Category Archives: Jamaica Life

Finding perspective…

Today is a time of reflection and finding balance. We’ve journeyed through the global financial crisis, life in the inner city and violence against children. The stage – the Caribbean. Today I offer you a peek at some gems I discovered as I searched for perspective in nooks and crannies all over this island. A simple reminder of the things we work to protect. Do enjoy.

A beautiful flower in Cinchona Gardens

Refreshing air at Hollywell Park.
The allure of the Blue Mountains
Lilies at Cinchona Gardens
An idyllic afternoon in TrenchTown
Sunset in Trelawny
Old Mill house at Clydesdale Estate
Pigeons at the Park

National Pride as Reggae Boyz finally beat USA

Hanging out with the Reggae Boyz before the big game against USA!

On Friday September 7th 2012, a milestone in the history of the Jamaican people was achieved.

After 21 outings, including 2 Olympic qualifiers (11 wins for the USA and 9 draws), Jamaica finally conquered their football nemesis and achieved a 2-1 victory over the USA! With a 27,000 strong crowd backing them in the National Stadium, the Reggae Boyz gave Jamaica a splendid gift on the anniversary of it’s 50th year of Independence. In typical Jamaican style, the game kicked off with a prayer. Spirits dampened quickly as the US scored within the first 45 seconds of the game. Thankfully it was their only goal for the night.

This game was an excellent reminder of the place of sport in nation building and national pride. For me, the most exciting part of it all was meeting the Reggae Boyz before the match. We gave them hugs and sent them off to win. So since it’s now established that I am partly the lucky charm, I’m off to find Trinbago’s “Soca Warriors” footballers. Just before I do – Congratulations Reggae Boyz!

Jamaica to the World: Olympic Victory “tun up” Half Way Tree!

Jamaica was the place to be yesterday as the country waited in painful anticipation for the results of the men 100m finals. Half Way Tree erupted in a wave of euphoric screaming and total chaos as their beloved Bolt and Blake cleared the finish line and sealed Olympic Gold & Silver. What a tribute to the Land of Wood & Water on the eve of its 50th year of Independence! Check out the video for a peek at jubilation on Jubilee’s eve! Forgive the shaking – I was also celebrating while taping! 🙂 Also check out these photos for patriotism – Jamaican style!

Flag man down in Crossroads
Lightpoles and fences get a Jamaica 50 makeover!
The Jamaican ladies represent their country – decked out from head to toe!
Jamaican youth are in the midst of the celebrations too!
When in Rome err Jamaica – do as the Jamaicans do!
This stylish Patriot shows the ladies how to do it!
This Jamaican man shows the ladies how it’s really done!

Jamaica 50 Event: Book Readings in Emancipation Park

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. ~ Dr. Seuss

Today Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, St. Lucia & Barbados celebrate Emancipation Day. On August 6th, Jamaica celebrates its 50th year of Independence from British rule. Everywhere you go, the pride of the Jamaican people is clear – from brightly coloured t-shirts, flag-draped vehicles, artfully decorated buildings and even fences and sidewalks painted in the national colours. Jamaica 50 fever truly has caught on! There are also a myriad of events going on throughout the country, allowing the citizenry to walk down memory lane, learn about their history or just spend quality time together. Here are some highlights from the recently held – Readings in the Park [Claude McKay to Olive Senior] & Unveiling of : Jamaican Literature – A Quest for Independence.

This standing poster tells a bit about the event
Sample of readings for the evening
A section of the audience at the reading
“Out of Order” Jamaican Authors. Some notable authors in this category include: Anthony C. Winkler, Evan Jones, Colin Channer, Patricia Powell & Opal Adisa Palmer
“This Lovely Wayward Island”. Noted authors include: Andrew Salkey & Neville Dawes
Post Independence Male Voices. Some of the featured authors include: A.L. Hendricks, Anthony McNeill, Edward Baugh & Mervyn Morris
Jamaicans Aroused: A look at Feminist Jamaica
Shaping Identity: Jamaican Children’s Books. I can still remember studying “A Cow called Boy” as part of English Literature class!

Once upon a time – no, hour – in Trench Town Jamaica

Trench Town: The birthplace of rock steady & reggae music, home of the legendary Bob Marley. Original name – Trench Pen after owner Daniel Power Trench – an Irish immigrant. Originally 400 acres of land used for rearing livestock. Trench Town is an inner city community in the West Kingston area, located just a short distance from the infamous Tivoli Gardens.

Bob’s life was perhaps more than just sitting in Culture Yard and honing his art. He walked the streets outside those walls. He stood by the street corners, he “reasoned” with friends from the tenement yards. So this post is a little less about Bob the Legend and a lot more about Bob the man with a plan and a van – living in Trench Town, the community. This is a tribute to the tolerant and friendly persons of Trenchtown. I now present to you: one hour in the life of Trench Town – the things Bob saw – and will never see.

The sight of goats roaming the streets is a regular sight, so they must be included in this tribute to the community.

The Tenement yard next door to Bob’s famous Culture Yard

A very pleasant friend. He shared a few things about Bob’s life with me.

Mobile chicken and corn soup vendor

He was kind enough to sell one of the little girls soup on credit

This youngster shows us how corn should be eaten

This little girl occupies her time with her craft. She wants to be a doctor.

Motivational words on the wall of the Trench Town Reading Centre. A very inspirational message for the inner city youth.

These youngsters enjoy some time reading. It is great to see that the boys are also spending some time reading.

 The children took this photo. I think they did a great job.

The children play jumprope in the yard. I tried but apparently I lost my skills.

Yes she can change the world. Her dream is to become a doctor.

Of course I must acknowledge the man who brought us all to Trench Town, Bob Marley.

I promise that I will dedicate a post to Culture Yard and Bob’s memory soon. Thank you to the community of Trench Town for allowing us to come in by our hundreds each year to honour the memory of one of their sons. I have an early morning appointment so I really must run!

Saturday’s menu-“Burgher”, no fries: A youth concert in Burgher Gully community

in-ner cit-y: The area near the centre of the city, esp, when associated with social and economic problems (google)

On Saturday I took the bus down to East Kingston, to a small inner-city community called Burgher Gully to attend the Youth Leaders Concert. I was accompanying a friend – Kate – to the concert which was organised by the NGO – Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.).

After a typically late start, the concert finally got underway. It was refreshing to witness the enthusiasm and talent of children ranging from age 2 to 18. They drummed, sang and acted in two dramas designed to highlight racism and prostitution. The main event of the evening however was the dancing. It was clear that these youth put a lot of hard work in practicing their routines and the outcome was nothing short of captivating. On a point of reflection, I do notice that the Jamaican has a different rhythm and movement of body in response to the beat of music, especially when compared perhaps to persons from the Eastern Caribbean. I was bit disturbed however when a five-year old girl won a dancing competition with some gyrations fit only for a married adult locked in a bedroom. Simply my perspective of course. I must say great job to the MC for the evening who did all in her power to ensure the youth enjoyed an educational, fun and clean night out. The atmosphere was happy, the night sky clear, the breeze cool and gentle with the sound of music & laughter everywhere.

What I found out about the venue was as interesting as the event itself. The space is also the Eastern Peace Centre of the Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF). With the support of UNICEF, the Burgher Gully Project was established and assisted 45 youth who were out of school by providing structured activities for them over a three-month period, thus keeping them occupied and off of the streets. Sadly the problems these inner city youth face have not gone away altogether, but it is helpful to see organisations like Y.O.U., D.R.F. and UNICEF continue to reach out. Moreover, it is gratifying to know that my organisation, Cuso International, supports the work of Y.O.U. & D.R.F. through capacity building and knowledge sharing. Thank you to the children of Burgher Gully for a fantastic Saturday evening.

Educating the Inner City

The approach to education in the Caribbean has often time been “one size fits all”. There has been growing awareness however of the importance of understanding individual styles of learning and incorporating this knowledge into the education process. A recent visit to the Ideal Enhancement Centre on Shortwood Road, Kingston 8 proved a refreshing experience. The Centre was started in 2008 by Principal Cynthia Grenyion as part of a Masters Research project and serves the Grants Pen, Shortwood and HalfWay Tree area. From my brief visit there, I can say that the Centre places the individual at the centre of the learning process and champions the importance of the home – school partnership. The walls are covered with creative charts and posters designed to engage and capture the imagination.There’s an exciting menu of events planned for the next few months so feel free to call for more information.

Every Mickle mek a Muckle

Today I am going to test your powers of creativity to see whether by the end of this post you can connect the dots between a seemingly disconnected series of events. The proverb “Every mickle mek a muckle” interpreted in a financial context means that few pennies can add up. In this case, the “mickle” refers to random vignettes and the “muckle” to the resulting painting of this day in the history of my life.

Society is bawling out. To some it must seem that what they thought was the light at the end of the tunnel (after the last general election) was merely a firefly lighting an inch of the miles of darkness ahead. A beef patty that cost me JMD 90 before, now costs me JMD 105.

I listened to the news recently with a sense of dread, disgust and puzzlement. Two stories, featured on different dates – one of the possible murder of a fellow Trinidadian countrywoman and the other – the story of a mother who held down her girl child so she could be raped by a man. To more additions to the growing list of horrors gracing the airwaves in the past months. The last few weekends found me presenting and facilitating two groups of persons, spreading awareness on the rights of the child and child abuse. This took a lot of energy out of me, it’s hard not to get a bit emotional about the issue of child sexual abuse. Will my efforts make a difference?

Three weeks ago I hit the airwaves (Double Standards – Newstalk 93fm) with a fellow colleague to give an outsiders’ perspective on events in Jamaica – leading up to Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary.  One question  asked – whether we thought one person can make a difference. “Yes”, I replied. Why did I say this? Here’s why…

One week prior to the interview, I contributed to a parenting workshop at the Ideal Enhancement Centre on Shortwood Road.  Many of the parents hailed from inner city communities, Grants Pen & Shortwood areas. It was meaningful to see them get useful tips from each other and to witness their realization that the challenges were common ones. In a few short hours, individuals from diverse households were empowered to do something differently in parenting their child. If even one parent gets it right, the reward will be felt into another generation. Inspiring isn’t it? So, in conclusion – “Yes” – one person can make a difference. Interestingly, in the group of about 25 persons, maybe 6 were men – 1 being the photographer.

During the interview, we were also asked for our thoughts on dancehall music, but I digress, let’s consider that fodder for a post all its own!

On a positive note, mangoes are in season. They are everywhere. My tree and front garden is overwhelmed by mangoes. If I can figure out to how to preserve them all, I’ll make a mint. With the changes in taxation, I am not looking forward to June’s grocery bill. Not to mention I plan to start living in semi-darkness to save on electricity costs that are creeping upward. So over the next few weeks I may start studying the visual physiology of bats to see what I can learn.

Anyway it could be worse, so thank God it’s the Caribbean I’m living in. Lots of sun, sea, reggae and soca to soothe the living pains away. Of course if all else fails then I’ll have to check out the ATM of the Caribbean – Trinidad & Tobago!

Mystery creature in my apartment!

After an exciting few days of hiding from the “mystery” creature in my apartment, jumping on chairs and running from the unknown, I finally came face to face with the hideous monster last night! It was…are you ready?…A MOUSE! Before you start laughing at me, take in this article written in last Sunday’s Jamaica Gleaner (May 13th) “Sunday Sauce: Rats hit Back”. It is an excellent satire that manages to touch on some serious socio-political issues in Jamaica while addressing a burgeoning sanitation issue in the Kingston/St. Andrew parish. Unfortunately, a problem that is slowly making its way through my front door.

As a quick guide, the “clueless orange and green men & women” mentioned refer to affiliates of the two main political parties – I surmise! According to the “Rat Association” they’re too smart for the Pied Piper now, so that remedy won’t work this time. As for me don’t worry, I am armed to the hilt with broomstick & insect repellant in case the creature dares to drop in tonight! Happy reading!

 

Sunday Sauce: Rats hit back! – Arts & Leisure – Jamaica Gleaner – Sunday | May 13, 2012.

Basil Dawkins play “Where is my Father”

A 15 year old girl was gang-raped by her boyfriend and several of his friends, got pregnant before completing her A’level exams and was forced to leave school as a result. She is shunned by an unforgiving church. Pleas to the boyfriend’s family for assistance are rejected and she is forced to return to her impoverished circumstances and depend on her already stressed mother to assist. Suicide becomes a real contemplation for her. This is a snippet of the plot from the play “Where is my father” by Jamaican playwright Basil Dawkins. On Saturday, I attended a special airing of the play organised by the Ministry of National Security for members of the Ministry and other cross-sections of the Justice sector. It was followed by a very moving panel discussion.

Depression is knowing that save for the almost fairy-tale ending demonstrating restorative justice at its best and the young girl’s courage in seeking justice, the rest of it is very real and represents life for many young girls in Jamaica. This is not just a story with perfect comedic timing, it is life. What is more, it is happening to girls as young as 10, 11, 12. To see the desperation of a mother who forces her daughter to have sex with a stranger turn godfather, because for this “small price” he is willing to buy them food, liquor and supplies for the baby. So many issues are revealed in this play – a destructive culture divide between “uptown” and “downtown” Jamaica, a dangerous sub-culture and value system that seems to condone the sexual abuse of little girls, a system fraught with corruption, a justice system that does not seem able to protect these vulnerable children & worst re-traumatizes them and a country starved of the resources it needs to fight this complex problem.

I do what I can in my work with CUSO International to promote a more child-friendly justice system here in Jamaica, but I am very well aware that many who are also trying, are extremely frustrated. According to one panellist, the “wounded healers” are now becoming the “wounding healers” as statistics show that most persons who go into the “helping” profession have themselves been victims in some way .

My question is where did we go wrong as a society? Why would a grown man – rich or poor – look at a little child and feel these desires? A child is a little being who is to be protected. How in the world in an age of so much information can someone still believe that sleeping with a virgin will cure us of sexually transmitted diseases? Really, am I the one who is in the dark here and is missing something? Here is an account by one doctor who must deal with one aspect of the problem http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/NEWS/Horrific_11166833. Here is a link to a previous blog entry that gives some information on one place to go for assistance https://islandscribbler.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/help-for-victims-of-crime-in-the-caribbean/. VSU can be contacted at 946-0663/ 946-9287. All services are free.

I am convinced that all is not lost. We are more than capable of putting our heads together and dealing with this pervasive issue. May 01st marked the start of Child Month. Please do your part to protect the safety and well-being of our young ones.

You can check out Queen Ifrica’s song “Daddy” and listen to the words. Sad but real.