Time is galloping along, the uptown (and downtown) Christmas party season is gathering speed, and (in case you were wondering) I have not written one Christmas card yet. I am living dangerously.
The CARICOM tiff: After much blustering on the part of our Minister of Foreign Affairs and hysterical ranting on talk shows and elsewhere, Trinidad’s Minister of Foreign Affairs arrived on Monday. The matter of the denial of entry to 13 Jamaicans, the two ministers agreed, was not, after all, profiling; and the vast majority of Jamaicans are happily accepted by Trinidad. The two signed a trade agreement. So, a lot of smoothing over went on, although both Ministers were careful to assert their respective countries’ interests. Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves (never a man to stay quiet for too long) noted in a Jamaican radio interview that yes, there was some prejudice against Jamaicans in other CARICOM countries; and I think he is right. Now, all Caribbean leaders need to keep cool heads and discourage over-heated rhetoric that is based on very little fact. They also need to put their respective houses in order (including Jamaica) in terms of implementing all the requirements for the free movement of persons. (Read the Gleaner’s “No time for blame” – Nicholson, Dookeran Say Ja-T&T Meetings Fruitful.”)
Good question, scary answer: On the matter of international relations, a question from Opposition Senator Robert Montague prompted a disturbing response from Minister Nicholson. I did a quick count and it appears Jamaica owes approximately US$1,319,00 to the United Nations, including over $860,000 for peace-keeping operations (?). We will soon lose voting rights if we don’t pay some of it (so the Chinese and others might stop courting us). We have already lost voting rights in a couple of Commonwealth bodies and we are in arrears with all the international bodies we are members of.
Meanwhile, a woman named Shirley Richards wrote to the Gleaner asking the question, “Is Jamaica under UN rule?” The United Nations is our “new colonial master,” she suggested, with UNICEF incurring her wrath for referring to “sex” and “condoms” in relation to its reports on the desperate state of the nation’s children. OK, Ms. Richards, we will continue burying our heads in the sand. Let’s pretend sexuality is not a concern. Maybe doesn’t even exist. She concludes, “Forgive me, then, for asking, is Jamaica now under the rule of UN agencies?” No, I don’t think I will. Forgive you, that is.
Is it really a shock? I had the pleasure of meeting the Registrar of the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) last week at the launch of Eve for Life’s “Nuh Guh Deh” campaign. I wondered how he must feel about the reports of child abuse that arrive at his office in a continuous wave (or tsunami perhaps). Between January and August this year the OCR received over 8,000 reports (probably the tip of the iceberg). 1,730 children went missing, ten of whom were found dead (where are the others – did they all return? I have asked this question so many times in the past on my blog). Read the Observer: “Child abuse shocker – 8,030 cases reported between Jan & Aug.” (But is this really a “shocker” to us now? We know the enormity of the problem, don’t we?)
At a recent focus group on corruption, we struggled to find solutions to the tangled web we have been weaving for so long in Jamaica. I see “we” because, although I would hope that I have not engaged in a corrupt act of any kind, it is such a complex web that one could get unwittingly caught up in it; a cog in the corruption wheel, quite innocently. Meanwhile, Jamaica has not moved on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index since last year – still sitting pretty with a ranking of 38. Barbados ranked as the least corrupt Caribbean country – and came out pretty high on the list at 15th with a score of 75.
To quote former Contractor General Greg Christie on Twitter: “No country, region or community is immune to corruption, a serious crime that can undermine social & economic development in all societies.” He believes (and I agree) that this government has done nothing whatsoever to tackle the issue - in fact, it has done the reverse on occasion – despite the pious promises of the Prime Minister’s inauguration speech.
And on that subject, I am irritated (but not surprised) that the reinstated/reborn Junior Minister Richard Azan still wants to try to convince us all that he is squeaky clean. He has been granted a judicial review of the Contractor General’s investigation of his allegedly building and collecting rent for shops in contravention of the rules. Mr. Azan is “seeking a declaration from the court that he’s not politically corrupt, whether as defined by Transparency International or otherwise.” But I guess he doesn’t realize that, whatever the outcome of this legal move, corruption has a lot to do with perception, as TI will tell you. And I think the verdict has been reached on that one in the popular court. (Read more in the Observer: “Azan seeks judicial review of Contractor General’s probe”).
By the way, is Azan’s boss, Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies still in hospital? Have we heard any updates on his health?
Pleased to hear about improvements in forensic facilities – so essential for the Jamaica Constabulary Force. And especially, to hear from Police Commissioner Owen Ellington that Jamaica is now tapped into the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) eTrace program for tracing guns. This should hopefully make a real difference in the investigation of crime – and organized crime, at that. (Read the Observer: “Ellington points to significant upgrade of police forensic capabilities”).
I know the police have a tough job. Yes, I know. But somehow my heart does not bleed for those who have to cough up legal fees to defend themselves when they are accused of wrongdoing. And I do not think that taxpayers should foot the police officers’ bills; we already pay their salaries. Don’t they have a union? (Yes they do). My suggestion: start a legal fund. And don’t put yourselves in situations where you know you are breaking the law. Just like the rest of us. (Read the Observer: “Legal Woes”). This is perhaps more not-so-subtle police propaganda against INDECOM – the Independent Commission of Investigation set up by Parliament to investigate allegations of police abuse. Tired of it now. Just do your job and do it professionally. Thanks.
Brian-Paul Welsh wrote a very good letter to the Gleaner, regarding the Rasta Yute’s (Minister Damion Crawford) stout defense of dancehall music. The Minister is even encouraging lobbyists to oppose the anti-gang legislation, which includes a clause relating to lyrics that incite violence; this seems rather odd to me. Mr. Crawford needs to decide whether he is still a student who organizes dances at the University of the West Indies; or a government official to be taken seriously. At the moment he is an odd hybrid, and a very disappointing one at that. (Read the Gleaner’s Letter of the Day: “Crawford Off-Key on Dancehall“).
(Mis)understanding indeed: I have always enjoyed Grace Virtue’s columns and was sorry when she appeared to stop writing. Grace is the sister of Gleaner journalist Erica and she is based in the United States. This does not prevent her from writing insightful and balanced pieces, such as ”(Mis)understanding Media” in the Observer - on the matter of the RJR reporter, the mike, the PM and the security guards. Which has not really gone away, by the way.
I’m worried about Vybz Kartel. As I tweeted this evening, his appearance has changed dramatically since he has been languishing in prison (for nearly two years, no less) on two murder charges. He is now in the middle of the second trial (and if a journalist calls it “high profile” one more time I shall scream!) and – well, he has gone from skinny and weedy-looking to strangely bloated. What are they feeding him on in prison? Does he have an exercise regime? He seems very pale, still (the cake soap that he bleaches his skin with must have been smuggled into prison, some surmise). But his hair stylist seems to have gone AWOL. Oh, one does love the trivia sometimes!
If you want to read a lame editorial, try the Observer’s “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” for size. NO, the murder of eighteen-year-old Kimberly Simpson was not a case of “enraged jealousy” on the part of the man who had impregnated her when she was still legally below the age of consent (statutory rape) – and who had been abusing her physically ever since, according to her family (who appear to have stood by and done nothing). It was just that: domestic abuse; and initially child rape, which should have been reported to the police three years ago.
I am puzzled and confused by some of the facts paraded in the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s latest public relations effort – this time, comments by Deputy Commissioner in charge of crime Carl Williams on the so-called “clear-up rate” for murders. I will have to return to this at some point. (Read the Observer - ”Police vow to improve murder clear-up rate.”)
I often try to imagine the horror and grief of those left behind when their loved ones are killed violently. But I really cannot. All I can do is offer my condolences to the families and friends…
Herbert McKail, 70, Mandeville, Manchester
Gary Pinnock, 43, Hanover
Christopher Buddan, 22, Old Harbour Road, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Brandon Hill, St. James
Omar Brown, Montego Bay, St. James
OK, I don’t feel ready for Christmas, this year. But then, I never do.
I always buy charity Christmas cards (by the way, Youth Opportunities Unlimited has a great range of bright and beautiful cards this year) and send them out to dozens of friends and family (mostly overseas, so it costs a fortune in postage). I always feel “virtual” Christmas cards are a bit of a cop-out, since I only communicate with many of these people once or twice a year. They deserve something in their hand – something they can display on their mantelpiece or hang from the beams in the ceiling, as my sister does in her old English farmhouse. It’s a touch of Jamaica, bright and cheerful on a cold winter’s morning in New York or London.
It’s a ritual I enjoy. I write my cards in strict alphabetical order, so people whose surnames begin with “A” have a much better chance of getting their card on time than the “W”s. And I have to fill one half of the card with stuff like, “It’s been another busy year for us…” or “What, Christmas already?” and the obligatory updates on son’s and husband’s welfare. Variations on a theme, really. I usually just about get them finished by around December 20, which means of course that some are going to be, well, late. And this despite my husband’s gentle reminders: “I notice you haven’t started on your Christmas cards yet, dear…”
And no, I haven’t. That’s one of many reasons why I don’t feel ready for Christmas. No, never.
Oh, happy Thanksgiving by the way to all my friends and readers in the United States! And happy Hannukah, which coincides this year, to all our Jewish friends too. The Festival of Lights – how beautiful. Actually I am drawn to the Thanksgiving celebration for a number of reasons: I like it because God doesn’t intrude too much into the proceedings. I like to think we are giving thanks to Mother Earth, to the Universe, to whatever Spirit we may or may not subscribe to. We are just thankful, and it simply appeals to me on that level, philosophically. And it’s about family, more than anything else – which I happen to believe is very important, in my old-fashioned way. Plus, I am rather fond of roast turkey (which in England we always ate on Christmas Day, at home).
But back to Christmas. There is the food. Firstly, I am not crazy about sorrel, the traditional Christmas drink in Jamaica. I will only drink it if there is nothing else. It has a medicinal quality, and to reduce that taste, it is often made too sweet. But I dutifully sip it when I have to. And I dislike Christmas cake. I have an incredibly sweet tooth so I should love sorrel and cake, shouldn’t I? But I just don’t like the taste. If it had brandy butter with it, maybe. But Jamaicans don’t do brandy butter.
On the plus side there is the ham. Local Jamaican ham is incredibly delicious and juicy and makes me give up the idea of becoming a vegetarian, just yet. I am so tired of chicken, which we eat all year round until it’s coming out of our ears. And I miss the aforementioned turkey, cooked the way my mother used to do it. But the ham makes up for all this.
I don’t drink for health reasons so that is also quite boring of me, isn’t it? I will have a sip of wine (or preferably champagne) and just now, looking at a link in Carib Journal with all kinds of rum punch recipes, I licked my lips. Jamaicans are fond of egg nog at Christmas – an old-fashioned English thing – but I have always found it too rich and sickly. So, on Christmas Day we will be going to a nearby hotel, which boasts an enormous buffet: a huge range of delights. Something to look forward to.
And now it comes down to it, what else has Christmas got going for it, for me personally? We are not church-goers, and sitting with eyelids propped open for Midnight Mass (complete with a long, droning sermon) always seems like self-inflicted torture to me. So all that stuff is out. There are one or two parties; but fewer and fewer in Kingston these days, due to what we like to call the “economic downturn” (which seems to be a permanent fixture these days). To make matters worse, the local television Christmas ads started early this year, to drum up business. They are more annoying than ever. The jingles are nerve-wracking. Young women bounce around Christmas trees, dressed as elves in red tights – red tinsel, red glitter, everything swathed in red. I reach for the mute button instantly.
When our son was young, Christmas was fun. We would buy him all kinds of odd little presents. We would spend all day decorating the Christmas tree, smashing a few glass balls along the way. My husband would spend hours checking the Christmas lights (there were always those dead bulbs that spoiled the whole thing) – that was always his job. We would buy pots of poinsettias (a local plant, of course) and over-priced imported decorations. We would watch videos and kitschy children’s Christmas shows on television, and cook up a storm. My husband would go downtown to “Grand Market” (there is still a watered-down version of this, I believe) and revel in his childhood memories of Christmas in Kingston. My parents spent at least one or two Christmases with us here in Jamaica – which, all by itself, was awesome.
But let me return to the “giving thanks” part of this season, for a minute. There is so much to appreciate, after all. The sunlight lies gently on the tiny leaves of our lignum vitae tree with its heart-shaped orange fruits hanging like clusters of earrings. When I was hanging the washing out a short while ago, a Jamaican Oriole came down to sit on a branch of the mango tree and sang me a soft, conversational song. (Yes, people probably think I’m crazy talking to the birds – but they talk to me). Our dog lies down in her favorite spot on the front lawn every afternoon, sniffing the air, gazing round quietly (with the occasional bark if someone passes by). The “Christmas breeze” stirs, unobtrusive. The sky is a faded blue, decorated with harmless, fluffy clouds. The light ripens softly as the day declines into a pink sunset. The air is calm. The doves coo softly.
And there are people – especially my family (present, absent and passed on) – and the Jamaican people, in all their confusion and craziness. What more could I really want?
But why do I feel as if Christmas is some huge hurdle to climb over? I think it’s just about getting old. The memories begin to crowd the room, breathing in all the oxygen. It’s almost claustrophobic. I just need to accept that it is what it is.
Any tips for surviving Christmas would be welcome. And roll on, 2014!
I had the honor and pleasure of reviewing this book for the Kingston-based Ian Randle Publishers. I found it a remarkably gripping and emotional experience. The words of the boys simply tear at your heart. I would highly recommend the book for anyone working with at-risk youth, educators, sociologists, psychologists – or anyone concerned with the state of modern Caribbean society. Christmas is coming, so hurry out and buy a copy for someone who cares.
Congratulations to the author, Debbie Jacob, for writing such a brave and honest book. Ms. Jacob is Head Librarian at the International School of Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago, and a columnist with the “Trinidad Guardian.” She still teaches the boys at the Youth Training Centre (a euphemism for what we in Jamaica would call a Juvenile Correctional Centre).
Here is my review:
Whose wings are these? The title of this earnest, often passionate book seems to refer to the wings of our dreams, as depicted in the well-known Langston Hughes poem that prefaces it. But wings have other functions: not only the spiritual, but also the physical means of escape, of freedom and – in the case of some birds – of dominance.
I know this is a cliché. But this book simply proves that yes, one person can make a difference. Debbie Jacob gives a searingly honest account of her experience teaching English Language and Literature (at CXC level) to a group of young men – with “issues.” They are behind bars, at a Youth Training Centre (or YTC, a euphemism for a boys’ correctional center) in Trinidad. It is a bleak environment, which the boys sometimes describe in uncomfortable detail. Many are there for years, either serving their sentences for various violent crimes or awaiting trial.
Ms. Jacob lets the boys speak for themselves. Their narratives are sometimes disjointed and incoherent, often eloquent; but always yearning, in the way that young people yearn. Now, how did Ms. Jacob, a white woman from the United States who taught privileged children at the International School, elicit such outpourings from a group of angry, bitter and essentially lonely young men? She is from a different, comfortable world. She cannot easily comprehend the life of deprivation from which they come, and is not always aware of the nature of their crimes. But she does not concern herself with this. She simply wants them to pass the CXC examinations; although as it turns out, she and her students want more than mere academic success.
The answer is simple. Ms. Jacob treats each one of the boys as an individual from the outset. Likewise, the reader does not see them as stereotypical “bad boys.” Her CXC English class of eight is an extraordinary group of personalities: complex and demanding and difficult. We get to know them through their letters, essays, book reports. They express their deepest feelings more easily through the written word, even if their grammar is not always perfect.
As a teacher, Ms. Jacob realizes she is not a “textbook person.” Although the boys are initially obsessed with rules and structure and bring “God” into every sentence, she decides to teach them skills rather than teaching a syllabus. The CXC is a two-year course and she is not always confident in her ability to teach them to the standard required for the examination in just eight months. It’s a daunting task. So she focuses on reading, obtaining as many donated books as possible. The boys devour them. And so, her teaching methods evolve. Several issues emerge, including the importance of culturally relevant reading material – Naipaul, rather than Hemingway. Ms. Jacob points to the enormous value of reading – widely and deeply. The students’ reaction to the books is quite telling. “Water for Elephants” became a favorite, and Jahmai (a leader, who went on to do well in the exam) was a great lover of the classics.
The author describes how her relationships with each of her students develop, step by step (sometimes there are backward steps). She and her students learn to trust each other – and to support each other, and this evolves naturally, over time. Ms. Jacob shows that her relationship with a student is not a “one-way street.” The boys encourage her; and sometimes adopt a protective, almost nurturing approach to her, such as when there are severe floods in the area.
Ms. Jacob’s students write stark, even beautiful prose. It has been revised and “tidied up,” but their authentic voices form the most compelling part of the book. The language is uncompromising and the emotional impact so strong that the reader, like myself, might even feel a little tearful.
The author’s tone is never condescending. She does not see herself as a benevolent do-gooder and she is clear-eyed in her assessment of her students. Nor does she look at them as a kind of academic experiment. But her concern, even love for the boys flows through the book. She wants to give each of them wings, but knows that not all of them will fly. This is a simply written, straightforward account of a painful and complex process, that of growing up. Even more “bitter,” (one of the boys’ favorite words) when all the cards are stacked against you.
In an early exercise for their teacher, many of the boys wrote that they would like to be a bird: preferably an eagle, in command, powerful. And free.
To obtain a copy of this book, contact Ian Randle Publishers, P.O. Box 686, Kingston 6, Jamaica (11 Cunningham Avenue).
Tel: (876) 978-0745; 978-0739; 946-3173 Fax: (876) 978-1156
The Caribbean region has made great strides in reducing new HIV/AIDS infections, according to the latest UNAIDS report – a dramatic reduction of 33 per cent between 2001 and 2012, and 52 per cent among children. There has been a steady decline from the high of 2005, mainly due to increased access to anti-retroviral drugs (now at an estimated 68 per cent in Jamaica). I was happy and honored to have been part of the contribution made by the U.S. Government towards this effort over the years. As a member of U.S. Embassy Kingston’s team, which included USAID, the U.S. Peace Corps and the U.S. State Department, I helped administer the Small Grants Program in Jamaica funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). So I was happy to read this recent press release from the U.S. Embassy. The link is at http://kingston.usembassy.gov/pe_28102014.html
“Reducing stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS is the hallmark of the United States Ambassador’s PEPFAR Small Grants Program, administered by the United States Embassy in Kingston. This program is part of the global President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), established by President George W. Bush, which is the largest effort in history by any one nation to combat a single disease.
On October 9, 2013, Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater officially signed and awarded grants totaling US$50,000, to five Jamaican non-governmental and community organizations, which will each conduct programs aimed at fulfilling the mandate of the program.
The grantees are the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP); Mustard Seed Communities; National Council on Drug Abuse; Eve for Life and BREDS The Treasure Beach Foundation. These organizations will conduct sensitization seminars, provide counseling, mediation and public education sessions aimed at reducing the stigma and discrimination among marginalized and at-risk populations affected by HIV/AIDS.
In Jamaica, as in the thirty countries with PEPFAR programs, partnerships are crucial. The U.S. mission in Kingston supports the Ministry of Health and other governmental and non-governmental agencies with PEPFAR funding through the various programs managed by the Public Affairs Section of the embassy and other agencies, primarily USAID, Peace Corps, the Department of Defence and the Centers for Disease Control.
At the signing ceremony, Ambassador Bridgewater noted that the work to be done by each grantee signifies another milestone which advances the U.S. Government’s work towards an AIDS free world and will serve to improve the quality of life for persons living with HIV/AIDS.”
A note from me: Serious challenges remain, especially among marginalized populations, including men who have sex with men and commercial sex workers. Discrimination against these groups in Jamaica serves to deepen these concerns. It is something that must be addressed and cannot be ignored. So – we cannot give up the fight against HIV/AIDS!
http://www.pepfar.gov President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)
http://www.unaids.org/en/regionscountries/countries/jamaica/ UNAIDS in Jamaica
http://kingston.usembassy.gov U.S. Embassy Kingston (also on Facebook)
http://ccrponline.org Caribbean Community of Retired Persons
http://www.mustardseed.com/site/PageServer?pagename=where_serve_jamaica Mustard Seed Communities/Jamaica (also on Facebook)
http://ncda.org.jm National Council on Drug Abuse (also on Facebook and Twitter @DrugFreeJa)
http://www.eveforlife.org Eve for Life (also on Facebook and Twitter @EveforLife)
http://www.breds.org BREDS Treasure Beach Foundation
That Word: Sustainability (petchary.wordpress.com)
HIV/AIDS and PEPFAR: From Emergency to Sustainability in Tanzania (washjournalclub.wordpress.com)
The fate of the Portland Bight Protected Area, including Goat Islands, remains hanging in the balance. Despite some efforts by local journalists to obtain more information on whether the area will be sacrificed as a “logistics hub” to be constructed and operated by a Chinese firm, China Harbour Engineering Company, the Jamaican Government has continued to play its cards very close to its chest, not volunteering any information at all.
Anyway, I thought I would share with you this list – by no means exhaustive – of all the organizations that are in support of the campaign to save this precious piece of our ecological and cultural heritage. Many are overseas, and this shows the strong network of scientists and environmentalists working in the field. As we should be aware, scientists nowadays are global creatures, sharing information and discussing their findings and research across borders. They collaborate all the time on field expeditions and programs (such as the Caribbean Birding Trail which includes Jamaica and this protected area) and meet regularly – in person and online.
Incidentally, before I share this list I wanted to let you know that the Ministry of Industry, Investment & Commerce, which apparently spearheads the logistics hub, will be hosting a one-day conference on the project in Kingston on Tuesday, November 12. Ironically, this coincides with a two-day meeting of the Iguana Support Group at Hope Zoo, which will bring together representatives of several zoos in the United States and elsewhere that have collaborated with Jamaican zoologists over the years on the breeding program for the Jamaican Iguana – which was saved from the brink of extinction in 1990. Now the iguana’s habitat is severely threatened by the hub. One politician (the Minister of Transport & Works Omar Davies, who has an interest in the logistics hub) dismissed the iguana as “two likkle lizard” that cannot get in the way of “progress.”
If I have made any errors in this list – or have omitted anyone that I should have included – please let me know. I will update this blog post, accordingly, and keep it updated.
- Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
- Avian Research and Conservation Institute, Gainesville, Florida
- Birds Caribbean (formerly the Society for the Conservation & Study of Caribbean Birds)
- Caribbean Birding Trail
- Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM)
- Caribbean Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Puerto Rico
- Centre for Biological Diversity
- Chester Zoo UK
- Conservation International
- Countrystyle Community Tourism Network, Jamaica
- Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (eLaw)
- Feel Like a Biologist
- 51% Coalition: Women in Partnership for Development and Empowerment through Equity, Jamaica
- Fort Worth Zoo
- Greenpeace NZ
- HuffPost Green
- I.F.R.O.G.S (Indigenous Forest Research Organization for Global Sustainability)
- Iguana Specialty Group (ISG)
- International Iguana Foundation (IIF)
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
- Jamaica Civil Society Coalition
- Jamaica Environment Trust
- Jamaicans for Justice
- Misty Mountain Herbs, Jamaica
- Mockingbird Hill Hotel, Jamaica
- National Coalition Jamaica
- NoMaddz Bongo Music
- North American Reptile Breeders Conference
- One World Wildlife
- Project Noah
- Queensland Ecotourism Authority, Australia
- Ramsar Convention (the Portland Bight Protected Area is a Ramsar Wetland of Importance)
- Reptile Lovers ACE (Awareness, Conservation & Education)
- San Diego Herpetological Society
- San Diego Zoo Global
- Seven Oaks Sanctuary for Wildlife, Jamaica
- Southern California Herpetological Society & Rescue
- The Reptile Report
- United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK)
- Vietnam Herpetology
- Wildlife Nature
- World Wildlife Fund
And thousands of people from Jamaica and around the world have signed the petition on change.org, which is here: http://www.change.org/petitions/no-to-port-on-goat-island-jamaica-no-trans-shipping-port-portland-bight-protected-area-jamaica?share_id=eqkTTbjcGd&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition If you have not signed it yet, please consider doing so and share with anyone who may be interested. Even if you have, do take the time to read the interesting information, articles etc shared on the page and join the ongoing, daily updates and conversation on Facebook: No! To Port on Goat Island Jamaica.’
In case you missed it, please see this statement from Jamaica Environment Trust, who first raised concerns over the logistics hub plans: http://www.jamentrust.org/education/media/media-archive/2004-archive/160-statement-from-jet-on-goat-islands.html
And here is the statement from the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition, which includes JET and many other non-governmental and community-based organizations: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Six-reasons-against-port-on-Goat-Islands_14960085
And enjoy/share this song! https://soundcloud.com/jamentrust/dont-mess-with-goat-islands Lyrics: Inilek Wilmot; Vocals: Quecee; Music: Jeremy Ashbourne.
Please support the campaign to preserve and protect the Portland Bight Protected Area, and Goat Islands! It is Jamaicans’ birthright…
It’s been a warm, sleepy Sunday. Tomorrow is National Heroes Day and some of our neighbors are out of town, leaving the street to us and the birds.
A PR job: The Jamaica Constabulary Force pulled all the stops out over the past week or so to let us know that they are tackling (“fighting”) crime with determination, through their “Operation Resilience.” They held a press conference, informing us that murders have increased by 6 per cent over last year (yet the Minister of National Security told us that major crimes were down by 14 per cent, recently). They seem to be most concerned about West Kingston, where they killed three alleged gangsters recently (Fitzroy Gaynor, Demar Cameron and Troy Vassell, all “wanted” for various murders). They seized guns that were “linked” to several other murders. Is this the way to solve crime? We know that a gun is often rented/borrowed. So the person in whose possession it is found is not necessarily responsible for all the activities that the gun itself engaged in. And anyway, the person is dead. Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48751 and http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/success-in-fight-to-recover-illegal-weapons-in-west-kingston and http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/M16-assault-rifle-seized–8-arrested
Perhaps Commissioner Ellington should read the letters from community worker Horace Levy, again. Levy suggests, “Why not discuss a PREVENTIVE strategy – its methods, advantages, costs?” Shootouts, raids in which thirty-odd young men are scooped up, curfews etc. have been done over and over again to no effect. We know the police are overwhelmed; but this is not the way to solve crime – not even short-term. Here’s Mr. Levy’s letter of August 31: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130831/letters/letters1.html
And we are told that the lotto scam is abating due to the efforts of local officials; while former scammers are reportedly turning to armed robbery instead, so that they can keep themselves in the style they have become accustomed to. Read here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131020/lead/lead1.html
Everything’s hunky dory, right? Because the preferred bidder for the 360MW power project, Energy World International (EWI) has come up with the required security bond on time, as a precursor to all the negotiations that still lie ahead: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131019/lead/lead1.html But why do I feel that we have a long way to go? There is a lot of work to be done, and time is short. I agree with Minister Phillip Paulwell, who says: “Jamaica needs cheaper energy, and we need it urgently.” You’re telling me!
Efficiency: The public sector is the place to start if the Government is serious about energy efficiency and conservation. It is apparently “accelerating” its plans to do so. Again, time is of the essence! Read the JIS report here: http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-111/35364
I have never been convinced by the Simpson Miller administration’s emphasis on local government reform – or local government in general. Judging from the performances of some of our local officials in recent times, I am even less impressed. But new legislation is before Cabinet, and the Canadians are pumping good money into the Local Economic Development program, intended to strengthen small businesses at the community level. (Read more about it here: http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/35371) I hope that this is something sustainable and worthwhile. But God, now please send us some local officials with integrity, who can (at least) tell right from wrong…
Rampant Jamaican farm workers: An article in today’s Gleaner disturbed me somewhat. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131020/news/news2.html It appears that Canadian officials feel that some Jamaican farm workers (of the male variety) are “serial sexual harassers.” The Canadians are trying not to appear racially prejudiced etc. when asserting that downtown Leamington, Ontario has become hazardous for women because of the Jamaican workers, who walk four or five abreast – and “won’t get out of the way like Mexican workers do.” Humph. The Gleaner seems to think the Government should intervene and defend these farm workers. Why should they? What say you, my dear readers? This is a sensitive one.
My favorite church man: Once again, the head of the Anglican Church in Jamaica is making perfect sense, and raising some difficult issues which in many ways are the cause of considerable conflict in our society. The government agency, the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) has decided to stop members of the public from entering a place called Little Dunn’s River, effectively shutting down a favorite hangout spot because some people are behaving badly there. I share Archbishop Howard Gregory’s concern – it is an uncomfortable feeling that not only “the poor,” but the Jamaican people in general are being pushed away. Read the column here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Why-deprive-the-poor-of-our-resources-_15274229 It is a vexed issue. And a chicken and egg situation that just creates more resentment, illegal behavior etc…
Broadband: Disappointingly, only eight per cent of Jamaicans have access to broadband Internet. And even more disappointingly the Government is holding the the two 700 MHz band licenses that it had up for sale to itself, demanding a high price. There have been no offers. I may be missing something but how is this in the interest of the Jamaican people, please? Observer article here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Jamaica–growing-to-full-broadband-pentration_15282049
Childish: It seems that youth isn’t always an asset in politics. I am so sick of the silly nonsense coming out of the Opposition Leader’s mouth that… OK. Just grow up. OK?
Flipping trouble: Now a so-called “dancehall entertainer” with an apparently flamboyant lifestyle has got himself into trouble in the United States. He now has the dubious distinction of being an alleged “drug kingpin.” His name is Flippa Mafia, Moggala or something like that. aka plain Andrew Davis. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131019/lead/lead21.html
Just words: At an event last week, I watched Environment Minister Robert Pickersgill read out a speech urging us all to be good stewards of our environment. How about the government being good stewards, and not selling off a protected area like Goat Islands? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Citizens-need-to-be-stewards-of-environment–says-Pickersgill
I love chocolate: So I was really happy to read that there has been a considerable increase in cocoa production in Jamaica. I know huge efforts have been made to revive the industry from various quarters, including some overseas support. Read more: http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/cocoa-industry-board-reports-increase-in-production
Muchos kudos to all:
- This year’s eight Musgrave Medal winners. It struck me, though: don’t most of these cultural achievers live permanently overseas? http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/35354
- JET’s Program Manager, the young and dynamic environmentalist Suzanne Stanley was a guest on Young Power (Power 106 FM) – a good Saturday morning program, by the way.
- Saturday’s Gleaner highlighted the aspirations of two lovely Jamaican girls. Ms. Kayann Boucher wants to make her mark in the area of mental health – a much neglected issue. And Kostya Brooks is committed to community development in deep rural Portland (Ginger Hut and surrounding communities really are off the beaten track). I wish them both the best as they pursue their dreams. Here are the articles about them: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131019/news/news2.html (Kayann Boucher), and http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131019/news/news21.html (Kostya Brooks).
- Paul H Williams wrote a very interesting report on the Seville Heritage Park in yesterday’s Gleaner, and took some great photos too. We need more focus on our heritage – all year round, not just this week.
- To the Spanish Embassy in Jamaica (very belatedly) for the truly beautiful restoration of Kingston’s Holy Trinity Cathedral. The last time I visited, it was so dilapidated. Thank you! I’m also glad to see that the old Ocho Rios Courthouse, a lovely building, is to be restored. If we fixed these buildings one by one, we might get somewhere in preserving our heritage.
- Taming the jet ski riders: I am glad to hear that the import of jet skis has been banned for six months, and that other regulatory measures will be put in place. Things should have never reached the level of lawlessness (resulting in deaths and injuries) that I have described in previous posts. I really hope that this will be the start of a new, properly regulated activity in Jamaica’s sensitive tourism sector, before there are any more accidents.
- Music stalwart Monty Blake and the Merritone family did a fabulous clean-up of the graves of the Blues Busters, two pioneer singers, in Montego Bay. It’s important to respect the dead. Good for them. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Merritone-family-leads-clean-up-of-Blues-Busters–graves_15288495
- Ms. Shanique Myrie: The Jamaican woman who endured a humiliating search at the Barbados airport (and recently won her case against the Barbadian government) says she wants to become an activist for human rights and justice, and is considering a partnership with a local community-based organization that I know is quite forward-looking in this respect. I hope something comes of this. Good for her. Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ambassador-against-injustice-_15277157
- Parris Lyew-Ayee: The new Eisenhower Fellow for Jamaica. He joins a very select group (there are actually only two other Fellows still alive; two died tragically, in fact). Read more about here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Parris-Lyew-Ayee-is-Jamaica-s-newest-Eisenhower-Fellow_15274036
Overseas… This report brought back happy childhood memories of English schooldays. “Conkers” are the seed of the magnificent horse chestnut tree that fall in the autumn. I remember looking under the trees for those with the smoothest mahogany-brown skin. The game of conkers consists of trying to knock and break the conker of your opponent, suspended on a string. Sounds a bit silly, but there is some skill and strength involved. When I was a child, schools never asked parents’ permission for children to play it! Read more here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-24578863
I talk quite a bit about the weather, and the fact is that not one single tropical storm or hurricane has truly entered the Caribbean this season – which is extraordinary. This article from Climate Central explains some of the factors: http://www.climatecentral.org/news/what-happened-to-the-2013-atlantic-hurricane-season-16616 Of course, the season doesn’t end until November 30, but at this point…we might be totally in the clear. Fingers crossed.
The following Jamaicans lost their lives violently in the past four days. My deepest condolences as always to the families and friends who are grieving:
Fabian Campbell, 33, Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Unidentified teen, Boulevard Baptist Church/HEART NTA Training Centre, Kingston 20
Unidentified man, Phil’s Hardware, Twickenham Park, St. Catherine
Zachariah Angus, 81, Fontabelle, St. Mary (reported as unidentified in last blog)
Canute Thompson, 28, Retirement, St. James
Romaine Baker, 24, Adelphi, St. James
Olivia Dacres, 54, Prospect, St. Thomas
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131017/cleisure/cleisure3.html The Girl Declaration: Let’s protect our girls: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/27-juveniles-attempt-suicide-in-four-years_15284139 27 juveniles attempt suicide in four years: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/more-than-2000-jamaicans-living-in-modern-day-slavery-report More than 2,000 Jamaicans living in modern-day slavery – report: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/shaw-presents-policy-framework-weighs-in-on-360-megawatt-controversy Shaw presents policy framework, weighs in on 360 megawatt controversy: RJR
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/talking-climate-change-with-professor-michael-taylor Talking climate change with Professor Michael Taylor: RJR News
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/10/18/economy-update-inflation-rate-for-september-2013/ September inflation rate: diGJamaica.com (OUCH)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Campaign-finance-report-still-in-Senate_15287901 Campaign finance report still in Senate:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48770 Concerns limit on cash transactions will profit banks: Sunday Gleaner
I could not let today pass without noting that on October 19, 1983 Prime Minister of Grenada Maurice Bishop and seven of his advisers and ministers were executed by an army firing squad at Fort Rupert (now Fort George) in St. George’s. A faction of his New Jewel Movement had placed Bishop under house arrest five days earlier, because he had refused to share leadership of the political party with Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard. This was the only political assassination in the Caribbean – hopefully, the first and last.
Bishop had seized power on March 13, 1979, burning down the army barracks at True Blue while Prime Minister Eric Gairy was away at a United Nations meeting. These were the Cold War days; and troubled days they were.
During my recent visit to Grenada I did not visit Fort George, where Bishop and his ministers were killed. But I sensed that there were very mixed feelings about the period among older Grenadians. One told me Grenadians were all glad when the United States invaded, just a few days after Bishop’s assassination, because the country was in chaos and there was no food to eat. Others regretted the tragic chain of events, and pointed to the achievements of the Bishop regime during the few years he was in power.
In particular, everyone credited Maurice Bishop with the construction of the international airport at Point Salines (now named after him), which was officially opened just a year after his death. It was a huge step forward for the island. The Cuban Government reportedly provided about half of the funding for the airport to be built, plus much of the labor and equipment. Someone else told me that the Cubans had done much for Grenada at the time of Bishop’s revolutionary government. Everyone seemed to have their opinion about the Bishop era and its aftermath, and every opinion was different.
This airport, which Bishop called “of extreme importance to our revolutionary process,” replaced Pearls Airport, which was in Grenville – inconveniently situated over twenty miles away from the capital. We stopped at Pearls, only for a few minutes (how I hate guided tours). Of course, it is overgrown, and completely deserted apart from a few goats. I would have loved to explore some more; and tried to imagine what the place was like at night – imagining runway lights lighting up, ghostly planes taking off and landing, flying to Cuba and back with supplies.
I did see another haunted place though – what was once a mental institution, which had been mistakenly bombed by U.S. forces. It stands in ruins close to Fort Frederick, high above St. George’s. From the fort there are sweeping views of the town’s red roofs below, the harbor, and the wide blue horizon. On the other side are the quiet green hills and the outskirts of the town. Just below the fort to one side, we looked down at the mental home, where our guide told us at least thirty people died. It is not something that you will find much information about, normally.
But everyone has stories to tell. There are many stories. That is history, isn’t it.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/08/maurice-bishop-murder-grenada_n_1580944.html Maurice Bishop murder: Grenada seeks remains of slain Marxist Prime Minister: Huffington Post
Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 was a devastating event. I have vivid memories of the bleak post-hurricane cityscape of Kingston, with almost every structure broken or destroyed. I recall lining up at the ice factory for a lump of ice; living on bully beef and rice.
The Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) was seriously affected by the ravages of Gilbert. As a result, a small group of businesspeople got together to set up the Jamaica Appeal Committee, which raised enough money to keep classes and the University’s teaching hospital going. Two years later, the UWI Development and Endowment Fund (UWIDEF) was officially established.
Fast forward to 2013, and the Fund has much to be thankful for. I was happy to share in the celebration on October 10 at UWIDEF’s annual donor recognition and scholarship awards luncheon. The mood was focused and distinctly upbeat; but these are challenging times. Chairman Dennis Lalor, in his opening remarks, pointed to a sharp decline in donations and the negative impact of the second Jamaica Debt Exchange on donors, as well as the stultifying economic climate. He noted, however, that “creative mechanisms” were being found for giving. A broader platform is available, including the Jamaican diaspora. Mr. Lalor pointed to the JN Foundation’s excellent “I Support Jamaica” crowd-funding initiative as an example. (By the way, you can contribute to a scholarship for students with special needs here: https://www.isupportjamaica.com/project_details.aspx?pid=54). “All stakeholders must build support for tertiary education,” he concluded, on a note of urgency. “If UWI fails, our country – our region – will fail.”
The recently installed Prinicipal of UWI, Professor Archibald McDonald, stressed the significant role played by UWI in grooming future leaders. This year’s donors, he noted, have helped nurture young, ambitious Jamaican students – those who would be receiving scholarships that day. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr‘s words: “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness,” seemed most appropriate. Altruism, or selflessness, is a much under-estimated value these days.
“I hear young people saying they don’t want to hear about the past, only the future,” observed former Prime Minister and guest speaker PJ Patterson. But, as National Hero Marcus Garvey said, we must know where we are coming from. Patterson reminded us of UWI’s earliest days, when “32 brave students donned scarlet robes” as the first graduates. “There was pride in some quarters,” he observed, “but ridicule in others.” Not everyone was convinced that UWI would work. When he himself entered UWI in 1954, there were 350 students. Now, there are 43,000 “all over the region,” including students of the Open Campus.
From its inception, UWI’s goal was to “loosen colonial ties,” to venture forth independently, as an institution with a shared regional identity. It was also to uphold the principles of tolerance, peace, respect, understanding and social cohesion. Patterson cited examples of progress in many areas that UWI has spearheaded. Great strides, indeed; but “the matter of equity remains a concern,” he added. “Many students are the first in their family to go to UWI…But so was I.”
The other concern, an abiding one of the former Prime Minister’s, is this: “UWI must never lose its regional focus.” He quoted Barbadian writer George Lamming who spoke of the “organic path” that Caribbean people must follow. UWI must keep this path open, he suggested, with the Caribbean at the center of its being. When he graduated, he said, “All of us departed as ardent and unrepentant regionalists.” In that spirit, Patterson announced that he has offered to personally spearhead a drive in support of the Caribbean Integration Bursary, conceived in 2006, which enables students to spend one semester at another of the three UWI campuses (the other two are in Barbados – Cave Hill; and Trinidad – St. Augustine). He would like to see a special window in UWIDEF for this purpose. He urged UWI alumni to give back to this fund, to broaden the students’ horizons and foster Caribbean understanding.
Turning to the matter of funding, Patterson asked whether higher education should be a private concern, or one for the public good. “Simple answer – it must be both,” he said. Currently, the Jamaican Government funds 80 per cent of fees at UWI, while the student contributes 20 per cent. In the program, I read a contribution from UWIDEF’s Executive Director Sasha Parke-Lynch, which included a telling comparison with how colleges in the United States have been doing in the past year. U.S. colleges are struggling too – seeking to meet growing demands for more services against the background of economic uncertainty. Their endowment portfolios declined by 0.3 per cent, on average.
At the luncheon, twenty-three students in the Faculties of Medical Sciences, Law, Business & Management, Science & Technology and Humanities & Education received scholarships and bursaries. As one scholarship recipient, medical student André Whyte noted, students with very limited means have to make daily sacrifices for their studies. They will give up lunch in order to pay for a document to be printed. Surviving financially is always a concern for them.
The corporate donors remain loyal and generous, despite the tough economic times. Regional Manager of Tastee Limited (yes, the patty people) Jermaine Scarlett noted that his firm has been funding scholarships since 1996. This year, Tastee has added new scholarships – in Accounting and Management, Food and Beverages, and Law. Scarlett said he sees Tastee’s “giving back to the Jamaican people” – especially its support for youth at risk – as “a social responsibility.” He urged the recipients of scholarships to complete the circle by becoming donors themselves in the future.
Telecoms firm LIME received special recognition from UWIDEF for what was possibly the single largest donation by a corporate entity in Jamaica – a US$800,000 donation to the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) in 1995, which provided critical pieces of equipment, with some invested for the future. What an incredible boost for the region’s major teaching hospital.
UWIDEF’s purpose is not just to reward personal achievement. It has an even higher goal: simply that of lifting up society. As PJ Patterson noted: “UWI’s mission has no end.”
Please give generously for Jamaica’s future.
“How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment; we can start now, start slowly changing the world!” - Anne Frank’s Diary, 1944
If you wish to contact UWIDEF, you may visit its office at 16 Gibraltar Camp Way, University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7. Tel: (876) 977-6757 or 977-6758. Website: http://www.uwifundmona.org.jm You may also follow UWIDEF on Facebook and Twitter.
There have already been many tributes, and the articles linked below express the loss much more beautifully than I can. Every life lost – rich or poor, young or old, African or not – was a shining star (suddenly, brutally extinguished). But Professor Awoonor brought a power and passion to our world that only writers can bring. Born in Wheta, Ghana, the eldest of ten children, he based much of his early poetry on traditional dirges, wedding celebrations and other oral expressions of his native Ewe tribe, in the griot tradition.
He was also a diplomat, a statesman. Professor Awoonor was Ghana’s ambassador to Brazil and Cuba; and the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1990 to 1994, where he headed an anti-apartheid committee. Prior to this, he had been jailed in 1975 for several months on political charges. He was passionate about what he called the “distresses” of his country and “the chicanery of politics and the men who indulge in them.” He had no illusions about Ghana’s struggles, and seemed to feel that they were not over. He studied at the University of Ghana, London University and the State University of New York (SUNY) Stonybrook; and taught at universities in the United States and Ghana.
Awoonor and his son were in Kenya for the Storymoja Hay Festival, a four-day literary event. “Together we are discussing the birthing pains of countries,” said Awoonor. He was scheduled to speak with fellow Ghanaians that same evening, as part of a celebration of poets from East and West Africa. The festival closed early after a tribute to Professor Awoonor (as the siege at the mall continued), with requests to donate blood for the many injured in the Westgate attack.
Jamaicans may not be as familiar with Professor Awoonor’s work as they are with another African literary giant who passed away not long ago, Chinua Achebe. But Ghana and Jamaica do have strong cultural, linguistic and historical links. Most of the Jamaican Maroons, for example, were from a special group called the Coromantyns or Coromantees – mostly from the Fante and Asante tribes of Ghana, very brave people. My English niece worked in Ghana for six months and said she was constantly reminded of Jamaica (which she had visited three times previously) in the way people spoke, behaved – and looked (people often say that my Jamaican husband looks like Kofi Annan. He does).
And the connections remain; poet Kwame Dawes, for example, was born in Accra but grew up in Jamaica. Kwame has been living and teaching for many years in the United States and is currently Chancellor Professor of English at the University of Nebraska and the Glenna Luschel Editor of Prairie Schooner. He gives back generously to the literary world; he founded the African Poetry Book Fund last year and is co-founder and director of the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica. I have warm memories of him tutoring me during a Calabash workshop series in Kingston.
Kwame had participated in the Storymoja poetry event with Professor Awoonor (his uncle) the day before he died. He tweeted afterwards that Awoonor was “full of jokes” at the event, and shared a photo of them on the panel together.
“It is a big tree that has fallen,” said his brother Robert. Professor Awoonor’s son Afetsi was with him in the Westgate Mall and was wounded. He returned to Ghana with his father’s body.
Professor Awoonor’s funeral will take place on October 3, followed by a state memorial service on October 11 and a final burial in his hometown in southeastern Ghana on November 11.
This was one of the last poems that Professor Awoonor wrote, which the Wall Street Journal published online after his death. It will appear in a new collection of his poems scheduled for publication next year.
ACROSS A NEW DAWN
Sometimes, we read the
lines in the green leaf
run our fingers over the
smooth of the precious wood
from our ancient trees;
Sometimes, even the sunset
puzzles, as we look
for the lines that propel the clouds,
the colour scheme
with the multiple designs
that the first artist put together
There is dancing in the streets again
the laughter of children rings
through the house
On the seaside, the ruins recent
from the latest storms
remind of ancestral wealth
pillaged purloined pawned
by an unthinking grandfather
who lived the life of a lord
and drove coming generations to
despair and ruin
But who says our time is up
that the box maker and the digger
are in conference
or that the preachers have aired their robes
and the choir and the drummers
are in rehearsal?
No; where the worm eats
a grain grows.
the consultant deities
have measured the time
with long winded
arguments of eternity
And death, when he comes
to the door with his own
inimitable calling card
shall find a homestead
resurrected with laughter and dance
and the festival of the meat
of the young lamb and the red porridge
of the new corn
We are the celebrants
whose fields were
overrun by rogues
and other bad men who
interrupted our dance
with obscene songs and bad gestures
Someone said an ailing fish
swam up our lagoon
seeking a place to lay its load
in consonance with the Original Plan
Master, if you can be the oarsman
for our boat
please do it, do it.
I asked you before
once upon a shore
at home, where the
seafront has narrowed
to the brief space of childhood
We welcome the travelers
come home on the new boat
fresh from the upright tree
Related articles and links:
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/remember/july-dec13/poetry_09-25.html Death of Kofi Awoonor in Nairobi Attack is “Great Loss” for Ghana and Poetry: pbs.org
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/art/blog/2013/09/poet-kwame-dawes-remembers-uncle-kofi-awoonor-with-reading-of-the-weaver-bird.html Poet Kwame Dawes remembers uncle Kofi Awoonor with reading of “The Weaver Bird.”
http://ghanagist.com/tribute-to-prof-kofi-awoonor-by-kwame-dawes-a-wall-street-journal-feature-ripkofiawoonor/#.UkYdtxYSwyE Tribute to Professor Kofi Awoonor by Kwame Dawes – a Wall Street Journal feature
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/09/i-will-say-it-before-death-comes-the-murder-of-kofi-awoonor.html I will say it before death comes: The murder of Kofi Awoonor: New Yorker
http://www.hayfestival.com/storymoja/index.aspx?skinid=10¤cysetting=GBP&localesetting=en-GB&resetfilters=true Storymoja Hay Festival Nairobi
http://storymojahayfestival.com Storymoja Tribute to Professor Awoonor
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/african-postman-we-remember-differently/ African Postman: “We Remember Differently” – Chinua Achebe
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/african-postman-fifty-years-of-the-african-writers-series/ African Postman: Fifty Years of the African Writers Series
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/african-postman-the-dangerous-mix-of-politics-and-religion/ African Postman: The Dangerous Mix of Politics and Religion/Wole Soyinka
Last time I visited Fort Rocky, along the road to Port Royal, I was in the company of archaeologist Heidi Savery and a band of intrepid Jamaican and American scholars and students. Yesterday could not have been more different. I was helping out at the registration tent of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), who organized one of the major activities for International Coastal Clean Up Day, September 21. The government’s National Environment & Planning Agency was toiling away not far down the road; and much cleaning was under way at many sites around the island.
The sky was an impenetrable grey, and when I arrived at 7:30 a.m. there was not a breath of wind. The ocean was still and opaque, with no sunlight to illuminate it. The beach behind Fort Rocky is on the open sea. The mangroves of Kingston Harbour (or what’s left of them, after the depredations of China Harbour Engineering Company’s work on the airport road) lie on the other side of this narrow spit of land. We set up in our tent, and waited for the invasion to begin.
Indeed, a veritable army of mostly young people descended on us throughout the morning – roughly two thousand, far more than expected. Eventually JET ran out of gloves and we at the registration table ran out of free bananas and other stuff. The early volunteers arrived and got straight to work. The later ones (including a horde of university students) found what work they could and then retreated inside the Fort Rocky compound for some relaxation (as is often the case in Jamaica, there was a certain amount of socializing). And we actually had to ship out some groups to a nearby site, as we were, as they say, “over-capacity.”
Meanwhile, the unruly pile of filled garbage bags slouched, and spread, and grew steadily higher until it was as tall as the tallest of us.
Some time after lunch, the Fort was quiet again. We could hear the sound of the waves. And the beach… Well, not a scrap of paper or plastic to be found.
Congratulations and thanks to the fantastic Jamaica Environment Trust team (led by energetic Program Director Suzanne Stanley), the amazing sponsors and all the great volunteers for making this a memorable day! I have added a few photos below – you can find a photo album on my Facebook page, too.
Related links and articles:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130922/news/news4.html Huge turnout for International Coastal Cleanup Day: Sunday Gleaner
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/unprecedented-response-to-international-beach-clean-up-day-in-jamaica/ Unprecedented response to International Beach Cleanup Day in Jamaica: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/reduce-reuse-recycle/ Reduce, reuse, recycle: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/pollution-flowing-from-land-to-sea-the-un-caribbean-environment-programme-part-1/ Pollution flowing from land to sea: The UN Caribbean Environment Programme,, Part 1
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/lets-save-jamaicas-portland-bight-protected-area/ Let’s save Jamaica’s Portland Bight Protected Area: petchary.wordpress.com
http://www.upworthy.com/people-should-know-about-this-awful-thing-we-do-and-most-of-us-are-simply-unaware?g=3&c=ufb1 Trailer for “Midway,” a powerful documentary directed by Chris Jordan on the impact on wildlife of trash in our oceans. To donate to the makers of this film, please visit midwayfilm.com.