. One of former Prime Minister Michael Manley‘s better ideas, I think. Across the island, the infirmaries that are funded by local parish councils are in a terrible state of repair – often colonial-era buildings that have seen much better days. Now, a couple of months ago Member of Parliament for East Portland Daryl Vaz announced that he was going to give up five per cent of his salary, as a gesture of sacrifice in these tough times. He was praised in a half-hearted way by some. But now he has met with Port Antonio’s Mayor and decided the money he gives up will be earmarked for the Portland Infirmary, which is in a bad state. I really do like this. Did any other political representative follow Mr. Vaz’ example? I think not…
A waste of space: I am sometimes baffled by the sheer inanity and trivia that gets published in the newspapers each week. The random thoughts of commentators with nothing meaningful to say; the grinning men and women with wineglasses in their hands at an uptown party; yet another PR piece about some reggae/dancehall singer who is “making waves” overseas (playing in tiny clubs in the suburbs of big cities). If it’s online, at least with a click you can forget/delete it. But good trees are chopped down for this worthless nonsense.
Jamaican bloggers, sharpen your keyboards! Wednesday, May 23 – the third anniversary of the Tivoli Gardens Massacre – is Jamaica Blog Day, a “Day of Action for Jamaican bloggers on police and security force abuses.” The great little (growing) blogging community on the island, including myself, will be researching and writing and photographing on this subject. It’s going to be meaningful stuff. Do read and support our bloggers!
Coming up fast and not to be missed! The Fulbright Academy of Science and Technology will hold its 2013 Conference on Global Health in Montego Bay from May 24-27. It is open to the public. Important themes covered will be: Public Policy, Law and Economics in healthcare; Public Health and the Impact of Technology and Social Media; Emerging & Reemerging Infectious Diseases; Education, Sport and Wellness; Environmental Health (Global water supply & safety, Climate Change, Urban planning, engineering); and Human Sexuality. Visit the conference website at
And while I’m at it, big shout-out to all the fabulous Jamaican Fulbrighters (including Marcia Forbes, who will be presenting at the conference)… You make us proud!
I am relieved that the week, which started off so badly with homicides, has ended (hopefully) on a more peaceful note. However, my sympathies go out to the families and friends of Kenneth Kerr and Abasco Foster, who are grieving at this time. I hope that Mr. Foster’s companion recovers from serious injuries.
Kenneth Kerr, 54, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Abasco Foster, 27, George’s Plain, Westmoreland
Related articles/links and local blogs in purple:
Economy contracts in March quarter: Gleaner
Kelly speaks her mind: Urges speedy decision on new power supplier: Sunday Gleaner
Stadium built with Chinese money in ruins: Sunday Observer
Jamaica: Three years on, state of emergency still an open wound: Amnesty International
”Act on Tivoli”: Gleaner
The methods of war have failed: Claude Clarke column/Sunday Gleaner
INDECOM needs more power: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Cops to be charged for schoolgirl’s murder: Gleaner
Cop dodges court as DNA shatters lie: Jamaica Observer
Senate elects first visually impaired President: Jamaica Information Service
Attorney-at-law appointed to the Senate: Jamaica Information Service
Contribution to 2013 Sectoral Debate: Mikael Phillips, MP: Jamaica Information Service
Of patriots and sellouts: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
Saying goodbye and diaspora relations: Christopher Tufton op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
”Jamaica not grooming students for same sex unions, marriage is between a man and a woman”: chatychaty.com
Teen mothers to be reintegrated in school system: RJR News
The little wine that hurt somebody; or, soca and the bad-behaving gays of Jamaica: Under the Saltire Flag blog
”I give up!” Some parents no longer care about their runaway children: Gleaner
Cruel by choice: Thousands of Jamaican children intentionally injured by adults annually: Sunday Gleaner
Young and loveless: Teenage prostitute pushing for a fresh start: Sunday Gleaner
Condoms in schools: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
Ananda Alert to be displayed on billboards: Gleaner
Rescue for Children First: JN Foundation comes to the assistance of charity set up to help Jamaica’s most needy youths: Sunday Gleaner
Portland infirmary to get Vaz salary cut: Sunday Gleaner
Suspected dengue cases climb to 475, two confirmed deaths: Gleaner
Moneague Primary & Junior High cops LASCO environmental award: Gleaner
Caribbean talks conservation on Branson’s island: AP
Public gets say in Cockpit Country boundary debate: Gleaner
Eleven-year-old escapes croc attack, reptile snatches dog instead: Jamaica Star
KSAC, handcart men agree on registration fee: Gleaner
Balancing the act: Crawford seeks compromise between “want to eat” and “want to sleep”: Sunday Gleaner
An IDAHO State of Mind (petchary.wordpress.com)
May 15, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
The work of self-taught painter and sculptor Everald Brown is best understood in the context of religious Rastafari and African-Jamaican spirituality. Like many other religious Rastafarians, Brother Brown was attracted to the teachings and ritual practices of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and in the early 1960s established the Assembly of the Living, a self-styled mission of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church which was located at 82 ½ Spanish Town Road.
A hot Monday morning in Kingston, during Child Month. Wiping the sweat from my brow, I am standing and chatting with a group from the Sunset Optimist Club of Liguanea in front of the offices of Eve for Life, the non-governmental organization that supports and empowers teen mothers living with HIV and AIDS and their children. It’s a beautiful way to start the week, as the Club members, headed by President Lavern Brown, are here to make a donation. For the children. We are very happy.
The children need not only physical and moral support. They are vulnerable children; but they are still children and they want to enjoy their childhood – learning, playing, relating to each other. With this in mind, the idea of a Reading Corner came up – a quieter space for the young ones. The Optimists held a fundraiser, and purchased books, a stack of school bags, a microwave (the children are always hungry of course!) and a fan to keep them cool. We received the gifts gratefully.
The Sunset Optimist Club of Liguanea has as its motto “Friend of Youth.” Thanks for being a friend to our children. And stay in touch. We will invite you back when the Reading Corner is set up!
You can contact Eve for Life at firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: http://www.eveforlife.org. We are on Facebook and Twitter at @EveforLife Tel: 796-2051 (cell); 632-1838. Or visit us at 1a Richmond Park Avenue, Kingston 10.
My week got off to a great start with a donation to Eve for Life from the Optimist Club of Sunset, Liguanea on Monday morning. We are indeed tremendously grateful for the gifts donated, and it was a huge pleasure to welcome President Lavern Brown, three members of the Walker family and Patrick Prendergast, a Facebook friend I had never met before! There are indeed some good and kind people in the world. Pictures to follow…
Are they serious? The Bureau of Standards, whose mission is (presumably) to maintain standards for us poor ignorant consumers, has been busy testing more toilet tissue. Remember the #TissueIssue? And guess what? It has found five more brands that are contaminated. This makes…four plus five…nine brands that are on their “No-Wipe” list. Problem is, the Bureau in its wisdom will not reveal the names of this new batch of miscreants, either. It is concerned about lawsuits from the manufacturers. So let’s worry about the manufacturers then. We will just sit there like idiots, in the dark.
Won’t happen again: It is incredibly sad that a World War I cannon has been stolen from a resident of Gordon Town, who treasured this as a memory of old friends as well as for its historical/cultural value. But no, the vampires are at it again, tiefing everything in sight. Presumably this is the scrap metal trade at work again. And speaking of scrap metal, we have learnt that the Transport Authority, in its wisdom, sold hundreds of motor cars that it had impounded for many years, mostly for scrap, in 2008. It says it did not profit from this sale. A representative said that they will make sure in future to obey their own rules – to auction cars every six months. Which they clearly had not been doing.
Murders this month: According to the Gleaner’s intrepid and seasoned crime reporter Glenroy Sinclair, up to May 13 we have already had thirty murders, give or take one or two. What is happening? Some seem to be domestic matters, others gangs, many others robberies. Most of the time, the motive is not clear. One thing we do know is that most of the murders will not be “cleared up” - in other words, solved - although if an alleged murderer is shot dead by the police, I think they count it as a clear-up. February has been the bloodiest month this year so far, with 92.
Random: The violence seems to just leap out at you. A man kills his partner because of jealousy or some argument; a policeman allegedly attacks a schoolboy who was studying with his daughter at his house and caught “in a compromising position” with said daughter; a man is shot dead while trying to rescue his neighbors from their burning house. If you care to look, these random acts of violence and aggression continue, day after day. If not reported in the traditional media, you soon hear on the social media when one of these crimes gets too close to home for one of your online friends – like the discovery of a woman’s body next to the Marcus Garvey Youth Information Centre in St. Ann’s Bay where one of my young friends works. I have shared several links below to individual stories, so you get the picture. These incidents have all occurred in the last two or three days.
Jamaica Blog Day: Anniversaries are difficult times for us all when they are remembrances of things that should never have happened. The pain returns. So it is with two adjoining anniversaries next week: On May 22, 2009, fire broke out at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St. Ann in the “Office Dormitory” – a space big enough for five people. At the Commission of Enquiry in 2010, Justice Paul Harrison castigated the then Commissioner of Corrections for taking the decision to house 23 girls in this space. On that night, the girls were locked in, because they had been misbehaving. A policeman who actually threw a tear gas canister in the window allegedly exacerbated the fire. Five girls were killed that night and eleven injured; two more girls died later in hospital. Then, on May 23, 2010, security forces invaded the community of Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston in search of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, for whom there was an extradition warrant. We know that at least 75 civilians were killed and many injured; many still bear the physical and psychological wounds. The interim report of the Public Defender into the matter has just been released, and the Simpson Miller administration has announced that it will establish a Commission of Enquiry. No date has yet been set and we do not yet know the parameters of the enquiry. Jamaican bloggers will be writing about police abuses on May 23rd. If you are a blogger, or would like to post an article on Facebook or elsewhere, please join us. We must never forget. We want to make an impact!
The wonderful world of Twitter: I spend some time every day (and sometimes rather late at night) in Twitterland. It is an extraordinary place. There can be flashes of illumination, surprises, much amusement, even shocks. One of my followers, the wonderful comedian, writer and all-round creative person Owen “Blakka” Ellis received a severe jolt when I retweeted an article recently. I am an inveterate retweeter and like to share provocative viewpoints as well as useful information. The tweet asserted,“Black men think that hypermasculinity, sports obsession, extreme homophobia, sexism and belittling women makes a man, a man”. Now, this damning, sweeping generalization struck poor Mr. Ellis to the core. He responded to the original tweeter, and got slapped down at least twice more. Ouch! And ouch again! This compelled Mr. Ellis to write the article below. For the record, I feel Mr. Ellis had a right to protest and was treated harshly. (Oh, you can follow me on @petchary).
Scrambling for jobs: Figures released by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica this week show a 37 per cent unemployment rate among youth. The overall rate is 14.2 per cent. However, we know that these numbers are even higher in inner city communities and rural districts where jobs are extremely scarce. The large and profitable Jamaican firm GraceKennedy (GK) recently advertised ten internships, and received 780 applications. Yes, the job situation is desperate. As GK’s CEO Don Wehby says, local firms should offer more internships. At least, then, young people would have something on their resumé (how do you get work experience if there are no jobs?)
Boundless patriotism: Meanwhile the great patriot Rev. Stanley Redwood, who just stepped down as President of the Senate, has responded to a very sarcastic article in the Gleaner regarding his pending migration to Canada. Reverend Redwood clearly does not have much faith in the Jamaican education system. He pleads, “Many Jamaicans have sought opportunities for their children overseas. I do not believe there is any shame in seeking the best for my talented children. I am sure you would have done no differently.” But then, it is a fact that most government ministers and members of Parliament do send their children to school overseas; and when they are sick, they go overseas for treatment. They have such touching faith in the Jamaican education and health systems. And in fact, in Jamaica itself. And yet, we must “unite and build…”
The Sufferer: On top of all that, during a speech this week our Prime Minister decided to take up the cross of suffering, pointing out that she is the most criticized person in Jamaica, upon whose head all “negativity” is heaped. This was part of a speech in which she was encouraging her audience to hold their heads up high in the face of adversity. Madam Prime Minister, this air of martyrdom does not become you. In fact, it is embarrassing and unnecessary. Almost as embarrassing and unnecessary as those sinister-looking sunglasses that she has been wearing for years now. Not a good look. Where are her advisors?
The Silent One: I have not seen or heard Minister of National Security Peter Bunting on any newscast recently. Is he OK?
Since Sunday the following murders have been reported. It is heart-breaking. My condolences to the families and friends.
Shelly-Ann Maxwell, 21, Bombay Stud Farm/Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine
Cordel Steer, 22, Bombay Stud Farm/Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, George Lane, Kingston
Garth Simpson, 39, Gayle, St. Mary
Janice Burrell, 38, Islington, St. Mary
Leroy Robinson, 54, Little London, Westmoreland
Adina Bell, 36, St. Ann’s Bay, St. Ann
Killed by police:
Desmond McCalla, Bull Bay, St. Andrew
Jamaica Blog Day
Removal of illegal connections to sugar factories to cost government $200 million. No more free light! solarbuzzjamaica.com
Five toilet paper brands pulled due to high levels of bacteria: RJR News
Wanted: Full disclosure in Ritz-Carlton affair: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
Playa replaces Ritz with Park Hyatt: Gleaner
Protest action escalates at COMPLANT: RJR News
BITU head asserts commitment to workers’ rights: Jamaica Observer
New law paves way for government to pass IMF test: RJR News
Exploring logistics hubs: Gleaner
The rightness of the Tivoli enquiry: Jamaica Observer editorial
Let us have a garrison enquiry: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
A look at Jamaica‘s human rights situation: diGJamaica.com
Wanted fugitive killed in shoot-out: Jamaica Star
Two persons killed per day: Gleaner
Gunmen invade community, fire-bomb five houses: Jamaica Observer
Gunman kills hotel worker trying to rescue neighbor: Jamaica Observer
Policeman allegedly attacks schoolboy with pipe iron and gun: Gleaner
Massive MoBay raid: Drugs, cash seized in 11-hour operation; Canadian held: Gleaner
Let he that is without sin cast the first stone: speakmytruthwritemylife.blogspot.com
Residents shocked by chopping death: Jamaica Star
Don’t push gay men into closet marriages: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Cars sold as scrap metal: Jamaica Observer
”No profit made”: Transport Authority did not gain from sale of impounded motor vehicles: Gleaner
MoBay Mayor lashes out at detractors: RJR News
The Redwood factor: Gleaner editorial
I’m a patriot, but family comes first: Letter to the Editor from Rev. Stanley Redwood
Redwood’s resignation and Vision 2030/The Gavel: Gleaner
Prime Minister urges Jamaicans to assist the most vulnerable: Jamaica Information Service
Prison program providing women with useful skills: Jamaica Observer
Brutal! Judge blames cop for starting deadly fire (February, 2010): Jamaica Observer
Damning declaration about black men: Blakka Ellis column/Jamaica Star
The cost of inaction on climate change: Jamaica Observer
World War I cannon stolen: Gleaner
Dancehall mashing up hell knows: cbcburke9.wordpress.com
Image of the Week: Seaforth’s artistic excellence: diGJamaica.com
Seretse Small has a face that you cannot forget once you have seen it – rather chubby, with strong brows and large brown eyes. He also has an infectious chuckle, especially when talking about his favorite things.
The Jamaican musician introduced us to some of these at Bookophilia this evening – and his favorites were, essentially, creative people. He began with his mother, Jean Small – educator, linguist, actress, writer, storyteller. Seretse paid an unsentimental tribute to Jean, who was sitting in the front row, speaking of the “international awareness” he grew up with. Seretse studied at the Jamaica School of Music in Kingston and Berklee College in Boston, USA. His musical heroes include, therefore, Bob Marley (almost a cliché, but you cannot ignore the richness of his songs, said Seretse); and Quincy Jones. Seretse has that jazz feel and inserted a refreshing burst of scat into one of the songs. But he also spoke passionately at one point about the comfort and sense of nurturing he feels at home on his island, Jamaica.
Now, what were the components of this evening of pre-Mother’s Day favorites? Firstly, Seretse has teamed up with two other amazing musicians – Wayne Armond and Steve Golding, to form Jakoostik. (Go and buy their CD – it was all recorded in one take, just like that, and is available at Bookophilia). The three put together create astonishingly soulful, delicately structured harmonies through their versions of well-known songs. Beres Hammond‘s “Putting Up Resistance,” slowed down and sung by Armond, takes on an added soulfulness. Golding, who has played with Peter Tosh, Chalice and others, began softly singing a Tosh song – one of quiet resilience, “Pick Myself Up,” which the other two continued. A wisp of sweet nostalgia caught me – and again, as they sang the Heptones classic “Book of Rules” - a simple tune with extraordinary lyrics, sung with passion by Armond (who is, by the way, a wonderful guitarist in his own right). Whatever your Book of Rules is, it is the guiding light you live by.
Words and music go together – and following these powerful songs, Seretse introduced a friend. Jean Lowrie-Chin read from her beautiful little book of poems and writings, “Souldance.” Jean says this book encapsulates a philosophy – the belief that each one of us has many facets – like a shining cut diamond. We are all so rich, aren’t we.
Bringing three poems, Jean focused on the family. She described the joy of her Chinese Jamaican husband dancing “to the riddim of Jah” (smilingly dedicating this poem to Steve Golding). She also read “Pick-up Time” - about the simple pleasure of going to pick up your children from school in the middle of a busy working day. The last lines made many of the working mothers in the audience smile…“Freeze the moment/Stop the clock…I live for pick-up time.” She ended by walking along the road built by her mother, firm and strong and “stadium-lit with love.”
Di Blueprint Band, comprising former students of the Jamaica School of Music, is the winner of the 2012 Global Battle of the Bands (that’s 3,000 bands from around the world, by the way). Three members of the band played for us – just keyboard and voice. Alex Gallimore has a strong, flexible voice with beautiful phrasing. He sang about love – and nothing wrong with that either. Their last song, “Back to Life,” was about vision, determination and “regaining what we have lost,” as Alex put it. I think he has a fine voice for rock music; Wayne Armond thought he had a great reggae voice. Well, both perhaps?
They say love makes the world go round. My grandmother always used to tell me that, and as a small child I used to wonder how exactly that worked. I think I’ve got it, now. Music and poetry certainly helps one towards that belief.
P.S. It’s not too late. “Souldance: Poems and Writings” by Jean Lowrie-Chin would make a beautiful Mother’s Day gift. Or a birthday present, or just a gift for someone you care about. It will enrich their lives, and yours. And pick up Jakoostik’s CD while you’re at it. What a package of sweetness that would be!