Today is Malcolm X’s birthday; he would have been 88 years old. Tragically, his young grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, was murdered on May 9 at a Mexico City nightclub. But here’s a little Caribbean connection: Malcolm X’s mother Louise was born in Grenada – but she had a very sad life, too.
Well, with that useful and important fact stored away, let’s look at the last few days in Jamaica…
The voice of morality: Our pious Minister of Education, the Reverend Ronald Thwaites, told Parliament this week that he is not going to allow young Jamaican students to be “groomed” towards homosexuality (demonstrating his own mistaken beliefs on the subject); and that although he approves of (the right kind of) sex education, condoms in schools are out. None of us were surprised at this, were we – after all, the Minister’s Catholic faith strongly influences his prescriptions for our youth. The television program All Angles confronted the issue of condoms in schools last week with youth activist/commentator Jaevion Nelson, retired school principal Esther Tyson and the head of the guidance counseling association. The latter two both toed the Minister’s line as expected; were confused by the statistics Mr. Nelson produced to strengthen his case for contraceptive assistance in schools; and clumsily tried to catch him out, once or twice.
But a big, big silver lining: The same Minister folded his hands, turned his eyes to heaven and announced a change in government policy towards pregnant teens in school. Amendments to the Education Act and Regulations attached thereto will ensure that schools will keep open a space for a child who has had to leave due to pregnancy, so that she may continue her education afterwards. Huge kudos to Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson Smith for her strong lobbying on this issue; and to the Minister for seeing the sense and fairness of it. The Minister also announced a couple of pending measures that have ruffled the feathers of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association; more on that, probably, later. I don’t always agree with our overly preachy Minister; but at least he is trying to right some of the hundreds of wrongs afflicting our education system, one by one. He has some tricky issues to tackle, indeed.
“I’m so frustrated by this experience”: A quote from CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company Kelly Tomblin on the seemingly very long and slow deliberations by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) on who should receive the contract for a new 350 mw power plant. I can imagine how she feels. I often fail to see whether government agencies like the OUR, the Bureau of Standards (of toilet tissue infamy), the Urban Development Corporation and others do any good for the Jamaican people. I guess they provide jobs. How else do they serve our interests?
The truth is swimming away: In an enlightening radio interview with a frequently stuttering Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies on Thursday morning, it transpired that Davies’ junior minister Richard Azan told him two different stories about whether or not he knew that rental money was being collected at his (Azan’s) own constituency office for illegally constructed shops. There actually appear to be three different versions of this conversation, all aired on broadcast media. However, clearly Minister Davies seems to think that his junior minister means well, even if he has broken the law. He is eager to do good in the community, so let’s “give him a bligh,” nuh. The grammatically challenged Junior Minister had told Nationwide in an earlier interview, “Yes, I make a mistake for building the shops” (sic). But saying “My bad” sometimes has consequences, right?
This is a true patriot, Rev. Redwood: As I noted in my last blog post, the now-departed-on-a-jet-plane Senate President Reverend Stanley Redwood only dug a deeper hole for himself by responding to the cutting criticism of a Gleaner column in a letter to the newspaper. He actually called himself a patriotic Jamaican. The acerbic columnist Gordon Robinson today gives us a better idea of a patriotic Jamaican – one who has no choice but to struggle through our ramshackle health, justice and education systems with no special privileges, but who tries to help his fellow Jamaicans and ensure his family thrives.
Fresh face: Members of the 51% Coalition (including myself) are delighted at the appointment of a young attorney-at-law, Sophia Frazer-Binns. Great to see another woman in the Senate, and we look forward to her contribution. We note also that Ms. Frazer-Binns has some experience of working with youth. Good, too.
Two key meetings: J-FLAG and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) had two key meetings this week: in recognition of International Day Against Homophobia, J-FLAG held a forum on homelessness and forced migration among the LGBT population; and the JCSC launched two publications arising from its lengthy series of consultations with communities on “People Participation in the National Budget Making Process.” Congratulations to both organizations for their efforts to keep seeking solutions to some of Jamaican society’s most intractable problems. I will be writing more on these meetings in the next week – in particular, on the “disconnects” between Jamaicans and Jamaicans. Need to overcome these…
Rooting for the children: Huge big-ups to the JN Foundation for providing desperately-needed funding for the Spanish Town-based non-governmental organization Children First. I had the honor of working with this organization on several occasions and have always been impressed by founder Claudette Richardson-Pious’ deep understanding of and clear-eyed focus on the complex and difficult lives of youth at risk. Since it is still Child Month, here are two other individuals who are quietly working on behalf of children: Deika Morrison of Crayons Count; and youth advocate Kemesha Kelly, who works with young people in St. Ann. Great role models.
Collecting: And Help JA Children, the lobby group formed one year ago, is busy collecting items for children in state care this month. Take your food, toiletries, clothes, books, magazines and other goodies to Kia Motors c/o HJC, 2 Chelsea Ave, Kgn 10. Tel: 920-5000. It will be hugely appreciated!
Kudos to Vaz: It’s Labour Day on Wednesday, when people undertake all kinds of tasks to make life better for their fellow-Jamaicans. One of former Prime Minister Michael Manley‘s better ideas, I think. Across the island, the infirmaries that are funded by local parish councils are in a terrible state of repair – often colonial-era buildings that have seen much better days. Now, a couple of months ago Member of Parliament for East Portland Daryl Vaz announced that he was going to give up five per cent of his salary, as a gesture of sacrifice in these tough times. He was praised in a half-hearted way by some. But now he has met with Port Antonio’s Mayor and decided the money he gives up will be earmarked for the Portland Infirmary, which is in a bad state. I really do like this. Did any other political representative follow Mr. Vaz’ example? I think not…
A waste of space: I am sometimes baffled by the sheer inanity and trivia that gets published in the newspapers each week. The random thoughts of commentators with nothing meaningful to say; the grinning men and women with wineglasses in their hands at an uptown party; yet another PR piece about some reggae/dancehall singer who is “making waves” overseas (playing in tiny clubs in the suburbs of big cities). If it’s online, at least with a click you can forget/delete it. But good trees are chopped down for this worthless nonsense.
Jamaican bloggers, sharpen your keyboards! Wednesday, May 23 – the third anniversary of the Tivoli Gardens Massacre – is Jamaica Blog Day, a “Day of Action for Jamaican bloggers on police and security force abuses.” The great little (growing) blogging community on the island, including myself, will be researching and writing and photographing on this subject. It’s going to be meaningful stuff. Do read and support our bloggers!
Coming up fast and not to be missed! The Fulbright Academy of Science and Technology will hold its 2013 Conference on Global Health in Montego Bay from May 24-27. It is open to the public. Important themes covered will be: Public Policy, Law and Economics in healthcare; Public Health and the Impact of Technology and Social Media; Emerging & Reemerging Infectious Diseases; Education, Sport and Wellness; Environmental Health (Global water supply & safety, Climate Change, Urban planning, engineering); and Human Sexuality. Visit the conference website at http://www.fulbrightacademy.org/page/HealthSummit/index.v3page;jsessionid=4j4dleqsqk0m4 And while I’m at it, big shout-out to all the fabulous Jamaican Fulbrighters (including Marcia Forbes, who will be presenting at the conference)… You make us proud!
I am relieved that the week, which started off so badly with homicides, has ended (hopefully) on a more peaceful note. However, my sympathies go out to the families and friends of Kenneth Kerr and Abasco Foster, who are grieving at this time. I hope that Mr. Foster’s companion recovers from serious injuries.
Kenneth Kerr, 54, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Abasco Foster, 27, George’s Plain, Westmoreland
Related articles/links and local blogs in purple:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/business/business4.html Economy contracts in March quarter: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/lead/lead6.html Kelly speaks her mind: Urges speedy decision on new power supplier: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Stadium-built-with-Chinese-money-in-ruins_14278481 Stadium built with Chinese money in ruins: Sunday Observer
http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=20784 Jamaica: Three years on, state of emergency still an open wound: Amnesty International
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130518/lead/lead1.html “Act on Tivoli”: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/cleisure/cleisure2.html The methods of war have failed: Claude Clarke column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130518/letters/letters1.html INDECOM needs more power: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/lead/lead2.html Cops to be charged for schoolgirl’s murder: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Cop-dodges-court-as-DNA-shatters-lie-that-arrested-man-had-spliff_14284218 Cop dodges court as DNA shatters lie: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-122/33915 Senate elects first visually impaired President: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-122/33919 Attorney-at-law appointed to the Senate: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33909 Contribution to 2013 Sectoral Debate: Mikael Phillips, MP: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/cleisure/cleisure2.html Of patriots and sellouts: Gordon Robinson column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/focus/focus6.html Saying goodbye and diaspora relations: Christopher Tufton op-ed/Sunday Gleaner
http://chatychaty.com/2013/05/jamaica-not-grooming-students-for-same-sex-unions-marriage-is-between-a-man-and-a-woman/ “Jamaica not grooming students for same sex unions, marriage is between a man and a woman”: chatychaty.com
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o2el_Gw8O8 Stop being naïve about sex! Jamaican high school students speak: YouTube
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/teen-mothers-to-be-reintegrated-in-school-system?utm_source=rjr&utm_medium=news Teen mothers to be reintegrated in school system: RJR News
http://keimiller.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/the-little-wine-that-hurt-somebody-or-soca-and-the-bad-behaving-gays-of-jamaica/ The little wine that hurt somebody; or, soca and the bad-behaving gays of Jamaica: Under the Saltire Flag blog
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/lead/lead1.html “I give up!” Some parents no longer care about their runaway children: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/news/news1.html Cruel by choice: Thousands of Jamaican children intentionally injured by adults annually: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/lead/lead2.html Young and loveless: Teenage prostitute pushing for a fresh start: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/focus/focus3.html Condoms in schools: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130516/news/news1.html Ananda Alert to be displayed on billboards: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/lead/lead8.html Rescue for Children First: JN Foundation comes to the assistance of charity set up to help Jamaica’s most needy youths: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/news/news5.html Portland infirmary to get Vaz salary cut: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/lead/lead Suspected dengue cases climb to 475, two confirmed deaths: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130517/news/news1.html Moneague Primary & Junior High cops LASCO environmental award: Gleaner
http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/05/16/3012766/caribbean-talks-conservation-on.html Caribbean talks conservation on Branson’s island: AP
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130516/news/news7.html Public gets say in Cockpit Country boundary debate: Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130516/news/news1.html Eleven-year-old escapes croc attack, reptile snatches dog instead: Jamaica Star
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130516/news/news3.html KSAC, handcart men agree on registration fee: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130519/ent/ent1.html Balancing the act: Crawford seeks compromise between “want to eat” and “want to sleep”: Sunday Gleaner
An IDAHO State of Mind (petchary.wordpress.com)
May 15, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)