Category Archives: culture

Sexual Falsehood Top To Bottom

ninth-280I got several emails last week from angry people trying to persuade me that Dwayne Jones was responsible for his own murder.  His crime was not cross-dressing.  It was deceit. But since the whole point of cross-dressing is to deceive, this distinction really makes no sense.

Some people passionately argued that the men who were deceived into thinking that Dwayne was female were the real victims.  And they had every right to take defensive action.  One woman compared the deceit to rape.  This is how she put it:  “There is an emerging way of telling stories nowadays that lays no responsibility on the victims whatsoever and I don’t get it.

“Dwayne was Jamaican.  Why did he put himself at risk like that? AND!!!! he also put the lives of other men at risk.  If no alarm had been made, some of those other men would have been labelled gay. Some of the men who were wined upon against their will may even have been traumatised for life.   As my friend was when his schoolmates from a prominent Kingston high school raped him”.

But the men who were ‘wined upon’ were quite willing to participate.  Dwyane did not wine on them against their will.  It was not rape.  It was consensual wining.  As far as the men knew, they were not dancing with a man.  Dwayne had become the self-styled ‘Gully Queen’.  It was pure theatre.

Simone Perrotta, Christian ChivuCross-dressing men are not necessarily gay.  And dancing with a cross-dressing man doesn’t automatically put a man at risk of being labelled gay.  Full body contact between Jamaican men is not always taboo.  It’s perfectly acceptable on the sports field. Footballers passionately embrace when a goal is scored.  It’s a ritual of the game.  I know it’s not exactly the same as wining in the dancehall.  But the body language is similar.  It’s just a different dialect.

BLOODY CLOTHS

Perhaps I’m expecting too much of Jamaican men.  But I think a self-confident man could have acted far differently to the outing of Dwayne.  A real man could have made a joke of it. He could have just said, “Bombo claat! Di bwoy good!  Im ketch mi fi true!” And even though Dwyane didn’t have a bombo, the profanity would have been enough of a judgement.

a-dictionary-jamaican-english-frederic-gomes-cassidy-paperback-cover-artThe so-called ‘bad’ word, ‘bombo’ is a perfectly good word of African origin, meaning ‘vulva’.  But like many other elements of African culture in Jamaica, the word has been devalued.  The word shows up in Eric Partridge’s 1949 Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English where it’s described as “West Indian; orig[inally] a negroes’ word”.

Our own Dictionary of Jamaican English, published in 1967, notes that in the Zulu language there’s a similar word ‘bumbu’, meaning ‘pubic region’.   So a cloth for the bombo, like a cloth for blood, is simply a ‘sanitary pad’.  How a clean cloth could become a very dirty word in Jamaica is a whole other story.

And talking of cleaning cloths, I got an informative email from a Jamaican living abroad: “When I first came to Asia, I noticed that many men carried a small packet of wet wipes.  I asked what it was used for.  I learnt only Muslims did this. I learnt that they used it in the bathrooms to wipe their penises to ensure there was no dribbling after they passed urine. Urine on clothing is considered unclean and it is avoided like the plague.”  So our male cross-dressers at Caribbean Fashion Week do have a point.

LETTING THE COCK OUT

rooster-prev1230259193QKMb3gAll of the angry email-writers stopped short of saying that Dwayne should have been put to death.  They couldn’t quite go there.  But none of them laid any blame on the woman who let the cock out of the bag.  I think she should have taken a less scandalous approach.  She could have called Dwayne aside and said something like this:  “Hey bwoy!  Yu mad! Yu no know dem man wi kill yu if dem find out?  Mind yu self!”  But she didn’t.

Dwayne’s deception is an extreme version of the sexual games people play all the time.  These days, women have mastered the art of deceit.  They completely reengineer themselves:  false hair, false eyelashes, false nails, false breasts, false bottoms, false everything.  You can actually buy panties in local stores with padded bottoms.  And men have been known to stuff their briefs, especially when the contents are very brief.  A most wicked falsehood!

Picking up a ‘man’ or ‘woman’ at a dance is a very risky business. You really don’t know if you’re going to get fish or fowl.  It’s a big chance you take.  And as for online dating, that’s a whole other kettle of fish.  People just lie, out and out.  I’m amazed by the statistics you hear on American television about all the marriages that dating services have arranged.  I keep wondering about the divorce rates.

Before

I got a most intriguing email about a Chinese man, Jian Feng, whose unnamed wife gave birth to a rather ugly baby, in his opinion. The child looked like neither parent.  Feng assumed the child was a ‘jacket’ and accused his wife of adultery.  But that was not her abomination.  The rather plain woman had done extensive plastic surgery to make herself beautiful.  Genes don’t lie so the baby came out looking like the ‘real’ mother.

article-2223718-15B43F0C000005DC-575_306x423Jian Feng filed for divorce on the grounds that his wife had deceived him. He won the case and was awarded US$120,000 – more than  the US$100,000 his wife had spent on plastic surgery.  I suppose if Feng had been a certain kind of Jamaican man he would have batter-bruised his wife physically.

But divorce, in this case, is emotional abuse.  Why couldn’t Feng have lived with the fact that his wife simply wanted to be beautiful?  In much the same way, Dwyane Jones just wanted to be the gully queen.  Death is a very high price to pay for that forbidden desire.

JTA Bark An Bite

There are two spelling systems 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 linguist Frederic Cassidy.  It has been slightly amended 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
ddimages

Doran Dixon

Mi sorry fi JTA. Inna disya hard time, govament waan cut tiicha pay! No sah! Notn couldn’t go so. Mi do understand wa mek Doran Dixon an Paul Adams ha fi a bawl out. Yu can’t sidong mek mongrel daag rush-rush yu an waan bite-bite yu up. Yu ha fi run di daag! Worse if di daag look like seh it deh pon cocaine! Dixon seh JTA a no no likl puss weh fraid fi mongrel.

Puss an daag no av di same luck. Govament can do an seh anyting dem waan. But teacher no fi seh notn. Dem fi just sup it. Dat can’t right. All Bible tell yu seh yu no fi provoke yu pikni to wrath. To rahtid! An JTA a no govament lickle pikni. Dem a big smaddy. Dem have chat.

Inna fi wi Jamaican language wi love use metaphor an simile fi describe how wi feel. An mi no waan nobody lost dem pass come tell mi seh ‘metaphor’ an ‘simile’ a no fi wi Jamaican word. If English can tief so much word from Greek, Latin, French, not to mention fi wi owna Jamaican language, wa mek we can’t tief too? Pon top a dat, wi no ha fi use no label fi talk bout how wi talk. Wi no ha fi seh, ‘Dis a metaphor.’ Wi just dweet.

When Paul Adams seh, “The minister must be temporarily injected by cocaine”, dat a metaphor. How im fi go know if di minister deh pon drugs fi true? Im no mean it dat way. Fi real. Im mean to seh, di minister sound like seh im lik im head. Im no righted. Or like wi seh inna one next metaphor, it look like duppy a follow him. Di minister nah behave normal.

‘PAGE 2′ MONGREL

Same way when Dixon throw word bout mongrel, a bex im bex. An im right fi bex. An im know weh im a seh. Yu mighta no like di metaphor im use. But yu ha fi admit seh im mek im point. Di best joke, though, inna Jamaica, daag-mongrel an man-mongrel a two different kind a mongrel. Daag-mongrel a di bad-breed mongrel weh no got no pedigree. Wi mek up nuff proverb bout dem deh careless mongrel. Tek for instance, “Sorry fi mawga daag, mawga daag turn round bite yu.”

images-2Man-mongrel now, dat a one different-different story. Dem deh mongrel a di high-class mongrel. A dem run tings inna Jamaica. Look pon ‘Page 2′ inna di lickle beenie nyuuspiepa. A deh so yu see man an woman mongrel. Dem mix-up mix-up. Dem a no so-so black; an dem a no so-so white. Dem a no so-so Chiney or so-so Indian. Dem a lickle a dis an lickle a dat. Dem a ‘outa many, one smaddy’. Dem a di real-real tapanaaris Jamaican. An plenty so-so black people love mix up wid dem an gwaan like seh dem a mongrel fi true.

Anyhow, mi no know a which mongrel Dixon did a talk bout. Like a spite, it could a go two way inna dis ya case. If me was di minister, mi would a just go wid di man-mongrel an no bodder nyam up miself. After all, every daag have im day an every puss im 4 o’clock.

  • PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN
Paul Adams

Paul Adams

Mi sari fi JTA. Ina disya aad taim, govament waahn kot tiicha pie! Nuo sa! Notn kudn go so. Mi du andastan wa mek Doran Dixon an Paul Adams a fi a baal out. Yu kyaahn sidong mek mongrel daag rosh-rosh yu an waahn bait-bait yu op. Yu ha fi ron di daag! Wos if di daag luk laik se it de pan kokien! Dixon se JTA a no no likl pus we fried fi mongrel.

Pus an daag no av di siem lok. Govament kyahn du an se enting dem waahn. Bot tiicha no fi se notn. Dem fi jos sop i. Dat kyaahn rait. Aal Baibl tel yu se yu no fi provuok yu pikni tu raat. Tu raatid! An JTA a no govament likl pikni. Dem a big smadi. Dem av chat.

Ina fi wi Jamiekan langwij, wi lov yuuz metafa an simili fi diskraib ou wi fiil. An mi no waan nobadi laas dem paas kom tel mi se ‘metafa’ an ‘simili’ a no fi wi Jamiekan wod. If Inglish kyan tiif so moch wod fram Griik, Latn, French, nat tu menshan fi wi uona Jamiekan langwij, wa mek wii kyaahn tiif tu? Pan tap a dat, wi no ha fi yuuz no liebl fi taak bout ou wi taak. Wi no ha fi se, ‘dis a metafa’. Wi jos dwiit.

Wen Paul Adams se, “The minister must be temporarily injected by cocaine”, dat a metafa. Ou im fi go nuo if di minista de pan jrogs fi chruu? Im no miin it dat wie. Fi riil. Im miin tu se, di minista soun laik se im lik im ed. Im no raitid. Aar, laik wi se ina wan neks metafa, it luk laik dopi a fala im. Di minista naa biyiev naamal.

‘PAGE 2′ MONGREL

images-5Siem wie wen Dixon chruo wod bout mongrel, a beks im beks. An im rait fi beks. An im nuo we im a se. Yu maita no laik di metafa im yuuz. Bot yu a fi admit se im mek im paint. Di bes juok duo, ina Jamieka, daag-mongrel an man-mongrel a tuu difran kain a mongrel. Daag-mongrel a di bad-briid mongrel we no gat no pedigrii. Wi mek op nof pravorb bout dem de kielis mongrel. Tek far instans, “Sari fi maaga daag, maaga daag ton roun bait yu.”

Man-mongrel nou, dat a wan difran-difran tuori. Dem de mongrel a di ai-klaas mongrel. A dem ron tingz ina Jamieka. Luk pan ‘Page 2′ ina di likl biini nyuuspiepa. A de so yu si man an uman mongrel. Dem miks-op miks-op. Dem a no suoso blak; an dem a no suoso wait. Dem a no suoso Chaini ar suoso Indyan. Dem a likl a dis an likl a dat. Dem a ‘out a meni, wan smadi’. Dem a di riil-riil tapanaaris Jamiekan. An plenti suoso blak piipl lov miks op wid dem an gwaan laik se dem a mongrel fi chruu.

Eni-ou, mi no nuo a wich mongrel Dixon did a taak bout. Laik a spait, it kuda go tuu wie ina disya kies. If mii woz di minista, mi wuda jos go wid di man-mongrel an no bada nyam op miself. Aafta raal, evri daag av im die an evri pus im 4 a’klak.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

pan_logoI’m sorry for the JTA. In these hard times, the government wants to cut teachers’ pay! That can’t be right all. I certainly understand why Doran Dixon and Paul Adams had to protest. You can’t carelessly allow a mongrel dog to rush you and try to bite you all over. You have to shoo the dog! Worse if the dog looks as if it’s on cocaine! Dixon said the JTA is no pussy cat that’s  afraid  of mongrel dogs.

Cats and dogs aren’t equally lucky.  The government  can do and say anything it wants. But teachers mustn’t say anything.   They just have to put up with it.  That can’t be right. Even the Bible says you mustn’t provoke your children to wrath. Hell, no!  And the  JTA isn’t the government’s little child.  Teachers are adults. They have the right to speak out.

images-3In our Jamaican language we love to use metaphors and similes to describe how we feel. And I don’t want anyone to make the mistake of telling of me that  ‘metaphor’ and ‘simile’ are not really  Jamaican words. If English can steal so many words from Greek, Latin, French, not to mention our own Jamaican language, why can’t we steal too? Furthermore, we don’t need to use a label to define how we use language. We don’t have to say, ‘This is a metaphor’.  We just do it.

When Paul Adams says, “The minister must be temporarily injected by cocaine”, that’s a metaphor. How can he know if the minister is really on drugs? He doesn’t mean it literally.  What he’s actually saying is that the minister sounds as if he’s not thinking straight.  He’s lost it. Or, as we say in another  metaphor, it’s as if a spirit is stalking him.  The minister isn’t behaving normally.

‘PAGE 2′ MONGREL

In exactly the same way,  when Dixon provocatively used the word mongrel, he was angry.  And he had every right to be.  And he knew exactly what he was doing. You mightn’t  like the metaphor he used. But you have to concede  he did make his point. The best joke, though, is that in Jamaica, canine mongrels and human mongrels are  very  different breeds. Canine mongrels have no pedigree.  And there are lots of proverbs about those low-class mongrels. For instance, “If you take pity on a hungry dog  it will turn on you and bite you.”

images-9Now, human mongrels are a completely different story. They are high-class breeds.  They are the elite of Jamaican society.  Look on ‘Page 2′ in the tabloid newspaper.  There you’ll find lots of  human mongrels, both male and female.  They are mixed breed.  They are not fully black; and they are not fully white. They are not fully Chinese or fully Indian. They are a little of this and a little of that.  They are  ‘out of many, one person’.  They are the genuine, top-class  Jamaicans. And lots of ‘pure’ black people love to mix with them and get on as if they, too, are really mongrels.

Anyhow I don’t  know which breed of mongrel Dixon was  talking about. Quite contradictorily, it could go both ways in this case. If I were the minister, I would just go with  the human mongrel and  not bother to get upset. After all, every dog has its day and every cat its own time.

 

Every Hoe Have Dem Stick A Bush

hoeThere are two spelling systems 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 linguist Frederic Cassidy.  It has been slightly amended 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

soulmateA so old-time people seh. An a no so-so farm work dem dida talk bout. A man an woman business. Everybody have fi dem owna match. Hoe an stick wi find dem one anodder.

But tings an times change. Inna dis ya time, an a long time now, a no ongle hoe a look fi dem stick; an stick a look fi dem hoe. Stick a look fi stick; an hoe a look fi hoe. An some stick an hoe a look fi stick, hoe, front-end loader, backhoe, all kind a farm tool fi do di work, wid hand an machine!

images-2A no no problem fi me if di stick an di hoe dem join up ascorden to fi dem preference. Mi no business. A fi dem business. Di big problem a when di stick an di hoe hitch on pon one anodder an dem no match.  Last week Sunday, mi get one distressful email from one woman. Mek mi call her Precious. She did have one boyfriend fi 14 year. An she come fi find out seh im dida stick on pon one next man. She never know seh fi im stick never waahn no hoe.

Mi feel it fi her. Precious seh when she read di column, ”Straight’ Wives At Risk’, a di first time she bawl since April 10 when she mek up her mind fi lef di man. She seh, “I cried because you put into words what it feels like to know in the gut that he is on the down-low, but his logic, rhyme and reason play down every instinctive intuition I had.”

images-3Pon top a dat, even though Precious did suspect di man, she never decide her mind fi go do no HIV test. She fraid. She never waahn know seh she ketch anything from im. Yu see, dat a one a di big problem wid di low-down down-low man dem. If yu no careful, dem wi carry yu down wid dem. Yu gone under cover an yu fraid fi deal wid reality.

Anyhow, mi tell Precious fi bawl. Dat wi help wash off her heart. But so-so bawling not enough. Mi warn her seh she ha fi go do HIV test. An a no it one. A nuff more: herpes (1 & 2), hepatitis (B & C), gonorrhoea an syphilis. If yu tink bout all a di disease dem yu can ketch from sex – straight or bend up, wid or widout condom – yu mighta no bodder at all, at all.

REV Clinton ChisholmPing Pong

Rev. Clinton Chisholm

Then, mi put Precious in touch wid Debbie Thomas-Brown from the South Florida Connects support group. Ongle to discover, Precious did done find di website. She dida look fi help. By di way, mi hope some a unu did hear Debbie pon Rev Clinton Chisholm ‘Morning Watch’ radio programme pon Love FM Thursday gone. She good can’t done. An she a come on back 7 c’clock tomorrow morning.  Mi a encourage Debbie fi come a Jamaica fi gi one workshop fi straight spouse. Mi a go help her look sponsor. If any a oonu have any contact, oonu can email me.

Later down inna di week, mi get one lovely email from Precious. She go down a Comprehensive Health Centre pon Slipe Road an do di HIV test. God be praised, it negative. An she a go back go do di rest a di test dem. Mi a hope an pray di whole a dem come out negative.

An mi a wonder bout all a di odder Precious dem out deh, weh know from di bottom a yu heart seh yu man naa play straight. Yu fi follow backa Precious an lef di man pon di down-low. An lift up back yuself. Ongle yu can free yuself from mental slavery.

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

A so uol-taim piipl se. An a no suo-so faam wok dem dida taak bout. A man an uman bizniz. Evribadi av fi dem uona mach. Uo an stik wi fain dem wan anada.

images-1Bot tingz an taimz chienj. Ina dis ya taim, an a lang taim nou, a no ongl uo a luk fi dem stik; an stik a luk fi dem uo. Stik a luk fi stik; an uo a luk fi uo. An som stik an uo a luk fi stik, uo, front-en luoda, bakuo, aal kain a faam tuul fi du di wok, wid an ahn mashiin!

A no no prablem fi mi if di stik an di uo dem jain op azkaadn tu fi dem prefrans. Mi no bizniz. A fi dem bizniz. Di big prablem a wen di stik an di uo ich aan pan wan anada an dem no mach. Laas wiik Sonde, mi get wan dischresful iimiel fram wan uman. Mek mi kaal ar Precious. Shi did av wan bwaifren fi fuortiin ier. An shi kom fi fain out se im dida stik aan pan wan neks man. Shi neva nuo se fi im stik neva waahn no uo.

Mi fiil it fi ar. Precious se wen shi riid di kalom, ‘Straight’ Wives At Risk’, a di fos taim shi baal sins Iepril 10 wen shi mek op ar main fi lef di man. Shi se, “I cried because you put into words what it feels like to know in the gut that he is on the down-low, but his logic, rhyme and reason play down every instinctive intuition I had.”

Intuition-Two-26408605_S-570x570Pan tap a dat, iivn duo Precious did sospek di man, shi neva disaid ar main fi go du no HIV tes. Shi fried. Shi neva waahn nuo se shi kech enting fram im. Yu si, dat a wan a di big prablem wid di luo-dong, dong-luo man dem. If yu no kierful, dem wi kyari yu dong wid dem. Yu gaan aanda kova an yu fried fi diil wid riiyaliti.

Eniou, mi tel Precious fi baal. Dat wi elp wash aaf ar aat. Bot suo-so baalin nat enof. Mi waan ar se shi ha fi go du HIV tes. An a no it wan. A nof more: erpiiz (1 & 2), epataitis (B & C), gonariiya an sifilis. If yu tingk bout aal a di diziiz dem yu kyan kech fram seks – schriet ar ben op, wid ar widout kandom – yu maita no bada at aal, at aal.

Den, mi put Precious in toch wid Debbie Thomas-Brown fram di South Florida Connects sopuort gruup. Ongl tu diskova, Precious did don fain di websait. She dida luk fi elp. Bai di wie, mi uop som a unu did ier Debbie pan Rev Clinton Chisholm ‘Morning Watch’ riedyo pruogram pan Love FM Torzde gaan. Shi gud kyaahn don. An shi a kom aan bak 7 aklak tumara maanin. Mi a enkorij Debbie fi kom a Jamieka fi gi wan wokshap fi schriet spous. Mi a go elp ar luk spansa. If eni a unu av eni kantak, unu kyahn iimiel mi.

images-4Lieta dong ina di wiik, mi get wan lovli iimiel fram Precious. Shi go dong a Comprehensive Health Centre pan Slipe Road an du di HIV tes. Gad bi priez, it negitiv. An shi a go bak go du di res a di tes dem. Mi a uop an prie di uol a dem kom out negitiv. An mi a wanda bout aal a di ada Precious dem out de, we nuo fram di batam a yu aat se yu man naa plie schriet. Yu fi fala baka Precious an lef di man pan di dong-luo. An lif op bak yuself. Ongl yu kyahn frii yuself fram mental slievri.

ENGLISH

SOULMATE-HeartThat’s what the old folks said.    And they weren’t talking about just farming.  It was sex as well.  Everybody has a soul mate. Hoes and sticks will find their fit. But things and times do change.  These days, and it’s quite some time now, it’s not only hoes that are looking for their sticks; and sticks looking for their hoes.  Sticks are looking for sticks; and hoes are looking for hoes.  And some sticks and hoes are looking for sticks, hoes, front-end loaders, backhoes, all kinds of farm tools for manual and mechanical work!

It’s not a problem for me if sticks and hoes connect however they choose.  That’s not my business.  It’s theirs.  The big problem is if the sticks and hoes get stuck and they’re not compatible.  Last Sunday, I got a distressing email from a woman.  Let’s call her Precious.  She’s had a boyfriend for all of fourteen years.  And she’s just discovered that he’s gay. She didn’t know he wasn’t into women.

I felt her pain.  Precious said when she read the column, “‘Straight’ Wives At Risk”, it was the first time she cried since April 10 when she made up her mind to leave the man.  She said, “I cried because you put into words what it feels like to know in the gut that he is on the down-low, but his logic, rhyme and reason play down every instinctive intuition I had”.

gettestedAnd even though Precious did have her suspicions about the man, she couldn’t bring herself to do an HIV test.  She was scared. She didn’t want to know if she’d been infected by her partner.   That’s one of the big problems with low-down, down-low men.  If you’re not careful, they will carry you down with them. You go under cover and you’re afraid to deal with reality.

Anyhow, I told Precious she should cry.  It’s therapeutic.  But crying isn’t enough.  I advised her to get tested.  And not just the HIV test.  There are many more: herpes (1 & 2), hepatitis (B & C), gonorrhea and syphillis.  If you were to think about all the sexual diseases you can contract – doing it straight or bent, with or without a condom – you probably wouldn’t bother at all.

Then, I put Precious in touch with Debbie Thomas-Brown from the South Florida Connects support group.  Believe it or not, Precious had already found the website.  She’d been looking for help.  By the way, I hope some of you caught Debbie on Rev. Clinton Chisholm’s “Morning Watch” radio programme on Love FM last Thursday.  She was excellent.  And she’ll be coming on again at 7 o’clock tomorrow morning.  I’m encouraging Debbie to come to Jamaica to do a workshop for straight spouses.  I’m going to help her find sponsorship.  If any of you have contacts, you can email me.

41K750RkBBL._SL500_AA280_Later in the week, I got a lovely email from Precious.  She went to the Comprehensive Health Centre on Slipe Rd. and did the HIV test.  God be praised, it was negative.  And she’s going back to do all of the other tests. I’m hoping and praying they’ll all be negative.  And I keep wondering about all of the other women who know in your heart of hearts that your man isn’t playing it straight.  You should follow Precious’ example and leave the man on the down-low.  And lift yourself back up.  Only you can free yourself from mental slavery.

‘Straight’ Spouses At Risk

images-1No matter how hard I try to filter out spam, I end up getting all sorts of unwanted email messages: fraudulent appeals from friends supposedly stranded abroad who need large sums of money to help them come home; sales pitches from China offering goods and services I don’t need; notices that I’ve won huge sums of money in lotteries for which I don’t even have a ticket. You know the usual thing.

The most interesting bit of unsolicited mail I got last week was from South Florida Connects, Inc. Its tag line is ‘No Straight Spouse Left Behind: Straight Spouse Awareness’. The language is old-fashioned, but the issues are current. The website reveals that “You are a straight spouse if you are a heterosexual individual married to or dating someone who is secretly gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgendered.”

images-2I immediately wondered how you would know that your allegedly heterosexual partner is not what he or she appears to be if his/her double life really is a secret. That’s the trouble with being an English teacher. You constantly pay attention to the meaning of words. All the same, I suppose secrets have a way of slipping out, especially if the spouse in hiding secretly wishes to come clean.

The website offers the assurance that “[i]t is better to be hurt by the truth than to be comforted with a dangerous lie”. Then again, proverbial wisdom advises that “where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise”. Anyhow, I called the number on the website (954-815-6563) and left a voicemail message.

Ian Boyne

Ian Boyne

PAINFUL RELIGIOUS HARD TALK

The night before I got the ‘straight spouse’ email, I watched ‘Religious Hardtalk’, hosted by Ian Boyne. It was painful. I saw my friend Annie Kitchin valiantly trying to engage in intelligent conversation with the Rev Clinton Chisholm. She had a hard time. Rev Chisholm defines himself as a “Christian apologist”. This is not the same as an apology for a Christian. Annie declared herself to be an atheist.

The problem with being an apologist for any cause is that you often end up appearing irrational. Even if, as in the case of Rev Chisholm, your cause is proving the rationality of Christianity! An apologist takes a position and refuses to budge. On the subject of homosexuality and the Bible, the good reverend seemed unwilling to concede that the laws of Leviticus which sentence to death perpetrators of “unnatural” acts are unconscionably outdated. Well, that’s how it sounded to me.

images-4Annie was on form, completely dismissive of the backward view that all Old Testament laws have validity in modern times. She systematically demolished Rev Chisholm’s arguments. But, of course, he may not agree. In any case, it is precisely this hanging on to irrelevant biblical codes of conduct that makes us so unwillingly to accept the fact that the human rights of all homosexuals in Jamaica ought to be protected under the law. Not only those whose class privilege usually gives them immunity.

And just as the rights of lesbians, all-sexuals and gays need to be protected, so too ‘straight’ people should be protected from the guile of deceitful spouses. We need a ‘straight spouse’ support group in Jamaica. It’s the flip side of J-FLAG. I searched the Internet to see if we already had a support group here. I ended up right where I started: on the South Florida Connects, Inc website.

NO SEX ON HONEYMOON

Debbie Thomas-Brown

Debbie Thomas-Brown

Debbie Thomas-Brown, a Jamaican nurse and former schoolteacher, founded the association based on her own experience and the fact that her research showed there was no support for immigrant straight spouses like her. Right off the bat, she said the fundamental problem is that Jamaica makes being gay a crime. Our society does not allow gay people to be their authentic selves. So many pretend to be heterosexual for an easy life.

Their spouses pay the price, especially innocent young women raised in Christian homes who have little sexual experience and no point of comparison to measure their spouse’s performance – or lack of it. Debbie told me about a young couple who had no sex on their honeymoon. The husband had absolutely no interest. Then the wife caught him with a huge erection, pleasuring himself with the help of gay porn. You can just imagine how she felt.

images-8Deprived of sex, neglected wives start to believe that something is wrong with them. Their husbands tell them they are too thin or too fat. They are just not sexy. In some instances, their husbands have sex (with them) only once a year. Debbie argues that gay men tend to marry women with low self-esteem, who often have anxieties about their attractiveness.

Another target group is women in service-oriented professions who have been trained to keep secrets: nurses, teachers, doctors, social workers, lawyers and police. They are not likely to ‘out’ their partners. And if the women do confront their husbands in private, even with very good evidence, the men usually accuse their wives of being ‘crazy’. And the women start to doubt themselves because that’s the last thing they really want to believe.

images-9I learnt that there’s a Grindr app designed for gay men that facilitates quick hook-ups. It’s available all over the world. Say you’re in the National Stadium at a football match and you send out a message that you want a ‘Canadian’. In the jargon, that’s an uncircumcised penis. In two twos, the app will locate several willing members nearby. It’s as easy as that.

Debbie said she would love to be a guest on ‘Religious Hardtalk’. She has a particular burden for Christian women who get caught in relationships with men on the down-low. And it’s not only women who are conned. Heterosexual men also end up marrying lesbians in the church. Finding a ‘good’ man or woman in the house of the Lord is not as straightforward as we once thought it was. Over to you, Pastor Boyne!

Alpha Boys’ School Get New Logo

Prof. Hubert Devonish, Co-ordinator, Jamaican Language Unit

Prof. Hubert Devonish, Co-ordinator,
Jamaican Language Unit, UWI

There are two spelling systems 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 linguist Frederic Cassidy.  It has been slightly amended 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

ABS-NEW-LOGO-REDBig press conference keep up a Alpha yesterday fi show off di new logo fi di school. A long time now Alpha deh bout.  Inna 1880, Miss Jessie Ripoll buy 43 acre a land pon South Camp Road.  An she set up di Alpha Cottage fi look after poor people pikni. Fi di first, she did ongle tek een girl.

Inna 1884, Miss Ripoll decide fi start tek een boy pikni weh a gi trouble.  So dem seh. Plenty time a no di pikni dem a gi trouble.  A trouble tek dem.  Any way, Alpha school tek een di pikni dem an try wid dem fi keep dem outa trouble.

Inna 1890, govament gi permission fi Alpha turn ‘Industrial School’ an gi four shilling an eight pence fi di week fi di pikni dem, one-one. Dem time deh, a twelve pikni inna di school. Di pikni dem learn from book an dem learn fi use dem hand.  All a di pikni dem ha fi learn a trade.  Di school have a print shop, a woodwork shop, a tailor shop an a music shop.

lAn a music build up Alpha name over di year dem! A nuff-nuff big-time musician come outa Alpha: Dizzy Reece, Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks, Theophilus Beckford, Rico Rodriguez, Winston ‘Yellowman’ Foster, Vin Gordon, Harold McNair, Joe Harriott, ‘Deadly’ Headley Bennett, Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace, Leroy Smart an nuff-nuff more!

SKATALITES

holy-trinity-cathedral-jamaica1Di Alpha band start up inna 1892. Dem deh time, dem dida play drum an fife.  Den inna 1908, di school get some brass instrument from di Roman Catholic bishop. An a deh so dem buss out!  Come on to 1911, di band so good, di boy dem lead di march go a North Street fi bless Holy Trinity Cathedral.

An a so dem a gwaan.  Inna 1953, Alpha put on di first military parade fi honour di Queen coronation.  An dem keep up one big show, “March to Nationhood”, fi celebrate independence inna 1962.  Di Skatalites band form inna1964, an a four a dem come from Alpha: Tommy McCook, Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Moore, Lester Sterling an Don Drummond.

So hear how Alpha get new logo.  By di way, ‘logo’ a di pet name fi ‘logogram’.  Dat deh word mek up outa two Greek word – ‘logos’ an ‘gram’.  Logos mean word an gram mean enting weh draw or write, all like di letter dem inna di alphabet.  Dat simple mean, logo a di picture fi di word.

Freestylee-500pxMichael ‘Freestylee’ Thompson, one top-a-top Jamaican graphic artist, im draw one beautiful picture fi represent Alpha:  one lickle yute a blow im horn.  An yu can see seh di pikni feel im owna strength an know im power di way im a hold di horn.   Michael did put di picture inna di show weh dem did keep a National Gallery fi di “International Reggae Poster Contest” weh im did organize wid a next graphic artist, Maria Papaefstathiou, weh come from Greece.  When di head a Alpha, Sister Susan Frazer, see Michael poster, she know seh a it dat.  An a so Michael gi Alpha leave an licence fi use fi im ‘gram’ fi dem ‘logo’.  Rispek due!

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

images-3Big pres kanfrens kip op a Alpha yeside fi shuo aaf di nyuu luogo fi di skuul. A lang taim nou Alpha a gwaan.  Ina 1880, Mis Jessie Ripoll bai 43 ieka a lan pan South Camp Ruod.  An shi set op di Alpha Cottage fi luk aafta puor piipl pikni. Fi di fos, shi did ongl tek iin gorl.

Ina 1884, Mis Ripoll disaid fi staat tek iin bwai pikni we a gi chrobl.  So dem se. Plenti taim a no di pikni dem a gi chrobl.  A chrobl tek dem.  Eni wie, Alpha skuul tek iin di pikni dem an chrai wid dem fi kip dem outa chrobl.

Ina 1890, govament gi pormishan fi Alpha ton ‘Industrial School’ an gi fuor shilin an iet pens fi di wiik fi di pikni dem, wan-wan. Dem taim de, a twelv pikni ina di skuul. Di pikni dem lorn fram buk an dem lorn fi yuuz dem an.  Aal a di pikni dem a fi lorn a chried.  Di skuul av a print shap, a udwok shap, a tiela shap an a myuuzik shap.

images-4An a myuuzik bil op Alpha niem uova di ier dem! A nof-nof big-taim myuuzishan kum outa Alpha: Dizzy Reece, Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks, Theophilus Beckford, Rico Rodriguez, Winston ‘Yellowman’ Foster, Vin Gordon, Harold McNair, Joe Harriott, ‘Deadly’ Headley Bennett, Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace, Leroy Smart an nof-nof muor!

Di Alpha ban staat op ina 1892. Dem de taim, dem dida plie jom an faif.  Den ina 1908, di skuul get som braas inschroment fram di Roman Catholic bishop. An a de so dem bos out!  Kom aan tu 1911, di ban so gud, di bwai dem liid di maach go a North Schriit fi bles Holy Trinity Cathedral.

SKATALITES

SkatalitesAn a so dem a gwaan.  Ina 1953, Alpha put aan di fos militeri paried fi ana di Kwiin karanieshan.  An dem kip op wan big shuo, “March to Nationhood”, fi selibriet indipendens ina 1962.  Di Skatalites ban faam ina1964, an a fuor a dem kom fram Alpha: Tommy McCook, Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Moore, Lester Sterling an Don Drummond.

So ier ou Alpha get nyuu luogo.  Bai di wie, ‘logo’ a di pet niem fi ‘logogram’.  Dat de wod mek op outa tuu Griik wod – ‘logos’ an ‘gram’.  Logos miin wod an gram miin enting we jraa ar rait, aal laik di leta dem ina di alfabet.  Dat simpl miin, logo a di pikcha fi di wod.

Michael ‘Freestylee’ Thompson, wan tap-a-tap Jamiekan grafik aatis, im jraa wan byuutiful pikcha fi riprizent Alpha:  wan likl yuut a bluo im aan.  An yu kyahn si se di pikni fiil im uona chrent an nuo im powa di wie im a uol di aan. Michael did put di pikcha ina di shuo we dem did kip a National Gallery fi di “International Reggae Poster Contest” we im did aaganaiz wid a neks grafik aatis, Maria Papaefstathiou, we kom fram Griis.  Wen di ed a Alpha, Sista Susan Frazer, si Michael puosta, shi nuo se a it dat.  An a so Michael gi Alpha liiv an laisn fi yuuz fi im ‘gram’ fi dem ‘logo’.  Rispek djuu!

http://www.reggaepostercontest.com/

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

ABS-NEW-LOGO-FINAL-CRVA big press conference was held at Alpha yesterday to unveil the school’s new logo. Alpha has been around for quite some time how.  In 1880, Miss Jessie Ripoll bought 43 acres of land on South Camp Road.  And she set up the Alpha Cottage to care for the children of the poor. At first, she took in only girls.

Then in 1884, Miss Ripoll decided to start taking in boys who were giving trouble.  Well, that’s what was said. Many times it’s not really the children who are giving trouble.  It’s actually a case of trouble finding them.  Anyway, the Alpha school took in the children and worked with them to keep them out of trouble.

In 1890, the government recognised Alpha as an ‘Industrial School’ and gave an allowance of four shillings and eight pence per week for each of the children. In those days, there were twelve pupils in the school. The students got both academic and practical training.  All of them had to learn a trade.  The school had a printery, a joinery workshop, a tailor shop and a music school.

images-6And it’s music which established Alpha’s reputation over the years! A lot of great musicians have come out of Alpha: Dizzy Reece, Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks, Theophilus Beckford, Rico Rodriguez, Winston ‘Yellowman’ Foster, Vin Gordon, Harold McNair, Joe Harriott, ‘Deadly’ Headley Bennett, Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace, Leroy Smart and many, many more!

SKATALITES

The Alpha band started in 1892 as a drum and fife corps.  Then in 1908, the school got some brass instruments from the Roman Catholic bishop. And that’s when the band took off!  By 1911, the band was so good, the boys led the procession to North Street to dedicate the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

skatalites-logo-blk-300x264And they just kept on going from strength to strength.  In 1953, Alpha put on the first military parade to mark the coronation of the Queen.  And they mounted a huge show, “March to Nationhood”, to celebrate independence in 1962.  The Skatalites band was formed in1964, and four of them come out of Alpha: Tommy McCook, Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Moore, Lester Sterling and Don Drummond.

So this is how Alpha got its new logo.  By the way, ‘logo’ is an abbreviation of ‘logogram’, which is made up of two Greek words – ‘logos’ and ‘gram’.  Logos means word and gram means an image, like a letter of the alphabet.  Simply put, a logo is a picture representing a word.

Michael put his picture in the show that was kept at the National Gallery for the “International Reggae Poster Contest”.  He co-organised the contest with another graphic artist, Maria Papaefstathiou, from Greece. http://www.graphicart-news.com/

When the principal of Alpha, Sister Susan Frazer, saw Michael’s poster, she knew instantly that that was it.  And that’s how Michael came to give Alpha permission to use his ‘gram’ for their ‘logo’.  Rispek due!

Michael ‘Freestylee’ Thompson to speak at UWI

Freestylee-500pxMichael ‘Freestylee’ Thompson, co-founder of the International Reggae Poster Contest, will speak about his work as a politically engaged graphic artist on Thursday, April 18 at 7:00 p.m. in the Neville Hall lecture theatre (N1) at the University of the West Indies, Mona.  Thompson, a Jamaican who now resides in the U.S., is a distinguished graduate of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.

In an interview posted on the Jamaica Primetime website, published June 7, 2010, Thompson highlights the cultural and political messages in his poster art:  “My graphic designs, and in particular my posters like the ones on Flickr draw their influences in terms of style from the retro Cuban Revolutionary Poster of the 1960s. The “golden age” as that period is called. The aesthetics and communication are based on the principle that “simple is best” and the message is king. The designs can be placed in the category of modern iconic art with strong political or social messages.

saudi2.jpg.w300h405“These types of activist or socially conscious art are now becoming main stream; made popular by artists like Bansky and Shepherd Fairey whom I admire greatly. My designs are quite varied, depending on the poster type and whether it is political or cultural, regional or international. I tend to lend a voice to issues which I feel passionate about, such as injustice against indigenous people, environmental exploitation and poverty.

“However, I also touch on Jamaica’s rich historical and cultural past. Jamaica’s musical experience is a treasure I just cannot ignore; Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae. My style is also deeply rooted in Jamaican popular symbols mostly from the iconic years of the 1970s. I take those images from Jamaica’s urban visuals and turn them into cool posters of our time. Images include hand carts, skates, Honda 50s, s-90 (Honda motorcycle), Rastafarian lion of Judah etc; turning them into hip international visual icons, anything that is retro Jamaican was fair game.

“I try to keep the designs crisp with a minimalist feel yet visually powerful. I always retain a fresh and direct approach to my designs. I illustrate all the elements and just roll with it in a freestyle way. The political side of my art plays a big role in my design collection. They speak on the burning international issues and conflicts. The Israeli attack on Gaza and the wider Israeli Palestinian conflict, the US embargo on Cuba, Healthcare, Police brutality, Exploitation in the Amazon, Freedom, Anti War and Peace, Tibet, and Globalization. I guess I am an internationalist at heart and so is my art”.

Alpha-Boys-SchoolThompson recently designed and generously donated a logo for the Alpha Boys’ School which has nurtered several generations of Jamaican musicians. Sister Susan Frazer, RSM, Director of the school, first saw the illustration of the boy playing the trombone that would become Alpha’s logo at the ‘World A Reggae’ exhibition held at the National Gallery of Jamaica in September 2012. “The moment I saw Michael’s work and the image which is now the Alpha logo I instantly knew it would fit perfectly with our history and our vision for the future at Alpha,” remembers Sister Susan. “The logo has really become not just about branding but a catalyst for collective action across the Alpha community”.

An exhibition of Thompson’s reggae posters is on show at the UWI Museum. These posters were used in the design of the Global Reggae book, edited by Carolyn Cooper.  Maria Papaefstathiou, a Greek graphic artist who co-founded the International Reggae Poster Contest, designed the elegant book:

http://www.behance.net/gallery/Global-Reggae-Book/7627493

Dr. Suzanne Francis-Brown, curator of the museum, says Thompson’s exhibition has attracted a lot of positive attention, both for the vibrant graphics and for the reggae music content. Visitors have been intrigued by his visualisation of the music from its early days through to its global incarnations. The exhibition remains up through the month of April, in tandem with an exhibition on the Origins of the University of the West Indies.

michael-thompson-freestylee-i-am-tivoliThe UWI Museum is located on the ground floor of the University’s Regional Headquarters on the Hermitage Road, across from the main entrance to the Mona Campus.  Opening hours are 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  On the 18th of April, the Museum will remain open until 6:30 p.m. to facilitate visitors on their way to Thompson’s talk.  He will speak on the subject, “Freestylee:  Artist Without Borders”.  The public is invited to attend and admission is free.

Protoje to lecture at UWI

Protoje20130220CThe Department of Literatures in English, University of the West Indies, Mona continues our series of ‘Reggae Talks’  on Thursday, March 28  at 7:00 p.m.  This week’s  featured guest is Protoje.  He will speak on the topic, “Music From My Heart”.  The venue is the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre in the Faculty of Humanities and Education.   Copies of his latest CD, “Eight Year Affair” will be on sale for $1,000.  The public is invited to attend and admission is free.

Who’s In Charge of the Rompin’ Shop?

Hot_Dancehall_Queen_by_answer973March is International Women’s Month.  It’s a good a time to talk about sexual politics in dancehall culture which is often dismissed by outsiders as misogynist. But dancehall culture can be seen in a quite different way as a celebration of full-bodied female sexuality.  Especially the substantial structure of the Black working-class woman whose body image is rarely validated in the middle-class Jamaican media!

The uninhibited display of female bodies in the dancehall is vividly illustrated in the lyrics of two foundation deejays whose endurance is legendary: Shabba Ranks and Lady Saw.   References to fleshy female body parts and oscillatory functions should not be seen just as devaluation of female sexuality.

32349In “Gone Up,” from the As Raw as Ever 1991 CD, Shabba, playing on the proverbial association between food and sex, notes that the price of a number of commodities is going up.  To a chorus of affirmative female voices, he asks women a rather pointed question and proceeds to give advice on negotiating a mutually beneficial sexual contract:

Woman, wa unu a do fi unu lovin?

(Wi a raise it to)

Before yu let off di work

Yu fi defend some dollars first

Mek a man know seh

Ten dollar can’t buy French cut

No mek no man work yu out

A body line, old truck.

‘Everything a raise’

images-2Shabba makes it clear that he’s not advocating prostitution. The complicated relationships between men and women cannot be reduced to purely economic terms of exchange. He insists that men must assume responsibility for their sexual partner.  It’s a moral issue:

Is not a matter a fact seh dat unu a sell it.

But some man seh dat dem want it.

As dem get it, dem run gone lef it.

No mek no man run gone lef it

An yu no get profit

Everything a raise, so weh unu a do?

Shabba encourages robotic, domesticated females to stand up for themselves. They are often too timid to question the unequal exchange of services and resources in the household:

Have some woman gwaan like dem no worth

Hitch up inna house like a house robot

House fi clean, dem clean dat up

An clothes fi wash, dem wash dat up

An dollars a run an dem naa get enough

Shabba chastises irresponsible men who waste household resources on carousing with their male cronies:

IcyMint32x405g100ctNow yu have some man no want do no spending

Dem wuda do di spending pon dem bredrin

An naa buy dem darling  a icymint.

An icymint is one of the cheapest sweets on the market. The depth of the delinquent man’s failure is measured in very common currency.

Erotica or pornography?

Lady Saw would certainly not put up with this kind of cheap man. In a decisive act of feminist emancipation, she cuts loose from conventional social expectations. Marian Hall’s spectacular performance of the role of “Lady Saw” is not often acknowledged as a calculated decision by the actress to make the best of the opportunity to earn a good living in the theatre of the dancehall.

images-3     Flamboyantly exhibitionist, Lady Saw embodies the erotic. But one viewer’s erotica is another’s pornography. So Lady Saw is usually censured for being far too loose—or “slack”. Even worse, she is often dismissed as a mere victim of patriarchy, robbed of all power. But it is Lady Saw’s anansi-like personality that appeals to a wide cross-section of intelligent fans – both male and female.

In addition to the sexually explicit songs for which she is infamous, Lady Saw’s repertoire includes impeccable hymns, country and western laments, songs of warning to women about the wiles of men and politically “conscious” lyrics that constitute hardcore socio-cultural analysis.

pa-4942810In a radio interview in the “Uncensored” series on Fame FM, Lady Saw boldly countered charges of vulgarity with absolute self- assurance:

Interviewer: Lady Saw, you do things like, yu grab yu crotch on stage. . . .

Lady Saw: Uh huh. Michael Jackson did it and nobody say anything about it.

Interviewer: And you gyrate on the ground. I mean, do you think this is acceptable for a woman?

Lady Saw: Yes, darling. For this woman. And a lot of woman would like to do the same but I guess they are too shy.

Shyness is not one of Lady Saw’s virtues. In response to the question, “Some people are saying that you are vulgar on stage and your lyrics are indecent. Do you think they are justified?”, she dismissively asserts: “I think critics are there to do their job and I am here to my job . . .  to entertain and please my fans.”

Aphrodisiac Avocado

So who’s in charge of the rompin’ shop? In the case of Shabba Ranks and Lady Saw it’s a clear draw.  And, not so surprisingly, even the frontrunners of the reggae revival are singing rompin’ shop songs. Last Thursday evening, Janine ‘Jah9’ Cunningham gave a brilliant lecture at the University of the West Indies, Mona, tracing her musical journey to her first CD, New Name.

images-4One of Jah9’s sweetest tracks ‘bigs up’ her ‘humble lion’ who is almost seven feet tall and wears size 14.  He satisfies her with the ‘right remedy’:  avocado. The aphrodisiac qualities of this fruit are well known.  At the album launch at Redbones, she put on the mask of her sunglasses to sing “Avocado”.

Jah9’s lecture was the first in a series of ‘Reggae Talks’ that are being hosted by the Department of Literatures English. Protoje will give this week’s lecture on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. in the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre (N1).  No-Maddz, Cali P and Michael ‘Freestylee’ Thompson follow.  The public is invited and admission is free. The reggae dancehall rompin’ shop has many rooms.

Chávez Duppy Dream Sista P

Frederic Cassidy

Frederic Cassidy

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

Prapa-Prapa Spelin

imagesChávez dopi bierli riich evn an im disaid fi lef kom luk fi Sista P.  Im a no wan a dem man we lov logzyuri.  Im naa go waahn liv no ai laif op a evn, a waak pan ruod mek outa guol, an a sing an daans an plie aap, an a jrink milk an oni, an im wel nuo se nof piipl pan ort naa notn fi hiit an jrink. An no bada taak bout patuol!  Aal inna Jamieka.  No, sa! Chávez a wan a di wan-an-fyuu palitishan wid kanshens.  A it mek im dopi disaid fi flai doun kom taak tu Sista P.  Ier we im tel ar se.

Portia Simpson Miller

Portia Simpson Miller

Querida Portia, mi glad fi si yu kom a mi fineral.  Rispek dyuu!  Bai di wie, yu fi taak tu di Prezident a yu Senet.  Im no redi.  Mi no laik ou im dis di Jostis Minista.  Bot dat a wan neks tuori.  Yu don nuo mi lov Jamieka.  Luk ou mi gi unu wan gud-gud diil pan di ail.  So yu wuda a fi kom a mi fineral fi sen mi aaf inna stail.  Bot so moch a unu?  Wa mek yu antaraaj so big an braad, Sista P? Yu a gwaan laik se yu a wan a dem bran niem DJ.  A we unu get di moni fi di uol a unu kom magl a mi fineral?  Mi ongl uop a no Ouzn Chos.

Life and Debt

Peter Phillips

Peter Phillips

Beg yu tel Peter Phillips fi tek im an outa puor piipl pakit! Ouzn Chos moni a fi bil ous fi puor piipl.  A no fi bil op bojit.  If di bojit pap doun, Peter a fi go fain wan neks wie fi kach it op.  Mi a waan unu.  Wa staat bad a maanin kyaahn kom gud a iivnin.  Fram unu staat nyam out Ouzn Chos moni, tingz a go go fram bad tu wos tu wosara.  Wa a go apm wen it don?

Mi nuo se IMF a kwiiz unu nek.  Bot a fi unu faalt.  Wa mek unu gaan go rap op bak wid dem? Luk ou lang Michael Manley shuo wi se wi ha fi lef dem out!  Sista P, yu neva wach Stephanie Black flim, Life and Debt?  Lisn mi!  Wen yu ier wat Michael Manley se inna dat de flim, yu wuda nuo se Jamieka supuoz fi waak faar fram IMF.

http://www.lifeanddebt.org/

Yu nuo di big prablem wid Jamieka?  Unu ches tuu ai; an unu yai tuu big.  Unu a gwaan laik se unu a wash doun wid ail laka Venezuela an Trinidad an Tobago.  An iivn den.  Wa mek so moch farin fuud inna suupamaakit?  Wa rang wid Jamieka fuud?

math symbols_2Unu mout gluobal; an unu moni luokal.  An it kyaahn wok, Sista P. Unu a fi wiil an kom agen.  Mi naa se unu fi gu bak tu di aad life inna di sevntiz. Bot unu mos kyahn fain a wie fi liv pan di likl moni unu a mek.  Yu don nuo, mi an di American dem no plaahn no gungo a lain.  Bot mi a fi agrii wid Bill Clinton: “It’s arithmetic”.  A no suo-so palitiks.

Chaka-Chaka Spelling

Chávez duppy barely reach heaven an im decide fi lef come look fi Sista P.  Im a no one a dem man weh love luxury.  Im naa go waan live no high life up a heaven, a walk pon road mek outa gold, an a sing an dance an play harp, an a drink milk an honey, an im well know seh nuff people pon earth naa notn fi eat an drink. An no bodder talk bout pothole!  All inna Jamaica.  No, sah! Chávez a one a di one-an-few politician wid conscience.  A it mek im duppy decide fi fly down come talk to Sista P.  Hear weh im tell har seh.

Rev Stanley Redwood,President, Jamaican Senate

Rev Stanley Redwood,
President, Jamaican Senate

Querida Portia, mi glad fi see yu come a mi finaral.  Rispek due!  By di way, yu fi talk to di President a yu Senate.  Im no ready.  Mi no like how im diss di Justice Minister.  But dat a one next story.  Yu done know mi love Jamaica.  Look how mi gi unu one good-good deal pon di oil.  So yu woulda ha fi come a mi fineral fi send mi off inna style.  But so much a unu?  Weh mek yu entourage so big an broad, Sista P? Yu a gwaan like seh yu a one a dem brand name DJ.  A weh unu get di money fi di whole a unu come moggle a mi finaral?  Mi ongle hope a no Housing Trust.

Life and Debt

images-5Beg yu tell Peter Phillips fi tek im hand outa poor people pocket!  Housing Trust money a fi build house fi poor people.  A no fi build up budget.  If di budget pop down, Peter ha fi go find one next way fi cotch it up.  Mi a warn unu.  Wa start bad a mornin kyaan come good a evening.  From unu start nyam out Housing Trust money, tings a go go from bad to worse to worserer. Wa a go happen wen it done?

Stephanie Black

Stephanie Black

Mi know seh IMF a squeeze unu neck.  But a fi unu fault.  Weh mek unu gone go wrap up back wid dem? Look how long Michael Manley show wi seh wi ha fi lef dem out!  Sista P, yu never watch Stephanie Black flim, Life and Debt?  Listen mi!  When yu hear wat Michael Manley seh inna dat deh flim, yu woulda know seh Jamaica suppose fi walk far from IMF.

Yu know di big problem wid Jamaica?  Unu chest too high; an unu yai too big.  Unu a gwaan like seh unu a wash down wid oil laka Venezuela an Trindad an Tobago.  An even den.  Wa mek so much farin food inna supermarket?  Wa wrong wid Jamaica food?

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton

Unu mouth global; an unu money local.  An it kyaahn work, Sista P. Unu ha fi wheel an come again.  Mi naa seh unu fi go back to di hard life inna di seventies. But unu must kyah find a way fi live pon di lickle money unu a mek.  Yu done know, me an di American dem no plant no gungo a line.  But mi ha fi agree wid Bill Clinton: “It’s arithmetic”.  A no so-so politics.

Chávez’s Ghost Visits Sister P

images-7Chávez had only just got to heaven when he decided to leave and visit Sister P.  He’s not one of those men who love luxury.  He wouldn’t want to live on easy street, walking on gold, singing and dancing and playing the harp and drinking milk and honey, knowing full well that there are so many starving people on earth.  And don’t even talk about potholes!  Especially in Jamaica.  Not at all! Chávez is one of the small number of politicians with a conscience.  So that’s why he decided to come back to earth to talk to Sister P.  This is what he told her.

images-8Querida Portia, I was so glad to see you at my funeral. Rispek due!  By the way, you should have a word with the President of your Senate.  He’s not on top of things.  I didn’t like the way he dissed the Justice Minister.  But that’s another story.  You know I really love Jamaica.  That’s why I gave you such a good deal on the oil.  So you would have had to come to my funeral to send me off in style.  But so many of you?  Why was your entourage so huge, Sister P? You’re behaving as if you’re one of those brand name DJs.  Where did you get the money for so many of you to come and profile at my funeral?  I only hope it wasn’t from the Housing Trust.

Life and Debt

wrong-trackPlease tell Peter Phillips to take his hand out of poor people’s pocket!  Housing Trust funds are to be used to build houses for poor people. Not to build up the budget.  If the budget isn’t viable, Peter will have to find another way to prop it up.  I’m warning you:  if you go down the wrong track, it’s hard to get back on course.  Once you start plundering the resources of the Housing Trust, things will go from bad to worse. What will happen when it’s all eaten up?

I know that the IMF has you by the throat.  But it’s your fault.  Why have you gotten mixed up with them again? So long ago Michael Manley showed us that we should avoid them!  Sister P, didn’t you watch Stephanie Black’s film, Life and Debt?  I tell you.  When you listen to what Michael Manley said in that film, you would know that Jamaica should have nothing to do with the IMF.

You know what’s Jamaica’s big problem?  You all are much too vain and greedy.  You’re behaving as if you have huge oil reserves like Venezuela and Trindad and Tobago.  And even so.  Why is there so much imported food in your supermarkets?  What’s wrong with Jamaican food?

3d-silver-math-symbolsYour taste is global; and your currency is local.  And that can’t work, Sister P. You have to go back to the drawing board.  I’m not saying you should return to the hard times of the seventies. But you must be able to find a way to live within your means, however meagre.  You very well know that the Americans and I don’t see eye to eye.  But I have to agree with Bill Clinton: “It’s arithmetic”.  It’s not just politics.

Patwa Step Up Inna Life!

images-7I don’t usually give in to the demands of domineering men.  But I simply couldn’t resist the appeal of Mr. R. Oscar Lofters who responded rather passionately to my column “Out of Many, Fi Wi Langgwij”, published on October 28, 2012:  “I demand that from now on the professor writes her columns totally in Patwa. I refuse to read anymore of her columns written in English. Since Jamaicans all speak, write and understand Patwa, why waste time writing in a mixture of both?”

I suppose Mr. Lofters was being sarcastic.  But the very thought that he might possibly have been sending a serious message to the Gleaner’s Opinion Page Editor sent waves of pleasure rushing through my being.  Here was a man after my own heart who was up for creativity; a man with a lofty vision of what my mother tongue could do.  Mr. Lofters seemed to be celebrating the unlimited potential of the Jamaican language as a tool of communication worthy of the Sunday Gleaner’s editorial page.

images-8However much my brain was stimulated by the thought of submitting to Mr. Lofters’ seductive proposition, I knew it was all anti-climactic.  My hands were tied. Four months ago, Mr. Lofters didn’t stand a chance in hell of having his ‘dream’ come true. I wasn’t allowed to write a whole column in Jamaican. I was restricted to one paragraph per week.

‘You Can’t Do Science In Patwa’

Then along came that VW Super Bowl ad!  And in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, everything changed.  The playing field is almost level. I’ve now been given ‘permission’ to write one column per month in Jamaican.  From one paragraph to a ‘whole-a’ column!  ‘Wat a sinting! Patwa step up inna life’.  It’s an experiment that will run for five months.

If readers approve, I may even be able to write a ‘proper-proper’ bilingual column once again:  one week in English, the other in Jamaican, as I did for the Observer in the 1990s.  It wasn’t easy to get the conservative editors of that juvenile newspaper to agree.  Youthfulness is no guarantee of creativity; and old age is no guarantee of wisdom.

Sarcasm-sarcasm-7520042-350-350With due respect to Mr. Lofters, I really don’t want to use ‘so-so Patwa’ each week, even though I thoroughly enjoy the challenges of writing expository prose in my mother tongue.  It’s a language we’ve been taught to diss:  it’s ‘limited’.  Sceptics keep on making silly claims like, ‘You can’t do science in Patwa.’

They don’t know that speakers of a language can make it do anything they want.  It’s not the language that’s doing the thinking.  And if you need technical vocabulary for new concepts, you simply make it up or ‘borrow’ from another language, the way speakers of English do all the time.

‘Mix Up and Blenda’     

Still for all, I’m never going to give up writing in English.  I just love the quirkiness of the language.  I think of English as the world’s greatest patois.  Its vocabulary is a tasty stew of basic Anglo-Saxon words and a host of borrowings from other languages such as Greek, Latin, Old Norman, French, Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Yoruba, Twi, Maori, Yiddish and, these days, even Jamaican!

images-9    Interestingly, the word ‘cashew’ entered the English language via Jamaica.  The story of this word and lots of others is told by the linguist Frederic Cassidy in his most entertaining and informative book, Jamaica Talk:  Three Hundred Years of the English Language in Jamaica.  Of course, there were other languages in Jamaica over the centuries.  The ‘mix up an blenda’ produced strange new words.

So ‘cashew’ comes from French ‘acajou’, from Portuguese ‘acaju’, from Tupi Indian ‘acajú’.  According to Cassidy, the Oxford English Dictionary “first cites the word from 1703, but it was borrowed at least forty-five years before that time.  In The State of Jamaica (dated post 1660), we find ‘Cashues’ in a list of fruits along with ‘supotillia, advocatas, custard apples’ and others”.

Once you understand the arbitrariness of language, it becomes much easier to accept variation as part of the natural flow of things.  So when a Jamaican speaker pronounces ‘cashew’ as ‘kyáshu’ or ‘kúshu’, this is certainly not ‘bad English’.  Especially since ‘cashew’ isn’t English at all.  Cassidy also notes that the dropping off of the ‘a’ from ‘acajou’ “appears to be a part of the original adoption”.  So Jamaicans are responsible for cashew losing its head.

images-10      Native speakers of English are often not hooked on ‘correctness’ in the way that up-tight, second-language learners often are.  They actually experiment with their mother tongue, making it do all sorts of interesting things.  Words like ‘bling’ and ‘diss’ have found their way into English not just as slang, but as ‘respectable’ new vocabulary, heard on the BBC.

‘Mi Just Kyaan Read Patwa’

The big problem with writing a column in Jamaican is the mindset of many potential readers. I’m always amazed at the way some people say with apparent pride, “Mi just kyaan read Patwa”.  As though this is a sign of congenital superiority.

images-11      But many Jamaicans routinely read and write in our mother tongue.  We just don’t seem to be conscious of what we’re doing.  Or we don’t want to admit it.  We send text messages in ‘Patwa’ all the time.  And think of all those Jamaican jokes that circulate on the Internet.

There’s a standard writing system for the Jamaican language that was developed almost fifty years ago.  But it has not been widely taught in school.  That’s not surprising.  Our school system really doesn’t take seriously the mother tongue of most Jamaicans. Well, better late than never. Starting next week, I’ll be using the official writing system along with a ‘chaka-chaka’ version.  Adventurous readers will get a chance to learn the ‘prapa-prapa sistim’.