We Are Not Amused: Sunday, October 6, 2013

Queen Victoria allegedly said this, using the royal “we.” It’s not clear what did not amuse her, but I don’t think it was her politicians. Do you know who does not amuse me? One guess.

  • Are our political leaders incompetent, or just plain crafty? I don’t know. I became so impatient with the Minister of Transport and Works’ performance (and it was a performance) on CVM Television’s “Live at Seven” this week that I spilled my cup of tea all over everything, and then cursed. Minister Davies talks in a series of casual non sequiturs. He never finishes a sentence, so you get fragments, interspersed with throwaway lines that I think are intended to be humorous. He finds himself very amusing. The overall effect is a) offhand; b) incredibly condescending; and c) confusing – deliberately so?
  • Meanwhile, what I called the Megawatt Muddle seems to be descending into ever murkier depths. Minister Phillip Paulwell has said very little. He has not held out a lifeline to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), which seems to be sinking deeper into the quagmire the more it struggles. Azurest Cambridge (the preferred bidder, which failed to come up with the deposit on time) made some comments that made me think this does not look good to any other firm interested in investing in Jamaica. Meanwhile, what of the local bidding consortium, Energize Jamaica? Since they came up with their proposal on time (by the March deadline – yes, March?) should not they be the one to move to the preferred spot, as the Contractor General suggested in his report?
  • But then, the CG’s reports on both the Azan shambles and the power project have been generally overruled, undermined and/or ignored by all and sundry.
  • I do share Minister Paulwell’s concern about the inadequate take-up for renewable energy included in the power package. Why did this happen? Altogether, the OUR comes out with egg all over its face. Can we revisit the renewable issue, too? Should we just wipe the slate clean with this energy bid, and start all over again? (Insert sigh of frustration here…)
  • “We are actually desperate now,” Minister Paulwell told the Gleaner last week with his usual disarming frankness. Aren’t we all?
  • So, do we expect the Mayor of May Pen to resign, despite being charged for misleading the Contractor General in the course of his investigations into the Spaldings shops? No? I thought not. Moving on…
  • On a more encouraging note, Jamaican Shanique Myrie won her case in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) against the Barbadian government for the degrading treatment she received at Bridgetown’s airport from immigration officers. This should be a wake-up call for Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries. “It’s not about the money, it’s about equal rights and justice,” said Ms. Myrie after the ruling. The money, by the way, translated from Barbadian dollars into Jamaican, highlighting the extreme weakness of our currency compared to our neighbors to the east. But besides that, I hope and believe that Barbados will take the necessary action, legal or otherwise, to ensure this does not happen again.
  • I am glad Mr. Martin Henry focused on the World Bank’s recent “Jamaica Parliamentary Oversight of Public Finances – An Institutional Review” – which has been largely ignored by local media. Our Parliament is remarkably unproductive, as we probably know, and has been for years. I found Mr. Henry’s final dig at civil society groups (the latest section of society to make snide comments about) and the media (which people have always made snide comments about) quite unnecessary, but pretty much par for the course among newspaper columnists and the like.
  • Another Sunday columnist whom I often don’t agree with (but that’s OK), Professor Carolyn Cooper, came up trumps today. She started her column: “In Jamaica today, a woman who ends up in hospital as a result of complications from an illegal abortion can actually be handcuffed to her bed as a suspected felon. Upon conviction of inducing abortion, she may be condemned to life sentence with hard labour. That’s the law.” This law is Section 72 of the Offences Against the Person 1864. Yes, 1864! 
  • And good news for our much-loved athlete Veronica Campbell-Brown, as Jamaican officials have ruled that “a reprimand without any period of ineligibility would be appropriate”
    after her positive doping result from an invitational on May 4. Hopefully this will be upheld and all will be well. Just shows how careful you have to be.

Three cheers to all of these…

  • The tireless and persistent host of “Live at Seven” Simon Crosskill, who scores 10 out of 10 for his dogged questioning of Minister Davies on “development” projects. The Minister employed his usual confusing, obfuscating tactics (see my earlier comment above). When Mr. Crosskill asked if we (Jamaicans) could see a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding on the logistics hub that was apparently signed in China, the Minister said condescendingly, “It’s boring…” (So why do you ordinary people want to bother your heads with it? It’s all legal stuff). Anyway, thank you Mr. Crosskill for trying, and major kudos to your excellent production team for this and all your programs. Keep up the good work!
  • Brandon Allwood, one of our bright young Jamaicans studying overseas, who was among eight international undergraduates to receive the Toronto Excellence Awards recently. I first met Brandon when he was sixteen years old and editing the “Teen Observer.” When I asked him what issues he was interested in, he told me immediately, “Children’s rights.” He has retained that focus and is not only a savvy communicator and media person but focused and genuinely kind. He has a great deal to offer Jamaica.
  • All those who participated in the Jamaica Startup Weekend in Kingston. From the tweets I have seen, it looks pretty intense as participants make their final pitches this evening. I am glad to see more women there in the mix, too. IT does not have to be a male preserve, does it! And congratulations once again to Ingrid Riley, the tireless organizer and energy behind this effort.
  • Kudos to two young television journalists who have done a good job this week: Television Jamaica‘s Dashan Hendricks did some enlightening and useful reporting on the energy bid issue (which is fairly complex); and CVM Television’s Joel Crosskill reported sensitively on the renewed violence in Western Kingston. Good journalism.
  • And personal thanks from my husband and I to Palace Amusement - our local cinema – for screening a new series of simulcasts from the Metropolitan Opera of New York. The audience was small, but it was an absolute treat and worth every cent! More on the passionate and powerful performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” in another blog post. But we really appreciated it and will not miss another one in the series…

The police claim to be getting a grip on crime in West Kingston, where gang violence has become more commonplace in recent months. However, the issue will not be solved through shootouts in which two or three alleged “wanted men” get killed. It just will not. Haven’t we “been there, done that”? My condolences are with the families of all those who have died (I am afraid two are still unidentified – the media do not really seem to see them all as human beings with names, it seems). 

Unidentified man, Sunrise Crescent/Red Hills Road, Kingston

Unidentified, Bull Bay, St. Andrew

Andrea Blythe, 43, Glasgow, Westmoreland

Killed by police:

Fitzroy Gaynor, Hannah Town, Kingston

Demar Cameron, Hannah Town, Kingston

Troy Anthony Vassell, Upper Regent Street, Kingston

Related articles and links:


http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131003/lead/lead4.html Transport Minister shields China Harbour from parliamentary committee: Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/NEPA-received-no-application-for-Goat-Islands-development NEPA received no application for Goat Islands development: Jamaica Observer

http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/10/04/op-ed-jamaica-china-and-goat-island/ Jamaica, China and Goat Islands: David P. Rowe op-ed/Carib Journal

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/As-global-warming-accelerates—_15178056 As global warming accelerates… Jamaica Observer editorial

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/LIME-Foundation-adopts-part-of-forest-reserve-_15190271 LIME Foundation adopts part of forest reserve: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131004/lead/lead24.html No word on waste-to-energy plants: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131005/letters/letters1.html Letter of the Day from Frank Phipps: OUR must revisit renewable energy capacity offer: Sunday Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131003/lead/lead5.html PSOJ questions process used to select Azurest for 360MW venture: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131005/lead/lead2.html Azurest says OUR’s refusal to extend deadline robs Jamaicans of best energy solution: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131003/lead/lead6.html Paulwell wants OUR to revise decision on 115MW project bids: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131006/focus/focus5.html Make Parliament more effective: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131003/news/news1.html First Global makes sweet music at Tarrant Primary: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131005/news/news2.html Marcus Garvey Choir boosts school morale: Gleaner

http://jamaicajournal.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/jacques-road-finished-project/ Jacques Road finished project: Jamaican Journal

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131004/lead/lead8.html Jamaican MSMs speak out: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131005/lead/lead1.html “Speak up for your rights”: Shanique Myrie elated at CCJ ruling: Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Executive-Summary-of-the-judgement-in-Shanique-Myre-case Executive Summary of the judgment in Shanique Myrie case: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131006/cleisure/cleisure3.html Policing women’s bodies: Carolyn Cooper column/Sunday Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131004/lead/lead25.html INDECOM wants power to take samples from cops: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48419 Angry George’s Plain residents set canefield fire to capture gunmen: Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaican-Brandon-Allwood-receives-International-student-award-in-Toronto Former TEENage Club president receives international student award in Toronto: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131003/lead/lead1.html Warning for Veronica Campbell-Brown: Gleaner

Jamaica's gold medal-winning sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown has received a warning.

Jamaica’s gold medal-winning sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown has received a warning, but no ban.

Leonard N. Enriquez (President, Cambridge Project Development Inc.) speaks at a press conference related to the 360 Megawat project held at the Terra Nova Hotel yesterday afternoon. Kenneth Allen (Managing Director, Azurest Partners) looks on. (Photo: Gleaner)

Leonard N. Enriquez (President, Cambridge Project Development Inc.) speaks at a press conference related to the 360 Megawatt project in Kingston. Kenneth Allen (Managing Director, Azurest Partners) looks on. (Photo: Gleaner)

 

Professor Carolyn Cooper.

Professor Carolyn Cooper.

The World Cup Tour arrived in Jamaica. Here is a tweep, with the coveted trophy! Not sure how he feels about it...

The World Cup Tour arrived in Jamaica. Here is a tweep, with the coveted trophy! Not sure how he feels about it…

The climax of Jamaica Startup Weekend...Intensity building. (Photo: Twitter)

The climax of Jamaica Startup Weekend…Intensity building. (Photo: Twitter)

According to today's Sunday Observer, there are over 200 homeless people in the tourist resort of Ocho Rios.

According to today’s Sunday Observer, there are over 200 homeless people in the tourist resort of Ocho Rios.

Brandon Allwood, a young man who is not only extremely bright but also full of heart!

Brandon Allwood, a young man who is not only extremely bright but also full of heart!

A pleased Shanique Myrie (right) and her ecstatic sister Antoinette Dacosta exit the Supreme Court building in downtown Kingston following the Caribbean Court of Justice ruling yesterday. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

A pleased Shanique Myrie (right) and her ecstatic sister Antoinette Dacosta exit the Supreme Court building in downtown Kingston following the Caribbean Court of Justice ruling yesterday. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

 

Busy Week and it’s June 19, 2013

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.

UK-based Jamaican entrepreneur Levi Roots speaks at the diaspora conference in Montego Bay. (Photo: Gleaner)

UK-based Jamaican entrepreneur Levi Roots speaks at the diaspora conference in Montego Bay. (Photo: Gleaner)

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.

The glamorous Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna has produced a beautifully packaged speech, complete with many well-groomed visuals.

The glamorous Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna has produced a beautifully packaged speech, complete with many well-groomed visuals.

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.

The offending pit bull dog, which remained on duty despite having attacked a passerby, and his handler - after the attack. We do not know the name of the security company, for some reason. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The offending pit bull dog, which remained on duty despite having attacked a passerby, and his handler – after the attack. We do not know the name of the security company, for some reason. The dog’s victim plans to sue, as well she should. It was a nasty bite. (Photo: Llewellyn Wynter/Jamaica Observer)

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 heavy, beautiful door of the Mutual Gallery in Kingston will be closed for good at the end of June.. (Photo: mutualgallery.com)

The heavy, beautiful door of the Mutual Gallery in Kingston will be closed for good at the end of June.. (Photo: mutualgallery.com)

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.

"Mountain Magic" is a small painting by Amy Laskin. It was stolen from the Mutual Gallery during a recent auction. It's acrylic on canvas measuring  3 ¾" x 6" (inside measurements). If you have seen it, please contact Mutual Gallery.

“Mountain Magic” is a small painting by Amy Laskin. It was stolen from the Mutual Gallery during a recent auction. It’s acrylic on canvas measuring
3 ¾” x 6″ (inside measurements). If you have seen it, please contact Mutual Gallery.

The Guyanese government receives its award for fulfilling a key Millennium Goal ahead of deadline.

The Guyanese government receives its award for fulfilling a key Millennium Goal ahead of deadline.

How are we doing on the Millennium GoalsOur 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.

Minister of National Security Peter Bunting recently sought audience with singer Queen Ifrica. (Photo: urbanislandz.com)

Minister of National Security Peter Bunting recently sought audience with singer Queen Ifrica. (Photo: urbanislandz.com)

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.

Jamaican athlete Veronica Campbell Brown is praying that everything will work out for the best. So are many Jamaicans... (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Jamaican athlete Veronica Campbell Brown is praying that everything will work out for the best. So are many Jamaicans… (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

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.

Clovia Lawrence (left), parent and Florence Gordon, principal of Burke Road Basic are all smiles as they celebrate their third-place victory with Janet Brown (center), director of Barita Education Fund. (Photo: Contributed/Gleaner)

Clovia Lawrence (left), parent and Florence Gordon, principal of Burke Road Basic are all smiles as they celebrate their third-place victory with Janet Brown (center), director of Barita Education Fund. (Photo: Contributed/Gleaner)

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.

Kindergartners at the American International School of Kingston (AISK) in discussion with Eve for Life's Joy Crawford (in purple) at the school. (Photo: Eve for Life)

Kindergartners at the American International School of Kingston (AISK) with Eve for Life’s Joy Crawford (center, in purple) and Pat Watson (top right) at the school, along with teachers and staff at Eve. (Photo: Eve for Life)

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!

AISK students help load up the van with much-needed food. (Photo: Eve for Life)

AISK students help load up the van with much-needed food. (Photo: Eve for Life)

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)

Father’s Day in Jamaica: June 16, 2013

The heat in Kingston this week has been a dictator, beating us all into submission. I have spent the week cowering at home (two inches away from the fan) or hiding in air-conditioned cafés.

And it’s only June. As one Twitter friend just observed: “This rain need fi fall an dun.”  (translation for non-Jamaicans: “This rain needs to fall and get it over with.”)

Shock and horror: Friday night frolics for many Jamaicans were somewhat overshadowed by the disturbing news that one of our athletic heroines, Veronica Campbell Brown, tested positive for a banned substance, a diuretic called Lasix (furosemide). Ms. Campbell Brown has won gold medals and broken all kinds of records, and Jamaica has been justifiably enormously proud of her over the past few years. Now, many are in denial, believing that it must be an error, a “set-up” even. Others are pointing at the big, bad United States, which they claim is the sports doping center of the world; the athlete lives and trains there. Many others are just hoping it’s not true. We will have to wait and see.

The Church again: Meanwhile our ultra-conservative, dogmatic, religious anti-gay activists are sharpening their keyboards/pencils and ramping up their opposition to a case that will be coming up soon in court. More details later this month. Long live the Status Quo!* Long live the Patriarchy! Long live the Normal and the God-fearing!   *Not talking about the UK pop band of the 1960s…

The death of the animals: I did not mention the horrific slaughter of 32 sheep and 18 goats at a farm in St. Catherine last week. An armed gang invaded the farm and tied up the caretaker, then killed his entire stock of animals and carried away the meat. I commented on the issue of praedial larceny in April, thus (and I might as well repeat it here – nothing has changed: “Poor farmers: Another kind of thieving…is what is called “praedial larceny” (a term I had never heard until I came to Jamaica). This means stealing farm produce and livestock, which hard-working farmers have reared and grown. In other words, taking their livelihood away from them…I cannot understand why this criminal act, which goes on year after year unabated, is not taken more seriously by law enforcement and the courts. Perhaps it is because it affects rural residents, and we really only care about what happens in Kingston and a couple of other towns. I don’t know. But I believe the penalties should be much higher and the pursuit of these criminals should be aggressive and unrelenting. This isn’t happening. And when someone spots an alleged goat thief, an angry and frustrated mob attacks him.” National Security Minister, over to you! (And the meat must have gone somewhere!)

Ganja gone high-tech: So a high-tech marijuana farm was found in a big house on the outskirts of Kingston. Most of the comments seem to be along the lines of “Good for them, you’ve got to make money somehow.” Yes indeed, times are hard. One word of warning, however: a doctor whom I know and respect told me recently that he is seeing more and more young people (not only men) coming to his office with psychoses, directly related to ganja-smoking. Jamaicans (especially those who smoke themselves) believe it is harmless. I believe otherwise.

Ganja conference: Meanwhile, the energetic pro-ganja lobby is holding a Cannabis Conference in September here in Jamaica. This will presumably be an entirely one-sided affair and a platform for Lord Anthony Gifford et al to air their views. I hope they all enjoy themselves. I do agree with them though that using one spliff as an excuse for the police to harass, abuse and imprison a young man is not right and the law could be corrected.

Online=scary: We all know about the dangers of cyber-bullying. It has been going on for a long while, but it seems our police have just caught on to it. Of course, there are many pitfalls and hazards online, especially for young people – some pretty nasty stuff going on. But perhaps the police could figure out a way of using social media to actually find some of the missing persons they think have fallen prey to it. It’s a good way of getting the word out, you know! Tech entrepreneur Ingrid Riley spoke on radio on the topic and sought to point out the many positive aspects of social media. It’s a tool, and as such it depends how you use it, she says. But it’s clear the police regard it as the latest fearsome menace of the modern world.

Tapping the diaspora: The fifth conference with members of the diaspora is opening in Montego Bay. What is the Jamaican diaspora?  It is the many thousands, even millions of Jamaicans scattered across the globe, but mostly in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. These conferences are a bit like CARICOM meetings in the jaundiced eyes of many Jamaicans. They are seen as “talk shops,” where all the challenges, issues, problems and possible solutions are aired, and then…what? I would love to see lots of investments and joint ventures and the like flow from these biennial meetings, but it doesn’t seem to happen. Like so many things in Jamaica, we talk and talk – but these confabs are not “fruitful” as politicians like to say. Reality hits. Things are not as attractive as they might sound in a comfortable room, with air-conditioning purring and a good cup of coffee at hand. The two major constraints to the diaspora digging in its pockets and spending its hard-earned cash are still there: crime and bureaucracy. Successive governments have not addressed these issues. It just goes round to round.

Having said all that, I would love to see some meaningful projects and partnerships come out of this conference. Something fruity. Sorry, I mean fruitful.

What IS the matter with the National Water Commission (NWC)? The government agency is reportedly dragging its feet on projects already funded by multilateral donors. They have not yet got off the ground and the excuses are manifold and complex. But listen, the NWC has been stumbling along for years, awash in what seems to be chronic inefficiency and waste, lack of resources and a kind of inertia that results from both. There is talk of privatizing water. Do you think this would help, dear readers? At this stage, I don’t know whether I am for or against it.

No reason to panic: Meanwhile we had the “don’t panic, folks” routine from the Bank of Jamaica this week, over the issue of the declining Jamaican Dollar. As a member of the long-suffering Jamaican public, reeling from the effects of recession, huge tax increases and soaring prices, I don’t feel I can listen to any more of these rationalizations. Not right now, anyway. I’ve had it.

Petchary Awards today go out to:

  • The Government of Japan and the World Bank for funding a project to improve the lives of the disabled in Jamaica. I would love to see more of these projects funded that will really help the most vulnerable in Jamaican society. It is an empowerment project – skills training, special education. Very good!
  • Javed Jaghai, our articulate (and brave – I won’t say unafraid because I think that is not true) gay rights activist. He tackles the issues head-on. Take a read of his blog post, below.
  • The energetic Ms. Tanya Batson-Savage for the launch of a truly delightful children’s book, “Bolo the Monkey” - published by her very own Blue Moon Publishing. Tanya is also to be congratulated for venturing forth full-time into the world of publishing. I wish her the best of luck. Go out and buy the book! Only J$500 in local bookstores… It’s a treat.
  • Ms. Stephanie Saulter for her new sci-fi novel “Gemsigns” - I missed the launch last week but wish her all the best with it. Published by Quercus Books in London. Check it out!
  • That dedicated microphone wielder Andrew Cannon of CVM Television. His reporting on the vexed issue of customs (fees etc) this week was informative.
  • UNICEF’s representative in Jamaica Robert Fuderich (he might as well have a permanent spot on my “honors list”!) again for his refreshingly outspoken remarks this week. After four years here, he is irritated by the divisiveness, finger-pointing and point-scoring going on among those involved in protecting and caring for Jamaica’s children. Please! Let’s work together! And again – too much talk, not enough action. How is all this helping the children?
  • Also to UNICEF for sharing a very useful online Directory of Services for Children in Jamaica. It’s in a pdf document here: https://workspaces.acrobat.com/app.html#d=AdnGY2QvUTbKs0C89DBjow
  • Finally, to the Rain God who granted our wish… Since I started writing this we have had a deliciously refreshing shower!

Sadly, more Jamaicans have lost their lives to violence in the past few days; two were teenagers. My condolences to their grieving families.

Nathaniel Brown, 18, Old Harbour, St. Catherine

Goston Smith, 27, Woodstock/Claremont, St. Ann

Killed by the police:

Christopher Wilson, 17, Yallahs, St. Thomas

Related links and articles:

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/lead/lead1.html Disbelief! Jamaicans line up behind VCB despite positive tests: Sunday Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130613/lead/lead1.html IMF rep says without key policy changes, Jamaica will remain in economic rut: Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/BOJ-says-fall-of—within-expectation_14490279 BoJ says fall of J$ within expectation: Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/The-value-of-the-dollar-is-just-a-symptom-of-Jamaica-s-underlying-problem_14488271 The value of the dollar is just a symptom of Jamaica’s underlying problem: Keith Collister column/Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130615/letters/letters1.html Stop lying to us! Sunday Gleaner/Letter of the Day

http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/34238 Focus on Vision 2030 at Diaspora Conference: Jamaica Information Service

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Example-of-excellence-in-the-public-sector_14486846 Example of excellence in the public sector: Dennis Chung column/Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/lead/lead2.html Build new schools, government urges overseas Jamaicans – but red tape, crime scaring away investors: Sunday Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130613/letters/letters1.html Customs fees oppressive: Letter of the Day/Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/High-tech-ganja-farm-found-on-church-owned-property_14482785 High-tech ganja farm found on church-owned property: Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ganja-lobby-fires-up_14497626 Ganja lobby fires up: Jamaica Observer

http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/06/13/2013-crime-stats-parish-by-parish-jan-april/ 2013 crime stats parish by parish, Jan-April 2013: diGJamaica.com

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gunmen-raid-animal-farm_14490972 Gunmen raid animal farm: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130615/cleisure/cleisure1.html Farmers cower as heists continue: Gleaner editorial

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130613/lead/lead2.html Black tank project lacked transparency: Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Seaview-High-Home-to-stray-animals-haven-for-criminals_14480144 “Seaview High”: Home to stray animals, haven for criminals: Jamaica Observer

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/court-date-set-for-cops-charged-in-connection-with-school-girls-death Court date set for cops charged in connection with schoolgirl’s death: RJR News

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/cops-involved-in-fatal-shooting-of-st-ann-man-taken-off-front-line-duty_1 Cops involved in fatal shooting of St. Ann man taken off frontline duty: RJR News

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130614/cleisure/cleisure2.html Gays made, not born: Peter Espeut column/Gleaner

http://sonofstmary.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/freedom-to-be-intolerant/ Gay rights clash with the freedom to be intolerant: Son of St. Mary

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130615/cleisure/cleisure4.html Father-child interaction crucial to development: Dr. Sandra Knight op-ed/Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/lead/lead8.html UNICEF official: Too many unhelpful quarrels: Sunday Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Police-establish-link-between-social-media–missing-persons_14465683 Police establish link between social media, missing persons: Jamaica Observer

http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/parliaments-sectoral-debate-yawn/ Parliament’s sectoral debate. Yawn. newsandviewsbydjmiller

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Japan-funds-project-to-improve-lives-of-people-with-disabilities Japan funds project to improve lives of people with disabilities: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130616/news/news5.html “You’re moving too slow, NWC” – International agencies say Commission taking too long to implement projects: Sunday Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130613/news/news1.html Inside the Cockpit Country: Conservation workers want to end deforestation, pollution: Gleaner

Jamaican Olympic champion and gold medalist Veronica Campbell Brown is considered "family" by many Jamaicans, who are still reeling in shock at the news that she has failed a test for a banned substance. (Photo: Gleaner)

Jamaican Olympic champion and gold medalist Veronica Campbell Brown is considered “family” by many Jamaicans, who are still reeling in shock at the news that she has failed a test for a banned substance. (Photo: Gleaner)

Phillip Reynolds, caretaker at a goat farm in St. Catherine who was tied up by gunmen as they slaughtered more than 30 sheep and goats early Wednesday morning. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

Phillip Reynolds, caretaker at a goat farm in St. Catherine who was tied up by gunmen as they slaughtered more than 30 sheep and goats early Wednesday morning. (Photo: Norman Grindley/Gleaner)

Lord Anthony Gifford, attorney-at-law, looks on as chairman of the local Ganja Law Reform Coalition, Paul Chang, shows off a piece of ganja memorabilia at yesterday's launch of the International Cannabis Conference. (Photo: Bryan Cummings/Jamaica Observer)

Lord Anthony Gifford, attorney-at-law, looks on as chairman of the local Ganja Law Reform Coalition, Paul Chang, shows off a piece of ganja memorabilia at yesterday’s launch of the International Cannabis Conference. (Photo: Bryan Cummings/Jamaica Observer)

Tech entrepreneur Ingrid Riley at last year's Caribbean Beta conference. (My photo)

Tech entrepreneur Ingrid Riley at last year’s Caribbean Beta conference. While the police see many dangers for young people in social media, Ms. Riley sees the positives – job opportunities, networking and so on. (My photo)

Mark Thomas chairs the diaspora marketing committee of the government's investment arm, JAMPRO, which is organizing this coming week's conference. (Photo: Gleaner)

Mark Thomas chairs the diaspora marketing committee of the government’s investment arm, JAMPRO, which is organizing this coming week’s conference. (Photo: Gleaner)

Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill (second right) looks on as Minister with responsibility for sport and Member of Parliament for North Central St Catherine Natalie Neita Headley (right) tests the pressure of the water gushing from the newly renovated Sligoville Water Supply System. Sharing in the moment (from left) are: Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Jamaica Zheng Qingdian, and Economic and Commercial Counsellor at the Chinese Embassy Liu Lei. (Photo: Jamaica Observer) By the way, the Sligoville community had no piped water for six years after the system broke down.  The Chinese Government have paid for it to be fixed.

Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill (second right) looks on as Minister with responsibility for sport and Member of Parliament for North Central St Catherine Natalie Neita Headley (right) tests the pressure of the water gushing from the newly renovated Sligoville Water Supply System. Sharing in the moment (from left) are: Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Jamaica Zheng Qingdian, and Economic and Commercial Counsellor at the Chinese Embassy Liu Lei. (Photo: Jamaica Observer) By the way, the Sligoville community had no piped water for six years after the system broke down. The Chinese Government have paid for it to be fixed.

The Bank of Jamaica building. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The Bank of Jamaica building. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

One of the Jamaica Observer's biting editorial cartoons this week.

One of the Jamaica Observer’s biting editorial cartoons by Clovis this week.

Javed Jaghai in his native St. Mary. (Photo from Facebook page)

Javed Jaghai in his native St. Mary. (Photo from Facebook page)

Publishing entrepreneur and author in her own right Tanya Batson-Savage at Saturday's launch of the children's book "Bolo the Monkey" (Blue Moon Publishing). (My photo)

Publishing entrepreneur and author in her own right Tanya Batson-Savage at Saturday’s launch of the children’s book “Bolo the Monkey” (Blue Moon Publishing). (My photo)

Stephanie Saulter's new novel, "Gemsigns."

Stephanie Saulter’s new novel, “Gemsigns.”

The entrance to Kingston's Hope Zoo, which is undergoing refurbishment. (Photo: Ross Sheil/Twitter)

The entrance to Kingston’s Hope Zoo, which is undergoing refurbishment. Just liked this photo! (Photo: Ross Sheil/Twitter)

 

The London Games: Jamaica

It is less than a week since the Olympic Games ended in London, and I promised myself that I would pay tribute to some of the incredible human beings – from Jamaica, the Caribbean and elsewhere – who gave us so much joy (and sometimes, sadness) during those exhilarating competitions. Before the sunset afterglow starts to fade – the fireworks have already gone. Before the Jamaican flags wave less freely from taxi cabs. Before the repeat showings of Jamaican athletes’ performances, the newspaper columns, tweets and Facebook posts dwindle to nothing. I want to celebrate them one more time.

For the record, Jamaica won four each of gold, silver and bronze, and came 18th on the table of 79 nations that won medals. In terms of medals per capita, Jamaica was second after Grenada. Jamaica was also the second most successful country in the Caribbean at the London Olympics, after Cuba. In track and field specifically – there were 47 events – Jamaica came third after the United States and Russia; in men’s track and field Jamaica was second, in women’s fourth.

I am celebrating here all our athletes, and have just picked out a few because somehow they touched me personally in some way. As I have said several times before, they all gave of their best. Some did better than others, but they all made us proud. I salute them all.  They are, in no particular order: Yohan Blake, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Hansle Parchment, Veronica Campbell Brown, Alia Atkinson, Jason Morgan and Kenneth Edwards.

Enough has been said and written about the obvious one: the self-proclaimed legend and superstar, Usain Bolt. But here’s one of my personal favorites – a young athlete who might be considered to have played “second fiddle” to Bolt (although I don’t see it that way) – Yohan Blake. In fact, a friend and I have set up a Facebook page (not only for Jamaicans or those living there – anyone can join) called The Unofficial Yohan Blake Appreciation Society.” A small but fervent delegation from the UYBAS is planning to welcome Mr. Blake home at Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport, when he returns in September. Personally, I would like to give him a warm hug.

Yohan Blake

Yohan Blake takes a pause during training for the Olympics.

What’s not to love about Yohan: 

  • He set up his YBAfraid Foundation last year. With the support of the awesome Jamaican athletics coach Glen Mills and Joseph’s Department Store, Yohan has donated supplies and pledged ongoing support for the Mount Olivet Boys’ Home in rural Walderston, Manchester. You can read much more about the Foundation on his website, ybafraid.com.
  • He is, as we know, the winner of two silver and one gold medal in the recent Olympics: silvers in the 100 meters (a personal best time of 9.75) and 200 meters (19.44), and gold in the 4 x 100 meters final. This was his first Olympics. He is only 22, after all.
  • He is only the fourth man to win silver in the 100 and 200 meters at the Olympics, and the first since the awesome Frankie Fredericks of Namibia (remember him?)
  • As a member of the winning relay team in the 100 meters, Blake ran a scorching third leg. This was the same team that ran in Daegu last year at the World Championships. With Usain Bolt, Michael Frater and Nesta Carter, he helped to break the World Record in 36.84 seconds.

He is a modest young man, not afraid to give credit to both Mills and Bolt for their support. I like that.

My next favorite athlete: Ms. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. She was born on in the very difficult inner-city neighborhood of Waterhouse in Kingston.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce – I love this photo. She put on her best makeup for the awards ceremony, and her smile was fresh and infectious. No tears, here, not for one moment. Just non-stop smiling.

Why is she so great:

  • She was the third woman, and the first non-American, to win the 100 meters in two consecutive Olympics. In 2008 in Beijing, she was the first Caribbean woman to win the event, at 21 years old.
  • She is also the second female sprinter to hold both World and Olympic 100 meters titles simultaneously. The dynamic Gail Devers was the first. I should also add that the 2012 American girls were very powerful this year – so this is quite a feat. Shelly-Ann held her own in the 2oo meters too, winning a silver after the amazing Allyson Felix; they congratulated each other with a quick, breathless embrace.
  • Shelly-Ann was named as Jamaica’s first National UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2010.
  • Shelly-Ann’s face was painted in a mural in her neighborhood of Waterhouse (where she grew up in a tenement yard). She commented in amazement, “The only time they draw your face in a wall where I live is when you are dead.”
  • She is just five feet tall and weighs 100 pounds. Oh my goodness – the energy packed into that small frame!

And then there was Hansle Parchment. Who? Said many Jamaicans. Well, young Hansle broke the national record twice in one afternoon last week, winning the bronze medal for Jamaica in the 110 meters hurdles. Two very strong Americans, Aries Merritt and Jason Richardson, came first and second respectively. The 100 meters hurdles is very intense, and not for the faint-hearted. Born June 17, 1990 (barely twenty-two years old!) he tackled it with equanimity. The young man from Cashew Bush in rural St. Thomas, eastern Jamaica, attended Morant Bay High School and Kingston College, and is an undergraduate student at the University of the West Indies‘ class of 2013.

Parchment family and friends celebrate

The Parchment family, including Hansle’s father (center, in orange) celebrates with friends and neighbors in Cashew Bush – what a lovely name…

Why Hansle is so cool:

  • He ran a terrific 13.12 seconds, but soberly responded after his run that he would have preferred to get below 13. There is more work to do, he says. He has much greater ambitions.
  • He is studying for a BSc. in Psychology; that will stand him in good stead, one hopes, since psychology is a key factor in sports. But balancing his studies with training and competition must be challenging.
  • He is tall, dark and handsome (six feet five inches tall).

Veronica Campbell-Brown is somebody special. There is so much about her that I admire. A pioneer in the sprint field, she won a bronze medal in London – her fourth Olympic Games. As she prepared for the Games, she watched her favorite tennis player, Serena Williams, win the Wimbledon title. An experienced athlete, Ms. Campbell-Brown (or “VCB” as Jamaicans call her for short) was born in the same western parish of Trelawny as Usain Bolt. She’s a product of Vere Technical High School, a school with a tremendous sporting tradition, which was also attended by a certain Merlene Ottey.

Why is Veronica such a gem?

  • She is a serious achiever, with so many “firsts” to be proud of. She paved the way for the young ones – although she is only just thirty years old herself, so hardly ancient! Here are a few of her many milestones:
  • First Jamaican to win a global 100 meters title (at the World Youth Games in 1999);
  • Youngest ever Jamaican female to win an Olympic medal (at the Sydney Olympics in 2000);
  • Most successful Caribbean athlete ever at an Olympic Games (in Athens in 2004);
  • First female track athlete to become a UNESCO Champion for Sport (in 2009). A role model for female athletes and for Jamaican women.
  • Veronica appears to me to be so grounded. She is not only motivated, but inspired. Indeed, she has written a book, “A Better You: Inspirations for Life’s Journey.”
  • She celebrated Global Dignity Day in 2011. See a link to my blog post on this topic, below. It may not be a fashionable concept these days, but the idea of dignity includes respect, honor, decency. The next Global Dignity Day is October 17, 2012. Think about it.
Women's 100 meters start in London

Amazing women: The start of the Women’s 100 meters finals in London, including Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell-Brown (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Veronica Campbell and Yohan Blake

Veronica Campbell and Yohan Blake doing a bit of promotional stuff in London. (Photo: Alex Grimm/Getty Images Europe)

Jamaicans also did extraordinarily well away from the track, of course. Swimmer Alia Atkinson just missed a medal, coming fourth in the 100 meters breaststroke final.

Why does Alia get a pat on the back from me?

  • The 23-year-old from St. Andrew is nothing if not ambitious. She really, really wants that Olympic medal. Or medals.
  • And to obtain medals, she needs financial help. Her plea was heard by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who has promised to provide this. Let’s hope it comes soon, so that Alia can start getting ready for Rio 2016. Good for her, though, for speaking out on this crucial issue.
  • Like Hansle Parchment, Alia is a student of psychology – at Texas A&M University.
  • She has a sunny smile but a look of stony determination in her eye. Focus!

And last – but not least – two young Jamaican men competed in the Olympics for the first time. Although they did not win medals, they broke new ground and they competed fiercely.

Jason “Dadz” Morgan is a determined man, and the road has not been smooth. He throws discus – not a popular field event for Jamaicans. As a student at Louisiana Tech, he decided to compete for his country.

What makes Jason special?

  • Simply put, Jason is highly focused. And as Jamaica’s National Discus Record holder, he knows he is good.
  • And, as fellow blogger and Jamaican journalist Dionne Jackson Miller notes (see her post below) he needs financial support, too, to continue.
  • The 29-year-old from St. Catherine, who attended Kingston’s Calabar High School – a sports powerhouse – coaches himself. That’s right. Sheer willpower.
  • He faces great challenges. He needs that support. He commented to Dionne, “I’m a big man, 6’3”, 288 pounds, and I’m not afraid to say I cry through frustration.”  Let’s give Jason and others like him the support they need, so that they can train, perform and compete, without worrying whether they can afford to attend a meet or not. Sponsors, where are you? Jason had none for the Olympics. But he competed for his country.
Jason Morgan

Jason Morgan, a man of extraordinary determination.

And lastly, a Jamaican warrior who fought well… 26-year-old Tae Kwon Do competitor Kenneth Edwards.

Why do I love Kenneth?

  • Like Mr. Morgan, he was the first Jamaican to compete in his particular field at the Olympics.
  • Kenneth fought valiantly against a Chinese giant (six feet seven inches tall) and got the crowd on his side, despite eventually losing the bout. He only just missed an opportunity for a bronze medal.
  • He is positive and he says, so confidently, “I think the big stage is next for me.” I believe him.
  • There is so much potential in the martial arts field for Jamaica. I don’t just say this because I used to practice judo – in my youth. It’s a great sporting field, encouraging competition and incredible discipline. It also requires enormous skill, strength and precision.
  • More power to Jamaica’s Combined Martial Arts Team. Big ups all round!
Kenneth Edwards

Thwack! Kenneth Edwards lands a blow on his opponent at the London Olympics.

Kenneth Edwards at London Olympics

Kenneth Edwards goes into battle at the London Olympics.

And finally, I am sorry I could not include all the incredible Jamaican Olympic athletes. These are just a few from the great team that made Jamaica shine. Let’s continue supporting them, even when the gloss has worn off and we return to our humdrum lives…

My next Olympic blog post will be the Caribbean edition! Coming soon to this page.

Alia Atkinson congratulated

An Olympic official congratulates Alia Atkinson after her fourth place finish. (Photo: Ricardo Makyn, Jamaica Gleaner)
Alia Atkinson

Alia in action at the London Olympics.

110 meters hurdles winners

Hansle Parchment (right) with fellow medal winners Jason Richardson (left) and Aries Merritt (center)

Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt

The young one and his “big brother” (in the nicest sense): Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt celebrate in London

Yohan Blake

The “beastly” Blake. Now when you get home, Yohan, go to the manicurist and get those fingernails cut!

London Olympics Closing Ceremony

Unlike some of my fellow tweeters, who yawned their way through it, I enjoyed the Closing Ceremony – or at least fifty per cent of it. But note to organizers: showing billboards and playing two-minute snatches of David Bowie songs is NO substitute for the man himself appearing!

Is He Still the World’s Fastest Runner? “Nothing but speed for the fastest,” says Mr. Bolt

petchary:

Here’s a great article on Jamaica’s athletics superhero Usain Bolt, by my illustrious fellow-blogger Annie Paul. Published recently in Newsweek International. Enjoy!

Originally posted on Active Voice:

Presenting my article on Usain Bolt which appears in Newsweek International this week…

Jamaica’s Usain Bolt: Is He Still the World’s Fastest Runner?
Jul 16, 2012 1:00 AM EDT
Will lightning strike again in London? Or have the years of fast living finally caught up with the speediest man alive? A close look at the Jamaican record breaker.

The Twitter messages seemed calculated to drive Jamaica frantic. “Driving the black speed today,” Usain Bolt informed his followers as he posted an Instagram image of his chosen vehicle for the day, a 2009 Nissan GT-R. “Nothing but speed for the fastest,” he added. Still, the world-record sprinter could scarcely ignore the fact that the last thing they want is for him to risk yet another smashup in the final days before the 2012 London Games. “I will take it easy lol,” he promised.

For more please visit the Daily Beast website

View original 6 more words

Sunday Stunner – Early Edition

Last week, all was to be revealed in the overdue Budget, which was tabled in the Lower House on Thursday.  But before we got to that, the week opened with a stunner.

Mr. David Smith

Mr. David Smith, once the darling of the cocktail circuit.

Mr. David Smith is a Jamaican now serving a few years behind bars in the Turks & Caicos Islands, after being found guilty of cheating thousands of Jamaicans, Americans and others of their hard-earned cash (at least US$220 million) through his “unregistered financial scheme,” Olint, which offered fantastically high rates of  interest rates.  The already-rich and powerful, and others less so, initially benefited; but like all Ponzi schemes, inevitably, Olint collapsed.  After a relatively short stint in the Caribbean, Mr. Smith will move for a considerably longer period to a prison in the United States, where he was indicted on 23 charges of wire fraud and money laundering last summer.  Meanwhile, he has informed prosecutors that he donated money to both Jamaican political parties as well as some individuals.  Confiscation orders have been issued in the Turks & Caicos; these are now regarded as “tainted gifts”.  The ruling People’s National Party (US$1.3 million) has prevaricated somewhat, saying it has no record of such a payment, but will look into it.  Former People’s National Party Prime Minister PJ Patterson (US$1 million) speedily denied receiving any such thing.  The Jamaica Labour Party (US$5 million) conceded that it did receive money from Smith/Olint, but is not sure if it was that much.  Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz (US$50,000) said yes, he did receive money but called it a “political contribution to the constituency.”  A fellow party member, political candidate Sally Porteous (US$100,000) has also been candid.  All this was prior to the 2007 general elections, by the way, when Mr. & Mrs. Smith were welcome guests at top-class cocktail parties across the island, and appeared in the newspapers almost every day in a highly positive light.

How times have changed.  And we shall wait and see.

As for the budget itself, which increased by fourteen per cent, debt repayments took the lion’s share as expected.  Finance Minister Peter Phillips, who returned from an important trip to Washington, DC recently, had already warned us to make “sacrifices.”  Is this the “bitter medicine” of which former Prime Minister Andrew Holness spoke just a few months ago?  Sounds like it to me.  Painfully, justice, education, national security and health all took cuts.  What could be more important than these?

Another piece of news, this time from overseas stunned the Jamaican public last week: President Obama’s quiet declaration in an interview that his views on same-sex marriage have evolved to the point that he can now affirm his support for it.  The reaction in Jamaica was largely negative, judging from comments on radio talk shows and letters to the Editor; although I think some quietly applauded his courage in breaking new ground.  On radio, Ms. Gloudon had to fend off one or two bullying fundamentalists, one of whom accused her of being “sympathetic” to the gay rights cause because she had the absolute nerve to say that we should at least listen to others’ point of view on such matters.  For those in religious straitjackets, I would suggest they consider phrases from the New Testament such as “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”  Or, perhaps, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye.”  I am more than ever convinced that if Jamaicans were to vote on issues (which of course they don’t) and had to choose between George W. Bush and Barack Obama, they would choose the former, despite their declared love for “America’s first black President” as the local media call him.  I like the way Canada-based columnist Keeble McFarlane describes President Obama’s declaration: “A declaration of simple humanity.”  Or as a Jamaican mother would say, “‘Im is somebody pickney too!”

Sir Patrick Allen reads the Throne Speech in Parliament

The Throne Speech outlines the Government’s priorities for the new fiscal year. The gentleman on the left is called an Aide-de-Camp (a sort of PA).

By the way, I wonder how the Queen’s representative and Governor General felt while reading out the 2012/13 Throne Speech in Parliament on Budget Day?  He calmly announced that a priority of the Jamaican Government is to basically abolish him, and to establish Jamaica as a Republic within the Commonwealth of Nations.  No more Queenie, whom our Prime Minister has already described as a “wonderful lady,” but… The other priority is to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice as Jamaica’s final Court of Appeal. One expects these two issues to be up there in flashing neon lights for the remainder of this year, and perhaps beyond, generating much political heat and noise.  Will either of these developments, which the politicians appear quite excited about, impact the quality of life for Jamaicans in any way?  I can’t answer that question.  Let us see.

The third Friday of May – starting next week – will be National Children’s Day.  Our Queen’s representative (for now), Governor General Sir Patrick Allen made this proclamation last week.  The National Child Month Committee’s Dr. Pauline Mullings would like to see the day treated like Mother’s and Father’s Day.  Any day for children is welcome – so balloons, sugar cakes and melting ice-cream treats are in order on May 18.

One hundred and sixty-seven years ago (on May 12, 1845) the first group of East Indian indentured laborers arrived at Old Harbour Bay in St. Catherine.  Their descendants, whom you can often meet in rural and sugar-growing areas of the island, celebrated Indian Arrival Day in the pouring rain last Sunday at Chedwin Park.  A great deal of roti was consumed and delegations from Trinidad and Tobago, the United States and United Kingdom mingled with the locals.  Well done, Dr. Winston Tolan of the National Council for Indian Culture for keeping this important part of Jamaican heritage alive.  As he noted, “We are Jamaicans first and foremost.”

 

Dr. Winston Tolan and visitors

Dr. Winston Tolan and visitors at Indian Arrival Day.

Concerns:  The third murder trial of Milton “Tony” Welsh, a known People’s National Party activist, was rescheduled last Monday and postponed until November 19 – for another six months! – just because the courtroom where it was scheduled to be held was being used.  His $3.5 million bail was extended.  His previous two trials ended in a “hung” jury.  Charges will be dismissed if this happens again.  Welsh is charged with the murder of 21-year-old Damion Hussey following a PNP rally in Golden Spring in January 2006.  Will Mr. Welsh or the family of Mr. Hussey ever see justice done?  Is this justice?

I don’t understand the people who write newspaper headlines.  Why are they so often off the mark?  Do they actually read the article itself?  A small but irritating example came up in the entertainment pages of Monday’s “Gleaner.”  The article, about an American band called The Dubplates, was headlined “Converting California” to their sound system-type music.  The article described the band as “California-based,” then proceeded to quote a band member, who spoke at length about the challenges of being a dancehall/reggae band in South Carolinathe city of Charleston, etc.  Is this sheer carelessness on the part of the writer, the headline writer, or both?  I don’t know why these things annoy me so much.  But they just do.

A couple of days after Teachers Day, a female high school student attacked a guidance counselor at Yallahs High School in St. Thomas, because she claimed he “didn’t like her.”  Teachers work so hard in difficult conditions, and the children who come through the school gates in the morning bring with them a multitude of unknown grievances, psychological hurt and sadness.  I heard Ms. Barbara Gloudon talking to a representative of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) Ms. Ena Barclay, a marvelous primary school teacher, on her “Hot Line” program this week.  Ms. Barclay reminded us that these deprived and needy children need love – at home and in the society.  Many of them are getting precious little of that – why is it in such short supply?  Anyway, kudos to the JTA for organizing a professional development seminar – and for Read Across Jamaica Day, an annual event which brings much happiness and pleasure.  And talking about teachers…

A huge pat on the back to Ms. Jean Porter, Principal of Denbigh High School, for her sterling work since 2008, when she took over from Ms. Joan Wint who had served there for 23 years.  I remember visiting Denbigh High a few years ago, and being very impressed by Ms. Wint’s stern focus on academic achievement, and by the atmosphere of concentration at the school.  Ms. Porter credits the school’s success (it is one of the top ten high schools in Jamaica based on Caribbean Examinations Council results) to team work.

Other bouquets to be handed out to…

Jamaica’s lanky female hurdlers, Ms. Melaine Walker and Ms. Brigitte Foster-Hylton on their gold medals; to Mr. Asafa Powell, Ms. Kaliese Spencer and Ms. Veronica Campbell-Brown for their Silver medals; and to Mr. Lerone Clarke and Ms. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce for their Bronze medals, at the high-profile Diamond League athletics meet on Friday.  I hope I haven’t missed anyone out.  Congratulations also to U.S. athletes Justin Gatlin and Alyson Felix.  It is only 75 days until the London Olympics begin, and Jamaican athletes are flexing their muscles and feeling the pressure.  I wrote about this in my blog earlier this week; they are doing their best, working hard.  Let us support them, even if they “lose” some races (by “lose” I mean winning a Silver or Bronze medal).

I loved the Gleaner’s special supplement this week – Trailblazers in Medical Sciences.  This included a special feature on the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre, founded by a British doctor of the same name in 1954 to deal with a terrible outbreak of poliomyelitis.  It now helps children with cerebral palsy, adults with spinal cord injuries, and others.  Brave and unrelenting work.

May I express my simple support for Ms. Deika Morrison of Crayons Count, who has energetically taken up the bat for the education and stimulation of our young children; and for Ms. Maia Chung, mother of an autistic son, who set up the Maia Chung Autism and Disabilities Foundation four years ago to lobby for and support Jamaica’s autistic children.  The Foundation is now struggling and Maia has had to curtail outreach activities.  She needs help and financial support!  I am in awe of these two women – both of them an “army of one.”  I wish for them every success in the world.

Maia Chung

The infectiously lively and motivated Ms. Chung, a young woman on a mission.

Another Jamaican, Philip Liu, founded Angels of Love about two and a half years ago.  He works with the Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston, having adopted one of its wards.  Kingstonians, next time you are at the Brick Oven buying cakes, at Cafe Blue indulging in your favorite cuppa, or at Little Tokyo for some sushi…remember to drop some change in their collection box.  And they would welcome volunteers, too!

And Mr. Ricardo Williams, one unemployed youth who sought a solution in adversity.  He has opened an Internet cafe in the troubled area of March Pen, Spanish Town.  Ricardo graduated high school six years ago with one subject – Information Technology.  He has one computer, the use of which he rents out for a small fee.  Can someone donate some more computers?  Read more about Ricardo’s efforts at the link below…

One online comment struck me this week:  “Jamaica can be a very “cold” place.  If you are young, old or disabled in Jamaica you are in deep trouble. If you are young and also disabled, may the good Lord help you.”

Why bother: If I see one more full-page photo spread of politicians arriving at Parliament for the Throne Speech, dressed up to the nines, I will rip up the newspaper.  The men were, according to the newspapers, “dapper,” “spiffy,” and “dashing.”  The women were “stunning,” “stylish,” and and so on.  The poor Mayor of Kingston, refusing to join the fashion parade, was severely criticized for wearing a perfectly normal outfit, rather than a designer ensemble.  I am, quite frankly, much more concerned about the politicians’ work in Parliament – on behalf of the people – than I am in whether Senator so-and-so was wearing Dior, Escada or whatever.  Please, no more!

I’m sorry to end on a sad note…. My condolences to the families of…

Senior Superintendent Dayton Henry, who headed the Clarendon Police Division.  I met him once, and was struck by his open, candid disposition and his round-eyed, friendly face.  SSP Henry died suddenly, and I know his colleagues are still in shock.  Not only was he an efficient policeman, who helped to bring down crime levels in the parish – but he was also a kind-hearted man who supported many community projects.

…and of eleven-year-old Ricardo Dove, who was shot dead while sleeping in bed at his home in Bethel Town, Westmoreland.   “It would have been better if they had killed me,” said his father Robert, who was home at the time and found his son’s body soon after gunshots rang out.  My heart goes out to you Mr. Dove, and to the family.  Why?

And so the week comes to an end, as early summer starts to stoke up hot clouds in the sky.  Hurricane season is a few weeks away…

Have a great week!

Ricardo Dove

Ricardo Dove

Related articles and websites:

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120508/lead/lead1.html: Big Olint handouts

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Political-intentions-and-tainted-money_11433253:  Column by Mark Wignal, Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20100822/lead/lead2.html:  Oh God! Oh no! Olint!

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Politicians-deny-Olint-allegations_11417650

Gold, Silver and Bronze (petchary.wordpress.com)

Sunday Storms (petchary.wordpress.com)

Claim Says Jamaica Crook Funded Political Parties (abcnews.go.com)

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120510/lead/lead7.html:  Phillips urges Jamaicans to prepare to make sacrifices

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/CCJ-all-the-way_11438687

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Read-Across-Jamaica-Day-highlights_11433143

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120512/news/news42.html:  Indian Arrival Day observed at Chedwin Park

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Blow-for-Ja-s-autistic-children_11359380

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120509/lead/lead4.html  Bethel Town child murdered in his sleep

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Ricardo-s-remedy_11417541

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Nutrition-a-right-for-children–says-former-senator_11376671

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120508/lead/lead5.html

Angels of Love    http://angelsofloveja.org/

Crayons Count   http://www.dogoodjamaica.org/crayonscount

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Maia-Chung-Autism-and-Disabilities-Foundation/100339660027871

Ricardo Williams (left)

Ricardo Williams (left) outside his Internet Cafe in March Pen.

Gold, Silver and Bronze

On the occasion of Jamaican sprinter Merlene Ottey‘s 52nd birthday, it seems appropriate to look at the Jamaican obsession with “track and field” (it’s really the track part we are interested in).  How does this play out in the context of celebrity, youth, and money?

Merlene Ottey

The awesome Merlene Ottey, who seems to run for the sheer love of it.

I was prompted to write this partly because there was a grave omission in my last Sunday review of the Jamaican news.  I had planned to congratulate our current Golden Boy, Usain Bolt, on the work of his Usain Bolt Foundation (vision statement:  Creation of opportunities through education and cultural development for a positive change).  The focus of the Foundation’s work is on “happy children.”  I cannot think of a better purpose.  With educated, healthy and empowered children, Jamaica can really start to move forward.  The Usain Bolt Foundation will team up with Chain of Hope Jamaica, which is developing a pediatric cardiac service for the hundreds of Jamaican children in desperate need of surgery at the Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston.  Bolt will co-host a fund-raising walkathon later this year, and has asked his sponsors to contribute funds for two surgeries annually.  Last week, the Foundation handed over twenty licenses for important Mathematics software that will help students prepare for Caribbean examinations.  It is also supporting the younger children; it has donated playground and recreational equipment and uniforms to schools for children under twelve.  It will also support this year’s Paralympics.  And more.

Usain Bolt at Dare to Care

Usain Bolt at Dare to Care, a home for children living with HIV/AIDS operated by the Mustard Seed Communities in Spanish Town, Jamaica.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bolt has signaled in no uncertain terms that he is ready for the London Olympic Games this summer, by winning the 100 meter dash at the recent Jamaica International Invitational Meet in Kingston in a mind-blowing 9.82 seconds.  There are others (including one or two of his fellow-countrymen) who think they have some chance of beating him in the Olympics.  We shall see.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bolt is up there on his pedestal, a sports superstar at the age of twenty-five, a young man from deep rural Trelawny who played a lot of cricket and football in his teens before he took up running.  He is now the Honorable Usain St. Leo Bolt, O.J., C.D., who once remarked, “I’m a cool and exciting guy.”  He has received numerous awards and honors.  His image is of a fun-loving, laid-back person.  Like many successful athletes it seems, he has opened a restaurant in Kingston called “Tracks and Records” (an uninspiring name).  He was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree last November by the University of the West Indies.  The enormous publicity machine surrounding the London Olympics is beginning to envelop him in its embrace.  He is doing endorsements and ads and photo-ops (even with visiting Prince Harry) and autographs and interviews, and everybody wants him.  And most Jamaicans are very proud of him and his success, and are looking forward to another stupendous performance by him – and other outstanding Jamaican athletes such as Yohan Blake and Veronica Campbell Brown – in the upcoming Olympics.

Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt is apparently doomed to perform his signature gesture (was it connected with the latest dancehall dance? I don’t even remember) for eternity…

Yes, our chests swell with pride.  He is our Golden Boy, our country boy made good.  And yet.  Our superhero is sometimes boisterous; he makes faces while the National Anthem is played, and he has a touch of arrogance.  He loves to party.

And he has a white girlfriend.  The discussions on the pulsating, non-stop Facebook network of Jamaicans have by turns irritated, amused and depressed me.  Why do successful black men always run off with white women?  What’s wrong with black women?  She must be a gold-digger.  And other comments that are too unpleasant – and downright racist – to be repeated here.   In social media parlance, all I can say is… SMH.

Can I just say something?  Mr. Bolt is doing the best he can.  He is young, and from a humble background.  He is trying.  His heart is in the right place.  I cannot conceive of the unbelievable pressure he must be under – the training alone demands tremendous, and continuous focus.  His body has to be constantly fine-tuned and prepared, like an engine for a Formula One racing car.  There is the fear of injury.  He has agents and publicists and sports reporters of all nationalities and photographers and fans and would-be girlfriends and hangers-on to deal with, every minute of his day.

And can I point something else out?  All the amazing Jamaican athletes, of whom so much is expected, are all trying to live up to those expectations as best they can.  They don’t want to disappoint their fans – and especially, they don’t want to disappoint themselves.  Just before Mr. Bolt, another record-breaking sprinter, Asafa Powell, was all the rage in Jamaica.  Like Mr. Bolt, he is a powerful runner and has a big race (the Diamond League) tomorrow.  Mr. Powell has, perhaps, not handled the golden pedestal thing so well.  He is, after all, a different person, the sometimes shy son of two Spanish Town ministers.  He has had injury problems.  Some Jamaicans think they have found chinks in his golden armor, and have opened the chinks a little wider.  There has also been a lot of discussion about his personal life, and his high-profile girlfriend.  He has been found wanting by many Jamaicans.  My blogging colleague  and marvelous journalist Dionne Jackson-Miller has addressed the issue in her blog.

Perhaps it will be Mr. Bolt’s turn next – to “disappoint”.

Usain Bolt in training

Usain Bolt in training.

But can I once again simply point out: These are human beings, existing in the rarefied air of the famous (and rich); they are recognized everywhere by everyone (can you imagine that?)  Their life in active athletics will probably just last a few more years; and then they will have to think about the rest of their lives.  It is temporary, it is fickle.  We, the public, can gossip about their girlfriends and make snide comments when they win a Silver, and not a Gold (Ms. Ottey, by the way, was rather unkindly nicknamed the Bronze Queen, but her performance and longevity were quite remarkable).

Yes, they are young human beings, and they are doing their best to please everyone.  But most of all, they are doing it for themselves.

Let us just support them in that.

And happy birthday, Ms. Ottey!  (By the way, she is considering running in her eighth Olympic Games this year – she now runs for Slovenia, her adopted home).

Related articles and links:

http://www.european-athletics.org/index.php?option=com_content&catid=1&id=10118&view=article: Super-vet Ottey not finished yet

http://www.usainbolt.com/page/home:  Usain Bolt home page

http://www.usainbolt.com/page/chain_of_hope#

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/sports/Usain-Bolt-Foundation-secures-mathematics-software-for-high-schools_11391241

Usain Bolt Thrills at Jamaican Meet in Good Sign for London Olympics (bleacherreport.com)

London 2012 Olympics: Usain Bolt delights 25,000 fans with world’s fastest 100 metres in first outing of season (telegraph.co.uk)

Fellow Jamaicans calling Usain Bolt the next Tiger Woods because of his Caucasian girlfriend (offthebench.nbcsports.com)

Love strikes like lightning for Usain Bolt (telegraph.co.uk)

http://www.thegrio.com/sports/usain-bolt-dumps-white-girlfriend-sources-say.php

Prince Harry ‘bolts’ from Usain Bolt and wins ‘race’ (elspethlodge.com)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/athletics/18020004: Asafa Powell meets Justin Gatlin in Diamond League in Doha

http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/jamaicas-lovehate-relationship-with-asafa-powell/

http://www.mustardseed.com/site/PageServer?pagename=where_serve_jamaica

http://www.chainofhope.org/countries/6

Dignify It

Yes.  There is a Global Dignity Day, and I first heard of it in a Jamaican newspaper.  The powerful and speedy 200 meters world champion and Olympic medalist Veronica Campbell Brown first celebrated it last year.  This year, she plans to do more, in Montego Bay.

I am impressed by Ms. Campbell Brown – who unlike some of her male counterparts seems to know the meaning of the word.  “VCB” as she is affectionately known in Jamaica is also offering four scholarships to “young ladies” in Montego Bay high schools, several of which will observe Global Dignity Day on October 20.

Veronica Campbell Brown and a scholarship winner

Veronica Campbell Brown with a scholarship winner from Irwin High School in Montego Bay. Two dignified ladies.

Dignity may not be a fashionable concept these days.  When one regards the antics of pop stars (for whom allowances must be made, I suppose – it’s entertainment), politicians (no allowances made) and “men of religion” – among other so-called adults – it is not the word that springs to one’s lips.  Others, living in squalor, are trying to hold the shreds of what is left of their dignity around their thin shoulders.  Many Jamaican “celebrities” love to make a grand, dignified entrance into the hall of public life, full of self-importance; few manage a dignified exit.  But then… One expects so little of public figures these days.

Dignity

The dignity of history.

What of the “principles” that make up a person of dignity – regardless of his/her status in society?  These are listed – five of them – on the Global Dignity Day website, as follows:

Every human being has a right to lead a dignified life.  And what is a “dignified life” – what are its components?

A dignified life means an opportunity to fulfill one’s potential, which is based on having a human level of health care, education, income and security.  Ah!  OK… Now how many Jamaicans, one wonders, have the benefit of all of the above?  Not more than fifty per cent, I would hazard a guess.  The other half – or perhaps more than half – live undignified lives, like the residents of Trench Town on TV the other night, whose home is literally collapsing around them.

Inner city Kingston

How much dignity is there in this picture?

Dignity means having the freedom to make decisions on one’s life and to be met with respect for this right.  It is clear that these definitions of dignity are all dependent on other human beings.  Can one have dignity without it being bestowed by another?

Dignity should be the basic guiding principle for all actions.  OK, so dignity is indeed a platform – an inner place – that propels us to act in certain ways towards others.

Ultimately, our own dignity is interdependent with the dignity of others.  This is a tricky one.  If another behaves badly, does this mean one has to be extra dignified in return?  If someone spits in your eye, do you smile condescendingly at them?  When does dignity become self-righteousness?

OK.  The Global Dignity Day website tells us that dignity is ethically sound, and at the same time the “smart” thing to practice, because it “pays off.”  How is this achieved if you live in a squatter settlement among many other desperate people, among the stray dogs, mosquitoes and unwanted babies and goats eating plastic bags and trickling sewage?  How does being dignified in such an environment “pay off”?  Am I missing something here?

Global Dignity Logo

This is the logo for Global Dignity Day

Don’t get me wrong.  There is something about this special day that makes sense, even if it is just another way of lobbying for human rights for an increasingly degraded and marginalized global population.  On the verge of its fiftieth anniversary of Independence, Jamaica needs to ponder these issues, and regain its dignity.  It is so much more than beaches festooned with loungers; beauty queens heavy with lip gloss; rum punches; zinc fences; unsmiling youth on street corners.

Jamaica has a heart, but perhaps it is hiding it.  I believe that’s what dignity is about.  Heart.

It’s not cool, maybe.  But the hackneyed, too oft-repeated “One Love” motto could embrace dignity.

One Love

Bob Marley's anthem reduced to pink.

 

I left the room with silent dignity, but caught my feet in the mat.  [George and Weedon Grossmith, Diary of a Nobody]

 

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