One Of The Two Gleaners!

Unknown“I saw it in one of the two Gleaners.” That’s what a friend of mine said a couple of weeks ago when I asked her where she’d heard about a news item we were discussing. And she didn’t mean online and print. We both had a good laugh. We couldn’t believe that in the 21st century, Gleaner was still the generic name for a newspaper. And it’s not just in Jamaica. Even in the diaspora, readers of a certain age think of British, Canadian or American newspapers as Gleaners.

Unknown-1The Gleaner Company must be quite pleased with the enduring appeal of its brand name. For almost two centuries! As Shabba Ranks would say, “Dem a brandish.” On the other hand, I don’t suppose the owner of that much younger newspaper would be amused to see that it is branded as one of two Gleaners – especially after 21 years in business. If it’s any consolation, having two ‘Gleaners’ is a good thing. It gives the consumer choice. Monopolies have a way of becoming very arrogant.

I used to write a column for ‘the other Gleaner’ in the 1990s. When I read some of those articles now, I’m amazed at how little things have changed over the last two decades. We keep on having the same quarrels about language and colour and class and beauty contests, for example.

TO DI WORLD

An earlier version of last week’s column, ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall’, was published in 1993. And I proposed then that we start to judge beauty in distinct racial categories. My positively race-conscious Miss Jamaica competition – both World and Universe – could work in one of two ways.

winnerEach year, contestants all of the same racial type could compete against each other: one year only African; the following year only ‘Out of Many One’. And so on: European, Chinese and Indian. Every type of beauty in turn! Equal opportunity. Affirmative action.

Or, each year, we could have contestants of all the racial types competing in segregated contests. Each contestant would be judged in the usual categories, according to the standards of her own racial type. Not someone else’s. The contestant who got the highest individual score, whatever her racial category, would be the overall winner.

This second option might be harder to manage. There would still be a sense of competition between racial categories. But just think of all the money the promoters could make running five beauty contests each year instead of just one! And it wouldn’t matter if the judges of international contests couldn’t see the beauty in our Miss Jamaica. We’d be confidently sending a message ‘to di world’ that we acknowledge the beauty of all of our women: ‘red and yellow, black and white’.

BLACK DON’T CRACK

imagesThe following year, as the annual quarrel about beauty contests heated up, I wrote another piece about sidelined royalty: farm and festival queens. These competitions are not even billed as beauty contests. It’s ‘talent’ that seems to count.

One of my male friends sent me a wicked response to last week’s column: “Next time I see a good-looking, dark-skinned woman, I will, as seems to be required by the current code, have to compliment her for her intelligence and talent, the favourable characteristics which women of her look are stereotypically assigned.”

Brains do last longer than beauty. And, in any case, since ‘black don’t crack’, as the African-Americans say, the intelligent and talented black woman often ends up looking much better than many a ‘beauty’ in the long run!

QUEEN OF QUEENS

Heritage Month will soon be here. We continue to celebrate Queen Nanny of the Maroons as an alternative model of queenship. Beyond the beauty contest business! In 1994, The University of the West Indies Press published Maroon Heritage, edited by the archaeologist Kofi Agorsah, who excavated many sites in Jamaica.

tumblr_mc3vppCtpZ1rdpg2so1_1280In that collection, there’s a brilliant essay by historian and poet Kamau Brathwaite in which he creatively makes sense of the myth that Nanny used her bottom to deflect the bullets of British soldiers: “There is no way that Nanny could have turned her back & done what they say she did. But she could have turned her back, lifted her skirt, & displayed the derriere as a symbol of derision & abuse which is a very common feature of ‘the culture’, as you know.”

Well, all I could think of when I read that lovely bit of mythmaking by Brathwaite was the image of Nanny in a by-rider. I know some people will be absolutely offended by this imaginative ‘disrespecting’ of Nanny’s queenly image. But, let’s face it. The bottom is a very political surface in our culture. Sexual politics.

Which brings us to Miss Jamaica Dancehall. The potent female bottom in dancehall culture is surely related to the myth that Nanny used her bottom to ward off the bullets of British soldiers. In any case, in many African cultures, female elders will threaten to denude themselves as a way of bringing delinquent males in line.

So Queen Nanny can be seen in a new light: the sexy warrior queen. Perhaps, she’s an unexpected role model for today’s dancehall queens. A royal exposure of the female body! And you can say you saw it in the original Gleaner.

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall

Miss Jamaica World 2014

Miss Jamaica World 2014

I’d decided to stay out of the kas-kas over this year’s beauty contests. But last week, one of my friends who’d been bugging me about the Miss Jamaica World contest started up again when she saw the Miss Jamaica Universe winner: “Yu mean to seh yu not going to write about it?” What difference would it make? It’s the same old tired story. The judges and the audience never seem to agree on who should be the winner of our rather ugly beauty contests.

Here’s the headline of Janet Silvera’s Gleaner report on the finals of the Miss Jamaica World contest: ‘Laurie-Ann Chin crowned Miss Jamaica World 2014 despite crowd’s dissatisfaction’ (July 14, 2014). This is not news. If you follow these beauty contests, it’s easy to predict the outcome. The light-skinned girl is almost always going to win.

The top-three winners of this year’s Miss Jamaica Universe contest are even more uniformly light-skinned than their Miss Jamaica World counterparts. I don’t know why the audience keeps on expecting miracles. I suppose hope springs eternal in the human breast. Especially here in Jamaica where the breast of the vast majority of women is dark-skinned!

snow-white-mirrorFive years ago, I wrote a column ‘Everybody’s Miss Jamaica’, which was published on September 20, 2009. I mischievously suggested that we forget about old-style beauty contests and promote a new model. This is how I put it: “So every year we ask ourselves this very loaded question: ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of us all?’ And we all know the usual answer: ‘the fairest.’ But in an ‘out-of-many-one’ society it’s simply not fair that it’s only one type of beauty that is almost always privileged as the winner.

So why don’t we just agree to judge beauty in clearly distinct racial categories? I suggest five types: ‘African,’ ‘Indian,’ ‘Chinese,’ ‘European’ and ‘Out of Many, One.’ And I use the quotation marks to suggest the fact that these terms are quite arbitrary. There’s not going to be universal agreement on who exactly fits which type”.

LAPSE INTO LUNACY

shockedOf course, nobody took me seriously. It was satire after all. And we’re still fighting over who should win these beauty contests. As Janet Silvera reports, “Those shocked by the decision spoke loudly at the coronation show, raising their voices emphatically, as they cried ‘no, no’, booing the announcement.” But why were they “shocked”? They should know the score by now.

In the 1960s, one of my friends entered the Miss Jamaica beauty contest. I hope she won’t be vexed with me for reminding her of that lapse into lunacy. Or so it seemed. In the 1960s, Miss Jamaica looked just like Miss Jamaica today. You know exactly what I mean. My aspiring friend was not a Miss Jamaica lookalike. So I couldn’t understand why she would willingly subject herself to public humiliation.

Earlier on, when she’d asked me what I thought about her entering the contest I hadn’t been able to resist the temptation to tell her the truth as I saw it: “You entering Miss Jamaica? You must be mad!” Words to that effect. I guess I could have been much more diplomatic. I could have said, “Well, if they change the rules of the contest you might stand a chance.”

My friend did admit that she appreciated my honesty. Other people were pretending that her behaviour was normal. She was eliminated in the very first round. To give my friend her due, I think she had entered the contest to make a political statement. The politics of beauty! It’s really all about power. Judges assume the right to decide who is ugly and who is beautiful. Who gives them that power? The contestants? The audience? The owners of the competition?

‘SHE UGLY EEH!’

Unknown-2More than two decades ago, I was in a local bookshop and overheard two young women discussing a photo spread of the supermodel Althea Laing in Essence Magazine. One of them said, “She ugly eeh! Wa she a do inna magazine?” Well me an dem! “What wrong wid her? Unu no see how she beautiful?” Under pressure, they grudgingly conceded that maybe she was ‘attractive’. After all, she had attracted their attention. She had the look. But it was hard for these young women to appreciate the model’s beauty.

In a newspaper interview, Althea Laing wickedly describes the supermodel ‘look’ in this way: “The ‘look’ is when people can’t figure out whether you are ugly or pretty. You know you have the ‘look’ when people can’t figure that out.” I suppose the exclamation of that young woman in the bookshop was half question, half statement. She couldn’t figure out exactly what Althea Laing was doing in that magazine. Simply being attractively beautiful!

images-2Then I was intrigued to see that the prizes for this year’s Miss Jamaica World contest included the following: “10 university scholarships valued at $6 million, of which nine are from the University College of the Caribbean, in collaboration with partner universities such as Florida International University, London University, Kursk University; a $1 million master’s degree scholarship in Logistics from the CMI”. I only hope all of the degree programmes on offer are accredited by the University Council of Jamaica! Or it won’t be pretty.

Funny Degrees No Joke

6a0120a669d297970c016765b2c037970b-320wiLast Sunday’s column, ‘University fi stone dog – seet deh!’, has stirred up quite an ants nest. And Baygon can’t deal with it. Incidentally, we know that nuff ants inna ants nest. So, logically, it can’t be singular. Ant nest? In English yes, but not in Jamaican. I spent quite a bit of time last week following the trail of ants.

I got a distressing email from a graduate of the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI): “Your article … has renewed my concern and worry as I might just be in that same boat rowing to nowhere!” The email was published in The Gleaner on Tuesday, August 26 as a letter to editor: ‘Accreditation limbo at CMI’.

Proverbial wisdom warns, “Wat is joke to you is death to me.” And is true. I got another email from someone who is clearly not rowing in the same boat with that concerned and worried CMI graduate: “Prof, this article is great. I never laugh so before while reading an article … Blessings.” We certainly know how to tek bad tings mek joke. But this business of bogus degrees is no laughing matter.

NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT?

dont-worry-be-happyI contacted both the CMI and the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) on behalf of the graduate. I discovered, much to our relief, that the degree programme in question, the BSc in logistics and supply-chain management, has, in fact, been submitted to the UCJ for review. If the programme is accredited, the graduate will have nothing to worry about. The UCJ will issue a statement of equivalence indicating that the old degree is up to the standard of the new.

Although the CMI graduate now seems to be rowing to somewhere, it may not be smooth sailing after all. The UCJ has confirmed that if any unaccredited programme turns out to be substandard, the institution issuing the degree may implement measures to have the graduate complete the new requirements for the accredited programme and provide the relevant certification.

I don’t like the sound of that ‘may’. It ought to be ‘must’. What if the institution fails to do the right thing? Who is going to ensure accountability? Graduates of the unaccredited programme would have been conned into buying a worthless piece of paper. I suppose they could put their case to the Fair Trading Commission. Or take legal action to recover their fees and seek compensation for lost time and opportunities. But at what cost? And at whose expense?

WATCHDOG WITH TEETH

The tertiary education sector simply must be regulated. But that’s not the job of the UCJ. Regulation and accreditation are distinct functions. The UCJ is an external quality-assurance agency. As stated on its website, “The mission of the University Council of Jamaica is to increase the availability of tertiary-level training in Jamaica through a robust quality-assurance system that ensures excellence, transparency, integrity and adherence to standards.”

Unknown-3Quality assurance is all very well and good. But what we desperately need is a regulatory watchdog with teeth. The Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission (J-TEC) is supposed to be that bad dog. But it is muzzled. Last week, I asked the commissioner/CEO, Mrs Maxine Henry-Wilson, what was being done to protect naive students who don’t seem to know they must make sure their degree programme is accredited. Before they register!

In 2006, as minister of education, Mrs Henry-Wilson initiated a strategic plan for regulating tertiary education. The very first strategic objective was the establishment of a regulatory body for the sector. But the wheels of government bureaucracy turn rather slowly. It was not until 2011, under the leadership of Andrew Holness, that some movement was made towards setting the legislative framework for the regulatory body.

THE IMF’S BIG STICK

The Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission was finally established in 2012. Within nine months of the appointment of Mrs Henry-Wilson, the legislative framework was completed. It has languished for two years in the office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel. It’s stuck in a long line of other financial proposals. And with the IMF’s big stick over our heads, only God knows if funding will be approved.

As things stand, dog and all can set up university. There is no legislation to prevent it. So-called universities don’t even have to be registered with the University Council. It’s a free-for-all. If J-TEC gets its legal mandate, all this will change. Every tertiary institution will have to be registered. And a quality audit will be done to determine the appropriate name for the enterprise.

At present, the UCJ has a policy of assessing degree programmes to determine their readiness for delivery. But in carrying out its core accreditation function, the UCJ can evaluate only programmes that have completed a full cycle and have produced the first set of graduates. Accreditation is based on evidence, not on plans or intentions.

birds-rush-owls-album-covers-alex-lifeson-geddy-lee-neil-peart-fly-by-night-1280x960-hd-wallpaper-400x250If we don’t clean up the tertiary education sector, the quality of all degrees across the board will be compromised. It won’t be just the fly-by-night operators that will have to close shop. All universities will be in trouble if Jamaica becomes known as a market for bogus degrees. Soon, none of our local degrees will be recognised internationally. And dog a go nyam wi supper.

University Fi Stone Dog – Seet Deh!

jluTwo spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below. The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist phonetic system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy. It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.

CHAKA-CHAKA SPELLING
hydel_univWhat a way time fly! Mi did write one column, ‘University fi stone dog’, weh Gleaner publish pon September 13, 2009. An nuff smaddy did bex wid mi, seh mi a tek liberty wid Hydel University College an di whole heap a odder ‘university’ dem all bout di place weh a gi out degree. See piece a weh mi did seh ya:

“So we have ‘university fi stone dog’, of all breeds and varieties. This biting saying denotes an excess of riches that results in wasteful behaviour, such as throwing valuable resources – instead of cheap stones – at dogs. Universities are now in such plentiful supply that we can afford to treat them lightly. Quantity is one thing. But what about quality?”

Story come to bump! See Gleaner big-big headline last week Wednesday: ‘Degrees worthless – Graduates’ patience wears thin as UCJ refuses to accredit Hydel programmes’. Seet deh now! It look like seh mi turn warner woman. But a no me a talk out di tings now. A Gleaner. An truth a truth.

See one next ting mi did seh: “Not every institution registered with the council claims the weighty name of ‘university’. Most are colleges or institutes. And this is as it should be. The primary mark of distinction of a university is that it maintains a vibrant graduate-research programme. By contrast, a college specialises in undergraduate education.”

DRAW BAD CARD

From what mi get fi understand, a ‘university’ put spokes inna Hydel wheel. It look like seh if dem tek out ‘university’ an lef so-so ‘college’, dem gone clear. Mi no know wa mek dem so hard-ears an nah tek telling. Old-time people seh, ‘High seat kill Miss Thomas puss.’ An it look like seh high name might-a kill Miss Bennett ‘University College’.

Ambition-Picture-3All a wi want fi step up inna life. So mi do understand wa mek Miss Bennett set up university. Hydel got nursery, preschool, prep school, pre-first form, junior high, senior high, six form, special education centre, ketch-up reading centre, study centre an evening college. ‘University college’ a di next step. But Miss Bennett ha fi dweet right. Yu ha fi creep before yu walk

A di student dem mi sorry fa. How dem fi know seh big-big Hydel deh pon di low? When dem come a Ferry, an see how Hydel sprawl off, how dem coulda even tink seh di ‘university college’ no deh pan UCJ list? After dem pay school fee, dem cerfiticket naa no value? It can’t carry dem nowhere? Dat no right. Dem draw bad card. Mi no know how dem an Miss Bennett a go work it out.

An a no Hydel one. Said same problem a Mico. Me want know wa UCJ a seh. Dem can’t run couple ad, laka FSC, fi warn people bout di bogus degree dem weh no register? If a no UCJ, a who response fi sort out di ‘university’ lotto scam?

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN
Unknown-2Wat a wie taim flai! Mi did rait wan kalom, ‘University fi stone dog’, we Gleaner poblish pan Septemba 13, 2009. An nof smadi did beks wid mi, se mi a tek libati wid Hydel University College an di uol iip a ada ‘yuunivorsiti’ dem aal bout di plies we a gi out digrii.

Si piis a we mi did se ya:  “So we have ‘university fi stone dog’, of all breeds and varieties. This biting saying denotes an excess of riches that results in wasteful behaviour, such as throwing valuable resources – instead of cheap stones – at dogs. Universities are now in such plentiful supply that we can afford to treat them lightly. Quantity is one thing. But what about quality?”

Tuori kom tu bomp! Si Gleaner big-big edlain laas wiik Wenzde: ‘Degrees worthless – Graduates’ patience wears thin as UCJ refuses to accredit Hydel programmes’. Siit de nou! It luk laik se mi ton waana uman. Bot a no mi a taak out di tingz nou. A Gleaner. An chruut a chruut.

Si wan neks ting mi did se: “Not every institution registered with the council claims the weighty name of ‘university’. Most are colleges or institutes. And this is as it should be. The primary mark of distinction of a university is that it maintains a vibrant graduate-research programme. By contrast, a college specialises in undergraduate education.”

JRAA BAD KYAAD

Unknown-5

Mrs. Hyacinth Bennett

Fram wat mi get fi andastan, a ‘university’ put spuoks ina Hydel wiil. It luk laik se if dem tek out ‘university’ an lef suo-so ‘college’, dem gaan klier. Mi no nuo wa mek dem so aad-iez an naa tek telin. Uol-taim piipl se, ‘Ai siit kil Mis Tamas pus.’ An it luk laik se ai niem maita kil Mis Bennett ‘university college’.

Aal a wi waahn fi step op ina laif. So mi duu andastan wa mek Miss Bennett set op yuunivorsiti. Hydel gat norsri, prii-skuul, prep skuul, prii-fos faam, juunya ai, siinya ai, siks faam, speshal edikieshan senta, kech-up riidn senta, stodi senta an iivnin kalij. ‘University College’ a di neks step. Bot Mis Bennett a fi dwiit rait. Yu ha fi kriip bifuor yu waak.

A di styuudent dem mi sari fa. Ou dem fi nuo se big-big Hydel de pan di luo? Wen dem kom a Ferry, an si ou Hydel spraal aaf, ou dem kuda iivn tingk se di ‘university college’ no de pan UCJ lis? Aafta dem pie skuul fii, dem sorfitikit naa no valyu? It kyaahn kyari dem no-we? Dat no rait. Dem jraa bad kyaad. Mi no nuo ou dem an Mis Bennett a go work it out.

An a no Hydel wan. Sed siem prablem a Mico. Mii waan nuo wa UCJ a se. Dem kyaa ron kopl ad, laka FSC, fi waan piipl bout di buogos digrii dem we no rigista? If a no UCJ, a uu rispans fi saat out di ‘yuunivorsiti’ lato skyam?

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Unknown-3Time certainly flies! I wrote a column, ‘University fi stone dog’, which was published in The Gleaner on September 13, 2009.  Lots of people were upset with me because they thought I was taking liberties with Hydel University College and all of those other ‘universities’ all over the place that are handing out degrees. Here’s a bit from that column:

“So we have ‘university fi stone dog’, of all breeds and varieties. This biting saying denotes an excess of riches that results in wasteful behaviour, such as throwing valuable resources – instead of cheap stones – at dogs. Universities are now in such plentiful supply that we can afford to treat them lightly. Quantity is one thing. But what about quality?”

Things have come to a head! Here’s last Wednesday’s alarming Gleaner headline: ‘Degrees worthless – Graduates’ patience wears thin as UCJ refuses to accredit Hydel programmes’. There you have it! It seems as if I’m  a warner woman. But I’m not the one raising the alarm now.  It’s the Gleaner. And you just have to face the truth.

Here’s what I also said: “Not every institution registered with the council claims the weighty name of ‘university’. Most are colleges or institutes. And this is as it should be. The primary mark of distinction of a university is that it maintains a vibrant graduate-research programme. By contrast, a college specialises in undergraduate education.”

imagesA  BAD HAND

From what I understand, it’s the name ‘university’ that has put a spoke in Hydel’s wheel. It seems as if all they need to do is take out ‘university’ and keep  ‘college’.  And they’ll be able to get registered.  I don’t know why they’re being so stubborn and not taking advice.  Proverbial wisdom warns,  ‘high-climbing killed Miss Thomas’ cat’.  And it looks as if over-reaching might kill Miss Bennett’s ‘University College’.

All of us want to step up our game.  So I do understand why Miss Bennett has set up a university. Hydel has a  nursery, preschool, prep school, pre-first form, junior high, senior high, sixth form, special education centre, remedial reading centre, study centre and evening college. ‘University college’ is the next step. But Miss Bennett has to do it right. You have to creep before you walk.

It’s the students I feel sorry for. How could they know that all is not well at Hydel? When they come to Ferry, and see how prosperous Hydel looks, why would it even occur to them that the ‘university college’ is not registered with the UCJ ? After paying fees, they find out that their certificate has no value? It can’t take them anywhere? That’s not right. They’ve been dealt a very bad hand. And I just don’t know how Miss Bennett is going to compensate them.

UCJAnd  Hydel isn’t the only ‘university’ in trouble. Mico University College has the very same problem. I want to know what the UCJ has to say. Can’t the Council run ads, like the  FSC does, to warn prospective students about unregistered degree programmes?  And if it’s not UCJ, who’s responsible for policing the ‘university’ lotto scam?

Marcus Garvey’s Love Life

418WElA7YILAmy Jacques, the second Mrs Garvey, gives an intriguing account of Marcus Garvey’s first marriage to Amy Ashwood in her book Garvey and Garveyism. “While [Garvey was] in Harlem hospital, Amy Ashwood, a Jamaican friend from Panama, then secretary of the New York local, removed his belongings from his furnished room to her flat. At the end of December, they were married.”

Quite a lot is left out of this abbreviated story. There is a big gap between the moving of the belongings and the marriage. What is not said is just as important as what is. It seems as if Amy Jacques is accusing Amy Ashwood of using underhand means to forcefully rush Garvey into marriage while he was in a vulnerable state.

Amy Jacques’ description of the divorce is quite elaborate, by contrast. She even recalls, word for word, Garvey’s explanation of why the marriage broke down after only three months: “I have to travel up and down the country. I can’t drag my wife with me. I can’t pay her the personal attention as the average husband. In fact, I have no time to look after myself. My life can either be wrecked because of her conduct, or embellished by her deportment.”

A WORKING HONEYMOON

images

Amy Jacques

Garvey’s next move seems quite calculated. Amy Jacques reports that “He moved into a flat at 129th Street with an elderly coloured member as housekeeper. He offered Miss Davis [assistant president general] and I a room to share there; we accepted because we would be better protected at nights coming home from meetings.”

Prim and proper Miss Jacques is careful to confirm the elderliness of Garvey’s housekeeper. And her acceptance of Garvey’s hospitality is purely a matter of chivalrous protection. But I do wonder. Did Amy Jacques have ‘feelings’ for Garvey? In her judgemental account of the collapsed marriage, Amy Jacques does not immediately mention the fact that Amy Ashwood was her friend. Nor does she reveal that she was a bridesmaid at the wedding and accompanied the couple on their honeymoon!

It was a working honeymoon and Amy Jacques attended in a professional capacity as Garvey’s secretary. There’s only one kind of work that should be done on a honeymoon. And if you can’t do the work, you are going to lose the work.

garvey_amyAs is to be expected, Amy Ashwood gives a quite different version of the story of her marriage. Her needs and Marcus Garvey’s ambitions clearly clashed. Embellishing her husband’s life was not her priority. She was a woman ahead of her time, who could not be contained by her husband’s expectations.

Amy Ashwood was, apparently, a hot-blooded woman who needed a partner who could and would pay her sexual attention. Garvey should have taken her on a proper honeymoon. However much he admired Amy Ashwood’s mind, spirit and, presumably, body, Garvey soon concluded that his wife was going to wreck his life. His peace of mind required defensive action.

THE PERFECT SECOND WIFE

Garvey admitted that his visionary work for the advancement of black people “came first in his life”. This was his big romance. And in Amy Jacques he found a perfect second wife. She was a devoted, morally upright companion who certainly did not cause any anxiety in Garvey about what she might possibly be doing behind his back while he was travelling up and down the country.

opinionsGarvey’s second wife decidedly embellished his life. But even she had cause to complain about Garvey’s commitment to his first love, The UNIA. In Garvey and Garveyism, Amy Jacques paints a picture of Garvey as a taskmaster, pushing her relentlessly to publish the second volume of his philosophy and opinions.

This is how she puts it: “I thought I had done almost the impossible when I was able to rush a first copy of Volume II to him, but he callously said, ‘Now I want you to send free copies to senators, congressmen and prominent men who might become interested in my case, as I want to make another application for a pardon.'”

Amy Jacques confesses: “When I completed this task, I weighed 98lb, had low blood pressure, and one eye was badly strained. Two doctors advised complete rest.” Having sacrificed her health for Garvey’s cause, she fleetingly rebels against the callous regime of domestic servitude she had willingly embraced.

THE MORAL OF THE STORY

Perhaps, Amy Jacques should have followed Amy Ashwood’s example and made a lucky escape. But who would have ensured the completion of The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey and so consolidated the great man’s reputation?

Unknown-2The moral of this love story is quite complicated: Great men often need self-sacrificing wives. Great women don’t usually need self-sacrificing husbands. Self-sacrificing wives who have the potential to be great women have to abandon callous great men; or they will end up getting seriously sick.

The wives of great men who refuse to embellish their husband’s life end up divorced, with a very bad reputation. Divorced women sometimes end up living glamorous lives as great women in their own right – like Amy Ashwood! Great and not-so-great men who do not require their wives to be self-sacrificing are few and far between. They make great husbands for great and not-so-great women.

Putting Vaginas (And Penises) In Focus

UnknownNewspaper headlines are designed to grab your attention, if not your crotch. So I completely understand why the sensational ‘vagina’ – and not the more neutral ‘body’ – was used by the In Focus editor to brand Ms Karen Lloyd’s provocative column, ‘My vagina isn’t public property’ (Sunday Gleaner, August 3, 2014). Sex sells. Titillation, too.

I had a feeling that the hotty-hotty vaginal headline was going to backfire. It struck me that if your vagina really isn’t public property, perhaps, you wouldn’t want to expose it in print. Of course, that’s not the same as uncovering it in the flesh. All the same, as hard-core pornographers know, the thought of sex can be just as exciting as the real thing. Sometimes, even more so with the right visual stimulation.

Once I got past the seductive headline, I realised it was a case of bait and switch. The primary focus of Ms Lloyd’s perceptive column wasn’t her vagina after all. It was the persistent problem of verbal and physical abuse of girls and women in Jamaica. Across the board: uptown and downtown; black, white and brown; every single ethnic group. All our talk of independence, both national and personal, means absolutely nothing if we can’t cure this widespread sickness.

MALE BACKLASH

images-1Mr Bertlan Reynolds’ letter to the editor, published on Independence Day, is a classic example of abusive male backlash against women who dare to speak uncomfortable truths. The headline, ‘Vaginas public property on ‘Back Road’,’ maliciously challenges Ms Lloyd’s perfectly reasonable claims about a vagina’s right to privacy.

Mr Reynolds, who seems to be thinking with the head of his penis, completely misses the point. Unlike Ms Lloyd, the women on ‘Back Road’ are selling sex. Even so, the vagina of a female sex worker is not public property. It may be turned into a commodity and graphically put on display, as described in such detail by Mr Reynolds:

“Not too long ago, an event was taking place on this renowned road popularly called ‘Back Road’ that caused vehicular traffic to come to a virtual stop. A group of women presented themselves in an almost nude state banging on the cars of male drivers, gyrating and virtually ‘swiping’ the cars, including mine, with their private parts. This was certainly not a clever way to marketise their dismal future.”

FRONT-ROOM SEX WORKERS

Cleverly marketed or not, the vagina of a female sex worker is a private body part. And its owner has the right to determine its use and value. She is entitled to pick and choose her clients even in desperate economic circumstances. Sex workers have rights. They have the fundamental right to be protected from sexual abuse. And selling sex does not mean you give up all claims to be treated with dignity.

Dignity1Self-righteous, judgemental souls like Mr Reynolds don’t seem to understand this basic principle. And they certainly don’t grasp the economics of survival in Jamaica today. You cannot assume that sex workers willingly choose the world’s oldest profession. It’s usually a last resort, especially in societies like ours where poor women do face a dismal future.

And Mr Reynolds ought to know that sex workers come in all grades and stations: from ‘Back Road’ to front rooms in upscale, gated communities. Class covers a multitude of sins. The way some uptown ladies gyrate in public for carnival, they might as well be swiping their private parts on ‘Back Road’!

A SLAP FOR A SQUEEZE

I’m so glad Ms Lloyd had the presence of mind to slap the man who squeezed her breast. I’m sure he’ll think twice about attacking another woman. And his claim that he was only romping with her because she looked so good is outrageous. Presumably, an attractive woman must take full responsibility for provoking unwanted attention.

This is the identical assumption that the self-proclaimed “old fogey”, Mr Cedric Richards, makes in his letter to the editor, published on August 5. The headline is vexing: ‘Vagina not public property, but are women asking for it?’ And what, exactly, is ‘it’? Verbal abuse? Rape? These are acts of power, control and violence.

How would Mr Richards feel if a man grabbed his crotch in public? Would he concede that he’d been asking for it because he was dressed attractively? In a satirical letter to the editor, published on August 5, Ms Meng Na mocks heterosexual men who are afraid of being “checked” out by gay men but think it’s perfectly ‘natural’ for women to be groped.

safe_image.phpThe old fogey ends his letter with an irritating question: “Do the ladies have a responsibility to be more modest in their attire?” It’s not about how women dress. Even in societies where women are covered from head to toe, sexual abuse is a constant threat. Men have a responsibility to exercise self-control and keep their hands and penises under manners.

Instead of falling into the trap of thinking that unwanted sexual attention is a compliment, women must fight back. We cannot passively see ourselves as victims. We have to let men know that they are not entitled to romp with us against our will. And an unexpected response to sexual harassment – whether verbal or physical – can be a most effective deterrent.

On my walk one morning, a man called out to me, “Hi, sexy girl!” To be honest, I think he intended it as an innocent compliment. All the same, I thought I should put him in my place. I pleasantly replied, “Hi, sexy boy!” He almost fell off his bicycle.

Emancipation Day At Liberty Hall

Unknown-1A century ago, Marcus Garvey launched the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities (Imperial) League on Emancipation Day. Garvey was a man who understood the power of symbols. August 1 was the ideal day to make a grand statement advocating the unification of African people across the globe.

Garvey knew that emancipation was a long and difficult process. The road to full freedom was full of potholes. The journey would not be easy. And Garvey acknowledged the difference between physical and mental slavery. He encouraged us to take full responsibility for the process of liberation.

In a famous speech delivered in Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1937, Garvey prophetically declared, “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind, because man is related to man under all circumstances for good or ill.”

Bob Marley amplified Garvey’s message in Redemption Song:

Old pirates yes, they rob I

Sold I to the merchant ships

Minutes after they took I

From the bottomless pit

But my hand was made strong

By the hand of the Almighty

We forward in this generation triumphantly.”

Marcus Garvey’s UNIA-ACL was an unquestionable triumph. By the early 1930s, there were more than 1,000 divisions in 38 countries; for example, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Liberia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, South Africa, Trinidad and Venezuela.

images-1The rapid growth of the UNIA in the US is an eloquent testimony to the empowering appeal of Garvey’s redemptive vision for Black people. In 1917, Garvey established the New York Division of the UNIA with 13 members. From a single seed, the number of divisions within the US grew to 837 – without Internet or social media to spread the message!

VISIONARY LEADERSHIP

liberty_hall__kingston_jamaicaNot surprisingly, the growth of the UNIA was much slower in Jamaica. The legacy of mental slavery made it difficult for many African-Jamaicans to identify with a black man preaching the gospel of self-reliance. The UNIA in Jamaica started with 17 members and did not exceed 100 by the time Garvey left for the US in 1916. But the tide did turn. Marcus Garvey’s restored Liberty Hall at 76 King Street has now become a major cultural centre, thanks to the visionary leadership of the curator/director, Dr Donna McFarlane.

On Emancipation Day, Garvey’s legacy was celebrated in fine style. First, there was an enlightening conversation with Queen Mother Mariamne Samad and Dr Simon Clarke who had been members of the Garvey Juveniles in the US and Panama, respectively. Mr Arnold Bertram, historian and former minister of government, moderated the discussion.

Unknown-2Queen Mother Samad, who married a Jamaican, Clarence Thomas, came to live here in 1965. She said it was the single most important decision of her life. Recalling her youth in Harlem, New York, with parents who were committed Garveyites, Sister Samad showed the attentive audience pictures of the black Jesus and angels that had a place of honour in her home. These she donated to the Liberty Hall collection.

Dr Simon Clarke, who was born in Panama, also spoke about the issue of race. There were silver people and gold people, so named after their race and the currency in which each group was paid. Black people were silver and whites were gold. Dr Clarke told a most entertaining story of newly arrived black Jamaicans who joined the gold line at the post office.

That line moved much more quickly than the silver; three gold were served to one silver. Obedient people in the silver line implored the Jamaicans to come over into the ‘right’ line. Dr Clarke still remembers the emphatic way in which they declined the invitation: “We naah move!” And the ‘naah’ was appropriately stretched out to fully express resistance to the status quo.

ADINKRA SYMBOLS

The second feature of the Emancipation Day celebrations at Liberty Hall was a series of short skits performed by the 47 participants in the summer programme in dance and drama. Four students from the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts were employed to teach: Andre Tucker, Rachel Allen, Ricardo McFarlane and Ellisa Douglas.

082d7835c147ea04d30716ef66e2ae56The participants were divided into four groups and were guided by the philosophy of adinkra symbols from Ghana. The ‘Sankofa’ symbol means, ‘Return and get it’ and features either a bird with its head turned backwards with an egg in its beak, or a heart. This image signifies the importance of learning from the past.

Two fish biting each other’s tail is the image for ‘Bi Nka Bi’. This literally means, ‘No one should bite another’ and warns against making contention. ‘Osram Ne Nsoromma’, an image of the moon and a star, symbolises love, faithfulness and harmony, especially between man and woman. The fourth symbol, ‘Sesa Wo Suban’, is a star inside a wheel. It represents a change of character. This was particularly appropriate for the skit that featured skin bleachers who were in total denial about their identity.

Unknown-4All the performances by the children and teenagers from the communities around Liberty Hall and further afield were excellent. Proud parents came out to applaud the talent of the youth.

Marcus Garvey’s inspiring message about learning from the past and looking to Africa in the present to reclaim our collective identity was brilliantly illustrated. The Sankofa bird was in full flight.