Taking Liberties With Marcus Garvey

Jamaican art critics can be very intolerant. Not just the professionals who arrogantly expect us to take as gospel their point of view. It’s also the amateurs who depend on the evidence of our own eyes to pass judgment about the value of art. Especially when it’s about public figures!

I remember the controversy over Christopher Gonzalez’s inventive sculpture of Bob Marley that the Government commissioned in 1981. Born in Kingston, Gonzalez was living in Atlanta. David Boxer, then chief curator at the National Gallery, was sent to check on the progress of the work. He immediately ‘sighted’ problems.

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Bob was growing out of a tree root. Like a merman, the singer had no feet. Worst of all, the face looked nothing like Marley’s. When the sculpture arrived in Jamaica, angry reviewers comprehensively dissed it. They authoritatively declared, “Dat a no Bob.” The statue was a brilliant evocation of the spirit of Marley. But that’s not what the people wanted.

Neither did Bob’s family! Cedella Booker and Rita Marley insisted that the image was inappropriate. Edward Seaga, then prime minister, agreed. Alvin Marriott was commissioned to do a realistic sculpture, which stands (on feet) across from the National Stadium.

Gonzalez’s sculpture is now rooted at Island Village in Ocho Rios after languishing for many years in the National Gallery. It should be transplanted to The Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. There it would inspire students to “be bright and out of order” – as a clever sign on the college campus advocates.

DEADLY REVIEWS

Two Fridays ago, a bust of Marcus Garvey, made by the renowned sculptor Raymond Watson, was unveiled at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona. The swift response of the amateur art critics was uncompromising: “Dat a no Marcus Garvey.” Some of the reviews I’ve heard are deadly: “Im look like im have cancer”; “It look like bees sting im pon im top lip”: “Im deh pon SlimFast”.

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A Gleaner article by Paul Williams, published last Wednesday, records more responses: “‘Tek it dung,’ one woman said calmly. ‘That statue does not represent Marcus Garvey – that’s a fraud,’ pronounced an elderly Rasta, donning the colours of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). With photos of Garvey, and sometimes using expletives, he ranted until way after the formalities were over.”

Edward Seaga, a former distinguished fellow in the School for Graduate Studies and Research at the UWI, could have given valuable advice about the politics of commissioning public monuments. A student of anthropology, Seaga fully understands the power of symbols. He knows that Garvey is the embodiment of Black Power, not just for Rastafari but also for the black majority.

As minister of finance, Seaga played a leading role in bringing home Garvey’s remains from the UK in November 1964. That was an eloquent political statement. Seaga was also instrumental in ensuring that Marcus Garvey was declared Jamaica’s first national hero in 1969. I’m sure Seaga would empathise with those critics who are distressed by Raymond Watson’s representation of Garvey.

MOTHER MARIAMNE SAMAD

unknown-2The worst thing about the image is not that it doesn’t look like Garvey. Most of us haven’t seen Garvey in the flesh. Mother Mariamne Samad, who is 94, is the only person at the ceremony who actually met Garvey. She was five years old and she remembers being at the corner of 132nd Street and 5th Avenue in Harlem when Garvey briefly spoke to her.

Our images of Garvey have been mostly defined by photographs. We trust that they are accurate. But long before Instagram filtering, photos have been touched up, often to remove melanin. At the unveiling, Professor Rupert Lewis, eminent Garvey scholar, declared in a conciliatory tone, “There are many images of Garvey that you can get from his 52 years.”

True! Unfortunately, Raymond Watson’s image of Garvey reveals nothing of the authority, passion and power of more full-bodied representations of our national hero. I wouldn’t go as far as cancer. But Garvey seems poorly. His posture conveys passivity. He looks like a weakling. Who approved this diminished portrayal?

The bust should be replaced with an image that inspires unequivocal admiration of Garvey’s accomplishments as an illustrious pan-Africanist rallying the black world to affirm pride in race. Perhaps the CHASE Fund could support the commissioning of a new sculpture for UWI. And Watson’s could be donated to Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey. It would take its rightful place among the many images of Garvey archived there.

Under the visionary leadership of Dr Donna McFarlane, director/curator of Liberty Hall, the interactive museum has recently been redesigned by the brilliant creative team, Art on The Loose, based in Chicago. Marcus Garvey’s life story is told in inspiring words, sounds and images. It’s a completely engaging multimedia experience.

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The best thing about the UWI monument is the Garvey quotation inscribed on its base: “What I write today may live with me, but when I die, my writing lives on; therefore, what you do or write must be so clear as to live on when you are gone, that others who may read it might get a clear conception of what you mean.”  The UWI needs a lucid monument to Marcus Garvey that portrays a clear conception of the meaning of the man. Perhaps, next time, it will be a full-scale statue.

FLOW Have Nerve A Raise Price

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

FLOW+2012+NEW+LOGOIt look like seh Garfield Sinclair lik im head. Im a di man in charge a FLOW Jamaica. Im no see seh di bigger boss dem fi Liberty Global, weh own FLOW, a gi im basket fi carry water? Seh dem waan mek more money offa wi. Di amount a customer weh a bawl bout FLOW bad service! An Liberty Global coulda a set fi wi, a plan fi raise price? No sah! Nutten couldn’t go so.

Mek mi tek dat back. Nutten shouldn’t go so. But dem have di handle an wi have di blade. So dem can do anyting dem waan. An nobody cyaan do nutten bout it. Yes, wi can switch to Digicel. Ih-ih? Oonu no hear seh Digicel owe so much money dem a look money fi borrow fi pay off di money dem owe? Debt top a debt. Digicel cyaan help demself, much more wi. Dem a raise fi dem price to. Watch out! No better pork; no better barrel.

Mi waan know wa Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) a do bout FLOW an Digicel. An by di way, mi no work fi OUR. Mi tired fi people a email mi a complain bout FLOW an Digicel. All mi can do a write bout it. Oonu fi email OUR. An call dem. An carry on bad. Oonu fi go demonstrate outside a OUR office. Mek dem know seh oonu serious. Oonu waan justice!

Hear wa smaddy email an tell mi last week. Im seh FLOW gi im bout 2 week notice seh dem a go raise dem phone rate from $2.99 to $3.99. Digicel gi im 2 day notice seh dem a go raise fi dem rate from $2.95 to $3.95. Oonu see seh FLOW an Digicel a sing di same Sankey!

 

MI NO SORRY FI DEM

 

Den ascorden to one Gleaner article weh publish pon May 17, ‘FLOW Jamaica hikes cable rates amid losses’. FLOW lost 533 million dollar fi di first three month a disya year. Mi no know a weh dem go put down dat deh whole heap a money careless mek dem go lost di whole a it. Mi no sorry fi dem. A wi mi sorry fa. FLOW a depend pon wi fi gi dem back all a di money weh dem lost. Anyting coulda go so? A no wi response.

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Mek mi tell oonu bout fi mi FLOW cable service. Mi cyaan even get TVJ! Most a di programme dem mi waan watch off di air. Yu see all Stephen Colbert show. Dat a one wicked comedy show. A pure politics im deal wid. When im done wid di poppyshow weh a gwaan eena Merica, yu weak. Talk bout tek bad tings mek joke! Dat deh channel, 123, gawn. Mi ha fi a wait so til next morning fi ketch Colbert pon di Internet.

An a no like seh FLOW a cut dem price fi mek up fi all a di channel dem weh gawn. Dem a raise di price. Dem no ha no conscience. John Crow nyam it out. So now, wi ha fi go pay more fi less? If FLOW tink seh dem a lost money now, mek dem wait so til wi go pon strike an stop buy dem bandooloo cable service. A den dem a go lost money. Mi can get TVJ fi nutten. Mek FLOW gweh! Garry Sinclair better tell di higher heads seh wi tired a di advantage tecking. FLOW ha fi do better dan dis. Or wi go a block dem up!

 

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

 

It luk laik se Garfield Sinclair lik im ed. Im a di man in chaaj a FLOW Jamaica. Im no si se di biga baas dem fi Liberty Global, we uon FLOW, a gi im baaskit fi kyari waata? Se dem waahn mek muor moni aafa wi. Di amount a kostama we a baal bout FLOW bad sorvis! An Liberty Global kuda a set fi wi, a plan fi riez prais? Nuo sa! Notn kudn go so.

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Mek mi tek dat bak. Notn shudn go so. Bot dem av di angl an wi av di blied. So dem kyahn du eniting dem waahn. An nobadi kyaahn du notn bout it. Yes, wi kyahn swich tu Digicel. Ihn-ihn? Unu no ier se Digicel uo so moch moni, dem a luk moni fi bara fi pie aaf di moni dem uo? Det tap a det. Digicel kyaahn elp demself, moch muor wi. Dem a riez fi dem prais tu. Wach out! No beta puok; no beta baril.

Mi waahn nuo wa Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) a du bout FLOW an Digicel. An bai di wie, mi no wok fi di OUR. Mi taiyad fi piipl a iimiel mi a komplien bout FLOW an Digicel. Aal mi kyahn du a rait bout it. Unu fi iimiel OUR. An kaal dem. An kyari aan bad. Unu fi go demanschriet outsaid a OUR afis. Mek dem nuo se unu siiriyos. Unu waahn jostis!

Ier wa smadi iimiel an tel mi laas wiik. Im se FLOW gi im bout 2 wiik notis se dem a go riez dem fuon riet from $2.99 to $3.99. Digicel gi im 2 die notis se dem a go riez fi dem riet fram $2.95 tu $3.95. Unu si se FLOW an Digicel a sing di siem Sankey!

 

MI NO SARI FI DEM

 

Den azkaadn tu wan Gleaner aatikl we poblish pan Mie 17, ‘FLOW Jamaica hikes cable rates amid losses’. FLOW laas 533 milyan dala fi di fos chrii mont a disya ier. Mi no nuo a we dem go put dong dat de uol iip a moni kielis mek dem go laas di uol a it. Mi no sari fi dem. A wi mi sari fa. FLOW a dipen pan wi fi gi dem bak aal a di moni we dem laas. Enting kuda go so? A no wi rispans.

tvjMek mi tel unu bout fi mi FLOW kiebl sorvis. Mi kyaahn iivn get TVJ! Muos a di pruogram dem mi waahn wach aaf di ier. Yu si aal Stephen Colbert shuo. Dat a wan wikid kamidi shuo. A pyuur palitiks im diil wid. Wen im don wid di papishuo we a gwaahn iina Merika, yu wiik. Taak bout tek bad tings mek juok! Dat de chanel, 123, gaan. Mi a fi a wiet so til neks maanin fi kech Colbert shuo pan di Intanet.

An a no laik se FLOW a kot dem prais fi mek op fi aal a di chanel dem we gaan. Dem a riez di prais. Dem no a no kanshens. Jangkro nyam it out. So nou, wi a fi go pie muor fi les? If FLOW tingk se dem a laas moni nou, mek dem wiet so til wi go pan schraik an stap bai dem banduulu kiebl sorvis. A den dem a go laas moni. Mi kyan get TVJ fi notn. Mek FLOW gwe! Garry Sinclair beta tel di aiya edz se wi taiyad a di advaantij tekin. FLOW a fi du beta dan dis. Aar wi a go blak dem op!

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

FLOW Has Nerve To Raise Prices

It seems as if Garfield Sinclair isn’t thinking straight.  He’s the man in charge of FLOW Jamaica. Can’t he see that his superiors at Liberty Global, who own FLOW, are asking him to do the impossible? Insisting that they want to make more off us.  There are so many customers complaining about FLOW’s bad service! And Liberty Global could actually be targetting us for a price increase? No sir! That simply couldn’t be true.

Let me take that back. That shouldn’t be true. But they have the handle and we have the blade. So they can do whatever they want. An nobody can do a thing about it. Yes, we can switch to Digicel. Really? Haven’t you heard that  Digicel is so deep in debt they’re trying to borrow more money to pay off their debts?   Debt on top of debt. Digicel can’t help themselves, let alone us. They are raising prices too. Watch out! We’re stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.

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I’d like to know what the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) is doing bout FLOW and Digicel. And by the way, I don’t work for the OUR. I’m tired of getting emails  complaining about FLOW and Digicel. All I can do is write about it. You all have to email the OUR. And call them. And make a lot of noise. And demonstrate outside the OUR office. Let them know you’re serious. You want justice!

Here’s an email I got last week. The writer said FLOW gave him  about 2 weeks notice that  the phone rate was going to be raised from $2.99 to $3.99. Digicel gave him 2 days notice that their rate was going up from $2.95 to $3.95. You can see that FLOW and Digicel are singing the same tune!

 

I’M NOT SORRY FOR THEM

 

Then according to a Gleaner article published on May 17, ‘FLOW Jamaica hikes cable rates amid losses’. FLOW lost 533 million dollars in the first quarter of this year. I don’t know where they could have carelessly placed all that money so that they’ve lost all of it. I’m not sorry for them. I’m sorry for us. FLOW is depending on us to get back all the money they’ve  lost. How can that be? We’re not responsible.

Let me tell you about my FLOW cable service. I can’t even get TVJ! Most of the programmes I want to watch are off the air. For example, the Stephen Colbert show. That’s a  wicked comedy.  He deals with just politics. When he’s done with all the nonsense that’s going on in the U.S, you’re weak. Talk about making fun of a bad situation! That channel, 123, gone. I have to wait until the next morning to catch Colbert on the Internet.

2012021556no_to_conscience-crAnd FLOW isn’t giving price cuts to compensate for all the missing channels. They’re hiking prices. They  have no conscience.  It’s completely eaten away. So now, we have to pay more for less? If FLOW thinks they’re losing money now, let them wait  until we go on strike and stop buying their erratic cable service. That’s when they’re going to lose money. I can get TVJ for free. Later for FLOW! Garry Sinclair had better tell his bosses that we’re tired of being exploited. FLOW has to do better than this. Or we’re going to block them up!

 

What’s Sexy For The Goose?

The victory of Emmanuel Macron, president of France, is not just about saving his country from the hateful politics of Marine Le Pen and her far-right nationalists. It’s also a celebration of sexual love that decisively penetrates conventional barriers of respectability.

Macron’s wife, Brigitte, is 25 years his senior. She could actually be his grandmother if she grew up in certain societies where adolescent girls get married at a very tender age. But that’s not her culture. So let’s say she could be Macron’s mother. This became an issue in the French election campaign.

It was even rumoured that Macron must be gay to have a wife so much older than himself. She could only be his cover, not his real-real lover. Macron addressed the matter frontally in an interview on Le Parisien TV. He dismissed the speculation about his sexuality as rampant homophobia. The French? Homophobic? I thought Jamaicans, especially our DJs, had the monopoly on homophobia.

Brigitte-Macron-Emmanuel-WifeMacron also described the obsession with his wife’s age as pure misogyny.  If his wife had been 20 years his junior, it would not have been remarkable. The age difference between Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron is exactly the same as that between Melania and Donald Trump. But this hasn’t been an issue for them. I suppose there have been so many revealing distractions that age is a minor matter.

It is true that Brigitte and Emmanuel met in delicate circumstances. He was only 15 and she was his drama tutor at school. It’s not clear whether or not the romance started right away. In any case, the age of consent in France is 15. The affair would have been perfectly legal. But Brigitte was married.

What’s good for the gander is definitely not good for the goose. Married men have affairs all the time. It’s not a big deal for them, it seems. Why are men and women held to such different sexual standards? It appears as if women are not supposed to enjoy sex. Why should women settle for doddering old men? Why shouldn’t we marry hot young men? Who makes up the rules?

SERMON ON THE MOUND

Emmanuel Macron is quite right. It’s prejudice against women, pure and simple, that traps us in our ‘rightful’ place. In the kitchen! And the conditioning starts very early with all those tiny household appliances girls get as Christmas presents.

ge-mothers-day-adThe stereotyping continues right through life. On Mother’s Day, and I’m alarmed that so many men seem to think that women will shiver in delight if they’re given a fridge or a stove. Those are household appliances. They’re not personal toys. Why not give the woman an appliance she can enjoy in the bedroom, the other place in which she’s often trapped?

Which brings me to Ishawna’s sermon on the mound: the mons Venus. I know that the description of Ishawna’s dancehall lyrics as a sermon will seem sacrilegious to many pious readers. And the echoes of the biblical Sermon on the Mount will be even more upsetting. As Ishawna says about her own song, “Nuff ignorant people a go cuss this.”

But the original meaning of ‘sermon’ is not exclusively religious. Technically, what we now call a ‘sermon’ should be more precisely described as a ‘religious sermon’. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, ‘sermon’ comes from the Latin ‘sermonem’. It means ‘continued speech, conversation; common talk, rumour; learned talk, discourse; manner of speaking, literary style’. Originally, a sermon was ‘a stringing together of words’. Much like dancehall lyrics!

EQUAL RIGHTS

Ishawna-9Like many a Christian parson, Ishawna has a burden on her heart. It’s the very same issue that annoys Emmanuel Macron: unequal gender relations. And Ishawna expresses herself most passionately in her decidedly secular sermon. Admittedly, her sexually explicit stringing together of words cannot possibly pass the scrutiny of the Broadcasting Commission. Bleeping can’t help this one. Nothing much would be left.

But Ishawna also uses the occasional clever metaphor. The mouth of the Pepsi bottle is the mound and the lubricant produced by the aroused woman is “bag juice”. I was amused to learn recently that literal bag juice is also called “saline”. Typical Jamaican wit! After all, it does rehydrate. Then it struck me that men who sell bag juice may now start to be worried about the feminisation of their product. What a thing!

Once you get past the X-rated lyrics, the moral of Ishawna’s message is persuasive. Reciprocity in sexual relationships is the principle she advocates. And this extends outside the bedroom into the kitchen. Ishawna asserts that she’s literally eating properly, highlighting the benefits of pineapple juice. And she insists that her sexual partner must also be physically fit.

Naturally, male DJs have responded to Equal Rights. Kip Rich categorically states, “Mi done wid bag juice; mi no waan see no Pepsi.” Does “done” mean that Kip Rich used to enjoy bag juice? If not, that’s quite a slip of the lip.

Like Ishawna, Kip Rich promotes equal rights. He doesn’t pressure his partner to perform certain sexual acts because he’s not going to return the favour. And he advises men to eat healthily so they can function efficiently.

Instead of condemning dancehall culture, in general, and Ishawna’s sermon, in particular, we should all take heed. As the Bible says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

We Are To Pay For Trump’s Wall?

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HR 1813 is not the name of a deadly virus like H1N1. It’s the Border Wall Funding Act 2017. Republican Congressman Mike Rogers from Alabama and eight of his colleagues introduced the act on March 30. If approved, it would be as lethal as swine flu. The act would impose a two per cent tax on all remittances from the US to Latin America and the Caribbean. Tax evaders could face up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Jamaica is listed among the foreign countries to which the law would apply. But not Trinidad and Tobago. They’re not on the map? How we get mixed up in funding Trump’s wall? It’s a clear case of ‘cyaan ketch Kwaku, yu ketch im shut’. Donald Trump promised his supporters that Mexico would pay for the wall. It seems as if it never occurred to him that the Mexicans would kiss dem teeth and tell him to go to hell.

NBC’s comedy show Saturday Night Live did a clever skit on February 4 in which Trump calls the Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto. Taking on the role of a scammer, Trump goes straight for the kill: “Congratulations! You’ve just won a free cruise for two to Hawaii. We just need your country’s credit card number.” Trump is definitely not as successful as our MoBay experts. Pena Nieto immediately recognises his voice and mockingly says, “We’re not paying for the wall, Donald.” And hangs up.

Fun and joke aside, Trump now seems to realise that he can’t force the Mexicans to pay for his wall. So he tried to get American taxpayers to foot the bill. But Trump couldn’t muster enough support from even Republicans to get the wall in the Budget. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer sums up Trump’s dilemma this way in a Washington Post article published on May 1: “Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate were closer to one another than Republicans were to Donald Trump.”

REMITTANCE MULES

Congressman Mike Rogers and his posse of eight have broadened the search for sacrificial victims. It’s all of Latin America and the Caribbean that must now pay for the wall. It’s a lunatic proposition. There is no rational basis for it. Why should hard-working American citizens and legal immigrants be taxed to send remittances abroad? Even illegal immigrants should not be taxed. They already pay taxes all the time on goods and services. A two per cent tax might sound like nothing to rich people like Donald Trump who are ‘smart’ enough to evade taxation. But it’s a huge burden on the poor.

Furthermore, the proposed tax is counterproductive. By reducing the amount of money sent abroad, the tax would actually increase the likelihood that new migrants would try to get into the US to make money for themselves. Doesn’t it occur to the anti-immigration brigade that it would it make more sense to support potential immigrants outside the country with untaxed remittances? Then, in this unconscionable scheme, remittance companies would be paid five per cent of the new taxes they collect to cover their administrative costs. That’s on top of their own fee for doing the transfer.

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As one of my witty friends says, if the act is passed, a specialist job category would emerge: remittance mules. They would join the band of operatives who are trafficking illegal money across the world. Except that this trafficking would now be in perfectly legal money that the US government would have wickedly turned into contraband as a consequence of the inhumane remittance tax.

FAKE NEWS

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The headline of a New York Times article published on February 6, 2017 tells a complicated story. I suppose Donald Trump would say it’s fake news: ‘California Farmers Backed Trump, but Now Fear Losing Field Workers’. It’s a contradiction that makes perfectly good sense. Vote for Trump and cut off your nose to spite your face: “‘If you only have legal labor, certain parts of this industry and this region will not exist,’ said Harold McClarty, a fourth-generation farmer in Kingsburg whose operation grows, packs and ships peaches, plums and grapes throughout the country. ‘If we sent all these people back, it would be a total disaster.'”

Despite all the evidence that Trump’s wall will not stop illegal immigration, he simply refuses to abandon his fantasy. So the petitions keep swirling on the Internet to defeat his plan. The latest I’ve seen is an appeal to the Caterpillar company: “US President Donald Trump is about to take the next big step to make his 1,600km (1,000-mile) concrete wall along the US-Mexican border a reality. And he wants Caterpillar Inc, one of the world’s biggest construction equipment manufacturers, to help build it. Most of the world already sees this wall for what it is: a racist waste of resources and an international symbol of hate. With a majority of Americans against Trump’s wall, we think Caterpillar ought to reconsider the business opportunity.” Will they?

Even legal farm workers from the Caribbean would be trapped behind Trump’s wall. They would be caught in the remittance-tax scam. Caribbean governments must stand up to defend our citizens against exploitation. CARICOM must join with our Latin American counterparts to fight the Border Wall Funding Act. Like it or not, the economies of the region depend on remittances. It’s a matter of life and death.

Time for Jamaican Language Day

On Easter Monday, I went to a party for one of my friends who recently retired from banking. There was a very high concentration of former NCB managers. They exchanged entertaining stories about the early days when black people started to break through the glass ceiling of upper management at the old imperial Barclays Bank.

After much liquor had flowed, one of the men cornered me. This was not a sexual advance. It was purely academic. He wanted to discuss a subject on which he was sure we disagreed. I knew what was coming. Sure enough, he wanted to know why I was against Jamaican children learning English; and why I was proposing that Patwa be used as a language of instruction in school. He proudly told me that his daughter was fluent in several languages and was teaching English in Japan. He even phoned her and we had a quick chat.

I asked my interrogator why he thought I didn’t want Jamaican children to learn English. He couldn’t give a straight answer. He vaguely said that’s what he’d picked up from the media. And he simply didn’t understand my position, especially since he knew I had a PhD in English. As far as he was concerned, I was either wicked or mad. Wicked because I was selfishly knocking down the ladder I had climbed. I didn’t want others to get the opportunities I’d had. Or I was mad because I wanted to lock Jamaican children out of the world of English, a global language, and imprison them in a local language, Jamaican.

WASTE OF TIME

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The fact that I’ve been teaching English for more than 40 years didn’t matter. So I patiently explained that I actually do want all Jamaican children to learn English. And other languages as well! I also want them to learn the differences between English and Jamaican. And that’s where the trouble starts.

For many educated Jamaicans, Patwa is not a language. It’s nothing but ‘broken’ English. Calling this non-language ‘Jamaican’ is pure foolishness. Teaching children the differences between Jamaican and English is a waste of time. Just focus on teaching them English! Forget about their home language! That’s how we’ve been teaching English for decades and it certainly has not been working. There are many tertiary-level students who are not competent in English.

Shouldn’t we be trying other methods if we really want all of our children to learn English? A few years ago, I taught a basic English course for staff at one of our commercial banks. I carefully pointed out differences between the grammar of English and Jamaican. At the end of one of the classes, an attentive man asked, “Why nobody never teach us like this before?” Perhaps, because the Ministry of Education is satisfied with the status quo.

HIT OR MISS

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Last Sunday, a group of us went to Cable Hut Beach. It’s no Pearly Beach. The sand is black, like the patrons. And it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to get in: only $200 for adults and $100 for children. The property is being refurbished and the restaurant building is not completed. It’s a beautiful, grand hut with a magnificent view out to sea.

So we went to Corn Shop at Nine Miles where we got delicious roast fish and sprat. I am not putting no ‘ed’ on ‘roast’. It’s Jamaican! As we were ordering our food, a nice gentleman started up a conversation. Same story: Why aren’t Jamaican children learning English these days? Is it because of all this emphasis on Patwa?

He learned English the painful way. English grammar was drilled into him. For many Jamaicans of a certain age, John Nesfield’s Manual of English Grammar and Composition, first published in London in 1898, was the bible that opened the pearly gates into high society. It was widely used both in England and the colonies.

Things and times have certainly changed. Even in England, there are now huge debates about the effectiveness of teaching old-school grammar. One of the problems is that many teachers of English there have not learned the grammar of the language in a systematic way. So their teaching is hit or miss.

Most of our primary-school English teachers have an even harder time. English is their second language, not their first. They don’t know it intuitively. And many of them have not been efficiently taught the structure of English. Their teaching of the language is more miss than hit. And we’re surprised that students are not learning English.

CULTURAL DIVERSITY

Celebrating-Language-UN-English-Language-DayLast Sunday, April 23, was United Nations (UN) English Language Day. The UN website states that Language Days were established in 2010 “to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity, as well as to promote equal use of all six official languages”. These are, in alphabetical order, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

April 23 was chosen for English because it’s both the birthday and deathday of William Shakespeare, England’s most celebrated dramatist. Conspiracy theorists claim that he didn’t write all those plays. All the same, these long-lasting literary works demonstrate the beauty and power of the English language.

Every country has its own great writers. In the spirit of cultural diversity, let’s make September 7 Jamaican Language Day. It’s Louise Bennett-Coverley’s birthday. As she would say, “Every dog got im day an every puss im 4 o’clock.”

Never Mind Yaw, Novelette!

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

No teck it personal, mi dear! Di man dem no ready. Dem no waan no woman commissioner. Dem no have di balls fi dat. It look like seh dem fraid woman a go put dem out a commission. Dem done know seh nuff time, di best ‘man’ fi di job a one woman. An it stick inna dem craw. Dem cyaan tek it. Wi gweh ha fi go wait one long long time fi one woman turn commissioner a police inna disya country.

Novlette-But yu set di pace an wi proud a yu. A no fi yu fault mek yu no get di work. Yu do everyting yu suppose fi do. Yu go a university. Yu study hard. Yu pass all a yu exam dem. Yu join police force becau yu know eena yu heart a heart seh yu can do di work. Yu understand di system. From top to bottom!

Ongle ting, yu never born wid no baton. Sake a dat, yu can form like seh yu a commissioner. Yu can act good-good. But dem nah gi yu di real-real commissioner work. Wat a piece a liberty! An plenty a di man dem weh born wid baton, dem cyaan do di work good like yu!

Dem tek woman fi eedyat! Dem tink seh dem can fool wi up. An wi no know wa a gwaan. Di lickle acting work nah hold wi. Wi done know how dat go. A consolation prize. A con dem a try con wi. Dem gi yu consolation before dem tek weh di big prize. Dat a after dem done build yu up, mek yu feel seh yu well qualify fi di work. If it fly go a yu head, yu all figet seh yu no got no nightstick. Yu start tink seh yu have a chance.

‘BET ON NOVELETTE’

All Gleaner get ketch! Pon February 19, dem publish one front-page story wid disya big-big headline, ‘Bet on Novelette – Acting police commissioner poised to be appointed to lead the force full-time’. A no Caymanas Park wi deh! Dis a no horse race. Dis a police work. Wi no ha fi a bet! Yu well qualify fi di job an yu suppose fi get it. Anyhow, hear wa smaddy tell Gleaner wid dem goat mouth:

“‘Ms Grant was appointed to act in the post but it appears that it was a test run and she has passed with flying colours,” one source told our news team.

“‘She has always enjoyed the respect of her colleagues, but in the time she has been acting she has convinced most persons that she has the mojo for the job.'”

mojo-header-logo-080310-dr

Well, Ms Novelette, yu mighta got ‘mojo’. Dat a one African word fi obeah. But still for all, yu no got no baton. An di way di ting set, fi yu obeah cyaan beat di man dem inna disya time. Dem got big stick over yu.

Mi glad fi si seh di woman organisation dem big yu up eena one letter weh Gleaner publish last week Tuesday: ‘Women laud Novelette Grant’. Dem seh, “As a woman who is one of the highest-ranking officers in a traditional male-dominated organisation, the JCF, yours is without a doubt a monumental achievement, and we hold you in the highest regard.”

A no ongle woman ‘laud’ yu, Ms Grant. Nuff man wid conscience know seh yu well deserve di commissioner work. Yu coulda more dan manage it. Never mind, yaw! Time longer dan rope.

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

No tek it porsnal, mi dier! Di man dem no redi. Dem no waahn no uman komishana. Dem no av di baalz fi dat. It luk laik se dem fried uman a go put dem out a komishan. Dem don nuo se nof taim, di bes ‘man’ fi di jab a wan uman. An it stik ina dem kraa. Dem kyaahn tek it. Wi gwehn a fi go wiet wan lang-lang taim fi wan uman tun komishana a poliis ina disya konchri.

Bot yu set di pies an wi proud a yu. A no fi yu faalt mek yu no get di wok. Yu du evriting yu sopuoz fi du. Yu go a yuunivorsiti. Yu stodi aad. Yu paas aal a yu egzam dem. Yu jain poliis fuors bikaa yu nuo iina yu aat a aat se yu kyahn du di wok. Yu andastan di sistim. Fram tap tu batam!

Ongl ting, yu neva baahn wid no batan. Siek a dat, yu kyahn faam laik se yu a komishana. Yu kyahn ak gud-gud. Bot dem naa gi yu di riil-riil komishana wok. Wat a piis a libati! An plenti a di man dem we baahn wid batan, dem kyaahn du di wok gud laik yu!

Dem tek uman fi iidyat! Dem tingk se dem kyahn fuul wi op. An wi no nuo wa a gwaahn. Di likl aktin wok naa uol wi. Wi don nuo ou dat go. A kansolieshan praiz. A kan dem a chrai kan wi. Dem gi yu kansolieshan bifuor dem tek we di big praiz. Dat a aafta dem don bil yu op, mek yu fiil se yu wel kwalifai fi di wok. If it flai go a yu ed, yu aal figet se yu no gat no naitstik. Yu staat tingk se yu av a chaans.

‘BET ON NOVELETTE’

laughing-goat

Aal Gleaner get kech! Pan Febieri 19, dem poblish wan front-piej stuori wid disya big-big edlain, ‘Bet on Novelette – Acting police commissioner poised to be appointed to lead the force full time’. A no Caymanas Park wi de! Dis a no aas ries. Dis a polis wok. Wi no a fi a bet! Yu wel kwalifai fi di jab an yu supuoz fi get it. Eniou, ier wa smadi tel Gleaner wid dem guot mout:

“‘Ms Grant was appointed to act in the post but it appears that it was a test run and she has passed with flying colours,’ one source told our news team.

“‘She has always enjoyed the respect of her colleagues, but in the time she has been acting she has convinced most persons that she has the mojo for the job.'”

mojo+2Wel, Ms Novelette, yu maita gat ‘mojo’. Dat a wan Afrikan wod fi uobia. Bot stil far aal, yu no got no batan. An di wie di ting set, fi yu uobia kyaahn biit di man dem ina dis ya taim. Dem gat big stik uova yu.

Mi glad fi si se di uman aaganazieshan dem big yu op iiina wan leta we Gleaner poblish laas wiik Chuuzde: ‘Women laud Novelette Grant’.

Dem se, “As a woman who is one of the highest-ranking officers in a traditional male-dominated organisation, the JCF, yours is without a doubt a monumental achievement, and we hold you in the highest regard.”

A no ongl uman ‘laud’ yu, Ms Grant. Nof man wid kanshens nuo se yu wel disorv di komishana wok. Yu kuda muor dan manij it. Neva main, yaa! Taim langa dan ruop.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

NEVER MIND, YOU HEAR, NOVELETTE!

Don’t take it personally, my dear! The men are just not ready. They don’t want a female commissioner. They don’t have the balls for it. It seems as if they’re afraid women are going to put them out of commission. They do know that lots of times, the best ‘man’ for the job is woman. And they can’t get over it. They just can’t deal with it. We’re going to have to wait a very long time for a woman to become the commissioner of police in this country.

But you set the pace and we’re proud of you. It’s not your fault you didn’t get the job. You did everything you were supposed to. You went to university. You studied hard. You passed all your exams. You joined the police force because you knew deep down that you were qualified to do the job. You understand the system. From top to bottom!

thThe only issue is you weren’t born with a baton. So you can pretend as if you’re a commissioner. You can act very well. But they’re not going to appoint you as commissioner. That’s just outrageous! And lots of the men who were born with a baton can’t do the job as well as you!

They think women are idiots! They think they can trick and we won’t know be any the wiser.  The acting job won’t cut it. We know what that’s about. It’s a consolation prize. They’re trying to con us. They gave you consolation before you lost the main prize. That’s after they sang your praises and made you think you were very well qualified for the job. If you made it go to your head, you would even forget that you don’t have a nightstick. You would start to think that you really stood a chance.

‘BET ON NOVELETTE’

Even the Gleaner was caught out! On February 19, they published a front-page story with this huge headline, ‘Bet on Novelette – Acting police commissioner poised to be appointed to lead the force full-time’. We’re not at Caymanas Park! This isn’t a horse race. It’s police work. We don’t have to be betting! You are well qualified for the job and and you’re supposed to get it. Anyhow, here’s what a source told the Gleaner, putting a jinx on you:

10-flying-colours-logo.jpg“‘Ms Grant was appointed to act in the post but it appears that it was a test run and she has passed with flying colours,” one source told our news team.

“‘She has always enjoyed the respect of her colleagues, but in the time she has been acting she has convinced most persons that she has the mojo for the job.'”

Well, Ms Novelette, you might have ‘mojo’. That’s an African word for obeah. All the same, you don’t have a baton. And the way things are, your obeah can’t beat the men in these times. They’ve got a big stick over you.

I’m glad that a coalition of women’s organisations honoured in a letter published by the  Gleaner on April 18: ‘Women laud Novelette Grant’.  They said, “As a woman who is one of the highest-ranking officers in a traditional male-dominated organisation, the JCF, yours is without a doubt a monumental achievement, and we hold you in the highest regard.”

It’s not only women who ‘laud’ you, Ms Grant. Many men of conscience know that you truly deserve the job of commissioner. You could have more than managed it. Never mind, you hear! All things in their time.