Pleazzzzeeee Like Me on Facebook and Follow Me on Twitter: a Jamaican Perspective on Social Media by Dr. Marcia Forbes
Jamaican Fulbright Scholar and media whizz kid Dr. Marcia Forbes (I know the second part of that description will make her chuckle!) has written a most interesting piece on returning from the Fulbright Academy Conference on Global Health, which took place recently in Montego Bay. She’s also a businesswoman, author of two books on social media (available on Amazon.com and in Jamaican bookstores) and the person responsible for getting me hooked on Twitter! And I still tweet madly… @petchary.
This piece includes some thoughts from Marcia on the tremendous hold of social media – and Facebook in particular – on Jamaican youth. And this, despite our “digital divide”… which must be addressed.
Pleazzzzeeee Like Me on Facebook and Follow Me on Twitter – Social Media and Psycho-Social Health
They said it was their best conference ever. This was music to the ears of Jamaicans, in particular the four who comprised the Local Organizing Committee as well as the local Logistics Team.
Recently the Fulbright Academy hosted their annual conference in Montego Bay, under the theme – Global Health. Keynote speakers included Dr Ruth Westheimer, renown sex therapist, media personality and author extraordinaire with over 30 books to her credit and retired NBA shot-blocker and humanitarian, Dikembe Mutombo, acclaimed not only for basketball prowess but for fulfilling his dream of building a hospital in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, his homeland.
The following are excerpts from my panel presentation under the topic Public Health and the Impact of Technology & Social Media.
The Internet as Site of Refuge
Despite low Internet penetration levels and inadequate access, inner-city youths in Jamaica largely see the Internet as a social good and able to improve their psycho-social health. From the total of 108 respondents, 101 of them (94 percent) were entirely positive about the Internet.
The extent to which inner-city girls turned to the Internet as a source of refuge was somewhat surprising, 30 percent of them reported this, compared to 14 percent of boys. These girls were therefore two times more likely than boys to express emotional ties with the net.
A Love Affair – Girls
“The Internet mean a lot to me, without the Internet I can’t survive. It’s my life.”
“The net is a new world for me that allows me to escape my problems and just talk and hang with friends.”
“If I don’t have it I would feel different, alone, left out.”
“The Internet is the part of the computer I love the most.”
But then, perhaps, I should not be so surprised since in Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica many inner-city girls spoke in similar ways about music videos and how they used them to escape the harsh realities of ghetto life. It seems then that Facebook is now replacing some of the roles formerly played by television and music videos.
When many of these inner-city youths talk about the Internet, it is really Facebook of which they speak. This social network is what largely commands their real attention. So, let me look specifically at responses as they relate to Facebook.
Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of 342 Jamaicans in the youth online survey said being on Facebook was their #1 online activity.
“I’m a Facebook girl so most of my time is on Facebook”
Among rural-based girls, 20 percent of them specially mentioned Facebook in their responses to what the Internet meant to them, with half of them saying they were addicted to Facebook.
“I mostly use the internet on my phone and as I get on the phone it is like some spell or addiction. I just get straight to Facebook.”
Issues Relating to Facebook & Psycho-social Health
Girls and boys in rural areas spoke about the social exclusion they felt from not having access to Facebook. These youths in deep rural Jamaica were not only physically distanced from the island’s capital cities and many towns, but were further distanced by way of the digital divide. It negatively affected their self-esteem.
“Like say, if you nuh deh pon facebook, you no have no sense, or dem suppen deh” (If you are not on Facebook you are regarded as not having any sense or discriminated against in other ways.)
Rural participants, both males and females, lobbied hard for Internet access as a basic human right. Youths feel deprived and as if they are missing out when not on Facebook.
Identities – Boys and girls from different socio-economic strata in Jamaica confess to being “loud on Facebook”; To shielding themselves from prying eyes by hiding behind the computer/cell phone screen and playing out various aspects of their identities, especially sexual identity.
Privacy – Sex and sexuality are important to youths. Facebook place these issues in the public domain with near-permanence of online postings. This can have adverse effects as youths move into adulthood and mature beyond their juvenile postings. What potential employers see online can damage youth’s chances for employment.
Cyberbullying and cyberstalking can be real and, as participants and guidance counsellors reported, often move from online to offline and vice versa with threats of physical violence.
Friendships – Increasingly Facebook is being used as a first step toward friendship formation and dating. Potential friends or partners are first screened via this social network. If they measure up relationships move from online to offline.
Technologies, especially social networks but also mobile phones, have accelerated not only wide but often also deep “friendship” connections. Giving and sharing are now possible at multiple levels.
Girls Quarrel, Boys Flirt
Among inner city residents, girls mostly quarrel on Facebook while boys flirt. Discussions with guidance counsellors highlighted this phenomenon. This was corroborated by both boys and girls. And it mostly all revolved around issues relating to sex and sexuality.
“This girl she commented on a picture with me and my boyfriend saying him no look good.”
Facebook is a very visual medium. Pictures hold centre stage for attention and girls compete aggressively for this.
Inner city boys take another aspect of Jamaican culture to Facebook – that of hunting for white women to sponsor them to live overseas. This survival strategy has migrated from off to online. Facebook allows boys to ‘show and tell’ their way into financial support, aided by webcams to display their strongest assets – their bodies.
These boys hold to the Mandingo Myth! – Of black men as sex slaves for white women. So we see that males, like female, compete for online attention. Everyone wants to look good.
Plastic Surgery for Social Media
Research findings from the American Academy of Facial & Reconstructive Surgery point to a 31 percent increase in plastic surgery requests as a result of people wanting to present a better look via social media.
Image-based social media sites are increasing in number and popularity:
Mobile, Social Lifestyles & Need for Digital Literacy
A mobile, social lifestyle buoyed by advances in various online technologies, even among digitally deprived youths, is becoming as real and as important as life offline.
A 2012 research project by McAfee revealed that 67 percent of Australian tweens (ages 8 – 12) used social media. McAfee noted that online behaviours become entrenched in the tween years. This month, May 2013, PEW research reveals that teens are sharing more online – 53 percent posted their email address. Findings like these point to the urgent need for proactive education.
Digital literary, social networking literacy, managing your brand online are areas that all of us need to give special attention. The role of parents and teachers in this is crucial. Social media can be full of ‘drama’, the term teens use to describe life on Facebook (PEW, 2013). It does not need to be this way if we make it our business to educate ourselves and others about some of the consequences of our mobile, social lifestyles.
Dr Marcia Forbes, a Caribbean Journal contributor, is a media specialist, the co-owner of multimedia production company Phase 3 Productions Ltd and former Permanent Secretary in Jamaica’s Ministry of Mining and Telecommunications and later the Ministry of Energy and Mining. She is the author of Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica and the recently-released Streaming: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles.
Follow Dr Marcia Forbes on Twitter: @marciaforbes
We are refreshed by the rain, which has been coming down in oodles for the past few days, every afternoon on cue. It has turned the streets of Kingston into chaos and our lawn into a kind of marshland (previously it was desert). We are nevertheless thankful.
All that wet stuff has not washed away all the silliness that has been going on this week though, sadly. For a start…
The terrors of tweeting: The curse of the tweet has descended on Jamaica. You would think that our public officials would have learned from the sticky situations their overseas counterparts have got themselves into in the not too distant past. But Kingston’s Mayor dipped her toes into these dangerous waters, and got bitten. She used some of her 140 characters to exclaim “What the f!” and went on to complain that two Opposition representatives (including the leader) were appearing on the mid-week television current affairs shows. Now we all know what the “f” in the social media term WTF means (no, it does not stand for “frog”) and the Mayor pretty much acknowledged this in a sort of half-apology during a radio interview with Barbara Gloudon. So let’s move on from that, and the self-righteous indignation. Yes, certainly inappropriate for someone in her position, but let’s not overreact.
The show must go on: Several journalists responded sharply on social media and radio to the Mayor’s accusation of political bias. They pointed out (in fact, one even listed) the number of times they have requested the participation of the Prime Minister and other government officials, who have declined the requests. And the media knows that the show must go on, with or without them. Note: Mayor Angela Brown Burke is a stalwart of the People’s National Party and leader of the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation, representing the majority party. Mayors are not directly elected in Jamaica – except for the Mayor of the Municipality of Portmore.
More importantly…This is all another manifestation of the uncomfortable relationship between the current administration and the media. Isn’t it? So badly out of sync. If I was the Prime Minister, I would gently relieve the current communications consultants (or whatever they call themselves) of their duties, and start afresh with a new “team.” At the moment, the whole thing is lurching from one faux pas to another. It’s painful to watch. And so unnecessary.
Is the press really free, or just comfortable? And talking of the press, there were some interesting remarks at the Press Association of Jamaica’s breakfast in recognition of World Press Freedom Day on Friday, May 3. The church person I have a great deal of time for, the head of Jamaica’s Anglican Church Bishop Howard Gregory, said he did not think either the current administration or the Opposition would want a Commission of Enquiry into the Tivoli Gardens slaughter, as suggested by the Public Defender and others. Why? Because “the complicity factor operates,” says Bishop Gregory. Both political parties will seek to preserve the status quo (see below) and not rock the boat. Who knows what might come out? It might not look good on either party. Best to just let sleeping dogs lie… or in this case, well over seventy dead Jamaicans. Professor Trevor Munroe of National Integrity Action warned against the “nine-day wonder” phenomenon, which a certain local government councilor predicted for the Azan affair recently. Soon blow over. Don’t let this happen! And broadcast journalist Emily Crooks suggested that her colleagues were “not pushing the envelope” – and were, therefore, quite comfortable compared to colleagues around the world who are harassed, attacked, even killed. We need a more “activist” and investigative press, one feels. Complacency is never desirable. The press must, and should, be prepared to rock that boat until the water slops over the sides.
Thievery reaches new heights: With the theft of over 200,000 liters of airplane fuel from the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. Pardon the pun. The mind boggles. How? We wait with bated breath for more news on this… Or else we might just forget to ask?
Houses for the poor: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller seems mighty pleased with her latest plan to revive the Inner City Housing Project, using funds from the poor old National Housing Trust (NHT) – the gift that keeps on giving. There, you see! She is doing something for the poor, after all. Who said she didn’t love them? Others are not so impressed. Responding to a question on TVJ News earlier this week, 91 per cent of viewers said that NHT funds should not be used to assist non-contributors. In a Sunday Gleaner column today, the irreverent Gordon Robinson asks: ”Why are otherwise intelligent persons twisting themselves into knots to defend this indefensible rape of poor people’s assets?” I think he (and we) know a few reasons why. One must not upset the applecart, as that sage People’s National Party councilor told CVM Television in relation to the Richard Azan/Spaldings Market fiasco. All hail the status quo! Long may it live!
Incidentally, the Prime Minister said she had no knowledge of the councilor’s remarks, when questioned by CVM. Rather surprising. Or not?
What Negril does/does NOT have: We noted recently that the tourist town of Negril is extremely short of water. We also now hear that it has had no fire engine for the past two months, and is dependent on trucks from the town of Savannah-la-Mar, a good twenty minutes’ drive away. A large house burnt down yesterday. As the Jamaica Environment Trust notes, the beach is rapidly disappearing, with the sea lapping at beachside attractions; there are dubious plans to revive it by injecting chemicals into it. Oh, and there is basically no coral reef and no fish – all connected with said dwindling beach, of course. I’m informed, also, that the Negril Recycling Centre, supported by the Sandals Foundation about three years ago, is also non-functioning. The nearest one now is in Montego Bay.
Help JA Children, a local lobby group formed just one year ago and founded by the still-ridiculously-young Brandon Allwood, has started a collection of items for children in state care. The collection drive will go on for the entire month of May (Child Month) at Kia Motors, 2 Chelsea Avenue, in New Kingston. Please go through your cupboards or pop down to the store and donate anything that you can spare – clothes, toys, books, stationery and school items, toiletries… Help JA Children has a Facebook page and is on Twitter (@HelpJAChildren).
Reparations, again: In 2001, our very own Barbara Blake Hannah – a passionate Rastafarian defender of Jamaica’s culture – attended the United Nations World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. The conference made 19 excellent recommendations for ways in which the evils of slavery could be atoned for by, in Jamaica’s case, the British Government. A British Lord, Anthony Gifford – a Queen’s Counsel who practices law in Jamaica and the UK – has campaigned tirelessly on the subject; and so has the Jamaica Labour Party’s Mike Henry. And yet, sadly, little or no progress has been made. Essentially, the British have said sorry, but no. The discussions continue. Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves spoke for a remarkable 87 minutes (according to tweets from friends who attended) at the launch of a new book on the topic by Professor Hilary Beckles at the University of the West Indies this week. Mr. Gonsalves has offered to host a Caribbean conference on the topic in his country, at which he will no doubt drone on for another 87 minutes. To my mind, this does not advance us any further. What next? Not more words, please? Let’s have action! It is a burning question, it needs to be resolved, and long speeches are not going to cut it.
But then, this is part of the Pontification Syndrome for which Jamaica is well known. We talk too much!
I hate Page 2: In the current socio-economic climate, my dislike for the social pages in the daily newspapers has been steadily growing. I am developing a real hatred for Page Two and Something Extra and all the other nonsense. I think I am going to start a Campaign for the Abolition of Social Pages (CASP for short). Seriously. They are irrelevant, elitist, classist, and actually rather offensive – in light of the fact that when the IMF funds were disbursed, the government had to ask for a special sum up front for “budgetary support.” So they could pay public sector wage bills for April, perhaps? So can we wave goodbye to those people with drinks in their hands, posing for their photo? Goodbye!
Once again, it is very sad to note the names of those who have been murdered in Jamaica since Wednesday, May 1, when I wrote my last review. My condolences to all those who mourn them (and to the family, friends and neighbors of the twelve-year-old girl who committed suicide in rural St. Catherine last week):
Violet Marsh, 63, Temple Hall, St. Andrew
Phillip Bell, 39, Seaforth, St. Thomas
Leroy Reid, 42, Naggo Head, St. Catherine
Constable Michael Townsend, Effortville District, Clarendon
Killed by the police:
Orane Bowman, Clarendon
Related links and articles (local blogs in purple):
PNP members apologize for controversial tweets: RJR News
Controversy in 140 characters: Gleaner editorial
Can you hear me now? Communication problems at Jamaica’s local government level: Perceptual Post
”Our journalists are not killed, but many stories die”: Jamaica Observer
Jamaican journalists challenged to improve standards: Sunday Gleaner
The people vs Portia: Lloyd B Smith op-ed/Jamaica Observer
Jamaica will find it difficult to implement IMF targets, Fitch says: Jamaica Observer
Lack of accountability in the budget debate: Robert Wynter column/Sunday Gleaner
NDX Saves Gov’t $17 Billion in Payments Per Year on Domestic Bonds: Jamaica Information Service
OUR to hold public meetings on request for increased water rates: RJR News
Energy bill reduction falls short of target: Solar Buzz Jamaica
Paulwell’s statement on CAP not true, says Golding: Jamaica Observer
Clarendon Alumina Partners no cost on budget – Finance Minister: Jamaica Information Service
NHT’s Inner City Housing Project causes headache: Gleaner – April, 2010
PM revives housing plan: Gleaner
The great NHT robbery: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
Upgraded facility to benefit St. Mary farmers: Jamaica Observer
Public beaches raise a stink: Gleaner
”Be more selective”: Food for the Poor Jamaica Chair Andrew Mahfood: lowrie-chin.blogspot.com
Britain’s black debt: The logic of reparation: anniepaul.net
Cut the talk and cut the red tape: Sunday Observer editorial
Richard Azan: The story not yet told: Desmond Allen article/Jamaica Observer
Spalding shops: Parish Council knew: Sunday Observer
Beyond Mr. Witter’s windy diatribe: Gleaner editorial
Witter wrong on ICC enquiry: Letter to the Editor from Lloyd D’Aguilar/Gleaner
We want $1 millon each: Tivoli residents put price on their loss: Gleaner
Anglican bishop says government will do nothing about Tivoli report: Jamaica Observer
Jamaica’s image in jeopardy if no Tivoli enquiry says human rights activist: RJR News
”Dudus” should testify – Witter: Sunday Observer
No disciplinary action yet – Albert Corcho: Jamaica Star
Children’s Advocate calls for partnerships: Jamaica Information Service
Give us clarity, Minister Thwaites: Letter from Senator Kamina Johnson Smith/Jamaica Observer
Child’s suicide leaves void in St. Catherine village: Sunday Observer
Revealing Jamaica’s soul: Jamaicans for Justice op-ed/Sunday Observer
Should contraceptives be introduced in schools? Sunday Observer
Contraceptives in schools: Don’t just dismiss it: Sunday Observer
Chart of the Week: Putting All our Eggs in One Basket? Cargo continues to decline: diGJamaica
”Tablets” for a wounded Jamaica: perceptualpost.com
”Time for Penwood to settle down”: Jamaica Observer
Was Penwood stabbing staged for YouTube? Sunday Gleaner
Prisoners party at Tower Street: Sunday Gleaner
Chronic shortage of special education teachers: RJR News
Sports: The opium of our high schools: Lasceive Graham op-ed/Jamaica Observer
Round and around and around and around we go: Tamara Scott Williams column/Sunday Observer
ODPEM gearing up for active hurricane season: Jamaica Information Service
Portrait of an elderly man: lovely artwork from a young man from St. Mary: jablogz.com
Influential Jamaican saxophonist Cedric Brooks dies at 70: Washington Post”
What happened to the Negril Recycling Centre? Undated photo from Sandals Foundation showsHeidi Clarke (third left), director of programmes at the Sandals Foundation, hands over a cheque valued at $320,000 to Carey Wallace, president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, operators of the Negril Recycling Centre. Looking on are Mark Swainbank of Environmental Resources Management (from left); Junior Gordon, director of the Negril Chamber of Commerce and general manager for Grand Pineapple Negril; Jermaine Robinson, manager of the Negril Chamber of Commerce; and Peter Reid, manager of the Negril Recycling Centre.
It’s warm, bright and it’s Wednesday, which means my mid-week bulletin on Jamaican comings and goings is due. Here goes…
First shops, now houses? I am very sorry that the wonderful charity Food for the Poor, which does so much for Jamaica, has been dragged into a new story of alleged political corruption in South Trelawny. It seems to be a sort of political counterpoint to the Richard Azan saga, since it involves a Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament this time. There are claims from residents, an independent local councilor and others that Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert (what a great name!) has ensured the distribution of wooden houses constructed by Food for the Poor to residents loyal to her party. She denies this, and there were some inaccuracies in the early claims, which Food for the Poor corrected. We shall see what happens after Food for the Poor, which is known for its adherence to accountability and transparency, has done its own investigation into the matter. They should conclude this by the end of the week. I’m beginning to think that Members of Parliament should not be involved in the distribution of any kind of benefits within their constituencies. Perhaps, instead, they could live in their constituencies, and represent them properly in Parliament. Let’s get away from the “scarce benefits and spoils.”
The children: Today is the first day of Child Month – a month when the Government pays lip service to Jamaican children. There are various feel-good events and lots of pictures of sweet, laughing children and politicians patting them on the head. But a child in Jamaica is an endangered species, like the African elephant. Children are actively discriminated against. At best, they are ignored. At worst, they are abused, physically, mentally, sexually, and locked up. Many of those in conflict with the law are labeled “uncontrollable,” bad boys and girls who should be “disciplined.” I have written numerous blog posts on children’s rights in the past. Congratulations to Jamaicans for Justice, who today started a series of articles on children’s rights in the Gleaner. See link below.
The Jamaican Child at Risk: And on the first day of Child Month, I read reports about students of Calabar High School attacking a bus driver in Kingston; a 12-year-old girl found hanging from a mango tree; the body of an abducted schoolgirl found in a cane field; and a student of Robert Lightbourne High School in serious condition after being stabbed at the school in rural St.Thomas today.
PM budget speech: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller made her contribution to the Budget Debate yesterday. Time consumed: well over two hours (her Opposition counterpart spoke for a good three hours!) Perhaps taking a cue from Mr. Holness, the Prime Minister was less confrontational than usual and dropped the hectoring tone for the most part. As a result, it was easier to listen to, without the usual feeding-time-at-the-zoo background noise. She kicked off by professing her love for the poor, mentioned some houses distributed and ground she has broken (in one case at least, with emotion), and used the word “transformation” over fifty times (note to speechwriters: that really is overkill). She wrapped up with several mentions of the word “God” and the usual exhortations to unite and work together… In between, there was little of substance and a lot of fluff (fond as I am of the Sunshine Girls – our national netball team – I don’t see the need to include them in a budget speech).
A couple of concerns: The Prime Minister announced that our new, oriental colonial masters (China Harbour et al) have changed their minds about developing a transshipment port in the Kingston Harbour area near Fort Augusta women’s prison. This decision was made “a few weeks ago.” They have decided to do a bigger, better project somewhere else (“final location undetermined”) in Jamaica instead. This puzzles me and also raises questions about the development of the logistics hub and preparations for the expansion of the Panama Canal. And talking of the hub, what is actually happening now, and what needs to happen by the deadline/s for Jamaica to be competitively “in” on the thing? I have a feeling deadlines are looming, and the Prime Minister proudly announced that party stalwart Professor Gordon Shirley will head a National Taskforce “that will drive the process.” Why in the future – shouldn’t it be happening now?
The NHT again: Yes, another heavy burden will be placed on the National Housing Trust (NHT) this year. The Prime Minister announced that the Trust would have to cough up more for the Inner City Renewal Program and other major projects.
The Tivoli forest: An absolute forest of trees has been cut down for the printing of the long-awaited interim report on the Tivoli Gardens Massacre of May, 2010. We heard that the report would be tabled in Parliament yesterday. This did not happen, since they had not finished printing 63 copies (200 plus pages each). One journalist asked why they couldn’t just use the tablets that Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell had kindly given to each Member of Parliament just recently?
Tweeps find a voice: This morning, broadcast journalist Emily Crooks invited her faithful “tweeps” to comment on the Prime Minister’s speech. So several of us piped up and shared our thoughts on the radio. It was interesting to hear human voices in place of the regular comments on my TweetDeck. Emily and her co-host Naomi seemed rather pleased with us, and we got some compliments about our commentary! Thanks for giving us the opportunity, Em…
Revenge of the security guard: Ambassador Courtney Walsh has refused to accept an apology from the Jamaica Cricket Association for his treatment at the hands of a security guard. He wanted to enter a particular section of Sabina Park, Kingston’s cricket ground and was flatly refused. Now, anyone who lives in Kingston has probably run the gamut of security guards at every business place, government office, shopping plaza or residential complex one might visit. They are extremely poorly paid, work very long hours in poor, sometimes dangerous conditions, and are often grumpy, arrogant and mean. We have to put up with it. They are “doing their job,” as was this particular guard, no doubt. I suppose the phrase “Do you know who I am?” came up. Anyway, the famous sportsman is pretty upset.
Stop press: The interim report on the Tivoli Gardens Massacre has finally been tabled in Parliament this afternoon. Oh, no! I take that back. It wasn’t. Or was it? Yes! It was, and it’s available online, so more trees are spared. Please see the link below. Coincidentally, the New Yorker journalist Mattathias Schwartz writes a follow-up report on the killing of over seventy Jamaicans allegedly at the hands of the security forces, along with a four-minute video. You can find it on the magazine’s online pages. Schwartz visited Jamaica, wrote extensively on the “incursion,” and has now released surveillance footage from the U.S. Government, after filing a lawsuit to obtain it. See for yourself at the link below. And…Today the International Monetary Fund approved Jamaica’s application for a four-year extended fund facility, worth US$958 million. Yay! Now, don’t spend it all at once, will you? You can’t? Oh well… First US$200 million installment coming soon, anyway.
Let’s hear it for the Alpha Boys: I spent some time late last year at the Alpha Boys School in Kingston while volunteering with the JN Foundation. It was Christmas, and the boys were exuberant, energetic and participated in a highly competitive dance competition (Gangnam Style). Congratulations to overseas-based Jamaican artist Michael Thompson, special projects manager at Alpha Joshua Chamberlain, the Bob Marley Foundation and all the other individuals and organizations involved in the Alpha Boys’ revival, including its “rebranding.” The boys will be producing and selling branded shirts; for more details contact Alpha Service Bureau at 930-2200 or email@example.com.
I Believe in Spring Village: A huge pat on the back too, to Randy Finikin of the Spring Village Development Foundation for his great community work over the years; and thanks to the Governor General for his support and the construction of an I Believe Medical Centre under his special I Believe Initiative in Spring Village. You can read more about the program here:
See you on Sunday for the next bulletin!
My condolences to the families of the following Jamaicans, who have been brutally murdered since Sunday, April 28:
Harry Bunwarrie, 28, Thompson Pen, St. Catherine
Sebert Wilks, 70, Bushy Park, St. Catherine
Gerald Wilks, 60, Bushy Park, St. Catherine
Abigail Robb, 15, Clarks Town, Trelawny
Nigel Watson, 38, Somerton, St. James
André Roper, 26, Montego Bay, St. James
Related links/articles (purple links are local blogs):
Office of the Public Defender Interim Report to Parliament Concerning Investigations into the Conduct of the Security Forces during the State of Emergency: Jamaican Parliament (pdf files)
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller‘s Budget Speech, April 30, 2013: Going for Growth and Development
Who got the houses? Sunday Gleaner
Dalrymple Philibert says house allocations not politically aligned: Gleaner
Food for the Poor Jamaica reaffirms its modus operandi of transparency and accountability: Food for the Poor blog
Government raids Trust to fund major projects: Jamaica Observer
Traces of a massacre: Mattathias Schwartz/New Yorker
From one battlefield to another: U.S. tries two new aerial tools to search for drugs in the Caribbean: Washington Post
Danzil Clarke was clueless: Man who robbed Bunting’s friends was unaware of who his victims were: Gleaner
Thieves jet off with $20 million worth of airplane fuel: Gleaner
Changing dirty diapers on Earth Day: Carolyn Cooper column/Sunday Gleaner
We need a leader like Thatcher: Delano Seiveright blog
Jamaica to receive EU health grant: Carib Journal
Quotas crucial to righting scale of gender imbalance: Linnette Vassell op-ed/Gleaner
“Fewer women screened for cervical cancer”: Gleaner
Where has our sense of community gone? George Davis column/Gleaner
JCA apologizes to Courtney Walsh: Jamaica Observer
Alpha Boys reborn: Gleaner
Sheryl Sandberg‘s “Lean In” and Jamaica: Marcia Forbes op-ed/Carib Journal
Selling dreams and unrealistic hope – Jamaicans being pitched to be an entrepreneur: Jane Nina Buchanan article/jamaicans.com
Sunday Thoughts: April 28, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)
Playing Politics With Jamaica’s Future (petchary.wordpress.com)
Maggie and Me: Some Thoughts on Leadership (petchary.wordpress.com)
Dear and faithful readers: I hope you are finding the two-part review more convenient and timely. I certainly find it much more manageable, from the writing point of view! As you will see, I still add a lot of links at the end of the post, so that you can do further reading on the various topics. My two-part news reviews now appear on Wednesdays and Sundays.
The PM and the press: The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) met with Information Minister Sandrea Falconer on Thursday to discuss the issue of media access to the Prime Minister. How could this really be an issue? But there you go; it is. As the PAJ noted before, the Prime Minister has not done any “substantive” media interview since taking office fifteen months ago. Minister Falconer said this was not quite true. But sorry – I just don’t remember many “impromptu” interviews. The Prime Minister never does a press briefing alone. She is always flanked by several other protective ministers. I am also wondering about this “Support Unit” that the Prime Minister takes with her everywhere. How many are there and what do they do?
Blast from the past: The final sentence in the Jamaica Information Service press release (link below) caught my eye. “The (Information) Minister was accompanied by members of the Prime Minister’s Support Unit and Head of the Minister’s Taskforce [to keep press in line], Colin Campbell.” Slight raise of the eyebrows there. Mr. Campbell is a former Information Minister, People’s National Party general secretary and Member of Parliament, a man who is (or was) under a bit of a shadow in connection with the 2007 Trafigura scandal (alleged campaign donations to the party). He has been keeping a low profile for the past few years – apart from writing a newspaper article last December attacking the outgoing Contractor General (who, of course, investigates matters like Trafigura). Campbell called the CG “an abject failure.” Meanwhile, I understand the PAJ’s Vice President Arthur Hall says that the organization will not be part of any “protocol” to restrict access to Ms. Simpson Miller. This is, very definitely, the thin end of the wedge, and the PAJ recognizes it as such.
Paulwell announced some things: As I have noted before, I like Minister Phillip Paulwell because he seems to stay focused, generally restrains himself from scoring cheap political points, and actually seems to want to get things done. His contribution to the Budget Debate last week certainly contained much food to chew on. The government has decided not to sell its 45% stake in the hugely loss-making Clarendon Alumina Partners (the bauxite plant), Paulwell announced; although the Finance Minister had said something different. So this is a little confusing. The majority owners, Alcoa and Glencore, have written a report on the matter, that will be made public soon.
Venezuelan grey areas: The future of the long-delayed expansion of the Petrojam oil refinery now seems gravely in doubt, according to Minister Paulwell; the Venezuelan government has been a 49% shareholder since 2006. The death of Hugo Chavez and the election of the so far unimpressive Nicolas Maduro has also raised questions over the PetroCaribe agreement, on which Jamaica and other Caribbean nations are (too) heavily dependent. Minister Paulwell must be feeling very antsy about our socialist friends; Jamaica needs to know what’s happening, ASAP.
On and on and on: Opposition Leader Andrew Holness also made his contribution to the Budget Debate last week. It dragged on all afternoon (three hours). I would like to see all budget speeches shortened to twenty minutes or so. It’s more than possible – just boil down your announcements, package them neatly. There would be no more glazed eyes (and irritating side- conversations) in Parliament. Members would have to sit up and concentrate for a much shorter time. There would be no time for the heckling, aside jokes and guffaws from the other side of the room. Members of the public would be able to tune in and really listen, instead of just having the radio on as a kind of soporific background drawl. Generally, though, the Opposition Leader did quite well, by all accounts. His use of two baskets of groceries, to show how much less we can buy compared to December 2011, was effective and made for good television. He also made ten recommendations to the Government for digging itself out of the economic hole it finds itself in. The speech was remarkably lacking in rancor and political point-scoring. This must have surprised the Government side of the House, who were priming their weapons for battle. The usual insults and “banter” therefore stayed at a manageable level. Good, constructive stuff, Mr. Holness.
Yes, we have drugs: I’ve noticed a remarkable upsurge in major drug busts, lately. Two retirees from Florida have been arrested in connection with the discovery of 350 pounds of marijuana on Navy Island, a beautiful spot just off Port Antonio. 650 pounds of weed was found in West Kingston. 500 pounds of ganja was found in St. Elizabeth, always a productive area. On April 20, a security guard contractor was arrested with a huge amount of cocaine in Montego Bay. Hell, there was even a cocaine find on a Caribbean Airlines flight departing for Florida. Jamaicans are being arrested in the Bahamas and elsewhere on drug charges. One gets the feeling that the “war on drugs” has just been rekindled.
Water, water everywhere: The seaside resort of Negril is parched. During an edition of the call-in radio show “Justice” this week, there was a somewhat futile discussion on what happened to all the water in Negril, how it was being managed, etc. Local residents are upset that water is being diverted to the hotels, and the hotels are upset at having to give refunds to guests who leave because there is no water. Basically, there is not enough to go around. When Negril began developing rapidly some 15-20 years ago (and the Spanish have subsequently moved in with their monstrous hotels) there was concern among some that water, sewage systems etc. might be inadequate. The Powers that Were more or less dismissed these fears in the name of the mighty god of Investment, and we seem to have an insatiable appetite for more tourism rooms. Well, so it has come to pass: no water. Then, of course, there is the disappearing “world famous seven-mile beach” – which can no longer be called seven miles long by any stretch of the imagination. What is the Member of Parliament (also Tourism Minister) doing about all this? He seems to be preoccupied with arguing with his Opposition counterpart about tourism money, at the moment.
Could the Ministry of Foreign Affairs please tell me…? What does the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) do, apart from talk of course? What are its achievements? It has been meeting in Haiti this week. And why do we need to have an Embassy in Ecuador, as Minister of Foreign Affairs AJ Nicholson is suggesting? I thought that diplomatic missions abroad were very costly. What do Jamaica and Ecuador have to offer each other? Is Julian Assange going to be palmed off on us?
More details, please? Of the 4,000 online jobs that the World Bank says it has created for Jamaicans. Wasn’t aware…
Jamaica is slipping: And talking of IT, Jamaica has slipped down the rankings again in the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report – for the seventh consecutive year. With all that Minister Paulwell and IT entrepreneurs are doing (Ingrid Riley is doing a superb job to stimulate start-ups with her Kingston Beta) we are steadily slipping behind – for example, in network readiness, broadband subscribers, e-commerce, venture capital availability, and (depressingly) math and science education. Can we have some more discussion on this? What has gone wrong? Are we just dragging our feet? What do we need to be doing that we are not doing now?
Maybe the Member of Parliament can pay a visit with her Support Team: I hear the deprived and desolate inner-city community of Majesty Gardens (such a tragic misnomer), in the Prime Minister’s constituency, is “tense.” Perhaps their Member of Parliament can pay them a visit soon, and re-ignite the love.
Tears for Dr. Lewin: I was moved by former Prime Minister Edward Seaga’s very emotional farewell to Dr. Olive Lewin at her funeral yesterday. Dr. Lewin was founder of the Jamaican Folk Singers, cultural explorer and invigorator. She was also, as Mr. Seaga pointed out, an incredibly kind and humanitarian woman who cared deeply about our marginalized and poor children and quietly did much good work on their behalf. Mr. Seaga said, in a voice thick with tears, “I wish I could feel it in my heart that she was fully recognized in her own land.” I agree with him – she was not. No pretty speech from the Culture Minister or hugs from the Prime Minister can make up for that.
Phrases I don’t want to hear for a while: “Divine intervention” and “The relevant authorities.”
Tweet-grabbing: The Jamaica Observer is now reprinting Jamaicans’ tweets, with names and Twitter handles – especially the political ones. I am just wondering what the purpose is. If you look at page 27 of today’s Sunday newspaper you will see tweeters clearly identified alongside their tweets on the issue of the Prime Minister and the press. I suppose the newspaper doesn’t have to ask permission, but… They also have an address where you can “email your views” but must include your Twitter handle. Why?
The Energy God doth protest: A dancehall figure called Elephant Man is protesting against wild rumors that he is gay. This is the worst thing you can say to a macho dancehall man, in a sphere where homophobia still reigns supreme. The orange-haired Elephant Man claims to have “thirty-five pickney” [children] so how could he be gay? The last figure bandied about was apparently 22 pickney. Well, he has lived up to his name of “Energy God” it seems, and got busy. Keeping the population levels up there. So long as none of the pickney have orange hair.
I am very sad to report that the following Jamaicans have lost their lives in the past three days, since my last bulletin. My deepest condolences to all their families. Ms. Ricketts’ other son is also hospitalized. I cannot imagine how the father is feeling. I have noticed how often the names of Jamaicans killed by the police are not reported – or, as below, their nicknames are given. I suppose they are not so important?
Richard Aiken, 19, Beckford Town, St. Mary
Shawn Magnus, 31, Parry Town/Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Patrick Shakes, 51, Catadupa, St. James
Kereisha Ricketts, 34, Newtown, Westmoreland
Jafe Francis, 9, Newtown, Westmoreland
Killed by police:
“Piggy Deer,” Gregory Park, St. Catherine
Related articles (local posts in purple):
Poverty has little bearing on students: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
Change a coming: Energy minister says positive move to reduce electricity rates on the horizon: Gleaner
Four bidders for new power plant: Jamaica Observer
Paulwell pins final hopes for Petrojam on Maduro: Gleaner
Bauxite revival: Gleaner
Jamalco to press ahead with coal plant: Gleaner
Will CAP decision undermine IMF deal? Gleaner editorial
Phillips says public sector agencies to be merged: Jamaica Observer
Paulwell gives tablets to parliamentarians: Gleaner
Students, teachers at 30 schools to get free tablets: Jamaica Observer
Holness blames government for people’s hardships: Jamaica Observer
”We’ve been butchered”: Holness tells government to backtrack on taxes, pitches 10-point formula: Gleaner
Charting a different course: Gleaner
4,000 jobs created for young Jamaicans in virtual economy: Gleaner
Jamaica dips in new IT rankings: Gleaner
New customs tax presents nightmare for small businesses: Jamaica Observer
Give details for the June IMF test: Gleaner editorial
In Caribbean, gridlocked courts hit by crime wave block justice and stall lives: AP/Washington Post
Mayhem on Waltham Avenue in Kingston: Jamaica Observer
”Let’s go get these bad guys”: U.S. sets eyes on scammers: Gleaner
”Dem call it scam, me call it a reparation”: Mark Wilson op-ed/Trinidad Guardian
Rolex probe widens: Gleaner
Greg Christie was an abject failure: Colin Campbell op-ed/Gleaner, December 2012
JPS contractors accused of stealing utility wires, street lamps: Jamaica Observer
American nabbed in Portland drug operation, another on the run: Gleaner
Cops keeping an eye on tense Majesty Gardens: Jamaica Observer
Tivoli residents call on PM to “have a heart”: Gleaner
Tyranny in the ghetto: Gleaner editorial
UNICEF donates vehicle to Eve for Life: Gleaner
”Show love to our children in entire month of May”: Jamaica Observer
Media Association joins PAJ’s call for greater access to public officials: Gleaner
Minister Falconer and PAJ meet on proposed protocol: Jamaica Information Service
719 children missing since the start of the year: Jamaica Observer
Gender-based quotas wrong: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
Anglican bishops reject same sex marriage: Jamaica Observer
Ghastly pit latrines at St. Mary’s:
CDA head says child care facilities audit almost complete: Jamaica Observer
Usain Bolt Foundation announces Samsung camera workshop in Jamaica: Arc Magazine
Divine intervention is the Church promoting peace in the society: Bernard Headley op-ed/Gleaner
Port Maria Hospital gets well-needed lifeline: Gleaner
Our son went to school near Boston for four years. Strangely – and shockingly for him – his first day of school was Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I remember reading sadly that members of a family from the small, peaceful town where his school was located were passengers on one of the planes guided by the terrorists into the World Trade Center. We were staying in New York at the time; I will never forget the looming clouds of smoke that hung on the horizon for days afterwards, and the strange silence as all the planes were grounded.
It is so painful to think that now Boston itself has suffered from what appears to be a terrorist attack, on such a day of celebration. We spent some wonderful days in the city with my sister and her daughter. I remember eating the most delicious clam chowder in the world at a lively waterside restaurant. I remember sitting in the “Cheers” bar drinking Bloody Marys (my sister’s favorite) and chatting about a baseball game, as if we were experts, with the charming bartender. I remember walking barefoot alongside of the Charles River, among picnicking locals on a warm day. In fact, like all cities Boston has its gritty side; but it is charming. It wins you over. Its inhabitants are kind, friendly and liberal. Our son loved the city, and has good friends there.
I read these words today in the social media, by a stand-up comedian called Patton Oswalt (he was also in “King of Queens,” one of our favorite old sitcoms). He describes himself on his Twitter page as “a former wedding deejay from northern Virginia.” Well, these words from Mr. Oswalt just made me think (we always think about good and evil after such events, don’t we?) and I wanted to share his comments with you. So here you are, in case you haven’t caught up with it on Facebook, yet. Thanks, Mr. Oswalt.
“I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, ‘Well, I’ve had it with humanity.’
But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.
But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”
So noted a fellow-blogger from Jamaica, Annie Paul (check out her lively blog on Jamaican matters large and small at
). Yes, just as I was about to write another short, chirpy post-Sandy blog post, the “episode” or “incident” occurred. It popped up on Twitter around eight o’clock last night, in fact.
Let me backtrack a little first: Cliff Hughes is a local broadcast journalist, whom I have praised before for his strong focus on democracy and human rights – and for his probing, tough interview techniques. And UTech is the University of Technology in Kingston, Jamaica, where this all took place. All what, you may ask? Well, a video appeared on YouTube and almost immediately went “viral,” as the saying goes. The video was entitled “Beat di Fish 2!” - using the latest hate-word for gays in Jamaica. The video appears to show security guards beating up a young man in an enclosed area (the guard house of the aforementioned University) while a mob of mostly young men outside jeered, laughed and encouraged the guards to give the young man a good beating. Some of these young men begged the guards to turn him over to them so they could deal with him.
Why was he being beaten? The student was accused of having sex with another young man (who escaped – I hope he is very safe, somewhere).
The video was withdrawn from YouTube today as it violated their code. It was very hard to watch, and to listen to the baying of the crowd, like hounds when they have cornered a fox in a hunt. That eager yelping sound, that cry for blood. And many of the supporters of the video added their virulent, sickening comments (although thankfully there were more “dislikes” than “likes”). But another shorter, different version was posted on CNN‘s iReport today.
There were many expressions of genuine shock and despair, locally. “I am ashamed to be Jamaican” was a common refrain among those with compassion for their fellow Jamaicans. Civil society groups, notably Jamaicans for Justice and the Civil Society Coalition, have issued statements condemning the incident. Some comments in the social media were more ambivalent, saying the two young men should have been more careful, and “this is how gays are dealt with in Jamaica, right or wrong.” Other comments were more vicious. I will not repeat them.
Another Jamaican broadcaster noted the following on her Facebook timeline: “I am sad and sickened tonight. Security guards at one of our universities beating up a young man because he was allegedly found engaging in homosexual acts. I also continue to wonder at my friends with their heads deep in the sand insisting that we are not a homophobic society. Really? This young man is hit and kicked by a “security “guard” while excited crowds gather outside. And for those who will wilfully twist my words – you are adept at that – this has nothing to do with approval of or belief in a lifestyle. This is about a society that winks at barbarism and turns its head away insisting it is not happening, apparently all the reports of abuse are made up!!! And you wonder why we are seen as homophobic?”
Let us not deny this any more. Jamaica IS a homophobic society. It has been said by many outside and some inside Jamaica. And it is true. It is staring us in the face.
So, what are we to do about it? Allow the mob to take over? After all, there have been several instances of mob attacks recently, under various circumstances. This is not only yet another example of human rights abuses against gays in Jamaica. It fits into a pattern of intolerance, violence and blind ignorance that keeps repeating itself over and over. It is like a tide washing over us, threatening to sweep us all away.
Have you ever stared into the eyes of a hate-filled mob? We once knew someone who did – a young Jamaican. It was the last thing he saw, as he did not survive the attack. None of us could save him. We read his name in the papers the next day.
Where is this leading us? Are we prepared to slip and slide down this slope? Or are we prepared to dig our heels in, right now? Are our leaders going to speak up, or remain silent? I remember not long ago, our elected representatives were sniggering and making jokes about “fish” in Parliament (the derogatory word for gays currently in fashion). Can we expect real, responsible leadership from them? What about our Prime Minister, who during an election debate last year signaled a softer approach to the issue? She has certainly avoided the topic ever since she was elected. And what about the churches? After all, the homophobic bigots frequently use a certain passage in the Bible to justify their hatred. What a lovely thing religion is! How it unites us!
I will end with a quote from someone who did know a great deal about bigotry and discrimination. He faced it fair and square. (Somehow, the deniers of our homophobia hate comparisons between gay rights and the American civil rights struggle; but I see quite a few parallels, myself). Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
Jamaica’s burden grows heavier each day.
- Jamaica Anti-Gay Attack On Student Allegedly Caught On Tape (huffingtonpost.com)
- Gay Man Beaten By Guards, Mob At Jamaica University: VIDEO (towleroad.com)
- Sunday After Sandy: October 28, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Gay Jamaicans launch legal action over island’s homophobic laws (guardian.co.uk)
- Landmark Case Seeks To Abolish Jamaica’s Colonial-Era Anti-Gay Laws (queerty.com)
- A small step forward for LGBT rights in Jamaica (pri.org)
- Help Jamaica please?!? (ireport.cnn.com)
(End patronizing, piecemeal engagement of youth: petchary)
(Rights and Wrongs: petchary)
- Gay Jamaican Man Caught Having Sex Brutally Attacked By Guard, Mob (queerty.com)
- Gay student beaten at Jamaican University (ireport.cnn.com)
(Op-ed: Fighting injustice in Jamaica: petchary)
(Marksman fires security guards involved in UTech beating)
(Mob beats man accused of killing pregnant girlfriend)
(UTech plans counseling session for beaten student)
(JFJ condemns act of violence against allegedly homosexual young man on UTech campus)
(UTech, Marksman condemn beating of alleged gay student)
(UTech student beaten)
(“Mob rule is no rule” – another UTech incident)
(“Put an end to jungle justice” – a recent op-ed)
(Ode to Freddy (and David): petchary)
(Jamaican Maurice Tomlinson is the first winner of the David Kato Vision Voice Award: petchary)
The Petchary is dipping back into Trench Town – just to tell you a bit more about the Trench Town Reading Centre. Ah, you can now find them on Twitter at TrenchTownRC. (I am not sure why Jamaicans are wary of Twitter…the Petchary loves pottering through tweets, retweeting and finding little nuggets of information and fascinating articles. One can skip through the trivial, occasionally profane comments between individuals… And one can “unfollow” of course).
There is a Paypal button on the Centre’s website, where you can make a donation. Large or small, all is welcomed.
It’s hard to describe how much Trench Town Reading Centre means to the children. Self-esteem is not an easy thing to nurture and grow in an environment as harsh and oppressive as inner-city Kingston, Jamaica. There is heat, there is noise, there is no green space for a child to play. There is the hot street, and the street dogs, and the reek of poor sanitation. Life in the tenement yard is unforgiving. At the Centre, children can express their thoughts and feelings in a safe space – which may well be safer, more welcoming and inclusive than their own homes.
One of the aims of the Trench Town Reading Centre is not only helping to improve literacy rates – which are frighteningly high in neighborhoods like Trench Town – but to encourage children to grow… In strength, in belief, in love and encouragement and kindness. And to allow them to be children.
And laughter is an important ingredient of childhood.
Trench Town Reading Centre videos
YouTube video links
>** Jan-Feb 09 3mins Black History Mn
> Summer School 2010 slice of summer 3 mins
- In Kingston, the real heart of Jamaica beats (thestar.com)