Jamaican men may, from time to time, get a bad rap. Sometimes (as in the case of the God’s-gift-to-women, egotistical Christopher Gayle) it is probably deserved. But – you know something? There are some wonderful Jamaican men out there, doing fantastic work, all over the island. I am mentioning just a few in this quick blog, but I know many more. So, this is by no means an exclusive list. And there are many more whom I don’t know, but hope to meet in 2016. Here are just a few marvelous men who inspired me last year. Many have overcome great challenges to reach where they are today. They are not in any order (not even alphabetical really!)
Oh, and I will be sharing my Badass Women of the Year in a subsequent post!
- Michael Abrahams, gynaecologist, Gleaner columnist, poet and social commentator, has been described as an “enfant terrible” by a fellow columnist. He is provocative, and likes to shake things up a little. Nothing wrong with that, say; we need it. Plus he has great compassion (always supporting good causes, and in particular human rights concerns) and humor – two worthy attributes. @mikeyabrahams
- Dennis Jones is a fellow blogger and retired international economist, with a dry British humor and a fondness for puns. You can find his commentary on Jamaican society at http://jamaicapoliticaleconomy.wordpress.com Dennis is also on the board of the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP), a nonprofit organization for fifty-plus people founded in 2009 (http://www.ccrponline.org). Please support CCRP – and join them if you fall in their age group. As a member myself I know there are many benefits. @dennisgjones
- Marlon James is, of course, a celebrity now, having recently won the 2015 Man Booker Prize for “A Brief History of Seven Killings.“ He’s a hugely original thinker and has a sublime and sensitive imagination. I wish I could take those leaps. He has kept his sense of humor, thank God. I also share a love of Nick Drake and the old hippie band Love, with him. I admire Marlon for his courage. Yes, courage; an underrated and often unnoticed trait. @marlonjames5 but he is more often on Facebook.
- Randy McLaren is a cheerful, funny young man from Kingston’s inner city, full of an electric energy that transmits itself to his audience. He is a dub poet, a vibrant performer (I will never forget his performance at Trench Town Reading Centre’s 21st birthday party!) and has a strong and genuine sense of social justice. His music is intended to bring messages of unity, love and empowerment. Randy is also an entrepreneur. His Bresheh business (find it on Facebook) produces custom-made, really cool backpacks for Jamaican youth (see http://www.bresheh.com and 893-9713). @RandyMcLarenRM @pickbresheh
- Damien Williams is, I know, a great teacher and a young man of faith. Despite many personal challenges, this Grenadian (I think of him as Jamaican although he has a lovely lilting accent!) is erudite, courageous and versatile, and a great defender of human rights for the most vulnerable. He also sings (beautifully) and has the best smile in the known Universe… Courage is about getting up every morning and facing a new day, as someone said.
- Dane Lewis is the Executive Director of J-FLAG, and one of the kindest people I know. Compassion is his middle name. He also has a nice little chuckle. He has stood up to the arrows and darts of viciousness and bigotry for years, and yet has brought together an amazing young team that supports its LGBT clients with commitment, and each other with caring. Yes, bigotry is real; so is love. @equality_JA
- Sheldon Shepherd is such a bright and talented young man, along with his fellow musicians in Nomaddz – an entirely original band that can play in almost any genre – real musicians, no electronic beats for them. They write their own (highly original) material; and best of all, they are kind, generous, low-key supporters of the NGO Eve for Life, supporting the most vulnerable of young women. I love these young men for that! @nomaddzshepherd @NoMaddz
- Dennis Chung is like a breath of fresh air to me. He has no “airs and graces,” and I find his commentary on Jamaica’s economic landscape refreshingly clear and straightforward. He is a fitness fanatic and bike rider (as I was, once! When my bike was stolen, my heart was broken). Happy New Year, Dennis! @drachung
- I have known Omar Frith, J.P. for years. I also know he is a young man to watch. From humble beginnings himself, Omar has worked in the field of community development (especially with youth) for years, starting at an impossibly early age with the Stella Maris Foundation in inner-city Grants Pen, Kingston. Now, amazingly, he is the Jamaica Labour Party candidate for North West Manchester! This may sound like a political endorsement, but it’s not intended as such. All I know is that Omar is a young man of outstanding talent, humanity and integrity (and a family man). @Frith01
- Cliff Hughes, from inner-city Jones Town, is a one-of-a-kind journalist and businessman. He is highly professional, but sharp as hell. I have watched him develop for years as a media entrepreneur with his own business, his own style. He mentors and nurtures bright young journalists like Kalilah Enriquez, George Davis and the intrepid Abka Fitz-Henley (my Journalist of 2015!) on the ground-breaking and influential Nationwide News Network. His radio call-in show on Power 106 FM draws a steadily growing audience. He can be tough when needed, he has his own opinions, but he is always fair. Most importantly, he listens. I also greatly appreciate Cliff’s support for and understanding of environmental issues; and his ongoing commitment to human rights and democracy. He is also very accessible on social media: @cliffhughes106 and @cliffnationwide
Scientists are just fantastic. So, last but not least is Dr. Leo Douglas, the Jamaican President of BirdsCaribbean (the largest conservation nonprofit organization in the region) and currently a Smithsonian Fellow at the National Zoological Park at Smithsonian. Leo is enthusiastic, warm-hearted and really enjoys working with young people, sparking the same passion he feels for birds and conservation. He plans to focus more on the impact of climate change on our threatened biodiversity in the region, this year. Although he’s not on the island at the moment, he comes and goes and is always with us in spirit! @accesleo1 @BirdsCaribbean
My final conclusion: Jamaican men and women are magnificent. Be inspired! End of story.