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.

High Time Fi Woman Bishop

Two 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

Look how long woman a run church a Jamaica! An it tek two thousand year an more fi di Anglican dem inna England decide dem mind fi mek woman turn bishop. Wat a sinting! An some a di man dem – an all woman too – bex, bex, bex.

Unknown-1Di bishop dem claims seh dem a tan up inna one long, long line weh go right back to Jesus an im twelve disciple. From man to man come down. Dem call it ‘apostolic succession’. Dem seh Jesus never have no woman disciple. A so-so man. So a man fi run tings ina di church. Woman no business fi waan turn no bishop. Unu tink it easy?

Di Anglican church do have woman bishop inna odder country laka Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Merica an Swaziland. But no inna England. Dem a hold on pon ole-time sinting. Some a di man priest dem so harden, dem seh if a no man bishop ordain dem, dem no ordain fi true. Wat a way dem backward! Mi sorry fi dem.

WOMAN LUCK

Tings an times a change. An all who naa change a go get lef. Anyhow, it look like seh di one dem weh waan bring een di woman bishop dem a try see wid dem odder one weh no ready. Dem no waan di church mash up. So hear wa dem a go do. All who no waan no woman bishop can aks fi one man.

imagesMi no know how dem a go manage if half a dem waan man an di next half waan woman. Dem mussi a go end up wid two bishop inna di one district weh dem call ‘diocese’. Then mek mi gi unu lickle joke. Di word bishop come from Greek: episkopos. Di epi part mean pon top; an skopos mean fi look. So bishop a overseer.

See ya! We done know bout overseer. Not a nice sinting fi a beat people fi work out dem soul case fi nutten. But dem ya holy-holy overseer supposen fi a look after wi soul an wi soul case. So wat happen to woman soul an soul case? Wi a no smaddy? Wa mek wi cyaan oversee fi wi owna soul an case? An fi di man dem to? Wa mek a ongle man can oversee?

Then through di Anglican church a di official church a England, di woman-bishop vote ha fi go a Parliament. An if it pass deh so, then di woman dem gone clear. An member seh it never easy fi woman turn priest. A no til 1994 dem ordain di first woman priest dem. Mi no understand wa mek it so hard fi Christian see seh man an woman supposen fi have di said same rights.

Old-time people seh, ‘woman luck deh a dungle heap; fowl cratch i out’. Dat simple mean seh good luck can drop pon woman anywhere. All inna dungle. Mi naa seh Anglican church a dungle. Mi no waan no overseer beat out mi soul case. But it look like seh nuff cratch-cratch a gwaan inna dat deh chuch fi root out some a di man dem an mek space fi woman. After all!

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

15anglican-master315Luk ou lang uman a ron choch a Jamieka! An it tek tuu touzn ier an muor fi di Anglikan dem ina Inglan disaid dem main fi mek uman ton bishop. Wat a sinting! An som a di man dem – an aal uman tu – beks, beks, beks.

Di bishop dem kliemz se dem a tan op ina wan lang, lang lain we go rait bak tu Jiizas an im twelv disaipl. Fram man tu man kom dong. Dem kaal it ‘apostolic succession’. Dem se Jiizas neva av no uman disaipl. A suo-so man. So a man fi ron tingz ina di choch. Uman no bizniz fi waahn ton no bishop. Unu tingk it iizi?

Di Anglikan choch duu av uman bishop ina som ada konchri laka Aaschrielya, Nyuu Ziilan, Kyanada, Merika an Swaazilan. Bot no ina Inglan. Dem a uol aan pan uol-taim sinting. Som a di man priis dem so aadn, dem se if a no man bishop aadien dem, dem no aadien fi chruu. Wat a wie dem bakwod! Mi sari fi dem.

UMAN LOK

Tingz an taimz a chienj. An aal uu naa chienj a go get lef. Eni-ou it luk laik se di wan dem we waahn bring iin di uman bishop dem a chrai si wid dem ada wan we no redi. Dem no waahn di choch mash op. So ier wa dem a go du. Aal uu no waahn no uman bishop kyan aks fi wan man.

Mi no nuo ou dem a go manij ef aaf a dem waahn man an di neks aaf waahn uman. Dem mosi a go en op wid tuu bishop ina di wan dischrik we dem kaal ‘diocese’. Den mek mi gi unu likl juok. Di wod bishop kom fram Griik: episkopos. Di epi paat miin pan tap; an skopos miin fi luk. So bishop a uovasiya!

100_9513_midSi ya! Wii don nuo bout uovasiya. Nat a nais sinting fi a biit piipl fi wok out dem suol kies fi notn. Bot dem ya uoli-uoli uovasiya sopuozn fi a luk aafta wi suol an wi suol kies. So wat apn tu uman suol an suol kies? Wi a no smadi? Wa mek wi kyaahn uovasi fi wi uona suol an kies? An fi di man dem tu? Wa mek a ongl man kyan uovasi?

Den chruu di Anglikan choch a di ofishal choch a Inglan, di uman-bishop vuot a fi go a Paaliment. An if it paas de so, den di uman dem gaan klier. An memba se it neva iizi fi uman ton priis. A no til 1994 dem aadien di fos uman priis dem. Mi no andastan wa mek it so aad fi Krischan si se man an uman supuozn fi av di sed siem raits.

Uol-taim piipl se, ‘uman lok de a dongl iip; foul krach i out’. Dat simpl miin se gud lok kyan jrap pan uman eniwe. Aal ina dongl. Mi naa se Anglikan choch a dongl. Mi no waahn no uovasiya biit out mi soul kies. Bot it luk laik se nof krach-krach a gwaan ina dat de choch fi ruut out som a di man dem an mek spies fi uman. Aafta raal!

ENGLISH

UnknownWe’ve had women in charge of churches in Jamaica for so long! And it has taken more than two thousand years for the Anglicans in England to agree that women can be bishops. What a thing! And some men – and even women, too – are quite angry.

The bishops claim that their authority was established with Jesus and his twelve disciples. From man to man right down the line. They call it ‘apostolic succession’. They say Jesus did not have any female disciples. Only men. So it is men who must be leaders of the church. Women should not even want to be bishops. Can you believe it?

The Anglican church does have female bishops in some other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the U.S. and Swaziland. But not in England. They are hanging on to tradition. Some of the male priests are so stubborn they argue that if they are not ordained by a male bishop, their priesthood is not legitimate. They are so backward! Too bad for them.

WOMAN’S LUCK

Things and times are changing. And all those who don’t want to change are going to be left behind. Anyhow, it seems as if those who support the proposal to make women bishops are trying to compromise with those who don’t. They don’t want the church to break up. So this is what they’ve decided to do. Those congregations that don’t want a female bishop can request a male.

I don’t know how they’re going to manage if half of them want a man and the other half want a woman. They’re going to end up with two bishops in one diocese, as they call the district for which a bishop is responsible. Then this is so funny. The word bishop comes from Greek: episkopos. Epi means above; and skopos means looking. So a bishop is an overseer!

Look here! We do know about this overseer business. It’s not a nice thing to have to beat people to exhaustion, body and soul, forcing them to work for nothing. But these sanctified overseers are supposed to look after both body and soul. So what’s the story with woman’s soul and body? Aren’t we human? Why can’t we overseer our own soul and body? And the men’s as well? Why is it that only men can be overseers?

ANGLICAN-master675Then because the Anglican church is the official church of England, the issue of female bishops has to be put to the vote in Parliament. And if it passes there, then the women would be free to take up office. And, remember, it wasn’t easy for women to become priests. It wasn’t until 1994 that the first female priest was ordained. I don’t understand why it’s so hard for Christians to accept that men and woman are supposed to have equal rights.

Traditional wisdom declares, ‘woman’s luck is in the garbage heap; the fowl scratches it out’. That simply means good fortune can fall on woman anywhere. Even in the dump. I’m not saying that the Anglican church is a dump. I don’t want to be beaten by any overseer. But it seems as if a lot of digging up is being done in that church to uproot some of the men and make space for women. After all!

On Guard Against Lagarde

img_53b00b821b2cdLast month, as I listened to Christine Lagarde lecture at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, I felt a rush of old-fashioned feminist pride. Here was a woman who had made it to the top of a decidedly patriarchal institution, the International Monetary Fund (IMF). And that wasn’t all.

Forbes magazine ranks Lagarde as the fifth most powerful woman in the world! I wondered how much clawing and scratching, or worse, she’d had to do. Or if men yielded gracefully once they recognised her commanding abilities.

novelettegrant_1Unfortunately, in some quarters, it’s still news that women are capable of leadership at the very highest levels of both public- and private-sector organisations. Like the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). I certainly hope Assistant Commissioner Novelette Grant is on the list of possible replacements for Owen Ellington, who has retired so precipitously. It’s as if he just fell over a precipice.

ACP Grant has paid her dues and she’s ready for the top job. She can definitely do far more than just assist. She can take charge. That loaded word, ‘charge’, is of French origin, meaning ‘burden’. Women can assume the responsibilities of leadership if they are given the opportunity. But the JCF is, unquestionably, a male-dominated institution.

CLOSING GENDER GAP

UnknownIn 1999, the University of the West Indies Press published a book by Sergeant Gladys Brown-Campbell titled Patriarchy in the Jamaica Constabulary Force: Its Impact on Gender Equality. She’s the first policewoman to earn a law degree, building on the foundation of her bachelor’s degree in English. I had the pleasure of teaching her at UWI and I’m quite proud of her accomplishments.

In the ‘Introduction’ to the book, Brown-Campbell outlines her objectives: “To investigate the extent to which patriarchy informs women’s opportunities for career advancement and to discover the extent to which biology influences notions of (in)equality in the organisation.” She comes to an unsurprising conclusion: Men discriminate against women in the JCF. And, even worse, women often sell themselves short. Not wanting to antagonise their male colleagues, they settle for less than they’re worth.

A decade and a half after the publication of that book, some progress must have been made in closing the gender gap in the police force. But is it enough? Are we ready for a female commissioner? And if not, why not? Why can’t a talawa Jamaican woman lead the JCF? Queen Nanny has long been a compelling model of female military might. It’s not enough that she’s a national hero. Her true legacy is the value we place on women’s abilities today in all spheres.

BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

imf-logoI have to admit that the hot flash of pride in Lagarde did cool down quite quickly. Because of the IMF. An apparently powerful woman who leads a patriarchal organisation like that can only do so much to transform the culture of gender inequality. And we can’t assume that such a woman actually wants things to change. She can so easily get sucked into the politics of divide and rule. She can end up thinking she’s made it because she’s an ‘exceptional’ woman. But all women have the potential to be ‘exceptional’, given the right opportunities.

slavery_2849118bGender politics aside, what made me put my guard back up was Lagarde’s troubling message. After all, she’s the rather pleasant face of the heartless IMF. What we’re being told repeatedly is that one of the major planks of Jamaica’s economic recovery is devaluation of the dollar. I’m no economist. But as I understand it, here’s how the argument goes: A weak dollar will attract foreign investors who will make a killing. We’ll be so grateful for the jobs they bring, we’ll work for next to nothing. Been there and done that! So we’re not going back there if we can help it.

Furthermore, a weak dollar will make imported goods so expensive we’ll just have to do without them. We’ll be forced to produce more. But this is where it gets tricky. Production costs, such as imported energy, will continue to increase as the value of the dollar decreases. So businesses will collapse and jobs will disappear. And there will be less money in circulation. We’ll be right back to where we started. Pauperised.

imagesInstead of deliberately weakening the dollar and reducing the buying power of Jamaican consumers, we need to launch a public-education campaign to help us wisely spend the little money we do have. Why do we need so many foreign goods? And when are we going to start placing high value on our natural resources? In this stifling season of drought, we’ve all been feeling the power of the sun. Why have we taken so long to harness this free source of energy? Yes, the infrastructure is expensive, but it will quickly pay for itself.

images-1From the luxury of her job as managing director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde can tell us with great authority that more poverty is the route to economic security for us. We know better than that. Nutten no go so. Lagarde is the Fund’s guard. That’s what her name means. We had better watch over our lickle money.