This month has started with a kind of numbing heat. Kingston nights are hot and dark; the days are hot and bright. Those annoying birds, the grackles have brought some screeching offspring into our yard. I chase them away, and it seems to make me feel better.
First things first…The PM is anxious about our athletes’ health: Remember now, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is Minister of Sport. She must also be Minister of Defence, but national security is of lesser importance, I guess. Before taking a few days’ vacation, the PM met with a large group of people (you can see some of them sitting round the table in the photo below, which doesn’t even show all of them) to discuss the burning issue of a wellness center for our athletes. Top priority – not child abuse, children in lock-ups, crime and violence, the crisis in education, our failing health system, our failing justice system, the economy…
But the Reggae Boyz… Our national football team is now sadly on life support after its third consecutive defeat in Honduras last night. Moreover, our coach, former player Theodore Whitmore, has resigned. The “Road to Rio” - our World Cup campaign – seems to have faded beneath our feet. Several rather unkind memes have circulated online. I will not rub salt in the wounds by reproducing them here. Fact is, we cannot just throw together a team made up of mostly second- or third-tier overseas-based players. We need a serious national football training program.
Those trips again: I am glad that Opposition Senator Robert Montague stood up and asked a number of questions about yet another trip that I may not even have mentioned: the journey of Mayor of Kingston Angela Brown Burke and her entourage, including Local Government Minister Noel Arscott and various assistants, down to the good old continent of Africa. This is quite separate from the Prime Minister’s excursion (no report card yet, Madam Prime Minister? And yes, we know about the “teachers to Tanzania” concept. Apart from that). Since the good Senator has formally tabled questions, I hope he will get proper answers. The Mayor et al went first to Uganda and then down to South Africa, I understand.
Dollars nah run: My favorite minister Phillip Paulwell wants more people to apply for the (barely) “single-digit” interest rate energy loans. Amazing that 9.5% is considered a really low interest rate in Jamaica, isn’t it? I think that everyone’s running away from getting themselves into more debt at the moment. What does my economic guru Ralston Hyman have to say about this? I will have to listen in to his morning radio program to find out. Confidence in markets is everything. I learnt that during my years in the financial sector. Once it is gone…dawg nyam yuh supper.
And time a-wasting: A great report in today’s Gleaner notes the irritation of employers with the huge chunks taken out of their employees’ working days while they wait in line at banks and government agencies (the two prime culprits, but there are others). Yes indeed folks, in Jamaica you can wait up to two hours for service in a bank, in the middle of the day when you should be back at your workplace. It is utterly ridiculous. I know of one financial institution that my husband and I jokingly call the “sleepy place.” There is a large waiting area – rows of chairs, where customers regularly doze off while waiting. And no matter how many customers they have, there is almost always only one person to serve them. It’s an insult and it is a serious deterrent to productivity.
Oh, and no money for disasters? About two months or more ago (I will have to look it up) I mentioned in a blog post that there was absolutely no mention of budgeting for disaster preparedness. When I raised the issue, someone muttered something about help from overseas. So if we do get hit by a hurricane this year then we can always turn to these kind donors and say “help”? Now the Local Government Minister tells us that “it is apparent that the (National Disaster Fund) is not adequate…” God help us if a disaster hits. I don’t know who else will.
So now gays are “uncontrollable”: You’ve heard about the “uncontrollable” girls, such as those at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre (and elsewhere) who are locked up because their parents (mothers) can’t cope with them. Well, the Jamaica Observer is now describing a small group of homeless young men who have occupied an abandoned house in an upscale area of Kingston as “uncontrollable.” Is it that any group of Jamaicans (young ones) who don’t behave “normally” is uncontrollable? These two groups have something in common: seriously marginalized. At least the newspaper tried to get a more balanced picture this time – actually speaking to J-FLAG and to the police – plus a so-called caretaker at the house.
I’m not very impressed… by radio journalist George Davis’ column in today’s Gleaner. He is trying to be too clever. But I do not think it particularly clever to refer to “a man who presents the major evening newscasts for one of our two major television stations” as homosexual. Why do that to a fellow journalist? Of course, no names mentioned but please!! It’s just tacky.
The meaning of service: The image many of us have of U.S. college fraternities is one of heavy-drinking, partying, crazy students. However, there is another side to fraternities: a tradition of service to others. The photograph below and the blog it comes from epitomizes the “giving back” that these fraternity brothers (Delta Upsilon) from several different colleges and universities are engaged in during a recent trip to Jamaica. The students are refurbishing a school in Westmoreland; I must find out which one. The contribution of these “farriners” - like the ongoing medical missions from overseas – is often greatly under-estimated. OK, I am sure these boys had fun in Negril too – but they also gave their time and energy, freely, to the children of Jamaica. They could have been sitting on their couches at home watching TV. I wish more young Jamaicans would catch on to the power of volunteerism. It is better to give than receive…
Word of the week: “Committed.” I think we (especially any government agency) should give this word a rest. It means “we’re going to do something but we haven’t done it yet. But yes, we think it’s a really good thing and a great idea. But…Not just yet.” Just read a Jamaica Information Service report: “Government committed to the elimination of child labor.” How? When?
And big ups to:
The U.S. Peace Corps volunteers: Since we are talking about service… Below you will find a link to the blog of one volunteer in Jamaica, who is living and working in rural St. Thomas, up in the mountains. The U.S. Peace Corps has been doing great work in Jamaica since Independence.
Ms. Virtue…: I met Ms. Erica Virtue quite a few years ago. I remember bumping into her in the Gleaner newsroom when visiting that worthy media house; and many rambling telephone chats. I have always had a healthy respect for her feisty, often provocative style. Now Erica is doing a weekly video commentary piece on the newspaper’s website, called “Erica’s Edge.“ I love it, and Erica’s biting and sometimes brutal humor. She may rub people up the wrong way sometimes – but she’s a journalist, not a shrinking violet…
…and Mr. Henry: When I first spoke to Darien Henry many years ago, he was an enthusiastic community-based reporter for Irie FM in Ocho Rios. I told him what a splendid radio voice he has. Now, it seems, he is putting pen to paper – or rather, fingers to keyboard. He has written a sensible column on education reform in the Gleaner. I look forward to more from the affable Mr. Henry.
Isle Chixx: Jamaicans eat chicken like there’s no tomorrow, and a relatively new local firm is doing well. They do Cornish hens. Managing Director Alex Antaeus will be opening a Greek restaurant in Kingston soon – so we can start eating healthier!
The Ministry of Justice: For posting the draft terms of reference for the upcoming Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens massacre online for all to see. This kind of transparency and public consultation is laudable and I don’t believe this has been done with previous enquiries. You can find the discussion draft at http://www.moj.gov.jm/sites/default/files/pdf/Discussion%20Draft.pdf And you should submit your comments in writing to the Ministry not later than Friday, June 21.
And talking of consultations, I just returned from a complex, lengthy public consultation on the boundaries to the precious Cockpit Country in western Jamaica. More on that in a later blog.
The following Jamaicans have lost their lives violently in the past three days. I extend my condolences, as always, to the grieving families and friends who are left behind:
Errol Irwin, 57, Bog Walk, St. Catherine
Millar Bowen, 43, Bodles Research Station, St. Catherine
Rohan Clarke, 28, Cambridge, St. James
O’Neil Clarke, 34, Stettin, Trelawny
Unnamed infant, Stettin, Trelawny
Killed by police:
Davion Gordon, downtown Kingston
Okeen Edwards, 19, Greendale/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Related links and articles:
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/34209 PM wants swift action on wellness center for athletes: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Montague-questions-Local-Govt-trip-to-Africa-in-May Montague questions local government trip to Africa in May: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Security-costing-taxpayers-million–for-ruined-Goodyear-factory_14447506 Security costing taxpayers millions for ruined Goodyear factory: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ruined-Sligoville-Stadium-to-be-rescued–says-Neita-Headley_14435373 Ruined Sligoville Stadium to be rescued, says Neita-Headley: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130612/lead/lead1.html Bosses seeing red! Long wait in lines keeping their workers off the job: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130612/lead/lead3.html Tick, tick, tick: Jamaicans lose valuable production hours standing in line: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130612/lead/lead5.html Not enough money in the country’s hurricane coffers: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/lead/lead9.html ”I love UTech, but no”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130611/cleisure/cleisure1.html Dr. Phillips must hold his nerve: Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/100-to-1–makes-sense-_14465183 100 to 1, makes sense? Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/More-takers-needed-for-energy-loans_14471505 More takers needed for energy loans: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/lead/lead1.html AJ, know your role: private sector fires back at Nicholson after “trade bickering” comments: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/news/news1.html Jamaica, China dreaming together: op-ed by Chinese Ambassador to Jamaica Zheng Qingdian: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/letters/letters2.html CARICOM an old boys’ club: Letter to the Editor from Joan Williams/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Why-we-are-glad—-and-mad-_14451547 Why we are glad – and mad! Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/news/news5.html Mass exodus! Senator warns teachers may leave in droves: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130611/cleisure/cleisure3.html Pay teachers better, then hold bar higher: Darien Henry column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130611/lead/lead5.html More teachers than vacancies: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/cleisure/cleisure1.html Look at New York, Mr. Thwaites: Gleaner editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130611/lead/lead1.html Free health fallout: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Don-t-touch-it-_14451904 Don’t touch it! say Negril residents: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/commissioner-of-police-knew-of-plans-to-settle-bribery-case-says-witness Commissioner of Police knew of plans to settle bribery case, says witness: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/cleisure/cleisure3.html Use human rights to save us: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/J-FLAG-denies-abandoning-homeless-gay-men_14447331 J-FLAG denies abandoning homeless gay men: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130612/cleisure/cleisure4.html Those slow to accept gays are not evil: George Davis column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=45647 Government invites comments on draft terms of reference for Tivoli enquiry: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130610/cleisure/cleisure2.html Judges can’t bail out cops: Peter Champagnie op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/High-hopes-for-Diaspora-conference_14464778 High hopes for diaspora conference: Jamaica Observer
http://wellreadrobin.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/the-sheltered-ones-are-not-yet-born/ The sheltered ones are not yet born: wellreadrobin.wordpress.com
http://aprilspeacecorpsblog.com/2013/06/10/life-in-the-valley/ Life in the Valley: April’s Peace Corps blog.com
http://deltaupsilon.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/gsi-jamaica-why-i-am-a-du/ GSI Jamaica: Why I am a DU: deltaupsilon.wordpress.com
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.
A belated Happy Easter, everyone. Whatever it means to you, I hope it has been a good one.
Easter is a strange time for me. I usually miss chocolate Easter eggs, and daffodils and hot cross buns. Here in Jamaica it is a long weekend, a nice spring break, the weather’s getting hotter and party central is in full gear (see my previous blog post https://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/jamaica-is-party-central/). The religious among us, and there are many, make special trips to church. And we all eat lots of bun and cheese. In fact, I am eating a piece right now…
Bit of an odd mixture this week, but here goes…
- The shock: Good Friday got off to a terrible start with a murder in my neighborhood – just round the corner from our house. We were sleeping late and sadly unaware. Gregory Archer, a network engineer at Digicel, was shot while taking an early morning walk with his young son, and died later in hospital. His son was unharmed. For some reason, this tragedy was only reported by one radio station; the local media ignored it until three days later, even though it was discussed at length in the social media. I guess the “traditional” media has gone to sleep for Easter; after all, at least one broadcast journalist recently admitted that he didn’t know anything about Twitter, etc! Meanwhile, our “upscale” uptown semi-residential neighborhood is not, for me, a safe place to walk any more. How very sad. And media, please wake up. A reader on the Jamaica Observer website alleges that other murders, especially in the Bog Walk area of St. Catherine, have not been reported. He mentioned a particular murder last Thursday night. Explanations are needed, I think.
- The prior actions: I’m rather worried about this. Can we have a list of them? If Jamaica has fulfilled all of them – something which our Finance Minister has mentioned several times – then why hasn’t the agreement being signed? I am sure I am missing something, and wish I really understood what is going on in the grinding saga of the International Monetary Fund. I cannot imagine what Minister Phillips’ blood pressure must be like.
- Surprise! Minister Phillips conceded that, contrary to his predictions/hopes/assurances, a formal deal with the IMF was not going to happen by the end of March, after all. I realize that he is now making lots of statements, in his efforts to keep us updated; the Jamaican public had earlier complained about lack of details. But we are now…confused. Or is it just me?
- Mum PM: Meanwhile, our Prime Minister is saying almost nothing about anything, except for the occasional exhortation for us all to be united. Oh, I think she cut another ribbon last week.
- A bit of a dig: I see that former senator and People’s National Party stalwart Delano Franklyn, in an article in the Sunday Observer, goes out of his way to takes quite a vicious dig at a media house that had the temerity to criticize the recent Government retreat. Mr Franklyn notes that said media house owes lots of taxes.
- The dilemma: Our Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Dr. Wykeham McNeill, appears to be on the horns of one. The horns are the two different parts of his portfolio. On the one hand, he wants to improve the reportedly flagging tourism figures. On the other hand, he wants to keep his constituents in the tourist resort of Negril happy. But the tourists are not too pleased with the decibel level in Negril, according to a CVM Television report a few days ago; they have been complaining. It appears that local promoters are allowed to go on after the legal 2:00 a.m., with special permission. Now the Minister tells us that he has made some proposals to change the Noise Abatement Act. In a CVM interview (the link is below) he says: “We have to find a balance,” and that he wants to “regularize” the situation. We shall see how this turns out. It’s a tricky one!
- Those scammers: Last week, the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA), which sounds like a cup of coffee, made some arrests in Montego Bay. Once again, we saw “high-end vehicles” that had been seized, etc. As the anti-lottery scam legislation has only just been passed, I wonder if any charges are going to be made, and whether they will stick.
- As predicted: The group of Haitians and fellow CARICOM nationals who arrived on our shores recently were “processed” (finger-printed like criminals) and shipped straight back last week. I told you so.
- Mi Happy (again): The Jamaica Tourist Board has regrettably brought out another video with the man from Minnesota (the VW ad). This is really milking it. You can find the link below, and well… It’s actually not as painful as the first one. What are your thoughts, dear readers?
- Mi Not Happy: With the weather. In eastern Jamaica, a bridge was washed away and hundreds stranded for a day or two by a swollen river after heavy rains. On the other side of the island, in Kingston at least, barely a drop has fallen. Mi wasn’t happy, either, with the long power cut on Saturday that affected almost the entire island. It seems that, on the energy front too, something’s got to give. The Jamaica Public Service Company is still awaiting word on its latest expansion proposal from the Government. What is really happening on energy, especially the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project? I’m confused, again. Meanwhile, financial analyst Dennis Chung tweeted that he is basically off the grid and did not suffer… Sensible man, went for solar power.
- The patriarchy strikes back: Roman Catholic deacon Peter Espeut, a “human rights advocate,” responded in somewhat heavy-handed fashion to fellow Gleaner columnist Jaevion Nelson’s column advocating for a change in the abortion laws. Well, Mr. Espeut is Roman Catholic, so we might expect that he would be anti-abortion. But it is a patronizing put-down (“Young Jaevion needs to put a little more balance in his writing, and his editors should guide him”!) of a bright, forward-thinking activist, who is trying to find solutions. Mr. Espeut concludes: “Thank God Jaevion Nelson is not typical of Jamaican young people, or I would despair where our beloved country might end up.” So that’s “young Jaevion” put in his place, good and proper. He’s not typical, Mr. Espeut claims; and since he is not, we can dismiss his opinions. Mr. Espeut says he works with young people, and I trust they are subservient.
- “From Coral Gardens to Tivoli Gardens”: The Rastafarian community last week marched through downtown Kingston to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of a violent incident in Coral Gardens, Montego Bay on Holy Thursday, 1963. At that time, Rastafarians suffered from widespread discrimination and abuse from the police force and general public. But the march (seeking compensation for Rastafarian elders who are still suffering, and an apology from the Government) was about more than the Coral Gardens injustice. It was about the human rights situation in Jamaica right here and now (the quote above was from a placard I saw held up). According to one participant, the actual theme was “Outrage against an unjust Justice system; Landlesness; Police Brutality” - it was never just a “Rasta thing” as some media characterized it. ”The people reach the stage where the State a do what dem used to do to Rastafari to dem,” said poet/activist Mutabaruka at the group’s rally in Half Way Tree. In other words, if they come for me in the morning, they will come for you in the evening.
- Fairness: In a comment on a recent blog post of mine, a fellow-blogger discussed “equality” when I was talking about “equity.” Of course, they are not the same thing at all. I recommend to you a column by Lawrence Powell of World Watch in yesterday’s Sunday Gleaner (link below), in which the writer makes an apposite comment: “It looks like [Minister] Omar [Davies] and the People’s National Party (PNP) will find themselves going against the grain of popular sentiment if they assume shared sacrifice is politically irrelevant, and that the perceived disparities between treatment of privileged and underprivileged groups are “frivolous”, and don’t matter.” Against the grain, indeed, and the tide of popular opinion.
- Poster comeback: So glad to see that overseas-based Jamaican Michael Thompson has launched the second annual International Reggae Poster Competition 2013. The theme is: Toward a Reggae Hall of Fame: Celebrating Great Jamaican Music. Deadline is April 21. More details at http://www.reggaepostercontest.com. Really hope the Reggae Hall of Fame comes to fruition, some time in the near future. And I really hope we will get more Jamaican entries this time!
- Yummy postscript: Drop by the Tea Tree Creperie (in my ‘hood) for delicious nibbles, including homemade hummus with fresh-baked pesto pita chips! http://www.teatreecreperie.com
- Good work: The Jamaica 50 Photo Album was a really good product from the Jamaica Information Service, and I am glad it has won an award in the U.S. I bought a few items for friends and family at home in the UK last year… Their favorites though were the Jamaica 50 glasses!
I am sick and tired of posting this sad list of names every week. But I don’t want us to forget those Jamaicans, young and old, who have lost their lives – and the grieving families and friends they leave behind, week after week. My condolences to them all. By the way, a comment following the online report on Gregory Archer’s death noted that several murders have gone unreported in local media, including that of Kirk
Vivian Grant, 29, Waltham Park Road, Kingston
Unidentified, Lopez/Bryden Streets, Kingston
Gregory Archer, 33, Upper Montrose Road/Vale Royal, Kingston
Unidentified man, Ferry, St. Andrew
Korine Bailey, 43, Linstead, St. Catherine
Sheldon Pennant, 38, Linstead, St. Catherine
Unidentified, Lennox Bigwoods/Darliston, Westmoreland
District Constable Brian Gray, 32, Mount Salem, St. James
Maxine Campbell, 37, Green Island, Hanover
Cornel Grizzle, 46, Comfort Hall, Trelawny
Beres Thompson, 32, Victoria Town, Manchester
Killed by police:
Basil Blackwood, 27, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Westport/Portmore, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Texton Road, Kingston 14
Related articles (Local blogs are in purple):
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/03/25/chart-of-the-week-number-of-persons-fatal-shootings-by-the-police/ Chart: Number of fatal shootings by the police: diGJamaica.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/jamaica-is-party-central/ Jamaica is Party Central: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/exclusion-versus-empowerment/ Exclusion versus empowerment: petchary.wordpress.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gregory-Archer-s-wife-a-broken-woman_13980114 Gregory Archer’s wife a broken woman: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130327/cleisure/cleisure2.html Only in this country! George Davis column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130330/letters/letters1.html Salvaging what’s left of Jamaica: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130331/cleisure/cleisure1.html The next act against the scammers: Sunday Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-Cabinet-retreat-and-the-country-s-economic-challenges_13970514 The Cabinet retreat and the country’s economic challenges: Delano Franklyn op-ed/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130331/focus/focus4.html Trust deficit: Government, IMF and Haiti: Orville Taylor column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Is-Jamaica-destined-to-be-poor-forever_13962991 Is Jamaica destined to be poor forever? Mark Wignall column/Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130328/cleisure/cleisure2.html Terminating pregnancies should be legal: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130330/cleisure/cleisure4.html Advocating youth responsibility: Peter Espeut column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Contraceptives-in-schools–Let-s-at-least-discuss-it_13941256 Contraceptives in schools? Let’s at least discuss it: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43689 NDX2 or PEX? GraceKennedy confirms participation: Gleaner
http://delanoseiv.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/peter-phillips-the-imf-must-read-t-h-i-n-k-jamaica/ Peter Phillips and the IMF: delanoseiv.wordpress.com
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/25/construction-on-trinidad-barbados-gas-pipeline-could-begin-next-year/ Construction on Trinidad-Barbados gas pipeline could begin next year: Carib Journal
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/27/op-ed-bringing-google-to-jamaica/ Op-ed: Bringing Google to Jamaica: Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43706 Nurses await further discussions on wage claims: Gleaner
http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=985§ion=watch CVM Television report on noise nuisance in Negril (10 minutes into newscast)
http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=987§ion=watch CVM Television report on Tourism Minister’s response to noise complaints (17 minutes into newscast)
http://soundclash.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/party-circuit/ Party circuit: soundclash.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130327/lead/lead5.html Two mobile licenses to be put on auction – Paulwell: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33339 Foreign Minister wants rethinking of treatment of middle income countries: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33358 Access to information progress lauded: Jamaica Information Service
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/thirty-three-haitians-to-be-transported-home-today Thirty-three Haitians to be transported home today: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Let-peace-reign_13964282b West Kingston residents decry deadly power struggle among criminals: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/No-longer-just-a-Rasta-thing_13974690 No longer just a Rasta thing: Claude Robinson op-ed/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130330/lead/lead1.html Police to charge popular sports personality after Montego Bay raids: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130327/lead/lead8.html ”Woeful lack of leadership”: Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/07/women-and-the-jamaican-work-force/ Women and the Jamaican work force: Marcia Forbes op-ed/Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130326/ent/ent4.html Flow, Jamaicans happy with Earth Hour concert: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130330/letters/letters4.html Wake up and smell the smog! Letter to the Editor/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/NWC-to-address-city-s-sewer-problems_13894839 NWC to address city’s sewer problems: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Tamarind-and-beetroot-shine–but-what-happens-after-_13975042 Tamarind and beetroot shine, but what happens after? Joan Francis op-ed/Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43739 Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Thomas worst hit by drought: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=43749 Belvedere residents remain cut off: Gleaner
- Jamaica is Party Central (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Exclusion versus Empowerment (petchary.wordpress.com)
- My Birthday: Sunday, March 24, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
During a visit to the tourist resort of Negril in Jamaica several years ago, I ventured out in a glass-bottom boat. Snorkeling and diving make me claustrophobic, so this is the only way that I can really see what is happening under the surface.
I had hoped to see glowing, flourishing and healthy coral reefs; I saw very little of that. However, we did see, for a beautiful instant, a sea turtle. He (or she) sparkled in the fractured sunlight, like a freshly painted toy, suspended from an invisible string. I wondered how he/she survived in an environment that seemed almost devoid of fish. But it was an exquisite moment that I will never forget.
At a meeting last month with representatives of the United Nations Environment Programme‘s (UNEP) Caribbean Environment Programme in Kingston, we heard from Alessandra Vanzella-Khouri, Program Officer for the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) treaty – the only regional and legally binding biodiversity treaty for the Wider Caribbean. I noted in my first article that the Wider Caribbean includes all the coastlines bordering on the Caribbean, including the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, it is four million square kilometers of deep water basins, estuaries, islands, sandbanks and coral reefs. SPAW is concerned with the life that exists in this beautiful, but far from pristine environment.
Here’s a bleak fact: 76 per cent – over three-quarters – of all species in this region are threatened by habitat loss or changing habitat. Over-fishing, unplanned coastal development and pollution (which I discussed in the first article) are wreaking havoc on our marine life – fish, sharks, lobsters, whales, dolphins and all the much tinier creatures too. All six species of sea turtles in the Caribbean are endangered, largely because people collect their eggs from the beaches where they nest.
Let’s go back to the United Nations’ SPAW Protocol for a moment. The Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife to the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region was adopted at a conference in Kingston, Jamaica in 1990 and entered into force in 2000. Ambassador Don Mills (Jamaica) was elected President of the conference. How many countries in the region have signed and ratified the agreement? Sixteen so far, as indicated on the map.
You will notice that the name of Jamaica, the conference host in 1990, is not among the sixteen. You will also note that Cuba, the Dominican Republic and most of our Eastern Caribbean neighbors have ratified it. But there are benefits to be acquired – tangible benefits. It’s more than just a piece of paper. The pluses to ratifying the agreement are greatest in the field of the Marine Protected Areas, where there is much work to be done. In fact, Ms. Vanzella-Khouri revealed that there are eighteen protected areas from the Caribbean recently listed under the SPAW Protocol to be included in a regional cooperation programme. There are over 300 marine protected areas established in the region.
As Ms. Vanzella-Khouri pointed out, it is “increasingly difficult” to raise funds from the UN and elsewhere for local projects, as long as Jamaica is not a party to the agreement. The lack of ratification appears to indicate a lack of commitment to the goals of the Protocol and an unwillingness to co-operate as an important player in the region; or that is how I see it.
Some projects are under way; there is a sustainable management project on Pedro Cays, including training and capacity building; there is a Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan and a Manatee Action Plan. But if Jamaica were to ratify SPAW, so much more could be achieved. Jamaica could obtain training; sustainable tourism and fisheries programs; technical co-operation with regional partners; funded participation at all SPAW meetings and workshops; access to specific guidelines, materials and research in order to meet the requirements of the Convention on Biological Diversity and other international agreements; and all kinds of support, (including financial) for much-needed conservation, awareness, community participation and best practice programs.
Jamaica is out on a limb. It is not a part of this international network of knowledge, co-operation and most importantly – action projects that will benefit us all.
As I noted in a previous blog post (and this seems so obvious to me) the beautiful Caribbean Sea, on which much of our livelihood and wellbeing depends, needs our love and nurturing. It is our birthright. And what is hugely important is that all those nations that border on the Caribbean, whether large or small, must co-operate and support each other to protect this precious jewel that we have inherited. Its waters lap all of our shores. We are all inter-connected.
There is “a lot at stake for Jamaica in SPAW,” said Ms. Vanzella-Khouri with a note of slight frustration in her voice. Jamaica can become part of this regional network of co-operation; at the moment it is not benefiting. There are no financial obligations required on Jamaica’s part, and it is already meeting some of the objectives of SPAW, she added.
You may say: Look, Jamaica is in a crippling economic crisis, with almost non-existent growth and low productivity; so why should “environmental issues” be of any relevance, right now? We have bigger fish to fry, metaphorically speaking.
Well, I would suggest that the environment in the Caribbean has a particularly important bearing on its economy. There is the Great God of Tourism, to which our governments bow. How can tourism thrive when the seas are polluted with untreated sewage, and snorkelers and divers can only find dying coral reefs with a scattering of small fish? There are over 20,000 fishermen in Jamaica according to the Food and Agriculture Organization; how many are now struggling to survive, with some turning to illegal ways to make a living? And how much more could our citizens – and generations to come – benefit from a healthy environment?
And here are some figures to back this up: The total value of Jamaica’s ecosystems is an estimated US$245 million, according to a 2009 report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Washington, DC (do check out their fascinating and informative website). The value of dive tourism, fishing and coastal production is between US$3 – 4.6 billion per year. And in the past twenty-five years, Jamaica has lost US$1.3 billion in revenues from reef fisheries, says the WRI.
So why, you may ask, has Jamaica not taken advantage of these benefits that have been on offer for thirteen years or so – at no cost to the Jamaican government? We have heard this phrase many times before: “Lack of political will.” In other words, our leaders, stuck in their short-term thinking, don’t really care. That is just my view.
But we Jamaicans must care, mustn’t we?
P.S. I must stress, again, that the Caribbean Environment Programme office can provide journalists. researchers and anyone interested in the environment with a wealth of information, statistics and analysis of all these issues and much more, related directly to Jamaica and the Caribbean. Don’t hesitate to contact them! They would welcome your interest.
Contact info: Alessandra Vanzella-Khouri, Program Officer, SPAW: email@example.com. Ms. Pietra Brown, Communications Officer/United Nations Volunteer Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. UNEP CEP, 14-20 Port Royal Street Kingston, Jamaica. Tel. # 876 922 9267 Fax # 876 922 9292
Related articles and websites:
http://www.cep.unep.org/cartagena-convention/spaw-protocol SPAW Protocol: UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme website
http://www.cep.unep.org UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme website
Pollution Flowing from Land to Sea: The UN Caribbean Environment Programme, Part 1 petchary.wordpress.com
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/p-s-happy-world-wetlands-day-february-2-2013/ Happy World Wetlands Day! petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/5498/ Two new environmental films by Jamaican filmmaker Esther Figueroa: petchary
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/a-softer-blue-the-caribbean-sea/ A softer blue: The Caribbean Sea: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/our-beautiful-caribbean-sea/ Our beautiful Caribbean Sea: petchary.wordpress.com
Coral comeback: Reef ‘seeding’ in the Caribbean miamiherald.com
Charity of the Week eastaltonrotary.blogspot.com
http://www.conserveturtles.org Sea Turtle Conservancy website
http://www.wri.org World Resources Institute website
http://www.wri.org/press/2011/06/press-release-new-analysis-coral-reefs-provide-great-value-jamaicas-economy New Analysis: Coral reefs provide great value to Jamaica’s economy: WRI press release
http://pdf.wri.org/working_papers/coastal_capital_jamaica_summary.pdf Coastal capital: Jamaica – WRI Special Paper
http://www.fao.org/fishery/countrysector/FI-CP_JM/en Food & Agriculture Organization Jamaica Country Profile/Fisheries
http://www.cep.unep.org/news/govt-losing-billions Government losing billions: Denise Dennis report/Jamaica Observer
Back in my hippie days, this was of course my mantra. A simple expression of what life should be all about. Surround yourself with love and peace and everything will fall into place. And everyone will love you.
Of course, in the real world life wasn’t quite like that. In today’s Jamaica, there are so many barriers and walls and divisions. Love struggles to overcome them; peace flies in and shatters itself on the walls – just like a wild dove did recently (but our dove was only stunned; after a while she recovered, and flew away).
A week or two before Christmas, I heard these words repeated again at a seasonal celebration to which I was invited by the non-governmental organization Eve for Life. I have written about this organization before. It is “lickle but tallawah,” in Jamaican parlance - small, but strong. Two women run the organization: Joy Crawford and Patricia Watson, whose capacity for love seems to know no bounds. All-encompassing. Eve for Life provides care and support for young mothers living with HIV/AIDS; and most importantly, empowers these very marginalized young women (many of whom are in their teens) to achieve more than they could ever have dreamed. For example, there is Georgia Green, an Eve Teen Mom, a Top Performer in Food and Nutrition with awards for Outstanding Work in Mathematics, Spanish, Human and Social Biology and Food and Nutrition from the St. Andrew Technical High School in Kingston. And there is Keisha, about whom I wrote a few weeks ago (see “Everyday Courage” - link below), who is now studying Practical Nursing and looks forward to graduating in 2014. At least I can show Georgia’s picture.
This celebration was a Christmas party with a difference. When I arrived, the room was already filled with laughter and loud voices. The ice had been broken (although, as with any party with young people, there were some who were shy and a little awkward). The room was full with men and women – clients of Eve for Life (mostly aged 17-23 years old), and young gay males. Two of the most marginalized groups of young Jamaicans, but there was so much enjoyment and fun in the air, you would never have known. The theme of the Christmas session was “Finding Common Ground.” The participants all introduced themselves and then paired off to reflect on, discuss and present their thoughts on some photographs that were handed out. The photos depicted creatures (cats, dogs etc) living in harmony. There was much humor, but serious comments too. “If all these different species can live together and love, why can’t we?”
“We all have spaces in our hearts for love,” said one young man.
There was no looking back during these discussions. Why look back? The present is much better than the past for most of these young people; and the future looks hopeful, too. If, that is, the young people can hold strong. Joy Crawford gave a presentation on how to have a “Safe and Satisfying Season.” The practical, sensible advice was all looking forward, beyond the fun of Christmas to the New Year. “Identify one wish for Christmas Day 2012,” said Joy, and compare it with the wish you made a year earlier. See where the “gap” is. Did your 2011 wish fall through the cracks? Was it too ambitious, or too timid? Then do better this year. And make plans: plan “one action to make Christmas Day special” - whether it is taking your child to Grand Market downtown, or visiting a relative. A happy memory to enjoy in the coming year.
The message for New Year was about self-affirmation. On December 31, meditate for thirty minutes on the coming year, Joy advised. “Affirm the I Am.“ Resolve your “I Am” for 2013. Whatever your circumstance, no matter how hard, work on that “I Am.” Deep introspection that should lead to action. Light a candle for those whom you loved, who are no longer with you – parents, boyfriends, friends. Eve for Life is a great believer in clients taking responsibility for their lives – going out and doing. Inaction, loneliness can lead to a kind of letting go, losing control, depression, inertia, self-pity. The other all-important aspect of empowering Eve’s young women is sharing with each other, supporting each other. Stay in touch.
The party continued. Groups of young men and women sang carols. One group began quietly, then in the later verses gave the song some true Jamaican verve and swing. I have a wonderful photo of their laughing faces and dancing feet, but cannot share it here. One young man sang so beautifully that his voice was almost swamped with whoops and cheers.
So, as 2013 comes into sight, what are the opportunities and challenges for Eve for Life and these courageous young women? (Yes, they are courageous, believe me.) According to Pat Watson, the children need more support. Some are finding challenges at school, and they would like to set up a homework program for them. And most of their mothers are now at school, many of them in HEART training programs learning IT skills. They will emerge well qualified, eager and optimistic for a job; Eve for Life needs to find work for them, or all the hopes these marginalized women have of establishing themselves in a full, productive life will be dashed. Employers, please consider offering work to the disadvantaged – to those who just need a “second chance” in life…. And everyone, please consider supporting Eve for Life, and other organizations who help to hold together the lives of Jamaica’s most vulnerable citizens.
As I left, the party showed no signs of winding down. There were hugs, gifts, smiles, music, the exchange of contact numbers. The children chuckled, cried, chased each other.
This was a Christmas party with a difference. One I would not have missed for the whole world…
Love and Peace.
Related articles – several bloggers’ thoughts on peace are listed below:
Christmas is a state of mind: On respect, love and understanding (petchary.wordpress.com)
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/everyday-courage/ (Everyday Courage: petchary.wordpress.com – my entry for the UNICEF #HashCon blog contest)
http://www.eveforlife.org/default.html (Eve for Life website)
Peace Mantra: Preserving Peace Series (bringingspirit.wordpress.com)
Go Into the New Year as if it Were Your Last! (lipstick-chat.com)
The Symptoms of Inner Peace (mindmindful.wordpress.com)
Bloggers For Peace: WE Can Make A Difference (theobamacrat.com)
We Are All One (joejeeber.com)
Last week, we celebrated a birthday. The child is just one year old, a mere infant. But she is growing up fast.
“She” is the 51% Coalition – a coalition of “Women in Partnership for Development and Empowerment Through Equity.” The Coalition is very much an action-oriented group, committed to these goals. It has a businesslike approach to its mission of bringing women to the table – to make a strong contribution to Jamaica’s development. To quote its press release: “Over the past year the 51% Coalition has been working to redress the gender imbalance in decision-making. Its thrust is to achieve a ‘balance’ of not more than 60% and not less than 40% of either sex on public boards and bodies.”
At a celebratory breakfast in Kingston last Wednesday, Chairperson of the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) Linnette Vassell spoke of “many gaps.” These are the empty spaces we need to fill, to ensure that Jamaican women enjoy their full representative rights as productive members of society. WROC was a co-sponsor of the birthday party, along with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) office in Jamaica.
Over the past half-century since Independence, Jamaica has not done as well as it could have, for its women. Some may disagree with this statement, but this is my view. Perhaps one could say that Jamaican women have not done enough for themselves. In the year of “Jamaica 50,” for example, women are still barely visible on the political scene, despite the fact that we currently have a woman Prime Minister. Only 12.7 per cent of Jamaican parliamentarians, and seventeen per cent of local government councilors are women.
At the breakfast, Ms. Vassell presented a report card on the 51% Coalition’s activities and achievements over the past year. Of course, this is all work that the Coalition has to continuously build on to achieve longer-term goals. We are not talking instant results, here. However, in the amazing way that women have, the Coalition has already established meaningful partnerships: a support network that will stand it in good stead over the coming years. The influential Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica is seeking to bridge one of the “gaps” by encouraging more women to join private boards. It has provided “train the trainers” instruction in corporate governance. And after twenty years of setting up its Hall of Fame, it has eventually inducted a woman – Ms. Lorna Myers. In a very promising partnership with the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE, headed by Marlene Street-Forrest) the Coalition has addressed company CEOs and circulated a list of 54 women that it recommends for board membership. Collaboration with the JSE is ongoing.
And what of the Government? Well, there are interesting linkages here. The Bureau of Women’s Affairs, led by the dedicated Ms. Faith Webster, is a government agency which falls under the Women’s Affairs portfolio. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has, by the way, held this portfolio for most of the past twenty years or so; during this time, the picture for Jamaican women in public life has been mixed, as noted above. The public-private sector Partnership for Transformation is a key vehicle to enable the 51% Coalition to integrate equity issues into the national dialogue. The previous political administration had committed to an independent seat for a woman in its manifesto, and this will become a reality, which the Coalition welcomes.
The National Policy for Gender Equality is of key importance. The Coalition looks forward to monitoring the debate on this topic and to ensuring that the policy provides a workable and blueprint for the future.
And the politicians? They are the important gatekeepers, standing by the gate that opens to women’s full citizenship; full citizenship meaning full participation and equal representation. The 51% Coalition felt it should and must engage both political parties, as they each tackle new challenges in the wake of the December 2011 general elections. Members have already met with the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which is re-thinking and evaluating its internal structure and strategies, in order to make sure that women’s empowerment and gender issues are firmly on the table. We shall see what comes out of that. (Incidentally, the JLP fielded a record number of female candidates in the 2011 parliamentary elections – thirteen, most of them new to representational politics – but only three seasoned women contenders were successful. Five out of the People’s National Party‘s six candidates won or retained their seats).
The Coalition has also set up a political and constitutional reform working group, with two specific aims in mind. Firstly, the group seeks to ensure that gender issues are addressed in the reform of electoral laws; a meeting with the Electoral Office of Jamaica was scheduled for this week. Recommendations on gender issues have also been made to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica, for inclusion in its 2013-15 agenda.
Let us return, for a moment, to the Prime Minister who is also responsible for Women’s Affairs, Portia Simpson Miller. The 51% Coalition is still waiting for a meeting to discuss with her its key objectives and plans for the way ahead; this should take place soon. Specifically, the Coalition would like to press upon the Prime Minister the importance of adopting and implementing the Corporate Governance Framework for Public Bodies in Jamaica, which her predecessors had adopted.
For example let us take a look at the Urban Development Corporation (UDC). Chaired by government Senator K.D. Knight, the UDC is a major government agency which falls under the Prime Minister’s portfolio. An Auditor General’s report pointed to its huge indebtedness and its major operating losses of close to J$500 million. The Coalition’s Ms. Vassell called this state of affairs “truly alarming,” pointing to the need for a Public Accountability Act and other legal measures to deal poor corporate governance in the public sector. (By the way, there are five women on the UDC’s 22-member board). In this respect, the Coalition has made specific proposals for specific competent women to be included on the board of this and other government agencies (the National Water Commission‘s nine-member board, for example, includes just one woman; this agency has come under fire just this week for its billions of dollars of losses; and only 32 per cent of the water it supplies is actually paid for).
Up to April 2012, at least seventy per cent of public sector boards were chaired by men; and more than half had less than 20 per cent women board members. A few years ago, the picture was very much the same – very little progress. Don’t you think that if more women were appointed to their boards they would have a new dimension to offer to these struggling government agencies? In seeking to address this, the 51% Coalition has conducted a series of public consultations in Kingston, Mandeville and Ocho Rios with women appointed to public boards; these were attended by 186 women and a few men, and the response was highly positive. Some women are ready to go out and advocate.
Other issues that the 51% Coalition looks forward to discussing with the Prime Minister include possible collaboration with her Office on the agenda of priorities established by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); as well as the approach to gender-based violence, a critical issue for Jamaica.
What is in the future for the Coalition then? There are many plans ahead, including forging on with the issues above. A media and publicity campaign to stimulate discussion around these issues will be stepped up (listen out for some thought-provoking PSAs early in 2013!) The Coalition will build on partnerships already established with women’s groups and tap into the growing interest in the private sector; it will expand and diversify its recommendations for board representation by women; it will continue to facilitate training and support for female board members through mentoring.
Most of all, the Coalition wants to see growing activism and hands-on work among its members. It would like more women (and men) to speak on these issues at service clubs, churches, community meetings and so on. Get the dialogue going. Help is needed with the mobilization of all kinds of resources. Moreover, women need to look inside themselves; they need to support each other, at every opportunity. “We need to overcome the barriers within ourselves,” as Ms. Vassell noted.
So, there is much work ahead. The Coalition has more growing up to do, and much to get its teeth into. Its voice is growing louder, and will continue to grow in the next year of its existence. Its objectives are clear; its vision is sharply focused. It intends to make things happen.
Happy birthday again! And here is a quote from a pioneer of women’s rights, Eleanor Roosevelt:
We women are callow fledglings as compared with the wise old birds who manipulate the political machinery, and we still hesitate to believe that a woman can fill certain positions in public life as competently and adequately as a man.
But the times are a-changing… And in the words of President Barack Obama, the 51% Coalition’s vibrant membership is “fired up, ready to go!” And no reason to hesitate.
For further information, please contact the 51 % Coalition Secretariat:
Ms. Anna-Kaye Rowe
Tel: 929-8873, 960-9067
Related links and websites:
http://www.caribjournal.com/2012/11/27/forbes-jamaicas-womens-coalition-marks-first-anniversary/ (Jamaica’s Women’s Coalition Marks First Anniversary: Carib Journal)
http://www.marciaforbes.com/content/women-performed-well-jamaica’s-2011-elections (Women performed well in Jamaica’s 2011 elections: MarciaForbes.com)
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/madam-director-madam-chair/ (Madam Director, Madam Chair: petchary.wordpress.com)
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/we-are-the-51-per-cent/ (We Are the 51 Per Cent: petchary.wordpress.com)
http://www.eclac.org/mujer/noticias/paginas/6/38906/Jamaica.pdf (Report from Jamaica to the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean/ECLAC)
http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/ (UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women)
http://wrocjamaica.org/womens-leadership/51-coalition-additional-resources/npge-ja/view (National Policy on Gender Equality: pdf document on WROC website)
http://www.wrocjamaica.org (Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre website)
http://www.fesdc.org (Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Washington website)
http://www.psoj.org (Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica website)
http://www.bwa-jamaica.gov.jm (Bureau of Women’s Affairs website)
http://www.jamstockex.com/index.php (Jamaica Stock Exchange website)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=36675 (K.D. Knight new UDC Chairman: Jamaica Gleaner)
http://www.udcja.com (Urban Development Corporation website)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121011/lead/lead7.html (Under-utilized facilities put huge hole in UDC finances: Jamaica Gleaner)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120729/lead/lead2.html ($400 million shame in the city: Jamaica Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/No-to-a-tariff-increase-for-the-NWC_13116803 (No to a tariff increase for the NWC: Jamaica Observer editorial)
It’s hard to know where to start, on this humid weekend in Kingston town. Heavy rains are forecast this week. I will be up in the Blue Mountains and was hoping for fine weather, with the hurricane season now, and thankfully, in decline… But the light is low, and the air heavy – reflecting, perhaps, the sense of gloom and discouragement in this week’s media.
So let’s deal with that. “Jamaica on the Brink!” is the headline for an opinion piece by Jamaican sociologist Don Robotham, who departed these shores for New York University some ten years ago or more. It is often a little wearying to read and hear Jamaicans living overseas prescribe the solutions for Jamaica’s socio-economic problems from afar. But there is at least one important point in this piece: “We are truly on our own, economically and politically.” The rest of the world has problems of its own. It is not concerned with our predicament, much of it of our own making. I also get a little tired of the much-declared “We little, but we tallawah” (we are small, but strong/tough). Have we really proved how “tallawah” we are – economically, socially? (Putting aside sportsmen/women, etc). Are we tough enough to face up to reality? Or are we more interested in getting our picture on page two of the Jamaica Observer - the social page? I wrote a blog post on social cohesion and unity - “The Power of ‘we’” - last week. Have we released that power – and if so, is it real or is it just fluff and rhetoric?
It’s probably related to this, but there has also been ongoing commentary in the print media on the perceived lack of direction of the current political administration. Is this a fair criticism, I wonder? Admittedly, since I returned from my travels ten days ago I have not seen or heard our Minister of Finance in the media at all. Perhaps he is away. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller seems to be as much the target of criticism now as in early September, when I went away for several weeks. Not much seems to have changed in that respect. To be fair, the Prime Minister did hold the first of her parish forums (fora?) a few days ago, in the troubled city of Spanish Town (always troubled, it seems, and riven by gang warfare and sheer poverty). It’s a pity that the audience (which looked fairly large on television) had to wait two hours before the Prime Minister actually spoke to them. I watched some of it on the Jamaica Information Service’s live stream. It was basically a written speech, making announcements and promises of jobs and development for the town. I am not sure how much dialogue there was with the audience afterwards. A forum must include Q&A, one supposes. It might have helped if the Prime Minister had herself arrived on time; she was late. And one has not heard much feedback from the citizens of Spanish Town. Perhaps they just came to hear promises.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Gleaner today (among other commentators) is still claiming that the Prime Minister has “gone AWOL” and that her ministers are off on their own projects, left to their own devices. Jamaica needs a firm hand at the wheel, the critics suggest. Jamaica cannot drift along on the tides of global fortune (and misfortune). It seems to me that the Opposition pipes up about crime and the economy every now and then; but there is no real indication that they would have any stronger leadership to offer to the poor, confused people of Jamaica. Opposition Justice Spokesman Delroy Chuck is by far the most vocal.
This week, the Prime Minister will pay an official visit to Canada this week to discuss matters of interest to both Jamaica and Canada. Of course, there is quite a large Jamaican diaspora in Canada, whom I assume she will also meet during the five days she will be there. That’s basically the whole week, right?
The Ministry of Finance has, this evening, broken its silence on the International Monetary Fund issue. It will not be able to finalize an agreement by the end of this year, it noted in a press release Sunday evening; but it remains confident that the negotiation will go forward. We had already guessed that. The IMF team visited Jamaica in September. When I hear Minister Phillips’ voice, though (and yes, we did hear from him this evening), he sounds tired. I feel tired, too (and somewhat anxious). One of the IMF’s conditions is that the Government should cut the public sector wage bill. The Government says it intends to do so, but was pretty vague about it recently. Oh… I do recall that the Prime Minister promised, on the campaign trail at the end of last year, that her administration would “renegotiate” the IMF agreement within a couple of weeks of taking up office. No comment needed. The local financial analysts remain “cautiously optimistic,” to coin a phrase – with emphasis on the “cautious.”
But before we all sink into the slough of despair…Some people have been celebrating this week. It was National Honors time again (and how quickly these occasions seem to come round!) and 124 smiling Jamaicans proudly received their honors in a long ceremony which was not apparently open to the public. Like the Gleaner editorial, I wonder if there are just too many of these awards. It is not that the awardees aren’t deserving – although it does seem that if you are a reggae musician of a certain age, you do have a very good chance of getting one. But we are a small country. The Gleaner also pointed out that only a handful of those 124 were members of the business community – many of whom do get involved in supporting their communities and make a contribution to society, while also making a profit (and nothing wrong with making a profit of course). I don’t know. I do think, though, that a man who carried a guitar shaped like an M-16; spewed “bad words” continuously at the public and at his long-suffering audiences; and smoked so much weed that he set off smoke alarms in hotels; meanwhile fathering many children with several women, may not qualify for a posthumous Order of Merit (his former fellow band member, Bob Marley, has one, but his “image” was more savory than that of Mr. Peter Tosh). But it appears that some members of the current administration have a huge admiration for Tosh, and so it happened. Not that I don’t love his music, and enjoyed his rebelliousness. But an O.M.? No.
Not to sound churlish, however… Many congratulations to all those who received awards this week.
There will be more pomp and speechifying soon, as the House of Representatives will pay tribute to former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. The House already spent hours lauding another former Prime Minister, Edward Seaga. Now P.J.’s turn. Forgive me for asking, but isn’t the purpose of the Lower House to conduct the people’s business? What is the purpose of these tributes, these endless speeches, thumping on desks, etc.? Regardless of one’s political persuasion, what is the actual purpose of this? Is it something to do with Jamaica 50?
And isn’t the debate and motion calling for the lifting of the U.S. embargo on Cuba a huge waste of time, too? For heaven’s sake, aren’t there more urgent and pressing Jamaican issues to attend to? I know I sound somewhat insular, but I believe this comes up every year, and the same platitudes are trotted out. It is a feel-good issue on which politicians on both sides can agree and present a united front, I suppose. They can summon up a good bit of righteous indignation, and hot air. And the Cuban Ambassador must be happy for the support.
Moving on… to the Jamaica Public Service Company, everyone’s favorite whipping boy. Having endured a six-and-a-half hour power cut last weekend (to be told after two hours of darkness that the company had not yet dispatched anyone to deal with it) I found it ironic that the recent census concluded that a mere 200,000 Jamaicans are actually consuming electricity without being JPS customers. How does that work? Could we try it, I wonder? The article below on JPS’ customer service (or lack of it) exactly reflects our situation. On the telephone, JPS refers you to bill payment as the first option… emergency comes second on the list. My, oh my.
As for the census, there were numerous media reports this week, which led me to the conclusion that a) taking the census had been a tremendous struggle and a challenge for the poor people visiting door to door, many of whom got a hostile reception; b) the results of the census were therefore incomplete and inaccurate; and c) most Jamaicans who are Christian are Seventh Day Adventist. I needed to know that last fact, although I don’t see the relevance to Jamaica’s development. The Sunday Gleaner really went overboard dissecting the figures on religious beliefs. It failed to explain why Rastafarianism had become quite popular among men, for example, but is embraced by far fewer women. And is this such an important aspect of the census that it merited several pages and yards of column space? But hey, maybe it is all of enormous importance; one letter-writer this week was very concerned about Buddha statues in Hope Gardens. So much for religious tolerance.
Well, I think I will hand out some Petchary Awards, now. They are not worth much, I’m afraid; I don’t have any ribbons or medals to hand out. But top of my list this week must be Digicel, who pulled off a fantastic event last night – a 5K Walk and 5K Run in support of several charities supporting Jamaican children and adults with special needs. The Gleaner, JPS, the Jamaica Constabulary Force and all the other partners and private sector sponsors are to be congratulated. The theme, “Take Back the Night,” sounds familiar as I feel it has been used before in a different context. But the purpose was to put downtown Kingston back on the map – to show that it is a real place, with real people. And that it is safe – not scary. Digicel, Jamaica’s largest cellular phone provider, has invested hugely in downtown; its global headquarters is under construction there. So, this is something significant and meaningful. Thousands of people turned out (not the couple of hundred I was expecting), the atmosphere was upbeat and the event extremely well organized – and fun, as well as making a serious point.
Also… let’s hear it for the female entrepreneurs. There is a group of small businesses, all female-owned, in a charming and discreet complex in my Kingston neighborhood. They all support each other, and they are worth supporting in return. Pay them a visit at 8 Hillcrest Avenue, Kingston 6. You will find it most enjoyable, I promise.
One of our National Heroes is Sam Sharpe, who was also called “Daddy.” Sharpe, who was actually a deacon in the Baptist Church although a slave all his life, was born on an estate called Croydon, in Catadupa, near Montego Bay. Congratulations to all those with the vision to create a heritage park – including a monument to “Daddy” Sharpe, who led Jamaica’s largest slave rebellion. The heritage tour will open on December 15; make a note to visit next time you are in western Jamaica.
P.S. I know I have been very upset with the company she heads, but I must say that the relatively new President/CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company, Ms. Kelly Tomblin, does seem like an awfully nice woman. She is the daughter of a West Virginia coal miner, and her children are called George and Harrison. My favorite Beatle!
You have noticed that I have not mentioned crime once. But now to the saddest part of my weekly blog, which is the unending stream of murders. I wasn’t able to get the names of several unidentified murder victims, although their names may have been released by now. My sincere condolences to all those who have lost loved ones violently this week; and also I am keeping the family and friends of Tandy Lewis, a Post Office employee who has been missing for some time, in my thoughts. As you may recall, another Post Office employee who went missing recently was found murdered with his girlfriend, last month. Here is the list of names, and it concerns me that the parish of St. Catherine (of which Spanish Town is the capital, of course) seems to have recorded quite a few homicides, this week.
And where did 300 rounds of ammunition, found in Westmoreland this week, come from? All for high-powered rifles. It frightens me terribly.
Two unidentified bodies, Clark’s Town, Trelawny
Ryan Richards, 28, Decoy, St. Mary
Shawn Anthony Thompson, 19, Thompson Pen, St. Catherine
Richard Whyte, 25, Gregory Park, St. Catherine
Steve Dobson, Thompson Pen, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Port Esquivel, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Red Hills, St. Andrew
Daniel Stone, 18, Montego Bay, St. James
Trevor Wright, Spanish Town Road, Kingston
Morris Williams, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Jermain Lawrence, 34, Angels, St. Catherine
Barrington Robinson, 25, Angels, St. Catherine
Andrew Blair, 27, Silver Spring, Westmoreland
Dwight Lester, 29, Greater Portmore, St. Catherine (mob killing)
Richard Grant, 29, St. Ann’s Bay, St. Ann
Unidentified man, Salem/Runaway Bay, St. Ann
Nicole Byles, 26, Barbary Hall, St. Elizabeth
George Channer, 63, Claremont, St. Catherine
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121021/focus/focus1.html Jamaica on the brink: Don Robotham column, Sunday Gleaner
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/anybody-out-there/ Anybody out there? Petchary’s Blog
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/we-are-family-on-blog-action-day-2012/ We are family: Blog Action Day 2012
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holness-slams-Govt-on-crime-plan_12749425 Holness slams Government on crime plan: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=40644 Still no leads on Tandy Lewis’ disappearance: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=40594 Census: Majority of homes still without computer, Internet access: Jamaica Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/PJ-Patterson-to-be-honoured-by-Parliament P.J. Patterson to be honored by Parliament: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121021/news/news4.html Murdered woman was pregnant: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121018/lead/lead7.html Trio sentenced in Montego Bay kidnapping case: Jamaica Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/32040 Statement by Prime Minister Simpson Miller following the Cabinet retreat: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Some–missing–girls-really-hiding-from-dons–says-cop_12736983 Some “missing” girls really hiding from dons, says cop: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121018/news/news4.html Develop downtown, create more jobs – economic expert: Jamaica Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/News/International-conference-to-examine-life-and-culture-of-Maroons International conference to examine life and culture of Maroons: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121017/letters/letters1.html Un-Konshen-able! Select more tasteful performers for national events: Jamaica Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Poor-governance-hampering-environmental-progress-in-region-_12773814 Poor governance hampering environmental progress in region: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121017/letters/letters3.html Why so many Buddha statues at Hope Zoo? Jamaica Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Police-net-ammo-in-Westmoreland-raid_12804686 Police net ammo in Westmoreland raid: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Mob-killings-are-murder–Commish-warns Mob killings are murder, Commish warns: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121018/cleisure/cleisure1.html Where is the Government? Jamaica Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Awardees-express-gratitude-for-national-honours–awards_12773876 Awardees express gratitude for national honors, awards: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121017/cleisure/cleisure1.html Time to review National Honors? Jamaica Gleaner editorial
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-117/32028 Government approaching IMF discussions seriously, says Prime Minister: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121020/letters/letters2.html ”Amusing” speech from PM: Jamaica Gleaner letter to the editor
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Chavez-gives-Petrojam-priority Chavez gives Petrojam priority: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-107/32021 House supports motion for lifting of Cuban embargo: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121021/business/business1.html Census highlights power gap: Consumers outnumber JPS customers base by more than 200,000: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121021/out/out2.html Ten things you didn’t know about Kelly Tomblin: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Professor-says-Jamaica-needs-strong-planning-agency_12772458 Professor says Jamaica needs strong planning agency: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121021/cleisure/cleisure1.html Where is the Government? Simpson Miller administration AWOL: Sunday Gleaner editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/JPS-s-response-to-power-outages_12743896 JPS’s response to power outages: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121017/cleisure/cleisure3.html Sex-offender registry an overreach: Jamaica Gleaner op-ed
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/INDECOM-to-establish-own-crime-lab INDECOM to establish own crime lab: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/westernnews/MORE-FM-strengthening-community-energy_12787164 MORE FM strengthening community energy: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121014/focus/focus3.html Were all our heroes really heroes? Busta, Manley don’t qualify: Jamaica Gleaner op-ed
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/MoH-says-over-1500-premises-inspected–122-communities-fogged-in-Corporate-Area MoH says over 1,500 premises inspected, 122 communities fogged in Corporate Area
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-A-new-dawn-in-heritage-tourism-_12778886 ”A new dawn in heritage tourism”: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/PM-promises-facelift-for-Spanish-Town_12795720 PM promises facelift for Spanish Town: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Out-of-many–one-people_12732617 Out of many one people: Jamaica Observer op-ed
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/A-card-pack-of-jokers-on-Seaga A card pack of jokers on Seaga: Jamaica Observer column
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Three-charged-with-murder-of-attorney-Clover-Graham_12807126 Three charged with murder of attorney Clover Graham: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Jamaica-in-deep-foreign-exchange-problem_12771188 Jamaica in deep foreign exchange problem: Jamaica Observer column
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Kingston-s-best-kept-retail-secret_12805015 Kingston’s best-kept retail secret: Jamaica Observer
As Jamaica continues to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of our Independence, I was pondering the nature of our heroes, role models and so on. It is wonderful to praise the successes of our Olympians, and the legacy of our National Heroes (although I am not so keen on the political ones, myself). But there are many other amazingly successful Jamaicans, at home and abroad, in many other fields. Sprinting and politicizing aren’t the only things we are good at. There are Jamaicans who are astonishingly good at what they do, all over the place. And by “success” I don’t necessarily mean winning something, or getting a National Honor. This kind of success is simply being very good at whatever you do. It’s a path you take, a journey you make – and it’s no flash in the pan.
I have been thinking about information technology and the amazing embrace of the digital universe that we now live in. Everything is a click or a swipe or a touch away. It’s beautiful, and for a small island nation like Jamaica, it is empowering. All we need to do now is bridge that tricky old “digital divide;” I see that the One Laptop Per Child program and other initiatives are helping to throw some ropes across that divide globally. We have pioneering men and women in technology in Jamaica, too. Ingrid Riley of SiliconCaribe is one of those who is pushing us along, and there are others.
Now, my husband recently discovered someone, online, and I really want to introduce you to him, dear readers – a Jamaican, an inspiration, an entrepreneurial master of his craft. His name is Lloyd Carney. And he is the same age as Jamaica this year – fifty years old, and indeed a high achiever. “Forbes“ magazine, in an article linked below, says Mr. Carney is “walking the talk” in Silicon Valley as a venture capitalist and IT entrepreneur. Initially, he made use of an interesting concept called the Start-up Common in Silicon Valley. I will have to learn more about the Common. Mr. Carney – currently the CEO of Xsigo (“See-go”), which was recently acquired by Oracle – is good at grabbing firms by the scruff of the neck and infusing them with success. Xsigo’s achievements are connected to Data Center Fabrics and virtualization. I am not a technical person, but I do know that although it is a small firm, it has a product that is greatly in demand. Xsigo is only eight years old.
What have I learned about Lloyd Carney? Mr. Carney was born and grew up in Jamaica – he attended Wolmer’s High School in Kingston – and in 1979 he stepped off the plane in Boston to continue his studies. He started off with medical studies – everyone doing science in those days was supposed to become a doctor, it seems – but medicine was not for him. He ended up obtaining a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Wentworth Institute and a Masters in Business from Lesley College. He then went to work for various computer firms, moved to the West, created Bay Networks and ten years ago began to make great strides, working in top positions at Nortel, Juniper Networks, Micromuse and IBM Netcool, among other IT firms. Fast-paced and flying high.
But Mr. Carney is not just a faceless businessman obsessed with money. He “gives back” to his native country, to Haiti, Africa and to marginalized communities in California, where he lives. He and his wife Carole set up a charitable foundation in 1999, which focuses on healthcare and children. The Lloyd and Carole Carney Foundation supports a house for orphans in South Africa; has donated medical equipment to the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston and Black River Hospital; and donated a computer lab to Vaz Preparatory School in Kingston. Mr. Carney also serves on the board of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula in California.
The glitz and the glamor of Usain Bolt is enormous fun (although I am afraid he has now become the target of the sleazy UK tabloids, which was bound to happen). It’s exciting and glittery and golden, and it’s Jamaica 50. But my point is: There are many other ways in which young Jamaicans can achieve, with ambition, determination, hard work… and yes, a touch of Jamaican flair and imagination.
Be inspired! Be very inspired!
http://carneyglobalventures.com (Carney Global Ventures website)
http://www.vazprep.edu.jm (Vaz Preparatory School)
http://wolmers.org (Wolmer’s Schools website)
http://www.bgcp.org (Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula)
http://www.forbes.com/sites/petercohan/2012/08/22/lloyd-carneys-profitable-journey-from-jamaica-to-palo-alto/ (Forbes.com: Lloyd Carney’s profitable journey from Jamaica to Palo Alto)
http://www.forbes.com/sites/petercohan/2012/02/15/xsigo-aims-a-dagger-at-ciscos-heart/ (Forbes.com: Xsigo aims a dagger at Cisco’s heart)
http://www.xsigo.com/blog/2012/02/data-center-fabric-xsigo-ceo/ (Xsigo CEO Lloyd Carney explains Data Center Fabric – video)
http://www.siliconcaribe.com (Siliconecaribe.com – Jamaican blog)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20071007/business/business4.html (Jamaican venture capitalist offers business tips on China – Jamaica Gleaner)
Oracle to acquire network virtualisation technology provider Xsigo Systems (siliconrepublic.com)
Oracle Acquires Virtual Networking Concern Xsigo Systems (allthingsd.com)
Youth Using Technology to Combat Child Abuse (petchary.wordpress.com)
OK, so now our fifty years are behind us, Jamaica. What of the next fifty years? For the remainder of the year, this blog is planning to focus on a regular basis on our youth. In case the (mostly) old men currently governing our country did not realize, we must hand over the future of Jamaica to our young people. Our next fifty years belong to them.
Listen to them. Engage them. Empower them. Let them create our future. Trust them!
I am starting with a speech by Jamaican youth advocate Jaevion Nelson, who is speaking in the context of HIV/AIDS. Jaevion is a great role model and an example of how our bright Jamaican young people can really make a difference – through their words and actions. More to come in future blog posts!
Speech by Jaevion Nelson, Executive Director of the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network, delivered at the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C. during a Regional Session on Sustainability and HIV.
- Adolescents map HIV risks, part of a holistic approach to treating HIV/AIDS in Haiti. (zedie.wordpress.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/listen-to-the-youth-no-stop-really-listen-please/ (Listen to the youth: Petchary’s blog April 28, 2012)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/african-postman-the-mandela-connection-and-our-children/ (Mandela and our Children: Petchary’s blog July 27, 2012)
- Young People Navigate Relationships, Romance and HIV (voanews.com)
- Youth Want Voice at AIDS 2012 (voanews.com)
- As global AIDS conference gets under way, Jamaican activists seek more robust focus (miamiherald.com)
- CHC Career Profile: Orain Edwards, Jamaica (caribbeanhealth.org)
- Teenagers living with HIV show what life’s like in their shoes (guardian.co.uk)
- HIV awareness ‘dropped off radar’ (bbc.co.uk)
- HIV And Young Black Gay Men: New Study Shows Group To Be Most At Risk (huffingtonpost.com)
Well, it’s now five days into the Olympic Games 2012, and I am hooked, line and sinker. This despite my declarations that I was already weary of the excitement and “hype” surrounding the Jamaican track team. The football World Cup was, I asserted, a much bigger item on my personal sports calendar than the Olympics. But there it is. If I was one of the twelve Greek gods sitting on Mount Olympus right now, I would be grinning, shouting “woot woot,” waving flags, painting my face and fingernails in my colors, and generally behaving rather foolishly. (Which of the twelve would I be? Well, due to my birth sign I should be Ares, but he gets such a bad rap. Apollo, I think. He’s rather New Age and likely an old hippie by now).
By the way, did you know there is a Mount Olympus near Salt Lake City, Utah? In Mormonland, no less. It seems a little incongruous, somehow.
OK, well back to the beloved athletes. And yes, they are beloved. I love each and every one of them (unlike some Jamaicans, who love only the Jamaican competitors, apparently). I have taken them all into my heart, until it is almost bursting. My frequent exclamations of, “Oh, isn’t she sweet!” or “Isn’t that lovely!” may have started to irritate my husband, who has not been watching with my level of enthusiasm.
Perhaps it’s because they all look so young. They are young, and hopeful, and mostly very dedicated. Their mums and dads and girlfriends and boyfriends and kid brothers and sisters are often sitting in the stands. It kind of tugs on the old heart strings, quite a bit.
Take, for example, the South African swimmer Chad Le Clos. To his utter amazement, the twenty-year-old from Durban beat his idol, the awesome American Michael Phelps, to win gold in the 200 meters butterfly by the tiniest fraction of a second. Phelps had made an error right in that last little fraction. Young Chad could not believe it (perhaps he still cannot). What moved me was his complete meltdown during the medal ceremony. Unable to hold back the tears but valiantly battling with his emotions, his lower lip trembled uncontrollably as he tried to mouth the words of the national anthem. He was a quivering wreck. Up in the stands, his father Bert, who had been waving his country’s flag, simply threw the flag over his own head in a gesture of astonishment and joy. Do watch the hilarious BBC interview with the insanely proud Bert – link below.
And how cool do the swimmers look, striding out in their team gear from a little tunnel. Some wave cheerily, others seemed introverted and serious, others nonchalant, with wires dangling from their ears as they listened to their favorite i-Tune. A Japanese swimmer bows politely to the audience as he emerges. Then there is the ritual of adjusting the tight swim caps (like a second skin) and pressing the goggles into the eye sockets. Everything tight. When I used to swim, my cap was a hideous contraption with a chin strap that always came undone; it smelled of rubber and chlorine. Nowadays, they look so neat and slick.
I have been hypnotized by the acid blue of the swimming pool water, the lines and the ropes and the whistles. I am absorbed by the images of the huge, glistening shoulders of the male swimmers lifting out of the water in slo-mo; the acrobatic flips of the girl swimmers underwater as they touch the end of the pool; the competitors’ watery embraces as they congratulate each other, unwilling to come out of the pool immediately.
Our Jamaican swimmer, Alia Atkinson, did remarkably well, just missing a medal in the finals of the 100 meters breaststroke. Unflappable and full of an energetic spirit, she seems to be enjoying herself. She set two national records when she won a qualifying swim-off against a Canadian girl and in her heats of the 200 meters breaststroke. She will be back in the pool on Friday, folks! We are all, of course, incredibly proud of her, and I would say she may have passed expectations: her own, and ours.
Oh my goodness. And then there was the little Lithuanian girl, just fifteen years old, who won the race that Alia came fourth in. She raised her dripping arms in joy. Her pink and white face crumpled in tears and became a darker shade of pink on the podium as she collected her medal. Just a girl.
And then…the divers, their elegant strength. The synchronized divers absolutely captivated me, their toes balanced in unison on the end of their springboards, utterly motionless, then at an unspoken signal soaring. Spins and somersaults. A little pool that they sit in at the end, anxiously hovering, waiting for the next dive, hardly looking at each other or their competitors. The men and women divers are so slender and strong. An Italian woman murmurs “one, two…” and then they go, with supreme elegance.
Away from the water, shaking the drops off, I watched the gymnasts with equal enthusiasm. There were the girls, all sequin and glitter – on their eyelids, their pre-teen costumes. They sit on the ground and pull at the bandages that support their limbs, their fingers – so fragile and so strong. Again, the little glimpses of humanity touched me. When a member of the Japanese team – so stylish – realized that they had missed out on a medal, his eyes clouded with tears of disappointment as he looked up at the scoreboard (a few minutes later, the results were revised and the Japanese actually won a silver). The proud parents of a Chinese gymnast stood clutching the bouquet that she had just thrown to them, and no one could wipe the smiles off their faces.
Two other gymnasts delighted me: Sixteen-year-old Gabrielle Douglas, a member of the U.S. women’s team which won gold, was the energy that held them together. Gabrielle left her family in Virginia behind two years ago to train with a Chinese coach in Iowa. I tried to post another photo of Ms. Gabby at age six but it wouldn’t post for some reason. She looks like a girl “on a mission” – to quote a current Jamaican song…
The other was another gold medal winner, the marvelous Kohei Uchimura – he of the spiky shock of hair and impish smile. Only 23 (so he might do another Olympics) he flew effortlessly through his routine. A competitor, Cuban American Danell Leyva, said, “If I spoke Japanese, I would tell him that he is the best gymnast that ever lived — so far.”
Another African American gymnast, John Orozco, made me want to jump up and give him a big hug, after he failed on the pommel horse (a horrible contraption that I developed a real hatred for in my schooldays). He sat down and pressed his knuckles, his palms whitened with dust, onto his brow. He must have felt like screaming. “I couldn’t feel my arms,” Orozco said.
And yes, you’re right, I loved him too, like all those who won…and lost, and did their best.
Some other amusing little vignettes: Firstly, the South Korean women’s archery team, like middle-class housewives on a day trip, wearing those odd little hats. They fired their arrows with a light touch, and after a successful shot gave each other ladylike high fives. But there was a steely glint in their eyes. They won, very politely but firmly. A Chinese gymnast exhaled gently before each portion of his floor routine. An Italian fencer shouted and strode around the stage, arms high in victory, while his defeated Romanian opponent sulked darkly, glaring into the helmet he had pulled off his head. I don’t know if you saw any of the fencing – it was remarkably aggressive and macho. I had thought it was a very well-behaved kind of sword fight with fancy technology and helmets that light up red and super-sensitive swords, but no. There was considerable real-life drama, tears and stamping of feet and temper tantrums in some of the contests, both men’s and women’s. Perhaps they just have too many rules, and they’re all rebels at heart. They want to tear off the protective gear, pull out those wires, and just fight - like in an old Errol Flynn movie. So it’s permanent frustration for them.
Meanwhile, the all-American boy Michael Phelps surged on through the bright blue waves of the pool to break the record for the most medals won by any individual athlete in any sport at the Olympics – a total of nineteen, but I believe he has a couple more races to go. With his big, disarming smile, he has the air of a college student (possibly a fraternity member) who loves to have a good time with his buddies and is not quite sure how he managed to be so famous. But he’s a fierce competitor, like all the others. As an aside, the remarks of our Jamaican sports journalists on Phelps’ achievement left a sour taste in my mouth. They concluded that no, this did not make Phelps the ”greatest” athlete – just the ”winningest” - where did that word come from, by the way? If Phelps had been a Jamaican, I am sure he would have been the greatest, in their eyes. But they can’t seem to see how biased they are, although they accuse other countries of bias. It’s sad to see that kind of blind nationalism. But that is the not-so-nice side of the Olympics.
And then, ladies and gentlemen, there was the eye candy. As one might expect, the parade of stunningly super-fit athletes is quite dazzling. I’ve never seen so many six-packs in my life. I have posted a few examples below and will make no further comment – except to say that the sight of the male divers, their speedos barely clinging to their hips, was really a bit too much for me at my age. Bring the smelling salts, please, quick! (The girls seem to like posing on magazine covers and in ads, so I have included a few of those for you male readers!)
But wait…who do I see on the horizon? Here come the Jamaicans!
wait…Bring on the Jamaicans!
- Mount Olympus: Origin of the Olympic Ideal (thevibes.me)
- Mother Nature’s Olympians crowned (cosmiclog.nbcnews.com)
- The Olympic Games, the Greeks, and God (reflectionandchoice.wordpress.com)
- Moonday’s Heroic Hunk in History: Zeus on Olympus (southernsizzleromance.wordpress.com)
- Father, daughter rescued from Mount Olympus (abc4.com)
- http://go-jamaica.com/news/read_article.php?id=38958 (Alia at it again Friday morning)
- Jamaica and The London 2012 Olympics: Profile on and Olympic Schedule for Alia Atkinson, Swimmer (theislandjournal.wordpress.com)
- Come on Gov’t! It’s Not Just Alia Atkinson Who Needs Help! (newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com)
- Olympics 2012: Michael Phelps owns medals record, but is he the best ever? (pennlive.com)
- Jamaica and The London 2012 Olympics: Video of Jamaican Swimmer Alia Atkinson, fourth in 100m breaststroke final (theislandjournal.wordpress.com)
- Le Clos elated after beating his hero (iol.co.za)
- http://gabrielledouglas.com (Gabrielle Douglas website)
- http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/sexy-olympic-athletes-storm-london-games-2012-16903555 (Secrets of the sexiest athletes)
- http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/Photos+talented+beautiful+women+London+2012+Olympics/6814079/story.html (Twenty talented, beautiful women of the London 2012 Olympics)
- http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/tom-daley-gets-unnecessarily-censored (Tom Daley gets unnecessarily censored)