This week has been pretty intense so far. I feel like sitting down in a quiet corner for half a day, but it doesn’t seem possible. Too much going on.
If I hear the word “diaspora” one more time… The local media has swamped us with reports and live broadcasts from the Fifth Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference, which began on Sunday night with a prime ministerial speech and has now concluded. I think. There were, I am sure, many opportunities for networking, as there always are. Gallons of coffee and tons of Danish pastries consumed. I really, really do hope that some concrete projects and collaborations come out of this meeting. It’s been ten years since the first conference; now we need everyone to work together. I think the Jamaicans who come here from the United States, Canada and the UK are all well-meaning, want to “give back” – and want to make money. But they have been wooed by successive governments, only to face ridiculous red-tape hurdles when they make their move. Meanwhile, apart from the bureaucracy, the two major deterrents for investors from overseas are still A) crime and B) the perception of corruption. It has been that way for the past ten years…
Crime on their doorstep: Meanwhile, I hope none of the conference participants witnessed the murder of a tour bus operator, who was gunned down in front of the Pelican Restaurant on Montego Bay‘s so-called “hip strip” early this evening. I hope, too, that they did not hear about the fourteen-year-old student who stabbed a thirteen-year-old in front of their high school near the same city today.
A pretty online magazine: Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna made her presentation in the sectoral debate in Parliament this week. In case her words were missed, she produced her speech in the form of an online magazine, with the title “The Courage to do Things Differently: A Dialogue of Truth and Reconstruction in Youth and Culture.” You can find the link below. The cover features a photograph of – yes, you’ve guessed it, in an arty soft focus. The online document is sprinkled with some beautifully posed photographs featuring You Know Who, including one of her frowning prettily as she plays a game of dominoes with three young male constituents. I expect they let her win. As to the content, there are a lot of good intentions and little detail. Truth? Yes, let’s have some truth, and she did try to be honest about the failings of her government and previous ones. She is “committed” to improving the lot of our young people (which could hardly be more desperate) and so has commissioned the building of a “retrofitted” prison for the most desperate of them. There is much more that I could say – but another time.
Pro-choice: Ms. Hanna did, however, and to her great credit, voice her support for a review of abortion laws in her presentation, which made us all sit up. Some of us started applauding her remarks on the topic – which amounted to very little. Abortion has been on and off the table for discussion for decades; whenever it is on the table, it is quickly brushed off again. I will applaud when – if – Ms. Hanna translates these words into action.
Man’s (scary) best friend: There have been numerous incidents with stray dogs and dogs that their owners cannot or will not control. Now a security guard’s pit bull dog attacked a woman in busy Half Way Tree this week, biting her in the thigh. Pit bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans and the like are not always sweet and lovable. Pit bulls, in particular, are responsible for about half of all dog attacks in the United States. Trinidad‘s Parliament has just passed a Dangerous Dogs Bill, which proposes to issue licenses for pit bulls and a couple of other breeds. In the UK and elsewhere there are strict laws on owning pit bulls. There are enough dangers, walking on the Jamaican street; we don’t need crazy dogs that security guards cannot control properly.
The end of an era: I have not mentioned yet that the Mutual Gallery will close down at the end of this month. Its director noted in an email, “We are very grateful to the owners of the building who have allowed us to remain in their premises free of cost for over ten years. Sadly this arrangement is now coming to an end.” She pointed out, “The Mutual Gallery has been in operation for 38 years. It was created in October 1975 by the Jamaica Mutual Life Assurance Society, whose corporate philosophy was to embrace activities that contributed to national development and were also profitable investments. The donation of the space was a philanthropic gesture from the Jamaica Mutual Life Assurance Society as a contribution to the development of the Arts in Jamaica. At that time it was called the Mutual Life Gallery. The commitment of the Jamaica Mutual Life Assurance Society went so far as to specifically create the beautiful gallery space we have called home for the past fifteen years. The operations of the Gallery continued under a new management committee after Jamaica Mutual Life Assurance Society folded in 2000 and The Mutual Gallery and Art Centre was incorporated on 23 October 2001. Since then we have benefited from the goodwill of AIC (Jamaica) Ltd who has supported the arts by continuing to provide the gallery space free of cost to the Mutual Gallery.” Well, it seems the goodwill has come to an end. The small building with the sturdy doors, near my old workplace in the former Mutual Life Building, is closing rather suddenly, it seems. It is truly sad. So many superb exhibitions showcasing Jamaica’s considerable creativity have taken place there. I remember also its earlier incarnations in the main building, before the purpose-built gallery was created. And in the rush, someone stole a small painting – see a picture of it here. How mean is that. I wonder what the building will be used for now, after only fifteen years of existence. Jamaica’s visual arts scene is a shadow of what it was when we first started living in Kingston, 25 years ago.
How are we doing on the Millennium Goals? Our neighbors in Guyana recently received special recognition from the United Nations for attaining the first Millennium Development Goal – that of halving the number of hungry people in the country. St. Vincent and the Grenadines have also achieved this goal. This is well ahead of the 2015 deadline. I wonder how Jamaica and other Caribbean Community members are doing on this and the other goals?
Getting tips from the Queen: No, not that Queen. National Security Minister Peter Bunting has apparently met with a reggae singer called Queen Ifrica, who recently sang a song called “Corrupt System.” Her Royal Highness sang that she had some advice for the Minister about how to fight crime and corruption in the police force; he has since sought an audience with her. A sign of desperation, or a good idea? At least he is listening, but I wonder if he will tell us what came out of their tête-à-tête.
Panic over? There have been various and to me slightly confusing reports on the positive drug test for Jamaica’s beloved athlete, Veronica Campbell Brown. It seems things might not be as bad as when the news first broke and a wave of #prayforVCB semi-hysteria swept through the Jamaican Twitterland. Let’s wait to hear more details. It’s a bit technical.
Boundless tiefing: Poor Jamaica Public Service Company! They seem determined to fight the plague of electricity theft which has been rampant in some communities for many years. Now they have discovered illegal wiring running for four miles in the community of Flanker, on the outskirts of Montego Bay. That’s a pretty long run…
A few bunches of Petchary flowers to be handed to:
The Ministry of Justice, who have opened a shelter for victims of human trafficking. This has been a long time coming, but better late than never. National Security Minister Peter Bunting announced just today that the U.S. State Department has moved Jamaica from a “Tier Two watch list” to a “Tier Two.” The police have been making great efforts and are to be applauded.
The Barita Education Foundation quietly does very good work, with a special program to get parents involved in the education of their children. The Foundation recently sponsored its fourth annual Parent-Teachers’ Association sports rally at the Dunrobin Community Centre and Sports Park in Kingston.
The American International School of Kingston – in particular, Ms. Ani Rubin and the children of the kindergarten class – who collected and donated lots of foodstuff to Eve for Life. Program Director Joy Crawford and Executive Director Pat Watson gratefully received the food, which will help sustain some of our most vulnerable young women and their children. The children discussed and asked questions about the issue of HIV/AIDS (so young!) with Joy and Pat while the food was loaded into the van. Thank you!
And on that note… To all my Jamaican readers – please support Eve for Life’s special benefit performance of Nomaddz “Breadfruit is The New Bread, Baby” at the Theatre Place, Haining Road, Kingston 6 this Sunday (June 23). Show starts at 6:00 p.m. Tickets are J$1,5oo. Thank you!
Please find below the names of those who have lost their lives to violence in the past three days – a total of nine, including those killed by the police. My heart goes out to the victims’ families and to all those who loved them:
Kwame Cunningham, East Street/Sutton Street, downtown Kingston
Milton Cunningham, 72, Rae Town, Kingston
Jamila Dawkins, 13, Anchovy High School, St. James
Nicolas Beckford, 35, Catherine Hall, St. James
Roy Reid, Gloucester Avenue/Montego Bay, St. James
Unidentified boy, 16, Pamphret, St. Thomas
Shaun Black, 27, Denbigh, Clarendon
Killed by police:
Mario Barrett, 33, Seaward Drive, Kingston
Jermaine Clarke, 30, Warsop, Trelawny
Related links and articles:
http://rjrnewsonline.com/sports/jaaa-to-handle-disciplinary-hearing-of-campbell-brown JAAA to handle disciplinary hearing of Campbell Brown: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130619/lead/lead4.html Meet us halfway – overseas Jamaicans urge government to make it easier to do business: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130618/letters/letters5.html Diaspora Congress is all hot air: Letter of the Day/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-Oh-boy–here-we-go-again-_14518991 “Oh boy, here we go again”: commentary on march against gays: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Pitbull-attacks-woman-in-Half-Way-Tree_14519289 Pitbull attacks woman in Half Way Tree: Jamaica Observer
http://issuu.com/moycja/docs/the_courage_to_do_things_differentl/26?e=8583348%2F3583586 The courage to do things differently – Youth & Culture Minister Lisa Hanna‘s presentation in the Sectoral Debate
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/hanna-wants-abortion-law-reviewed Hanna wants abortion law reviewed: RJR News
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Wires-run-four-miles-in-St-James-electricity-theft Wires run four miles in St. James electricity theft: Jamaica Observer
https://petchary.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=7340&action=edit GSAT results cause grave concern: Gleaner
http://jamaica-star.com/thestar/20130619/news/news2.html Minister Bunting to reveal details about meeting with Queen Ifrica: Jamaica Star
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Portmore-facing-flooding-danger–say-mayor–deputy_14517980 Portmore facing flooding danger says Mayor, Deputy: Jamaica Observer
http://hill60bump.com/2013/06/18/is-the-8th-wonder-of-the-world-caribbean/ Is the Eighth Wonder of the World Caribbean? Hill60bump.com
Around the Corner: Jamaica Diaspora Conference 2013 (repeatingislands.com)
Too hot for June: Midweek, June 13, 2013 (petchary.wordpress.com)