Pleazzzzeeee Like Me on Facebook and Follow Me on Twitter: a Jamaican Perspective on Social Media by Dr. Marcia Forbes
Jamaican Fulbright Scholar and media whizz kid Dr. Marcia Forbes (I know the second part of that description will make her chuckle!) has written a most interesting piece on returning from the Fulbright Academy Conference on Global Health, which took place recently in Montego Bay. She’s also a businesswoman, author of two books on social media (available on Amazon.com and in Jamaican bookstores) and the person responsible for getting me hooked on Twitter! And I still tweet madly… @petchary.
This piece includes some thoughts from Marcia on the tremendous hold of social media – and Facebook in particular – on Jamaican youth. And this, despite our “digital divide”… which must be addressed.
Pleazzzzeeee Like Me on Facebook and Follow Me on Twitter – Social Media and Psycho-Social Health
They said it was their best conference ever. This was music to the ears of Jamaicans, in particular the four who comprised the Local Organizing Committee as well as the local Logistics Team.
Recently the Fulbright Academy hosted their annual conference in Montego Bay, under the theme – Global Health. Keynote speakers included Dr Ruth Westheimer, renown sex therapist, media personality and author extraordinaire with over 30 books to her credit and retired NBA shot-blocker and humanitarian, Dikembe Mutombo, acclaimed not only for basketball prowess but for fulfilling his dream of building a hospital in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, his homeland.
The following are excerpts from my panel presentation under the topic Public Health and the Impact of Technology & Social Media.
The Internet as Site of Refuge
Despite low Internet penetration levels and inadequate access, inner-city youths in Jamaica largely see the Internet as a social good and able to improve their psycho-social health. From the total of 108 respondents, 101 of them (94 percent) were entirely positive about the Internet.
The extent to which inner-city girls turned to the Internet as a source of refuge was somewhat surprising, 30 percent of them reported this, compared to 14 percent of boys. These girls were therefore two times more likely than boys to express emotional ties with the net.
A Love Affair – Girls
“The Internet mean a lot to me, without the Internet I can’t survive. It’s my life.”
“The net is a new world for me that allows me to escape my problems and just talk and hang with friends.”
“If I don’t have it I would feel different, alone, left out.”
“The Internet is the part of the computer I love the most.”
But then, perhaps, I should not be so surprised since in Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica many inner-city girls spoke in similar ways about music videos and how they used them to escape the harsh realities of ghetto life. It seems then that Facebook is now replacing some of the roles formerly played by television and music videos.
When many of these inner-city youths talk about the Internet, it is really Facebook of which they speak. This social network is what largely commands their real attention. So, let me look specifically at responses as they relate to Facebook.
Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of 342 Jamaicans in the youth online survey said being on Facebook was their #1 online activity.
“I’m a Facebook girl so most of my time is on Facebook”
Among rural-based girls, 20 percent of them specially mentioned Facebook in their responses to what the Internet meant to them, with half of them saying they were addicted to Facebook.
“I mostly use the internet on my phone and as I get on the phone it is like some spell or addiction. I just get straight to Facebook.”
Issues Relating to Facebook & Psycho-social Health
Girls and boys in rural areas spoke about the social exclusion they felt from not having access to Facebook. These youths in deep rural Jamaica were not only physically distanced from the island’s capital cities and many towns, but were further distanced by way of the digital divide. It negatively affected their self-esteem.
“Like say, if you nuh deh pon facebook, you no have no sense, or dem suppen deh” (If you are not on Facebook you are regarded as not having any sense or discriminated against in other ways.)
Rural participants, both males and females, lobbied hard for Internet access as a basic human right. Youths feel deprived and as if they are missing out when not on Facebook.
Identities – Boys and girls from different socio-economic strata in Jamaica confess to being “loud on Facebook”; To shielding themselves from prying eyes by hiding behind the computer/cell phone screen and playing out various aspects of their identities, especially sexual identity.
Privacy – Sex and sexuality are important to youths. Facebook place these issues in the public domain with near-permanence of online postings. This can have adverse effects as youths move into adulthood and mature beyond their juvenile postings. What potential employers see online can damage youth’s chances for employment.
Cyberbullying and cyberstalking can be real and, as participants and guidance counsellors reported, often move from online to offline and vice versa with threats of physical violence.
Friendships – Increasingly Facebook is being used as a first step toward friendship formation and dating. Potential friends or partners are first screened via this social network. If they measure up relationships move from online to offline.
Technologies, especially social networks but also mobile phones, have accelerated not only wide but often also deep “friendship” connections. Giving and sharing are now possible at multiple levels.
Girls Quarrel, Boys Flirt
Among inner city residents, girls mostly quarrel on Facebook while boys flirt. Discussions with guidance counsellors highlighted this phenomenon. This was corroborated by both boys and girls. And it mostly all revolved around issues relating to sex and sexuality.
“This girl she commented on a picture with me and my boyfriend saying him no look good.”
Facebook is a very visual medium. Pictures hold centre stage for attention and girls compete aggressively for this.
Inner city boys take another aspect of Jamaican culture to Facebook – that of hunting for white women to sponsor them to live overseas. This survival strategy has migrated from off to online. Facebook allows boys to ‘show and tell’ their way into financial support, aided by webcams to display their strongest assets – their bodies.
These boys hold to the Mandingo Myth! – Of black men as sex slaves for white women. So we see that males, like female, compete for online attention. Everyone wants to look good.
Plastic Surgery for Social Media
Research findings from the American Academy of Facial & Reconstructive Surgery point to a 31 percent increase in plastic surgery requests as a result of people wanting to present a better look via social media.
Image-based social media sites are increasing in number and popularity:
Mobile, Social Lifestyles & Need for Digital Literacy
A mobile, social lifestyle buoyed by advances in various online technologies, even among digitally deprived youths, is becoming as real and as important as life offline.
A 2012 research project by McAfee revealed that 67 percent of Australian tweens (ages 8 – 12) used social media. McAfee noted that online behaviours become entrenched in the tween years. This month, May 2013, PEW research reveals that teens are sharing more online – 53 percent posted their email address. Findings like these point to the urgent need for proactive education.
Digital literary, social networking literacy, managing your brand online are areas that all of us need to give special attention. The role of parents and teachers in this is crucial. Social media can be full of ‘drama’, the term teens use to describe life on Facebook (PEW, 2013). It does not need to be this way if we make it our business to educate ourselves and others about some of the consequences of our mobile, social lifestyles.
Dr Marcia Forbes, a Caribbean Journal contributor, is a media specialist, the co-owner of multimedia production company Phase 3 Productions Ltd and former Permanent Secretary in Jamaica’s Ministry of Mining and Telecommunications and later the Ministry of Energy and Mining. She is the author of Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica and the recently-released Streaming: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles.
Follow Dr Marcia Forbes on Twitter: @marciaforbes
It’s a hot afternoon. It’s Mother’s Day in Jamaica, and the air is sleepy. Our gardener did some serious work yesterday and the yard looks scrupulously tidy. For now. Recent rain has brought back the many shades of green; and to my surprise, winter visitor warblers can still be seen flitting in the bushes. Time to travel north, young warblers!
Thinking about Tivoli: In the past few days since I last wrote, we have all been thinking more deeply about the Simpson Miller administration’s (wise) decision to hold a Commission of Enquiry into the massacre in Tivoli Gardens in May, 2010. There is some insightful commentary in the Sunday papers, and an indication that, three years later, many Jamaicans are more aware of the grave injustice and the horror of that day, when at least 77 Jamaicans lost their lives (we still do not know the exact figure; several people remain missing). For that, we at least partly have to thank the American journalist Mattathias Schwartz of the New Yorker; and the Public Defender Earl Witter, who finally produced the report. Today, Sunday Observer columnist Tamara Scott-Williams quotes the Jamaican president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Judge Patrick Robinson: “The simple, plain truth is that in no country with a Constitution that entrenches the right to life can 70 people be killed in peacetime in a single incident, whether by the security forces or by private persons, and national life and affairs continue as though nothing unusual has taken place.”
How can a monopoly not be viable? But that’s the way it apparently is with the Jamaica Public Service Company, according to its straight-talking CEO Kelly Tomblin. The eternal problem of widespread theft of electricity has still not been fully addressed; but as Ms. Tomblin said on radio, it is not just a question of devising ingenious ways of combating theft, but about lifting the company out of debt. Oh, two state-owned sugar companies were reportedly complicit in allowing neighboring communities to steal up to J$100 million worth. What kind of madness is that? Meanwhile, Ms. Tomblin has her work cut out – I am sure she has been aware of this for some time.
Leadership failures: The week’s fiasco involving the People’s National Party Youth Organization suggests, at the very least, weak leadership in the organization. Did President Alrick Campbell consult with his chapter leaders before sending out a press release that surprisingly refused to support the announced Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre? Similarly, Mayor of Montego Bay Glendon Harris is under pressure after a series of dreadful faux pas, culminating in the hospital re-naming fiasco. Do these people have any idea of public relations, either? Clueless.
NHT again: The whole National Housing Trust (NHT) business is still bugging me. It all seems wrong. One of my “tweeps” observed today, “How can the NHT force employers to make mortgage deductions from workers? Shoudn’t that be an arrangement between the Trust and its clients?” Very good question…
Blood on the streets: As usual, the social media was ahead of the traditional media on Friday morning, as several photos were pasted on Facebook of two apparently lifeless bodies – young men allegedly shot by the police in a parking lot in downtown Kingston. Reports appeared at least two hours later on the newspaper websites, noting a police report that ”brazen gunmen” had made a robbery attempt, and that three ”were in hospital” (dead on arrival?) According to the eye witnesses who posted the photos, the bodies were collected and loaded into vans within minutes, before the Crime Scene investigation unit or INDECOM (the Independent Commission of Investigations) arrived. Onlookers say the men were unarmed. I have shared the photos below. Meanwhile, the print media coverage of what actually happened in the middle of the day on Friday in busy downtown was muddled and lacking in detail.
Harassing the handcarts: Some genius at the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation has come up with the startlingly brilliant idea of taxing handcart operators. These are rough-hewn carts with a primitive steering-wheel attached, operated by men in Kingston and most towns to transport small quantities of goods (and sometimes people). When I see men pushing and navigating these carts, sweating and straining in the hot sun, I think “what a hard life.” These are, basically, poor people. How could the Mayor think of doing such a thing?
I’m off now, but you guys can stay: President of the Senate Stanley Redwood is migrating to Canada, and made farewell comments last week before his departure. Methinks he doth protest too much. “No other Jamaican should be forced or feel forced to make the choice I have to make this month,” said the Senator, who has been beating himself up over departing for greener pastures for some time. It’s OK for me to go – but you guys stay here, stick it out… Not impressed, I’m afraid.
Power walks: While blood still stained the streets of downtown Kingston, a couple of miles away uptowners were preparing for two charity walks on Saturday – both good causes. Due to ongoing back problems, I was unable to participate in either. But I hope lots of money was raised for Dress for Success and the Nuttall Memorial Hospital, respectively. Next time!
Sick of them: There are certain things that always upset me when I watch the evening news on television. Of course, the ongoing bloodshed is one of those things. What also depresses me is the greed and selfishness of thieves who, like vampires, feed on hard-working Jamaicans. It seems that every week a school is broken into, and we see the anxious principal, his/her face creased with anxiety and stress, detailing all the items the school lost – of course, all the most valuable things that they can least afford to replace, many of them donated by kind-hearted people. Then there are the poor farmers, who go to the fields in the morning to see their precious animals hacked to pieces or their crops pulled out of the ground. On Friday, we heard that the bus belonging to Alpha Boys School was stolen in Spanish Town. I don’t know if they have found it. Alpha nurtures abandoned and orphaned boys, and is famous for its school band that has produced many great Jamaican musicians. Shame on you all, you vampires.
Pit latrines in schools: As I noted in my post of August 12, 2012, around 200 schools across Jamaica still have pit latrines. I doubt that much has changed since then. Perhaps we should consider this as a priority over tablets, Minister Paulwell? (Much as I love your tablets). The “sanitary conveniences” at St. Mary’s Primary School in rural St. Elizabeth are as old as the school itself (44 years) and pose a serious health risk. For a start, if a young child slips he/she can fall into them. The Florida-based Andrew Dixon Foundation is seeking to raise funds to replace them.
I was wondering… about the over 4,000 online jobs that the World Bank says it has created for young Jamaicans. The World Bank provides more details on its Digital Jam 2.0 program at the link below. It includes internships and fellowships at Howard University, pilot projects, incubators and so on. Brilliant!
Sports vs academics: The Gleaner recently published a table ranking Jamaica’s high schools in terms of their CSEC examination results. I’m trying to find a link to it. It was noticeable, however, that almost all the traditional boys’ high schools did quite poorly; unsurprisingly, the co-educational Kingston high school Campion College came out on top. A columnist yesterday pointed out that the low-performing boys’ schools are those that compete furiously and loudly at “Champs” (the high school athletics championships) and tout their sporting prowess. Is there a conflict here?
Less abatement? As I have noted before, Jamaica/Kingston is Party Central, and the noise must go on. I see the Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Entertainment as it seems to call itself are holding a public consultation on “changes to the Noise Abatement Act” on Wednesday at the Jamaica Conference Centre. What changes? Where? Is the noise to go on longer? I am suspicious of the “entertainment zones” that have been mentioned a few times by our enthusiastic Junior Minister Damion Crawford, who is young and therefore fond of “shelling dung” as the saying goes. And hey, do you think there may be more important things to be worrying about? I can only assume that, like the building of housing for poor people, this is a populist, vote-getting exercise.
Yohan Blake/boys home: I am very pleased with our young Olympian Yohan Blake, whose YB Afraid Foundation continues to support the Mount Olivet Boys’ Home in Manchester, in all kinds of important ways. The home’s infrastructure is steadily improving as a result. Thanks to Mr. Blake; you have a good, good heart.
It is very sad to report that in the past three days the following Jamaicans have been killed. My heart goes out to their families. Too much trouble in the world.
Clifton Drummonds, 55, John’s Town, St. Thomas (mob killing)
Winston Robinson, Mannings Hill Road, Kingston
Tiffany Shirley, Mannings Hill Road, Kingston
Killed by police:
Unidentified man, Pechon Street/Beckford Street, Kingston
Unidentified man, Matthews Lane, Kingston
Electricity theft, debt threaten company’s viability, says Tomblin: Jamaica Observer
Power thieves must be stopped: Gleaner editorial
Samuda labels logistics hub a “pipe dream”: Jamaica Observer
Jamaica Broilers invests $300 million in new plant: Gleaner
What, really, are agro parks? Gleaner editorial
Palmyra parent firm deemed a squatter: Gleaner
Creating employment solutions for young Jamaicans in the virtual economy: worldbank.org
Rating agency reacts to IMF-Jamaica agreement: Sunday Observer
The business of sport in Jamaica: Marcia Forbes op-ed/caribjournal.com
No unlicensed cable operator in Jamaica/Broadcasting Commission
No justification for NWC rate hike: Jamaica Observer editorial
Handcart permit regime off the deep end: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Pryce chides PNPYO for washing dirty linen in public: Jamaica Observer
Montego Bay mayor faces no-confidence vote: Gleaner
Arscott defends cost of local government delegation to Uganda: RJR News
Whose plan for Jamaica is it anyway? Jamaica Civil Society Coalition op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
Does Jamaica need outside help to deal with crime? caribjournal.com
Man implicated in murder chopped to death: RJR News
Daylight gun battles cause mayhem downtown: Gleaner
Deadly end! Robbery foiled, cops kill one gunman, injure another: Jamaica Observer
Deadlock blanks downtown CCTV plan: Sunday Gleaner
Why the Tivoli enquiry is important: Claude Robinson column/Sunday Observer
Forget the enquiry; make a movie instead: Tamara Scott-Williams column/Sunday Observer
Pain still lingers for Tivoli man, family: Sunday Observer
West Kingston rejoices after cops kill thug: Gleaner
Mothers mourn loss of son, daughter: Sunday Observer
From Haiti to Cuba: A vision for the Caribbean in 2030: caribjournal.com
COMPLANT workers protest: RJR News
Pit latrines pose public health risk at St. Mary’s Primary: Gleaner
No water for farmers in Llandewey for decades: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
Emergency call to action for Child Month: Letter from Jamaica Youth Action Network to the Gleaner
Condoms or abstinence: Guidance counselors ponder the best fit for schools: Sunday Gleaner
High school standard bearers of excellence? Lascelve Graham op-ed/Observer
Mount Olivet Boys’ Home a refuge from abuse: Gleaner
Saturday Social: Jamaica Observer
More assistance for local exporters: Jamaica Information Service
The Petchary is dipping back into Trench Town - just to tell you a bit more about the Trench Town Reading Centre. Ah, you can now find them on Twitter at TrenchTownRC. (I am not sure why Jamaicans are wary of Twitter...the Petchary loves pottering through tweets, retweeting and finding little nuggets of information and fascinating articles. One can skip through the trivial, occasionally profane comments between individuals...
Or perhaps, don’t inhale too deeply. Some things don’t smell so good.
I am not talking about the Riverton City dump this week. But I am disturbed.
Firstly, what is happening with our justice system? I went through a range of emotions this week on hearing that a police sergeant was acquitted of the murder of a mentally ill drug addict by a judge who dismissed the case because the prosecution’s case was so weak. Sergeant Lloyd Kelly’s defense was not even heard. Now, we all saw a video recorded on a cell phone, aired on TV news on July 31, 2010. If you have the stomach for it, you can view the TV newscast including the video here:
. You are warned: it is not easy to watch. The man was unarmed. He was injured, having been beaten by residents as well as the police, after he had just allegedly committed a murder. He was lying on the ground. Sergeant Kelly (described by residents as a model policeman) could have arrested the man. But no. Egged on by a raucous crowd (reminiscent of a pack of wild dogs circling, anticipating the kill) he showed them what a “good cop” (their words) he was. On television, Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn pointed out that the maker of the video was not available; the pathologist who conducted the post mortem was not available – in fact, not even a senior person at the Ministry of National Security knew where in the world he was; and the prosecution witnesses sounded more like defense witnesses. The Crown Counsel “fought valiantly,” she said. But in vain. “Justice has been served,” said one resident of the small town of Buckfield, St. Ann where these horrors occurred. Justice? What do we call justice, these days?
A policeman who had also hired highly-paid, high profile lawyers won his appeal against a corruption conviction on Friday. The Appeals judges were less than happy, reprimanding both the investigating officer (the then head of the police Anti-Corruption Branch) and the resident magistrate involved. Superintendent Harry “Bungles” Daley had been arrested during a sting operation as he allegedly sought to extort money from a businessman in Ewarton, St. Catherine. The chubby-faced “Bungles” wept copious tears in court. It’s clear, though, that there were so many discrepancies and errors in the case that the Appeals Court had no choice.
Meanwhile, the police killed seven Jamaicans in alleged shootouts in Kingston this week (although I could not find them all identified). Note that we always used that word “alleged.”
The problem is, justice is not “seen to be done” by the Jamaican man/woman on the street. The justice “system” barely works. Cases are postponed daily, either at the request of the prosecution who is not ready or because the defense is employing delaying tactics. As I have served as a witness and a juror on more than one occasion, I have seen this for myself. It is mind-numbing, frustrating, exhausting. Hours and hours are wasted daily. Other major causes of delay and the collapse of cases are the absence (or disappearance, or even elimination) of witnesses, incomplete documentation, the incredible shortage of jurors, and more. It’s even worse in the Coroner’s Court. The lobby group Jamaicans for Justice has bemoaned this for at least a decade now. Nothing has really changed. Nothing
The Director of Public Prosecution‘s office is over-burdened. Only the defense lawyers, who sweep into court in style (often late) seem quite comfortable with things the way they are.
But there was some good news on the crime-fighting front. National Security Minister Peter Bunting tabled the long-overdue legislation to tackle the utterly shameful “lotto scam,” which has continued virtually unchecked for several years. Many elderly and unsuspecting American citizens have been robbed of their life savings by these criminals. The necessary legislation was not in place, despite the sometimes desperate efforts of a police task force. Anyway, the Lottery Scam Bill (the Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) (Special Provisions) Act, 2013) will reach the Senate next Friday. Minister Bunting said on radio that he “hopes” legislation on DNA and anti-gang measures will be tabled in the next three months. We have been hearing about those for at least a couple years now…
Sunday Gleaner columnist Ian Boyne made a “moral” issue out of the lotto scam in his column today (how we love that word). Another commentator, theologian and academic Dr. Anna Kasafi Perkins, liberally sprinkled her lecture last week with the same word, along with “ethics” and “values.” The annual Grace Kennedy Foundation Lecture 2013 which Dr. Perkins delivered was entitled “Moral Dis-ease making Jamaica ill? Re-engaging the Conversation.” This and all the public lectures can be found at the link below. One question (or three): Whose morals, Dr. Perkins? Whose ethics? Whose values?
And then the President of Venezuela died, causing much hand-wringing (but perhaps not a lot of genuine grief?) around the Caribbean. What of the PetroCaribe deal, which we all eagerly signed on to in 2005? PetroCaribe provides us with oil at preferential prices and a loan to be repaid under very generous terms. We will have to wait until after general elections. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller led a weighty delegation to Caracas for the funeral – perhaps rather overweight. Someone tweeted that it was like the distant relatives coming from near and far to see if there is anything in the will for them – with a bunch of hungry “pickney” (kids) in tow. There were questions as to the cost of this delegation, considering that we Jamaican citizens are now tightening our belts. Are the politicians doing likewise? That recurring “sacrifice” theme again.
Minister Omar Davies, what is “optics”? In Parliament last week, the former Finance Minister brushed aside calls for a smaller Cabinet and possibly even a pay cut/wage freeze for politicians (gasp!) Just a little symbolic gesture of goodwill towards the Jamaican people perhaps? In his usual off-hand way, Minister Davies used the word “optics.” Take a deep breath…
Then, in the week of International Women’s Day, the case of Ms. Shanique Myrie came up in the first-ever sitting of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). There was not much detail available, as much of the evidence was written and not made publicly available, according to keen observer Dionne Jackson-Miller. This seems odd to me. Meanwhile, details of Ms. Myrie’s attire in court; the rather difficult Barbadian accent of the lead attorney; and the literacy level of one of the witnesses seemed to preoccupy the media. Ms. Myrie is not a woman from what some call the “upper echelons” of Jamaican society. I admire her bravery in challenging the Barbadian immigration authorities over what must have been a deeply humiliating experience. Good for her. Sad and ironic, though, that the first case in the illustrious CCJ involving Jamaica should be dealing with perceived discrimination by one of our Caribbean neighbors against our citizens.
The intrepid Dionne Jackson-Miller tackled the topic of religion in schools on her weekly program “All Angles.” If you have time, please do watch the program on the link below, in which the Minister of Education (and Reverend) Ronald Thwaites continuously patronizes, rudely interrupts and completely loses his cool over views expressed clearly and intelligently by youth activist Javed Jaghai. At one point he even points his finger at Mr. Jaghai and can hardly restrain himself from angry outbursts. How dare this young upstart contest the fact that all Jamaican children should – and must – be exposed to religion (Christianity)? And on a daily basis, because it is “good,” and “wholesome” and – oh yes, “moral.” That word again. The argument that children can “opt out” if they want to doesn’t hold much water; allowed to stand at the side of the room, they remain a captive and passive participant in the “daily religious indoctrination,” as Mr. Jaghai put it. But the Minister embarrassed himself. I doubt he apologized. After all, he is a government minister and a church man, with considerable influence and piety on his side.
I must again commend young columnist Jaevion Nelson, who is doing a great job of challenging Jamaicans’ preconceived notions. He took up the same topic in his Gleaner column this week, asking simply, “Can you imagine how much better off we would be if the church was vocal about governance and corruption?” But the Church does not use its huge power and influence for this purpose.
Kudos also to another young writer Robert Lalah, whose column this week was honest, moving and real. Why are we so cold, so hard-hearted towards homeless gays, he asks? They are Jamaicans. I have always enjoyed Mr. Lalah’s humorous columns depicting country life in Jamaica. In this column, he again showed his humanity. Thank you.
This week was the Kingston Book Festival, organized by the Book Industry Association of Jamaica. Although publishing is not a huge and thriving industry in Jamaica, sad to say (I worked in that field for eight years myself) the enthusiasm for writing, sharing, reading and performing prose and poetry continues unabated here. Special congratulations to Ms. Kellie Magnus and her team for putting together a vibrant program of events, creating some great partnerships and collaborations. It’s also wonderful to welcome home one of our ex-pat writers, Andrew “Kei” Miller, for a few months. I am sure he will have much to contribute and enjoy, and hope he will be doing lots of outreach. Don’t stay cloistered at the University of the West Indies, Kei. Venture forth!
A lovely gentleman, Garveyite Frank Gordon, passed away last week at the age of ninety. Mr. Gordon was drawn to Marcus Garvey’s Liberty Hall in downtown Kingston from the age of twelve. He became a steadfast follower and key figure in the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), where he served as president for many years. A man with a deep grasp of history and the importance of Jamaica’s self-determination, he is the kind of person you wish would live forever, so that he could share his wisdom and guidance with future generations.
P.S. Did you know that Caribbean Earth Hour is March 23, 2013 from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.? Would you like to turn off your lights/electricity for just one hour, in symbolic recognition of the challenges of climate change? If you have any ideas, plans or would like further information, do contact Heather Pinnock at email@example.com.
P.P.S. Our son used to love school swimming competitions when he was young. Many happy, sunny days spent at the National Stadium pool… Special “big ups” to Excelsior Primary School, the first primary (state) school to win the Preparatory/Primary School Swim Champs!
Once again, it was a sad week for some Jamaicans, who are mourning the loss of loved ones killed by their fellow-citizens. My heart goes out to them.
Unidentified man, Orange Street, Kingston
Copeland Coulbourne, 80, Content District, St. Catherine
Christopher Williams, 40, Homestead, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Sydenham, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Westchester/Portmore, St. Catherine
Maurie Redding, Little London, Westmoreland
Killed by police:
Rohan Armstrong, 18, Regent Street, west Kingston
Four others in west Kingston
Weng, National Heroes Circle, Kingston 4
Unidentified man, National Heroes Circle, Kingston 4
Related articles and websites: Local blog posts in purple – do read what my fellow Jamaican bloggers have
Grace Kennedy Foundation Public Lecture Series: GraceKennedy.com
Cross-dressers not deserving of sympathy? Robert Lalah column/Gleaner
Tanya Stephens defends gays, rants against bigots on Facebook: On the Ground News Reports
Meet Angeline Jackson, lesbian activist in homophobic Jamaica: sdgln.com
Women and the Jamaican work forces: Op-ed by Marcia Forbes/Carib Journal
SSP Dathan Henry was poisoned: Gleaner
Vanessa Wint’s case forwarded to special coroner’s office: RJR News
The Buckfield case and the DPP: Sunday Gleaner editorial
”Bungled”: Senior cop and resident magistrate chided by appeal court as it frees Harry “Bungles”: Sunday Gleaner
Using science to control crime: Frank Phipps op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
Lotto scamming, bling and morality: Ian Boyne column/Sunday Gleaner
More Florida seniors fall victim to lottery scam: RJR News
U.S. co-operation to stem lottery scamming – Bunting: Sunday Observer
Reluctant witnesses help clog court system: Sunday Observer
Wildman promises positive development in Cash Plus case: Gleaner
The CCJ: A declaration of relevance: Gleaner editorial
How Ronnie Thwaites and Carolyn Cooper disappointed me: D.Marcus Williams.blogspot.com
The CCJ and Shanique Myrie: How to signify “good taste” and “respectability”: redforgender.wordpress.com
Jamaican leg of Shanique Myrie ends: Points to note: Dionne Jackson-Miller blog
Gender equality public education campaign launched: Jamaica Information Service
Diana King on Jamaican homophobia and coming out: HuffPost
Young, homeless, hopeless: More people under 40 swell the street dwellers population: Sunday Gleaner
The cost of cultural habits in Jamaica: Op-ed by Dennis Chung/Carib Journal
NCB staff sues bank: Gleaner
More to be done on wage agreement: Gleaner editorial
Jamaica is NOT in a currency crisis…But could it be by the end of 2013? André Haughton op-ed/Gleaner
A good time to bury bad news: Cash, politics, media and corruption: Franklin Johnston column/Jamaica Observer
That Jamaican delegation to Venezuela: Sunday Observer editorial
Venezuela and Jamaica: The ties that bind: Gary Spaulding op-ed/Gleaner
Don’t waste another year in Parliament: Gleaner
5 Facts: PetroCaribe: diGJamaica.com
The History of PetroCaribe in Jamaica: diGJamaica.com
English only in the Senate, president tells Justice Minister: Gleaner
Unfortunate attack on Ruel Reid: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
Should religious activities be banned from school? All Angles/TVJ
Misplaced Christian priorities: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
Climate change documents to be tabled in Parliament: Jamaica Information Service
Outstanding Garveyite Frank Gordon passes: Jamaica Observer
Holywell Park: Mother Nature at its finest: digjamaica.com
http://as-told-by-nella.blogspot.com/2013/03/friday-link-love.html Friday Link Love: nella.blogspot.com – more local blog links for you to explore…
Guyanese, Jamaicans top list of CARICOM nationals denied entry to Barbados (kaieteurnewsonline.com)
Is It Really March Already? Sunday: March 3, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.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:
And if you want to take a look at my Facebook album, and the comments therein, here is the link:
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)
Last weekend, there was an annual ritual. A parade of stars walked out on a red carpet in Beverley Hills, California, and the cameras flashed and whizzed and whirred.
A couple of years ago, I started a tradition, just for fun. I compiled a photo album on Facebook of these gorgeous, famous people in their designer gowns. One by one. Flirting, floating, posing. And the idea somehow caught on. Now, FB friends remind me that a special event is coming up, so I can be ready with my right-clicks to set up the album. They are already asking when the next session will be. That would be the Oscars on February 24, by the way…
Recently, it was the Golden Globes. As usual, my friends (male and female, near and far) kicked in with their comments and discussions. Some of them came back for a second look. They expect me (the total non-fashion expert) to comment on each one, too. The other night, I was so busy updating my album I hardly had time to see who actually won awards (I hear Mr. Affleck did well).
The commentary was delicious. My fellow fashion police (some wannabes, like me; some actually serious) dissected each gown. Sometimes we were coldly dismissive (“bleh…Another of those washed-out ones” for Maria Menounos). Indeed, we were, at times, clinically brutal (“Remind me to take a picture of my curtains. They look almost the same” for Jackie Weaver‘s green gown). To me, Nicole Kidman’s black dress made her look like a skyscraper. “This dress could use one less rose bush,” said a Jamaican Facebooker on the topic of Lucy Liu’s Carolina Herrera dress, which had the effect of a flowery porcelain figurine.
Like any critic worth his/her salt, we were reluctant to give “tens” to any gowns. There is no such thing as perfection.
The serious commentators would go into quite a bit of technical detail: “I would have loved if this was just a straight skirt at the bottom, no flaps, no slits. It would have been sexy-classy, not slide to the side upscale geisha-hookery,” was one comment on Katharine McPhee‘s little black number (still a bit snarky, though). “Up-sweep and eye makeup fitting for this elegant splash of coral!” was the thumbs-up verdict on Jennifer Lawrence’s Dior Haute Couture. I am afraid I am not expert at all. In fact, dresses that I really liked (Marion Cotillard’s and Jessica Chastain’s, for example) were given the thumbs down by many of my c0-conspirators. Sniff.
There were many off-hand remarks: “Matronly” was not a compliment. One dress was likened to “shower curtains.” An English friend commented casually on another, “Could do with a bra on.” Several gowns would have looked good in a bridal catalog, we decided. And we all got fed up with the “nude” color.
Kerry Washington‘s gown came in the latter, disappointing category. We had hoped for better… As for poor Helena Bonham Carter, we tried to be nice, but… The comments got off to a bad start with: “Did she have sex in the bathroom before taking this pic?” With her customary disheveled hairdo, she did indeed look as if she had been dragged through a hedge backwards (one of my grandmother’s expressions). Oops… There I go again!
There was heated debate – perhaps not surprisingly – over two established sex-kittens, Halle Berry and Jennifer Lopez. The comments came in thick and fast – many of them thinly-veiled expressions of bitchiness. And of course, we weren’t just commenting on the frocks, here – but on the persona (personae?) of the ladies concerned.
Although, in general, my male critics were much kinder than the female ones, even one of the men noted on Ms. Berry’s dramatic, slightly chaotic Atelier Versace dress: “I had to tweet and ask if she had her left breast removed…” J-Lo (37 comments to date) went for a nude/lacy figure-hugging number by Zuhair Murad. After a flood of side-swiping remarks, a Jamaican (female) friend conceded: ”The men of the world need the JLos and Kim Kardashians, so I must not be too hard on her.”
Poor dear men of the world. They do need their eye-candy, don’t they? But conversely, the ladies seemed less than enthusiastic about the male stars who were also, of course, parading. None of them appeared hot, it seems. In fact, we even accused the utterly glamorous George Clooney of looking “old”! Not good. And we discussed whether the afore-mentioned Ben was adjusting his underwear, in one photo…
Of course, this is all sheer escapism. Utter trivia. We know this is not the real world. At least, not real to us mere mortals. And we all know the world out there is harsh, cruel. The Onion makes this point in the link below. While we are delighting in a Versace gown, children in Syria are cowering in fear as bombs fall, and screaming with pain in hospitals.
But allow us a little escape, won’t you? Won’t you? It’s called entertainment.
The Six Best Dresses at the Golden Globes: The Onion
Something like 0.0086 percent of the world is famous: The Atlantic
The Highs and The Lows From Last Night Golden Globes (stylebyladyg.com)
- 70th Golden Globes: Best & Worst Dressed (thefashionmedley.com)
I just did a quick survey, and this was the verdict of the Facebook Fashionistas for the Golden Globes:
FAVE RAVES (probably 9 out of 10; like I said, we don’t give out “tens”):
Julianne Hough in Monique Lhuillier;
Ariel Winter in Valentino;
Megan Fox in Dolce & Gabbana;
Naomi Watts in Zac Posen;
Sally Field in Alberta Ferretti;
Heidi Klum in Alexandre Vauthier;
Taylor Swift in Donna Karan.
ABSOLUTELY GHASTLY (these were pretty unanimous):
Louise Roe in Femmes d’Armes;
Nicole Kidman in Alexander McQueen;
Jacki Weaver in Pamella Roland;
Joe Champa in “a set of curtains”;
TV personalities Giuliana Rancic (“an anorexic apparition from hair to carpet”) and Shaun Robinson (“my Dominican friend would call this a blood sausage since he would not be able to find any kind of waistline”).
If you would like to join in the fun, just visit my Facebook page on February 24 as the red carpet is rolled out for the Oscars! A good time will be had by all!
So noted a fellow-blogger from Jamaica, Annie Paul (check out her lively blog on Jamaican matters large and small at
). Yes, just as I was about to write another short, chirpy post-Sandy blog post, the “episode” or “incident” occurred. It popped up on Twitter around eight o’clock last night, in fact.
Let me backtrack a little first: Cliff Hughes is a local broadcast journalist, whom I have praised before for his strong focus on democracy and human rights – and for his probing, tough interview techniques. And UTech is the University of Technology in Kingston, Jamaica, where this all took place. All what, you may ask? Well, a video appeared on YouTube and almost immediately went “viral,” as the saying goes. The video was entitled “Beat di Fish 2!” - using the latest hate-word for gays in Jamaica. The video appears to show security guards beating up a young man in an enclosed area (the guard house of the aforementioned University) while a mob of mostly young men outside jeered, laughed and encouraged the guards to give the young man a good beating. Some of these young men begged the guards to turn him over to them so they could deal with him.
Why was he being beaten? The student was accused of having sex with another young man (who escaped – I hope he is very safe, somewhere).
The video was withdrawn from YouTube today as it violated their code. It was very hard to watch, and to listen to the baying of the crowd, like hounds when they have cornered a fox in a hunt. That eager yelping sound, that cry for blood. And many of the supporters of the video added their virulent, sickening comments (although thankfully there were more “dislikes” than “likes”). But another shorter, different version was posted on CNN‘s iReport today.
There were many expressions of genuine shock and despair, locally. “I am ashamed to be Jamaican” was a common refrain among those with compassion for their fellow Jamaicans. Civil society groups, notably Jamaicans for Justice and the Civil Society Coalition, have issued statements condemning the incident. Some comments in the social media were more ambivalent, saying the two young men should have been more careful, and “this is how gays are dealt with in Jamaica, right or wrong.” Other comments were more vicious. I will not repeat them.
Another Jamaican broadcaster noted the following on her Facebook timeline: “I am sad and sickened tonight. Security guards at one of our universities beating up a young man because he was allegedly found engaging in homosexual acts. I also continue to wonder at my friends with their heads deep in the sand insisting that we are not a homophobic society. Really? This young man is hit and kicked by a “security “guard” while excited crowds gather outside. And for those who will wilfully twist my words – you are adept at that – this has nothing to do with approval of or belief in a lifestyle. This is about a society that winks at barbarism and turns its head away insisting it is not happening, apparently all the reports of abuse are made up!!! And you wonder why we are seen as homophobic?”
Let us not deny this any more. Jamaica IS a homophobic society. It has been said by many outside and some inside Jamaica. And it is true. It is staring us in the face.
So, what are we to do about it? Allow the mob to take over? After all, there have been several instances of mob attacks recently, under various circumstances. This is not only yet another example of human rights abuses against gays in Jamaica. It fits into a pattern of intolerance, violence and blind ignorance that keeps repeating itself over and over. It is like a tide washing over us, threatening to sweep us all away.
Have you ever stared into the eyes of a hate-filled mob? We once knew someone who did – a young Jamaican. It was the last thing he saw, as he did not survive the attack. None of us could save him. We read his name in the papers the next day.
Where is this leading us? Are we prepared to slip and slide down this slope? Or are we prepared to dig our heels in, right now? Are our leaders going to speak up, or remain silent? I remember not long ago, our elected representatives were sniggering and making jokes about “fish” in Parliament (the derogatory word for gays currently in fashion). Can we expect real, responsible leadership from them? What about our Prime Minister, who during an election debate last year signaled a softer approach to the issue? She has certainly avoided the topic ever since she was elected. And what about the churches? After all, the homophobic bigots frequently use a certain passage in the Bible to justify their hatred. What a lovely thing religion is! How it unites us!
I will end with a quote from someone who did know a great deal about bigotry and discrimination. He faced it fair and square. (Somehow, the deniers of our homophobia hate comparisons between gay rights and the American civil rights struggle; but I see quite a few parallels, myself). Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
Jamaica’s burden grows heavier each day.
- Jamaica Anti-Gay Attack On Student Allegedly Caught On Tape (huffingtonpost.com)
- Gay Man Beaten By Guards, Mob At Jamaica University: VIDEO (towleroad.com)
- Sunday After Sandy: October 28, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Gay Jamaicans launch legal action over island’s homophobic laws (guardian.co.uk)
- Landmark Case Seeks To Abolish Jamaica’s Colonial-Era Anti-Gay Laws (queerty.com)
- A small step forward for LGBT rights in Jamaica (pri.org)
- Help Jamaica please?!? (ireport.cnn.com)
(End patronizing, piecemeal engagement of youth: petchary)
(Rights and Wrongs: petchary)
- Gay Jamaican Man Caught Having Sex Brutally Attacked By Guard, Mob (queerty.com)
- Gay student beaten at Jamaican University (ireport.cnn.com)
(Op-ed: Fighting injustice in Jamaica: petchary)
(Marksman fires security guards involved in UTech beating)
(Mob beats man accused of killing pregnant girlfriend)
(UTech plans counseling session for beaten student)
(JFJ condemns act of violence against allegedly homosexual young man on UTech campus)
(UTech, Marksman condemn beating of alleged gay student)
(UTech student beaten)
(“Mob rule is no rule” – another UTech incident)
(“Put an end to jungle justice” – a recent op-ed)
(Ode to Freddy (and David): petchary)
(Jamaican Maurice Tomlinson is the first winner of the David Kato Vision Voice Award: petchary)
The squalls of last night are over. I lay in bed with continuous thunder, lightning and sheets of rain falling, assaulting my senses and rendering me sleepless. A cup of strong Blue Mountain coffee is helping to revive me. Thanks for just brushing by us, Tropical Storm Isaac. It could have been a lot worse. Nine silly people traveling through the notorious Bog Walk Gorge (basically, a main road running between a river and a sheer rock face) had to be rescued from the roofs of their cars last night. Now, Sunday morning in Kingston has been bright and breezy; and the lawn has grown by several inches overnight.
So, on to the week that was. It was the usual odd mix of melodrama and “nutten nah gwaan” (for non-Jamaicans, this means “nothing happening”).
First, the drama. The big “C” reared its ugly head (corruption, not cancer – although you could say that one is the other). The case (brought by a police sergeant who should be highly commended and supported) involves a Businessman (or “big man” as we call these powerful men in SUVs), a high-profile Police Senior Superintendent, and an Opposition Politician. I think it is fair to say that these three categories of Jamaicans – businessmen, politicians and the police force – are regarded with the greatest suspicion by the average man/woman on the street. There is always that little corruption? question mark. Trust, or the lack of it, is a terrible thing.
In this case, the Businessman was stopped by the Sergeant for speeding in said SUV, and allegedly offered him a bribe. According to media reports, in a complicated web of negotiations described as “mediation,” the Sergeant was told to discuss the matter with a Senior Policeman, who, it is alleged, “took care of things.” The Politician also intervened, as the Businessman is a great friend of his; he is charged with breaching Section 14(2) of the Corruption Prevention Act while Senior Policeman and Businessman are charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice. The case came to court last week; there were many cynical comments, some shock and some puzzlement that a Businessman should go to such lengths to avoid a mere traffic ticket. Is this how “big men” arrange their lives? There was much excitement outside the courthouse last week when the three accused, accompanied by various family members and supporters, arrived. The Senior Policeman had a very pained and sad look, head bowed, clutching his wife’s hand; the Businessman and his Wife looked cool and well-dressed, in matching designer shades; the Politician appeared happy for the attention and, as usual, talked too much. “I always say, ‘Who God bless, no man curse,’” he cheerfully told an eager television reporter. OK, then.
Now, I felt that the eviction of around sixty people in downtown Kingston a week ago – mostly women and children – was treated rather carelessly by aspects of the media. The focus seemed to be wrong. Since then, commentators have got to grips with the issue to some extent. But listen, folks, this is serious. It’s fine for us to say, “Well, they shouldn’t have so many children…They expect us to support them…I don’t feel sorry for them…They want everything for free,” etc. But why aren’t we addressing the core issue? Does no one want to talk about it? And that issue is poverty. Yes, the p-word. Jamaica Observer columnist Mark Wignall wrote an insightful piece on the matter today – the link is below. He describes the situation of squatting as a “tragedy.” Of course it is. If one-third of your population live in “informal settlements,” - at the mercy of the environment, in unhealthy conditions, preyed on by criminals, and used by politicians as a vote-getting group at election time – what else can you call it?
It is a tragedy. But these are poor people. Somehow it’s all their fault, they shouldn’t be poor. But all is not lost; the politicians “love” them (i.e. love their votes). As Wignall’s colleague columnist James Moss-Solomon notes, “The so-called ‘love of the poor’ is not expressed as a hatred of poverty and a need to eliminate that scourge, but is reminiscent of sharing the suffering of Jesus without wanting to remove the nails if we are able.” Mr. Moss-Solomon was writing in general about that elusive concept of unity - which a number of leading Jamaicans were waxing lyrical about on the Gleaner front page in the weeks before Independence. Unity – and division. See more division below.
In the Nutten Nah Gwaan section: Well, after not much more than a year, the commuter railway revived by the previous Jamaica Labour Party administration ran its last trip through the parish of St. Catherine. Yes, we know the economic reasons for its closure. But this was most disheartening. It was not as if Jamaicans were not using it – they loved it. A CVM Television series focused on reactions to the closure, and the commuters suggested it could have made much more money if it had run to Kingston, or even Montego Bay. In our fiftieth year of Independence, this was somehow not morale-boosting.
Are we in recession? asked an article in the Business Observer last week. Well, the head of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) and the Governor of the Bank of Jamaica seem confused, but it’s fair to say, I think, that “nutten nah gwaan” in the Jamaican economy. The PIOJ tried desperately to put some kind of positive spin on what appeared at first report (via the Statistical Institute of Jamaica) to have been negative growth in the first quarter of 2012. Isn’t that a recession, then? It ended up predicting between minus 0.5 per cent and plus 0.5 per cent growth for the September quarter. The looks on their faces said it all. They were not
Mayor of Kingston Angela Brown Burke says she is “working behind the scenes” after coming under fire from the Gleaner in an editorial last week. Like all the others, Ms. Brown Burke made a wonderful speech at her swearing-in in April. We have not heard much from her since… But let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. It’s only been a few months. But it seems we are all impatient…
Meanwhile, our Prime Minister allows her ministers to get on with their portfolios, and does not interfere – so she told a television reporter this week when asked to comment on an issue. Is this the hands-off, autopilot approach to leadership?
“I see a nation that is drifting,” intoned radio talk show host on Nationwide News Network Ronald Mason last week. “There has been eight months of inertia.” I can just hear another famed talk show host, the late Wilmot Perkins, agreeing with him. Mr Perkins would have added, “Things fall apart…The center cannot hold.” Back to Mr. Mason: “I see no motivation, no reassurance from our political leaders.” These comments got the listeners and callers all revved up for a few hours of gloom and doom, last week, I can tell you.
Something is going on at Caymanas Park, where our horse racing takes place. Here are some pieces of information, and you can make out of it what you will. Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance Derrick Kellier announced recently that the Government plans to sell Caymanas, but wants good money for it. Last week, among the many murders (see list of names below) a racehorse trainer was shot in the head by two gunmen who seemed to be waiting for him as he drove into the Park. There is poor security there, it appears – Caymanas is “bruck.” Then, just last night, gunmen broke into the office at Caymanas, held up some staff and stole more than seven million Jamaican Dollars cash. Well, I don’t know. Some things we can never get to the bottom of…
Why am I not impressed?
…By the lovely 2012 Mercedes Benz driven by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Donovan Stanberry. Mr. Stanberry went into a convoluted argument in the Sunday Gleaner, explaining why this was a good deal for the Jamaican taxpayer, rather than the usual SUVs that our public servants swish around in. Only J$6.3 million, less duty concessions and other allowances which would lower the cost. Very economical, yes. Perhaps some of that could have gone towards the rebuilding of the Glenhope Place of Safety, a state home for unwanted small children and girls, which was partly destroyed by fire nine months ago. Work there has not even started. The Government is “bruck.” But what am I saying? These are only poor people’s abandoned kids. Like the squatters. They are not priority are they? (Please forgive me – I get too carried away with the sarcasm sometimes!)
…By Member of Parliament for South St. James Derrick Kellier, who did not see what the fuss was all about (his words) when he reportedly recommended that a firm owned by his brother be granted road-works contracts in his constituency, through the often-contentious Constituency Development Fund. The indefatigable Office of the Contractor General is, thankfully, investigating.
…By the dithering over the lifting of a ban on the scrap metal trade. So many hints have been dropped in the media that the ban is to be lifted that the scavengers have pricked up their ears, and got to work. They are being proactive. So far, the scrap metal thieves have targeted the Jamaica Public Service Company, Highway 2000 and telecoms firm LIME; the latter, in particular has recently suffered millions of dollars in losses. What is really happening? I thought that the Minister in charge, Hon. Anthony Hylton, was to make a statement on Friday? Meanwhile, legitimate (one hopes) scrap dealers have been protesting. In May a local think tank, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI), issued a ten-step solution to the scrap metal conundrum. I hope the Minister has had a look at it. A link to the full brief is below…
…By Minister of Tourism Wykeham McNeill‘s announcement this week that its publicity campaign for Jamaica at the London Olympics was a roaring success. Most of us lesser mortal were not privileged to be in London; so we would have to take his word for it. But I hear that “Jamaica House” in London was a fun place to hang out for a drink in the evenings… And also, the one million pounds spent during the campaign was “well spent,” the good Minister told us. What actually came out of it in terms of dollars and cents, business opportunities, partnerships etc? Not sure of the details. Are you? But Information Minister Sandrea Falconer, who chaired the Minister’s press conference, gently chided Jamaicans/the media for “quibbling” over small matters, as questions were asked. Take their word for it. It was money well spent. Perhaps the “small matter” was the unfortunate tweet by Minister McNeill’s junior minister Damion Crawford, who informed us all that he and some Jamaican musicians were having a great time at a London club. Or perhaps it was the people who were part of the delegation to London. I am still not clear why Minister of Agriculture Roger Clarke went, but I am sure he had a nice time, too… Meanwhile, visitor arrivals over the Independence period reportedly grew by six per cent, we are told. Frankly, I would have thought we could have attracted more visitors for Jamaica 50.
…And I have to agree with Observer columnist Jean Lowrie-Chin, who staunchly defends Jamaica’s “Out of Many, One People” motto. This multi-racial concept has come under attack recently from noted academic at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Dr. Carolyn Cooper – who loves to ruffle feathers, and appears to have seized the opportunity to do so as we try to celebrate “unity” on our fiftieth anniversary. Please, Carolyn, can we smooth those feathers down a bit?
Now, Ms. Lowrie-Chin is eternally positive, optimistic and far less cynical than I am – and I love her for it. But she spoke in an unusually strong tone in her column last week: “Will the UWI Mona folks who refuse to accept non-blacks as Jamaicans forgo their salaries and professorial chairs, since they are so heavily subsidised by non-black business owners who contribute significantly to our national coffers?” Now, it seems, UWI’s enfant terrible has taken set on the very small Jewish community in Jamaica, claiming that the history of the Jews’ role in Jamaica’s plantation society and slavery has not been properly aired. (Well, surely everyone in those days was involved in slavery in some way or other, weren’t they?) She is taking the head of the Jamaican Jewish community to task for seeking to defend his people in a letter to the Gleaner editor, accusing him of a personal attack on her. I don’t know where all this is going, and it seems both unnecessary and insensitive; but Dr. Cooper wants us all to face facts about the “out of many” scenario – or at least, her version of the facts. Perhaps she just wants to be controversial… How, I wonder, does this mesh with Dr. Cooper’s recent spirited defense of a certain deejay – now in jail on murder charges – whose claim to fame was the “bleaching” of his dark skin to an unhealthy off-white color? And perhaps she might recall that most, if not all of the Jews who arrived in Jamaica were themselves fleeing persecution in Europe.
Dear, dear. And they say race isn’t an issue in Jamaica!
…Then there are the teachers. Folks, let us just remember that the Jamaica Teachers’ Association is a trade union. Therefore, its mandate is to call for improved wages and conditions for its members – every year, at this time. The fact that – as I keep pointing out – government is “bruck” is neither here nor there to the JTA, it seems. They have rejected a wage offer, and they want their pension arrangements to remain in place. The fact is that pension reform is one of the three issues which the International Monetary Fund wants the Jamaican Government to address as a precursor (or condition?) of negotiations – those negotiations which are scheduled to start in September. Any word from the Finance Minister? Not much. Any word from the Education Minister? Plenty of words, all of which I agree with.
But still, there are some bouquets to hand out this week, I think:
Firstly, to the University of the West Indies‘ Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social & Economic Studies (SALISES) for their week-long reflections on where on earth Jamaica is heading after fifty years, “Fifty-Fifty: Critical Reflections in a time of Uncertainty.” This was the result of a huge amount of research by numerous clusters of academics on a wide range of topics. I plan to write more about this during the week in a separate blog post, but I do applaud SALISES for this ambitious conference – and particularly, for inviting the public to participate free of charge. When I went down there one afternoon this week, the Jamaica Pegasus was throbbing with life, and filled with Jamaicans who wanted to contribute to one debate or the other. I was very pleased to see this. Now I look forward to seeing some action plans coming out of the discussions. As Lee Kwan-Yew once caustically observed, Jamaicans are very eloquent and very good at talking. Now let’s translate this all into meaningful action that will propel us forward…
Secondly, I am proud of the two youth-led groups Help Ja Children and the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network, who have taken on the issue of Jamaica’s homeless and marginalized (see “squatting” above) with a new online campaign. I would urge you to go to
, read it carefully and if you agree, please do sign their petition and shared it widely.
I heard about the Harris Family Vision Foundation for the first time this week, and have to give them warm hugs on behalf of our children. The amazing part of the Foundation is that it is co-founded by a seventeen-year-old (who has a growth disability) Nekhidia and her fourteen-year-old sister Kimberly. Their parents, Michael and Dasline, have been volunteering in Jamaica for the past twenty years. Among many other activities and donations, the Foundation donated a clinic in Madras, St. Ann on Marcus Garvey’s birthday this year. When asked about her amazing confidence, Nekhidia quoted Garvey himself: “If you do not have confidence in yourself you are twice defeated in the race of life.” What an inspiring family – and, by the way, they live in New York. Thank you.
And last but not least: the wonderful Yohan Blake is now officially the second fastest man in the world ever, after a fantastic 9.69 second run in Lausanne, Switzerland. Do join our Facebook group, The Unofficial Yohan Blake Appreciation Society. It seems there are more female members than males, but we are seeking to address the gender imbalance!
Kudos on the media front: Television Jamaica has greatly improved its website. I never used to visit it, but realize it is now slick, attractive and has easily accessible clips from their highly popular morning magazine program “Smile Jamaica” as well as news, etc. Good going. (A nice interview with Jamaica’s first Tae Kwon Do Olympian Kenneth Edwards is linked below). They have uploaded nearly 600 video clips – something there for everyone.
No one seems to put in a good word for On the Ground News Reports, so I will. They started off as a Facebook page and now have an excellent website at
. If you want news from the street – every detail, including roads closed, car crashes, house fires, sports, security issues (murders) – you name it – this will keep you up to date. It is interactive, so anyone can contribute if they can confirm a story or add further information. You can send them photos from your phone. It’s a unique idea and it deserves to be better supported by us, the Jamaican public out there. If you see or hear of something going on, let them know! They are also on Twitter (@onthegroundjm). Their slogan: “You are the news.”
I like the Observer’s TeenAge weekly, edited and written by teens. It is nicely put together and a good mix of the usual teen stuff – pop music, fashion etc – and more uplifting information relevant to teens. I liked this week’s article on the young journalists’ visit to the Youth Science Forum in Trinidad recently.
Finally, “big ups” to the Jamaican diaspora media, out there. In Florida, there are a few radio stations focusing on Jamaican issues. For example, my Facebook friend Desmond Brown will be discussing whether Jamaicans overseas should be allowed to vote in Jamaican elections (always a tricky topic!) this afternoon on Island Riddim Radio in Central Florida. They do live streaming at www.islandriddimradio.com. Then there is the young Kingstonian Lawman Lynch, now operating out of New York with a newsletter, who is also active in the broadcast media. Greetings to all!
Once again, and on my usual sad note, I offer my deepest condolences to the grieving families and friends of the following Jamaicans, who were killed in the past week. It concerns me that this list appears to be growing a little longer each week – and no one seems to be commenting on this very much.
Killed by police:
Three unidentified men, Norwood, Montego Bay, St. James
Karl Nation, 18, Maxfield Park, Kingston
Nigel Thompson, 18, Maxfield Park, Kingston
Rohan Lewis, 28, St. Ann’s Bay, St. Ann
Joseph Wedderburn, Sine Irwin, St. James
Ralbert Wilmot, 48, Retreat, St. James
Karl Atkinson, 56, Balaclava, St. Elizabeth
Anthony Kirlew, 50, Caymanas Park, St. Catherine
Michael Raymond, 51, Palmers Cross, Clarendon
Bucassa McIntosh, 35, Portsmouth, St. Catherine
Don Riggs, 35, Green Pond, St. James
Donovan Anderson, 37, Green Pond, St. James
Jermaine Gordon, 23, Green Pond, St. James
Melbourne Lowe, 57, Eleven Miles, St. Thomas
Matthew McAnuff, 25, Kingston
Unidentified man, Lincoln Avenue, Kingston 13
Peter Nembhard, Central Village, St. Catherine
Clayton Smith, 39, Bluefields, Westmoreland
Devon Thompson, 41, Islington, St. Mary
Veronica Wizard, 75, Torrington Park, Kingston
Kemar Beckford, 21, Retreat, St. James (mob killing)
(Vaz steps aside – Jamaica Observer)
(Poor, pregnant and homeless – Mark Wignall op-ed)
(Birthing poverty: Is two still better than too many? – Sunday Gleaner)
(Help coming for evicted squatters – Jamaica Observer)
(Squatter squabble – Gleaner)
(A nation divided against itself must fall – James Moss-Solomon op-ed)
(Government will sell Caymanas Park but not cheaply, says Dalley – Jamaica Observer)
(Kirlew marked for death? – Sunday Gleaner)
(Stopover arrivals up six per cent – Minister McNeill – Jamaica Observer)
(One Million Pounds on promotional activities in London well spent – Jamaica Information Service)
(Eyebrows raised over Stanberry’s Benz – Sunday Gleaner)
(Derrick Kellier defends the trough – Gleaner editorial)
(Fifty years in dependence – Ian Boyne op-ed – Sunday Gleaner)
(Government squandering mandate – Chris Tufton op-ed – Sunday Gleaner)
(Glenhope yet to rise from ashes – Sunday Gleaner)
(Ten Steps to a Scrap Metal Solution- CaPRI)
(Are we in recession? – Jamaica Observer)
(Jamaica House in London a succes – McNeill – Jamaica Information Service)
(36,000 additional airlift seats secured from UK – Jamaica Information Service)
(Jamaica’s first taekwondo champion – TVJ interview)
(Tribalism in Jamaican politics – Diane Abbott op-ed)
(50-50: Critical Reflections in a Time of Uncertainty – Claude Robinson op-ed)
(Persistent Perversity on Jews and Slavery – Carolyn Cooper op-ed)
(Jamaica – Still Ahead of the Race Curve – Jean Lowrie-Chin op-ed)
(Phillips firm on IMF wrap-up – Gleaner)
(TeenAge visits Youth Science Forum)
(Charity begins at home – Jamaica Observer)
(Beast unleashed! – Jamaica Observer Sports)
50-50 Reflections (petchary.wordpress.com)
Sunday Sighs: August 19, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Jamaica 50 Special: Monday, August 6, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
UN agency calls for full probe into Jamaica murder (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
Is it really June 6, 2012? Doesn’t that make it World Environment Day 2012? It is? OK… Because I have hardly heard a whisper about it all day today. I have heard a lot of politicians blustering and guffawing in the House of Representatives over the Budget; the trade winds have continued to trouble us on a fiercely hot June day; there have been the usual compromises and concessions and in the city of Kingston, Jamaica.
The theme for 2012 is: “Green Economy: Does It Include YOU?” Well, if asked this question, most Jamaican men and women would scratch their heads, frown slightly and shake their heads. And these days, it seems to me, the word economy is more often on the lips of many than the word green. Apart from our own stifling debt crisis, there is Spain, which can’t afford to bail out its own banks; Greece, which is stumbling along towards a re-run of its election on June 17; the British Prime Minister flitting about Europe like a slightly agitated migrating bird, urging “immediate” action on the Eurozone debt crisis; and President Barack Obama, now in the throes of a full-blown election campaign, turning a little more grey and holding conference calls with European leaders. Even Facebook‘s IPO was something of a flop, and it appears marred by technical errors.
And back in Jamaica, people get more excited about the green in the flag (or lack of it) than they do about the “greening” of our increasingly deforested, polluted, mined-out, over-developed, garbage-filled island.
But hey… It is slightly cooler now after 9:00 p.m.; I can hear music playing faintly and pleasantly outside – sounds like an old ska tune; the dogs are quietly snoozing; the Petcharys are enjoying the welcome, late-season bounty of our Bombay mango tree; and I am looking forward to high tea with a friend at the wonderful Terra Nova Hotel tomorrow. Things could be worse. The economic (and green) crisis might never happen.
And tomorrow is another day. June 7. When we may say to each other, “Oh yes, it was World Environment Day yesterday, wasn’t it?”
- World Environment Day (pottedplantsociety.wordpress.com)
- If it’s June 5, it must be World Environment Day (photoblog.msnbc.msn.com)
- Morning Minutes: June 5 (hopestar.com)
- World Environment Day (periwinkleporte.com)
- World Environment Day 2012 (energyrefuge.com)
: UN World Environment Day
: Terra Nova Hotel, Kingston
There is a page on Facebook on which one can express one’s thankfulness for perceived blessings and the receipt of such. Often, the posts express very broad “and first of all, I would like to thank God” type sentiments – spiritual and heartfelt. But the Petchary usually feels thankful for the simple, basic things – a good cup of coffee, for example, or an emphatic win by Arsenal Football Club. Today, she is grateful for the rain – the dripping trees, the sharper green of the garden, the birds preening themselves on the wire, the cool air drifting through the house.
So, thank you rain, and the bringer of rain. To the ancient Romans, that was Jupiter.
“The thirsty earth soaks up the rain,
And drinks, and gapes for drink again.
The plants suck in the earth, and are
With constant drinking, fresh and fair.”
(Abraham Cowley, 1618-1667)
- Seven things to be grateful for when it takes you an hour to remember where you parked your car (seventhingsinaday.wordpress.com)
- A Grateful Writer Says “Thank You” (risingdano.wordpress.com)
- A Watery Tale (petchary.wordpress.com)