Jamaicans love their beaches. Like many human beings the world over, they love to do silly things like burying long-suffering friends up to their necks in sand; or running down into the sea carrying a kicking and screaming girl, and throwing her in. Jamaicans aren’t really big on sandcastles, though; I think the sand is too soft and fine. And then, of course, there was the sand that was stolen, by persons unknown, that was even featured in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not“ a few years ago. That is one of those mysteries wrapped in an enigma, as they say; although some people know the truth of it.
But at the moment, Jamaica is feeling Sandy all over. Yes, Tropical Storm-soon-to-be-Hurricane Sandy is churning its way to the south of the island. Ir’a making a bee-line for Jamaica. It’s getting late, and the rain that has pounded us steadily since morning has eased up, giving us a bit of a break before Sandy herself arrives. She is due to check in around midnight tonight, and will be fully ensconced on the island by midday tomorrow, we are told. There she is, with her sphere of influence clearly marked, in the National Hurricane Center‘s diagram below…
Now, this is the first storm that has threatened Jamaica seriously this year. It has been a quietish year for us, storm-wise. Many storms have wandered off northwards, where they generally fizzle out and “lose their tropical characteristics.” This basically means that they get a bit chilly as they wander off towards Newfoundland, and have to put on woolly jumpers over their bikinis (or “bath suits” as many Jamaicans call them). They just haven’t been able to get into the tropical, Caribbean thing. No pina coladas for the likes of Florence, Nadine, Michael, Chris… They were all up there drinking hot toddies, instead.
It’s a funny thing with tropical storms. They bring about a wide range of emotions among Jamaicans; but there is no doubt they give many of us a little adrenalin boost. Yes, these male and female climatic disturbances add a little frisson of excitement to our humdrum lives. For a start, the schoolchildren like them; it means schools are closed (as they are tomorrow). Those who are lucky enough to be working are sent home early (as happened around lunchtime today). Those who can afford it rush off to the supermarkets to stock up with candles, kerosene oil, batteries, and tins of bully beef (corned beef, if you prefer).
Ah yes, the latter has become a traditional must-have when storm clouds gather. It doesn’t go off, so you can eat it when your fridge has warmed up during long power cuts. I must admit that, ever since the serious horror that was Hurricane Gilbert (1988) – a direct hit on Jamaica – I have been unable to stomach that slippery, salty chunk of meat that you prise out of the tin. We ate tons of it in 1988, with rice. It gives me a heavy feeling in my stomach just to think of it. Hurricane Gilbert was, among other things, a serious case of chronic indigestion for me.
At about two o’clock this afternoon the mood of uptown Kingston (and, I am sure, elsewhere) dramatically changed. It was as if everyone had got a shot in the arm. The traffic flying up and down our street steadily increased, developing into a kind of frantic cacophony. The tension was almost palpable. Even a police car wailed along in the pouring rain, amongst all the desperate uptowners who, freed from their workplaces, were racing up and down with checklists of things-to-do-before-the-hurricane-comes. Fill up the car with gas; buy supplies at the supermarket; buy supplies at the hardware store – there’s a little leak in the roof/window/door that needs fixing; check in with aged relatives who are fretting about howling winds tearing down their awnings; pick up happy little child from school (don’t forget); and most of all, make sure you don’t starve during the one or two days of the storm. Whatever that takes. So, of course, the supermarkets and the gas stations love tropical storms too. This year, they probably feel that Christmas has come early; a couple of chains tweeted that they are open to midnight tonight – presumably until they have nothing left to sell but expensive wines and obscure foreign foods.
There was actually a traffic jam outside our front gate for half an hour this afternoon – something that rarely, if ever happens. SUVs foaming at the mouth.
But not everyone gets into a spin about hurricanes. Other Jamaicans affect a nonchalant air. “Oh, it’s just a bit of rain,” they say. They make a big show out of not going to the supermarket, and don’t even bother listening to the radio bulletins that many of us listen to avidly, trying to read between the lines… (Is it going to turn away just a little, and miss us? If it does come, how strong are the winds going to be? How much more rain will we get? And so on). The nonchalant ones smile knowingly and adopt a know-it-all, slightly patronizing tone when commenting on the looming storm. Quite irritating, especially when they are proved right - it actually was just a bit of rain - and adopt an air of “I told you so.”
Others, of course, know everything there is to know about hurricanes. They will talk glibly with anyone who has half an hour to spare about “maximum sustained winds” and “wind shear” and the like. Yes, over the past ten years or so, many of us have become experts. Satellite imagery and projected paths are second nature to us now.
And of course, the media fraternity loves hurricanes. So much to say about them, over and over. We can never get enough hurricane preparedness tips, hurricane updates, and endless footage of inundated roads and houses perched on the edge of gullies. Worst of all, there are the tedious interviews with individuals among the herd of supermarket shoppers. When accosted by a journalist, they say riveting things like: “Well, I haven’t bought much” - camera zooms in on shopper’s trolley - “just a few necessary items…” Oof.
As for me, I happened to be in the beautiful Blue Mountains of Jamaica as Sandy started brewing. Mavis Bank in rural St. Andrew (about a 45-minute drive straight upwards from Kingston) is a magical place. Population about 2,000; elevation about 3,000 feet. Bamboos bow their heads on the hillsides; streams trickle under small bridges and sometimes across the road; pine trees march along the brow of the hills. White scarves of mist appear and disappear among the folds of the mountains. It is green; it is cool; the water tastes sweet; it is a different world altogether from the dusty city below. There is the Jablum coffee factory, which smells fragrant as you drive past. People call to each other across a valley, or from a steep slope, or from a river bed up to the roadside. Parrots and pigeons scurry over the treetops. It is beautiful.
Sadly, I did not stay longer than a day in this cool green world. As the weather appeared to deteriorate, I reluctantly left the mountains and returned to Kingston, just before the crazy uptowners were unleashed on the roads. I had planned to spend the week there, at a very interesting workshop organized by Our Tomorrows and attended by a small but enthusiastic group that included members from the Turks & Caicos Islands and Surinam.
You see, storms just don’t give me an enjoyable buzz, like the jolt of a good strong cup of coffee. For me, it’s like one cup of coffee too many. I get a little jittery. I become obsessed with every move that the storm makes. I peer out of the window at the sky. I listen to every weather bulletin until I am sick of hearing the same thing over and over. And then, there is a kind of weariness, similar to the feeling after a caffeine overdose has worn off. I become listless and watch boring television programs that I would not normally find interesting. And I don’t find them interesting. Tropical storms are a real downer.
And frankly, I don’t care for the name Sandy. No offense intended to all the very nice Sandys out there, but it conjures up a rather seedy image to me – go-go dancers or something. I do recall there was an English singer – tall and skinny – called Sandy Shaw. She sang covers of Burt Bacharach songs and didn’t wear shoes, for some reason (this was considered daring in conservative England in the sixties).
Much more amusingly, I also recall a different kind of Sandy, again from my teenage years in England. Two comedians (Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams) used to do a very camp radio sketch which included the catch phrase: “Hello, I’m Julian, and this is my friend Sandy.” They were gay interior decorators – at a time (the mid-sixties) when homosexuality was still illegal in England. Sandy would say things like, “Ooh, isn’t he bold?“ Marvelous stuff. You can even find it on YouTube.
Meanwhile… I am sitting down here in Kingston, somehow wishing that I was still back on that wet, dripping mountainside where the frogs cry at night and the minibuses blow their horns at every corner.
P.S. While writing this, another character has appeared on the scene - Tropical Storm Tony. But let’s not worry about him – he is, as they say, “no threat to land.”
- Tropical storm warning in Jamaica ahead of Sandy (scnow.com)
- Tropical Storm Sandy approaches hurricane status (cbsnews.com)
- http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7678379.stm (Jamaica puzzled by theft of beach)
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_and_Sandy (Julian and Sandy)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120320/life/life1.html (A religious experience in Mavis Bank: Jamaica Gleaner)
- http://www.bluemountaincoffee.com/index.cfm?method=AboutUs.CoffeeFactory (Mavis Bank Coffee Factory)
This week’s post will be somewhat abbreviated. I am in study mode – I am taking the Diplôme d’Etudes en Langue Française Niveau B1 (DELF exam level B1) in French. I have been preparing at the Alliance Francaise de la Jamaique and would highly recommend their classes. The summer classes – focusing on conversational French – will start soon (see link below) so why don’t you get Frenchified, now! Anyway – exam on Tuesday morning and I am truly out of the habit of studying, revising etc. It is an effort; my attention span seems to have shortened considerably since my student days, which is worrying. Wish me luck!
I called this post “Sunday Songs” because for the entire week (and the previous one) much media and public attention has been focused on a song (or songs). What song are we singing now? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Confusion and contention surrounds the issue of the “Jamaica 50″ official song, intended to raise our spirits and uplift our hearts as we celebrate our half century of independence. The traditional media has been trying to interpret the back-tracking, denials, confirmations and the ultimately contradictory statements emanating from the halls of government. In the background, there has been a ever-louder chorus of disapproval, recrimination and regret in the social media and among local bloggers (see links below), on talk shows, letters to the editor, vox pops and other outlets. Wails of “Oh, why can’t we just all get along, forget the ‘cass-cass’ and enjoy the celebration?” have been barely heard above the rising tide of anger and disappointment. The Minister in charge, Culture Minister Lisa Hanna, knit her brows prettily and said she didn’t know what all the fuss was over the reported sidelining of an official song written by Mikey Bennett (which has some merit, and a more traditionally “Jamaican” feel to it). That was before more was revealed, online and elsewhere. It appeared, for example, that the “new” song – a highly polished, generic pop song performed by Orville “Shaggy” Burrell (a man not unconnected with the current political administration) – was also launched as the “official” song for Jamaica 50. The video, and the program inviting journalists to the launch, appear to confirm this. The Ministry initially tried to say that there are many and varied Jamaica 50 songs, and that various songs had been approved by the Jamaica 50 Secretariat. The Secretariat, headed by a marketing “whizz kid” called Robert Bryan, then denied that Shaggy’s little ditty was the official song, despite what seemed to be evidence to the contrary. Now it is said that the public may be able to vote for a song. Conversations on this topic tend to begin with, “But…” “No, but…” “Well, didn’t they…” and end with question marks.
So, the song celebrating the fiftieth year of our independence seems to be wallowing in a mire of utter confusion. One can use several phrases to describe this state of affairs. Fiasco. Debacle. Mess. Public relations disaster (yes, certainly). I would call it, to use a colorful English term, a right cock-up.
Songs of lamentation at the end of this article, as I had promised to do, every week, as a reminder of Jamaica’s affliction – a fever which never breaks, that of crime and violence.
Moving on, with a sigh…
The People’s National Party administration is again teetering on the edge of a “donation scandal,” this time related to funds that Mr. David Smith, the incarcerated head of the failed Ponzi scheme Olint, says he donated to the party (US$1 million). Let us not forget that Mr. Smith told lawyers that he also donated $2 million to the Jamaica Labour Party, whose representatives become very vague when questioned by journalists. The question is whether the funds should, or will be, returned, as the authorities in the Turks & Caicos Islands have requested. Smith is spending a few years in those islands before moving on for a considerably longer period to the U.S. prison system. The PNP’s chairman Mr. Robert Pickersgill said that there was “no moral obligation” for the PNP to repay the money (I think it is always unfortunate when a political party is linked with the word “moral” in the same headline). With the mood of the Jamaican people as it is, this was altogether a most ill-conceived remark. As one columnist observed caustically, “We allow our MPs and Cabinet ministers to wear the title “honourable” before their names.”
The week has passed very quickly, and I have been too busy to follow every detail in the news, so I will cut this short as my French books are beckoning me. However, I must note in passing that the following items washed over my head during the week:
- The Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) results came out, whereby Jamaican children make the rite of passage from primary to secondary school. There was the usual gnashing of teeth by those parents whose children had not done well enough to go to one of the “traditional high schools” deemed superior (most are in Kingston); and celebrations by those who did well. There were the pompous speeches (or hard-hitting speeches, if you prefer) by our loquacious Minister of Education Mr. Ronald Thwaites, who in time-honored socialist fashion likened the GSAT system to educational “apartheid.” He hit the Sunday Gleaner headlines today with another grand exhortation to poor-performing teachers…“Pack up and go!” My question, as always, to politicians who tell us (ad nauseam) what needs to be done and what the government would like to do is, “HOW?” followed by “WHEN?” Let us just see if there is any action to follow these many pleasing words (yes, I agree 100 per cent, Mr. Minister, but…)
- There was an embarrassing episode involving the Attorney General, who was apparently not aware of a legal opinion that had threatened to turn the entire pension reform process on its head. The opinion was withdrawn…
- There was another fashion show, or another beauty contest; or both, probably.
- A full-scale price war broke out between our two battling mobile phone providers – the dominant Digicel, and LIME – who fired the first salvo. The consumer has benefited greatly. Once again, all is vibrant and healthy in the telecoms sector, presided over by the highly focused Minister Phillip Paulwell (whom I seem to heap praises on every week).
- More good news! The Minister of Finance did some further back-pedaling and jiggling of numbers, and announced that General Consumption Tax would not be imposed on any books at all. Well done to the Book Industry Association of Jamaica, who once again successfully lobbied for the removal of taxes.
- The annual Kingston on the Edge (KOTE) urban arts festival kicked off in fine style on Friday night, and will continue throughout the week.
- The National Gallery of Jamaica (a must-visit for those in Kingston) opened its doors today with its refurbished gallery of the sculptures of Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds, and will be open once a month on Sundays from now on with special events.
- We had the pleasure of attending the opening night of a theater revival – a play called “Stanley, Fay Pularchie and P” written by Gloria Lannaman in the 1970s and set in 1938, the time of major labor unrest in colonial Jamaica. Congratulations to producers Pauline Stone Myrie and Marjorie Whylie (who acted in the original production), director D. Pablo Hoilett and the excellent cast. There are three performances per weekend at the cozy Theatre Place in New Kingston, until August 19, 2012. Lots of humor (I particularly enjoyed one scene in the back of a truck en route to the country); there is drama, and there is no happy ending, really. Great stuff!
- Warren Gyles, 30, in Salt Marsh, Trelawny
- Shamone Henry, 26, in Golden Grove, St. Ann
- Joshman Douglas, in Golden Grove, St. Ann
- Tania Christie Lowe, 37, in Granville, St. James
- Rohan Simpson, 39, in August Town, St. Andrew
- Moses Francis in August Town, St. Andrew
- Two other men in August Town, St. Andrew (names not determined)
- Narval Powell, 16, in Christian Gardens, Portmore, St. Catherine
- Unidentified man, found in Penwood Road, Kingston 11
- Unidentified man killed by police in Temple Hall, St. Andrew
- Melanie Lindo Thompson, 43, Craig Head, Manchester
- Anita Watson, 73
- My Jamaican Caribbean Heritage and Music (rawmultimedia.wordpress.com)
- That Jamaica 50 song… (anniepaul.net)
- Our Jamaica 50 Song….What the Hell Is It? (newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com)
- Lessons from the Jamaica 50 Song Fiasco (newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/On-a-Mission-was-never-the-Jamaica-50-celebration-song–says-Secretariat (Jamaicaobserver.com)
- Celebrating Jamaica’s 50th Year of Independence (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120624/lead/lead76.html: Grange wants Hanna to come clean (jamaica-gleaner.com)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120623/cleisure/cleisure2.html: Stop politicizing Independence (jamaica-gleaner.com)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Wrong-jungle–Mr-Pickersgill_11772217: Wrong jungle, Mr. Pickersgill! (jamaicaobserver.com)
- http://alliancefrjm.org/: Alliance Française de la Jamaïque
- http://natgalja.org.jm/ioj_wp/: National Gallery of Jamaica
- http://www.kingstonontheedge.org/: Kingston on the Edge 2012
- http://susumba.com/theatre/news/gloria-lannamans-classic-stanley-fay-pularchie-and-p-returns-stage: susumba.com preview
- Sunday Swirl: June 3, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- The Sunday Stumble – premiere edition (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Royal Jamaica (theislandjournal.wordpress.com)
- Fifteen ways you know you are in Jamaica (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Ungrateful and Unreasonable : Jamaica’s Response To Digicel (theislandjournal.wordpress.com)
- Sunday Steam (petchary.wordpress.com
- Sunday Swirl: June 3, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- The Sunday Stumble – premiere edition (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Royal Jamaica (theislandjournal.wordpress.com)
- Fifteen ways you know you are in Jamaica (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Ungrateful and Unreasonable : Jamaica’s Response To Digicel (theislandjournal.wordpress.com)
- Sunday Steam (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Burning the Political Fires, a flint of Olint (theislandjournal.wordpress.com)
Last week, all was to be revealed in the overdue Budget, which was tabled in the Lower House on Thursday. But before we got to that, the week opened with a stunner.
Mr. David Smith is a Jamaican now serving a few years behind bars in the Turks & Caicos Islands, after being found guilty of cheating thousands of Jamaicans, Americans and others of their hard-earned cash (at least US$220 million) through his “unregistered financial scheme,” Olint, which offered fantastically high rates of interest rates. The already-rich and powerful, and others less so, initially benefited; but like all Ponzi schemes, inevitably, Olint collapsed. After a relatively short stint in the Caribbean, Mr. Smith will move for a considerably longer period to a prison in the United States, where he was indicted on 23 charges of wire fraud and money laundering last summer. Meanwhile, he has informed prosecutors that he donated money to both Jamaican political parties as well as some individuals. Confiscation orders have been issued in the Turks & Caicos; these are now regarded as “tainted gifts”. The ruling People’s National Party (US$1.3 million) has prevaricated somewhat, saying it has no record of such a payment, but will look into it. Former People’s National Party Prime Minister PJ Patterson (US$1 million) speedily denied receiving any such thing. The Jamaica Labour Party (US$5 million) conceded that it did receive money from Smith/Olint, but is not sure if it was that much. Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz (US$50,000) said yes, he did receive money but called it a “political contribution to the constituency.” A fellow party member, political candidate Sally Porteous (US$100,000) has also been candid. All this was prior to the 2007 general elections, by the way, when Mr. & Mrs. Smith were welcome guests at top-class cocktail parties across the island, and appeared in the newspapers almost every day in a highly positive light.
How times have changed. And we shall wait and see.
As for the budget itself, which increased by fourteen per cent, debt repayments took the lion’s share as expected. Finance Minister Peter Phillips, who returned from an important trip to Washington, DC recently, had already warned us to make “sacrifices.” Is this the “bitter medicine” of which former Prime Minister Andrew Holness spoke just a few months ago? Sounds like it to me. Painfully, justice, education, national security and health all took cuts. What could be more important than these?
Another piece of news, this time from overseas stunned the Jamaican public last week: President Obama’s quiet declaration in an interview that his views on same-sex marriage have evolved to the point that he can now affirm his support for it. The reaction in Jamaica was largely negative, judging from comments on radio talk shows and letters to the Editor; although I think some quietly applauded his courage in breaking new ground. On radio, Ms. Gloudon had to fend off one or two bullying fundamentalists, one of whom accused her of being “sympathetic” to the gay rights cause because she had the absolute nerve to say that we should at least listen to others’ point of view on such matters. For those in religious straitjackets, I would suggest they consider phrases from the New Testament such as “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Or, perhaps, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye.” I am more than ever convinced that if Jamaicans were to vote on issues (which of course they don’t) and had to choose between George W. Bush and Barack Obama, they would choose the former, despite their declared love for “America’s first black President” as the local media call him. I like the way Canada-based columnist Keeble McFarlane describes President Obama’s declaration: “A declaration of simple humanity.” Or as a Jamaican mother would say, “‘Im is somebody pickney too!”
By the way, I wonder how the Queen’s representative and Governor General felt while reading out the 2012/13 Throne Speech in Parliament on Budget Day? He calmly announced that a priority of the Jamaican Government is to basically abolish him, and to establish Jamaica as a Republic within the Commonwealth of Nations. No more Queenie, whom our Prime Minister has already described as a “wonderful lady,” but… The other priority is to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice as Jamaica’s final Court of Appeal. One expects these two issues to be up there in flashing neon lights for the remainder of this year, and perhaps beyond, generating much political heat and noise. Will either of these developments, which the politicians appear quite excited about, impact the quality of life for Jamaicans in any way? I can’t answer that question. Let us see.
The third Friday of May – starting next week – will be National Children’s Day. Our Queen’s representative (for now), Governor General Sir Patrick Allen made this proclamation last week. The National Child Month Committee’s Dr. Pauline Mullings would like to see the day treated like Mother’s and Father’s Day. Any day for children is welcome – so balloons, sugar cakes and melting ice-cream treats are in order on May 18.
One hundred and sixty-seven years ago (on May 12, 1845) the first group of East Indian indentured laborers arrived at Old Harbour Bay in St. Catherine. Their descendants, whom you can often meet in rural and sugar-growing areas of the island, celebrated Indian Arrival Day in the pouring rain last Sunday at Chedwin Park. A great deal of roti was consumed and delegations from Trinidad and Tobago, the United States and United Kingdom mingled with the locals. Well done, Dr. Winston Tolan of the National Council for Indian Culture for keeping this important part of Jamaican heritage alive. As he noted, ”We are Jamaicans first and foremost.”
Concerns: The third murder trial of Milton “Tony” Welsh, a known People’s National Party activist, was rescheduled last Monday and postponed until November 19 – for another six months! – just because the courtroom where it was scheduled to be held was being used. His $3.5 million bail was extended. His previous two trials ended in a “hung” jury. Charges will be dismissed if this happens again. Welsh is charged with the murder of 21-year-old Damion Hussey following a PNP rally in Golden Spring in January 2006. Will Mr. Welsh or the family of Mr. Hussey ever see justice done? Is this justice?
I don’t understand the people who write newspaper headlines. Why are they so often off the mark? Do they actually read the article itself? A small but irritating example came up in the entertainment pages of Monday’s “Gleaner.” The article, about an American band called The Dubplates, was headlined “Converting California” to their sound system-type music. The article described the band as “California-based,” then proceeded to quote a band member, who spoke at length about the challenges of being a dancehall/reggae band in South Carolina, the city of Charleston, etc. Is this sheer carelessness on the part of the writer, the headline writer, or both? I don’t know why these things annoy me so much. But they just do.
A couple of days after Teachers Day, a female high school student attacked a guidance counselor at Yallahs High School in St. Thomas, because she claimed he “didn’t like her.” Teachers work so hard in difficult conditions, and the children who come through the school gates in the morning bring with them a multitude of unknown grievances, psychological hurt and sadness. I heard Ms. Barbara Gloudon talking to a representative of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) Ms. Ena Barclay, a marvelous primary school teacher, on her “Hot Line” program this week. Ms. Barclay reminded us that these deprived and needy children need love – at home and in the society. Many of them are getting precious little of that – why is it in such short supply? Anyway, kudos to the JTA for organizing a professional development seminar – and for Read Across Jamaica Day, an annual event which brings much happiness and pleasure. And talking about teachers…
A huge pat on the back to Ms. Jean Porter, Principal of Denbigh High School, for her sterling work since 2008, when she took over from Ms. Joan Wint who had served there for 23 years. I remember visiting Denbigh High a few years ago, and being very impressed by Ms. Wint’s stern focus on academic achievement, and by the atmosphere of concentration at the school. Ms. Porter credits the school’s success (it is one of the top ten high schools in Jamaica based on Caribbean Examinations Council results) to team work.
Other bouquets to be handed out to…
Jamaica’s lanky female hurdlers, Ms. Melaine Walker and Ms. Brigitte Foster-Hylton on their gold medals; to Mr. Asafa Powell, Ms. Kaliese Spencer and Ms. Veronica Campbell-Brown for their Silver medals; and to Mr. Lerone Clarke and Ms. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce for their Bronze medals, at the high-profile Diamond League athletics meet on Friday. I hope I haven’t missed anyone out. Congratulations also to U.S. athletes Justin Gatlin and Alyson Felix. It is only 75 days until the London Olympics begin, and Jamaican athletes are flexing their muscles and feeling the pressure. I wrote about this in my blog earlier this week; they are doing their best, working hard. Let us support them, even if they “lose” some races (by “lose” I mean winning a Silver or Bronze medal).
I loved the Gleaner’s special supplement this week – Trailblazers in Medical Sciences. This included a special feature on the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre, founded by a British doctor of the same name in 1954 to deal with a terrible outbreak of poliomyelitis. It now helps children with cerebral palsy, adults with spinal cord injuries, and others. Brave and unrelenting work.
May I express my simple support for Ms. Deika Morrison of Crayons Count, who has energetically taken up the bat for the education and stimulation of our young children; and for Ms. Maia Chung, mother of an autistic son, who set up the Maia Chung Autism and Disabilities Foundation four years ago to lobby for and support Jamaica’s autistic children. The Foundation is now struggling and Maia has had to curtail outreach activities. She needs help and financial support! I am in awe of these two women – both of them an “army of one.” I wish for them every success in the world.
Another Jamaican, Philip Liu, founded Angels of Love about two and a half years ago. He works with the Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston, having adopted one of its wards. Kingstonians, next time you are at the Brick Oven buying cakes, at Cafe Blue indulging in your favorite cuppa, or at Little Tokyo for some sushi…remember to drop some change in their collection box. And they would welcome volunteers, too!
And Mr. Ricardo Williams, one unemployed youth who sought a solution in adversity. He has opened an Internet cafe in the troubled area of March Pen, Spanish Town. Ricardo graduated high school six years ago with one subject – Information Technology. He has one computer, the use of which he rents out for a small fee. Can someone donate some more computers? Read more about Ricardo’s efforts at the link below…
One online comment struck me this week: ”Jamaica can be a very “cold” place. If you are young, old or disabled in Jamaica you are in deep trouble. If you are young and also disabled, may the good Lord help you.”
Why bother: If I see one more full-page photo spread of politicians arriving at Parliament for the Throne Speech, dressed up to the nines, I will rip up the newspaper. The men were, according to the newspapers, “dapper,” “spiffy,” and “dashing.” The women were “stunning,” “stylish,” and and so on. The poor Mayor of Kingston, refusing to join the fashion parade, was severely criticized for wearing a perfectly normal outfit, rather than a designer ensemble. I am, quite frankly, much more concerned about the politicians’ work in Parliament – on behalf of the people – than I am in whether Senator so-and-so was wearing Dior, Escada or whatever. Please, no more!
I’m sorry to end on a sad note…. My condolences to the families of…
Senior Superintendent Dayton Henry, who headed the Clarendon Police Division. I met him once, and was struck by his open, candid disposition and his round-eyed, friendly face. SSP Henry died suddenly, and I know his colleagues are still in shock. Not only was he an efficient policeman, who helped to bring down crime levels in the parish – but he was also a kind-hearted man who supported many community projects.
…and of eleven-year-old Ricardo Dove, who was shot dead while sleeping in bed at his home in Bethel Town, Westmoreland. ”It would have been better if they had killed me,” said his father Robert, who was home at the time and found his son’s body soon after gunshots rang out. My heart goes out to you Mr. Dove, and to the family. Why?
And so the week comes to an end, as early summer starts to stoke up hot clouds in the sky. Hurricane season is a few weeks away…
Have a great week!
Related articles and websites:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120508/lead/lead1.html: Big Olint handouts
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Political-intentions-and-tainted-money_11433253: Column by Mark Wignal, Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20100822/lead/lead2.html: Oh God! Oh no! Olint!
Gold, Silver and Bronze (petchary.wordpress.com)
Sunday Storms (petchary.wordpress.com)
Claim Says Jamaica Crook Funded Political Parties (abcnews.go.com)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120510/lead/lead7.html: Phillips urges Jamaicans to prepare to make sacrifices
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120512/news/news42.html: Indian Arrival Day observed at Chedwin Park
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120509/lead/lead4.html Bethel Town child murdered in his sleep
Angels of Love http://angelsofloveja.org/
Crayons Count http://www.dogoodjamaica.org/crayonscount