Due to seasonal activities and the arrival of relatives from New York for a short stay, this post will be curtailed and quite incomplete. So, forgive me.
On crime-related matters:
921 “rape kits” awaiting analysis: It was admitted in Parliament last week that the physical evidence from 921 rape cases is still awaiting analysis at the government forensic laboratories (which Minister of National Security Peter Bunting said he wanted to “strengthen” quite recently). This is frightening. It will take a year to clear up the backlog, but there seems to be no indication that this is possible, and meanwhile there have been hundreds more rapes this year. This is symptomatic of the painful (Gleaner: “921 rape kits awaiting analysis, authorities struggling with backlog”).
All hell broke loose in rural St. Elizabeth on Friday. Television cameras swerved around in the half-dark, as huge crowds of residents lay in wait for a 30-year-old man to emerge from a house where he had allegedly chopped his 18-year-old girlfriend and mother of his child (she died later in hospital). The police had a terrible time keeping the baying mob away. They struggled for eight hours to extract the man from the house but eventually succeeded with the help of soldiers, while the angry crowd threw rocks and even fired shots at them. When I watch this kind of thing on our TV screen, dark shadows creep over my heart. The story behind all of this is so tragic and increasingly commonplace: the girl became pregnant for an older man at age fifteen. From the reports I have seen, it appears that her family knew that he was physically abusing and threatening her; but they had allowed the situation to continue. (Sunday Observer: “Eighteen-year-old allegedly chopped to death by her child’s father”).
But the newspaper headline was “Crime of Passion.” No, this was not a crime of passion. It was the end of a relationship that had been abusive for years (yet unreported), beginning with the rape of a young girl under the age of consent (which is sixteen) and her subsequent pregnancy. So sad. Older men, leave the young girls alone! It is not cool. Nuh guh deh!
Violent lyrics: The difficult and complex discussion continues in parliamentary committee (and in society) over a clause in the proposed anti-gang legislation that intends to ban lyrics promoting violence. Justice Minister Mark Golding specified this would refer to violence against the police and informants. (Violence against the LGBT community, children, women etc is presumably not as heinous?) Hopefully he will re-think this. Minister Damion “Rasta Yute” Crawford is, of course, strongly opposed to the whole idea, because violent dancehall lyrics are cool with him (National Security Minister Peter Bunting told him that no, it’s not the same thing as violent movies – that’s the Broadcasting Commission!) However, this smacks of censorship. Plus, it won’t work. Better to educate people on…I am not going to call it “Jamaican culture.” I sincerely hope that advocating violent rape is not a part of our culture. (Gleaner: “Split on hate music – legislators battle over proposed criminalization of violent lyrics”).
What the hell are “warheads”? The local media seem to be using this word more and more, and it has always annoyed me. But now, it has caused major PR problems for Jamaica. Private sector leader Chris Zacca has expressed great concern about the way in which a major find at Kingston’s port was reported – and then repeated all over the international media via an Associated Press report as “missile warheads” and “heavy weaponry.” They are actually the tips of regular bullets. The find of a bullet-making machine along with the bullets (not missiles!) last week is alarming, however. I hope the police track down the person that the shipment was assigned to (could they not have laid in wait and caught him/her red-handed?) Meanwhile, this description of the bullets needs to be corrected – immediately… Although, actually, it is rather too late I fear.
Sweetness and light at CHEC: I just read a lovely little PR piece from China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) – the future builders of the “logistics hub” that may destroy our beautiful Portland Bight Protected Area – about what a lovely company it is to work for. It gave me a warm glow inside… (Gleaner: “China Harbour bridges cultures through stimulating activities”).
Ganja as medicine (no, NOT to get high): Since the Minister of Health put his firm stamp of approval on medicinal marijuana a week or so ago, other doctors have come out in support. The pioneering Dr. Henry Lowe is eager to develop an extract through his firm (and presumably make money from it) and most Jamaicans think it’s a good idea, according to a local opinion pollster. Five per cent even think it’s great to wash their hair in ganja! (no, thanks). So it’s all go. Let’s see where we end up with it. (Observer: “Ganja medicine”).
Caribbean “wars”: I attended a very interesting presentation by the Caribbean Policy Development Centre, including contributions from Barbadian Julius Gittens (a former journalist of no mean order) on the matter of free movement of workers within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) – specifically domestic workers and artisans. I learnt a great deal and there is much more to say on this issue that is consuming many Jamaican commentators. I agree with columnist Barbara Gloudon (who incidentally is married to a Trinidadian) when she says, “We must do something and quickly. We should be sensible and sensitive enough to recognise that build-up is better than tear-down.” But the “Trinis” are the mean old bad guys now (although I’m guessing that many Jamaicans still love their soca music). Come on now. As the Beatles once sang, “We can work it out.” (Observer: “Neighbours at war?”)
Hope someone can help brave five-year-old Demario Willesley, who is suffering from a rare kind of eye cancer and also has sickle cell? And his mother desperately needs a home as they are imposing on relatives. (Gleaner: “Optimistic Demario”).
Have you ever seen a headline “Eight heterosexuals in custody for robbery” ? No, I thought not. Why does a report on the arrest of some young homeless men (living in a gully in New Kingston) need to focus on their sexual orientation? Observer and CVM Television somehow thought this was relevant.
Perfumed bouquets of flowers go out to:
Roslyn Ellison and the amazing staff at Trench Town Reading Centre, who celebrated twenty years last weekend. It was a fantastic, well-supported event. Deepest thanks too to the great writers and performers who took the time to come down and engage the children. They loved every minute of it.
Scotiabank – and in particular Mr. Lissant Mitchell – for their ongoing support for the Trench Town Reading Centre. They are fantastic, and what is particularly touching is that it truly comes from the heart.
The amazing Eve for Life team for launching a brave, challenging but extremely important campaign, “Nuh Guh Deh.” Men, stop having sex with young girls! Leave them alone… The launch event was emotional, but also provided the opportunity for much sharing of information and experience. Eve for Life will now be carrying the campaign forward with community chats. And “big ups” to all the organizations who were present (including UNICEF, which has provided tremendous support). (See the Sunday Gleaner reports, “Nuh Guh Deh!” and “Wrong road!”)
Dr. Carolyn Gomes, a Jamaican woman whom I admire enormously, who has just stepped down as Executive Director of the human rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice (which she co-founded) after thirteen years at the helm. Carolyn has had an enormous impact on Jamaican society, whether some Jamiacans would like to believe it or not. She has endured abuse, vitriolic criticism and numerous death threats over the years, but has soldiered on regardless. I wish her all the best as she moves on to head Caribbean Vulnerable Communities (CVC) – another great NGO that defends the rights of the powerless and marginalized. The Jamaica Observer wrote a good editorial about her on Friday (“Putting Dr. Carolyn Gomes in context”).
Jamaican bloggers: In particular, new kid on the block Donald Oliver (http://thedonaldoliver.wordpress.com) and cucumberjuice.wordpress.com, who did an excellent job of tweeting Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller‘s speech and Q and A session during her latest overseas trip to Brussels. Look them up and follow them! Hailing up all Jamaican bloggers, at home and abroad!
Congratulations Zahra Burton and 18 Degrees North on their award for Sagicor Health Reporting from the Press Association of Jamaica for their story on HIV. All the more remarkable because it is their first season on TVJ. Stay tuned for another season next year. They are already hard at work on new investigative pieces that shed light on issues in the Caribbean.
And in the traditional media, broadcast journalist Dionne Jackson-Miller – a regular tweeter too – who is the Press Association of Jamaica’s Journalist of the Year. Many congratulations! Dionne is thorough, rigorous and fearless. Now, I would love to see her have more women interlocutors on her excellent television and radio programs. A bit more gender balance please…
Kudos too, to all the journalists who received awards on Friday night. Special “big-ups” to the husband and wife team of Kayon Raynor and Petre Williams-Raynor, who each won awards.
Condolences to the families and friends of all these Jamaicans who have died violently in the past few days.
Kimberley Simpson, 18, Bromington Hall/Nain, St. Elizabeth
Marcine Williams, 80, Linstead, St. Catherine
Michael Williams, 53, Linstead, St. Catherine
Michael Hall, 59, Red Ground/Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Lorenzo Stewart, 40, Johnson Mountain, St. Thomas
Owen Reid, 42, Johnson Mountain, St. Thomas
Valdane Laing, 27, Beacon Hill, St. Thomas
Killed by police:
Dean Kemar Nelson, Greenwich Farm, Kingston
Mark Dwight Clarke, Swallowfield, Kingston
Davion Morris, 22, Montego Bay, St. James
Yes, there has been much discussion on this topic, much of it based on perception rather than fact. This issue brief from J-FLAG seeks to provide information, perspective and some balance to the issue of homophobia and violence in Jamaica. Please take the time to read and share. You will find the brief – including graphs and charts that I could not reproduce here, and references – on the J-FLAG website at http://www.jflag.org/2013/11/issue-brief-homophobia-and-violence-in-jamaica/
Since July 2013, subsequent to the murder of 16-year-old Dwayne Jones – a transgender teen in St James – there have been several news reports of brutal attacks perpetrated against LGBT people across the island. In August 2013, a group of five LGBT persons were marooned by an angry mob in a community in Manchester; a transgender female was attacked and had to be rescued by the police in Portmore, St Catherine, and two gay men were evicted from their home in Central Village, St Catherine. There have also been allegations of murders including the killing of a popular transgender performer in Spanish Town, St. Catherine. These news reports have reinforced the argument that LGBT people live in very difficult circumstances and are at great risk of discrimination and violence. However, many Jamaicans argue LGBT people are no more at risk of violence and abuse than anyone. Some, including persons aligned to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), have also said that incidents of violence against LGBT people are perpetrated by LGBT people themselves. There is however, little evidence to substantiate any of these claims. The police has very little documented reports of violence against LGBT people and those recorded by J-FLAG have not all been investigated. This briefing paper aims to provide information on the total number of reports documented by J-FLAG since 2009 and the similarities with national data provided by the JCF. It is intended to guide a more informed discussion about LGBT discrimination and violence. Finally, it is hoped that this paper will provide the impetus for the Ministry of National Security and Jamaica Constabulary Force to take further steps to empower persons to report all incidents of violence and conduct thorough investigations.
Crime and violence is a major problem in Jamaica and is one of the main concerns of many Jamaicans. Women and girls, children, and the urban poor are most affected by the high levels of violence in Jamaica (UNDP, 2012). Included in these groups are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who are at risk of, and have experienced victimization and violence as a result of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.
The socio-cultural and legal environment has contributed to the prevalence of discrimination and acts of violence against LGBT Jamaicans over the years. These incidents include, inter alia, murder, forced evictions, temporary and permanent displacement, beatings, and mob attacks. The looming threat of violence causes many LGBT Jamaicans to live in constant fear of being identified as non-heterosexual.
Although murders, shootings and other major crimes have been trending downward since 2010, news reports would suggest crimes against LGBT people are increasing and continue unabated. Since July 2013, subsequent to the murder of 16-year-old Dwayne Jones – a transgender teen in St. James – there have been several news reports of brutal attacks perpetrated against LGBT people across the island. In August 2013, a group of five LGBT persons were marooned by an angry mob in a community in Manchester; a transgender female was attacked and had to be rescued by the police in Portmore, St Catherine, and two gay men were evicted from their home in Central Village, St Catherine. There have also been allegations of murders including the killing of a popular transgender performer in Spanish Town, St. Catherine.
LGBT people live in very difficult circumstances and are at great risk of discrimination and violence. However, many Jamaicans argue LGBT people are no more at risk of violence and abuse than anyone. Some, including persons aligned to the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), have also said that incidents of violence against LGBT people are perpetrated by LGBT people themselves.
There is however, little evidence to substantiate any of these claims. The police has very little documented reports of violence against LGBT people and those recorded by J- FLAG have not all been investigated.
This briefing paper aims to provide information on the total number of reports documented by J-FLAG since 2009 and the similarities with national data provided by the JCF. It is intended to guide a more informed discussion about LGBT discrimination and violence. Finally, it is hoped that this paper will provide the impetus for the Ministry of National Security and Jamaica Constabulary Force to take further steps to empower persons to report all incidents of violence and conduct thorough investigations.
Contextualizing Anti-Gay Attitudes in Jamaica
Same sex intimacy among males is illegal in Jamaica and is punishable by up to ten years in prison, with hard labour. However, the fine legal distinction that the law criminalizes the act of anal intercourse and not homosexuality is not a view generally held by the public. The popular position conflates the sexual act of anal intercourse (among men) with sexual orientation—in this case homosexuality. According to this cultural view, if anal sex is illegal then homosexual identities (whether male or female) are unlawful.
Many LGBT Jamaicans are therefore invisibilized because of their sexual identity and/or expression, gender identity and/or gender expression and feel powerless as a result. Consequently, it is difficult for many LGBT persons to live in Jamaica given the inferior status so ascribed when compared with their heterosexual counterparts.
The socio-economic class of LGBT Jamaicans is an important consideration for any discussion around anti-gay attitudes in Jamaica. LGBT people who fall outside the upper and middle class income brackets have neither the wealth nor the social capital to escape their circumstances. Life in Jamaica is therefore more difficult and dangerous for those made vulnerable by their socioeconomic status and whose vulnerability is further compounded by sexual orientations and/or gender identities which differ from the hegemonic norm. Notwithstanding, wealth, social class and social capital are of critical importance for all LGBT people as they negotiate safety in their respective communities.
The 2011 National Survey on Attitudes and Perceptions of Jamaicans towards Same-Sex Relationships found that Jamaicans are generally homophobic and some LGBT persons are more at risk than others. It found that anti-gay attitudes and views were most common among, inter alia, people in low income communities and people who had no university education (Boxill, 2011). This finding is corroborated by the reports of homophobic violence and discrimination received by J-FLAG. In 2011, for example, an analysis of the reports received show that a significant number of affected persons were from families in the low socio-economic strata.
Discrimination, hostility, violence and other types of abuse perpetrated against Jamaicans who are either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender follow similar patterns when compared to national statistics. This is demonstrated by the significant number of young males (18 to 29 years) who experienced homophobic violence.
Similarly, according to Smith and Green (2007) in Violence Among Youth in Jamaica, “young males from 15–29 years of age are disproportionately represented, both as victims and perpetrators of violence.” For example, in 2002, young people in Jamaica accounted for “80% of the violent crimes, 75% of the murders, and 98% of all major crimes” (Smith & Green, 2007). 55% of people arrested were males below 25 years. They also accounted for 32% of new admissions to correctional institutions and 83% of them were males (Smith & Green, 2007).
Incidents of Anti-Gay Discrimination and Violence
Between 2009 and 2012, a total of 231 reports were made to J-FLAG. Most incidents were related to assaults, physical attacks, and displacement from homes and communities. Other incidents included extortion and threats as well as sexual violence, particularly against lesbians and bisexual women. The reports show that those who are most affected are usually young males and (as advanced) from the lower socio-economic strata.
One must be mindful that although over two hundred reports were made to J-FLAG, they do not represent every incident of violence or discrimination against members of Jamaica’s LGBT community. In addition, though more LGBT people are reporting acts of violence and discrimination to J-FLAG and the police, many incidents still go unreported. This is due to the hostile social and cultural environment, which results in LGBT Jamaicans fearing further discrimination or persecution and their sexual orientation or (non-conforming) gender identity becoming public.
The question of whether incidents perpetrated against LGBT people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression have been increasing in recent times. This forms a critical part of discussions around violence and homophobia in Jamaica. The graph below shows the pattern of reports made to J-FLAG in 2012 and up to August 2013.
As shown, the reports followed very different trajectories for the two years in the period April to August. However, it must be noted that the low number of reports received between April 2013 and June 2013 may have been as a result of the temporary closure of J-FLAG’s office and does not necessarily reflect a decrease in the number of incidents being perpetrated. This could explain the unusually low number and not represent an actual decrease in incidents. Likewise, it does not represent an increase in incidents in July 2013 and August 2013.
Underreporting and Late Reports
Many incidents are not always reported to J-FLAG immediately. The analysis of the reports shows that a significant number of incidents are reported several months after they were perpetrated. Between January 2012 and August 2013, for example, a total of 87 incidents were reported to J-FLAG, however, only 64.37% of them were perpetrated in that period. There were also instances of incidents which were perpetrated in previous years and reported in the period.
Some of the reasons LGBT people do not report incidents perpetrated against them (to J-FLAG) is fear of people knowing they are LGBT, challenges accessing J-FLAG such as distance or knowledge about the organisation, and low confidence about the value of reporting. For some, when they do report the incidents, it may be a positive or negative occurrence in the community that gives them the courage to come forward weeks or months, even years after the incident.
Location of Incidents
The majority of incidents reported to J-FLAG occur in Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine and St James. The graphs below show that there might be a correlation between the geographical pattern of incidents of violence perpetuated against LGBT people and the pattern of crime and violence across Jamaica. National statistics indicate that a majority of the incidents occur in the aforementioned parishes.
J-FLAG acknowledges that efforts have been made by the police to encourage reporting and investigation of all crimes, including those perpetrated against LGBT Jamaicans. The introduction of the Diversity Policy and their participation in a number of human rights-related capacity building and sensitization workshops are steps in the right direction. Understandably, the police face severe limitations in conducting investigation and apprehending perpetrators of crime. Additionally, their function is dependent on a more effective and efficient legal and justice systems that is at the moment overburdened. Nonetheless, much more work needs to be done to ensure that all Jamaicans are protected and where their rights are infringed, they are treated equally before the law.
J-FLAG recommends that:
- The Ministries of National Security and Justice and the Jamaica Constabulary Force take leadership action and expand training programs to ensure that relevant persons, including police officers and judges are knowledgeable about human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity.
- The police thoroughly investigate all crimes reported, whether committed by or against LGBT people so the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
- The parliament publicly condemns violence against all people regardless of their sexual orientation and invests in initiatives that promote the rights and dignity of all Jamaicans.
For further information contact:
Twitter: @equality_JA Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jflagcommunity
ON A MISSION: Towards Equality
The Fifteenth Anniversary of a Movement
J-FLAG is an human rights organization advocating towards a Jamaican society where the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons are respected. Our advocacy seeks to promote the values of all-inclusivity, diversity, equality, fairness, and love.
The organisation’s vision is a Jamaican society that respects and protects the human rights and inherent dignity of all persons, irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
J-FLAG is celebrating 15 years of advocacy, lobbying, community building and human rights work (on December 10, 2013). We have much to celebrate as an organization and community despite the extremely difficult circumstances that many of us face. The year has brought tremendous challenges and tragedies including the continued marginalization of LGBT people, homelessness, continued forced evictions of LGBT Jamaicans, mob violence and the murder of LGBT Jamaicans.
However, despite the ever-present hostility, gay Jamaicans have maintained a vibrant and visible community and have no intention of living in the shadows ever again.
OK, I don’t feel ready for Christmas, this year. But then, I never do.
I always buy charity Christmas cards (by the way, Youth Opportunities Unlimited has a great range of bright and beautiful cards this year) and send them out to dozens of friends and family (mostly overseas, so it costs a fortune in postage). I always feel “virtual” Christmas cards are a bit of a cop-out, since I only communicate with many of these people once or twice a year. They deserve something in their hand – something they can display on their mantelpiece or hang from the beams in the ceiling, as my sister does in her old English farmhouse. It’s a touch of Jamaica, bright and cheerful on a cold winter’s morning in New York or London.
It’s a ritual I enjoy. I write my cards in strict alphabetical order, so people whose surnames begin with “A” have a much better chance of getting their card on time than the “W”s. And I have to fill one half of the card with stuff like, “It’s been another busy year for us…” or “What, Christmas already?” and the obligatory updates on son’s and husband’s welfare. Variations on a theme, really. I usually just about get them finished by around December 20, which means of course that some are going to be, well, late. And this despite my husband’s gentle reminders: “I notice you haven’t started on your Christmas cards yet, dear…”
And no, I haven’t. That’s one of many reasons why I don’t feel ready for Christmas. No, never.
Oh, happy Thanksgiving by the way to all my friends and readers in the United States! And happy Hannukah, which coincides this year, to all our Jewish friends too. The Festival of Lights – how beautiful. Actually I am drawn to the Thanksgiving celebration for a number of reasons: I like it because God doesn’t intrude too much into the proceedings. I like to think we are giving thanks to Mother Earth, to the Universe, to whatever Spirit we may or may not subscribe to. We are just thankful, and it simply appeals to me on that level, philosophically. And it’s about family, more than anything else – which I happen to believe is very important, in my old-fashioned way. Plus, I am rather fond of roast turkey (which in England we always ate on Christmas Day, at home).
But back to Christmas. There is the food. Firstly, I am not crazy about sorrel, the traditional Christmas drink in Jamaica. I will only drink it if there is nothing else. It has a medicinal quality, and to reduce that taste, it is often made too sweet. But I dutifully sip it when I have to. And I dislike Christmas cake. I have an incredibly sweet tooth so I should love sorrel and cake, shouldn’t I? But I just don’t like the taste. If it had brandy butter with it, maybe. But Jamaicans don’t do brandy butter.
On the plus side there is the ham. Local Jamaican ham is incredibly delicious and juicy and makes me give up the idea of becoming a vegetarian, just yet. I am so tired of chicken, which we eat all year round until it’s coming out of our ears. And I miss the aforementioned turkey, cooked the way my mother used to do it. But the ham makes up for all this.
I don’t drink for health reasons so that is also quite boring of me, isn’t it? I will have a sip of wine (or preferably champagne) and just now, looking at a link in Carib Journal with all kinds of rum punch recipes, I licked my lips. Jamaicans are fond of egg nog at Christmas – an old-fashioned English thing – but I have always found it too rich and sickly. So, on Christmas Day we will be going to a nearby hotel, which boasts an enormous buffet: a huge range of delights. Something to look forward to.
And now it comes down to it, what else has Christmas got going for it, for me personally? We are not church-goers, and sitting with eyelids propped open for Midnight Mass (complete with a long, droning sermon) always seems like self-inflicted torture to me. So all that stuff is out. There are one or two parties; but fewer and fewer in Kingston these days, due to what we like to call the “economic downturn” (which seems to be a permanent fixture these days). To make matters worse, the local television Christmas ads started early this year, to drum up business. They are more annoying than ever. The jingles are nerve-wracking. Young women bounce around Christmas trees, dressed as elves in red tights – red tinsel, red glitter, everything swathed in red. I reach for the mute button instantly.
When our son was young, Christmas was fun. We would buy him all kinds of odd little presents. We would spend all day decorating the Christmas tree, smashing a few glass balls along the way. My husband would spend hours checking the Christmas lights (there were always those dead bulbs that spoiled the whole thing) – that was always his job. We would buy pots of poinsettias (a local plant, of course) and over-priced imported decorations. We would watch videos and kitschy children’s Christmas shows on television, and cook up a storm. My husband would go downtown to “Grand Market” (there is still a watered-down version of this, I believe) and revel in his childhood memories of Christmas in Kingston. My parents spent at least one or two Christmases with us here in Jamaica – which, all by itself, was awesome.
But let me return to the “giving thanks” part of this season, for a minute. There is so much to appreciate, after all. The sunlight lies gently on the tiny leaves of our lignum vitae tree with its heart-shaped orange fruits hanging like clusters of earrings. When I was hanging the washing out a short while ago, a Jamaican Oriole came down to sit on a branch of the mango tree and sang me a soft, conversational song. (Yes, people probably think I’m crazy talking to the birds – but they talk to me). Our dog lies down in her favorite spot on the front lawn every afternoon, sniffing the air, gazing round quietly (with the occasional bark if someone passes by). The “Christmas breeze” stirs, unobtrusive. The sky is a faded blue, decorated with harmless, fluffy clouds. The light ripens softly as the day declines into a pink sunset. The air is calm. The doves coo softly.
And there are people – especially my family (present, absent and passed on) – and the Jamaican people, in all their confusion and craziness. What more could I really want?
But why do I feel as if Christmas is some huge hurdle to climb over? I think it’s just about getting old. The memories begin to crowd the room, breathing in all the oxygen. It’s almost claustrophobic. I just need to accept that it is what it is.
Any tips for surviving Christmas would be welcome. And roll on, 2014!
The concept of the "dirty old man" preying on underage girls for sex is a phenomenon that has so faded and become so normalized that a Jamaican civil society organization has launched a campaign against this horrible practice. This was the message from Eve for Life's Joy Crawford at an event yesterday
"Nuh Guh Deh" (patois roughly translated to 'leave it alone') was launched yesterday by…
Readers, friends, journalists, fellow-bloggers, supporters and anyone working in this field or who is interested in learning more and getting involved, PLEASE JOIN US TOMORROW (Tuesday, November 26, 2013) at 10:00 a.m. at the offices of Eve for Life, 1A Richmond Park Avenue, Kingston 10 (near the Transport Authority offices). Eve for Life will launch its campaign aimed at sensitizing the public about the ills of cross-generational sex, including transactional sex and forced sex with young girls aged 10 to 19 years old that is posing serious challenges to the HIV response in Jamaica.
Participants will include: Deidre Kiernan, Deputy Representative, UNICEF Jamaica; Greig Smith, Registrar, Office of the Children’s Registry; Sannia Sutherland, Acting Executive Director, National Family Planning Board; St. Rachel Ustanny, Family Planning Association of Jamaica; Randy McLaren, Word Activist; and the band Nomaddz.
Please see Eve for Life’s press release below. Please share widely and let your friends and contacts know. Looking forward to a vibrant morning with you tomorrow!
Sex with young girls has over the years become the norm and is the subject of many popular songs. It is widely practiced in many communities regardless of economic status. A ground breaking study done by Family Health International’s (FHI) 360 Communication for Change project in Jamaica entitled “Cross-Generational Relationships: Perceived Norms and Practices in Jamaica”, noted that cross generational sex contributes greatly to HIV prevalence and has become a norm. The participants in the study indicated that cross-generational relationships were common and persons were generally indifferent to these relationships or approved of them for the material gain they offered. The study further noted that young girls got involved in cross-generational relationships primarily for emotional/security support. Other reasons were sexual gratification and financial gain. On the other hand, the primary motivation for males was sexual gratification. The study also pointed to the fact that many of the persons involved in cross-generational sex also had multiple, concurrent sexual relationships.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health also show that transactional sex is increasing. Forty-three per cent of persons 15-24 years reported being involved in the activity in 2012, up from thirty-nine per cent in 2008. Additionally, at least twenty per cent of young girls report that their first sexual encounter was forced.
A key underlined factor in all the above is that young girls are becoming engaged in sex from an early age thus increasing their vulnerability to HIV and early pregnancy; they are unable to insist on condom use or to refuse sex. Eighteen per cent of pregnancies now occur among teenagers up to nineteen years old. HIV infection is three times higher among young girls aged 10 to 19 years old than among young boys the same age.
As a result of the foregoing, EVE For Life is launching a community chat entitled “Nuh Guh Deh!!”. This community chat will take place between November 29 and December 5, 2013 in three major town centres (Half Way Tree, Ocho Rios and Sam Sharpe Square -Montego Bay) and one inner city community in Kingston. These community chats will prelude an island wide campaign to be launched under the same name.
The “Nuh Guh Deh”, campaign complements EVE For Life’s current initiatives among HIV adolescents and young mothers aged 14 -24 years old, funded by World Learning and UNICEF; and an awareness raising intervention around Gender Based Violence and young girls funded by the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund and the British High Commission.
For more details, please contact: Patricia Watson. Tel: 754-3954
You may be looking out for my Sunday post right now, but it is going to be a Monday post. Yes, it is I am afraid. The spirit was willing, but the energy has faded. The past week has been pretty intense.
Here is one of the exciting things I was doing last week. I had the honor of taking responsibility for the “Justice For All” tent at the University of the West Indies HIV/AIDS Response Program (UWIHARP) World AIDS Day celebration – “Getting to Zero…Justice for All.” My two colleagues, Latoya and Raquel, did a fantastic job engaging the visitors to our booth on issues related to stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, the LGBT community and other groups that are often pushed to the margins of society. Raquel took copious notes! We had some fierce darts competitions, too. Elsewhere music flowed,
Some of the questions we asked during our conversations with our visitors were…
- What is the first word that would come to your mind if you are told that someone you know is HIV positive?
- Would you go up and hug and kiss that person knowing he/she is positive?
- Do you personally know anyone with HIV or AIDS? If so, has your relationship with him/her changed at all?
- Would you sit down and share a meal with a person living with HIV or AIDS?
- What would you do if a person living with HIV or AIDS sneezed in your face?
- If you were sick with diabetes or cancer, for example, how would you feel if a neighbor started to avoid you?
- If your father or your sister was sick, would you care for them and nurse them? Would you do so in the same way if they had AIDS?
- Would you feel more sympathetic towards a woman with a family or towards a young man with lots of girlfriends – both living with AIDS? Would you treat them differently
- Do you think it’s best if people living with HIV/AIDS don’t disclose their status?
- What are the questions you would ask a person living with HIV/AIDS (in a one on one chat)?
- Do you think some people (sex workers, LGBT community, homeless, drug abusers etc) “have it coming to them” because of their way of life?
- How do you think people living with HIV/AIDS feel about themselves?
- How do you think people living with HIV/AIDS want to be treated?
- Do people living with HIV/AIDS have rights?
- Do you listen to or spread gossip about others?
Finally and most of all, congratulations to the energetic and hard-working Yolanda Paul, who put heart and soul into this project. Besides being a really delightful and funny person, she can organize the hell out of anything! We had a magnificent day. Here are a few photos to give you a flavor…
I had the honor and pleasure of reviewing this book for the Kingston-based Ian Randle Publishers. I found it a remarkably gripping and emotional experience. The words of the boys simply tear at your heart. I would highly recommend the book for anyone working with at-risk youth, educators, sociologists, psychologists – or anyone concerned with the state of modern Caribbean society. Christmas is coming, so hurry out and buy a copy for someone who cares.
Congratulations to the author, Debbie Jacob, for writing such a brave and honest book. Ms. Jacob is Head Librarian at the International School of Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago, and a columnist with the “Trinidad Guardian.” She still teaches the boys at the Youth Training Centre (a euphemism for what we in Jamaica would call a Juvenile Correctional Centre).
Here is my review:
Whose wings are these? The title of this earnest, often passionate book seems to refer to the wings of our dreams, as depicted in the well-known Langston Hughes poem that prefaces it. But wings have other functions: not only the spiritual, but also the physical means of escape, of freedom and – in the case of some birds – of dominance.
I know this is a cliché. But this book simply proves that yes, one person can make a difference. Debbie Jacob gives a searingly honest account of her experience teaching English Language and Literature (at CXC level) to a group of young men – with “issues.” They are behind bars, at a Youth Training Centre (or YTC, a euphemism for a boys’ correctional center) in Trinidad. It is a bleak environment, which the boys sometimes describe in uncomfortable detail. Many are there for years, either serving their sentences for various violent crimes or awaiting trial.
Ms. Jacob lets the boys speak for themselves. Their narratives are sometimes disjointed and incoherent, often eloquent; but always yearning, in the way that young people yearn. Now, how did Ms. Jacob, a white woman from the United States who taught privileged children at the International School, elicit such outpourings from a group of angry, bitter and essentially lonely young men? She is from a different, comfortable world. She cannot easily comprehend the life of deprivation from which they come, and is not always aware of the nature of their crimes. But she does not concern herself with this. She simply wants them to pass the CXC examinations; although as it turns out, she and her students want more than mere academic success.
The answer is simple. Ms. Jacob treats each one of the boys as an individual from the outset. Likewise, the reader does not see them as stereotypical “bad boys.” Her CXC English class of eight is an extraordinary group of personalities: complex and demanding and difficult. We get to know them through their letters, essays, book reports. They express their deepest feelings more easily through the written word, even if their grammar is not always perfect.
As a teacher, Ms. Jacob realizes she is not a “textbook person.” Although the boys are initially obsessed with rules and structure and bring “God” into every sentence, she decides to teach them skills rather than teaching a syllabus. The CXC is a two-year course and she is not always confident in her ability to teach them to the standard required for the examination in just eight months. It’s a daunting task. So she focuses on reading, obtaining as many donated books as possible. The boys devour them. And so, her teaching methods evolve. Several issues emerge, including the importance of culturally relevant reading material – Naipaul, rather than Hemingway. Ms. Jacob points to the enormous value of reading – widely and deeply. The students’ reaction to the books is quite telling. “Water for Elephants” became a favorite, and Jahmai (a leader, who went on to do well in the exam) was a great lover of the classics.
The author describes how her relationships with each of her students develop, step by step (sometimes there are backward steps). She and her students learn to trust each other – and to support each other, and this evolves naturally, over time. Ms. Jacob shows that her relationship with a student is not a “one-way street.” The boys encourage her; and sometimes adopt a protective, almost nurturing approach to her, such as when there are severe floods in the area.
Ms. Jacob’s students write stark, even beautiful prose. It has been revised and “tidied up,” but their authentic voices form the most compelling part of the book. The language is uncompromising and the emotional impact so strong that the reader, like myself, might even feel a little tearful.
The author’s tone is never condescending. She does not see herself as a benevolent do-gooder and she is clear-eyed in her assessment of her students. Nor does she look at them as a kind of academic experiment. But her concern, even love for the boys flows through the book. She wants to give each of them wings, but knows that not all of them will fly. This is a simply written, straightforward account of a painful and complex process, that of growing up. Even more “bitter,” (one of the boys’ favorite words) when all the cards are stacked against you.
In an early exercise for their teacher, many of the boys wrote that they would like to be a bird: preferably an eagle, in command, powerful. And free.
To obtain a copy of this book, contact Ian Randle Publishers, P.O. Box 686, Kingston 6, Jamaica (11 Cunningham Avenue).
Tel: (876) 978-0745; 978-0739; 946-3173 Fax: (876) 978-1156
I spent the weekend in a different world: where the scent of suntan lotion fills the air, and nice, sanitized reggae music fills the air. Yes, I was in the massive (and I mean huge) complex that is the Gran Bahia Principe on Jamaica’s fair north coast. But actually, good to be back home…
Mountain View troubles: Just a couple of weeks ago I visited the Jacques Road area of Mountain View. People were getting on with their lives, the Homework Centre was open. Francena and other community leaders were doing great work with much support. It is really extremely sad to hear of the problems in the area, which began a week ago with the police shooting a teenager in the Jarrett Lane area, some distance down the road. But roadblocks and unrest have continued all of this week, and gang activity seems to have started up again. Just over a year ago, the police killed another teen (and leading light in the police youth club there) Kavorne Shue, in the same area. The pain of that death still lingers; and there are now allegations of police brutality in the area. How will all this help to reduce our rate of violent crime?
And Minister Bunting, to be honest, we don’t need a “forum” on violence prevention. Unless it is going to lead to an action plan that will lead to…action. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48995 And now the Minister has also expressed concern about the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), who investigate police killings, because they actually take away the policemen’s guns. He echoed the Police Federation’s recent complaints. Surely in any investigation into a gun crime, all the guns must be taken for examination? See here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131031/lead/lead5.html
INDECOM says the police killed 15 Jamaicans in September – and 35 in October. Well, the Police Commissioner did warn us that the police will not be “delicate”… Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/lead/lead7.html The INDECOM Commissioner has also clarified the situation re: the “seizing” of guns from the police at crime scenes – an accusation the Minister seemed so eager to back up. So between the police rank and file and the Minister himself, there is a lot of chipping away at the authority of a Commission established by Government. How does this help us as we search for justice for all? And why is the Minister not clear on the role and responsibilities of INDECOM?
The enigma that is Minister Bunting: In my last post I suggested that he is impersonal and lacking in empathy towards the victims of crime. No expressions of regret for the most terrible crimes seem to pass his lips. I’m trying to figure out the mindset, but he is an enigma. I would not like to think that he is quite comfortable with the daily horrors. Here is what some Observer readers think: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-How-s-the-praying-thing-going–Mr-Bunting–_15362955
But I am not letting the Opposition Spokesman off the hook: Mr. Delroy Chuck seems to have had a rush of blood to the head and agrees with Minister Bunting that strong measures must be taken to curb crime. And I quote: “I have heard it from persons who believe that the problem of crime is a social one and if you put in enough social reform and enough social intervention you can curb the crime problem. It nuh work.” So by inference, you do not believe the problem of crime is a social issue, Mr. Chuck? You once used to talk quite a bit of sense… Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131103/news/news5.html
The dynamic duo of Bunting and Chuck (chair and member, respectively, of the joint select committee considering anti-gang legislation) also gave short shrift to human rights lawyer Nancy Anderson of the Norman Manley Law School. Ms. Anderson pointed out that a part of the proposed law is in violation of the (already flawed) Charter of Rights, passed three years ago. Oh no, but strong measures are needed to fight the scourge of gangs, etc., chorused Minister B and Mr. C.Here we are: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131103/news/news6.html
In just a few months this year, the National Water Commission (NWC) has lost J$3.5 billion. Staggering, especially when you consider that this abominably wasteful and inefficient government agency has just been granted a rate increase that we, the consumers, must pay. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131031/lead/lead1.html Moreover, the head of the NWC has just resigned, to take up a position as head of…the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), which reviews rates and just approved this latest increase. Well, I never. (The Sunday Gleaner came up with a decent editorial at last, reminding politicians of their responsibility. Read here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131103/cleisure/cleisure1.html
Do read our revered columnist Barbara Gloudon’s vivid first-hand account of a teen party she literally ran into recently here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Stranded-in-an-over-sexed-age_15362857 Meanwhile Talk Up Yout,‘ a UNICEF-sponsored project, is urging us not to judge the young people too hastily, after the viral video of Maggotty High School students disporting themselves (two years ago). Read their views here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/letters/letters6.html
Parenting is “in”: Parenting workshops and parenting centers are breaking out all over these days, as both government and non-governmental agencies try to find a solution to the “uncontrollable” behavior of our young adults, among other social ills. I hope they will help to shore up the crumbling family structures that exist in many of our communities; so many children have very little they can call family. Read more about one project: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Whitfield-Town-teen-moms–dads-learn-parenting-skills_15362607
Bobbing and weaving: An item in the business news notes that Jamaicans will spend close to J$1 billion this year on imported weaves. Yes, weaves…fake hair. I choked when I read this. One person in the business observes, “Fake hair is not necessary for survival (er, no ma’am) but has become a staple for many women.” So this is where all our foreign exchange is going. While the economy is collapsing around them, women cannot – must not – do without their fake hair, wigs and even eyelashes! Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Jamaica-s-weave-imports-set-to-hit–1-billion-in-2013_15362696#ixzz2jQpIJ0Ua
Zero out of ten to Mr. Gordon Robinson for his pathetic response to Diana McCaulay’s brilliant critique of his column on the Portland Bight Protected Area (Goat Islands etc). The sexism is absolutely nauseating. He describes Ms. McCaulay as “the subject of every pimply nerd’s wet dreams,” among other things. Mr. Robinson, a lawyer by profession, would say this is humorous, and anyone who disagrees just has no sense of fun. Yes, the most offensive racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynistic comments are often disguised as “humor,” actually. If you can stomach it, read here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131103/focus/focus1.html
Meanwhile, our silent Prime Minister is in Japan. I do hope she is enjoying her trip. “No problem, mon!” (I have been influenced by my tourism experience this weekend, clearly…) I am tired of asking the same questions: how many people accompanied her (“her support staff and security team”)? And did they all travel first class, as Ms. Simpson Miller always does? What is to be achieved by this visit? Will we, the taxpayers footing the bill for this long-distance journey, be granted a report on the results of the visit?
Three cheers for the following:
- USAID: USAID Jamaica – which celebrated 52 years of foreign assistance on Friday, November 1 – recently graduated 98 youth across the island from training in climate change adaptation – an important, even urgent concern that we should all be paying attention to. Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/lead/lead8.html and http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/98-graduate-from-Climate-Change-Action-Training-programme
- My former boss, Ian Randle, who received an honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies (UWI) recently. Here is an edited version of the speech he gave at UWI’s St. Augustine campus in Trinidad: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/lead/lead99.html
- Petre Williams-Raynor, the excellent environmental journalist now with Panos Caribbean, who is highly focused, well-informed and has a consistently high level of output. She has written here on climate change adaptation: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/news/news1.html And in her blog here following Friday’s fascinating seminar on disaster preparedness for the disabled community in Portmore (more on that later): http://wordsfrompetre.webs.com/apps/blog/entries/show/34882533-disasters-and-the-disabled
Meanwhile, the police continue to inflict “strong measures” on the Jamaican people. They shot dead two teenage brothers on the first day of the month. A mentally ill man was severely beaten in the Falmouth police lock-up on October 19, and is lying in hospital with serious head injuries. INDECOM is investigating. And a mob chopped and beat to death a teenager in Hanover, who was also said to be “of unsound mind.” My sad condolences to all those left behind to mourn the deaths of the following Jamaican citizens who lost their lives to violence in the past four days:
Javore Elleston, 14, Riverton City, Kingston
“Mattic Head,” Torrington Park, Kingston
“Strado,” Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Sophia Dawson, 46, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine
Dennis Martin, 31, Norwood, St. James
Gregory Black, 35, St. James
Ojay Gardner, 18, Chigwell, Hanover (mob killing)
Omar Taylor, Havana Heights, Clarendon
Markland Drysdale, 40, Cow Bay/Albion, St. Thomas
Killed by police:
Odane Myers, 21, Russia/Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland
Lewishon Campbell 17, Mt. Salem, St. James
Romario Campbell, 19, Mt. Salem, St. James
Additional articles of interest:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/lead/lead1.html Feeding Jamaica, no problem: Gleaner
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/jamaica-masters-of-crisis-management/ Jamaica: Masters of Crisis Management: newsandviewsbydjmiller
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/lead/lead96.html Chuck: Changing Article 45 will “Jamaicanize” region: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131103/lead/lead3.html Children stuck in horror: health-care workers recount haunting tales of sex abuse of kids: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Maroon-chief-to-add-voice-to-international-exchange-on-indigenous-issues Maroon chief to add voice to international exchange on indigenous issues: Jamaica Observer
When I arrived at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, the room was already humming, completely filled with schoolchildren, teachers and assorted officials. I squeezed into a seat right near the door, next to a young woman tapping gently on a Samsung Galaxy Note (I felt a twinge of envy, quickly suppressed). Behind us sat a petite girl in a pale blue party dress. For the next hour or so, the doors were clogged with belated groups of despondent students and teachers, looking around for vacant seats. There were very few.
And everyone was on time, and the event started on time. Which is really worth remarking on, because this is quite a rarity in Jamaica. Perhaps it was because the Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen, was going to be there and one cannot be late for him. He had swished past us as we headed downtown, with outriders (police escorts in dashing white jackets) wailing their sirens. Of course, he had a head start on us.
And why was Sir Patrick attending this event? It was the National Youth Conference, supported by his own “I Believe” Initiative (IBI). With his very considerable influence and an enthusiastic band of workers, the project has been a great success so far. It has made an impact, with all kinds of empowering activities for youth taking place. Sir Patrick told us that the idea had taken root on February 26, 2009. After careful planning, I Believe was launched in May, 2011. The aim is not only to inspire and motivate young people, but to show them options. Even in these difficult times, the Initiative seeks to give practical advice as well as financial and moral support, as thousands of young people make their way out into the increasingly hazardous and uncertain world of (un)employment. Career development and encouraging youth entrepreneurship are two major thrusts.
“I Believe” sounds at first like the title of a gospel song; and indeed, Sir Patrick Allen is a religious man. But it is also about believing in one’s own abilities. And Sir Patrick’s remarks struck me as very sensible: “What we need is unity, so that the best brains, the abundant creative genius of our people may be brought together to devise and implement appropriate strategies for our advancement.” Who can argue with that? The IBI slogan goes something like this: “There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica.” And we know – we know - that there is plenty right with Jamaica. It’s a question of harnessing it for progress.
You can find much more about the IBI’s programs on their website at http://www.ibelieveinitiative.org. I noticed that strong partnerships have served it well. Telecoms firm LIME (formerly Cable & Wireless) provides free Internet service at three computer centers in rural Jamaica, with computers donated by “a friendly Embassy.” An IBI Medical Centre has opened in Spring Village, St. Catherine – one of its “adopted” communities (an excellent idea, I think). There are sixteen IBI Ambassadors who help spread the word and offer mentorship. Students of a school that has been facing challenges, Holy Trinity High, were invited to a tour and picnic at Kings House, the Governor General’s residence. A parenting skills program will soon be up and running – something that was proposed by the youth themselves. And much more.
After a short break, during which we all scrambled for a drink of juice outside, Ms. Joan Vogelsang (born in the UK, grew up in Jamaica, now living in Montreal, Canada) told us about how she built up a huge animation company called Toon Boom – which calls itself “the global leader in digital content and animation software.” Much of this is applied in education, resulting markedly improved grades. Ms. Vogelsang told us about the incredible global stretch of the creative industries and the career opportunities therein. The young audience was very interested indeed (“Can teens join the company?” asked one), and so was a representative of Mico Teachers Training College.
“People always say you can’t do things,” said Ms. Vogelsang, “But don’t allow yourself to be constrained.” (Or, as my grandmother used to say – and it annoyed the hell out of me, but she was right - “There‘s no such word as can’t.”) “Belief, energy, focus, desire” are the qualities you need to succeed, suggested Ms. Vogelsang, who wants to help build the animation industry in Jamaica; I really hope she will. Already, the University of Technology (UTech), Caribbean Institute of Media & Communications (CARIMAC) at the University of the West Indies, and the HEART Training Academy are offering courses in animation.
Mr. Alvin Day is a motivational speaker. His own motivation is, one assumes, built-in. “I came to trouble you,” he announced, flashing a smile (what a lovely Jamaican word that is, “trouble” – real meaning, “I am going to bother you”). Mr. Day has a book, “If Caterpillars Can Fly, So Can I” and he is also a management consultant for some big firms (Forbes, Pepsi, among others). He also does coaching in public speaking. And he was born in Frankfield, Clarendon, Jamaica – a graduate of Edwin Allen High School (cheers from a section of the audience). “I came from a place where there was no dignity,” he told us. I understood that he suffered physical abuse as a child; at fourteen years old he was wetting his bed. But, in the ringing tones of an evangelistic preacher, he told us that he overcame his fears through sheer determination.
I liked Mr. Day’s discussion of risk. To risk greatness, he said, you also risk failure. “You are great on the inside,” he noted, but there is “always a risk in believing.” You might be wrong. He pointed us to the importance of developing this self-belief – what he called the Law of Vision. “You must believe in something before it happens,” he said. Prepare yourself, then just do it.
The organizers had a terrific ticket system for lunch, and we all managed to get served on time in one of the green, open courtyards that are a nice feature of the beautifully-designed Conference Centre. Four young men joined me at my table; they were all trainee chefs from the Runaway Bay HEART Academy. I talked to them, predictably, about food, and their favorite dishes. They will be cooking up a storm on Restaurant Night, ahead of Kingston’s annual Restaurant Week: reservations at 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. at 26 Haining Road in New Kingston on November 2. For more information call: 377-6509. The young men enthusiastically reeled off the list of dishes they will be preparing, and it sounds completely amazing. Why don’t you go along? (I will be out of town, but I would if I could).
Back inside, I had a chat with the girl in the powder-blue party dress, just fifteen years old, and very bright. I have posted a photograph of her. I also met up with a group of young people from the Eagles Marching Band, who posed for their photograph, and told me that they had lost everything – uniforms and instruments – in a recent fire and desperately needed help to buy them back. I wonder if IBI (or anyone else) can assist? This is a plea for help. The Eagles are a great band from the inner city, attached to the Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Mr. Levi Roots had one simple message: “Be yourself!” (And he certainly was himself when he slipped out a good old-fashioned Jamaican expression, making the entire audience gasp. But we moved quickly on…) Mr. Roots has this special feistiness and humor that many West Indians who have lived in the UK for a long time acquire. Coincidentally, he was also born in rural Clarendon, the youngest of six children with dreams of attending Glenmuir High School (more cheers from another quarter of the audience). His parents migrated to England and worked hard to bring the family over, one by one. Mr. Roots learnt about cooking, and enjoyed music, while living with his grandmother. Then it was his turn to go to Brixton.
Mr. Roots is what you would call a “self-made man.” And if you think it is easy to walk into someone’s office and try to sell not only your product (in his case, a spicy sauce) but yourself as a black Rastafarian man in England… Well, it ain’t. At age 33, he plucked up the nerve to appear on television on a program called “Dragon’s Den” after fifteen years of selling his products (straight from his kitchen) at Notting Hill Carnival; there he was grilled about his plans for a major expansion of his business. You will find a fascinating 15-minute video clip of it on his website. There he also found a mentor, entrepreneur Peter Jones, whom he praises highly.
The secrets of business success, said Mr. Roots, are…
Create a long-term business plan. “Short term planning is just hustling,” he said.
Stick with it. “No business will be a success in less than five years…”
Passion. (And being yourself)
It’s not easy finding the right tone to address an audience with an average age of sixteen or so, but somehow Levi Roots pulled it off – I think perhaps because he didn’t try to lecture them. He was swamped with questions from the audience. Yes, Mr. Roots is a natural.
And yes, his net worth last year was forty million Pounds Sterling.
Mr. Roots mentioned the possibility of setting up a factory in Clarendon to produce his sauce; he also mentioned the establishment of a Levi Roots Scholarship at the University of the West Indies. I really hope he does make good on these wonderful plans.
“With focus, hard work and discipline you can do anything,” Sir Patrick Allen told the Conference in his welcoming remarks. And he is absolutely right. Our children must know this. As I recall a teacher saying on another occasion, “There are no short cuts.” You may think there are, but truly – there just aren’t. I think this is true in 2013, more than ever.
Good luck, and much love, to all our young people.
P.S. Special thanks to LIME, who provided free wifi for the occasion. Unfortunately, when the MC gave out the password to the hundreds of people in the audience, it collapsed. However, when Mr. Errol Miller, LIME’s chairman (who was at the Conference) realized this, he promised to get the bandwidth expanded on returning to the office. Which he did. It came back after lunch, and we “live tweeters” were all happy! Thank you, Mr. Miller and LIME.
Related articles and links:
http://www.ibelieveinitiative.org I Believe Initiative
http://www.kingshouse.gov.jm The Official Website of the Governor General of Jamaica
https://www.toonboom.com Toon Boom Animation
http://www.alvinday.com Alvin Day: The Empowerment Institute
http://www.leviroots.com Levi Roots official website