Cilla

She was a working class girl, and she warmed our hearts. I feel I grew up with Cilla Black, the English singer and television star, who died today.

Her real name was Priscilla Maria Veronica White and she was born in Liverpool in 1943, the daughter of Irish Catholics. Her father was a docker; her mother ran a market stall. Yes, she was a Scouse girl. She started her career as a typist, occasionally working as a cloakroom attendant in the Cavern Club, where the Beatles and others played; and occasionally singing with the bands who played there (John Lennon used to introduce her as “Cyril” sometimes, with his usual offbeat humor).

Cilla dancing with her friend Gerry Marsden (of Gerry and the Pacemakers) in the Cavern Club in the early 1960s. Gerry had a mega-hit in 1963 with "You'll Never Walk Alone." Does that sound familiar, Liverpool Football Club fans? (Photo: Liverpool Echo)

Cilla dancing with her friend Gerry Marsden (of Gerry and the Pacemakers) in the Cavern Club in the early 1960s. Gerry had a mega-hit in 1963 with “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Does that sound familiar, Liverpool Football Club fans? (Photo: Liverpool Echo)

Priscilla White grew up  above a hairdressers' shop on Scotland Road, Liverpool.  (Photo: Liverpool Echo)

Priscilla White grew up above a hairdressers’ shop on Scotland Road in post-war Liverpool. (Photo: Liverpool Echo)

Humor was a large part of what Cilla was about; it is a Liverpudlian trait. I recall going to see the Beatles’ first film (“A Hard Day’s Night”) with my mother, who was born not far from that city; I remember her chuckling at the “lads from Liverpool,” goofing around. Cilla was comfortable with all that, and perhaps it suited the optimistic mood of England during the sixties.To me as a teenager, Cilla in her twenties was a real charmer. She was composed, and cool, had a funny northern accent. Most of all, she was friends with the Beatles (who gave her career a strong nudge) – and any friend of the Beatles was a friend of mine. Lucky thing! I thought. Lennon and McCartney wrote her first song, “Love of the Loved,” which only made a slight impression. By 1964, though, she had two number one hits (being Number One was big in those days) including a cover version of Bacharach’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” a beautiful song – though I think Dionne Warwick did it better.

A toast to success: Cilla launches her career with (l-r) Patti Boyd, George Harrison and (far right) the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein. (Photo: Express Newspapers)

A toast to success: Cilla launches her career with (l-r) Patti Boyd, George Harrison and (far right) the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein. Note the smile. (Photo: Express Newspapers)

Yep, Cilla could handle the power ballad; if she had been doing them in the nineties, Jamaicans would have loved her, I’m sure. She would probably have headlined the so-called Jazz and Blues Festival. A superior power balladeer, who started off singing at talent contests at the age of thirteen.

The movie poster for "Alfie" with Michael Caine and Shelley Winters.

The movie poster for “Alfie” with Michael Caine and Shelley Winters.

I have a particular favorite from this era: “Alfie.” The song was released in connection with the classic 1966 film, starring Michael Caine as the womanizing limousine driver (don’t bother with the highly inferior 2004 remake with Jude Law, by the way). It’s a slightly wistful, sentimental, searching-for-happiness-and-not-finding-it kind of song, and Cilla did it to perfection. Another Bacharach/David song, recorded at the famous Abbey Road studios in London with Bacharach himself playing piano, it was also done by Dionne Warwick in 1967. I prefer Cilla’s version.

Cilla married her personal manager, Bobby Willis in 1969; he stayed in the background, apparently always pushing her forward at the expense of his own career. They had three sons. Sadly, Bobby (whom she first met when he was working in a Woolworth’s store) died of cancer at age 57, in 1999. They were a devoted couple and she did not remarry.

Cilla and her husband Bobby Willis, hands held tight. I notice that she was surrounded by men who loved and supported her.

Cilla and her husband Bobby Willis, hands held tight. 

So there was the music. Now back to Cilla. When she launched her career, she had auburn hair (which I have always loved, though I don’t think it was her natural color), carefully coiffed into that smooth sixties-style helmet shape. She also had that classic sixties “leggy” look and a touch of the “girl next door.” Yet her warm smile was a knowing, witty smile, too; she was much more than a cute singer with a husky voice.

It was this “much more” that launched her lengthy and enormously successful television career in the UK. From 1968 to 1976 she had her own television series. Then the eighties arrived, and  television was big in England – very big. Cilla Black moved effortlessly from one hugely popular, long-running prime time show to another (from “Surprise, Surprise” to “Blind Date.”) The latter, although considered a bit “naughty” by some, ran for eighteen years, by which time Cilla had become the highest paid woman on British television.

Cilla with one of her many awards.

Cilla with one of her many awards, and close friend Paul O’Grady.

What else did I like about Cilla? She had that television style of sitting down like a good friend in your living room and just chatting (a bit like Oprah, perhaps). I found her rather corny at times, but then I have never been a huge fan of that particular television genre. Yet, she was “natural.” She was herself. She was not afraid of her ego; she was a little over the top, laughed too loudly, laughed with her mouth wide open. She wasn’t a simpering little woman. She always had ambition. The Liverpool accent that her earlier managers had tried to suppress resurfaced in later years; it was her, after all. And I did like her voice – perhaps not as soulful as her contemporary Dusty Springfield (a greatly underrated singer, by the way) – but it had something, a scratchy kind of power and a great sense of drama. In its tribute to her today, the “Liverpool Echo” calls it “a voice to tremble the stars and scare the angels.”

Cilla Black and her contemporary, comedian Jimmy Tarbuck, having a laugh during the inaugural Scouse Day in 2000.

Cilla Black and her contemporary, comedian Jimmy Tarbuck, having a laugh during the inaugural Scouse Day in 2000.

Cilla died in her pretty villa in Spain, apparently in her sleep. She suffered from arthritis, according to reports, and had become hard of hearing, but was otherwise fine. She told one newspaper she thought “Seventy-five is a good age to go…” 

Well, it was seventy-two, but none of us know when our time will come. I will miss Cilla.

Good night and sleep well, dear Cilla.

Good night, Cilla. Quite a girl.

 

Aunty Roachy Festival Returns to Independence Village on Monday, August 3

This was a marvelous event last year – the first of its kind for the Independence Day holiday, and a great success. I wrote a review of last year’s in my blog, and now another year has rolled around. Take the kids for the children’s readings – enjoyment guaranteed! Here is the JCDC press release.

The Independence Village will see the return of The Aunty Roachy Festival this year on Monday, August 3. Joining the Independence Village roster for the second time, the free literary festival will run from 1:30 – 5:30 pm and promises to be even better the second time around covering a range of poetry, prose and drama writings.

Young adults author Ad-Ziko Simba Gegele

Young adults author Ad-Ziko Simba Gegele at a pop-up book club at my home last year.

Children’s authors A-dZiko Simba Gegele and Kellie Magnus will headline the children’s readings while Gwyneth Harold will be joined by award winning writers Roland Watson-Grant and Coleen Smith-Dennis in the young adult segment. The young adult segment will also feature Akeem Mignott in a dramatic reading of Vic Reid’s “New Day” to mark the 150th anniversary of 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion.

Children's book author Kellie Magnus.

Children’s book author Kellie Magnus.

Patrons looking to quench their poetic thirst will get to experience the Jamaica Poetry Society as they present Cherry Natural, Abbebe Payne and Britton Wright as Lyrical Hotsteppers. Comedy and drama will take center stage with an excerpt from the play “Samson and Di Liar” featuring actors Tony “Paleface” Hendriks and Ricky Rowe.

Gwyneth Harold Davidson. See my review of her book "Young Heroes of the Caribbean" on this blog.

Gwyneth Harold Davidson. See my review of her book “Young Heroes of the Caribbean” on this blog.

Also on the day’s agenda will be a “Link Up and Labrish” discussion forum under the theme “I Am Who I Am, But Who Am I?”, moderated by Amina Blackwood-Meeks and featuring panelists Dr. Dennis Howard, Kemesha Kelly, Miguel ‘Steppa’ Williams, Nickesha Lindsay and Nadeen Spence.

The literary festival will end with a poetry reading hosted by the Poet Laureate of Jamaica, Professor Mervyn Morris, and featuring two of Jamaica’s most well-known story-tellers called The Poet Laureate Presents… Amina Blackwood-Meeks and Joan Andrea Hutchinson.

Author Roland Watson-Grant speaks at last year's Aunty Roachy Festival. (My photo)

Author Roland Watson-Grant speaks at last year’s Aunty Roachy Festival. (My photo)

The Lion and The Donkey (and the smiling killers)

The title sounds like that of an Aesop’s fable. I remember well those stories I read as a child. They were simply told but with a strong message that stayed with you. You might also call this a moral tale. However, the Lion and the Donkey are only loosely connected by the coincidence of time, and certainly not by distance. Yet, if you think about it you may discern some similarities.

In this undated photo provided by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Cecil the lion rests in Hwange National Park, in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Two Zimbabweans arrested for illegally hunting a lion appeared in court Wednesday, July 29, 2015. The head of Zimbabwe’s safari association said the killing was unethical and that it couldn’t even be classified as a hunt, since the lion killed by an American dentist was lured into the kill zone. (Andy Loveridge/Wildlife Conservation Research Unit via AP)

In this undated photo provided by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Cecil the lion rests in Hwange National Park, in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Two Zimbabweans arrested for illegally hunting a lion appeared in court Wednesday, July 29, 2015. The head of Zimbabwe’s safari association said the killing was unethical and that it couldn’t even be classified as a hunt, since the lion killed by an American dentist was lured into the kill zone. (Andy Loveridge/Wildlife Conservation Research Unit via AP)

#CecilTheLion is more than a hashtag, much more. He is a symbol – a proud and beautiful victim – of the greedy, selfish, rapacious world that we live in today. Man – human beings – are by far the most dangerous creature on the planet, as surely we must all know by now. In fact, our own actions are putting the planet in acute danger. Coal-powered plants (the construction of which our own government in its wisdom has sanctioned), for example. On average one 500-megawatt coal-fired power plant produces approximately 3 million tons per year of CO2, according to Greenpeace. We are more dangerous than sharks, tigers, pit bull dogs… more dangerous than lions.

Yes, Man is the supreme predator. The top of the food chain. Dangerous to every other form of life on Earth. A danger to each other (as I write, human beings are suffering and dying at the hands of other humans). And, as noted above, a threat to the survival of Planet Earth and thus to himself.

Our large animals are a symbol of the majesty of Nature. Whether we are religious or not, we must all agree they are in the literal sense of the word – awesome. Cecil, with his black mane and golden eyes, was especially loved. He was the subject of an Oxford University research project; he was a famous and well-documented animal. An American dentist (he has that smooth-faced dentist look about him) named Walter Palmer and his accomplices lured him from his safe haven in Zimbabwe. The Huffington Post describes the animal’s slaughter thus: “We know Palmer and a group of men baited a lion out of safe land with a dead animal strapped to a vehicle. The dentist shot the tricked animal with a bow, piercing Cecil’s flesh. The group then stalked the wounded lion for 40 hours until Palmer had a chance to shoot and kill (and claim) his paid-for trophy with a rifle. One, some or all of the men beheaded and skinned the lion, trying before they left the carcass to extract the tagged collar that proved their downfall.”

The Emperor Haile Selassie I with one of his lions.

The Emperor Haile Selassie I with one of his lions.

In Jamaica, the lion has enormous significance, especially for Rastafarians, since it is one of the titles given to Emperor Haile Selassie I. The lion is the symbol of the Jewish Tribe of Judah and was depicted on the Ethiopian flag for many years. It’s a symbol of strength, of course; and beyond that, of power and dignity.

There is one other word I would like to bring into the equation: the word extinction. Some might say, “Oh, so what if lions (or a species of frog, or butterfly, or bird) becomes extinct? It’s not going to affect us. Too bad.” Don’t be too sure about that. Everything is connected. The domino effect has already begun.

Now, from Zimbabwe back to Jamaica. A few days ago, a video appeared in social media that I can only describe as “stomach-churning.” It was distressing on many levels. The video showed a donkey being tugged on a rope (the poor thing dug his heels in, to no avail) and tied tightly to a post. A Chinese man then washed his hands and forearms in a bucket, before casually picking up a heavy implement (a hammer?) and knocking the donkey on the head. The first time, it sank to its knees. The second blow killed it. As a huge pool of blood spread across the concrete, I quickly stopped the video.

Again, some have said: “Oh, I have no problem with the Chinese eating donkeys, dogs, whatever they want to eat.” Others, self-righteously proclaiming themselves as vegetarians, ask why people should be upset – they enjoy their hamburgers, don’t they? As far as the eating is concerned, donkeys in Jamaica are not raised to provide food, so cannot be compared to pigs or goats. I have a problem with Chinese workers (allegedly employed to China Harbour Engineering Company in Runaway Bay, St. Ann) coming to live in Jamaica and killing an animal that is of considerable value to most Jamaicans, so carelessly. If they are hungry, they can go to the supermarket. I know a perfectly good one in Runaway Bay that sells meat.

Farmer Duncan Palmer on his donkey in Pennants, Clarendon, which he describes as "a blessed thing to me." (Photo: Christopher Serju/Gleaner)

Farmer Duncan Palmer on his donkey in Pennants, Clarendon. His donkey, he says, is “a blessed thing to me.” (Photo: Christopher Serju/Gleaner)

 

The donkey has more than sentimental value. Yes, people in rural areas love their donkeys – some families treat them and care for them as pets. But it is also a beast of burden, a helper and nurturer, an animal that farmers still use in many parts of the country. I understand that donkeys are in very short supply in rural areas, and are indeed in demand.  Again, for those with religious leanings, the humble donkey is a very special animal.

When our son was a young boy and had a birthday party, we used to hire a man with a donkey cart (I wonder if anyone remembers him?) who used to drive around the Hope Road area of Kingston. He would take our son and his friends for rides. The man and his donkey seemed a little out of place in the city – but we loved them. I must find the photos.

I am quoting (with her permission) some comments by a friend on Facebook, which exactly sum up my thoughts on the matter.

“There are several levels of concern in this report, not the least of which being public health consideration at many levels. Then, there is also the seeming hilarity and casualness of the men killing the animal, first by severe head blows to the animal …

What of the legal issue of butchering without the requisite licences, and, who is that meat being sold to, or, given to eat? What of disposal of the carcasses of these animals, hygienically?

Many here complain about the degradation of the society, however, many are also ready to allow new visitors to our sovereign nation, to get away with activities that they are able to pay for, and not condoned in general, within the general population.

We have a lot of issues to heal as a nation, and perhaps we might ask of our guests to these shores that they minimize their potentially troubling impacts on the nation’s footprints, so that we can focus on the manifold needs that are ahead of us, not the least of which is the care of our children; the crime issues; fiscal paths ahead; fulfillment of the dream of many for gainful employment.

When you invite a guest into your home, you lay out expectations for their behaviours, one way or another … or, stand the risk of having that guest breach many of the conditions set up for the maintenance and sanctity of your home. A country is home to a sovereign nation, and as such, requires its leadership, all, to set the standards of administering and monitoring those guests, from the beginning.

Tell me. What will happen if Goat Island is ceded to foreign nationals, whose walls (physical, human, or otherwise) prevent local interests and monitoring agencies from properly managing and determining the ‘right’ path ahead for Jamaica’s highest interests? Think about it! We seem to have given a free ticket to new foreign national interests to the Island. Can this be in our very highest interests, for any new group to our shores?

Is it in our highest interests, also, to investigate the aspects of the reports that some foreign nationals are employing local youth to hunt, capture, and kill endangered species, as another exotic food source?

What will be next, if we simply look away?”

Perfectly expressed; but many of us, actually, do look away. Or we shrug our shoulders. We are so disconnected now from our rural traditions that the sad, meaningless death of a donkey at the hands of these smiling people is “nutten.” I am waiting to see statements from the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA), from the Ministry of Health or other “relevant authorities.” Is this even legal?

Why do these killers look so pleased with themselves? What is the pleasure in killing? Photos of trophy hunters show the killers beaming over the slumped, sad bodies of lions and other great beasts. It reminds me, chillingly, of colonial days gone by, when the rich, the royal, the aristocratic and privileged (with local “natives” scurrying around them, paid to do their dirty work) went out to kill, and then have their photos taken with the vanquished animal (the pictorial record has always been important, it seems). Nothing has changed, it seems; except that the smiling colonial masters have been replaced by smiling, affluent dentists from Minnesota. By the way, they don’t use the words “killing” or “hunting”; in his semi-apology, Dr. Palmer says he “took” Cecil. It’s a euphemism of course, but that word has the ring of arrogance and entitlement. Oh, let’s take a lion. Oh, sorry, he was a famous one. Didn’t know.

I will end with a footnote from the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe:

“Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” 

Walter Palmer, photographed with a dead leopard and a dead rhino; and his latest prey, Cecil. (Photo: AP)

Walter Palmer, photographed with a dead leopard and a dead rhino; and his latest prey, Cecil. (Photo: AP)

No Rain, More Crime, Palisadoes Restoration and We Are “Proud and Free”: Friday, July 31, 2015

Ugh. I confess I have been so preoccupied by the BirdsCaribbean Conference that recent events have hardly registered, yet. This is perhaps just as well, as it has been utterly depressing. I have also been trying to ignore the clouds’ stubborn refusal to rain on us poor city dwellers, while elsewhere on the island I understand people have had some decent little downpours. I became almost hysterical today when it actually rained determinedly for five minutes – yes, five – and then abruptly stopped. I am concerned about the mental health of myself – and other Kingston dwellers.

Minister of National Security Peter Bunting. (Photo: Gleaner)

Minister of National Security Peter Bunting. (Photo: Gleaner)

On to the depressing stuff now: I hardly know where to start with the murders. Nor, it seems, does the Minister of National Security Peter Bunting, who still has confidence in our Commissioner of Police. There has been an “explosion” of murders in western Jamaica. It’s the lotto scam, yes; but I was under the impression this was gradually being dealt with. There have been arrests recently. Minister Bunting says the scammers have spread out, are not just concentrated in Montego Bay, and that the rewards have become diluted. So are these the death throes (literally)? The scamming started when the call centers opened in our second city. Some, like local Member of Parliament Lloyd B. Smith, believe it’s much more than the lotto scam – it’s the inability to settle disputes, family feuds, and more.

U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Luis Moreno authored an op-ed piece in local newspapers recently pledging U.S. support in the fight against organized crime. (Photo: U.S. Embassy)

U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Luis Moreno authored an op-ed piece in local newspapers recently pledging U.S. support in the fight against organized crime. (Photo: U.S. Embassy)

The American connection: Discussions on crime and security in the media often turn to U.S. – Jamaica relations and cooperation. After a young policewoman was gunned down on a public passenger bus on her way home, the U.S. Embassy issued a statement of heartfelt condolences, which was well received. Then the “Yes, but…” comments followed. A Gleaner editorial suggested that “U.S. gun manufacturers ought to share some of the responsibility for the mayhem being created in Jamaica” – along with the U.S. Government. Clearly there are serious issues to be addressed and discussed, and it’s so easy to point fingers. Instead of pontificating on the matter, perhaps our local media could do some in-depth investigative work to find out exactly what is going on. Do we know, for example, what percentage of guns are being smuggled in through our porous coastline (in fishing boats, perhaps) and from where? Is there still the oft-discussed link between some politicians and gangsters? Yes, that has been cited often in the past… Is this still a factor at all?

Is the oft-cited “guns for drugs trade” with Haiti actually a factor? The Prime Minister seemed to indicate this in a speech she made at the United Nations Security Council. You can read her speech on the JIS website (why do we always have to get out the begging bowl though?) What about corruption among police, baggage handlers, security and customs officers etc. at our air and sea ports? Does the Gleaner editorial writer (or anyone else) know the procedures for tracking gun purchases in the U.S.? Are guns and drugs still coming in from Colombia? etc. etc. Can we try and get some facts on the “flow of guns from the U.S.” please? Let’s stop simply repeating pronouncements by security officials and dig a bit deeper.

Minister Bunting booked a flight to Washington, DC to seek assistance. And the US-Jamaica relationship?  As they say, “It’s complicated.”

Constable Crystal Thomas

Constable Crystal Thomas.

We were extremely upset at the murder of a young policewoman, based in Denham Town, who was on her way to her home in Spanish Town fairly late and was gunned down in the bus. My first thought was, why is she traveling home alone on public transport? She was always vulnerable. Today, her mother collected her Associate Degree from the University College of the Caribbean at their graduation ceremony; her eyes reflected the pain as she kept repeating, “It’s really hard. Really hard,” although she was smiling. Jamaicans often smile in moments of extreme stress (the Japanese do it too). Since then, two more police officers have been killed.

INDECOM-logo

It seems an inappropriate time for the Minister of National Security Peter Bunting to be proposing an oversight body for the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), which investigates police abuses. The establishment of INDECOM five years ago  has, in my view, had a positive effect in curbing the soaring number of extra-judicial killings. There has been a sharp drop in the past two or three years. This has restored some trust among citizens and police in troubled areas (this should help in solving crime, no?) It’s far more important to fix our failing justice system (Minister Golding?) INDECOM head Terrence Williams (whose contract was renewed earlier this week) says he has no problem with it, provided it doesn’t interfere with the Commission’s day-to-day operations. Now the Justice Minister says the body will not be separate from INDECOM but part of it, like a board of directors. I still don’t get it.

Can’t this Government leave well alone? And that includes of the Office of the Contractor General, and civil society organizations, who are also under great pressure. More of that at another time.

Businesswoman and the Opposition Deputy Finance Spokesperson, Fayval Williams. (Photo: Gleaner)

Businesswoman and the Opposition Deputy Finance Spokesperson, Fayval Williams. (Photo: Gleaner)

PetroCaribe: In an apparent effort to reduce its overall debt burden, Jamaica has decided to repurchase its own debt to PetroCaribe at an apparently discounted value. Jamaica is in the process of issuing bonds with two different maturity periods to raise funds for this purpose. The bonds, which are expected to raise US$2 billion in total, are divided into two separate issues. I have not had a chance to learn much about it (it takes me a while to digest financial news, I confess), but there seem to be  mixed views on the move. The ubiquitous financial commentator Ralston Hyman considers it a good move, while Jamaica Labour Party Deputy Spokesperson on Finance Fayval Williams has been vocal in the media, raising some doubts. Ms. Williams is new to politics but is already making her mark (Where is Audley Shaw, by the way? Please remember, I have not been monitoring the news for three weeks…)

Women under siege: An extremely disturbing video has circulated on social media, apparently someone raping a mentally ill girl. (Let’s not say “assault” or “attack.” I prefer to use the word “rape.”) I fail to understand why our Youth Minister is generally so silent on these issues. The ever-vigilant Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith is calling for a speedy investigation and notes the parliamentary committee reviewing legislation has not met for a long time.

A little politics now… “I am a revolutionary!” declared first-time Member of Parliament Raymond Pryce on television at a recent People’s National Party Youth Organization (PNPYO) meeting. Come to think of it, we have not heard much from the PNPYO for some time; have they been muzzled – or has the organization, as Mr. Pryce suggested, been used to get youth galvanized before the last elections, and then sidelined? He may have a point. He and his colleague Lisa Hanna are apparently “under pressure” from other would-be candidates in their rural constituencies. Well, you did know the kitchen would be hot, right?

Tomorrow is the Emancipation Day holiday and the Ministry of Youth and Culture’s slogan proclaims that we are “Proud and Free, Jamaica 53.” I will also quote Gleaner columnist Peter Espeut: “Who is going to step in and emancipate us from political corruption?”

Now, some bright spots!

The Palisadoes strip connecting Kingston to its international airport. (Photo: Gleaner)

The Palisadoes strip connecting Kingston to its international airport. (Photo: Gleaner)

  • When CHEC built up the Palisadoes road along the narrow spit of land linking the international airport to Kingston, it destroyed a long stretch of mangroves, home to seabirds and other life, concreting over a section of the area that was designated a “Wetland of International Importance” under the Ramsar Convention in 2005. Now nearly 4,000 out of 6,000 saplings have already been planted in a restoration project implemented by the National Works Agency in partnership with the University of the West Indies’ Marine Laboratory and Biodiversity Centre at Port Royal, which will maintain and monitor the plants. I would like to think that advocacy on this issue by environmentalists (including a heart-wrenching film by Esther Figueroa of the invading bulldozers, and this blog) may have helped. But didn’t CHEC promise to replace the mangroves themselves?
Jamaica’s Giles Barnes celebrates after Jamaica defeated the United States 2-1 in a CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer semi-final. (Photo: AP)

Jamaica’s Giles Barnes celebrates after Jamaica defeated the United States 2-1 in a CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer semi-final. (Photo: AP)

  • The Reggae Boyz beat the United States in a historic semi-final encounter in the Gold Cup. Usually the U.S. and Mexico have it sewn up between them but this time Jamaica made it to the final for the first (and hopefully not last) time and did not play too badly against Mexico, despite losing to them, 3-1. I detected an unfamiliar glint in the Boyz’ eyes; they actually looked like they wanted to win!
21-year-old Jherane Patmore (right) is a new ambassador for Respect Jamaica. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

21-year-old Jherane Patmore (right) is a new ambassador for Respect Jamaica. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

  • Always happy to see activist youth who care about human rights. So special kudos to UWI student Jherane Patmore, who is incoming president of the UWI Mona Model United Nations (UWIMUN) and is the latest youth ambassador for the Respect Jamaica anti-discrimination campaign. Go from strength to strength, Jherane!

It has taken me a long time to compile these lists. My last post was on July 12, so it is almost three weeks since I last wrote about the tragedy of all these Jamaican lives lost. It is too painful to recount all the sad stories, but I think these lists speak for themselves. Well over 600 Jamaicans have been murdered so far this year, including at least 50 children. My deepest condolences to the families who are grieving at this time.

Kingston/St. Andrew:  Constable Lynden Barrett, Wellington Street/Denham Town; Constable Krystal Thomas, Spanish Town Road; Unidentified man, Admiral Town; Kemar Anderson, 27 (suspect in the murder of Constable Thomas), Hunt’s Bay Police Station; Dwayne Scott, 28, Kingston Public Hospital; Calbert Jones, 44, Regent/North Street, Denham Town; Horace Cespedes, 26, Torrington Park; Tamar Davis, Lincoln Avenue/Maxfield Avenue, Kingston 13.

Clarendon: Allayne Watt, 24, Bailey’s Avenue, Bucknor/May Pen; Orrett Wilson, 36, Bailey’s Avenue, Bucknor/May Pen; Laleel McDonald, 17, Chestnut Lane; Haseina Smith, 20, Chestnut Lane; Nardia Jackson, 22, Mocho; Unidentified man, May Pen.

St. James: Kenroy Colquhoun, 27, Albion; Elizabeth Robinson, Harbour Street, Montego Bay; David Dalbert, 42, Cherry Gardens, Norwood; Patrick Williams, 32, Cherry Gardens, Norwood; Phillip Campbell, Matthews Lane, Rose Heights; Kevin Campbell, Matthews Lane, Rose Heights; Unidentified man, Roehampton; Winston Brown, 46, Mount Salem; Two unidentified men, Anchovy (police killing); Shawn Hudson, 31, Norwood; Denzil Gilbert, Norwood; Shandel Wilson, Glendevon; Shantel Edwards, Glendevon.

St. Catherine: Diane Brackenridge, March Pen Road, Spanish Town; Unidentified man, Orange Field District, Linstead.

Westmoreland: Rameish White, 24, Waterworks District; Jovaine Green, 27, Waterworks District; Crawford Brown, 45, West End, Negril; Dushane Grayson, 18, Prospect (police killing); Carlton Crooks, 40, Frome; Denton Hall, 27, Frome; Rose Murray, 53, Little London;  Latoya Daley, 25, Little London; Shawn Clayton, 13, Whithorn; Romario Drummond, 20, Whithorn; Theodore Tennant, 22, Whithorn; Demar Doeman, Whithorn.

Trelawny: Lenroy Plummer, 57, Salt Marsh; Unidentified man, Falmouth (police killing); Natalie Brooks, Deeside.

St. Ann: Donovan Morris, 49, Chester; Dwayne White, 52, Ocho Rios; Norniel Beaumont, 34, Top Milford Road, Ocho Rios; Unidentified man, Buckfield, Ocho Rios.

St. Thomas: André Aris, 48, Seaforth.

Manchester: Terrence Green, J.P., 47, Main Street, Christiana.

St. Mary: Unidentified man, Fort Stewart/Enfield; Two unidentified men, Huddersfield.

Respected Justice of the Peace and businessman Terrence Green was shot dead by a lone gunman who attempted to rob him in the town of Christiana. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Respected Justice of the Peace and businessman Terrence Green was shot dead by a lone gunman who attempted to rob him in the town of Christiana. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Constable Tyrone Thompson was found dead from a gunshot wound by his twin brother at his Clarendon home. His death is being treated as suicide. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

Constable Tyrone Thompson was found dead from a gunshot wound by his twin brother at his Clarendon home. His death is being treated as suicide. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

 

Constable Lynden Barrett of the Kingston Western Division was shot dead in Denham Town. Three men are wanted in connection with his murder. (Photo: Gleaner)

Constable Lynden Barrett of the Kingston Western Division was shot dead in Denham Town on the evening of July 21. Three men are wanted in connection with his murder. (Photo: Gleaner)

Reports are that shortly after Colquhoun drove his motorcar onto the premises of the medical centre to pick up his child, he was pounced upon by a group of gunmen who opened fire hitting him all over his body. He ran from the car and collapsed on the ground.

27-year-old Kenroy Colquhoun (“Nardo”) of Felicity Road, went to pick up his daughter at a medical center in Albion, St. James. He was pounced upon by a group of gunmen who opened fire. He ran from the car and collapsed on the ground.

Good News! A Rare Caribbean Bird, Rediscovered

It’s not every day that we get good news on the conservation front in the Caribbean. But this is one of those happy occasions, coming out of the BirdsCaribbean 20th International Meeting in Kingston, Jamaica. Tomorrow will be the last day of the conference at the Knutsford Court Hotel.

So, please do share the good news, about a beautiful bird last seen on the island of Dominica in 1862!

Here is the joint press release dated July 28, 2015 from Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) and BirdsCaribbean.

Adam C. Brown, Senior Biologist

Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC)

abrown@epicislands.org

http://www.epicislands.org

(US) 707-845-1171

July 28, 2015

EPIC finds one of the world’s most rare seabirds active on Dominica: Details released at the 20th International Meeting of BirdsCaribbean

July 28, 2015—Roseau, Dominica/Kingston, Jamaica—A team of scientists from EPIC and Dominica’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries have recorded – for the first time – 968 Diablotin, also known as the Black-capped Petrel, over the mountains of Dominica, a Lesser Antillean island for which the last confirmed date of nesting of that species is 1862. This rare seabird was once abundant on Dominica, but thought to be extirpated in the late 1800s due to overhunting and the introduction of mammalian species. Observations made with radar and supplemented by detection of vocalizations showed large numbers of petrels flying between the sea and potential nest areas in the island’s highest peaks. Details of the expedition are being released at the 20th International Meeting of BirdsCaribbean, taking place now in Kingston, Jamaica.

Arlington James of the Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division conducting a radar survey on the western slopes of Morne Anglais, Dominica. (Photo: EPIC)

Arlington James of the Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division conducting a radar survey on the western slopes of Morne Anglais, Dominica. (Photo: EPIC)

Adam Brown, Co-Founder and Lead Scientist at EPIC states, “Finding this colony of petrels on Dominica is a real game-changer for Black-capped Petrel conservation. For years we thought the only remaining colonies of petrels were on Hispaniola, where nesting habitat is diminishing at an alarming rate and pressures of human activity are significant. Dominica is an island-nation where nature conservation is a high priority and forests needed by petrels are well protected, so we now have a huge new opportunity to undertake conservation efforts to preserve this imperiled species.”

Biologists from EPIC and the Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division of Dominica’s environmental ministry teamed up in January 2015 to do a systematic survey of the entire island of Dominica to locate Diablotin and determine its status. The Diablotin is a very difficult bird to study, as it is a seabird that comes to shore only for a few months of the year to breed, flying into forested mountains at night to underground burrows. A portable marine radar array and night vision scopes allowed biologists to locate, identify and count flying petrels in in the dark. This technique was developed and used successfully to study Diablotin on Hispaniola.

Habitat and radar work on the southern slopes of Morne Diablotin, Dominica. (Photo: EPIC)

Habitat and radar work on the southern slopes of Morne Diablotin, Dominica. (Photo: EPIC)

The next step is to confirm breeding by locating active nests. The team is confident that petrels observed on Dominica are breeding but the discovery of birds, eggs or chicks in burrows would make their presence a certainty. Biologists will make expeditions into the mountains in early 2016 when breeding petrels are expected to return to Dominica. Dominica’s forests, many pristine due to strong protections, would appear to offer prime nesting habitat to petrels, but also make locating burrows a challenge.

The Diablotin is considered one of the world’s rarest seabirds with an estimate of only 1,000-2,000 pairs remaining, and until recently, known to nest only on the island of Hispaniola (comprising the nations of Haiti and Dominican Republic). Biologists and others, who have formed an International Black-capped Petrel Conservation Group, held out hope that the species persisted on Dominica, buoyed by occasional findings of adult birds on the ground in coastal or inland areas. However, numerous searches to find evidence of nesting of this species on Dominica during the second half of the 20th century were unsuccessful. The dramatic re-discovery of Diablotin on Dominica gives that nation a huge role in securing the future of this species.

EPIC logo with name

About Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC)

Since 2000, EPIC has been working throughout the West Indies to further the scientific understanding of the issues faced by the Caribbean ecosystem, educate the public about conservation, and promote public involvement in ecological restoration and protection. The organization receives the majority of its funding from individual donors. Please help support EPIC’s critical research and conservation projects.

 

97889f453eb54fcb23fba976e3658fd9-2About BirdsCaribbean

BirdsCaribbean is a non-profit organization committed to the conservation of wild birds and their habitats in the insular Caribbean. More than 80,000 local people participate in its programs each year, making it the most broad-based conservation organization in the region. The organization’s 20th International Meeting is currently taking place in Kingston, Jamaica (July 25 – 29). Learn more at http://www.birdscaribbean.org or find “Birds Caribbean” on Facebook and on Twitter @BirdsCaribbean.

For the full report, please contact Adam C. Brown, Senior Biologist, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC): abrown@epicislands.org

 

Senior Biologist at EPIC Adam C. Brown with the Black-capped Petrel (Diablotin) in Dominica. (Photo: EPIC)

Senior Biologist at EPIC Adam C. Brown with the Black-capped Petrel (Diablotin) in Dominica. (Photo: EPIC)

 

#BirdsCarib2015: Personal Musings on the First Two Days of BirdsCaribbean’s Conference in Kingston

BirdsCaribbean's energetic Executive Director Dr. Lisa Sorenson (center) met Paula-Anne Porter-Jones and Alan Magnus at RJR studios. Lisa, who has a deep passion for her work, was a guest on their morning show.
BirdsCaribbean's energetic Executive Director Dr. Lisa Sorenson (center) met Paula-Anne Porter-Jones and Alan Magnus at RJR studios. Lisa, who has a deep passion for her work, was a guest on their morning show.

Conferences are busy conglomerates of people. People looking for other people (“Have you seen So-and-So? I saw him/her a minute ago and now…”). People coming across old acquaintances, familiar or half-familiar faces (“Oh, where did we meet before? Was it in Boston/Sydney/Kuala Lumpur? Ten years ago? Really, so long!”) Some delegates are perched over their laptops, a slightly anxious frown on their faces, as they put the finishing touches to their presentations. Others might be in an intense conversation, crouched over Skype or cell phone. There is also, of course, a great deal of socializing over coffee, lunch and cocktails – half “talking shop,” half light conversation. The organizers are ever present, trying to keep all the delegates happy.

The Grenada delegation in animated conversation. I had the pleasure of attending the BirdsCaribbean conference in 2013 at St. George's University in Grenada. Conferences are held every two years.

The Grenada delegation in animated conversation. I had the pleasure of attending the BirdsCaribbean conference in 2013 at St. George’s University in Grenada. Conferences are held every two years.

The BirdsCaribbean 20th International Meeting is currently taking place at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston. It is a long time (too long, perhaps!) since the regional non-profit conservation organization has gathered in Jamaica, but we are making up for it now with a tremendous burst of mental energy. The physical part would, perhaps, have started today with mid-conference field trips (and will undoubtedly end with dancing at the closing banquet, although sadly Scott Johnson, a Bahamian bundle of energy on the dance floor, is not with us this time and will be missed).

Here are a just a few highlights of the weekend of business and bustling at the Knutsford Court (where the service has been very pleasant and efficient, in my view).

The conch shell: I remember this from the meeting at St. George’s University in Grenada two years ago. Jennifer Wheeler inhales deeply and blows into a large conch shell to summon everyone to their respective sessions. People nearby have been known to spill their coffee, as the sound is a loud, commanding bellow.

Dr. Anne Sutton (right) autographs a copy of her book "A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Jamaica" for Linnette Vassell on Jamaica Day at the BirdsCaribbean conference.

Dr. Anne Sutton (right) autographs a copy of her book “A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Jamaica” for Linnette Vassell on Jamaica Day at the BirdsCaribbean conference.

A slide from conservationist Wendy Lee's presentation on the birds of Stewart Town, Trelawny. When a film clip showed Jamaican Todys popping in and out of their burrow, a little girl nudged her father excitedly. "I didn't know they lived in holes!" she exclaimed.

A slide from Wendy Lee’s presentation on the birds of Stewart Town, Trelawny. When a video showed Jamaican Todys popping in and out of their burrow on Jamaica Day (which was open to the public), a little girl nudged her father excitedly. “Daddy! I didn’t know they lived in holes!” she exclaimed.

Jamaica Day: Members of the public and the local media joined the delegates for a morning of fascinating international keynote speakers and a smorgasbord (I love that word) of offerings from Jamaica-based experts, ranging from the history of ornithology in Jamaica to plant diversity attracting birds in a Jamaican garden. The final panel discussion on conservation issues in Jamaica touched on the burning issues affecting our environment: primarily, the threat of development and bauxite mining in protected areas.

Lunchtime: There is much diversity in the BirdsCaribbean community (birds and the humans who study them).

Lunchtime: There is much diversity in the BirdsCaribbean community (the birds, of course, and the humans who study them).

Diversity: There is much diversity in BirdsCaribbean, as elsewhere in the scientific community. The young and the not-quite-so-young of various ethnicities are all brought together by a passion for birds and conservation, and specifically in the Caribbean. English and Spanish are the main languages, with a splash of French and Dutch thrown in. There are participants from every island in the Caribbean, as well as the U.S., UK and at least one New Zealander this time! Plus plenty of women experts and researchers of all ages to balance out the men!

Executive Director Lisa Sorenson happily "periscoping."

Executive Director Lisa Sorenson happily “periscoping.”

We have technology: Despite the poor Internet service at the hotel we are doing rather well overall. Local naturalist Wendy Lee was delighted to find her presentation recorded on Periscope by Executive Director Lisa Sorenson, who sat in the front row with her smartphone held high. I have been attempting to live tweet, although the connection has been “iffy.” Perhaps the most dazzling display of technology I have seen so far has been Jeff Gerbracht’s presentation, during which a glittering flow of migrating seabirds slipped from north to south and back again, with stopping-off points expanding like stars. Lovely!

Lourdes Mugica, Cuban biologist and conservationist.

Lourdes Mugica, Cuban biologist and conservationist.

The Cuban Effect: The group of Cuban participants has grown in numbers. There were a number of excellent Cuban presentations over the weekend – for example, Lourdes Mugica’s perspectives on migratory waterbirds. Lourdes, a professor at the University of Havana’s Department of Biology, has devoted her life to preserving the wetlands of Cuba. The participation of her colleagues indicates an impressive level of activity and research in the conservation field.

There is a table full of books at the conference.

There is a table full of books at the conference.

Books and more books: A range of great Caribbean birding books, including some recently published, have been selling steadily – including “The Endemic Birds of Cuba,” which was launched by author (and wonderful artist) Nils Navarro at the conference. The work was a real labor of love, which took nearly ten years to bring to fruition; but it was worth the wait. Another big seller is “A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Jamaica” by Dr. Anne Sutton. Both of them are gems – essential items for serious birders and painstakingly put together.

A splendidly colorful array of T shirts and hats.

A splendidly colorful array of T shirts and hats.

And selling like hot cakes: Conference T shirts in a range of brilliant colors (we all look gorgeous in them, and why be modest about it!) and BirdsCaribbean hats, which are really pretty cool.

Tomorrow (again) I am wishing I could divide myself in half and attend all the sessions – on fundraising for NGOs, restoring habitats, conservation gardening and bringing back our birds, among many other more specialist presentations on invasive species and our endangered waterbirds. However, I am not going to miss Pericles Maillis, Bahamas-based lawyer and conservationist, who will be talking on “Restoring Our Parts of Earth: For We Humans, For Birds and For All Life.”

That’s what it’s all about!

And finally, a message from board members Ancilleno Davis (left) and Leo Douglas (President)… Support BirdsCaribbean and conservation today!

And finally, a message from board members Ancilleno Davis (left) and Leo Douglas (President)… Support BirdsCaribbean and conservation today!

 

 

 

 

The Young Bird Detectives

BirdSleuth teacher Ava Tomlinson gives directions to this group of trainee bird detectives in Hope Gardens. (Photo: Doris Gross/BirdsCaribbean)
BirdSleuth teacher Ava Tomlinson gives directions to this group of trainee bird detectives in Hope Gardens. (Photo: Doris Gross/BirdsCaribbean)

As the summer gathers up its strength, school is out – and across Jamaica the summer camps get started.

Beautiful Hope Gardens, dreaming on a hot summer's day. (Photo: Doris Gross/BirdsCaribbean)

Beautiful Hope Gardens, dreaming on a hot summer’s day. (Photo: Doris Gross/BirdsCaribbean)

This week, a one-of-a-kind summer camp is taking place at the beautifully landscaped Hope Zoo, adjoining Hope Gardens. It’s a first for the regional non-profit conservation organization BirdsCaribbean, which is holding its 20th International Meeting at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston this coming weekend. The camp focuses on birds – Jamaican birds, specifically. A group of about thirty children aged nine to fourteen years are busy – very busy; but enjoying themselves also, in the Treehouse at the Zoo. It’s a peaceful natural setting, with the sound of squawking parrots and various other animal cries as “noises off” – barely intrusive background noises, really.

A different bird: This young man smiles as a budgerigar lands to feed from his hand. (Photo: Kento Morishima, JICA volunteer/NEPA).

A different kind of bird: This young man smiles as a budgerigar lands to feed from his hand. (Photo: Kenta Morishima, JICA volunteer/NEPA).

How did this children’s camp come about? With the support of the Zoo and the Royal Botanical Gardens (Hope Gardens for short) and with generous financial support from the Sandals Foundation, BirdsCaribbean decided to put together a free bird camp for young urban kids, using the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s BirdSleuth curriculum. Most of these children would likely never have the opportunity to spend a week in the gardens, learning about nature and the environment – and most importantly, experiencing and observing.

The children really enjoy the creative side of the program. After all, Jamaican birds are so beautiful. We must do them justice! (Photo: Doris Gross/BirdsCaribbean)

The children really enjoy the creative side of the program. After all, Jamaican birds are so beautiful. We must do them justice! (Photo: Doris Gross/BirdsCaribbean)

So exactly how do they learn, and what skills does the BirdSleuth program seek to impart? BirdSleuth, which was established some eleven years ago with funding from the National Science Foundation in the United States, says it offers an “inquiry-based science curriculum that engages kids in scientific study and real data collection through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s exciting citizen science projects.” The program seeks to support educators as well as students to hone their science teaching skills through birds. It is also, of course, intended to spark that spirit of curiosity in the children that is an important facet of learning.

Recording data is an important part of science learning, and this is reflected in the BirdSleuth program. (Photo: Doris Gross/BirdsCaribbean)

Recording data is an important part of science learning, and this is reflected in the BirdSleuth program. (Photo: Doris Gross/BirdsCaribbean)

BirdSleuth, as the name implies, is about investigating, enquiring and taking notes – essential traits for any student of science. The children do their sleuthing outside – peering through their binoculars, poring over bird identification cards and carefully recording what they see. There is no “chalk and talk” – all the activities are participatory, involving role play, games and more. The children are learning about diversity, habitats, food, life cycles, adaptation, and migration (we have so many birds flying to and fro, or sometimes just passing through, in the Americas).

Serious work: Studying the bird identification cards. (

Serious work: Studying the bird identification cards. (Photo: Kenta Morishima, JICA Volunteer/NEPA).

Moreover, they are not simply soaking up knowledge. BirdSleuth is designed to encourage critical thinking, asking questions. This is what hands-on learning is all about.

So much to discover in nature. (Photo: Doris Gross/BirdsCaribbean)

So much to discover in nature. (Photo: Doris Gross/BirdsCaribbean)

After visiting the camp today, I felt a twinge of envy. I wanted to join the young people, explore and learn with them. That is what being a child is really all about.

A young birder in training, quietly observing. (Photo: Doris Gross/BirdsCaribbean)

A young birder in training, quietly observing. (Photo: Doris Gross/BirdsCaribbean)

Congratulations to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for designing this brilliant program, that can be adapted to the Caribbean islands; to the dedicated teachers – who are also having fun, by the way; and most of all, to the children themselves, who are giving so much of themselves and having an unforgettable week.

I hope they can do it all over again next year. Wouldn’t that be nice? Meanwhile, remember… There are Young Bird Detectives at large, possibly coming to a neighborhood near you!

Binoculars aloft… (Photo: Doris Gross/BirdsCaribbean)

Binoculars aloft… (Photo: Doris Gross/BirdsCaribbean)

Footnote:

The BirdSleuth program has been adapted to the Caribbean by BirdsCaribbean and its members, with all the materials specifically geared towards Caribbean birds and conservation issues. BirdsCaribbean conducted two years of testing, then came up with the final curriculum and materials and translated it to Spanish. It is also being translated to French. Funding for this came from a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) grant to BirdsCaribbean for the pilot project (2011-2013) and with another two years of funding remaining to implement the program in sixteen Caribbean countries. Educators were trained in an International Training Workshop last October in Nassau, Bahamas, and are delivering the curriculum locally now. Three of the teachers working in the camp were trained in the pilot program: Ava, Dilip and Sharlene.

The curriculum and supporting materials are available for download here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/uvqmh7x6wzuhhd2/AAB8BFgy6kK41zH5ZRJDMNjza?dl=0

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You can find more information on the BirdSleuth program at http://www.birdsleuth.org and on Facebook and Twitter (@BirdSleuth). The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a fantastic website  at http://www.cornell.birds.edu. Its site at http://www.allaboutbirds.org is filled with facts, figures, identification guides, bird cams and birdsong! Enjoy.

Teachers and students pose for their photo. (Photo: Doris Gross/BirdsCaribbean)

Teachers and students pose for their photo. (Photo: Doris Gross/BirdsCaribbean)