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.

Chanting down greedy hoteliers

Last week’s post, ‘No Beach For Local Tourists’, touched a very sensitive nerve. I got so many emails from both Jamaicans and other Caribbean citizens who are very concerned about the way in which hoteliers dominate the conversation about public access to our beaches.

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Diana McCaulay, CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), highlights this troubling issue of special interests in her excellent article, ‘The Problem of Beach Exclusion’, published in The Gleaner on Wednesday, January 11: “In 1997, the NRCA [National Resources Conservation Authority] began work on a beach policy to address issues surrounding public access and a Green Paper was drafted which proposed open access. There was immediate pushback from the tourism industry”.

Of course, there was pushback! Hoteliers don’t want open access to beaches because this will reduce their control of valuable resources. Their all-exclusive hotels would become much too inclusive for their liking. They want to erect barbed wire fences, stretching into the sea, to keep out the locals.

We cannot sit back passively and allow our beaches to be captured by greedy hoteliers, irresponsible politicians and all those who benefit from the current state of affairs. We have to take action. We, Jamaicans, like to think of ourselves as militant. We boast about our Ashanti warrior heritage. But we don’t always put up a fight for important causes. We need to follow the example of our uncompromising Caribbean neighbours who refuse to be shut out of their beaches.

VIRAL PROTEST

I got an inspiring email from Antigua. Here’s an excerpt. I’ve deleted the name of the hotelier: “A few years ago, [a Jamaican hotelier] tried to get the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to ‘allow’ him to turn one of our most visited and, by far, favourite beaches – among locals and visitors – into a private enclave for his guests. The protests from the locals and nearby residents were not only unrelenting, but in your face. Some of the protests even went viral. He eventually backed away and the Government did not have to intervene … the people with the power had spoken.”

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One of the most outspoken warriors in the fight to keep Caribbean beaches out of the grasp of hoteliers is the Barbadian calypsonian The Mighty Gabby. His 1982 calypso, “Jack”, was a classic piece of throw word confronting Jack Dear, chairman of the Barbados Tourist Board. Dear, who was certainly not dearly beloved, had declared that hotel owners had the right to develop their property up to the waterfront of the island’s beaches.

This is how Gabby launched his counterattack:

“I grow up bathing in seawater

But nowadays dat is bare horror

If I only venture down by the shore

Police telling me Ah can’t bathe no more

Cause Jack don’t want me to bathe on my beach

Jack tell dem to keep me out of reach

Jack tell dem I will never make the grade

Strength and security build barricade

Da can’t happen here in this country

I want Jack to know dat di beach belong to we

Da can’t happen here over my dead body

Tell Jack dat I say dat di beach belong to we”.

Gabby knows that the barricades are all about the tourist dollar. And he’s not prepared to sell his birthright:

“Tourism vital, I can’t deny

But can’t mean more than I and I

My navel string bury right here

But a tourist one could be anywhere

Yet Jack don’t want me to bathe on my beach”.

Gabby’s use of “I and I” is an assertion of Rastafari consciousness. It empowers him to chant down the forces of oppression.

BIG UP WI BEACH

Tourism is now vital to our economies across the Caribbean. But we have to find a way to balance the requirements of the tourist industry and the needs of citizens. We can’t just fence in tourists and fence out locals. Many hoteliers assume that their property is like a cruise ship. And the ship is the destination. But some tourists actually want to escape the all-exclusive prison. They want to meet the people outside the barricades.

Diana McCaulay shows us the way forward: “It is true that harassment is a problem for the tourist industry – or indeed for any visitor to a Jamaican beach. But the response cannot be exclusion. The response has to be commitment to a set of articulated principles – frequent access points; provision of well-managed public beaches, including the requirement for behaviour by beach users that does not present a nuisance or threat to others or to the beach itself”.

thThis week, the Jamaica Environment Trust launches ‘Big Up Wi Beach’ on Facebook. It’s an open forum for debate on beach access and related issues such as beach erosion. Readers are invited to post images of their favourite beaches and to write about their memories of great beach outings.

JET is also developing a petition to the Government advocating a definitive policy on beach access for all Jamaicans. I trust that the Urban Development Corporation will support the petition. I won’t hold my breath. I still haven’t gotten an answer to my email to the director of corporate communications about access to Pearly Beach. And I hope Jamaican musicians will create a song in support of the campaign. Like Gabby, they simply must chant down greedy hoteliers.

If Lloyd D’Aguilar Is Right …

imagesLloyd D’Aguilar has become a much-ridiculed character since he was banished from the West Kingston commission of enquiry. In cartoons, editorials and newspaper columns, on talk shows and social media, he’s portrayed as an egomaniac, hungry for attention. All because he stood up¬†for principle!

Admittedly, he not only stood up. He spoke out rather loudly for a very good cause: condemning the “kangaroo court” that’s not likely to hand down justice, in his opinion. D’Aguilar should have tried a lot harder to restrain himself when he saw how the enquiry was set up. But it was never going to be easy.

Before the enquiry even started, D’Aguilar applied for “standing”. This is a legal term meaning recognition of someone’s right to participate in a case because of a clear connection to the matter at hand. As convener of the Tivoli Committee, D’Aguilar seemed eligible for standing.

images-1But he was informed that the decision would not be made until the day of the enquiry. This was a problem. The Tivoli Committee would not have time to prepare witnesses and assure them that their interests would be protected. But there was nothing D’Aguilar could do about this arbitrary ruling.

The Tivoli Committee was, in fact, given standing. But there seems to have been some misunderstanding about exactly who was permitted to speak on behalf of the committee. Miguel Lorne, the attorney employed by the Tivoli Committee, was missing in action at the very start of the enquiry.

I PUT IT TO YOU

In the absence of the committee’s attorney, D’Aguilar exercised what he thought was his right to speak. That was the beginning of the end. In his opening remarks, D’Aguilar raised several pertinent issues. In email correspondence with me, he outlined them: “(1) how to deal with language; (2) rules of evidence; (3) visiting Tivoli; (4) compensation”.

Even the blind can now see that D’Aguilar was absolutely right to raise the issue of language. The legal profession is a secret society. And lawyers speak in code. I put it to you that the language of the law is deliberately designed to be confusing. That is why we have to pay lawyers to translate the code words into everyday language.

In addition, the official ‘everyday’ language of Jamaica is English. But the mother tongue of the majority of Jamaicans is not English. Call it what you like – dialect, Patwa, Creole, Jamaican, ‘chat bad’ – it is a distinct language. Most of the words of this language come from English. But the pronunciation, word order and grammar are not English.

UnknownSo here we have a commission of enquiry that is interrogating witnesses in a language the people don’t understand. And that is justice? Confusing ‘rubble’ with ‘rebel’ is just one of numerous examples of the breakdown of communication between witnesses and interrogators.

When the enquiry resumes, professional translators must be employed to ensure that witnesses completely understand the questions they are asked; and interrogators completely understand the answers they get. Failure to acknowledge Jamaican as an official language of the enquiry is a grave injustice. Speakers of the language are dismissed as social rubble. And they will rebel.

‘A POLITICAL HACK?’

I think it’s really wicked that Lloyd D’Aguilar has been dismissed from the enquiry. He has done so much work to ensure that the enquiry take place at all. When a lot of us shamefully forgot about the massacre of civilians, D’Aguilar and the Tivoli Committee kept the issue alive.

Sir David Simmons, chairman of the commission, cannot possibly understand why D’Aguilar was so disturbed by what he perceived as harassment of witnesses by insensitive attorneys for the security forces. All Simmons can see is an upstart – who is not even a lawyer – daring to challenge his authority.

It was certainly not polite of D’Aguilar to call Simmons “an enemy of the people of Tivoli Gardens” and “a political hack”. Simmons, naturally, took offence. In his own words: “This strikes at the heart of my statutory duty.” But it is also Simmons’ duty to take into account the possibility that D’Aguilar could ‘purge’ himself, as the JDF attorneys wanted him to do. With castor oil, perhaps? D’Aguilar should be given a chance to prove that his bowels of compassion are not shut up.

WAS DUDUS IN TIVOLI?

images-2The question I’d like the enquiry to ask is this: Who really believed that Dudus was in Tivoli at the start of the incursion? That might seem like a foolish question. Of course Dudus was in Tivoli. Why else would the security forces go there to look for him? But why would Dudus have sat in Tivoli waiting to be captured? And where was he caught? On the Mandela Highway, in a car with the Rev Al Miller, far from Tivoli!

Was the incursion nothing but a B movie, designed to show the US government that we were really trying our best to find Dudus? There are lots of extras in movies. Sometimes, according to the script, these extras get killed. Did the people who said they would die for Dudus expect play-play guns? The tragedy of the Tivoli incursion is that many people lost their lives. Fi real. They weren’t acting. That’s a very high price to pay to find one man who, perhaps, wasn’t even there.

Black Protest Shuts Down London Human Zoo

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

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

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

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

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

‘PROFOUNDLY TROUBLING’

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

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

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

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

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

ACTING OUT ABUSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mirror, Mirror On the Wall

Miss Jamaica World 2014

Miss Jamaica World 2014

I’d decided to stay out of the kas-kas over this year’s beauty contests. But last week, one of my friends who’d been bugging me about the Miss Jamaica World contest started up again when she saw the Miss Jamaica Universe winner: “Yu mean to seh yu not going to write about it?” What difference would it make? It’s the same old tired story. The judges and the audience never seem to agree on who should be the winner of our rather ugly beauty contests.

Here’s the headline of Janet Silvera’s Gleaner report on the finals of the Miss Jamaica World contest: ‘Laurie-Ann Chin crowned Miss Jamaica World 2014 despite crowd’s dissatisfaction’ (July 14, 2014). This is not news. If you follow these beauty contests, it’s easy to predict the outcome. The light-skinned girl is almost always going to win.

The top-three winners of this year’s Miss Jamaica Universe contest are even more uniformly light-skinned than their Miss Jamaica World counterparts. I don’t know why the audience keeps on expecting miracles. I suppose hope springs eternal in the human breast. Especially here in Jamaica where the breast of the vast majority of women is dark-skinned!

snow-white-mirrorFive years ago, I wrote a column ‘Everybody’s Miss Jamaica’, which was published on September 20, 2009. I mischievously suggested that we forget about old-style beauty contests and promote a new model. This is how I put it: “So every year we ask ourselves this very loaded question: ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of us all?’ And we all know the usual answer: ‘the fairest.’ But in an ‘out-of-many-one’ society it’s simply not fair that it’s only one type of beauty that is almost always privileged as the winner.

So why don’t we just agree to judge beauty in clearly distinct racial categories? I suggest five types: ‘African,’ ‘Indian,’ ‘Chinese,’ ‘European’ and ‘Out of Many, One.’ And I use the quotation marks to suggest the fact that these terms are quite arbitrary. There’s not going to be universal agreement on who exactly fits which type”.

LAPSE INTO LUNACY

shockedOf course, nobody took me seriously. It was satire after all. And we’re still fighting over who should win these beauty contests. As Janet Silvera reports, “Those shocked by the decision spoke loudly at the coronation show, raising their voices emphatically, as they cried ‘no, no’, booing the announcement.” But why were they “shocked”? They should know the score by now.

In the 1960s, one of my friends entered the Miss Jamaica beauty contest. I hope she won’t be vexed with me for reminding her of that lapse into lunacy. Or so it seemed. In the 1960s, Miss Jamaica looked just like Miss Jamaica today. You know exactly what I mean. My aspiring friend was not a Miss Jamaica lookalike. So I couldn’t understand why she would willingly subject herself to public humiliation.

Earlier on, when she’d asked me what I thought about her entering the contest I hadn’t been able to resist the temptation to tell her the truth as I saw it: “You entering Miss Jamaica? You must be mad!” Words to that effect. I guess I could have been much more diplomatic. I could have said, “Well, if they change the rules of the contest you might stand a chance.”

My friend did admit that she appreciated my honesty. Other people were pretending that her behaviour was normal. She was eliminated in the very first round. To give my friend her due, I think she had entered the contest to make a political statement. The politics of beauty! It’s really all about power. Judges assume the right to decide who is ugly and who is beautiful. Who gives them that power? The contestants? The audience? The owners of the competition?

‘SHE UGLY EEH!’

Unknown-2More than two decades ago, I was in a local bookshop and overheard two young women discussing a photo spread of the supermodel Althea Laing in Essence Magazine. One of them said, “She ugly eeh! Wa she a do inna magazine?” Well me an dem! “What wrong wid her? Unu no see how she beautiful?” Under pressure, they grudgingly conceded that maybe she was ‘attractive’. After all, she had attracted their attention. She had the look. But it was hard for these young women to appreciate the model’s beauty.

In a newspaper interview, Althea Laing wickedly describes the supermodel ‘look’ in this way: “The ‘look’ is when people can’t figure out whether you are ugly or pretty. You know you have the ‘look’ when people can’t figure that out.” I suppose the exclamation of that young woman in the bookshop was half question, half statement. She couldn’t figure out exactly what Althea Laing was doing in that magazine. Simply being attractively beautiful!

images-2Then I was intrigued to see that the prizes for this year’s Miss Jamaica World contest included the following: “10 university scholarships valued at $6 million, of which nine are from the University College of the Caribbean, in collaboration with¬†partner universities such as Florida International University, London University, Kursk University; a $1 million master’s degree scholarship in Logistics from the CMI”. I only hope all of the degree programmes on offer are accredited by the University Council of Jamaica! Or it won’t be pretty.

Putting Vaginas (And Penises) In Focus

UnknownNewspaper headlines are designed to grab your attention, if not your crotch. So I completely understand why the sensational ‘vagina’ – and not the more neutral ‘body’ – was used by the In Focus editor to brand Ms Karen Lloyd’s provocative column, ‘My vagina isn’t public property’ (Sunday Gleaner, August 3, 2014). Sex sells. Titillation, too.

I had a feeling that the hotty-hotty vaginal headline was going to backfire. It struck me that if your vagina really isn’t public property, perhaps, you wouldn’t want to expose it in print. Of course, that’s not the same as uncovering it in the flesh. All the same, as hard-core pornographers know, the thought of sex can be just as exciting as the real thing. Sometimes, even more so with the right visual stimulation.

Once I got past the seductive headline, I realised it was a case of bait and switch. The primary focus of Ms Lloyd’s perceptive column wasn’t her vagina after all. It was the persistent problem of verbal and physical abuse of girls and women in Jamaica. Across the board: uptown and downtown; black, white and brown; every single ethnic group. All our talk of independence, both national and personal, means absolutely nothing if we can’t cure this widespread sickness.

MALE BACKLASH

images-1Mr Bertlan Reynolds’ letter to the editor, published on Independence Day, is a classic example of abusive male backlash against women who dare to speak uncomfortable truths. The headline, ‘Vaginas public property on ‘Back Road’,’ maliciously challenges Ms Lloyd’s perfectly reasonable claims about a vagina’s right to privacy.

Mr Reynolds, who seems to be thinking with the head of his penis, completely misses the point. Unlike Ms Lloyd, the women on ‘Back Road’ are selling sex. Even so, the vagina of a female sex worker is not public property. It may be turned into a commodity and graphically put on display, as described in such detail by Mr Reynolds:

“Not too long ago, an event was taking place on this renowned road popularly called ‘Back Road’ that caused vehicular traffic to come to a virtual stop. A group of women presented themselves in an almost nude state banging on the cars of male drivers, gyrating and virtually ‘swiping’ the cars, including mine, with their private parts. This was certainly not a clever way to marketise their dismal future.”

FRONT-ROOM SEX WORKERS

Cleverly marketed or not, the vagina of a female sex worker is a private body part. And its owner has the right to determine its use and value. She is entitled to pick and choose her clients even in desperate economic circumstances. Sex workers have rights. They have the fundamental right to be protected from sexual abuse. And selling sex does not mean you give up all claims to be treated with dignity.

Dignity1Self-righteous, judgemental souls like Mr Reynolds don’t seem to understand this basic principle. And they certainly don’t grasp the economics of survival in Jamaica today. You cannot assume that sex workers willingly choose the world’s oldest profession. It’s usually a last resort, especially in societies like ours where poor women do face a dismal future.

And Mr Reynolds ought to know that sex workers come in all grades and stations: from ‘Back Road’ to front rooms in upscale, gated communities. Class covers a multitude of sins. The way some uptown ladies gyrate in public for carnival, they might as well be swiping their private parts on ‘Back Road’!

A SLAP FOR A SQUEEZE

I’m so glad Ms Lloyd had the presence of mind to slap the man who squeezed her breast. I’m sure he’ll think twice about attacking another woman. And his claim that he was only romping with her because she looked so good is outrageous. Presumably, an attractive woman must take full responsibility for provoking unwanted attention.

This is the identical assumption that the self-proclaimed “old fogey”, Mr Cedric Richards, makes in his letter to the editor, published on August 5. The headline is vexing: ‘Vagina not public property, but are women asking for it?’ And what, exactly, is ‘it’? Verbal abuse? Rape? These are acts of power, control and violence.

How would Mr Richards feel if a man grabbed his crotch in public? Would he concede that he’d been asking for it because he was dressed attractively? In a satirical letter to the editor, published on August 5, Ms Meng Na mocks heterosexual men who are afraid of being “checked” out by gay men but think it’s perfectly ‘natural’ for women to be groped.

safe_image.phpThe old fogey ends his letter with an irritating question: “Do the ladies have a responsibility to be more modest in their attire?” It’s not about how women dress. Even in societies where women are covered from head to toe, sexual abuse is a constant threat. Men have a responsibility to exercise self-control and keep their hands and penises under manners.

Instead of falling into the trap of thinking that unwanted sexual attention is a compliment, women must fight back. We cannot passively see ourselves as victims. We have to let men know that they are not entitled to romp with us against our will. And an unexpected response to sexual harassment – whether verbal or physical – can be a most effective deterrent.

On my walk one morning, a man called out to me, “Hi, sexy girl!” To be honest, I think he intended it as an innocent compliment. All the same, I thought I should put him in my place. I pleasantly replied, “Hi, sexy boy!” He almost fell off his bicycle.

Emancipation Day At Liberty Hall

Unknown-1A century ago, Marcus Garvey launched the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities (Imperial) League on Emancipation Day. Garvey was a man who understood the power of symbols. August 1 was the ideal day to make a grand statement advocating the unification of African people across the globe.

Garvey knew that emancipation was a long and difficult process. The road to full freedom was full of potholes. The journey would not be easy. And Garvey acknowledged the difference between physical and mental slavery. He encouraged us to take full responsibility for the process of liberation.

In a famous speech delivered in Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1937, Garvey prophetically declared, “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind, because man is related to man under all circumstances for good or ill.”

Bob Marley amplified Garvey’s message in Redemption Song:

Old pirates yes, they rob I

Sold I to the merchant ships

Minutes after they took I

From the bottomless pit

But my hand was made strong

By the hand of the Almighty

We forward in this generation triumphantly.”

Marcus Garvey’s UNIA-ACL was an unquestionable triumph. By the early 1930s, there were more than 1,000 divisions in 38 countries; for example, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Liberia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, South Africa, Trinidad and Venezuela.

images-1The rapid growth of the UNIA in the US is an eloquent testimony to the empowering appeal of Garvey’s redemptive vision for Black people. In 1917, Garvey established the New York Division of the UNIA with 13 members. From a single seed, the number of divisions within the US grew to 837 – without Internet or social media to spread the message!

VISIONARY LEADERSHIP

liberty_hall__kingston_jamaicaNot surprisingly, the growth of the UNIA was much slower in Jamaica. The legacy of mental slavery made it difficult for many African-Jamaicans to identify with a black man preaching the gospel of self-reliance. The UNIA in Jamaica started with 17 members and did not exceed 100 by the time Garvey left for the US in 1916. But the tide did turn. Marcus Garvey’s restored Liberty Hall at 76 King Street has now become a major cultural centre, thanks to the visionary leadership of the curator/director, Dr Donna McFarlane.

On Emancipation Day, Garvey’s legacy was celebrated in fine style. First, there was an enlightening conversation with Queen Mother Mariamne Samad and Dr Simon Clarke who had been members of the Garvey Juveniles in the US and Panama, respectively. Mr Arnold Bertram, historian and former minister of government, moderated the discussion.

Unknown-2Queen Mother Samad, who married a Jamaican, Clarence Thomas, came to live here in 1965. She said it was the single most important decision of her life. Recalling her youth in Harlem, New York, with parents who were committed Garveyites, Sister Samad showed the attentive audience pictures of the black Jesus and angels that had a place of honour in her home. These she donated to the Liberty Hall collection.

Dr Simon Clarke, who was born in Panama, also spoke about the issue of race. There were silver people and gold people, so named after their race and the currency in which each group was paid. Black people were silver and whites were gold. Dr Clarke told a most entertaining story of newly arrived black Jamaicans who joined the gold line at the post office.

That line moved much more quickly than the silver; three gold were served to one silver. Obedient people in the silver line implored the Jamaicans to come over into the ‘right’ line. Dr Clarke still remembers the emphatic way in which they declined the invitation: “We naah move!” And the ‘naah’ was appropriately stretched out to fully express resistance to the status quo.

ADINKRA SYMBOLS

The second feature of the Emancipation Day celebrations at Liberty Hall was a series of short skits performed by the 47 participants in the summer programme in dance and drama. Four students from the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts were employed to teach: Andre Tucker, Rachel Allen, Ricardo McFarlane and Ellisa Douglas.

082d7835c147ea04d30716ef66e2ae56The participants were divided into four groups and were guided by the philosophy of adinkra symbols from Ghana. The ‘Sankofa’ symbol means, ‘Return and get it’ and features either a bird with its head turned backwards with an egg in its beak, or a heart. This image signifies the importance of learning from the past.

Two fish biting each other’s tail is the image for ‘Bi Nka Bi’. This literally means, ‘No one should bite another’ and warns against making contention. ‘Osram Ne Nsoromma’, an image of the moon and a star, symbolises love, faithfulness and harmony, especially between man and woman. The fourth symbol, ‘Sesa Wo Suban’, is a star inside a wheel. It represents a change of character. This was particularly appropriate for the skit that featured skin bleachers who were in total denial about their identity.

Unknown-4All the performances by the children and teenagers from the communities around Liberty Hall and further afield were excellent. Proud parents came out to applaud the talent of the youth.

Marcus Garvey’s inspiring message about learning from the past and looking to Africa in the present to reclaim our collective identity was brilliantly illustrated. The Sankofa bird was in full flight.