Both our political parties went into “shoot yourself in the foot” mode this week, in very different ways. But basically sparking the same general reaction among many of us: kiss teeth, shrug shoulders, sigh, laugh, cry, groan, make cynical noises. And of course, more great fodder for the media.
Let’s start with the party in power, the People’s National Party: As I warned you in Wednesday’s post, at five o’clock that evening the former Junior Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Works, Richard Azan had said he was not aware of any plans to reinstate him. The very next morning at nine o’clock he and his colleagues dutifully appeared all dressed up at King’s House. His colleagues applauded him as the Governor General swore him in. Everyone clapped. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (wearing those hideous sunglasses again, indoors) gave him a warm hug and kiss. The Jamaica Labour Party‘s Daryl Vaz attended (hmm) because the Azans are family friends, or something. Yes, after all the hand-wringing, finger-pointing and recriminations, Mr. Azan is back. He resigned just two months ago after huge public pressure. His return was apparently “urgent” - the reason perhaps being that Mr. Azan’s boss Omar Davies is taking sick leave for an operation.
Oh, what of the promised single anti-corruption agency, which I understand the government had promised to create by year-end? Just a few weeks to go, and… Well?
Since the re-election of Andrew Holness as Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) leader at their conference a week ago, the machinations of the Opposition have become quite complex. The chain of events goes something like this (hope I get this right): Sunday: Holness is re-elected with 57.3% of the delegates’ votes, defeating Audley Shaw. (Fake?) smiles all round. Monday: Holness receives a bunch of resignation letters from Shaw supporters. Tuesday: Holness wants all eight JLP Senators to resign, and then says he didn’t say that. Holness announces his dreary old Shadow Cabinet. Audley Shaw and Ed Bartlett say they cannot accept positions because of certain issues (including the disputed nomination of two deputy leaders, Christopher Tufton and James Robertson). Wednesday: What happened? I can’t remember. Thursday: It seems five JLP senators have resigned. Two prominent ones (Christopher Tufton and Arthur Williams) will not. Oh yes, then they did. Williams says Holness used undated resignation letters! Friday: A confused Upper House sits with five out of six remaining JLP senators present. Oh, Holness appointed a new one. His name is Alexander Williams. Weekend: Head spinning. Winner: Andrew Holness. Losers: Audley Shaw. The JLP. Democracy. Governance.
Is Holness the “transformational leader” he thinks he is? Will the JLP ever win an election again? What of all the pieces in this manic chess game? Is there space for them, or have some been knocked off the board? I personally believe Holness has just been a little too “smart” for his own good. At least party chairman Bobby Montague seems to be keeping sane while everyone else is losing their heads…
Meanwhile the private sector is getting antsy again, and it’s not surprising. Businessman Gassan Azan gave a speech recently about this eternal business of “cutting red tape.” If you recall, Jamaica just slipped on the annual “Doing Business” rankings. Mr. Azan wants the government to do something about it, not just talk. But the relevant government ministers are all in a tizzy over the logistics hub. Red tape? Oh, that’s boring stuff. Here is an edited version of Mr. Azan’s speech: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Cutting-the-red-tape–and–making-it-easier-to-do-business–have-become-almost-meaningless_15447161
The Contractor General is right. What is the point of the whistleblower legislation passed during the JLP administration at the end of 2010? One could say there is no “culture” of whistle-blowing in Jamaica (how I hate that word sometimes). Instead, we have the “informer fi dead culture.” We are all afraid of our own shadows. No whistle-blowing round here.
Drums rolling and trumpets blaring for these awesome people:
- Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, along with singer Tessanne Chin, are keeping Jamaicans’ morale up. The two athletes were named World Athletes of the Year (Usain for the fifth time, Shelly-Ann for the first) by the IAAF in a glitzy affair in Monaco over the weekend. They both looked gorgeous – and they are two marvelous role models. We are proud.
- Sir Richard Branson and volunteer Josh Chamberlain who are working together on a project for the Alpha Boys School called Alpha Wear Jamaica. Sir Richard was in Jamaica recently. Read more on Kate Chappell’s blog: http://jamaicajournal.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/branson-visits-jamaica/
- Sheena South and the Portmore Youth Information Centre, who yesterday aired the “Girl Rising” documentary. Here’s Sheena’s Facebook message: “10X10 is a global campaign to educate and empower girls. At the center of the campaign is a feature film, Girl Rising. It’s by an Academy Award nominated director (Richard Robbins) and features performances from Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Selena Gomez, Salma Hayek, Alicia Keys, and others. This important film tells the stories of nine remarkable girls from around the world who are striving beyond circumstance, pushing past limits and demonstrating the extraordinary strength of the human spirit to overcome the odds. Yet it also carries a powerful message: if we educate girls, we can change the future of some 66 million girls around the world who today only dream of going to school.Together, we can create powerful change. I hope you’ll join this movement with me.” Great initiative!
- Dale and Evette Walker and the people of Bunker’s Hill in Trelawny (I love that name) who are working to build their community through the Bunker’s Hill Community Development Committee. “They used to call me typewriter at school,” says Evette, “because I was very good at writing.” Great story here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/regional/Working-for-Bunker-s-Hill_15432245
- The people of Trench Town, who staged a special trade and development fair at Kingston’s Emancipation Park yesterday.
There has been a nine per cent increase in murders to date this year compared to last, according to police statistics. We have passed the 1,000 mark to 1,054. That’s 84 – yes, 84 – more deaths than the same time last year. A retired policeman was found murdered in his apartment, just down the road from our house. The brother of a journalist whom I know well, a netball coach, was also shot dead in Kingston. My condolences to their families and friends as well as to all those who continue to feel the pain of loss.
Kenneth Lynch, 66, Lady Musgrave Road, Kingston
Evon Powell, 48, Sutton/Duke Street, Kingston
“Raymond,” Darling Street/Spanish Town Road, Kingston
George Steering, 45, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Oliver Kerr, 34, Sandy Bay, Hanover
Keeble Kerr, 36, Sandy Bay, Hanover
Clifford Lindo, 57, Palmers Cross, Clarendon
Infant male, York Town, Clarendon
Killed by the police:
Unidentified man, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Ryan Clarke, Retirement, St. James
To quote a Twitter friend tonight: “Yellow tape is good business.”
A few more articles on the Azan and JLP sagas:
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/civil-groups-strongly-object-reappointment-of-richard-azan_1 Local civil groups strongly object reappointment of Richard Azan: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-p-Opposition-slaps-Gov-t-over-Azan-s-reappointment–p—_15444623 Opposition slaps government over Azan’s reappointment: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131116/cleisure/cleisure1.html Gleaner editorial: PM’s misstep on Azan
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Resigning-after-a-mandate-change-the-ethical-thing-to-do–says-Holness_15444642 Resigning after a mandate change the ethical thing to do, says Holness: Sunday Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/principle-not-bitterness-shaw-defends-decision-to-decline-post-in-shadow-cabinet Principle, not bitterness: Shaw defends decision to decline post in Shadow Cabinet: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=49289 Holness criticized over Senate “resignations”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131116/lead/lead2.html Upper House passes irrigation resolutions after Tufton’s resignation
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/11/15/5-facts-the-jamaican-senate/ Five Facts: The Jamaican Senate (the photograph is not of a Senate sitting however).
I received the following email today and thought I would share it with you. It is from Common Good Productions, via Kickstarter, a crowd-funding initiative.
First, the film will be screening in NYC, Chicago and St. Louis in the next few weeks – see details below for locations and tickets.
The film has also been getting some press (or not getting press, in one notable instance) back in Jamaica…
A few months back, I was interviewed by a Caribbean program called “18° North,” which is a new Caribbean-based investigative TV show.
They did a segment on the film interweaving footage from the documentary with an interview with the director (me), which was slated to be aired in primetime on TVJ, one of the main Jamaican TV broadcasters, on September 16.
Zahra Burton, the program’s executive producer, emailed me the next day. While the program aired on TVJ, she wrote, the network had cut out the segment on “The Abominable Crime!”
Burton was so outraged that the network had removed eight minutes (and a key segment) from her show – without asking her or informing the Jamaican public about the missing piece – that she asked us to let the world know… and she shared the missing segment with us. You can watch it here.
Clearly, some stories are too sensitive to be told on TVJ. And censorship on LBGT issues is still alive and well in Jamaica!!!
Despite TVJ’s refusal to even mention “The Abominable Crime”, Jamaicans are becoming more aware of the film. The Gleaner, one of Jamaica’s most important papers, ran a short piece about the film on their website in conjunction with our Washington DC screenings.
If you have a strong stomach, you might explore some of the comments that appear in response to the story – many of which are quite revealing – and show that homophobia and hatred are still deeply rooted in the Jamaican psyche…
On other fronts, we are proud to announce that “The Abominable Crime” has three upcoming screenings in November 2013:
After this screening you are invited to join us for another Pulitzer Center supported documentary, “Seeds of Hope,” and a reception that will include Maurice Tomlinson and me! More details about the screenings and reception here. The reception is free to attend, but please RSVP here.
We are also beginning to reach out to educational and community groups for non-festival screenings. If you know of a university or community group that would be interested in hosting a screening and discussion, please get in touch with us. You can order an educational or community screening package at ourwebsite.
I hope to see some of you at the screenings in New York and St. Louis! More soon!
Very best regards,
Micah and the whole TAC team!
- Film: “The Abominable Crime,” Documentary about Being Gay in Jamaica debuts in US (repeatingislands.com)
- Jamaican Government Must Urgently Address Homelessness (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Filmmaker seeks backing for documentary, ‘An Abominable Crime: Anti Gay Violence in Jamaica’ (miamiherald.typepad.com)
We recently celebrated the Fiftieth Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, on August 28, 1963. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his ringing “I Have a Dream” speech to an audience of around a quarter of a million people. We have all seen the footage – faces moving and dipping, upturned to hear the voices of the speakers; some people cooling their feet in the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial on a hot summer’s day in DC, trousers rolled up. History in the making.
The people had marched with specific demands: The passage of meaningful civil rights legislation; the elimination of racial segregation in public schools; protection for demonstrators against police brutality; a major public-works program to provide jobs; the passage of a law prohibiting racial discrimination in public and private hiring; a $2 an hour minimum wage; and self-government for the District of Columbia, which had a black majority. A year later, Congress did pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But it was a long, hard road to get that far; much longer than a day’s march.
The U.S. Embassy in Kingston last week aired Sharon La Cruise’s powerful and moving film “Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock” in recognition of the Fiftieth Anniversary. In her introduction, U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela E. Bridgewater recalled happy memories of that day as a teenager in Fredericksburg, Virginia. “The event was so much more than Martin Luther King’s speech,” she told us.
Where were the women on August 28, 1963? Well, they almost did not play any role at all; there was only one woman on the national planning committee for the March. Yes, the film told us something that I confess I was not fully aware of: The civil rights movement was remarkably patriarchal, as society in general was in the 1950s. The women played the role of “assistants,” rarely taking the lead. After the March was over, President John F Kennedy invited the male leaders back to the White House.
So, only three women spoke that day. They were the entertainer Josephine Baker, who had found fame in France; Rosa Parks, who had refused to move to the back of the bus; and a remarkable, but less famous woman named Daisy Bates. Bayard Rustin, an important civil rights leader who was one of the main organizers of the March on Washington, introduced her. Rustin was gay, and despite his importance to the movement he was, like Daisy Bates, somewhat sidelined because of who he was. This was the early sixties, after all.
Here’s a quote from Mrs. Bates’ speech: “We will walk until we are free, until we can walk to any school and take our children to any school in the United States. And we will sit-on and we will kneel-in and we will lie-in if necessary until every Negro in America can vote. This we pledge to the women of America.”
Ms. La Cruise’s portrait of Daisy Bates, which first aired as part of PBS’ excellent “Independent Lens” documentary series, is both sensitive and at the same time uncompromising. It was a challenging task to put together a complete picture of a very complex woman who played such a pivotal role in the civil rights movement – and in particular the desegregation of the Little Rock Central High School in 1957. She had died ten years earlier, and the filmmaker relied on the words and memories of her surviving fellow-campaigners – and her friends, who shared deep insights into her character, and her struggles.
And struggle she did, with incredible determination and strength of character. “If I am to live in this town, and live with myself,” Daisy Bates declared, “I must oppose hatred and prejudice in any way I can.” I must. And “she didn’t ask” people to do things, we learn - “she told them.” She was definitely not one of those who played an “assistant’s” part in the movement (which Rosa Parks largely did, after her initial protest action).
Daisy Bates was born in 1914 in the small town of Huttig, Arkansas, where a sawmill was the main employer. She learned a terrible secret as a child: Her biological mother had been raped and murdered by two local white men. Her father had subsequently abandoned her out of fear. There was “never any justice” for her mother; no proper investigation, no one charged. It is suggested that this personal tragedy spurred Daisy Bates on. As she notes in the film in her own words, from that day on “I was fighting all my life.”
In the film, we see Mrs. Bates as a powerful woman, driven, never giving up. She was never in the background; she pushed herself forward, and was considered by some (both black and white) as selfish, uneducated, and opportunist. She liked the sophisticated life, and she was glamorous. Yet her husband, L.C. Bates, was a devoted supporter, mentor and guide. They married in 1942, having already founded together a newspaper in Little Rock, The Arkansas State Press. Like the Bates’ marriage, the newspaper – a very early voice for civil rights – went through its share of trials and tribulations. Mrs. Daisy Bates’ life was never easy; but I don’t think she ever expected it to be. I would love to have met her.
In 1952, Daisy Bates became head of the Arkansas branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons (NAACP). After the passage of the pivotal Supreme Court 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling, the Daisy and L.C. Bates began exposing violations of the desegregation ruling. On September 4, 1957, nine African American students tried to begin class at the Central High School in Little Rock, as they were legally entitled to do. Their names were: Minnijean Brown, Terrance Roberts, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Jefferson Thomas, and Carlotta Walls. They were prevented from entering. But, as we know, that was not the end of it. At the end of the school year, Ernest Green became the first African American to graduate from Central High School. Dr. Martin Luther King attended his graduation ceremony.
Mrs. Bates had taken the Little Rock Nine, as they were known, under her wing. She pushed them, encouraged them, sympathized, insisted that they were doing the right thing. As they endured insults, bullying, physical assaults and extreme provocation (“Every day inside the school was hell,” said Elizabeth Eckford) Mrs. Bates inspired and kept them focused. They probably spent more time with her than with their own parents, who were shut out of it all. But then, as the film pointed out, the parents “did not step out” and stand up for their children’s rights. Mrs. Bates did.
The last part of the film, about Mrs. Bates’ later years, made many of us dab at our eyes. In 1968, Mrs. Bates moved to the small rural community of Mitchellville in eastern Arkansas, where she worked diligently and without fanfare at improving the lives of the mainly black community. When she was honored, she was actually destitute (she used to take food home from the fancy dinners she attended). “Where is the reward?” We wonder. Is there ever a reward for a life of such sacrifice?
When she died in 1999, Mrs. Bates was the first female African American to lie in state in Arkansas. I felt moved to see schoolchildren, both black and white, lining up to place a daisy beside her casket.
The discussion among Jamaicans after the film was short but insightful. Lecturer in Transitional Justice and Political Institutions at the University of the West Indies Dr. Jermaine McCalpin said the film showed us, quite simply, “What it means to be human,” adding that civil rights equate to human rights in the modern sense. “How do we complete the circle?” he asked. Dr. Dalea Bean, who lectures at UWI’s Institute of Gender and Development Studies and declared her love of history, compared Daisy Bates to Malala in terms of bravery. Director of the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank Bernard Jankee confessed that he was emotional when he first watched the film - “tears flowed.” Many of us in the audience empathized.
Those in the audience had much to say. Community activist Itana Henry asked whether the civil rights struggle could be compared with the current efforts by the LGBT community for respect and inclusion in Jamaican society. The panelists agreed that “We should speak out against all forms of discrimination…Human rights is the acceptance of all as human.” Human rights activist Yvonne McCalla Sobers, who was nineteen years old at the time, compared the civil rights struggle with the later struggles she and other Jamaican human rights advocates had for recognition. Mediator and attorney-at-law Donna Parchment pointed to Mrs. Bates’ community work in Mitchellville, calling her an “inspirational older woman.”
Why did I call her “Mrs. Bates” all the way through this article? Well, an incident referred to in the film made me realize those little subtleties of racism (and probably sexism, too) that she endured along with the open hostility and distrust. Daisy Bates was in a court case, during which the judge and lawyers continually referred to all the white people as “Mr.” and “Mrs.” and “Miss.” She was repeatedly addressed or referred to as “Daisy.” In the end she sat up straight and pointed out to them, loud and clear, that she is “Mrs. Bates” and wished to be addressed as such. She demanded respect.
It wasn’t just the big struggles in the civil rights war. It was the small battles such as these that Daisy Bates fought – and won. She was one of the “unsung” heroes and heroines – we know many of those in Jamaica too – and we all agreed:
“We need to tell these stories.”
Many thanks to cultural activist, author and founder of the Reggae Film Festival Barbara Blake Hannah, who recommended the film to Ambassador Bridgewater. I am only sorry Barbara could not make it to be there with us, that evening. My whole-hearted thanks to you, Barbara!
Related articles and links:
http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/daisy-bates/film.html Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock: PBS Independent Lens
http://daisybatesfilm.com Daisy Bates: filmmaker’s website
http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=723 Encyclopedia of Arkansas: Little Rock Nine
http://www.nps.gov/chsc/index.htm Little Rock Central High School – National Park Service historic site
http://arstatenaacp.org Arkansas State Conference: NAACP
Kingston has sprung to life. The traffic is back, school is in, and it’s been a lively week so far.
More drama: The pending/possible challenge to Andrew Holness‘ leadership from former Finance Minister Audley Shaw seems to have stirred things up in the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). Previously calm (even stagnant) JLP waters are looking rather rough at the moment. Bobbing up and down on the waves on Monday night was a busload of rowdy delegates, which descended on party headquarters apparently in support of “the leader.” Also at sea were two prominent women in the party (former Culture Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange, and Joan Gordon Webley). There was a confrontation. Ms. Grange agonized over the matter on radio this morning, using words like “hypocrisy.” And these two ladies are veteran politicians, not young hotheads! I think they all need to take a deep breath.
“Spotlight” on the rabble: Now one learns that most of those delegates (who act as a kind of Greek chorus for the main actors, I suppose) are not even eligible to vote for a new leader! And talking of noisy crowds, I am commenting on the issue of these party parties in the latest issue of “Spotlight,” a beautiful monthly online magazine edited by Reggae Film Festival founder, cultural activist and author Barbara Blake Hannah. Ms. Blake Hannah also takes a pointed look at the recent Grand Gala, and the marketing of tourism in her home parish of Portland. She also invites you to be “royal”! Read more here: https://t.co/gLcDsSkAAo
Remember those Cuban lightbulbs? The media is quite distracted by the JLP shenanigans. But the corruption trial of former Member of Parliament Kern Spencer (a former young bright spark of the People’s National Party) and his associate, which was delayed for over a year thanks to the manipulations of various lawyers, started up again this week. It’s hard to think that far back; the whole affair – a major scandal at the time – seems lost in the mists of time. Let us please try and refocus and pay close attention to what transpires in court. More to follow.
Did I say corruption? Former Contractor General Greg Christie shared a number of very useful documents on corruption from the World Bank on Twitter this week. Here’s the link: http://www.scribd.com/mobile/users/WorldBankPublications/collections/3382219
And remember Mr. Richard Azan? We don’t need to cast our mind too far back, but this gentleman has got somehow lost in the mix. As one of his comrade councilors predicted, perhaps it was a “nine-day wonder.” We were told by the Prime Minister and others that the Member of Parliament and Junior Minister was deemed “innocent” of any wrongdoing in the construction of illegal shops until reports had emerged on the matter. That was back in April. The summer has passed, and it now emerges that a report from the Ministry of Local Government has absolved Mr. Azan. Well, I never! We still wait to hear the results of the Contractor General, who is also investigating. Not a peep out of his office so far.
OK, then? So the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) has withdrawn its call for the resignation of Television Jamaica Chairman Milton Samuda, after he apologized for confiscating tapes of an interview with two athletes whom Samuda represented as their attorney. As they used to say on one television show, “Really, PAJ? Really?” This debacle raised multiple issues of press freedom. It’s a disturbing business, and a former PAJ President has expressed his anger at the PAJ’s latest move online. Another former PAJ president is also describing the actions of the journalists throughout as “totally spineless.” Investigations into the incident are reportedly ongoing. Good grief!
Protest the logistics hub on Facebook: There is a Facebook page now (No! to port on Goat Island, Jamaica) to protest the proposed logistics hub in the Portland Bight Protected Area (Goat Islands and beyond). Do “like” if you are concerned about this issue here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/no.onportgoatisland/
And view a photo album there too: The Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) has posted a beautiful photo album on its Facebook page, entitled “Portland Bight Protected Area 2013-2013.” Do browse through the photographs, taken by naturalist Ted Lee Eubanks of the U.S. Audubon Society, which show the amazing biodiversity of the area.
HOW many “active gangs”? Police say there are 67 “active gangs” operating in the lovely tourism mecca of Montego Bay, and that they are expanding. And there is the lotto scam connection. Do you ever visit Montego Bay, Minister Bunting, to see what’s really going on? Is anyone coming up with any solutions?
Jet skis/Live at Seven: I was very glad to see that Live at Seven last night addressed the issue of jet skis, which I raised in my blog of August 28. The regulation and licensing of these machines, whose macho operators have caused mayhem at our tourist resorts – including serious injury and deaths – appears to be problematic. Why? The Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) – a government agency, which is responsible – has questions to answer. We must do better.
Another shootout downtown: This is almost a weekly occurrence – a shootout between gunmen and police. I ask again: Is downtown really safe for Jamaicans to live and work?
And I have decided not to comment on the distressing photo of Roger Clarke that has circulated widely on social media since Sunday evening. You can see it at the link below. Well, by saying “distressing” I suppose you know how I feel about it, anyway. Enough said!
Meanwhile, major kudos are due to:
The Jamaica Observer (again): For their continued coverage of the proposed destruction of the Portland Bight Protected Area. An article today focuses on the endangered Jamaican Iguana, which is again threatened by the possible Chinese development. The newspaper reports that the twenty-year-old iguana conservation program was funded and supported by overseas donors (including two U.S. zoos) It notes that the development of an area where it has been re-introduced would certainly deter donor agencies from supporting future conservation efforts. I made the point in an earlier blog that all the support from overseas will evaporate if all the efforts (and money) for environmental projects is literally bulldozed.
ECCO Magazine: The new online environmental magazine (ECCO stands for Environmentally Conscious Consumer Operations) held its virtual launch yesterday on Twitter, and an interesting Twitter Chat with the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) took place today. Take a look at their beautiful website: www.eccomagazine.com - and join the conversation on social media (@ECCOMagazine and on Facebook). You can also read JET’s newsletter here: http://content.yudu.com/Library/A2efti/THEJETTERVOL1NO6/resources/index.htm
UTech Mentoring Program: Congratulations to the staff and alumni of the University of Technology (UTech) as well as private sector supporters on the launch of their 5th Annual Mentoring Program today. It is an excellent program that will no doubt empower students and encourage them along their career path in these difficult economic times.
There were five murders between last night and today. Despite the regular attempts at massaging the “major crime” figures, it is clear that murders are not down compared to last year. And that, for me, is the most major crime. Moreover, the police allegedly shot dead a pregnant woman – just over a year after a policeman shot dead a pregnant woman in Yallahs, St. Thomas in early September, 2012. My condolences to all the family and friends who mourn these Jamaicans:
Unidentified man, Olympic Gardens, Kingston
Orrett Walford, Lyndhurst Crescent, Kingston
Mario Jackson, 24, Linstead, St. Catherine
David Todd, Linstead, St. Catherine
Pamela James, Flanker/Montego Bay, St. James
George Kelly, 42, Lilliput, St. James
Donovan Murray, 34, Burnt Savannah, Westmoreland
Evon Gayle, 31, Burnt Savannah, Westmoreland
Dean McIntosh, 33, Negril, Westmoreland
Killed by the police:
Felicia Henry, 21, Dempshire Pen/Central Village, St. Catherine
Articles and links of interest:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/lead/lead4.html Cedar Grove Academy opens: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/lead/lead8.html Ganja has potential to attract high-end tourists: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/lead/lead6.html School of Marijuana: Research facility to be established: Gleaner
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/09/02/dollar-continues-to-weaken/ Dollar continues to weaken: diGJamaica.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130903/lead/lead1.html No jobs for grads: Experts predict almost 20,000
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47687 Roger Clarke blazes social media with the “chicken back” dance: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130903/lead/lead3.html Source: Azan emerges unscathed in Spaldings report: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47744 Cuban light bulb trial: No oversight unit established to monitor program: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Environmental-preservation–economic-development-not-mutually-exclusive_14987651 Environmental preservation, economic development not mutually exclusive: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/business/business1.html Yes, go to hell! Get on with Goat Island, megaprojects: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-114/34958 No agreement on Goat Island – Dr. Davies: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Jamaican-Iguana-fighting-for-survival_15000242 Jamaican Iguana fighting for survival: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/lead/lead91.html Milton Samuda apologizes to PAJ: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47719 Gunman hospitalized after shootout in Kingston: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/news/news5.html Police boast human rights efforts: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Dempshire-Pen-residents-protest-police-killing-of-pregnant-woman Dempshire Pen residents protest police killing of pregnant woman: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/cleisure/cleisure3.html Brand Jamaica August 10-18, 2013: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130902/lead/lead1.html Homosexuals are not targeted for violent crime, say experts: Gleaner
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/30/jamaica-anti-gay-violence_n_3844356.html Jamaica anti-gay violence continues to escalate: Huffington Post
http://www.npr.org/2013/09/02/217296757/examining-jamaicas-homophobia Examining Jamaica’s homophobia: NPR
We had an exhausting bout of endless, heavy rain yesterday, and just steamed gently in the sun today. Not bad for mid-week. With the holidays nearly over, Kingstonians are returning to whatever “normal” passes for these days. School hovers on the near horizon. It’s a weary time of year.
Exam fever: Once a year, the media and Jamaican public get all worked up about examination results, the relative performances of high schools, etc. There is little focus on education for the remainder of the year. Education Minister Ronnie Thwaites seems to have ruffled feathers, though, by suggesting to a very large crowd of unemployed teachers that they should volunteer their services meanwhile, with a view to getting a job. Perhaps it wasn’t the right moment to say this, Minister Thwaites – at a government-run jobs fair. There were a lot of long faces, and a lot of muttering. What to do… I hear the second day of the jobs fair went better. Perhaps it was just the lousy weather yesterday.
Crisis? What crisis? Oh, there IS? Meanwhile, Minister Thwaites wants to “avert a Maths crisis” based on the latest dismal results in that subject area, the Gleaner says. But are we on the brink? No, we are already well into the Maths crisis, and we have been for years. Well, at least the good Minister is using that word. Crisis.
So now it’s the Brazilians: We are to expect another wave of tourists from overseas – this time from Brazil. Jamaica’s Ambassador to Brazil Alison Stone Roofe (such a nice woman) is hopeful. But haven’t we heard this from tourism officials before? At one time we were expecting a flood of Chinese tourists; then Colombians; then Indians. Oh yes, and not long ago it was Russians! (How is that going, I wonder?) Meanwhile, our tourism figures are looking less than rosy. The stats for June 2013 showed gains over June in previous years, but there was a 4% decline overall for 2013 over the numbers for 2012.
BBC World Radio (which is on FM in Jamaica) had a fairly lengthy discussion on the recent mob killing of Dwayne Jones, led by their on-the-spot reporter in Kingston. He was sitting in a café on a very rainy morning. Blogger Annie Paul and a representative of the local LGBT community Jalna Broderick spoke on the phone, along with a church leader from Portmore. The local media as well as churches got some flak from both ladies on the phone for paying scant attention to the incident. But as Nationwide News Network‘s Emily Crooks noted on Twitter, isn’t Dwayne’s horrific murder all part of the general atmosphere of crime and violence pervading the country, which our journalists report on every day? However, Emily, this should not be an excuse for not reporting this incident in more depth – as overseas media houses have done. (An Associated Press report on the incident is, of course, all over the Internet on the websites of most major media houses). You can probably still find the many comments on the BBC’s “World Have Your Say“ Facebook page.
And the always thought-provoking “Live at Seven” followed up on an important discussion with prosecutor Caroline Hay (on the myriad difficulties of building a legal case in Jamaica) with a short piece on Dwayne Jones. CVM Television had interviewed him in another context – that of homelessness – some time ago. Images of Dwayne dancing round the room were poignant.
Police to be charged: The Director of Public Prosecutions has finally got around to ruling that two police constables are to be charged with the shooting deaths of three men in Shrewsbury, Westmoreland in March. This is how police killings go in court; sometimes the charges take much longer. The killing of the men (two of them brothers) caused deep anger and hurt among residents. One was a fireman.
Long hot summer downtown: Despite efforts to revive business in downtown Kingston, all is not really well, is it? We hear reports of rampant theft, regular shootings (and sometimes daylight shootouts with the police) and ongoing gang wars. Is downtown really that safe? What is happening with policing downtown?
What is going on in this country? I sometimes puzzle over strange and disturbing stories. On July 8, two brothers in deep rural St. Thomas were shot dead while working on their isolated farm. Now the Gleaner reports that at a wake for the brothers, Herman and Norman Rowe, a fisherman called Snake Eyes pulled a gun on a female relative of the men (at four in the morning). The woman’s husband, who was a policeman, disarmed and arrested Snake Eyes and also took a fourteen-year-old boy who was with him into custody. Snake Eyes and the boy were both from Bull Bay in St. Andrew – a good distance from quiet little Rolandsfield. What is really happening in Jamaica?
And what’s going on in the JLP? I understand there are rumblings in the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), and possible challenges to Andrew Holness‘ leadership. The local media has seized eagerly on this; political rumors are always to be relished. Now on top of that, JLP Member of Parliament for West Kingston and former Mayor Desmond McKenzie says he has received over thirty death threats in the past week! This seems to be a result of the MP’s comments after the tragic shooting death of eleven-year-old Tassanique James and the injury of two women in his constituency on Emancipation Day – August 1.
A shocking story: Fishermen near the town of Port Antonio complained about receiving electric shocks in the water, and guess what? Investigators found an illegal electricity cable running in the water along the shoreline – serving a nearby squatter community. A woman has been found guilty of stealing electricity. You can’t make this stuff up, can you? But the electricity thieves are apparently trying all kinds of tricks, and it’s not just the poorer communities we’re talking about: uptown, downtown, businesses and homes, they are all at it.
The hair biz: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has started a new business, selling swags of hair (real hair) to be attached to your own natural hair in various ways. This explains the shocking pink appendage that she wore for her championship-winning run in Moscow. “We retail different types of hair, namely Indian, Peruvian, Brazilian and Cambodian,” says Shelly-Ann. No offense to the lovely ladies of those countries who sell their hair, but I would feel most uncomfortable wearing an Indian or a Peruvian or a Brazilian or a Cambodian woman’s hair. To each her own, I suppose. What’s worse is the very poor writing in the Gleaner’s “Outlook” article on Shelly-Ann’s “Chic Hair Ja” - as a fellow-blogger pointed out to me. Just because an article is about some light, fluffy, “women’s” topic doesn’t mean it has to be written in a series of ghastly clichés, mixed metaphors and poor grammar – does it?
NEVERTHELESS…Special big ups to:
- Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who reclaimed her World Championship status in Moscow on Monday with a great 100 meters win. Both she and Usain Bolt had lost their titles in 2011, but now both have them back! Huge congratulations to them both.
- Gleaner photographer Ricardo Makyn, whose photos from the athletics World Championships in Moscow have been quite wonderful. Somehow he captures the essence and the spirit – not just of sport, but of people. Well done, Ricardo! (You can see a selection of his photos of Shelly-Ann’s win at the link below).
- And to all the students who were successful in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations (in many cases, against all the odds). May all your dreams come true, boys and girls.
- My “tweep” Ms. Stacy-Ann Hayles, for the launch on Twitter this evening of her brand new website, http://www.socialmediachica.com. Stacy-Ann is aiming to empower small business through social media. Get in touch with her and hire her for all your social media strategy needs, advice and campaign development!
- Michael Abrahams for his delightful video – an overview of Usain Bolt’s career – painstakingly and cleverly done. Michael has a way with words. Very enjoyable. Link below…
- Fearless columnist Gordon Robinson, who has a great way of addressing issues of governance. In this week’s column Mr. Robinson writes about the fiasco of the confiscated tapes (an incident that occurred while I was away) and the issue of press freedom in Jamaica. He uses Janis Joplin‘s lyrics, among others, to illustrate his point. Nicely done, and sharply to the point.
It has been depressing returning from two weeks away to this unrelenting bloodshed. The deaths of these Jamaicans (since Sunday evening, just three days) leave grief and heartbreak in their wake. Let us spare a thought for the families, left behind to grieve:
Unidentified man, Orange Street, downtown Kingston
Unidentified man, Glenmore Road/South Camp Road, Kingston
Elaine Steele, 37, St. Thomas
Kishane Haughton, 31, Norwood, St. James
Anthony Spence, Glendevon, St. James
Evan Scott Wilson, St. James
Jessica King, 22, Port Antonio, Portland
Lenville Fleming, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Killed by police:
Owen Lilly, 23, Gimme-Me-Bit, Clarendon
http://theterribletout.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/whos-to-blame-for-jamaicas-shame/ Who’s to blame for Jamaica’s shame? The Terrible Tout
http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2013/pr13305.htm New IMF Resident Representative in Jamaica takes up post: imf.org
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/finance-minister-meeting-with-imf-team Finance Minister meeting with IMF team: RJR News
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/08/09/chart-of-the-week-overall-total-tourist-arrivals-for-june-2013/ Chart of the week: Overall total tourist arrivals for June 2013: diGJamaica.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130814/lead/lead1.html Brazilian benefits: Jamaica ready to boost tourism with links from South American nation: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130812/news/news1.html Stop wholesale distribution of national honors: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130813/cleisure/cleisure1.html Here’s the right message, Mr. Pickersgill: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130811/out/out10.html Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce launches Chic Hair Ja: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2LmE2xjn7U&feature=youtu.be Usain Bolt by Michael Abrahams: YouTube
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/2-000-plus-for-teachers–job-fair_14856342 2,000-pus for teachers’ job fair: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130813/lead/lead2.html Review planned for teacher training to avert Math crisis: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-100/34794 Education Minister encourages trainee teachers to volunteer in the classroom: Jamaica Information Service
http://lowrie-chin.blogspot.com/2013/08/act-now-for-our-children.html Act now – for our children: Jean Lowrie-Chin blog
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gov-t-takes-steps-to-address-child-behaviour-issues_14870943 Gov’t takes steps to address child behavior issues: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47151 Photos: Shelly-Ann’s gold world-leading run: Gleaner – Ricardo Makyn’s great photos
http://www.mercurynews.com/my-town/ci_23848325/visit-jamaica-is-trip-paradise-just-ask-locals A visit to Jamaica is a trip to paradise – just ask the locals: San Jose Mercury
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Portland-woman-found-guilty-of-stealing-electricity-using-undersea-cables Portland woman found guilty of stealing electricity using undersea cables: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130814/lead/lead6.html Bird boys swoop down for hunting season: Jamaica Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/entertainment/Will-JA-come-out-of-the-closet-_7821305 Will Jamaica come out of the closet? Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/My-gay-family-did-what-my-parents-didn-t-14864006 My gay family did what my parents didn’t: Letter/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Parents-make-kids-homeless_14870088 Parents make kids homeless: Letter/Jamaica Observer
http://iamquagmire.tumblr.com/post/58155073603/the-300-were-victorious The 300 were victorious: IAmQuagmire
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130813/cleisure/cleisure2.html Nothing left to lose: Gordon Robinson column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130811/news/news4.html Cops calm Denham Town: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Spoilers–gang-war-rages-in-Kingston ”Spoilers” gang war rages in Kingston: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Marked-for-death_14871568 Marked for death: Police confirm threats sent to McKenzie: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/St-Thomas-village-still-in-shock-over-double-murder_14849748 St. Thomas village still in shock over double murder: Sunday Observer
It was a hot, breezy afternoon on Mannings Hill Road, Kingston. When I met dancer and educator Kofi Walker on the sidewalk, sweat was trickling down his temples.
Summer is well under way. The long school holidays stretch ahead. Schools don’t open again until early September. And many Jamaican students do get involved in healthy, productive – and fun – pursuits during the summer. They don’t just kick their heels at home.
The group of students that I met at the Quest Preparatory School were kicking their heels in a creative way. I sat in on a dance class in an empty classroom, its walls adorned with bright and interesting posters (looking around, I think I learnt a few useful facts!) The students just had enough space in which to stretch their arms, go through their paces. At first self-conscious at my presence (with camera) they gradually relaxed - and they performed.
A creaking door slams. Footsteps echo. There are distant howls. Vincent Price‘s gleefully hollow, doom-laden tones set the scene. Yes, the students were working on their version of the 1983 classic “Thriller“ by Michael Jackson – the shuffling, staggering, stomping ghouls, dancing with the yellow-eyed Jackson in a pointy-shouldered red leather jacket, red pants and his traditional white socks and black shoes. (Oh, how sad it is that Michael is no longer around. How very sad).
The photographs below show some great moments from the dance class. Kofi is a dedicated teacher, and is very proud of his students. Sometimes their moods are hard to handle – but they are dancers! This summer, Kofi is teaching two- to ten-year-olds; after that age, the children get embroiled in studying for their examinations, eventually emerging in high school. (I do wish that parents would understand the importance of such extra-curricular activities in a child’s development; but the cramming mentality always seems to come first).
You can find Kofi, an incredibly expressive and soulful dancer, on Facebook, along with the organization he founded in 2010, AIR and Paasa Foundation. He also teaches adults and staged his first Early Childhood Dance and Theatre Arts Festival last year. He has already had successes. Two of the schools he worked with won medals in the annual Jamaica Cultural Development Commission) Festival Competition for their dancing, last year.
Did I mention that he works incredibly hard? As Kofi noted in his 2012 program review, “Challenges are in everything you do!” As with most artistic endeavors in Jamaica, funding is one of those challenges – even more so in Jamaica’s difficult economy, where the arts are seen as a luxury. And yet, Kingston remains vibrant. The energy remains.
And artists like Kofi continue to inspire.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4V90AmXnguw Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (much shorter version)
18 Things You Didn’t Know About Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (oldschool955.com)
NOTE: “Thriller” (the album) is the best-selling album of all time. The ground-breaking video, considered the most influential pop music video of all time, remains the most watched – by over four billion people. In 2009 it was the first music video to be inducted into the National Film Registry of the National Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
Although I have skipped one of my newsy posts altogether, I have tried to catch up a bit here by commenting on some stories that just jumped out at me over the past week. Forgive me if this is but a cursory glance, and I have undoubtedly missed something of great importance. Also, please correct/clarify if I have got anything wrong. I confess that I have just not been focusing…
Postponed: The case brought by Javed Jaghai challenging Jamaica’s buggery laws was postponed this week until October 4, as changes need to be made to the affidavit. Mr. Jaghai is represented by gay Jamaican lawyer Maurice Tomlinson and wants the court to determine if the anti-sodomy law breaches rights guaranteed under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. Jaghai contends that the Charter guarantees the right to privacy.
Very disturbing: The rantings of would-be politician and children’s advocate Betty Ann Blaine – who has been allowed to be one of the “interested parties” in the above-mentioned case - reached a near-hysterical pitch again this week. Ms. Blaine once asserted: “Jamaicans are not homophobic – we are a Christian country.” Not only a contradiction in terms, but incorrect on both counts, Ma’am. Ms. Blaine (who I think has a call-in radio program) wants the seven-year-old murder case of a high-profile public figure resurrected. Why? So that she can dig through an allegedly sensational video reportedly found at the murder scene, which she suspects may contain film of child abuse. This, of course, is in connection with the issue of proposed changes in the law against buggery. You know, I have often wondered if such a video ever even existed. Please, Ms. Blaine, I wish you hadn’t gone there…
What really is your position? I am very disappointed by the equivocation and confused mumblings of the Jamaica Labour Party over the pending Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre. It seems to me that they cannot refuse to participate in the enquiry, whether they believe it will be politically-charged or not. I would like all concerned to consider the best interests of the people of Tivoli Gardens, who have suffered terribly and continue to suffer from the trauma of May, 2010. The Opposition has not yet figured out what its position is – although the current Member of Parliament for the area and former Mayor Desmond McKenzie has been strident enough. He wants to pay off the victims’ families. But it’s not all about compensation, is it? My view, for what it’s worth: The former JLP administration should face the music. Let the truth come out. We owe it to the people of Tivoli Gardens and to the Jamaican people.
Final report? By the way, if the Public Defender‘s report on Tivoli Gardens was an interim one… Any news on when we can expect a final one? Or will that be the commissioners’ report? At a rough guess, then, I suspect we can wait at least another couple of years for that.
A new PS, but… Now there is a new Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of National Security. His name is Major General Stewart Saunders. Does that name sound familiar? Yes, he was the Chief of Defence Staff during the Tivoli “incursion” by security forces, including the soldiers he commanded, in May 2010. As the Gleaner noted in an editorial – and as Jamaicans for Justice has also pointed out with concern – as top civil servant in the Ministry Major General Saunders might have a hand in the planning of the Commission of Enquiry into Tivoli. But is this correct, or would it in fact be the Ministry of Justice that would be in charge? I wonder.
OUR wherefore art thou? Sorry to maul Shakespeare like that, but why is the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) seemingly dithering around over the 360 mw energy project? They seem to be moving at the pace of a snail on tranquilizers. I agree 100% with Mr. Chris Zacca, President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica: “The Government needs to treat our energy crisis as a national emergency. Construction of the new 360 mw generating plant needs to get started as soon as possible, as a first long overdue step,” he says. Instead, the OUR has decided it will now take the entire summer to evaluate the proposals. No sense of urgency, whatsoever. What say you, my dear (still favorite) Minister Paulwell?
Is downtown really safe at all? Just as the downtown business district was getting itself in gear on Monday morning, all hell broke loose in a market on Pechon Street. Two alleged gunmen and a woman vendor who was allegedly caught in crossfire lay dead. What a start to the working week. One wonders whether Digicel sometimes has twinges of regret at relocating its head office downtown? Because this certainly isn’t the first major daytime shootout in recent times.
At it again: The Jamaica Observer presumably enjoyed stirring up the anti-gay sentiments that remain bobbing on the surface of Jamaican society – like untreated sewage in the sea. It printed another provocative article (again with no byline – I wonder why) about Sunday’s Moral Indignation March in Montego Bay by a group of churches. In case you forgot, the churches have finally united on the issue of proposed amendments to the archaic anti-buggery laws. Anyway, among the dozens of comments at the end of the article, the outpourings of vitriol (along the lines of “Boom Bye Bye” ) laced with religious fervor are extremely unpleasant. As always. Oh, but I am told Jamaica is not as homophobic as it used to be…
Checking in on… our Reverend Education Minister Ronald Thwaites. He doesn’t seem to be faring too well after all these tussles with the teachers. I wouldn’t use the word “embattled” yet, but…
Lush green landscape, and skulduggery: How beautiful the district of Fontabel in Trelawny looked on television this evening – a quiet country road with tall green grasses on each side. But all kinds of madness happened there on Sunday, involving an abduction, a car-jacking, a dead District Constable and the inevitable trading of gunshots. Jamaica is becoming increasingly surreal.
Body language: Ministers Bunting, Pickersgill and Junior Minister Robinson certainly looked down in the mouth (literally) as they gave a press briefing following the People’s National Party’s National Executive Council meeting on the weekend – which was closed to the press. I wonder what the Prime Minister said? The orange ones seemed very downbeat.
Who benefits from this working visit? The First Lady of Burkina Faso is in Jamaica this week. She has had some photo-ops with Information Minister Sandrea Falconer and hopefully her visit will be more productive as it continues. Is this a result of the big group excursion to Africa, headed by our Prime Minister? Is it what they call a “fact-finding visit”?
Quick kudos to:
- Mr. Javed Jaghai, for his courage. As we say on Twitter: #thatisall.
- Dr. Kevin Harvey for his support of a review of Jamaica’s abortion laws. As Youth Minister Lisa Hanna noted, there has been much debate over Jamaica’s ban on abortion for many years. Time for some sensible voices to speak out.
- Women’s Media Watch for their ongoing series of interesting and very useful workshops for non-governmental organizations, with their dynamic trainer Ms. Georgia Love. The gender-focused NGO has been around for 25 years and is taking a leap forward. Its vision is “for a more peaceful, caring society that provides equal opportunities for all.” Tune in to their weekly program on Roots FM 96.1 (Thursdays, 5 – 6 p.m.) Tonight’s topic is “Women who Mean Business.” Interested in learning more? WMW is on Facebook and Twitter (@WMWJamaica) and at http://womensmediawatch.org. Tel: 926-0882/881-5177. WMW welcomes volunteers at this time!
- Gleaner columnist Dennie Quill for his column on the plight of the impoverished elderly. I have noticed, too, in the hustle of the city, elderly people who have fallen on hard times, who try to hold on to their dignity while asking for help with food. It is very painful, and their numbers seem to be increasing. Please, please see if you can help them when you see them.
- All those involved in the annual Kingston on the Edge (KOTE) arts festival – which is ongoing. It’s a vibrant and thought-provoking spread of art, film, music and everything else laid out for our delectation and delight. A great deal of work by a great many people, and proof that Kingston’s cultural scene is not to be ignored. In fact, it jumps up and demands to be seen – and heard! Well done and as a Kingston resident – grateful thanks for this stimulation of the senses! Look up the schedule here: http://www.kingstonontheedge.org
- All the winners in the Jamaica Environmental Action Awards organized by the Jamaica Environment Trust. Port Antonio High School took quite a haul. The awardees, and the amazing displays by schools participating in JET’s awesome Schools Environment Programme were very impressive. And it’s wonderful that they have great sponsors on board – especially their top sponsor, Total, who support the awards faithfully every year.
- All the kind blog followers, Facebook friends and tweeps who wished me luck for my DELF B-2 exam. I am slowly recovering from it this evening – it nearly drained the life out of me. But I did my best and hugely appreciated all the kind “bonne chance” messages!
Over the past week, the following Jamaican citizens have lost their lives to crime and violence, leaving grief and suffering behind. The “trend” of beheadings (ugh, sorry, yes, à la Taliban) continues, and is attributed to gang rivalries. To me, however, all lives lost – whether gangsters, their families or supporters – are equally tragic. Reporting a killing as “gang-related” doesn’t lessen the sadness and significance. Not to me, anyway.
Damion Atkinson, 22, Bonitto Meadows/Mandeville, Manchester
District Constable Jovan Lisle, 22, Wakefield, Trelawny
Donald Whyte, 36, Annotto Bay, St. Mary
Richard Williams, Mafoota, St. James
Hopeton Cunningham, 39, Church Pen, St. Catherine
Marlene Thompson, 37, Portmore, St. Catherine
Astley Forrester, Negril, Westmoreland
Killed by the police:
Oshane Bentley, 23, Pechon Street, downtown Kingston
Sonia Daley, Pechon Street, downtown Kingston
Jason Watt, 22, Pechon Street, downtown Kingston
Wayne Campbell, Knockpatrick, Manchester
Unidentified man, Claremont, St. Ann
Related links and articles (local blog posts in purple)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Senate-ends-prematurely_14547650 Senate ends prematurely: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Civil-Society-Coalition-welcomes-Spalding-Market-update_14530351 Civil Society Coalition welcomes Spalding Market update: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/34328 PM breaks ground for basic school in home community: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Keeping-up-with-the-Diaspora_14535442 Keeping up with the diaspora: Barbara Gloudon column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-JLS-s-Literacy-Intervention-programme_14523529 The Jamaica Library Service’s literacy intervention program: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Yallahs-High-School-brawl-leaves-two-students-hospitalised Yallahs High School brawl leaves two students hospitalized: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Hall-bats-for-flogging-in-schools_14535408 Hall bats for flogging in schools: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Abandoned-Seaview-building-to-house-technical-high-school Abandoned Seaview building to house technical high school: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-1/34341 First Lady of Burkina Faso arrives for working visit: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/20-year-old-woman-accused-of-forcing-14-year-old-girl-into-prostitution_14536429 20-year-0ld woman accused of forcing 14-year-old girl into prostitution: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gays-promise–hell-and-powder-house–Sunday_14524925 Gays promise “hell and powder house” on Sunday: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Christians-protest-Court-challenge-to-buggery-law Christians protest Court challenge to buggery law: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Buggery-law-challenge-hits-snag_14576825 Buggery law challenge hits snag: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Church-council-still-has-no-official-position-on-homosexuality Church council still has no official position on homosexuality: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130624/lead/lead1.html Shame on Church: Clergyman charges Christians to focus on serious crimes: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130626/cleisure/cleisure4.html Starving seniors: Dennie Quill column/Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/06/26/op-ed-how-to-contain-jamaican-crime/ How to contain Jamaican crime: Kent Gammon op-ed/Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130625/cleisure/cleisure1.html Reconsider General Saunders’ appointment: Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Doctor-supports-call-for-review-of-anti-abortion-law_14536657 Doctor supports call for review of anti-abortion law: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-106/34366 Ban on smoking not intended to harass smokers: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/SolWind-looks-to-cut-those-energy-bills_14524673 SolWind looks to cut those energy bills: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ja–US-team-up-on-climate-change–environmental-best-practices_14544982 Ja, U.S. team up on climate change, environmental best practices: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-120/34362 Contribution to Sectoral Debate by Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Region-falling-down-on-management-of-environment_14530310 Region falling down on management of the environment: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Jamaica-Air-Shuttle-shuts-down-airline_14521967 Jamaica Air Shuttle shuts down: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Playing-cricket-on-a-volleyball-court_14534177 Playing cricket on a volleyball court: Dennis Chung column/Jamaica Observer
http://corvedacosta.com/my-june/ My June: corvedacosta.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/The-king-is-here-_14547250 The king is here! Hope Zoo finally gets lion… Jamaica Observer
Yesterday dawned with a high wind and bright sky, just like the day before, and just like today. The drought presses on, harder. But it was also my birthday, and so I did not write anything. My apologies – I will attempt to catch up, now.
The mood last week seemed to be one of anxiety and uncertainty. I’ve decided to fire some bullet points at you, this time:
- The economy: The IMF saga drags on, seemingly without end. After the first day of its retreat (see below) the Office of the Prime Minister issued a terse press release noting that “Jamaica has successfully completed all prior actions required by the Fund” and has agreed on the 2013/4 Budget. Finance Minister Peter Phillips had told us that the agreement will be signed by the end of the month – in other words, Easter Sunday. This seems well-nigh impossible and Minister Phillips’ comments sound increasingly equivocal and hesitant. And what, exactly, are these prior actions – have they really all been completed? Can we have a list, please?
- The retreat: The Cabinet is about to emerge from its fifth retreat since January 2012 (what they are retreating from?) They have got round to discussing growth and production strategies now – and they really, really do need to come up with a real plan – an urgent action plan.
- The details: We truly get very little detail on our economic state. We are promised more information, after somewhat vague and broad statements are made. We await the Budget debate.
- The spin: We get plenty of “spin” from what a very forthright Gleaner columnist called our “Minister of Misinformation,” Senator Sandrea Falconer. I am not sure if it’s scripted or not, but it seems the Senator cannot resist a kind of defensive spiel. She refers to what she calls inaccurate portrayals of the “truth” by some members of society (perhaps they do monitor the social media, which can’t be comfortable reading). She gives us her version of the facts. I wish she would stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes; it’s easy to do with economic matters, as the average Jamaican doesn’t have a very good grasp of it all. The local media has not been doing a great job of explaining our economic situation (with a few exceptions such as Power 106 FM’s excellent morning program with Ralston Hyman et al). Many of our journalists seem more interested in politics.
- The spin-off of the spin: The Prime Minister is busy making speeches urging us to “unite” as one Jamaican family; and to “strive for excellence.” Madam Prime Minister, give us something concrete. Something to chew on. You are killing us with clichés, Madam. Stop!
- The sacrifices – an update: Government: None, to date. The Jamaican public: “Nuff” (plenty) and more to come. A neighbor of ours en route to Miami noted that the first class cabin had a good sprinkling of ministers and government agency heads; one minister traveled economy with his wife. Our neighbor took the opportunity to glare at them as she passed through. And the Prados are running fine. Thanks for asking.
- The muddle: We, the people, just need to know what’s going on. What is the way forward? The Government is communicating, but not really telling us what we want to hear. A Gleaner editorial suggested that the Government is in a “muddle.”
- The brutality: Since the killing of three men at a tiny shop in Shrewsbury, Westmoreland, the Jamaica Constabulary Force have shot dead at least four more Jamaican citizens and injured a few more in alleged “shootouts.” One of my favorite TV programs, “Live at Seven” on CVM Television, discussed the acquittal of a policeman who appeared to shoot a man lying on the ground – which was aired on television for us all to see – and the older case of “Kentucky Kid” (Robert Hill), a musician who reported threats from the police and even aired video of a beating by the police before they shot him dead in December, 2009. Meanwhile Westmoreland and St. Elizabeth residents have repeatedly set up road blocks in both parishes, and they are still angry. The straight-talking head of the Independent Commission of Investigations, Terrence Williams and the local police chief held a meeting a few days ago. Residents angrily interrupted one police officer – but eventually agreed to wait and see what comes out of the investigations. Mr. Williams knows he must move fast; the police, meanwhile, have been somewhat tardy in sending the required reports to his office. Please watch Michael Abrahams’ YouTube video – link below!
- The Bully: A group of firemen and women staged a peaceful protest in Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland last week. One of the men killed by the police was a fireman. With a sinking feeling, I watched the CVM Television report on the demonstration. The police inspector marched out of the police station (they were gathered on the opposite side of the road) and shouted at them that if they obstructed the traffic they would suffer “pains and perils.” To back up his point, he beckoned to three policemen in full riot gear, who stepped forward threateningly. He then stalked back across the road to the police station. I cringed. He did not talk to them as human beings, but as potential trouble-makers. Their colleague had just been gunned down by a policeman. A demonstrator told the reporter, “I think he must be afraid of us,” with a little smile. Are we becoming a police state? Just asking…
- The defense of the prosecutor: Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn had a really tough week last week. She must have a skin like a rhinoceros (sorry, don’t mean to be rude – but what I mean is “her back is broad,” as Jamaicans would say). She has been criticized heavily for her handling of the case of alleged fraudster/alleged swindler/alleged Ponzi scheme trickster Carlos Hill of Cash Plus, whose trial began recently. Mr. Hill’s clever lawyers are upset by Ms. Llewellyn’s tactics, but I think I see what she is trying to do. She has tried hard and repeatedly and continuously to explain her approach to several high-profile cases, but everyone thinks they know the law better than she does. She fought back at the Hill lawyers, accusing them of “spreading misinformation” in the media
- The nonsense: A silly report – an opinion poll of sorts – came out midweek asserting that Jamaican women are “happier than men” because they are supported by men. I laughed out loud. A Sunday Gleaner report noted a “rift” in the Jamaica Labour Party over its future leadership. This seems to me less than important, when we have much bigger fish to fry. Put this one on hold for a while, please. You can go back to it later when there is a shortage of “real” news.
- The destruction: At the Annual General Meeting of the Jamaica Environment Trust last week, we were horrified by photographs of large trees chopped down along the once-beautiful banks of the Cabaritta River in Westmoreland – for no apparent reason. Something called “river cleaning”? The riverbanks are now bare. Was this wholesale destruction at the behest of the Ministry of Agriculture really necessary? Or was it a job creation program? Is this the Minister’s constituency?
- The unanswered questions: A student of the College of Science & Agriculture (CASE) in rural Portland last week allegedly set fire to a dorm, causing injuries. A group of students had been reportedly bullying the student for some time, even injuring him in an earlier incident which seems to have been swept under the carpet at the time. What is the story behind this? The student’s parents say he was a quiet and well-behaved young man. Something pushed him too far.
- The inevitable: Thirty Haitians (CARICOM nationals) arrived in a battered boat in eastern Jamaica. They are now being “processed” (a term normally used when inner-city youth are rounded up for questioning and finger-printing, then released). Once the government agencies have finished with them, one expects them to be sent back forthwith. One also expects the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees to express concern at this treatment.
- The good stuff: Earl Moxam’s well-produced Sunday program “It’s a Rap” focused on the small rural communities in Westmoreland and St. Elizabeth where the Brydson brothers and their cousin lived, which Earl visited over the weekend. The personal stories – even a blurry recording of the brothers playing and singing gospel music – were touching, and revealing.
- The “doers”: My Doer of the Week has to be Ms. Deika Morrison, who continues her great work with Jamaica’s youngest citizens through her wonderful program “Crayons Count.” She is dedicated to the education and stimulation of our young children. She is also the brains behind the incredibly informative web resource, diGJamaica.
- The happening things: Kudos to the Alliance Française de la Jamaïque for their Francophone Film Festival, which started on Saturday. The first two films were fascinating. Do join them for more – full details are on the Alliance’s Facebook page and at http://alliancefrjm.org. As a student myself for some time, I can tell you the Alliance is friendly, empowering and a great learning environment. Their new term starts on April 8; why not sign up for classes (all levels accommodated)? Then congrats to the organizers of the first Caribbean Earth Hour on Saturday night. There was a great acoustic concert in Kingston, and I hope that the response was good in Jamaica overall… The Digicel Foundation also sponsored a great event on our breezy Cable Hut Beach - Surfing for Autism – an important fundraiser. Well done to all including the Jamaica Surfing Association. Good, good cause.
- The comeback? Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding made an interesting speech at the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce and asserted he is not interested in running for office again. But he looks much better. He has been unwell and low-key for the past year or so.
- The most outspoken of the week: Former Jamaica Manufacturers Association head Omar Azan pulled no punches on radio. “I have 225 people working with me and their jobs are at risk because of Government policies and this ridiculous IMF business” said Mr. Azan, a picture of frustration.
- The sad news: Goodbye to Leonard, the first friendly face I ever saw at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life. Always smiling, always sweet. He was ailing for some time I understand. We all miss your smile, dear Leonard…
- Unfinished business: We are still waiting for the Public Defender’s report on the Tivoli Gardens massacre of May, 2010…
The weeping and tears continue.
Justice Roy Bloomfield, 21, Waterford, St. Catherine
Diana Taylor, 41, Crescent Park, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Old Harbour, St. Catherine
Gerland Gordon, 24, Duhaney Park, Kingston
Unidentified man, Riverton City, Kingston
Joyce Marks, in her sixties, New Haven, St. Andrew
Unidentified, Montego Bay, St. James
St. Azar Meade, Lucea, Hanover
Nacisse McDowell, 26, Breadnut Hill/Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Killed by the police:
Odain Campbell, 19, Maxfield Avenue, Kingston
Michael Robinson, 41, Molynes Road, Kingston
Unidentified man, May Pen, Clarendon
Unidentified man, May Pen, Clarendon
Related articles (Local blog links in purple):
http://wgnradio.com/2013/03/18/jamaicas-plan-to-stop-lottery-scams/ Jamaica’s plan to stop lottery scams: Min Julian Robinson on WGN radio Chicago
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/18/op-ed-jamaicas-lotto-scam-problem/ Jamaica‘s lotto scam problem: David T. Rowe op-ed/Carib Journal
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/IMF-delay—Phillips-says–contingent–talks-holding-up-deal-_13895409 IMF delay: Phillips says contingent talks holding up deal: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Electricity-bills-go-up-10–this-month_13895222 Electricity bills go up 10 per cent this month: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43574 Manufacturers demand clear policy on energy: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130318/letters/letters2.html Go beyond the Buckfield videotape: Letter to the editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130319/news/news3.html Residents block roads to protest police killings: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43572 Postmortem for Westmoreland men today: Gleaner
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Er57cuQw_AU&feature=youtu.be Michael Abrahams: Justice – TVJ/YouTube
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130321/news/news1.html Sex orgy or rape? Cops puzzled after schoolgirl changes story: Jamaica Star
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/long-awaited-tivoli-report-expected-in-weeks-peart Long-awaited Tivoli report expected in weeks – Peart: RJR News
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/03/20/in-jamaica-slum-dwellers-demand-accountability-for-alleged-abuses-killings/ In Jamaica, slum dwellers demand accountability for alleged abuses, killings: Fox News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130320/cleisure/cleisure3.html Why the Buckfield case fell flat: Op-ed by Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130321/cleisure/cleisure4.html Why the Buckfield case fell flat. Part 2: Op-ed by Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn
http://go-jamaica.com/news/read_article.php?id=43587 June 14 hearing for cop accused of killing Frederick “Mickey” Hill: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Hothead-cop_13918625 Hothead cop? Single policeman involved in multiple civilian killings: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130324/news/news7.html Police killing almost one person per day – INDECOM: Sunday Gleaner
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Hill_(entertainer) Robert Hill (“Kentucky Kid”): wikipedia including video link
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/03/22/crime-in-2013-january-and-february/ Crime in 2013: January & February: diGJamaica.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-reality-of-crime-and-growth_13917864 The reality of crime and growth: David Mullings column/Sunday Observer
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/cutting-cabinet-not-symbolism-or-optics/ Cutting Cabinet not symbolism (or optics!) Dionne Jackson Miller blog
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Rotaract-Club-feeds-the-homeless_13877633 Rotaract Club feeds the homeless: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Regional-laws-dealing-with-child-issues-outdated–says-expert_13884333 Regional laws dealing with child issues outdated, says expert: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Family-Planning-Board-head-alarmed-at-number-of-high-school-parents Family Planning Board head alarmed at number of high school parents: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130324/news/news5.html What pushed the CASE student? Sunday Gleaner
http://sonofstmary.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/outlaws/ Outlaws at Home: sonofstmary.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130322/cleisure/cleisure1.html Demanding even more from Jamaica: Gleaner editorial on Inter American Commission on Human Rights
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130322/news/news1.html MAJ, PAJ against cyber defamation law: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130324/focus/focus2.html Falconer minister of misinformation: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130322/lead/lead2.html Jamaican women happier than men: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130324/focus/focus7.html Medicine not bitter enough: excerpts from Bruce Golding speech: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/jamaica-worries-about-dwindling-number-of-nationals-retiring-on-island-after-working-overseas/2013/03/20/227b9970-912e-11e2-9173-7f87cda73b49_story.html# Jamaica worries about dwindling number of nationals retiring on island after working overseas: Washington Post
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130318/news/news5.html Genesis Academy: Creating a new future for the disabled: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica–region-way-behind-in-cancer-care–survival-rates_13901520 Jamaica, region way behind in cancer care, survival rates: Jamaica Observer
http://repeatingislands.com/2013/03/21/caribbean-holds-worst-record-for-diabetes-deaths-linked-to-soft-drinks/ Caribbean holds worst record for diabetes deaths linked to soft drinks: repeatingislands.com
Petchary is not generally obsessed with celebrity. I stay away from the gossip columns and E! channel as much as I possibly can. But this is such a beautifully written, wistful little piece from the pre-eminent New Yorker magazine (and if you want to find good writing, you need look no further than the New Yorker) that I could not resist reproducing it, below. By the way, happy 88th birthday, New Yorker. Still going strong.
Whenever there is a major awards ceremony, I have started a tradition of posting all the wondrous (and not so wondrous) gowns in an album on my Facebook page. My dear friends, near and far, male and female, then put on their Fashion Police uniform and critique them. Sometimes the commentary is quite devastating, but it’s just a bit of fun and escapism. We were not too unkind to Anne Hathaway. Anne, a star of “The Devil Wears Prada,” actually wore Prada at the 2013 Oscars, after a last-minute switch from Valentino. I read some much more horrid remarks in the online media after the ceremony.
I think I was a “happy girl” myself, once. At the age of nine or ten, I wanted everyone (especially, of course, other nine- and ten-year-old girls) to love me, or at least find me interesting. Possibly, even, fascinating. But I was basically too shy, and had virtually zero “personality,” and I really preferred to stay home reading a book, truth be told. I might even have been a bit of a female ”nerd,” although we didn’t know that word, then. So at the age of thirteen or fourteen, I retreated.
So I can relate to this article, in many ways.
You can read this marvelous piece by Sasha Weiss here: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2013/02/anne-hathaway-in-defense-of-the-happy-girl.html#ixzz2MKg7g2Ye
And if you want to take a look at my Facebook album, and the comments therein, here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151453716864561.504076.815889560&type=3 Or look under photos/albums at Emma Caroline Lewis.
Oh, Anne! With your small head and pert nose and oversized, ready smile and glossy pixie cut and squeakily tuneful speaking voice, uttering lines like “It came true!” as you gaze at your newly won Oscar with moistened doe-eyes, wearing a powder-pink Prada gown adorned with diamonds and bows: Why are you so annoying?
This question was posed repeatedly in the days after Anne Hathaway’s Oscar win for her role as the destitute-prostitute mother Fantine, in “Les Mis”—and various answers have been offered: she’s too actorly, and reminds us of the show-tune-belting nightmare we knew in high school; she’s polished, successful, and driven, and people still find this distasteful in a woman; plump faces are the vogue and her face is too thin; the public every so often elects a random celebrity victim for vitriolic hatred—every generation needs one, and she is ours; her sunny persona is a coverup for steely ambition that catapulted her out of youthful stardom into a mature career that runs the gamut from eccentric indie to big-franchise blockbuster. To these reasonably convincing propositions, I’ll add one more: she represents the archetype of the happy girl, which is one that many people resist.
Just flip randomly through the photographs of women on the red carpet: their faces are taut and inscrutable, their bodies often posed in the defensive posture of one muscled arm on hip. They smile without teeth. Their eyes are glazed and look off into a hazy middle distance, guarding some secret. Now, look at Anne: she stands with her long arms at her sides, looking directly (even a little pleadingly) into the camera, her smile is toothy and takes up half of her face. It’s a look of unfettered excitement and openness, an expression of high-wattage joy that reminds me of none other than a nine-year-old girl about to dig into a big slice of birthday cake. There’s generally only a small window of time when girls have that mien of utter at-homeness in the world—it gets snuffed out in many of them by age twelve or thirteen, when their glance turns inward, scrutinizing. Anne has somehow managed to retain that bright look, and many people would like to wipe it off her face.
Let’s take a quick survey of the people who were applauded for their red-carpet performances. A pale, limping Kristin Stewart with her perennial teen-agery pout and a bruise on her arm; Jennifer Lawrence, who is casually funny and naturally sarcastic and is most famous for her tomboyish roles; actresses in middle age like Sally Field and Meryl Streep, whom one can admire freely in the way that one admires a mother. Bruised teen-agers: likeable. Women who seem a little like men, or like they can hang with men: likeable. Post-menopausal women, old enough to be sexually non-threatening: likeable.
But I’m not so sure that girls are likeable, and I think this goes for girlish women like Anne Hathaway, who retain a bounding, uncontained energy. Look no further for evidence than the treatment of an actual nine-year-old girl who made an appearance at the Oscars, Quvenzhané Wallis, the star of “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” She was meanly criticized for spontaneously raising up her arms and making a muscle when her name was called in the list of nominees for best actress. Seth MacFarlane made a joke about her being too young for George Clooney, and The Onion tweeted its infamous tweet: “Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a …., right?” The tweet was taken down and apologized for, but The Onion, as usual, had blurted out a terribly ugly version of a suppressed, itchy attitude that is probably more widely held than we’d like to think: the idea that young girls are ridiculous, annoying, and a little disgusting. They’re glittery, they squeal, they like attention, and—most disturbingly—they threaten to evoke illicit sexual feelings. The word “….” didn’t bubble up by accident.
Coincidentally, last night I came across a wonderful scene about the predicament of the little girl in the second installment of the autobiographical novel “My Struggle,” by the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard. (It’s published here in May.) Karl takes his little daughter, Vanje, to a classmate’s birthday party. She is a shy and introverted child, but she longs to play with other children, and looks forward to the party with a mix of trepidation and eagerness. She chooses to wear a new pair of sparkling golden shoes. When she arrives, she is thrust into a room with other children, who are all playing wildly. Karl watches her as she tries to figure out how to break in:
For a while she stood observing them. Then it was as if she had decided to take the plunge.
“I’ve got golden shoes!” she said.
She bent forward and took off one shoe, held it up in the air in case anyone wanted to see. But no one did. When she realized that, she put it back on.
This scene is almost unbearably touching because it so deftly encapsulates a problem we all face: having to temper naked pleasure so as to be thought socially appropriate. Little girls learn very quickly not to ask so openly for praise, and to modulate their excitement if they want to be acceptable.
Anne Hathaway seems to never have quite ingested this lesson. She’s the girl proudly holding out to us her sparkling golden shoes. She wants praise. (And I don’t think it has been said enough that she deserves it. She’s a very gifted actress, particularly when she plays roles that cut against her cheery persona, like Jack Twist’s lacquered, embittered wife in “Brokeback Mountain.”) Would it really be so terrible to give her the applause that she craves?
Related articles (some of them rather mean):
Anne Hathaway’s Tirade? (girlygirl.typepad.com)
Anne Hathaway ‘Is A Feminist,’ Says Girls Star Lena Dunham (contactmusic.com)
Anne Hathaway wins best supporting actress Oscar (elleuk.com)
Anne Hathaway makes Oscar dress apology (elleuk.com)
Why you love to hate Anne Hathaway (cnn.com)
Anne Hathaway Apologizes For ‘Any Disappointment’ Her Oscar Dress May Have Caused (pinkisthenewblog.com)
Anne Hathaway Wants You To Like Her, Dammit! (dlisted.com)
Happy Birthday to the New Yorker! (fora.tv)
The drought is relentless, but one day of rain felt like heaven. This week, I am trying to find silver linings wherever I can (like the Oscar-nominated movie “Silver Linings Playbook,” which I heartily recommend. And I plan to do a rain dance on what is left of our parched front lawn.
So let’s start with the heartening news that the police may be winning the armed struggle against the gangs of Spanish Town that has been going on for years. For at least the last decade the “Old Capital,” with its crumbling historic buildings, narrow streets and zinc-fence slums pressing against its boundaries, has been best known for the One Order gang and the Klansmen Gang – both ostensibly politically-affiliated. We became sadly familiar with their names and the names of their leaders. Not out of the woods yet, but by all accounts things have calmed down. There will be ”shootouts,” the necessary evil that Security Minister Peter Bunting predicted a few weeks ago – in which the alleged criminals always come off the worst. Two alleged extortionists were shot dead by the police last week. But in general, as you can see below, the tally of murders is way below the usual level.
The issue of the root causes of crime has not even been touched on or addressed. Curfews and patrols and shootouts by our military-style police (who could easily be mistaken for soldiers these days) are no substitute for real employment opportunities (not short-term work programs); training for jobs that actually exist or can be created; and decent living conditions with toilets, running water and garbage collection. How long can one hold the lid down on a pressure cooker filled with despair? Social conditions have not changed, and are likely to worsen.
And the justice system creaks along, like a very old man bent with arthritis, unable to straighten up any more. An important case was postponed last week until July 1, to make way for the hearing of a nine-year-old murder case against a policeman charged with shooting a colleague. When that case came up, the prosecution could not find the main witness. The case of Keith Clarke (the middle-class Jamaican who died in a hail of bullets at his uptown home around the time of the May 2010 Tivoli Gardens massacre) was also put off until July 1, amidst uncertainties over the origin of the bullets that killed him. Time and resources wasted, and lives put on hold. Justice delayed is….
On the topic of justice, there is still none for the families of over seventy Jamaicans who lost their lives during a police/military assault on the community of Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010 (euphemistically called the “incursion.”) Since the administration met with the Public Defender, who has not yet produced an interim report on the matter, there has been a deafening silence. What is really happening?
The National Housing Trust (NHT) issue generated heat this week – that is, the decision by the government to “raid” the NHT to the tune of J$11 billion a year for four years, to bail us out of our current economic agonies. A pressure group called Citizens Action for Principle & Integrity (CAPI) has filed suit in the Supreme Court, challenging what seems to have been a hasty and somewhat desperate decision by the government as the twin swords of Damocles, the debt burden and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), hang over us. Make that one big sword, perhaps. Some regard the CAPI lawsuit as unnecessary, cynical, even unpatriotic (one talk show host called it “silly political games,” not in the country’s interest). To that I would retort, is it in our interest to allow the government that we elected to railroad through the NHT funding, when it is clear that this will be to the detriment of contributors, and may be illegal? Working Jamaicans have contributed to the NHT for years, many hoping to be able to purchase a house at reasonable cost one day. Simple but important point. Housing is a basic need. No one would deny that. Why, too does the National Housing Trust have such a huge surplus? Why wasn’t it building houses with all that money? And is this drawdown going to be even feasible? The NHT chairman said the Turst had only worked out the payments for the first two years. And on another note, why is the housing program for the very poor (under the auspices of that often-elusive JEEP program) in such confusion? It seems if you leave these things in the laps of Members of Parliament, there may be great inefficiencies in the administration thereof.
And if the National Housing Trust isn’t really a trust, as its directors claim, then why was it called the National Housing Trust? Well, we shall see how things turn out. Meanwhile, the Finance Minister is suggesting that if what they are doing is illegal, the administration may have to amend the law accordingly.
Going back to the IMF for just a minute, I was taken aback by the Prime Minister’s announcement in St. Mary last week. It was what the Jamaica Information Service called a “wide-ranging speech” in St. Mary last week. I can’t find a copy of it anywhere, and I wonder what else she talked about? Anyway, former Finance Minister and current Transport Minister Omar Davies is to chair the oversight committee that will monitor Jamaica’s progress towards getting in line with the IMF requirements. I am disappointed, to say the least, as I had hoped the committee would be private sector-led and by “independent” Jamaicans. And of all people, Minister Davies? Who are the other committee members, please?
I am going to mention these real quick as I have told myself to be more “positive” this week (how am I doing, by the way?) but I have to mention: the economy contracted by 0.6% in the October-December 2012 quarter; there was a fiscal deficit of J$16.7 billion during the review quarter, J$6.7 billion more than budgeted; unemployment rose by 0.9% over the previous quarter; and the Jamaican Dollar continued its decline to around J$96/US$1. Someone pointed out that this is way higher than the Haitian Gourde rate to the U.S. Dollar. (Comparisons with Haiti are a favorite obsession of ours). Oh, and the Net International Reserves (NIR) are now reportedly at the minimum level that is internationally acceptable. Help…
But hey, here’s some silver linings:
My faith in Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell (which had been flagging somewhat recently) may be restored by the announcement of measures to stimulate alternative energy production, including solar power equipment; I know at least one firm that is delighted by this and believes it will stimulate investment. Other measures he has announced in the sector seem to make sense to me, although I don’t have the technical knowledge to understand the details very clearly. You will see further links below. Minister Paulwell likes to announce that he will be making an announcement in Parliament, and then make it with a just discernible tremor in his voice. After that, we often ask questions, starting with “But…?” But, the man is trying. Let’s give him credit. But Jamaica Public Service head Kelly Tomblin – who seems an honest and up-front lady – was not quite so enthused during a radio interview; JPS is losing money, for a start.
The Principal of Holy Trinity High School, Ms. Margaret Brissett-Bolt (a truly dedicated educator) was thrilled to receive a donation of J$200,000 worth of equipment from the Kiwanis Club of Eastern Kingston. Many schools – especially those in less “desirable” areas – are struggling with meager resources.
Hooray for the women and their supporters! The Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) has been collaborating with a number of organizations, including the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre, to discuss what the budget really means. A well attended session for women’s organizations concluded that women must pay more attention, gather knowledge and use it boldly and wisely. The JCSC will share the conclusions of these sessions with the government; the JCSC has already met with the Ministry of Education and will meet with the Justice Ministry soon. Plus Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, a lady who does her homework, put forward a proposal not to penalize girls who are automatically thrown out of the education system once they get pregnant. Plus youth and human rights activist Jaevion Nelson wrote another excellent column in support of women’s rights this week. Nice going.
A fellow blogger wrote a marvelous article (the link is below) about the creation of a vertical wall garden in African Gardens, a small section of the impoverished community of August Town. The University of the West Indies, whose campus is just a stone’s throw away, began the UWI Township initiative some years ago, under the aegis of the late Professor Barry Chevannes – a great believer in social empowerment. This is a low-cost project that, if maintained, has great potential for the self-sufficiency and raised self-esteem of the community. Congratulations to CUSO International and all those involved in the project, which could be easily replicated in other neighborhoods. Isn’t it sad that many of these inner-city areas are called “Gardens” – Arnett Gardens, Seaview Gardens etc – and yet there are so few gardens in them? We could do much more in this area.
My final “silver lining”: It is a corny old saying that there is opportunity in adversity. But, as young diaspora leader David Mullings commented in his Sunday column, “We must be optimistic.” We must be, yes! We must all pull together! We must make this work! We must pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, put our shoulders to the wheel, and… I will soon run out of clichés.
Much as I loved that movie (and Jennifer Lawrence deserved her Oscar), perhaps silver linings are a cliché, too. But there may be one, somewhere.
P.S. A young journalist hosting a radio talk show began the program by exhorting young people to take all their opportunities, as help and institutions are out there just ready and waiting to help them find a job. I think he should take that speech to inner-city Seaview Gardens or deep rural St. Thomas, where unemployment is around 50% or more, and see what kind of response he gets.
This past week has been unusually “quiet” – far fewer homicides than usual. I wish this would be the same every week – let’s hope so. My deepest condolences to the families and friends of the following Jamaican citizens who lost their lives – including, tragically, an infant allegedly killed by her mentally troubled mother. But every life lost is a tragedy, isn’t it…
Salverna Josephs, 1, Brompton, St. Elizabeth
Owayne Sinclair, 28, New Kingston
Denzil Boyd, 63, Queensborough, Kingston
By the police:
Tyrone Heron, 18, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Seon Taylor, 20, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Related articles/links: (Jamaican blog posts highlighted in purple):
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/What-have-we-become_13674828 What have we become? Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/What-is-being-done-with-our-taxes–Prime-Minister_13657475 What is being done with our taxes, Prime Minister? Letter to the Editor/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130220/cleisure/cleisure1.html The other side of the IMF agreement: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130222/business/business4.html Economy contracts 0.6%: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-104/33054 Statement from the Ministry of Finance on the acceptance and extension of the NDX: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130219/cleisure/cleisure1.html Another way to skin the NHT cat: Gleaner editorial
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/pm-defends-drawdown-of-nht-funds PM defends drawdown of NHT funds: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130222/lead/lead1.html ”We’re still viable”: NHT confident $45b government swipe won’t hurt operations: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/NHT-to-modify-programmes-to-ensure–44-b-handover_13690389 NHT to modify programs to ensure $44 billion handover: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/capi-fast-tracks-plans-to-challenge-government-on-nht-funds CAPI fast-tracks plans to challenge government on NHT funds: RJR News
http://www.capijamaica.org CAPI Jamaica
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/paac-chairman-calls-for-divestment-of-mobay-convention-centre PAAC chairman calls for divestment of Mobay Convention Centre: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130220/cleisure/cleisure2.html PM, don’t deceive the people: George Davis column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Can-the-poor-take-any-more-_13652219 Can the poor take any more? Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Designing-a-political-path-for-a-different-economic-result_13651976 Designing a political path for a different economic result: Claude Robinson column/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130220/lead/lead1.html Prepaid power? Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33033 CET suspended on energy-saving devices: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130220/business/business1.html Paulwell slows process in order to fast-track energy proposals: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/energy-ministers-presentation-to-parliament-on-jps-changes Energy Minister’s presentation to Parliament on JPS changes: RJR News
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33026 Reduction in electricity rate: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130220/business/business2.html Revenue, profit plunge at JPS: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42995 Air traffic controllers say no to wage freeze: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130221/news/news3.html 7,000 public sector posts to be abolished: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33017 Norman Manley Airport management to be privatized: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.digjamaica.com/data/view/inflation_rate_monthly Inflation rate – monthly: diGJamaica.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Grounded–Jamaica-Air-Shuttle-seeks-partners_13669655 Grounded: Jamaica Air Shuttle seeks partners: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-113/33030 VW actor to help promote Brand Jamaica: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130221/news/news5.html KSAC to sign off on housing projects despite mass resignation of committee members: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/tighter-measures-in-place-to-protect-government-information-robinson Tighter measures in place to protect government information: RJR News
http://cucumberjuice.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/a-suspended-wall-garden-in-african-gardens-jamaica/#comment-1181 A suspended wall garden in African Gardens, Jamaica: cucumberjuice.wordpress.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Police-take-back-Spanish-Town_13692423 Police take back Spanish Town: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Stray–bullet-_13698573 Ammo found may not have come from soldiers’ weapon, says JDF: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Vicious-gays_13677272 Vicious gays: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Opposition-wants-second-chance-for-pregnant-schoolgirls_13701933 Opposition wants second chance for pregnant schoolgirls: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/bail-revoked-for-police-inspector-dadrick-henry Bail revoked for police Inspector Dadrick Henry: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/cop-accused-of-killing-colleague-appears-in-court_1 Cop accused of killing colleague ten years ago appears in court: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Guns-and-bullets-once-again_13688049 Guns and bullets once again: Ramesh Sujanani op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/teenage/OCR-appoints-ambassadors-to-help-raise-awareness-about-child-abuse_13660593 OCR appoints ambassadors to help raise awareness about child abuse: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130223/letters/letters1.html Are we proud of how we treat our children? Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130221/cleisure/cleisure3.html Women must truly have equal rights: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/plans-to-establish-entertainment-zones-islandwide Plans to establish entertainment zones islandwide: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Lionfish-decreasing_13653509 Lionfish decreasing: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33029 Agriculture Ministry to lobby EPA on pesticide use: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/-God-blessed-dirt-_13569435 Up to 2,500 per cent higher concentration levels in Jamaica’s red mud: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130220/lead/lead4.html Jamaica College kicks off Gospel Crusade 2013: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130221/news/news6.html Holy Trinity High 11th-graders get well-needed hardware boost: Gleaner
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/that-burning-jamaican-flag/#comment-1495 That burning Jamaican flag: newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com
http://dextercommunications.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/jamaicans-harlem-shake-while-germans-desecrated-jamaican-flag/ Jamaicans Harlem shake while Germans desecrate Jamaican flag: dextercommunications.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43048 Opposition fumes over burning of Jamaican flag in German commercial: Gleaner
http://www.saturn.de/mcs/shop/die-welt-braucht-bessere-technik.html?et_cid=46&et_lid=128&et_sub=bessere_technik Die Welt braucht bessere Technik: Saturn.de video
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130220/cleisure/cleisure3.html Gehry Reggae Museum – no insult intended: Michael Thompson article/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/US-medical-mission-treats-2-000-St-Mary-residents_13651944 U.S. medical mission treats 2,000 St. Mary residents: Jamaica Observer