Night Work For Women

images-1It sounds like progress. An old-fashioned law that curtails the freedom of women to choose the time of day (or night) they wish to work is under review. The 1942 Women (Employment of) Act says a lot about both class and gender politics in Jamaica. The act prohibits night work for women. And it’s not about prostitution. These days, sex work is no longer gender-specific. And it isn’t necessarily done only at night.

The act defines ‘night’ as “a period of at least 11 consecutive hours, including the interval between 10 o’clock in the evening and 5 o’clock in the morning”. Work is described as “every business or undertaking carried on for gain, except a business or undertaking in which only the members of the family of the owner or proprietor are employed”. I wonder why women in family businesses are exempted.

In exceptional circumstances, women are allowed to work at night. This is what the act says:

“No woman shall be employed in night work except where the night work is:

(a) for the purpose of completing work commenced by day and interrupted by some unforeseeable cause which could not be prevented by reasonable care; or

PERISHABLE-GOODS(b) necessary to preserve raw materials, subject to rapid deterioration, from certain loss; or

(c) that of a responsible position of management held by a woman who is not ordinarily engaged in manual work; or

(d) carried on in connection with the preparation, treatment, packing, transportation or shipment of fresh fruit; or

(e) that of nursing and of caring for the sick; or

(f) carried on in a cinematograph or other theatre while such theatre is open to the public; or

(g) carried on in connection with a hotel or guest house, or with a bar, restaurant or club; or

(h) carried on by a pharmacist registered under the Pharmacy Act.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

bottomlineThese ‘exceptional’ circumstances are quite a peculiar mix. Nursing and pharmacy I understand. These are life-saving professions. And fresh fruit and raw materials do have a short lifespan. But what’s so special about women working in theatres, hotels, guest houses, bars, restaurants and clubs? Are these night jobs similar to the world’s oldest profession? Making money all through the night clearly takes precedence over protecting supposedly vulnerable women. The law keeps its eye firmly fixed on the bottom line.

And why are women in management exempted? It looks like a class issue. Women who are “ordinarily engaged in manual work” are not allowed to do night work. But better-off women are? Or is this exemption really just a sick joke? In 1942, how many women actually held “a responsible position of management” in any “industrial undertaking” in Jamaica? Relatively few, I suppose. So why make such a big issue of exempting them?

In 1961, new trades and occupations were added to the list of exceptional jobs that women could do at night. It all seems quite random: for example, manufacturing of sugar, rum, cigars, cigarettes, cordage, rope, twine, butter, cheese, condensed milk, soap, margarine, lard compound, edible oil, textiles and paper. The list goes on and on without apparent rhyme or reason.

images-4The only occupations on the new list that obviously provide essential services are in civil aviation, public passenger transport, telecommunications, and the fire brigade. Newspaper publishing is also exempted, but some sceptics will say that journalism these days is not an essential service; it’s more entertainment and less hard-core news reporting and analysis.

 

EXPLOITING CHEAP LABOUR

At the rate the Women (Employment of) Act is going, we might as well speed it into extinction. On the face of it, amending the old law is a good idea. In these enlightened times, women ought to be free to choose when they work. But there’s definitely a downside to freeing up women for night work. It’s not all about emancipation.

In fact, night work seems to be just another form of exploitation of cheap labour. A few years ago, I met a female security guard at Devon House who was on the last of three consecutive 12-hour shifts. Yes, 36 hours straight, day and night! Talk about ‘pop down’. She could barely keep her eyes open. She explained that she was doing it for the money. She had children to look after.

images-2Is there a hidden motivation behind the seemingly progressive plan to remove the restrictions prohibiting night work for women? And will all women, rich and poor, equally benefit from the new legislation? Not likely! The revision of the act seems to be intended to force poorly paid women to work for 12 hours at a stretch – without the full benefit of overtime pay as usual. It’s all about flexiwork.

The present labour laws require an employer to pay time and a half on Saturday and double time on Sundays. In the new flexiweek, overtime will be calculated only after 40 hours of work. So, in effect, you could employ someone for two 12-hour shifts with no ‘overtime’, then exploit them further by employing them on weekends and not paying overtime. This is a total reversal of all the labour rights our foremothers and forefathers struggled for.

Not surprisingly, David Wan, president of the Jamaica Employers’ Federation, enthusiastically supports the proposed amendment of the act, as reported in a Gleaner article by Daraine Luton, published on June 5: “Take it off the books! This is a different day, different time.” But how different are these times? With our long history of exploiting cheap labour, we should be very cautious about enacting legislation that threatens to weaken workers.

123According to Labour Minister Derrick Kellier, flexiwork will increase productivity. But at what price? Will physically and emotionally exhausted workers actually be more productive than healthy ones? And will poor women doing night work for next to nothing be better off now than in the old days? “Jackass seh di world no level.” It’s a pity that jackasses of the human kind refuse to listen.

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.

 

Leadership Crisis At UWI, Mona

wei1

wei

After the rumours were finally confirmed last week that Professor Gordon Shirley, principal of the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies, would soon be sailing into a new port of call, I had a spirited conversation with an optimistic colleague. In response to my fears that the campus would now be facing a leadership crisis, he reassuringly reminded me of that famous gem of Chinese wisdom: danger + opportunity = crisis. It’s the kind of thing you expect to find in a fortune cookie.

ji

ji

As it turns out, it’s a fake gem – even though all sorts of people have brandished it. John F. Kennedy once famously declared, “[T]he Chinese use two brushstrokes to write the word ‘crisis’. One brushstroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognise the opportunity.”

This much-recycled formula is not an accurate decoding of the Chinese symbols. In Kennedy’s case, the error is understandable. We don’t expect politicians to be linguists. Double-speak is their usual armour.

In an article on the Pínyín.info website, Victor Mair, professor of Chinese language and literature at the University of Pennsylannia, relates an amusing anecdote: “I first encountered this curious specimen of alleged oriental wisdom about 10 years ago at an altitude of 35,000 feet sitting next to an American executive. He was intently studying a bound volume that had adopted this notorious formulation as the basic premise of its method for making increased profits even when the market is falling.

“At that moment, I didn’t have the heart to disappoint my gullible neighbour who was blissfully imbibing what he assumed were the gems of Far Eastern sagacity enshrined within the pages of his workbook. Now, however, the damage from this kind of pseudo-profundity has reached such gross proportions that I feel obliged, as a responsible Sinologist, to take counteraction.”

WISHFUL THINKING

images-1According to Professor Mair, the seductive proposition that danger and opportunity are equally balanced in a crisis is nothing but “wishful thinking”, based largely on a “fundamental misunderstanding about how terms are formed in Mandarin and other Sinitic languages”. Mair shows that ‘weiji’, the word for ‘crisis’, is made up of two syllables, ‘wei’ (danger) and ‘ji’.

Contrary to popular misconception, ‘ji’ definitely does not mean ‘opportunity’. Instead, it means ‘crucial point (when something begins or changes)’. Mair confirms that “a weiji is indeed a genuine crisis, a dangerous moment, a time when things start to go awry. A weiji indicates a perilous situation when one should be especially wary. It is not a juncture when one goes looking for advantages and benefits”.

Gordon Shirley

Gordon Shirley

As far as I can tell, the only opportunity in the leadership crisis on the Mona campus is for those who will be ‘run-jostling’ to temporarily replace Professor Shirley. Not surprisingly, the contenders are all male, from what I’ve heard. It appears as if there is no female who can fill the shoes of the well-heeled Professor Shirley, even if only for three years, the unusual duration of his secondment to the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ).

Secondment is a tricky business. It’s leaving and staying at the same time, somewhat like a bad marriage. You don’t want to cut your losses and just get a divorce. But you do want the freedom to roam. Secondment can turn out to be a case of either danger or opportunity for the secondee. You may like your new place of employment so much you can’t possibly return to the arms of your former love. That’s the opportunity. Or, you might dislike your new job so much you have to beg to be taken back. That’s the danger.

images-4For the institution that gets left behind, it’s usually more danger and less opportunity. Like a rejected lover, those who have been abandoned keep pining for the missing member. In the case of the principalship of the Mona campus, it’s the head of the institution that’s leaving. A head is not an appendage that can easily be replaced with a prosthesis. He or she symbolises the brainpower of the institution.

FAILURE AT SUCCESSION PLANNING

Especially given Professor Shirley’s distinguished performance as principal, it is imperative that he not be replaced by a stand-in who may have no mandate to bring his or her own distinctive vision to the task of leading the Mona campus. Curiously enough, the three-year term of Professor Shirley’s secondment is exactly half the length of his six-year tenure as principal. It’s a long time for the Mona campus to be led by a place-holder.

Noel Hylton

Noel Hylton

Furthermore, three years is a very short time for the new head of the PAJ to make his mark on that foundering institution. The relatively youthful Professor Shirley is replacing an octogenarian, Noel Hylton, who headed the PAJ for almost 40 years! It is hardly likely that in a mere three years Professor Shirley will be able to turn the ship around.

In a stinging Gleaner article, ‘Port Authority – a study in Jamaican management’, published on January 4, 2013, Aubyn Hill asks two damning questions: “No directive was given to prepare not one but a small group of able successors for Hylton? No younger Jamaican managers were capable?” Hill blames both the ministers of government and the members of successive boards of the PAJ for their collective failure at succession planning.

in_limbo1Professor Shirley is a serial secondee. He fully understands the politics of planting his feet firmly in two places at once. But, in this instance, both the Mona campus of the UWI and the PAJ are likely to suffer as a consequence of the temporariness of his appointment. Both institutions will be held in limbo, awaiting permanent leadership. And that’s ‘weiji fi true’.

Raping Virgin Territory

jamaica“Hold down an tek weh.” That’s exactly what it is. Protected lands on Long Mountain that, by law, should remain virgin territory for the benefit of all Jamaicans, for generations to come, have been captured and are about to be deflowered by the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ).

The Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) are mandated to protect conservation lands. Instead of carrying out their mission honourably, it would appear that the NRCA and NEPA have ganged up and held down the virgin so that the HAJ can have its way, back and front. It’s an all-too-familiar scenario.

images-1According to a report published in The Gleaner on Thursday, May 23, the HAJ “posted an environmental bond, valued at between $30 million and $40 million, as part of the preconditions” in order to get a permit for further ‘development’ on Long Mountain. Of course, no environmental bond would be needed if there was [sic] no threat of environmental degradation.

I refuse to use the antiquated subjunctive ‘were’ for ‘was’. I am in no mood for grammatical niceties. The environmental problems with ‘development’ on Long Mountain are decidedly not hypothetical. They are very real. All of the environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for the area have clearly identified the risks. It’s not a case of ‘if’ there are going to be problems. And it’s definitely not future tense; it’s present.

ARMAGEDDON MUST BE NIGH

images-3Just ask the leader of the Opposition, Andrew Holness, and his wife Juliet who are building what appears to be a fortress in Beverly Hills. They seem to know something that the rest of us don’t: Armageddon must be nigh. In the recent rains, an avalanche of stones from their property rolled downhill, propelled by the flood waters spewing from the Long Mountain Country Club into Beverly Hills and the Pines of Karachi.

Instead of feeding the aquifer, rainwater from the housing scheme runs off the hill and goes to waste, damaging roads along the way. This specific problem was forecast in the EIA for the country club that was done in 2000. But the unwelcome findings were simply ignored. And now there’s the threat of a new ‘development’ that will only compound existing environmental dangers.

12945495986xm08TThe $30m-$40m bond will, I suspect, prove completely inadequate to fix the environmental damage the new scheme will cause. It’s like those television ads promising cures for all sorts ailments. When you hear the side effects of the miracle drugs, including death, you wonder if you’re not better off with the original disease. In the case of Long Mountain, it’s even worse. The fertile land is healthy. It should be left exactly as it is. There’s no need to manufacture an environmental problem in order to try to solve it.

Furthermore, this new development below the country club is even closer to the Mona Reservoir. The 2000 EIA for both the country club and the additional 30 acres or so that are now up for grabs predicted that “[a]dditional storm water will be discharged into existing drainage channels to increase erosion on the lower slopes facing the reservoir … . From field observations, there are a number of drainage channels on the lower slope that are capable of carrying storm water laden with sediments directly into the reservoir during periods of high rainfall.”

images-5

Mona Reservoir and Long Mountain

The EIA also warned that if a sewage line from the proposed development is broken, gravity will feed the waste directly into the reservoir. Even worse, the lift station for the new development is to be located right across from the reservoir. In the event of an earthquake or even a burst pipe, sewage is likely to flow freely into the reservoir. And sewage from the country club has already been flowing freely into some homes in the Pines of Karachi.

NOT THE WHOLE STORY

images-7The Gleaner story on the HAJ permit reports that “[t]he subdivision, which should initially have seen the development of 54 residential lots on just over 29 acres of land, came under public scrutiny more than two years ago after its upscale neighbours – the Pines of Karachi and Beverly Hills – raised concerns over how it would impact them”. That’s not the whole story. And it’s not a class issue: ‘upscale’ versus ‘downscale’. I expect that the potential investors in the new development are quite ‘upscale ‘.

The impact of ‘backlash’ development on existing communities is, indeed, an understandable concern. For example, as far as I can tell, no new access roads are going to be built for the proposed development. This will increase traffic congestion, especially since one of the access roads on the approved plan for the Long Mountain Country Club was never built. How the developer got away with it, I don’t know. In any case, Pines of Karachi and Beverly Hills have been forced to accommodate additional traffic that would have used the missing road.

images-6The much bigger picture is protecting the environment. The most recent EIA, commissioned by the HAJ, admits that “the proposed development site is zoned for public open space in the 1966 Confirmed Kingston Development Order for Kingston while in the emerging Kingston and St Andrew Development Order, 2008, the proposed zoning is public open space/conservation”. But the two-faced assessment observes that “there has been in the past a relaxation of the zoning restriction”. So because there have been breaches in the past, we should just keep on turning conservation areas into housing!

images-8All is not lost. There is still one last wall of defence against the encroaching development: The Cabinet. That’s where the final decision will be taken. I hope Prime Minister Simpson Miller and her Cabinet will find the courage to halt the ravaging of Long Mountain. It all started with another PNP administration. They need to make amends. “Wat gone bad a-morning can come good a-evening.”

Paying For Emancipation

images-7Britain’s Black Debt is the intriguing title of a provocative book launched to much fanfare earlier this month by the University of the West Indies Press. The Nyahbinghi House drummers and chanters set the tone of the occasion. ‘Black Liberation Day’, ‘Open de Gate Mek We Repatriate’, ‘Four Hundred Million Black Man’ and ‘Every Time We Chant Nyahbinghi I an I Waan Trod Home a Yaad’ were some of the ‘heartical’ chants that heralded the launch.

The book’s author is Prof Sir Hilary Beckles, distinguished Barbadian historian and principal of the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies. In Britain’s Black Debt, Beckles tackles the contentious issue of reparations for both the genocide of the indigenous peoples and the enslavement of Africans in the so-called West Indies. Christopher Columbus lost his way to the ‘East Indies’ and our region is now stuck with a name that perpetuates the great discoverer’s error!

viewer-1The cover of the book brilliantly illustrates its theme. The main image is a 1966 photograph of Queen Elizabeth II with her cousin, George Henry Hubert Lascelles, the 7th Earl of Harewood, on his sugar plantation in Barbados. The property was bought by one of the earl’s relatives in 1780, along with 232 slaves. In the background, at a respectful distance, is a large group of well-dressed, carefully choreographed spectators, mostly white, whose body language suggests decorous delight at finding themselves in the presence of royalty.

TAINTED WEALTH

Beneath the photograph, there’s a row of shackled Africans: three children; three women, each with a baby wrapped on her back; and seven men. Two black overseers with guns are keeping them all in line. The enslaved humans are the literal subtext of the main story about colonial masters and their loyal subjects. Beckles compellingly argues that forced labour in the Caribbean is the foundation of much of the wealth of Britain, including that of the Royal Family.

images-2Beckles pays tribute to Eric Williams’ revolutionary book, Capitalism and Slavery, first published in 1944. There, Beckles argues, Williams “constructed the framework for the reparations case”. Beckles does concede that Williams “stopped short of making an explicit call for reparations”. But, he asserts, the book “still represents the most persuasive articulation of evidence” that “Britain’s magnificent, enviable industrial civilisation emerged from the foul waters of colonial slavery”.

The Earl of Harewood died on July 10, 2011 at the age of 88. His obituary in the London Telegraph substantiates Beckles’ case: “The Lascelles family had made their fortune in the West Indies. An 18th-century ancestor, Edwin Lascelles, had built the magnificent Harewood House in the family estates in the West Riding of Yorkshire”.   Harewood House is not a house. It is a palatial monument to capitalist greed.

images-3

Harewood House

And its owners have no shame about the source of their tainted wealth. The Harewood House website states quite matter-of-factly that, “[b]y 1787, the Lascelles family had interests in 47 plantations and owned thousands of slaves in Barbados and across the West Indies. The Lascelles weren’t unique – most merchants of the period were involved in the slave trade”.  And Harewood House is now a tourist attraction. It costs £14 for adults to tour the ‘house’, including staterooms, and £10 to visit just the grounds and below stairs. Class privilege comes at a price.

LUNATIC PROPOSITION

The most startling fact I learnt at the launch of Britain’s Black Debt is that the British government had wanted emancipated slaves to pay reparations to their former masters for the loss of their service. A lunatic proposition! Where was the money supposed to come from? The Haitian people had been forced to borrow money to pay reparations to France for claiming their freedom. In the case of the British, it was they who were claiming freedom from us. True, rebellious slaves across the British colonies had fought for freedom. But, in effect, Emancipation was designed to free the British government of all legal and moral obligations to the formerly enslaved.

Sir Thomas Buxton

Sir Thomas Buxton

The abolitionist, Sir Thomas Buxton, had urged his fellow parliamentarians to pay reparations to emancipated Africans. But, as Beckles notes, “[T]he British Parliament, densely populated with slaveholders and other beneficiaries of slave investments, did not take Buxton’s suggestion seriously”.   Eventually, the British government decided to pay reparations to slave owners on behalf of the enslaved. But no reparations were to be paid to the primary victims of this demonic crime against humanity.

It’s bad enough that some British MPs still don’t take reparations seriously. But why do most of us, the descendants of enslaved Africans, act as if the idea of reparations is a big joke? Is it because we believe the lie that slavery was good for us, taking us from ‘savagery’ to ‘civilisation’? Have we not read Walter Rodney’s brilliant book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa?

AFRICAN RENAISSANCE

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was established on May 25, 1963 in Addis Ababa. A primary mission of the organisation was to end colonial rule on the African continent. On May 26, 2001, the OAU was rebranded as the African Union (AU). May 25 has come to be known as African Liberation Day. It is an occasion to reflect on the protracted struggle of Africans on the continent and in the diaspora to reclaim the right to determine our own destiny.

PrintThe theme for the 50th anniversary celebrations is ‘Panfricanism & African Renaissance’. If we are serious about the rebirth of the continent, reparations must be put on the agenda of the AU. And if we are to escape recolonisation by the International Monetary Fund, reparations must be put on the CARICOM agenda.

Reparations is the urgent message Professor Beckles took to Ethiopia last week, where he addressed a conference that was convened ahead of the 21st African Union Summit. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is there. I hope she knows she must speak out on behalf of Rastafari and all those heroic Jamaicans like Paul Bogle and Sam Sharpe who have long been fighting for reparative justice.

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!