Pure white dolly fi Christmas

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 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

Last week, mi go a one uptown pharmacy an mi buck up one a mi fren. She a nyam up herself bout di whole heap a white dolly. She carry mi go look pon di shelf dem full a dolly. Outa many, not one degeh-degeh black dolly.

So mi go aks di manager a who a buy di white dolly dem. Im seh a black people an a dem same one a bleach. Mi glad im see seh di white dolly dem have suppen fi do wid di bleaching. But dat nah stop di pharmacy from sell di white dolly dem. Money a money. An wen di bleacher dem skin burn up, a di said same pharmacy dem ha fi go fi get treatment.

Yu see dis dolly business! A serious ting. Dolly mek fi force gyal-pikni fi look after baby. It no natural. A fi brainwash di poor lickle pikni dem. An a no dolly one. Dolly live eena house wid kitchen: stove an fridge an pot an pan an plate an cup an saucer. Dat a fi mek di gyal-pikni dem know seh a dem ha fi cook.

An dolly house have bed fi mek up an floor fi sweep. Nuff, nuff housework. Wa mek wi no gi boy-pikni dolly fi play wid an dolly house fi look after? Becau man tink a dem run tings an a so dem set it. Certain work dem nah do. An it look like seh di fuul-fuul man dem no understand a who run di kitchen run di world. Mek dem keep outa kitchen. Dem ha fi nyam anyting dem get.

Pon top a dat, wen yu gi one black gyal-pikni white dolly fi look after, a set you a set her up fi mind other people pikni wen she grow big. Weh she a go get white baby fi herself? She mighta find one nice white genkleman fi gi her baby. But dat deh baby still nah go look like di white dolly dem. An di baby nah go look like di muma to dat.

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BIG UP ZACKS!

One next problem wid di white dolly dem a di tall hair. A di dolly dem mek so much black woman eena Jamaica a buy false hair. Well, some a di hair a real-real hair. But a no fi dem. Di woman dem did play wid white dolly wen dem a pikni, an dem waan look like di dolly. It grieve mi wen mi find out seh Jamaica a spend one billion dollar every year pon foreign hair. Billion, mi seh! Wi no have nutten else fi do wid all a dat deh money? No sah, mi cyaan believe it.

Tell yu di truth, mi did put een extension couple time. Mi get ketch wid tall hair. Mi grow pon white dolly. Mi have one sweet-sweet picture wid me an mi lickle bredda an mi white dolly. Mi right hand round mi bredda shoulder, an mi white dolly prims up eena mi left hand. Mi a look after di two a dem same way.

But mi grow out a white dolly an tall hair. Mi done know seh some a dem tall-hair woman an dem deh man weh love tall hair tink seh all like me no got no ambition. A walk bout wid mi ‘dry’ head a gwaan like seh mi have hairstyle an mi tink mi nice. Well, mi ha fi big up fi mi barber Zacks. Im shop deh a Pulse pon Trafalgar Road. Wen im done style fi mi ‘piki-piki’ head, not one a dem tall-hair woman hotter than me!

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

Laas wiik, mi go a wan optoun faamasi an mi bok op wan a mi fren. Shi a nyam op arself bout di uol iip a wait dali. Shi kyari mi go luk pan di shelf dem ful a dali. Outa meni, nat wan dege-dege blak dali.

So mi go aks di manija a uu a bai di wait dali dem. Im se a blak piipl an a dem siem wan a bliich. Mi glad im si se di wait dali dem av sopn fi du wid di bliichin. Bot dat naa stap di faamasi from sel di wait dali dem. Moni a moni. An wen di bliicha dem skin bon op, a di sed siem faamasi dem a fi go fi get chriitment.

Yu si dis dali bizniz! A siiriyos ting. Dali mek fi fuors gyal-pikni fi luk aafta biebi. It no nachral. A fi brienwash di puor likl pikni dem. An a no dali wan. Dali liv iina ous wid kichin: stuov an frij an pat an pan an pliet an kop an saasa. Dat a fi mek di gyal-pikni dem nuo se a dem a fi kuk.

An dali ous av bed fi mek op an fluor fi swiip. Nof, nof ous work. Wa mek wi no gi bwai-pikni dali fi plie wid an dali ous fi luk aafta? Bikaa man tingk a dem ron tingz an a so dem set it. Sortn work dem naa du. An it luk laik se di fuul-fuul man dem no andastan a uu ron di kichin ron di worl. Mek dem kip outa kichin. Dem a fi nyam enting dem get.

Pan tap a dat, wen yu gi wan blak gyal-pikni wait dali fi luk aafta, a set yu a set ar op fi main ada piipl pikni wen shi gruo big. We shi a go get wait biebi fi arself? Shi maita fain wan nais wait jenklman fi gi ar biebi. Bot dat de biebi stil naa go luk laik di wait dali dem. An di biebi naa go luk laik di muma tu dat.

BIG OP ZACKS!

Wan neks prablem wid di wait dali dem a di taal ier. A di dali dem mek so moch blak uman iina Jamieka a bai faals ier. Wel som a di ier a riil-riil ier. Bot a no fi dem. Di uman dem did plie wid wait dali wen dem a pikni, an dem waahn luk laik di dali. It griiv mi wen mi fain out se Jamieka a spen wan bilyan dala evri ier pan farin ier. Bilyan, mi se! Wi no av notn els fi du wid aal a dat de moni? Nuo sa, mi kyaahn biliiv it.

photo(1).jpgTel yu di chruut, mi did put iin ekstenshan kopl taim. Mi get kech wid taal ier. Mi gruo pan wait dali. Mi av wan swiit-swiit pikcha wid mii an mi likl breda an mi wait dali. Mi rait an roun mi breda shoulda, an mi wait dali primz op iina mi lef an. Mi a luk aafta di tuu a dem siem wie.

Bot mi gruo out a wait dali an taal ier. Mi don nuo se som a dem taal-ier uman an dem de man we lov taal ier tingk se aal laik mi no gat no ambishan. A waak bout wid mi ‘jrai’ ed a gwaahn laik se mi av ier stail an mi tingk mi nais. Wel, mi a fi big op fi mi baaba Zacks. Im shap de a Pulse pan Trafalgar Road. Wen im don stail fi mi ‘piki-piki’ ed, nat wan a dem taal ier uman ata dan mii!

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Only White Dolls For Christmas

Two weeks ago, I ran into one of my friends at an uptown pharmacy. She was carrying on about all the white dolls.  And she took me to have a look at the shelves of dolls.  Out of many, not one single black doll.

So I asked the manager who was buying the white dolls.  He said it was black people and they are the same ones who are bleaching their skin.  I was glad he made the connection between the white dolls and skin bleaching.  But that’s not stopping the pharmacy from selling the white dolls.  It’s all about money.  And when the bleachers’ skin gets damaged, they will have to go right back to the pharmacy for medication.

This doll business is a very serious issue.  Dolls are designed to condition little girls to care for babies. It’s not natural.  It’s to brainwash the poor little children. And it’s not just dolls. A doll lives in a house with a kitchen:  stove and fridge and pots and pans and plates and cups and saucers.  That’s to make little girls know it’s their duty to cook.

And a doll house has beds to be made and floors to be swept.  Lots and lots of house work. Why don’t we let boys play with dolls and look after doll houses?  Because men think they’re in charge and that’s just how things should be.  They’re not going to do certain jobs. And it seems as if these foolish men don’t understand that whoever is in charge of the kitchen rules the world.  Let them stay out of kitchen.  They will have to eat whatever is dished out.

Then when you give a white doll to a little black girl, you’re telling her that when she grows up she’ll have to look after other people’s children. How will she get her own white baby? She might have a child with a caring white man.  But that child won’t look like the white dolls.  And the baby won’t resemble the mother all that much.

BIG UP ZACKS!

Another problem with the white dolls is the long, flowing hair. It’s the dolls that have caused so many black woman in Jamaica to buy false hair.  Well, some of the hair is a actually real.  But it’s not theirs.  As children, these women played with white dolls. And they want to look like the dolls.  I was appalled to learn that Jamaica imports one billion dollars’ worth of foreign hair every year. A billion!  Don’t we have anything else to do with all of that money?  I simply can’t believe it.

photo-8I have to admit that I’ve put in extensions a couple of times.  I got caught with this long-hair fashion. And I was raised on white dolls.  I have a lovely picture of myself, my younger brother and my white doll. My right hand is around my brother’s shoulder, and my white doll is sitting pretty in my left hand.  I’m looking after both of them in exactly the same way.

But I grew out of white dolls and long hair.  I do know that some of those women with long hair – and those men who love long hair – think that women like me have no ambition.  Acting as if our short, natural hair is stylish and we know we’re attractive. Well, I have to big up my barber Zacks.  His shop is at Pulse on Trafalgar Rd.  When he’s finished styling my natural hair, not one of those women with long hair is hotter than me!

 

 

 

 

 

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How to be black in Negril

logo-343x903Last Sunday, I had a most peculiar conversation on the beach in Negril. I had gone to the Reggae Marathon as a spectator. As I was taking my early-morning walk, a man called out, “Hello! Good morning!” I returned the greeting. And kept walking. That was my first mistake. I should have stopped.

When I didn’t, the man followed me and aggressively said he was talking to me. So I paused. I wondered what he was selling. After all, this was Negril. He then asked if I wanted to go on boat ride. I politely refused his offer. As he walked away, he said, “Black people!”

I didn’t even bother to ask what he meant. It was such a lovely morning on that beautiful stretch of beach, I decided not to prolong the conversation. It could have got very ugly. The man’s angry body language suggested that “black people” was definitely intended as a term of abuse. And since he himself was black, I would have ended up in a big kas-kas about mental slavery.

imagesAs I moved on, I did start to wonder if, perhaps, I’d jumped to the wrong conclusion. Suppose all he’d meant was that he knows many black people can’t swim. And so I wouldn’t want to be going out on any boat ride with him. In my case, he would have been quite right. And, funnily enough, if he had said “Jamaican people”, I would have sympathised with him. We don’t always do well as dry-land tourists.

All the same, I felt I was trying too hard to give this man the benefit of the doubt. His “black people” throw-word seemed to compress a whole heap of frustration. And there was an implied contrast with “white people”. Unlike some black tourists, many white people are very adventurous. They go for boat rides even without life vests. And they know it’s their civic duty to patronise all the self-employed people who proposition them.

Black people, especially if we are not real-real tourists, don’t hand over our money easily. I got into idle conversation with another man on the beach who was selling fruit. A tiny sweetsop was US$2, a baby pineapple was US$6, and a very thin slice of melon was US$4. I told him those prices were very high. He patiently explained that none of the fruit was local. He had to pay a lot to bring them in. And he was very nice to me. He didn’t say, “Black people.”

KABAKA PYRAMID & VYBZ KARTEL

At the awards party after the marathon, as I was enjoying Kabaka Pyramid’s cool performance in the broiling sun, a man approached me from behind. He didn’t want to dance. He had come to reprimand me. I can’t remember his exact words, but it was something like this: “Is artistes like that you should promote instead of Vybz Kartel.”

Yu see mi dying trial! Why do Jamaican men feel entitled to tell women what to do? In any case, this man was not informed. I had invited Kabaka to speak at the University of the West Indies. He gave an excellent talk in a series earlier this year that opened with Jimmy Cliff and closed with King Jammy. In-between, there was IbaMahr, Notis (Wayne ‘Unga’ Thompson and Jason ‘Big Bass’ Welsh) and Chronixx.

Jimmy to King Jammy

Demi Moore poster

When I asked my disciplinarian if he had listened to any of Kartel’s lyrics, his response was, “I can’t get past the bleaching.” The man’s mind was closed. He couldn’t distinguish between the message and the messenger. I suppose he would have dismissed Kartel’s intriguing explanation for his skin bleaching which he gave at his infamous UWI lecture:

“Many people talk about Garveyism, black pride, etc. I have no problem with black pride and I can assure you that my skin alteration has nothing to do with self-hate or opposition to blackness and Garveyism … . I maintain that bleaching now doesn’t mean the same as bleaching 25 years ago. Today, we are a much prouder race who know that we can do what we want as far as style is concerned. We dictate styles and regard them as just that. Styles.”

UPTOWN BLEACHERS

Not everyone will be persuaded by Kartel’s argument about style. But it is true that people do all sorts of dangerous things in the name of style and fashion. And bleaching comes in all shades.

Uptown bleachers call it toning, brightening, clarifying, etc. Their products may be different from what’s downtown. But the intention and effect are more or less the same. And, for all he knows, that man who couldn’t bring himself to listen to Kartel’s lyrics because of the bleaching may very well be living with a woman who is toning.

Dr Petra Robinson, a Jamaican educator, completed her PhD dissertation on ‘Skin Bleaching In Jamaica: A Colonial Legacy’ at Texas A&M University in 2011. She highlights the fact that skin bleaching is a global issue. She quotes a Japanese proverb, “White skin makes up for seven defects.”

Dr Robinson’s brilliant dissertation should be published. And it ought to be required reading in all Jamaican schools. The conversation about colour and identity in Jamaica must be continued in the home, in school and in the media. It can’t be left on the beach in Negril.

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Too African to be human?

Reggae_Jamaika8For a small city, Kingston is quite cosmopolitan. And this has nothing to do with our deceitful national motto. That’s a whole other story about large-scale self-deception. Out of which many? Jamaica is a nation of African people with a minority of other racial groups.

And as for those black Jamaicans who don’t want to be African, Peter Tosh sets them straight:

“Don’t care where you come from,

As long as you’re a black man

You’re an African.”

So what’s cosmopolitan about Kingston? It’s all those cultural events every single week. And many are free. Our colleges and universities offer so much: public forums, film screenings, book launches, concerts, theatrical productions. And foreign embassies provide regular opportunities to explore other cultures.

The Alliance Francaise recently screened a brilliant documentary, Trop Noir Pour Etre Francaise?/Too Black To Be French? It’s framed as a question. But the implied answer is definitely affirmative. The filmmaker, Isabelle Boni-Claverie, was at the screening and generously answered questions.

trop-noire.pngIsabelle was born in Ivory Coast and at four months went to live in France. She returned at eight and had a hard time fitting in. Her classmates mocked her accent and decided that she was stuck up. She was too French to be Ivorian and too black to be French.

Isabelle’s 2015 documentary starts with her privileged family. She’s the granddaughter of Alphonse Boni, a distinguished jurist from Ivory Coast who became the first French magistrate of African origin. When Ivory Coast became independent, Boni was appointed as minister of justice and then president of the Supreme Court.

Isabelle’s grandmother, Rose Marie Frederique Galou, was a white law student from rural France. Her grandparents’ marriage in 1931 took place at midnight in complete privacy. In racist societies like France, class privilege cannot protect black people (and their white companions) from constant abuse.

WORKING LIKE A NIGGER

Too Black To Be French? widens its perspective to include other voices reflecting on what it means to be black in France. The documentary was provoked by a rather stink remark made on national television in 2010 by the perfume maker Jean-Paul Guerlain. Talking about a new product, Guerlain casually said, “I worked like a nigger. I don’t know if niggers have always worked like that, but anyway.”

Demonstration-against-Jea-006Talk about adding insult to injury! Isabelle was enraged. She launched an Internet-based campaign against Guerlain and, along with other protestors, organised demonstrations outside Guerlain’s flagship store in Paris. But many nice and decent French people couldn’t see what the fuss was about. Working like a nigger was just a common expression. All the same, Guerlain was convicted in court for his racist insult and fined €6,000. Small change!

Two other films by Isabelle were screened in Kingston last weekend, thanks to David Morrison. Her 1998 short film, Le Genie d’Abou/Abu’s Genie, explores the issues of race and sexuality in a murderously disturbing way. Her 2004 film, Pour La Nuit /For The Night, beautifully shows how Muriel and Sam, total strangers, comfort each other the night before her mother’s funeral and his wedding.

Speaking of being cosmopolitan, for the last 15 years, David has been showcasing foreign films on Friday and Saturday nights, first at Redbones, then at the Liguanea Club. He’s now at an intimate venue, 3 Stanton Terrace. There’s no admission charge. David welcomes contributions to offset costs.

OTA BENGA

Last month, the Africa World Documentary Film Festival was held at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Twenty films were screened over three days. Admission was free. I was surprised that Ota Benga was not included. The curator of the festival, Professor Adeniyi Coker of the University of Missouri-St Louis, explained that since he co-directed the film with Jean Bodon, he didn’t think it appropriate to select his own work.

OtaBengaI understood his reservations, but I persuaded him that we needed to see the film. It was screened as a brawta to the festival. The film sensitively tells the traumatic story of Ota Benga, a man from the Congo, who was put on display at the 1904 World’s Fair in St Louis. Things got rather worse for him.

On Sunday, September 9, 1906, The New York Times published a story with the headline, “Bushman Shares a Cage With Bronx Park Apes”. The article did admit that “some Laugh Over His Antics, but Many Are Not Pleased’. It added, “‘Something about it I don’t like,’ was the way one man put it.” We don’t know who this man was. But he did have a conscience.

The next day, black clergymen met at Harlem’s Mount Olivet Baptist Church to strategise. That afternoon, they went to the zoo to see for themselves. They confronted the zoo’s founding director and curator, William Hornaday, who insisted that the exhibition was all in the interest of science! By the end of September, more than 220,000 visitors had viewed Ota Benga. The zoo had never made so much money so quickly.

national-museum-african-artProvocatively billed as “From Ota Benga to President Obama”, the film had its world premiere on November 1 at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC. How much has changed over the last century? Just think of those demeaning cartoons of Michelle and Barack Obama as apes. The White House is certainly not the preferred cage in which diehard racists would like to see them.