Black Protest Shuts Down London Human Zoo

Hottentot_Venus_PosterBelieve it or not, in this day and age, Europe’s largest multi-arts centre, The Barbican, planned to stage last week a human zoo, featuring black bodies caught in degrading poses! The installation is the perverse work of a white South African, Brett Bailey.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, black bodies were put in cages and exhibited in human zoos in Europe and America purely for the pleasure of beastly white people. One of the most famous of these exhibits was the South African, Sarah Bartman, known as the Hottentot Venus.

Hottentot, now a derogatory term for the Khoi people, was joined with Venus, the Roman goddess of love, to show just how ridiculous it was to think of this black woman’s body as beautiful. Funnily enough, her substantial buttocks and breasts were being mocked at a time when white women were pumping up their bumper with nuff padding. Was it plain old envy that made Sarah Bartman so fascinating?

The first of the five images from the show on the Barbican’s website features a man trapped in a metal headpiece that covers his chin and mouth, all the way up to his nostrils. The brace has metal strips that circle his neck and then go up the side of his face, presumably meeting above his head.

This brace is one of the brutal instruments of torture used to discipline enslaved Africans on the continent and throughout the Americas. In the view of the barbaric curators at the Barbican, this dehumanising image is art!

‘PROFOUNDLY TROUBLING’

London-Barbican-art-gallery-racism-396837Black people in the UK went ballistic. Sara Myers, a journalist who lives in Birmingham, launched a petition on change.org to close the exhibition. More than 23,000 people signed. In a statement on its website, the gallery takes no responsibility for provoking outrage. Instead, it blames protesters for not allowing themselves to be muzzled – like the black man on display:

“Last night as Exhibit B was opening at the Vaults, it became impossible for us to continue with the show because of the extreme nature of the protest and the serious threat to the safety of performers, audiences and staff. Given that protests are scheduled for future performances of Exhibit B, we have had no choice but to cancel all performances of the piece.

“We find it profoundly troubling that such methods have been used to silence artists and performers and that audiences have been denied the opportunity to see this important work. Exhibit B raises, in a serious and responsible manner, issues about racism; it has previously been shown in 12 cities, involved 150 performers and been seen by around 25,000 people with the responses from participants, audiences and critics alike being overwhelmingly positive.

“The Barbican has done everything we can to ensure London performances can go ahead – including continued dialogue with protesters and senior Barbican staff meeting with the leaders of the campaign and attending a public meeting to discuss the issues raised by the work. We respect people’s right to protest, but are disappointed that this was not done in a peaceful way as had been previously promised by campaigners.

“We believe this piece should be shown in London and are disturbed at the potential implications this silencing of artists and performers has for freedom of expression.”

ACTING OUT ABUSE

Who is the ‘we’ that the curators at the Barbican speak for? Obviously, it is the artist, the eager audience willing to pay 20 pounds sterling to view the circus and the actors who prostituted themselves. Nitro, Britain’s oldest black theatre company, provided actors for the exhibition. In a blog post, ‘We’re casting for Exhibit B’, Nitro’s artistic director, Felix Cross, justifies his collaboration on the racist project:

“I believe strongly that the whole point of Exhibit B is to stare at a demon fully in the face, realise its ethical bankruptcy, question how far we have really moved on from then, and leave stronger, more knowledgeable and, yes, empowered.” I Perceptive black people knew they didn’t need to be reduced to spectacle in order to be ‘empowered’. They raucously asserted their right to protest. They knew that the exhibition was racist. And even the artist acknowledged that he was reproducing old stereotypes.

0q_PVXG2NEuQqTidcH9beTYTi3E0-Vkqa5c1bGrbvQEBut the spin Brett Bailey puts on the old racism is that he’s actually trying to confront it. By bringing it back! It is this kind of logic that makes me uneasy about the whole ‘truth and reconciliation’ project that consumed South Africans in the aftermath of apartheid. There can be no reconciliation without repentance.

That a white South African feels entitled to reproduce humiliating images of black people and call it ‘art’ is a clear sign that the legacy of apartheid is alive and well. Brett Bailey’s human zoo does not challenge racism; it acts out abuse.

The black British graphic designer Jon Daniel contributed a series of brilliant ‘Barbican and Bailey’ posters to the protest. Taking the model of the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey circus ads for the greatest show on earth, Daniel wickedly satirised the exhibition: “Good old-fashioned European clownialism”; “A work of unparalleled prejudice masquerading as art”.

I couldn’t help thinking of those monstrous, naked figures outside Emancipation Park. Our version of the human zoo! It’s a pity we don’t seem to understand that this work of clownialism is a monument to the enduring legacy of racism in Jamaica.

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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

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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.

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!

A Tale of the Magical Calabash

imagesOnce upon a time, three friends, Colin, Kwame and Justine, set out looking for treasure.  Not quite.  They weren’t children playing in the sand.  They were adults who understood that treasure isn’t something you just find.  It’s what you create.  And they certainly knew about creativity:  Colin Channer, the novelist; Kwame Dawes, the poet; and Justine Henzell, the producer of events from scratch.

So they conjured up this international literary festival and set it in an improbable location, Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica.  It would add a whole new dimension to Brand Jamaica!  They named the festival ‘Calabash’.  And they invited the world and his wife to attend.  Mateys were welcome too.  And admission was free.  Whosoever willed could come.

photos_1But why this quirky name?  Well, the festival was going to be held at Jake’s Hotel in Treasure Beach.  But that’s not a single beach.  It’s a string  of fishing villages: Billy’s Bay, Frenchman’s Bay, Great Pedro Bay and, yes, Calabash Bay.    Colin chose the name to honour the location of the festival.  And calabash also suggests creativity.  As we say, turning our hand to make fashion.

res1_07aThe hardy calabash, from both the tree and the vine, is very versatile.  It has several practical and artistic uses.  In many cultures of the world, the hollowed-out gourd is a water vessel.   And musical instruments are also created with calabash.  For both the sitar from India and the kora from West Africa, calabash is used as a resonator.  So the multi-functional calabash is a brilliant image for a homegrown literary festival that includes musical performance.

‘GLOBALICIOUS’
The twelfth staging of the Calabash International Literary Festival, a month ago, was dubbed ‘globalicious’ by Kwame Dawes, the programmer for the event.  And it certainly was both global and delicious.  The calabash was full to the brim and running over with both literary and musical delicacies.

Calabash2014Logo-300x256The writers came from twelve countries:  Antigua, Barbados, Belarus, England, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, Scotland and the USA.  And the musical performers were from Haiti, Jamaica, the UK and the USA.

For me, the most engaging writer/reader was Jamaica Kincaid.   She “shell down di place”, as one of my friends put it.  We’re now so attuned to the culture of the gun that excellence in all spheres of life is celebrated with a gun salute – whether verbal or literal.  A real pity!  Blame it on the military and all those Hollywood movies that big up gun violence.

boutique-hotel-Jakes-Hotel-Villas-and-Spa-St.-Eli-1-8-3-2-thumbA very close second was Salman Rushdie who turned out to be quite different from what I expected.  He was very cool; not at all stuck up.  As another of my wicked friends said, “nothing like a fatwa to keep you real”.  After the festival, I stayed on for a few days at Jake’s.  And the young man who carried my bags announced with quite a flourish that Salman Rushdie had stayed in that very cottage.  I must admit I felt like a groupie.

ngugi_wa_thiongoThen I was so looking forward to hearing Nguigi wa Thiong’o read.  He’s one of the stalwarts of the anti-colonial war on the African continent. Unfortunately, his daughter, Wanjiku, stole the show.  Literally.  She read for forty-five minutes, instead of her allotted twenty.  And her brother Mukoma read for thirty minutes.  So the Big Man had to be cut off soon after he began.  And it was such a powerful story he’d started to tell about coming home from boarding school to find that his village had disappeared.

OPEN MIKE, MAIN STAGE

 One of the highlights of the festival always is the Open Mike.  There are so many entertaining surprises.  Like the farmer and fisherman whose stage name is “The Incredible Steel”!  He rode 48 miles on his bicycle from Jerusalem, Santa Cruz to perform his poem, “The Voice”, in tribute to Tessanne Chin.  He got a standing ovation.  Then there was the cosmetologist, Venise Samuels, who performed a brilliant poem about unconscionable taxation.  So much talent!

Treasure Beach Sc_bc_TreasureB28The only disappointing aspect of Calabash is the lack of comfortable accommodations.  Of course, there’s very little the organisers of the festival can do about that.  After all, Treasure Beach, is a fishing village.  But some of the people in the rental business have rather grand names for very basic lodgings.  ‘Villa’ is a most pretentious word for a small four-bedroom house.  And there are ‘resorts’ that bear absolutely no resemblance to their upscale namesakes.  All you can say in their favour is that they are a last resort if you absolutely can’t find anywhere else to stay.

calabash-2007-stageBut all you really need for Calabash is a place to crash.  If you try to keep up with the programme, you would go non-stop from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. the next day!  And even if there are not too many villas and resorts in the fishing village, there is always the sea.  It’s a magnificent backdrop for the main stage.  I can’t imagine that there’s any literary festival anywhere on Earth that has a better setting.  It’s all in the magical calabash.

 

Dutty Tribal Politics

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Damion Crawford

Damion Crawford’s “unfortunate” apology is quite inadequate. He takes no responsibility for his words. He “got carried away”. I suppose he was possessed by evil spirits (both JLP and PNP) and ended up speaking in tongues: “Yuh suppose to can look pon a man an” sey a PNP dat enuh, or yuh look pon a woman an’ sey a PNP dat. Some a unnu haffi have on orange fi wi know, cause unnu lifestyle come een like a dutty Labourite.”

11084282-two-cute-cows-and-three-sheep-on-pasture-with-a-wooden-fence-and-landscape-in-background-1Under the influence of the spirits, Crawford highlights a problem that is particularly troubling for politicians who can never be sure exactly how many sheep they have in their pen. Jamaican voters are a slick crew. They follow you up and down on the campaign trial. They wear your T-shirts. They eat and drink with you and, behind, they don’t just ‘susu pon you’, as Bob Marley warned. It gets worse than that. Many of your apparent followers are not even registered to vote. And even if they are, there’s no guarantee they’re actually going to vote for you. They know they’re free agents.

This is a lesson many politicians, both JLP and PNP, have had to learn the hard way. Don’t trust the size of the crowd! So Damion Crawford’s ‘inspired’ words can be interpreted as a pastoral altar call, pleading with his flock for integrity. If you start to kiss your teeth at the analogy, just substitute ‘Christian’ for ‘PNP’, ‘heathen’ for ‘Labourite’ and ‘church clothes’ for ‘orange': “Yuh suppose to can look pon a man an’ sey a Christian dat enuh, or yuh look pon a woman and sey a Christian dat. Some a unnu haffi have on church clothes fi wi know, cause unnu lifestyle come een like a dutty heathen.”

OUTWARD APPEARANCE

dressMy reformulation of Damion Crawford’s damning words is not intended to let him off the hook. Instead, I want to underscore just how foolish his presumptions are. Neither ‘orange’ nor ‘church clothes’ is a sign of character. A wo/man’s true colours are not the ones s/he wears. As Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:26, International Standard Version). Politician or pastor, Crawford does not seem to understand that outward appearance is not to be trusted. Dreadlocks don’t signify Rasta. And some baldheads are steadily trodding on the path to Zion.

Another troubling issue is Crawford’s assumption that ‘PNP’ and ‘Labourite’ are permanent identities, fixed by your DNA: you are who you vote for. This conviction sustains tribal politics in Jamaica. Voters are not expected to use their intelligence, selecting the best political representatives in any election cycle. Well, best as far as you can tell. Instead, like a robot, you should simply vote generically for your party, i.e., yourself. Complete lunacy!

Talking-out-of-both-sides-of-your-mouthThese days, it’s so easy to get caught up in tribalism. If it’s not politics, it’s religion. We barricade ourselves in garrisons: we and them; saved and damned; uptown and downtown; queer and straight; green and orange; ‘dutty Labourite’ and ‘plyboard-an-zinc PNP’. (In this instance, Crawford appears to be an equal-opportunity chastiser, talking out of both sides of his mouth). Once you choose your camp, it’s not so easy to change sides. Worse, if you don’t choose a side, you run the risk of being shot at from all angles.

CRAWFORD’S TRUE COLOURS

RobertMontaque20070709C

Robert Montague

JLP Chairman Robert Montague had every right to demand an apology from Damion Crawford for that ‘dutty’ throw-word. He couldn’t allow Crawford to just dish the dirt and get away with it. Montague had to stand up for principle. But it was also a question of party pride. And Montague coudn’t resist the temptation to be tribalist. He had to draw the class card.

36614610In a press release issued on May 27, Senator Montague stated, “We know that generally when the PNP says they love the poor it’s about politics and not development, [sic] but now Minister Crawford has shown his true colours, too. The very same classist behaviour he accuses others of, [sic] is clearly in his heart if the card he draws to make a point, [sic] is one of the worst classist phrases to ever be brought by the PNP into the politics of Jamaica.”

The JLP equivalent of ‘dutty Labourite’ is ‘classist PNP’. Unfortunately, in the tracing match of tribal politics, ‘classist’ just doesn’t have the sting of ‘dutty’. And the reason is quite obvious. ‘Classist’ is English (from Latin); and ‘dutty’ is hard-core Jamaican, with all the authority of a big, phat bad-word. One could easily mistake ‘classist’ for a compliment. It sounds so stush. Not like ‘dutty’.

According to the Dictionary of Jamaican English, the noun ‘dutty’ (doti) comes from the Twi language of Ghana. Its primary meaning is ‘soil, earth, clay’. The dictionary makes it clear that ‘there is no necessary sense of uncleanness”. But it concedes that the meaning of the word has been influenced by English ‘dirty’. And, in fact, the second meaning of ‘dutty’ is ‘excrement, dung’.

sexism1As adjective, ‘dutty’ has come to mean ‘dirty’. But it’s much more than physical uncleanliness. In the Jamaican vernacular, ‘dutty’ covers a host of sins. Classism is dutty. Sexism is also dutty. I’m surprised nobody has challenged Crawford’s sexist view of women as lazy predators, waiting for Friday to telephone men for money.  That’s a whole other load of dutty.

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!