This is my modest, personal contribution to an amazing series of videos, “We Are Jamaicans,” which is funded with the kind support of the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) through its Global Fund Vulnerablised Project. These are short PSA-length videos – the voices of Jamaicans young and old, gay and straight, uptown and downtown – our personal stories, our thoughts, our perspectives.
My thought is that, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., hate is too great a burden to bear. So much better to lay it down. Let us embrace Jamaica and Jamaicans, in all their wonderful, human diversity.
For some reason I don’t know how to post videos to this blog. But here is the link to my story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctTekHlyrXE&feature=player_detailpage
And the entire series (a total of eighteen to date) can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/user/EqualityJA?feature=watch
Do browse through, enjoy, and post your feedback if you wish. Thank you!
- Jamaican Transgender Women Lend Their Voices To ‘We Are Jamaicans’ Campaign (repeatingislands.com)
- MLK: Marcus Garvey Was the First (youthandeldersja.wordpress.com)
- J-FLAG, Jamaica’s gay rights group, launches YouTube video campaign, ‘We Are Jamaicans’ (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Playing Politics With Jamaica’s Future (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Jamaican trans women call for equality (thefword.org.uk)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/jamaican-press-ignores-ground-breaking-gay-rights-video-campaign/ Jamaican press ignores ground-breaking gay rights video campaign
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/i-admire-this-young-man/ I admire this young man
Jamaicans have an energetic relationship with words. They fling them, they shout them, they play with them, they let them sing. And so it was at a light-hearted, but quietly passionate session of open mic poetry last night at my neighborhood bookstore, Bookophilia. At times we competed with the busy Friday night traffic. But we made our point.
I kicked things off myself, on a very un-Jamaican note, but dipping into my heritage and childhood. After a grim week (not only for Boston and Texas, but for Iraq and Syria, too) I began with the somber “The Second Coming.” W.B. Yeats‘ poem, written in 1919, is suffused with dread. The “rough beast” begins to drag its feet across the desert. It is in no hurry. It will get there. It is Evil. You can find the entire poem on another blog post http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/the-second-coming/
As an antidote, I read from probably the first book I ever possessed, “The Jumblies and other Nonsense Verses,” by Edward Lear. I read my favorite poem, “The Owl and the Pussy Cat,” and was surprised to discover that some Jamaicans were actually familiar with it. I received this book from my great-aunt Esmé on my third birthday; the book is now battered and stained, and some tropical insects have taken tentative nibbles at the cover, over the years. But it is still very much intact – and alive, as only books can be…
But the occasion was a very Jamaican one. It was, in fact, the launch of a Word Festival called “Dis Poem” ...a tribute to the “Incient” (in Rastafarian parlance) Mutabaruka. The veteran, barefoot dub poet is acquiring the status of an elder (and I think that feels nice). But thankfully, he has not mellowed much. He has stayed the course. “Dis Poem” is probably his best-known work, from back in 1986 – declamatory, demanding, humorous, contradictory and always enjoyable in a new way. You can find it on YouTube – don’t just read the lyrics. It must be spoken, performed, and has been put to music several times by different artists. Rastakura, our courteous Master of Ceremonies for the evening, gave us a spirited version of the poem itself, as a reminder.
Ann-Margaret Lim read several of her sharply perceptive poems in a soft, but sonorous voice. Her first published book of poetry, “The Festival of Wild Orchid,” received a Special Mention on the Long List for the 2013 OCM Bocas Literary Prize. It is published by Peepal Tree Press. But I especially loved a poem that was not included in that collection, about the sea. I would love to publish it here. You can read the title poem here: http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/the-festival-of-wild-orchid-a-poem-for-national-heroes-day/
Randy McLaren (the “Creative Activist”) stirred our conscience with his poetry. He touched on a number of social issues – in particular, he mentioned the terrible fire at Armadale, where seven young women who were wards of the state died. And he spoke about sixteen-year-old Vanessa Wint, of whom I have written before, who survived Armadale in 2009, but committed suicide at an adult prison last November.
There is huge potential in dub poetry as a kind of protest art form. Of course, this has always been done. I was (still am) very fond of the work of Linton Kwesi Johnson, the Brixton revolutionary, a British Jamaican who has never lost the fire in his belly. The humanity of young dub poet Mikey Smith always shone through in his poetry (I saw him perform more than once in London; he had a powerful voice, extraordinary presence). I recommend that you look him up on YouTube also. “Mi Cyaan Believe It” is a great poem of his. But poor Mikey died too young; at age 28 he was attacked and killed by political activists in Stony Hill, near Kingston in 1983.
Randy, I want you to walk in the steps of Mikey. But take care of yourself…
Then we had LXS, a two-man dub poetry team (I hear there is actually a third member, who did not perform last night) rooted in Rastafarianism. The two went on a veritable verbal excursion, occasionally leaning together at the mike, nodding in agreement, dancing, interrupting each other and talking in chorus. It was delightful, fluent. I believe there is much potential in this kind of dub-team format.
I had seen History Man perform before. A well-built Rastafarian, he strides onto the stage, closes his eyes and launches into a flowing, detailed account of Black History. There is very little performance element here; you just have to listen to his words, and the information pours out of him like a well-rehearsed, structured dictionary. His first poem was about black inventors; the second was a detailed account of Bob Marley’s life and music, including a discography, dates and all. Marvelous stuff.
Thank you so much to Bookophilia – and to Rastakura, our MC. And to the appreciative audience. It was nice to read, even if the poetry wasn’t mine. I have never written a line of poetry in my life, but I could not live without it. I grew up with its endless riches.
“Dis Poem” Word Festival will take place at Hope Bay Beach, Portland, Jamaica on Sunday, April 28, 2013 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Admission $700 pre-sold, $1,000 at the gate. Students $300 (free to students of the College of Agriculture, Science & Education in Portland).
Bookophilia is at 92 Hope Road, Kingston 6. Tel: 978-5248. Opening hours: Mon – Fri: 10:00 – 19:00; Sat: 10:00 – 18:00; Sun: 12:00 – 17:00. They are on Facebook and Twitter (@Bookophilia) and their email is email@example.com. They have comfy chairs, an appealing children’s section, an excellent selection of West Indian literature, and they brew a mean cup of coffee. It’s also well known for its special events – readings, book launches, art exhibits and the like.
A Cup of Tea, and a Poem or Two (petchary.wordpress.com)
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/the-father-of-dub-poetry-gets-a-fine-award/ The father of dub poetry gets a fine award: petchary.wordpress.com
http://www.57productions.com/article_reader.php?id=36 Mikey Smith, by Mervyn Morris
My apologies! Yesterday proved to be such a busy day (including a slight hangover from our delicious trip to St. Elizabeth the day before) that this post eluded me.
This week is beginning with a heightened state of nerves over another national broadcast this evening. This is unusual, in that it will be a joint broadcast by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Peter Phillips. It springs from the visit of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) team to Jamaica; the team arrived almost a week ago, and some members have since departed. The remainder will leave on February 15. Meanwhile, the address was recorded yesterday. What does it contain, and why is it a joint address? One talk show host believes the ministers will announce that the administration has abandoned the prospect of an IMF agreement. My concern, too, is that I don’t get the sense that any of the “prior actions” - which Minister Phillips has hinted are problematic – have been achieved, or are likely to be. I did hear that the Minister traveled to Washington, DC on Friday – but nothing more. Did this actually happen? Also, I thought I heard the Prime Minister comment recently, as an aside, that perhaps Jamaica might not sign an IMF agreement, or words to that effect. Did I hear correctly? If not, please let me know, dear readers.
The broadcast will take place on all media at 9:00 p.m. Jamaican time and on CVM Television at 11:00 p.m. The video will be available on the Jamaica Information Service website at http://www.jis.gov.jm. Fingers crossed… But I don’t have a good feeling.
And the financial analysts – such as Ralston Hyman on CVM Television – continue to stress the importance of things like productivity for our economic bottom line. What are we doing about that?
Meanwhile, we heard that last Tuesday, the House of Representatives’ session lasted just 45 minutes. “Guess there is nothing that really needs their attention at this time,” observed one of my online friends with just a hint of sarcasm. And why only 45 minutes? An investigative journalist should take this up and see how many hours the people we elected to represent us have actually spent working on the nation’s business – say, since the Christmas vacation. What about those important pieces of legislation (DNA, lotto scam, libel/slander laws, etc) that are pending? Let alone private members’ motions and so on. It would be fantastic to have a complete breakdown from each ministry of pending legislation and the status thereof, with timelines for completion. Or are our lawmakers just coasting down towards April 1, when the new budget year begins?
I do not understand the inertia. As another online friend tweeted last week: “Why does it take us so long in Ja to DO anything?
#perplexing.” Perhaps this question, which I have often asked, has answered itself. As a former U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica commented many years ago, I prefer to applaud achievements, not announcements. Action needed, please!
Meanwhile, I hear at least one government minister is visiting the fair isles of Trinidad and Tobago this week… Yes, Carnival time is here! But then, as we say in Jamaica, their bread is buttered…on both sides.
They also say that empty barrels make the most noise. Certainly, the rumblings over the “Enemy of the State” comment by our Prime Minister subsided last week. Ms. Simpson Miller put her foot down, and strongly (and I mean strongly) rejected any suggestion that she should apologize for her remarks – which suggests that they may well have been scripted. “Apologize for WHAT!” our fearless leader snapped at a broadcast journalist. She also issued a press release suggesting that “leaders should be careful with their statements.” OK. I tell you what… Let’s move on. I commend to you my fellow-blogger Damien Williams’ comments on the topic. See link below.
Another discussion that continued to rattle on last week was the VW ad that aired during Superbowl – remember, the one with the Jamaican accent (not patois)? Two schools of thought emerged. The largest school was that it was all great for us, as it portrayed our culture in a positive light and helped promote “Brand Jamaica” - some discussion too, around what Brand Jamaica really IS. A second school of thought, to which I belong, suggested that the ad perpetuates the “Everyt’ing irie, mon” stereotype of the happy Jamaican sitting under a coconut tree, lazing the day away. Those in the first school accuse those in the second of being miserable, negative and possibly unpatriotic. I have started a third school, called “Enough already!”
University professor Dr. Carolyn Cooper, who writes frequently on cultural issues considers this car ad a “reminder, yet again, that Jamaica is a cultural superpower.” The colonial oppressors are gone, and Jamaica rules the waves with reggae and champion sprinters. And as she says, “it’s all in good fun.” OK then, let’s lighten up a little – but let’s not expect millions of U.S. dollars to flow into the country’s coffers as a result of one TV ad, either. One of Dr. Cooper’s colleagues is not so amused by a British policeman, former Assistant Commissioner of Police Les Green,whose comments in the UK press on the inefficiencies of the Jamaica Constabulary Force continued to reverberate last week. Not good for Jamaica’s image. But those Jamaicans who don’t live in ivory towers seem to fundamentally disagree with Dr. Orville Taylor’s anti-colonial fulminations, accusations of racism etc. They claim Mr. Green is speaking the truth! The truth. Ah, where art thou, truth?
An online commentator noted: “We keep harping on the achievements of or artistes and athletes as a benchmark for performance. Where are the scientists, inventors, innovators?”
So much for the aftershocks. Last Tuesday was a pretty serious day for the residents of Majesty Gardens, a deeply impoverished community which has been represented by the Prime Minister for the past thirty years or so. The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), which is seeking to “regularize” the many thousands of squatters who have never paid an electricity bill, moved into the community that day and disconnected 2,857 illegal connections. TV footage showed light poles festooned with “throw ups” - illegal wiring – like spaghetti. Only three legal connections were found. Three! The residents protested and mumbled and said they were willing to pay something, but… The overriding, undeniable factor in this is, of course, poverty.
Talking about energy, media reports have been so conflicting and confusing that I, for one, would love someone to explain to me what is going on. Where is our energy plan, Minister Paulwell? I am afraid that, at this point, I am rethinking my enthusiastic endorsement. I am disappointed. Something has gone wrong – quite out of sync. I hope that we will hear more – specifics! We need to know where we are going in terms of alternative energy and so on. The prospects of cheaper electricity in the near future look increasingly bleak.
I continue to enjoy the CVM Television program “Live at Seven,” hosted by the very sharp Simon Crosskill. Last week I caught a report and discussion on the state of the Pedro Cays, where, according to the Jamaica Environment Trust, six hundred Jamaicans live! With no sanitation or amenities, these tiny islands have become a mini-slum of zinc and cardboard shacks and piles of garbage. Government officials (who, as usual, haven’t got it quite clear which of several agencies is responsible for this appalling state of affairs) told Mr. Crosskill last week that they have a plan for managing the cays. After twenty years they are just coming up with one. But hey, surprise! there is now no money for implementation of the plan!
One more thing has been bugging me since last week. Twenty-seven Haitian men, women and children arrived on our shores (in the eastern parish of Portland, as usual) in a rickety boat. They obviously intended to flee to the United States but ended up in Jamaica instead. Instead of discussing asylum and other issues, our government speedily “processed” the refugees (a word normally used when young men are rounded up and finger-printed by the police in inner-city communities). Within three days, they were shipped back to Haiti on a Jamaica Defense Force coast guard boat. One understands that the small rural community where they landed had no resources to house or support the refugees, and I know we have enough problems of our own, but… Isn’t Haiti a fellow-member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) where there is supposed to be freedom of movement? In fact, isn’t Haiti the current chair of CARICOM? Don’t the refugees have any rights to a hearing? Would Cuban refugees be treated the same way? The United Nations High Commission on Refugees has expressed concern. And Haitians are also the only CARICOM citizens that have to obtain a visa to visit other CARICOM nations. Is this right?
Throwing some bouquets… To my community of fellow-bloggers in Jamaica. They are becoming stronger, and more outspoken, and just more interesting altogether! Keep up the good work. And please, Jamaicans, do not steal the ideas and language of bloggers and reproduce it as your own original thought! This happened recently with a blogger I know, whose work was shamelessly plagiarized and repackaged into a letter to the editor. The sharing and amplification of ideas is one thing. Theft of another’s creative expression is a different thing entirely.
I am impressed by the work of the Road Safety Unit and the National Road Safety Council. They have been doing quiet work to stem the madness that stalks our highways and byways in the form of speeding vehicles of every description. And they are getting results! Take a look at the Council’s excellent website: http://www.nationalroadsafetycouncil.org.jm. Fatalities on the road were considerably lower than the targeted 300 last year, and are 12 per cent down so far this year. Keep up the good work!
The Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) partnered with the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) and others last week for the first in a series of seminars on budgeting for gender equity. Tonight they will meet at the Trench Town Community Centre. Listen in if you can’t make it – Nationwide News Network, which does sterling service in live-broadcasting these democratic forums, will be airing it. I will write more about this worthy effort soon. Congratulations to all concerned, including the 51% Coalition that seeks to empower women and strengthen our democracy through increased participation for all. And it’s not only gender equity, but equity for all Jamaicans, which the JCSC seems now to be focused on. Excellent!
Last week, the U.S. Embassy brought another inspiring African American scientist to Jamaica in recognition of Black History Month. Her name is Mae Jemison and she was the first African American female astronaut in space. She has visited Jamaica before (the last time was in 1998) but this time the aim was for her to inspire students and young people, scientists and educators to promote the importance of science in the country’s development. I had planned to attend – Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s talk at the U.S. Embassy recently was fascinating – but could not make it. However, I understand that Dr. Jemison got people fired up.
And I am so pleased that the University of Technology (UTech) have taken the bull by the horns and instituted a campaign for tolerance on campus. Some students may shrug their shoulders and say it is not needed, but – yes, it is. And what harm can it do to encourage all students to treat their fellow Jamaicans with respect and decency? After last year’s nightmarish experience (the mob attack and beating of an alleged homosexual student on UTech’s campus), the university administration has clearly taken a sober look at things. The aim is not just to rein in homophobic attacks, but it is a broader campaign. A very good move, and an example that the other two main tertiary institutions – the University of the West Indies and Northern Caribbean University – might like to follow. They are by no means immune, as I know that similar “mob rule” behavior has taken place there, too.
And the mindless violence continues. For some, it seems, praying and going to church is the only answer. With so many churches per square mile, it is ironic that we have the third highest murder rate in the world. How is that possible, when we are all so “God-fearing”? I leave you with a comment from Sunday Gleaner columnist Martin Henry, who concludes his weekly column thus: “It is certain that Jamaica will not progress well without a stronger adoption of the virtues of religion.”
Really, Mr. Henry? Really? Shouldn’t we already be virtuous enough? No, more hours in church needed, it seems. Oh. Do read Mr. Hilaire Sobers’ column, below, for clarification.
My deepest condolences to the family and friends of all those who were killed in the past week. I feel saddened that the list at the end of each week’s post appears to be getting longer (seventeen by my count, which means two or three murders daily), while the police killed seven Jamaican citizens last week. Minister Bunting, is your policy of “there will be more shootouts” really working? And what happened to “community policing”?
Omar Bailey, Portmore, St. Catherine
Tafari Harvey, 17, Bog Walk, St. Catherine
Oneil Ormsby, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Tyreena Gayle, 24, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Damion, Denham Town, Kingston
Unidentified man, Milk Lane, Central Kingston
Unidentified woman, Milk Lane, Central Kingston
Lloyd Williams, 48, Molynes Road, Kingston 10
André Roberts, 26, Maxfield Avenue, Kingston
Unidentified man, Deanery Road, Kingston 3
Omar Myers, 31, Eastwood Park Road/Half Way Tree, Kingston 10
“Starry,” Standpipe, Kingston 6
Unidentified, Frome, Westmoreland
Alvin Rochester, 43, Greenvale, Manchester
Kevin Haughton, 36, Montego Bay, St. James
Lennox Campbell, 22, Lilliput, St. James
Gladstone Smith, 50, Epsom, St. Mary
“Slaughter,” Caledonia Meadows, Manchester
“Sekou,” Big Lane/Central Village, St. Catherine
Nicholas Mitchell, 27, Norwood, St. James
Unidentified, Norwood, St. James
Unidentified, Norwood, St. James
Unidentified, 27, Alexandria Road, Central Kingston
Jonoye Glaze, 20, Brighton, Westmoreland
Related links (local blog commentary highlighted in maroon)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/lead/lead8.html Prime Minister and Finance Minister to address the nation: Jamaica Information Service
http://repeatingislands.com/2013/02/04/native-tongue-speaking-with-a-caribbean-accent/ Native Tongue: Speaking with a Caribbean accent: repeatingislands.com
http://carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/superpower-jamaican-accent-for-the-super-bowl/ Superpower Jamaican accent for the Superbowl: carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/that-vw-ad-jamaica-no-problem-offensive-or-good-exposure/#comment-1450 That VW ad – Jamaica No Problem: Offensive or good exposure? newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Our-dual-natures_13583905 Our dual natures: Tamara Scott-Williams column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Why-brand-Jamaica-won-t-work-for-us_13563923 Why brand Jamaica won’t work for us: Henley Morgan op-ed/Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Tell-what-you-know-_13535976 Tell what you know: Holness tells residents to expose child killers: Jamaica Observer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4z1d4UnaEU&feature=youtu.be Andrew Holness speech at PSOJ Chairman’s Breakfast Forum: YouTube
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/death-in-paradise-the-real-life-policeman-1571092 From London to Jamaica: The real “Death in Paradise” policeman: Daily Mirror, UK
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/I-am-not-surprised_13559895 ”I am not surprised”: JFJ’s Goffe backs Les Green: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/letters/letters3.html Les Green’s comments on the police racist? Letter to the Gleaner from Colin Campbell
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130210/focus/focus1.html Was it worth it? Orville Taylor column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/lead/lead3.html Denham Town victim campaigned for peace: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/letters/letters5.html Reach out to at-risk youth: Letter from Boys’ Town to Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Help-me-out-please–Prime-Minister_13536880 Help me out please, Prime Minister: Mark Wignall column/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/cleisure/cleisure4.html Take offense or take action: Andre Wright column/Gleaner
http://dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com/2013/02/who-is-enemy-of-state.html Who is (the) Enemy of the State? dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/32900 PM Simpson Miller says leaders should be careful with their statements: Jamaica Information Service
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/parliament-called-upon-again-to-work-harder/ Parliament called upon (again) to work harder: newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130205/news/news1.html Driver shot for not stopping: Jamaica Star
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/of-darkness-and-bears/ Of darkness, and bears: petchary.wordpress.com
http://www.og.nr/rbt/11833-man-crushed-to-death-woman-raped-at-kingston-funeral-home.html Man crushed to death, woman raped at Kingston funeral home: On the Ground News Reports
http://www.og.nr/permalink/11730#.URKWUJ3S69w.twitter Lotto scammer sends threatening messages to U.S. woman: On the Ground News Reports
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Let-us-stop-demonising-gays_13545427 Let us stop demonising gays: Javed Jaghai letter to the Jamaica Observer
http://www.og.nr/rbt/11872-jamaican-gay-activist-challenges-buggery-law.html Jamaican gay activist challenges buggery law: On the Ground News Reports
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Buggery-law-review-promise-was-a-political-sham_13584250 Buggery law review promise was a political sham: Mark Wignall column/Sunday Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/utech-launches-project-to-increase-tolerance UTech launches project to increase tolerance: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-facts-about-homosexuality_13581293 The facts about homosexuality: Cynthia Burton op-ed/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130207/lead/lead6.html Female astronaut encourages scientists to soar above expectations: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/haitians-sent-home_1 Haitians sent home: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/haiti-could-take-caricom-imposed-visa-restrictions-to-ccj Haiti could take CARICOM-imposed visa restrictions to CCJ: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/unhcr-concerned-about-repatriation-of-cubans-and-haitians UNHCR concerned about repatriation of Cubans, Haitians: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Work–work–work—–instead-of-pray–pray–pray_13534246 Work, work, work…instead of pray, pray, pray: Letter/Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/dalley-moves-to-support-public-defenders-office Dalley moves to support Public Defender‘s office: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/lead/lead8.html IMF team in Jamaica: Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/tough-measures-expected-in-joint-address-to-nation Tough measures expected in joint address to nation: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/computer-hacker-breaks-into-dpps-files Computer hacker breaks into DPP’s files: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130210/business/business1.html Lights out at Palmyra: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JPS-removes-2-857-illegal-connections-in-Majesty-Gardens JPS removes 2,587 illegal connections in Majesty Gardens: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/lead/lead1.html Blame government for high JPS bills – OUR boss says high energy cost is political leaders’ fault: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130204/news/news3.html Renewable energy data now available on PCJ’s website: Gleaner
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-106/32902 Over 1,000 eye surgeries performed under Jamaica/Cuba program: Jamaica Information Service
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/undp-donates-to-dengue-control-programme UNDP donates to dengue control program: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42687 Busy Signal faces more charges over passport fraud: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42690 Olint investors want money back: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130205/cleisure/cleisure3.html Reason and faith are like oil and water: Hilaire Sobers op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130210/focus/focus5.html Religion and development: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/road-safety-unit-reports-reduction-in-road-fatalities Road Safety Unit reports reduction in traffic fatalities: RJR News
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 Program, part 1: petchary.wordpress.com
Phew! It’s been quite a week. A mysterious shooting incident at police training, two children murdered, semi-hysteria over a car ad.
Now tell me …Who is Jamaica’s very own Enemy of the State? A home-grown terrorist, perhaps? A traitor who has committed a treasonable act? A particularly bloodthirsty gang leader who is on the rampage? No… None of the above. According to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, it is none other than our Honorable Leader of the Opposition, the somewhat mild-mannered Andrew Holness. Now, it is quite well known that when the Most Honorable Portia Simpson Miller gets on a podium in front of her party supporters, she goes into campaign mode. Her voice is much louder than the carefully modulated one she uses for official speeches. Her tone becomes strident and her body language more forceful. Of course she is not the only politician to behave in this way. But please. Can you remember that you are the Prime Minister; that you won the election over a year ago now; and that no one is actually picking a fight with you right now? Or are you spoiling for another “tracing match” again?
Do we just have to grit our teeth and ignore such outbursts? Does it make some of her colleagues cringe when their leader makes these absurd utterances? Can we try to hold our politicians’ utterances to a higher standard than this? I don’t know.
It’s a little tricky for Mr. Holness, one realizes. One hears a chorus of mutterings in middle-class civil society and – no matter how muted – some discontent among the lady’s die-hard followers about the state of our governance. There is a sense that things are slipping, especially on the economic front. It does not help that the Finance Minister rarely speaks in public. But the Opposition Leader (whom I have criticized for his reticence in the past few months) is obviously cautious about talking at all forcefully about the apparent mess we are in. If he does, he will be accused of being unpatriotic and negative and of spreading bad news about Jamaica.
But Mr. Holness is obliged to offer alternatives to the administration. That is what he is there for. So I would suggest that rather than make speeches (which get chopped up by the TV editors hoping for a juicy sound-byte) he gets interviewed by a few serious current affairs programs on television, and a couple of serious radio talk show hosts. Perhaps he could start a weekly or regular newspaper column. He must offer an alternative vision, and show how it can be reached – but in a non-confrontational manner. He did say on television that he is not there to “just oppose, oppose, oppose” but to put policies on the table. Sounds good. Just do it, nuh. And what are those policies, please?
As for our Prime Minister, perhaps she needs to cool down the temperature. This is not leadership, Madam. It just makes the average Jamaican nervous. And please go and look up what an enemy of the state really is.
Talking about spreading Jamaica’s name abroad, there has been great excitement about a TV commercial for Volkswagen, which is being aired today during the Superbowl in the United States. It is quite charming and funny. In case you don’t know what I am talking about, I have added the YouTube clip below – along with a link to fellow-blogger Corve daCosta’s exclusive interview with the actor, Erik Nicolaisen, which rather endeared me to him. He seems like a lovely fellow. He has a Jamaican brother-in-law, it turns out. And he did a good job with the accent (he doesn’t attempt patois). But like most commercials of this nature, the VW ad deals with stereotypes. Which is one reason why on the whole I ignore almost all commercials and generally press the mute button when they are on! Jamaicans are often portrayed as laid-back, happy-go-lucky people, so there we go. There are British, Australian, Italian, American etc. stereotypes all over the media. So what? Some Americans however found the ad “racist.” I think this is based on the fact that they don’t understand that, hey – Jamaicans are not all black! So this is not a “black accent” - merely a Jamaican accent. Big deal. I do understand where that is coming from, though. I remember the first time I came to Jamaica on holiday I was astonished to hear a Chinese Jamaican speaking patois. It was a complete surprise to me – but then I didn’t know any better.
Whether Jamaicans actually are laid-back, happy-go-lucky people is another matter. But most Jamaicans have warmly embraced the commercial, pointing out that it will bring in “millions of dollars” and enhance Jamaica’s image abroad. How exactly, I am still not sure; I guess they are talking about tourism. I’m going to reserve my judgment on that one. But of course our political leaders are ecstatic about it. Grasping at straws, perhaps.
Politicians are not so thrilled, it seems, about the fact that a crew from a U.S. cable channel, headed by the famed Dan Rather, has been in Jamaica to film a documentary about the “lotto scam.” Minister of National Security Peter Bunting is reportedly concerned. He is upset that Mr. Rather and his team were not interested in visiting nice hotels in Montego Bay; but rather in doing some serious investigative journalism on a huge criminal enterprise, originating in the tourist town, that has robbed his fellow-citizens of millions over the past few years. Mr. Rather is a journalist, not a PR man, Mr. Bunting.
I’m going to get excited about the fact that, according to Reporters Without Borders, Jamaica has the highest level of press freedom in the Western Hemisphere. This is something to be proud of. According to the organization’s Press Freedom Index 2013, Jamaica is thirteenth in the world for press freedom. This despite the fact that Jamaicans are astonished at the freedom afforded the North American press to film in courtrooms, etc. And despite the fact that our archaic and backward libel laws have still not been updated, after Justice Hugh Small’s committee made recommendations back in 2008. This fear of libel lawsuits has a “chilling effect” on journalism, encouraging journalists to “self-censor” and editors to be careful of what their reporters say and write – in case it offends someone with a large bank balance and a team of hotshot lawyers. Plus, of course, there is the influence of media owners on what journalists report, or don’t report. On the whole though, I do believe the explosion in online media (blogging, online television stations and online publications) has certainly boosted press freedom in Jamaica.
And clearly, many countries are a lot worse than Jamaica. The Western Hemisphere looks pretty bad overall on the Index. Argentina for example is way down; Cuba is, not surprisingly, 171st out of 179 countries, rubbing shoulders with Sudan and Iran. Interestingly, the twelve countries above Jamaica in the index are all in Europe, except for New Zealand.
Meanwhile the mindless violence continues. You will see several examples below of incidents that were reported in the media; of course, many are not. A policeman attacked within an inch of his life because he was mistaken for someone who stole an iPad; a gunman who drove onto the grounds of a prominent girls’ high school and threatened a student; and so on. As you can see from the tragic list below, the murders have continued. This week a four-year-old boy was shot dead by a man who had a dispute with his grandmother. A fourteen-year-old schoolgirl was dragged from the bus stop and into a car (no one lifting a finger to help); her body was thrown out on the street a few hours later, wrapped in a sheet. And so on. It is so grim at times that one starts to dread listening to the early morning news.
On that topic, I must commend to you an article by another fellow-blogger, who has made reference to a tendency towards what she calls “John-Crow journalism.” Do read her piece in the link below. For my non-Jamaican readers, a John Crow is a Turkey Vulture – and we all know what a vulture’s habits are. Both television stations are guilty of this brand of sensational journalism. I think it derives from a kind of prurient curiosity about the private lives of the poor, the ghetto-dwellers. This expands into a kind of no-holds-barred. close-up intrusion into private grief and distress. I was disturbed recently by a report during which a woman waiting to hear news of her son’s condition in hospital was told, on camera, that he was dead. Wailing, tears, women falling into the arms of their relatives on hearing of the violent death of their relative. These are everyday images.
Do the television stations give similar treatment to an uptown, middle-class murder? No, they do not. They show the sensitivity and consideration that should be afforded to all Jamaicans under such circumstances. But the poor are different. As Jaevion Nelson noted in a recent column (and poet Tanya Shirley wrote) the masses of the poor are there for our entertainment. We laugh at them, we peer at their grief.
Do we care about corruption these days? Do we even talk about it? Not much, it seems – but it is still embedded in Jamaican society. So I must commend Professor Trevor Munroe, who heads National Integrity Action. Professor Munroe recently hosted an excellent program, “The Cost of Corruption,” which was aired on TVJ recently and was repeated today. It is a very well-produced documentary, with a variety of voices contributing to the discussion. The program also discusses the vexed question of political party financing, an issue that Professor Munroe has been focused on for many years, now. I am trying to find it online, without success so far.
Is anyone listening? I hope so. And as the professor notes, some progress has been made in the legislature. He is hoping for campaign financing legislation to be on the books by March, 2013. And on the same topic, I found the discussion with Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commissioner, Joseph Kamara on CVM Television’s “Live at Seven” most enlightening. Mr. Kamara visited Jamaica a few days ago.
Recently, a “cass-cass” developed in the education sector. The Jamaica Observer has done a good job of reporting on the situation at Kingston’s Tarrant High School, where teachers have been trying their hardest to oust their principal, Mr. Garfield Higgins. Ingrid Brown’s report from a stormy PTA meeting was instructive. This kind of in-fighting appears to be a regular occurrence in Jamaica’s schools – and in other public institutions, sadly – vindictive, highly personal attacks on figures in authority. It appears that in this case, Mr. Higgins has put his foot down and insisted on teachers actually turning up for classes (one apparently has been absent 89 times). The teachers don’t like it, but it is instructive that the principal appears to have the parents’ support. This is what Jamaicans would call “pure slackness.”
Finally, an astonishing development: during a late-night training session at the Police Academy in Twickenham Park, live rounds were allegedly used instead of blanks. One policeman died and five others were injured. Six instructors are under interdiction, and the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is investigating (“Big ups,” as always, to INDECOM). More anon…
Last weekend, we finally visited the National Biennial at the National Gallery of Jamaica. It smacked me between the eyes. There is truly something there for everyone; the more in-your-face, challenging pieces are on the ground floor, and much more good stuff upstairs. The National Gallery opens its doors on the last Sunday of every month, as well as every day of the week except Mondays, and it’s a treat. Last Sunday, there was an airing of Storm Saulter’s much-praised film “Better Mus’ Come.” The Sunday openings are a real pleasure, and the Biennial continues until March 9. Do make time to go and see it! I will be posting an article on the exhibition, soon. And check out the National Gallery blog at http://nationalgalleryofjamaica.wordpress.com.
February means Black History Month, and I am looking forward to the talk by Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut and the first woman of color in space, at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston on Tuesday morning. Yay! I already had the huge pleasure of hearing Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, another African-American scientist, at the U.S. Embassy. Congratulations to Ambassador Bridgewater and all at the Embassy’s Public Affairs Section for bringing them both over. What inspiration!
And “bon voyage” to nine students from Cambridge High, Green Pond High, Irwin High, Spot Valley High and St. James High Schools in western Jamaica, who are the U.S. Embassy’s Youth Ambassadors this year. They departed for a three-week program in Washington, DC and Denver, Colorado today. I remember when a group from west Kingston departed last year, and the great excitement at their orientation. It was a superb experience for them.
Finally, please spare a thought (and a prayer, if you pray) for the families and friends of those who were murdered in the past week.
Shariefa Saddler, 14, Olympic Gardens, Kingston
Rushaun Burford, 4, Allman Town, Kingston
Brittney Mighty, 22, Port Royal road, Kingston
Unidentified man, Tarrant Drive, Kingston 10
Candice Johnson, Denham Town, Kingston
“Quammie,” Denham Town, Kingston
Fabian Latibeaudiere, Temple Hall, St. Andrew
Special Constable Duan Peart, Portmore, St. Catherine
Delroy Grant, Coolshade District, St. Catherine
Saskia Harris, Sandside District, St. Mary
Everton Wilson, 23, Albion, St. James
Oneil Carr, 32, Salt Spring, St. James
Dwayne Phillips, 33, Alexandria, St. Ann
Glendon May, 23, May Pen, Clarendon
Owen Bruce, 42, Haughton District, St. Elizabeth
Killed by the police:
Wallen Cunningham, 30, Whitehall, Westmoreland
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/14-y-o-girl–constable–businessman-brutally-murdered_13527877 Bloody day: 14-year-old girl, constable, businessman brutally murdered: Jamaica Observer
http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/PrimeTimeNews.aspx/Videos/23907 PM upset over teen killing: TVJ News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Men-drive-onto-school-ground–threaten-to-kill-student_13543726 Men drive onto school ground, threaten to kill student: Jamaica Observer
http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/PrimeTimeNews.aspx/Videos/23949 Gunmen cause panic in May Pen: TVJ News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42644 Mistaken identity: Cop stabbed, beaten in mix-up over iPad theft: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42642 INDECOM questions police trainers, collects statements: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130202/news/news2.html Murders plunge in St. James: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130131/cleisure/cleisure3.html A conspiracy of silence/Jaevion Nelson: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130203/focus/focus8.html The future we really want: Joan Grant Cummings/Judith Wedderburn column: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130131/lead/lead1.html ”Tourism not for us” – William Knibb youths shun sector: Gleaner
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9H0xPWAtaa8 Volkswagen Superbowl 2013 commercial: YouTube
http://corvedacosta.com/erik-nicolaisen-from-the-vw-ad-campaign-speaks-with-corve-dacosta/ Erik Nicolaisen from the VW ad campaign speaks with Corve DaCosta: corvedacosta.com
http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/PrimeTimeNews.aspx/Videos/23942 Prime Minister’s “Enemy of the State” comment: TVJ News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Simpson-Miller-must-rein-in-her-temper-JLP Simpson Miller must rein in her temper – JLP: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holness-won-t-respond-to-PM-s–ridiculous–enemy-of-the-state-comment_13542060 Holness won’t respond to PM’s “ridiculous” enemy of the state comment: Sunday Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/32866 Minister Falconer hails Jamaica’s No. 1 press rating: Jamaica Information Service
http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2013,1054.html Press Freedom Index 2013: Reporters Without Borders
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Libel-law-could-be-amended-next-year Libel law could be amended next year: Jamaica Observer, December 3, 2012
http://negrilstories.com/jamaican-grief-porn-and-john-crow-journalism/ Jamaican grief porn and John-Crow journalism: negrilstories.com (Winner of Best Writing in a Blog/Ja. Blog Awards)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=42632 American journalist Dan Rather visits Jamaica for lottery scam documentary: Gleaner
http://niajamaica.org National Integrity Action website
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Tarrant-rift-widens_13521805 Tarrant rift widens: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130130/news/news3.html The JLP must assert itself – Tufton: Gleaner
http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/PrimeTimeNews.aspx/Videos/23952 UNDP concerned about its donations to Jamaica: TVJ News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130203/lead/lead5.html Belgian gift to train bus drivers in ruins: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130130/letters/letters1.html Idea drought hits water minister: Gleaner Letter of the Day
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130203/cleisure/cleisure2.html Education for home or export – policy choice or false debate? Robert Gregory column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130203/focus/focus4.html Fighting corruption: What Jamaica can learn from Sierra Leone: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/court-rules-in-favour-of-ocg-in-davies-application Local court rules in favor of OCG in Davies application: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gay-and-anti-gay-lobbyists-target-Parliament_13545656 Gay and anti-gay lobbyists target Parliament: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/A-wicked-act Laborer suffers near two years in prison on false accusation of buggery: Sunday Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/32870 Scrap metal trade not to be blamed for every theft – Minister Hylton: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.cvmtv.com/videos_1.php?id=705§ion=live7 Live at Seven/CVM Television
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130203/ent/ent1.html Discrimination stance creates split: Promoters’ new rules not welcomed by all: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130202/business/business1.html Bee farmers kept busy trying to establish association: Gleaner
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/star-man/ Star Man: petchary.wordpress.com
Weekly Brief, Sunday 27/Monday 28 January, 2013: The Dawn of the New Scrap Metal Age petchary.wordpress.com
I admire this young man petchary.wordpress.com
Pollution Flowing from Land to Sea: The UN Caribbean Environment Programme, Part 1 petchary.wordpress.com
A Sunday of light (and heavy) showers: January 20, 2013 petchary.wordpress.com
Pain, Politics and Change petchary.wordpress.com
One news item I did not touch on in my weekly news post was the re-emergence of the problem of young, homeless gay men who live and move around in the very area of Kingston where I live. Two front-page articles in the “Gleaner” newspaper have once again sparked a flood of condemnation and anti-gay sentiment.
Just to point out a couple of things:
They are by no means representative of the Jamaican gay community in general, as most Jamaicans should know.
They are loud and harass people, but if they break the law they should be arrested, like any other Jamaican who might be trespassing on private property, etc.
May I introduce one young, openly gay Jamaican whom I admire greatly. His is smart, he is hard-working, he has a great sense of humor. Did I say he was bright? Like many other young Jamaicans, he wants to “make a difference” in his country. He does the normal everyday things that Jamaicans, and young Jamaicans, do.
He IS a Jamaican.
The only unusual thing about Javed is his courage as an openly gay Jamaican. And that is enormous courage.
Dear Editor, Sir:
The Christian Brethren Assemblies Jamaica (CBAJ) recently hosted a press conference at which they discussed their position paper on homosexuality. While reading through the document, I lamented the fervor with which church leaders use homosexuality as a wedge issue to keep themselves relevant in public discourse on morality.
I encourage anyone interested in seeing firsthand the moral bankruptcy that guides The Church’s teachings on homosexuality to read the position paper. Its contents are used as talking points by all major Christian organizations.
Among the most predictable claims outlined, we are told that “homosexual behavior can be changed” because “many individuals who desire to abstain from homosexual acts have been able to do so.” However, sexuality is a well-defined predisposition that exists whether or not someone is sexually active. A celibate gay person, or a gay person who initiates intercourse with someone of the opposite sex for functional purposes, is still a gay person.
The position paper goes on to explain that “some homosexual [sexual] acts are physically harmful because they disregard normal human anatomy and function.” Firstly, gays and lesbians do not have a monopoly on any sexual practice. What the position paper refers to as “homosexual acts” really are just “sexual acts”. Secondly, while the CBAJ believes the gay “lifestyle” is “obsessed with and/or dominated by personal sexual fulfillment,” “homosexual acts” also include deciding between bush tea or coffee, going to work, volunteering at community-based charities and supporting friends and family.
Church leaders persistently employ double-speak in addressing homosexuality and homophobia. On one hand, they claim that “anyone struggling with homosexual temptation should evoke neither scorn nor enmity, but evoke our concern, compassion, help, and understanding.” On the other, “the Christian community must help society understand that homosexuality has grave spiritual, emotional, physical and cultural consequences” and “Christians should oppose legislative attempts to grant special rights based on sexual behavior.”
As self-proclaimed guardians of public morality, their statements sound noble, until one sees the well-oiled propaganda machine that church leaders utilize to demonize, disenfranchise and silence gay and lesbian people.
You cannot actively work to sustain the cultural environment that makes violence against gay people permissible while claiming you support non-violence. That is barefaced hypocrisy. In addition, it is telling that the CBAJ would label as “Special rights” the demands made by social justice advocates to recognize the humanity of gays and lesbians. The rights to privacy, to love, to self-expression and to dignity cannot be “special rights” if these are human rights and if these rights are already held by the majority.
The position paper includes a number of colourful fables about gay people: homosexuals engage in active recruitment, because, obviously, same-sex attraction is induced, never innate; homosexuals are non-monogamous and promiscuous by nature, while heterosexuals, by deduction, are predisposed to monogamy; homosexuality and pedophilia are essentially twin perversions, even though pedophiles are repulsed by adults and often molest children of both sexes, while the majority of child sex offenders who have adult relationships are heterosexual; and homosexual parents raise homosexual children, in the same way, I suppose, that heterosexual parents raise only heterosexual children.
Antiquated and harmful narratives about gay people get entrenched when those of us who know better refuse to challenge the fear-mongering and the ignorance of those we consider arbiters of morality and paragons of virtue.
The Church is dead wrong in its stance on homosexuality and it will pay dearly for its intransigence. As more gay and lesbian people affirm their sexual identities, it will become obvious that most are upstanding citizens who are struggling alongside heterosexuals to make the best of a difficult life in Jamaica. The ranks of the most respected professions are replete with gay people. In fact, many Jamaicans are employed and supervised by gays and lesbians.
As more Jamaican Christians engage with gay couples at home, at school, in communities, and in workplaces, they will reconsider whether God is truly infallible and if his admonition to condemn same-gender loving people is morally absolute. The lies woven into the fabric of public consciousness will begin to unravel and The Church will be held in contempt.
I love and admire Javed. If you met him, I think you would love him, too.
Javed Jaghai - http://youtu.be/BS2P6TvzuFM
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130129/lead/lead1.html ”Arrest errant gays”: Human rights advocate says homosexuals who run afoul of the law should face its full brunt: Gleaner
http://www.jflag.org/2013/01/j-flag-supports-police-intervention-in-new-kingston/ J-FLAG supports police intervention in New Kingston: http://www.jflag.org/
Let’s Build Our Country - http://youtu.be/ffys1xXGq3E
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130125/lead/lead1.html Gays wreak havoc: Cops say homosexuals too much to handle in South East St. Andrew: Gleaner
http://anniepaul.net/2013/01/25/the-creation-of-our-collective-homophobia/?replytocom=3277 The creation of our collective homophobia? Annie Paul.net – Jamaican blogger
http://www.og.nr/rbt/11417-gay-man-set-ablaze-in-st-andrew-central-open-lot.html Gay man set ablaze in St. Andrew Central open lot: On The Ground News Reports
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Rowdy-gays-upset-J-FLAG Rowdy gays upset J-FLAG: Sunday Observer
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/jamaican-press-ignores-ground-breaking-gay-rights-video-campaign/ Jamaican press ignores ground-breaking gay rights video campaign
Weekly Brief, Sunday 27/Monday 28 January, 2013: The Dawn of the New Scrap Metal Age (petchary.wordpress.com)
J-FLAG, Jamaica’s gay rights group, launches YouTube video campaign, ‘We Are Jamaicans’ (miamiherald.typepad.com)
Jamaican filmmaker Esther Figueroa, whose earlier film Jamaica for Sale addressed the environmental costs of tourism development in Jamaica, has just released two environmental films available through youtube. Her documentaries on Caribbean environmental issued showcase the power of film to bring attention to the myriad environmental tragedies taking place everyday throughout the region.
Connecting the Caribbean with Seabird Conservation:
A 27 minute documentary about the need for seabird conservation in the Caribbean.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/our-beautiful-caribbean-sea/ (petchary.wordpress.com)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/a-softer-blue-the-caribbean-sea/ (petchary.wordpress.com)
- J-FLAG, Jamaica’s gay rights group, launches YouTube video campaign, ‘We Are Jamaicans’ (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Prominent Jamaicans Speak Out Against Homophobia in Powerful New Video Campaign: WATCH (towleroad.com)
- Video campaign pushes respect for LGBTs in Jamaica (76crimes.com)
- Gay Jamaican: “I contemplated suicide.” (perceptualpost.wordpress.com)
- Christmas is a state of mind: On respect, love and understanding (petchary.wordpress.com)
- ‘We Are Jamaicans’ Video Campaign Against Anti-Gay Discrimination Launches (huffingtonpost.com)
- J-FLAG Launches New Video Campaign (perceptualpost.wordpress.com)
- For Human Rights Day 2012; A Challenge, an Invitation, and an Anniversary (petchary.wordpress.com)
On May 24, 2010, Jamaican security forces entered the inner-city community of Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston in search of fugitive Christopher “Dudus” Coke and his supporters. During the operation, 74 civilians were killed and over 50 injured. 28 members of the security forces were injured. Six guns were found. Mr. Coke was not found. During the two-month long State of Emergency that followed, thousands of Jamaicans were detained, mostly without charge. I have posted some links below, in case we need to remind ourselves of the tragic details. On May 27, security forces visited the comfortable, “upscale” neighborhood of Upper Kirkland Heights in search of Mr. Coke, fired on the home of 63-year-old accountant Keith Clarke and shot him twenty times. Three soldiers have been charged with his murder.
To date – over two and a half years later – Jamaica’s Public Defender has not produced the expected interim report on the Tivoli Gardens “incursion,” as it is euphemistically called by local media. Several deadlines have been missed – some of them self-imposed by the Public Defender, who says he is seriously under-staffed.
Recently, our esteemed local poet Tanya Shirley read this poem at an event I attended. It served as a timely reminder. A reminder, too, of the strange, confused reaction of uptown Jamaica.
I only remember the fear.
The People are Deading
and we are laughing
at this sound byte played over sweet bass
spliced and digitized for YouTube consumption
But when the people were deading
we were hiding under king size beds
panic buttons strapped to our chests
just in case, someone got the wrong address
the police or the bad men or the bad men
or the police. In that bullet-ridden dark
even teeth looked like dried blood
and you couldn’t see anybody’s soul
in the slant of seedy eyes.
No one was dying or crossing over
passing or walking into the light;
no one had the benefit of a benediction.
The people were deading
Like language ripped from a tongue
leaving clots of dry vowels in underground tunnels.
The people were deading
in a plague of fire bombs and a deluge of bullets
in uniformed arbitrary tactics
boys who were chased from birth
by the shadow of death, held hostage
by blind dollar bills and pot-bellied politicians,
were being blown out of their bodies
and only a woman like this one trapped
in a computer screen and a catchy rhythm
dares to look out at us and shatter
our silence and indifference, our stupid laughter
with her humble burial rites.
© Tanya Shirley
Tanya Shirley is the author of a collection of poetry, “She Who Sleeps with Bones.” The book is available at Bookland and Bookophilia in Kingston, and in pharmacies island-wide. It is also available on amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/She-Sleeps-Bones-Tanya-Shirley/dp/1845230876. Thank you, Tanya for allowing me to reproduce this here.
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121125/cleisure/cleisure5.html (Will Witter rise from his slumber? Jaevion Nelson op-ed/Jamaica Gleaner)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIQZVOgejoc (The people dem are deading: TVJ/YouTube)
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/12/12/111212fa_fact_schwartz (A Massacre in Jamaica: New Yorker article/Mattathias Schwartz, December 2010)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Something-went-horribly-wrong-in-Tivoli-Gardens_7657608 (Something went horribly wrong in Tivoli Gardens: Mark Wignall column/Jamaica Observer, May 2010)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/27/jamaican-army-tivoli-gardens (Jamaican army accused of murdering civilians in Tivoli Gardens: Guardian UK report, May 2010)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Security-forces-move-on-Tivoli-Gardens (Security forces move on Tivoli Gardens: Jamaica Observer report, May 24, 2010)
http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=19466 (Jamaica – Tivoli Gardens killings: No justice for 74 killed: Amnesty International, May 24, 2011)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120524/lead/lead4.html (The death of Keith Clarke: Two years of unimaginable grief and trauma: Jamaica Gleaner)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/INDECOM-wants-weapons-in-Keith-Clarke-killing-retested_12651538 (INDECOM wants weapons in Keith Clarke killing retested: Jamaica Observer)
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR38/002/2011/en/d452da6f-50b9-4553-919c-0ce0ccedc9d8/amr380022011en.pdf (Human Rights Violations Under the State of Emergency: Amnesty Int. report)
Sunday Wonders: November 25, 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/storm/ (Storm: petchary.wordpress.com, June 2010)
A fellow blogger, Diana McCaulay (also a well-known environmental activist and award-winning novelist), is a Jamaican living in Jamaica. She wrote this post yesterday evening on her blog. It is about love and family, hatred and bigotry. It is very personal, and painful – and sad. Do read, and share. The link is at http://www.dianamccaulay.com/apps/blog/show/19730499-i-promise-to-love-you-for-the-rest-of-my-life
Two male students from the University of Technology (U-Tech) were said to have been caught in a ‘compromising position’ in a bathroom on the evening of November 2nd, 2012 – it is not known what they were doing and all a mob needs is a rumour. A growing crowd of other students chased the young men across the campus. One of the students escaped. The other sought refuge in the security guard post on Hope Road and what happened next was filmed by a cell phone camera. It is dark and the figures are shadowy, but it is clear that a crowd of hundreds is gathered shouting anti gay curses, demanding blood. There is laughter and an air of salacious excitement, what happen, some voices ask? One voice asks to be let in on the fun. The video camera steadies and the inside of the security post can be seen through the glass. The three security guards seem unsure what to do, but soon two of them beat the clearly terrified young man. The crowd roars. There is the sound of breaking glass.
It seems to me a Pontius Pilate moment, if I remember my Bible correctly. An innocent man delivered up to a judge of sorts, a baying mob outside. The judge seeks to appease the crowd with a beating but it is not enough. And we know the end of that particular story.
Other facts emerge. There had been car thefts the night before, a recurring problem on the U-Tech campus, leading to a horrific mob killing in 2003. Some people seem to have thought the man being chased was a car thief, as did the security guards, at least initially. Students found the young man’s photo and plastered it all over the Internet, destroying any hope he can continue to live a normal life in Jamaica, at least for the foreseeable future, and jeopardizing the continuation of his education. The guard company, Marksman Ltd., fired two of the guards the same day, the fate of the others is still under investigation. U-Tech issued a statement condemning the attack. YouTube took down the video, only to have it reposted over and over again. Social media erupted with blogs and comments. Petitions were started.
The title of the YouTube video I reluctantly watched was “Beat the Fish 2!!!” (sic) “Fish” is one of many odious Jamaican slang terms for a homosexual. The day after the attack, Friday, I was utterly unproductive at work, constantly refreshing the Facebook pages and blogs I follow, to see what was being said. There were no public comments following the articles published in Jamaica’s two daily newspapers. This was highly unusual. I wondered if, at long last, the editors of our mainstream publications had decided not to give hate speech any oxygen. But the lack of comment was short lived.
It’s personal for me. My son is gay. Every hateful, bigoted, violent remark is flung directly at him. I miss my son every day of my life, but I am so glad he does not live here. The question is: Why do I?
I had my Jamaican passport with me on Friday, because I needed to make a photocopy. I noticed it on my desk and I held it. I felt, still feel, deeply ashamed to be Jamaican. I felt complicit in this attack because of my long ago decision to remain here, to claim my Jamaican nationality, my Jamaican identity. Now, too late, I want to rescind that decision. I don’t want to be identified as part of a nation that defends and supports an anti gay stance as being cultural, as being Christian, as being an aspect of our sovereignty, our right.
It occurs to me this is why the separation of Church and State is vital. It seems harmless, even positive, when people say: Jamaica is a Christian nation. Public prayer at virtually every function seems relatively innocuous – oh sure, there might be people of other faiths in the room, but Jamaica is a Christian nation, right, they’ll understand, they must adapt to the majority’s wishes. But it is not innocuous. As they always have been, religious beliefs are being used as justification for the abrogation of the human rights of some. Religious beliefs belong in places of worship among those who share such beliefs and nowhere else. They must not have the weight of the State behind them.
In an interview with Cliff Hughes on Nationwide News Network on Friday, I heard the Minister of Education, Hon. Ronnie Thwaites, strongly condemn the U-Tech attack. Well and good, Deacon Thwaites. But it was you who recently pandered to the mob in the withdrawing of educational materials trying, however clumsily, to deal with the issue of respect and tolerance for gay people.
See Annie Paul’s post Gay Bashing in Jamaica a National Policy? for more on this issue: http://anniepaul.net/2012/11/03/gay-bashing-in-jamaica-a-national-policy/
I am tired of pretending that all aspects of our culture are defensible. They are not. There is much about being Jamaican to be ashamed of – our violent and bigoted speech and action towards gays and lesbians tops the list.
A month ago, I went to England, where my son lives, to attend the celebration of his civil union with his long standing partner, another man. The registrar who conducted the ceremony began with a simple statement about relationships between gay people. She said these unions had existed for centuries but only now was it possible for them to have legal status. My son and his partner had written their own vows and the last one was a simple one: “I promise to love you for the rest of my life.” Two honest, productive, fine young men, one Jamaica’s loss, promising to love and honour each other, to walk with each other through life. I thought there should be a banner above where they stood, something huge, big enough to be visible all the way across the Atlantic in my homeland asking this simple question: WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
Also Sticks and Stones by Petchary: http/petchary.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/40922utechbeating20121101c.jpg and http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/sticks-and-stones/
- Two university guards in Jamaica accused of assaulting gay student (with video) (vancouversun.com)
- Sticks and Stones (petchary.wordpress.com)
- We Are Family: on Blog Action Day 2012 (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Gay Bashing in Jamaica a national policy? (anniepaul.net)
So noted a fellow-blogger from Jamaica, Annie Paul (check out her lively blog on Jamaican matters large and small at http://anniepaul.net). 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)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/end-patronizing-piecemeal-engagement-of-youth/ (End patronizing, piecemeal engagement of youth: petchary)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/rights-and-wrongs/ (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)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/op-ed-fighting-injustice-in-jamaica/ (Op-ed: Fighting injustice in Jamaica: petchary)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/dark/ (Dark: petchary)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Marksman-fires-security-guards-involved-in-Utech-beating (Marksman fires security guards involved in UTech beating)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Mob-beats-man-accused-of-killing-pregnant-girlfriend (Mob beats man accused of killing pregnant girlfriend)
- http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/UTech-plans-counselling-session-for-beaten-student (UTech plans counseling session for beaten student)
- http://www.jamaicansforjustice.org/nmcms.php?snippets=news&p=news_details&id=3819 (JFJ condemns act of violence against allegedly homosexual young man on UTech campus)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=40922 (UTech, Marksman condemn beating of alleged gay student)
- http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20121102/news/news1.html (UTech student beaten)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20110504/letters/letters1.html (“Mob rule is no rule” – another UTech incident)
- http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121003/cleisure/cleisure3.html (“Put an end to jungle justice” – a recent op-ed)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/ode-to-freddy-and-david/ (Ode to Freddy (and David): petchary)
- http://petchary.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/jamaican-maurice-tomlinson-is-the-first-winner-of-the-david-kato-vision-voice-award/ (Jamaican Maurice Tomlinson is the first winner of the David Kato Vision Voice Award: petchary)