I spent a little time (very short, so these are truly only glimpses) in the capital of Grenada, St. George’s, recently. On my first day, I took a minibus and wandered around – alone and un-harrassed by anyone – during one warm and humid day, and spent a little time there too with groups during subsequent field trips. Here are a few photos I took that will give you an impression of the town of some 36,000 inhabitants (about half the size of the population of May Pen in Clarendon, Jamaica; and about one third of the total population of the island). The town was built by the French in 1650, and then later the British moved in. Despite the devastation of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the town retains some lovely historic buildings, a charming waterfront and a lively atmosphere.
You can find more photos of Saint George’s (and more from the field trips, to follow) on my Facebook page.
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
It has been a while since I went out for tea. Such a quaint English thing, isn’t it; although sadly I don’t think many English people have time for it, these days. And yet, even in the gritty old town of Kingston, Jamaica, there are a few spots where uptown ladies (and a scattering of gentlemen) can still sip tea in tranquility. The Terra Nova Hotel on Thursday afternoons is one such delight. The intimate Tea Tree Creperie in our neighborhood is another little oasis. A bit of free advertising there!
Last Saturday afternoon, I was invited to afternoon tea with a bit of a difference. It was a fund-raising event organized by the Hope United Church, just down the road from the lovely Hope Botanical Gardens. The bright, airy Church Hall was festooned with pastel-colored balloons. The backdrop through the windows showed the effects of the extended drought on our faded hills. Inside, music was playing and a swathe of tables spread out in front of us. Each was set with a pretty linen tablecloth, teacups and saucers and a teapot in the middle. The crockery did not match well – a charming mixture of the traditional, the modern, the chintzy. The Celestial Seasonings teas – a wide variety of flavors -were delicious. I highly recommend the Mandarin Orange Spice Herbal Tea.
But there was more, much more. There was poetry.
Jean Lowrie-Chin has an aura of calm and gentility, mixed with a wry, earthy humor which suited the occasion perfectly. The hall was full by the time she stepped up in front of the stage with a copy of her book of poems and writings, “Souldance,” in her hand. We settled down to listen. Jean told us (poetically) that she was a “Jonkunnu Baby,” born in the Christmas season in rural Hartford, Westmoreland. For those of my readers not familiar with Jonkunnu, this is the Jamaican tradition of dancing, wild music and lively antics performed by a group of odd characters – Pitchy Patchy, Horsehead, Belly Woman among them. As the irreverent, rowdy dancers arrived in the yard that evening, frightening the children, baby Jean was born,“a noisy little exclamation!”
Another dancing poem followed. In “My Chinaman Jumped to the Riddim of Jah,” Jean’s beloved husband Hubie (a Chinese Jamaican) embraces and “jumps” to the reggae rhythm. It is a defiant dance, too, as her husband had been held up by a gunman in a robbery attempt. But he danced. There is a story behind this one; I must find out more. This poem dates back to the seventies.
I especially loved the poem “I Thought That I Was Marking Time.” It is a wistful commentary on the physical signs of growing old; but looking beyond the face of the ticking clock, there is the universal consciousness into which we are still growing. Time is… just time.
Jean’s book is a personal and spiritual journey in words. Divided into three distinct parts, it begins with Jean’s inner journey of discovery – a journey that is mostly joyful and celebratory. On, then, to the yearning poetry and troubled young heart, in the section called “Growing Pains.” The final segment, the “Power of Words,” is a series of short prose essays on some special Jamaican passions, from football to Marcus Garvey. The delicate but vibrant cover features a painting by Jamaican painter Viv Logan from her series “Cherubs Gone Rasta.”
I should drink less coffee. And I should read more poetry. It’s good for a soul.
Thank you, Souldancer!
“Souldance: Poems and Writings” by Jean Lowrie-Chin was first published in 2009 by Ian Randle Publishers (www.ianrandlepublishers.com). It is available at Monarch Pharmacy in Kingston and local bookstores in Jamaica; and from Amazon.com.
There is a strong move afoot to “revitalize” the downtown area of Kingston – spearheaded partly by Jamaica’s dominant cellular phone company, Digicel, which is building a high-rise headquarters down near the waterfront (a waterfront already bereft of all its character by so-called “development,” but that is another story). I am just hoping that downtown doesn’t turn into a place of high-rises, shopping malls and parking lots; and that its spirit – and the spirit of its people – is preserved.
Development is a word I am a little afraid of in the Jamaican context. Of course, development is not all about buildings – but buildings are also important, of course. They are the urban landscape in which we humans live and move and breathe. In downtown Kingston there are many absolute gems of all shapes and sizes: small homes, warehouses and businesses – and larger, grander edifices. Many of them are in disrepair, and I hope that they will be fixed and maintained as the living, breathing past of downtown. We have already lost many of them – they have been demolished or simply fallen down. Oh, and this has happened in the uptown area where I live, too; many lovely old homes have vanished in our neighborhood, to be replaced by poky townhouses with gates and guards.
One building which we discovered just recently (and we can’t believe we ever missed it) is the Wesley Church on Tower Street.
There are several wonderfully preserved churches downtown – and the beautiful synagogue, too. But for some reason – I wish I knew why – the Wesley Church stands on Tower Street, trying to maintain its dignity although it has been vandalized, damaged and simply neglected. How could anyone care so little for such a magnificent building? It was officially opened in 1823, although I saw “1908″ on the front of it. I understand this is because the church was damaged in the 1907 earthquake and some changes were made to its frontage then. It is now in a terrible state, and the photos I took speak for themselves…
I am no architect (I don’t even know the correct terms for the features pictured here) and I am no church-goer either. But it was painful to see this. Can anyone tell me why this building has been abandoned? Does anyone know if there are any plans to fix it? Can anybody help, before it’s too late?
Tonight, I will join hundreds of others in a special 5K “night walk/night run” sponsored by Digicel and other private sector entities, as well as the Ministry of Tourism. The aim is to “Take Back the Night“ downtown – to prove that downtown (a much-feared place for years) is in fact “safe.” Digicel and others mean well (and presumably aim to make money out of the downtown revival – and why not?) But please, please, don’t destroy the soul of downtown. Respect and embrace the past.
And please remember splendid buildings like the Wesley Church. I know it takes money, but it could be restored. The church sign says “Operation Peace,” rather sadly. Peace is not a word we have associated with downtown Kingston for a long, long while. But it could mean something, again, if we all try hard enough. And does Operation Peace still exist?
Please let me know your thoughts – and if you have any additional information or knowledge to contribute, I would welcome it. Meanwhile, I am donning my walking shoes tonight!
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20070506/out/out4.html (Letter from Barry Rattray, architect, on the Wesley Church)
- IMF latest release on Jamaica and its negotiations. (commonsenseja.wordpress.com)
- Famous Londoners – John Wesley… (exploringlondon.wordpress.com)
- We Are Family: on Blog Action Day 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Yoga for a Peaceful Jamaica. (elephantjournal.com)
- Historic neighborhoods could be secret weapon as Jacksonville looks to revitalize its downtown (jacksonville.com)
- Digicel offers another US $700 million debt issue (caribbean360.com)
- http://www.jnht.com/site_wesley_methodist.php (Jamaica National Heritage Trust)
I have settled on “Sunday Shuffle” now, finally – because this really describes how I work my way through the newspapers. All the sections get shuffled into each other – very annoying for my husband. I try to put them back together again, but somehow it never quite works. They remain in a disheveled state.
OK, let’s go.
This week’s Story to Ponder: The National Environment and Planning Agency – NEPA (yes, the E and P still sit uncomfortably together, in my mind) released a report on the conflagration that was the Riverton City dump fire (and let’s not call it a landfill, it’s not). The report stated baldly: “The data showed ambient air quality with respect to PM10 (particulate matter 10) within a one-kilometer radius of the site to be ‘very high risk,’ according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Canadian Air Quality Index definitions.” The communities at very high risk were/are the very low income communities of Riverton Meadows (about as far from a meadow as I have ever seen), Seaview Gardens, Cooreville Gardens and a little beyond. Up to two kilometers from the flickering fires was just “high risk,” including Washington Gardens and Duhaney Park.
[Pause for thought: I always find it ironic that some of the most struggling, barren stretches of Kingston's residential areas are all gardens and parks and meadows. I don't want to offend anyone living in these communities, but the original planners and developers must have named these in a fit of extreme optimism, much like those pretty but unreal architectural drawings one sees with trees and flowerbeds and people sitting on charming park benches].
And over these communities hung, for at least a week in February, the pall of toxic chemicals from the Riverton City dump. The clouds of smoke were a murky grey-brown, tainted with chemicals pouring out from plastics, tires, dead animals, household garbage – you name it. Many residents suffered from asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. But my question is, what is still hanging in the air? And what are the “volatile organic compounds” and metals that may still be up there, or that may have descended on our homes, our earth, our water, our heads? This is just one report, but according to today’s Sunday Observer report by the excellent environmental journalist Petre Williams-Raynor, NEPA noted some fundamental and major deficiencies in the monitoring system – no permanent air quality monitoring stations; no sampling equipment; and no equipment for the testing of “additional pollutants” (these are the ones that worry me), such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
We have a Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, Mr. Robert Pickersgill. He has been on a very fast learning curve since taking up office, poor man. He wants to do the right thing to make sure that this “never, ever happens again” (my quotation marks – but good heavens, it has already happened so many times before…) Basically, Minister Pickersgill needs money to fix the problem – but there is none. The previous administration decided not to fill in the land at a cost of some $35 million – money which would have been well spent, as it cost far more to put out the fire, and law suits are in the offing. Riverton City is, I repeat, not a landfill but a giant, open trash heap, scattered with bulldozers, scavenging Jamaicans, herds of cattle, pigs and goats (!) seagulls and rats and filth. Just festering, open to the sun and wind. No proper sorting or recycling goes on (please correct me if I am wrong on this, dear readers). So, it comes down to this – it’s not just about money. It’s about political will. It depends how high on the priority list the health of Kingston residents comes, in the eyes of the politicians. But what scares me is: How much damage has already been done? The Ministry of Health is also doing some studying, measuring etc. Will the public be informed, soon, on the results of these studies? And what about all the toxic materials that we don’t have any data on at all? I’m very nervous, and far from reassured.
On the topic of climate change, local environmentalists such as the Jamaica Environment Trust’s Diana McCaulay are not impressed by the government’s performance, despite Minister Pickersgill’s declaration that it is “a serious concern to our sustainable development.” But meanwhile, the University of the West Indies‘ new Faculty of Law has introduced an environmental law course as an elective for final-year students. As lecturer Laleta Davis-Mattis says, “There is a role for advocacy in environment.” Come on, young law students, give it some serious thought.
Why bother: The ongoing wrangling between the Jamaica Teachers Association and the Ministry of Education seems to be a spillover from the previous administration. The one-upmanship continues over the establishment of a Jamaica Teaching Council. Before that, other “controversial” issues were chewed over, put on one side and stuck on the underneath of school desks like old chewing gum – perhaps to be picked up and re-chewed at a later date. Ugh. Some lofty words are being spoken, as well as some rather confrontational ones. I sigh and wait for it to be sorted out. How is this all going to affect the quality of the education delivered to thousands of Jamaicans? Your guess is as good as mine, dear reader, but do enlighten me, if you know.
Talking of schools, the new Anglican Bishop of Jamaica Howard Gregory (a clear-sighted man, I believe) is putting his foot down over state schools built on church-owned lands. ”We would like to have more say in what happens in our schools,” says Bishop Gregory. Fair enough, I think. The leases are up on the nine secondary schools and 101 primary schools owned in some way by the Church but administered by the State, and the goodly Bishop has no wish to renew them. The matter is under discussion with Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites – a lay preacher himself. We’ll see.
Last week, the city of Kingston also acquired a new Mayor, its 53rd – Her Worship Councilor Angela Brown-Burke (why do we have to worship a mayor, by the way?) The hard-working councilor struggled laughingly into her ceremonial robes (that huge medallion reminds me of a rapper showing off his “bling,” and the hat is a trifle ridiculous) with the assistance of her two predecessors from the other side of the political fence, Desmond McKenzie and Lee Clarke. The ceremony in the Senate avoided the unpleasant partisanship of earlier mayoral installations (especially in Montego Bay and Portmore) – I was embarrassed for the departing mayors, who were booed by supporters of the People’s National Party, but managed awkward smiles. (They weren’t that bad, were they?)
Here’s a Quiz Question: Which Jamaican National Hero served as Mayor of Kingston?
And a question I couldn’t find the answer to: How many female Mayors (Mayoresses??) has Kingston had?
Commendations are also in order for…
The Observer newspaper’s “Moguls in the Making” – supporting young entrepreneurs finding their way through the hazardous landscape of the Jamaican business. I wish them determination, fortitude, and ultimately, huge success.
Ms. Megan Deane, the CEO of the first full-service credit bureau in Jamaica, Creditinfo Jamaica. Ms. Deane is a lady of solid credentials, a woman who more than holds her own in the (still largely) man’s world of finance. In the next six months we should see and hear more about the credit bureau’s products and services. Excellent and well-needed.
The Saturday Gleaner for its excellent “Rural Express” – a section I always read with great interest. The only part that worries me is (despite the delightful stories of quiet success) the underlying and persistent theme of rural decline and decay. More on that in another Shuffle.
To the families of Ms. Pauline Reid and Ms. Ruby Martin - two Jamaican women who contributed a great deal in their different fields of endeavor. Ms. Reid, the first female President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, died on Saturday in hospital in Washington, DC. Apart from her lobbying for the city’s Convention Centre and several other successful projects, she had a deep personal love for the town and for her country. Ms. Martin was dedicated to the Ward Theatre Foundation and struggled for many years to get financial (and political) support for its restoration. She also bravely confronted cancer in recent years, and died yesterday evening. Meanwhile, the Ward will be 100 years old this coming December, and is literally crumbling and unusable, as we speak. The area around it is filthy, greasy and broken. The least that could be done perhaps in Ms. Martin’s memory would be to make some attempt at restoring it before it becomes one of downtown Kingston’s (and Jamaica’s) many sad ruins.
A concern, and the Las’ Lick:
Could Ms. Lisa Hanna, Minister of Culture and her predecessor Ms. Olivia Grange stop sniping back and forth over the budget for Jamaica 50? Ms. Hanna (wearing a perhaps inappropriate transparent blouse) noted haughtily at a press briefing last week that the budget prepared by Ms. Grange was preposterously high and that she had scaled it right back (she had already told us all about this several weeks ago). Ms. Grange retorted testily that this was not a budget, just a plan, and that it would also have involved the private sector. The Auditor General is auditing, and Mr. Robert Bryan (I remember him, I think, from the overblown West Indies World Cup Cricket days – perhaps not very auspicious) has appeared, saying there is not enough time. Meanwhile, what gives? Where is the Jamaica 50 plan, and as columnist Tamara Scott-Williams notes today, can we please all just be allowed to enjoy ourselves this year, budget or no budget?
Cool it, ladies.
This is an important one, and a topic I will return to, but meanwhile please read and think about the relatively short but significant article by Byron Buckley in today’s Sunday Gleaner, headlined “Church Opposes Gay Stigma on HIV/AIDS Advocacy,” which refers to recent consultations between UNAIDS and Jamaican church leaders. The challenges are many.
That’s all for this week! Feedback, commentary, questions, corrections, enlightenment… all are welcome from you, dear readers.
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Pickersgill-wants-money_11225562 (Sunday Observer)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/magazines/career/UWI-moves-to-cultivate-environmental-law-practitioners_11207932 (Sunday Observer)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/magazines/career/-Green–lobbyists-unimpressed-by-Gov-t-efforts-on-climate-change_11217951 (Sunday Observer)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Take-your-hands-off-schools–money_11189750 (Sunday Observer)
- Church opposes gay stigma on HIV/AIDS advocacy (Sunday Gleaner)
- Group Calls for Jamaica to Stop Open Trash Fires (abcnews.go.com)
- http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=107362: Working to Cope with Climate Change, Jamaica Calculates Costs
- Sunday Second Thoughts (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Stroke Risks Increased By Air Pollution, Even A Moderate Amount (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Air Pollution Tied To Cognitive Decline, Stroke (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Strokes & Auto Exhaust (taintedair.wordpress.com)
- The Sunday Stumble – premiere edition (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Two-thirds of China’s cities fail on air standards (mysanantonio.com)