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

6859074_f520

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

xH2yFSAI_PibVnGR-2tJF6DmN0Zwglrsy48eIQFXkF4

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.”

Creating Wealth From Culture

In December 2015, The UNESCO Creative Cities Network dubbed Kingston a ‘Creative City of Music’. This distinction confirms what we already know. Kingston’s culture is world-class. In spite of all the problems of urban blight, the city does have the potential to become a livable home for all of us, and an attractive destination for tourists.

00-Kingston-Jamaica-Riddim-Artwork

But the history of the city is far from glamorous. Kingston was founded in July 1692 as a place of refuge for survivors of the Port Royal earthquake. They camped on the seafront in dreadful conditions. And mosquitoes ravaged them. Approximately 2,000 survivors of the earthquake died from diseases carried by mosquitoes.

It wasn’t ZIKV or chik-V. And, by the way, chik-V didn’t come to the Caribbean in the 21st century. As early as 1827, the disease was already in the region. In a case of mistaken identity, it was called dengue. That name comes from the Kiswahili language of East Africa. The word ‘dinga’ means ‘seizure, or cramp’.

But the big difference between chik-V and dengue is arthritis. Chik-V weakens the joints. And it has devastating consequences, both physical and social. For example, The Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases reports that, in 1827, “when the disease first appeared in St Thomas [US Virgin Islands], several Negroes, who, being all at once attacked with pain in the knees, had fallen down, [and] were actually apprehended by the police for drunkenness”.

SUSPICIOUS OF GOVERNMENT

Kingston gradually recovered from its disastrous start. By the middle of the 18th century, it had become the commercial centre of the island. Sitting on the seventh largest natural harbour in the world, the city was ideally located to be a global player in international trade.

1375285952-1In 1891, Kingston hosted the Great Exhibition. It was a very ambitious affair. Its aim was to show Jamaicans all the latest in foreign products and machinery; and to exhibit Jamaican products to foreign investors. The Jamaican economy was in decline and a small group of visionaries realised that something grand had to be done to drive productivity. One of them was George Stiebel, who made his money in shipping and mining.  Devon House was one of his homes.

The Exhibition wasn’t an easy sell. As Joy Lumsden reports in a 1991 article in the Jamaica Historical Society Bulletin, “From the start, it was feared that the attempts to get people to send produce to the exhibition was an indirect way of finding out how much they produced so that taxes could be increased.”

Sounds familiar. Many players in the field of the creative/cultural industries are now very suspicious of the Government’s relatively new interest in their work. Where was the Government when the music industry, for example, was struggling to establish itself in Kingston’s concrete jungle? And why the sudden interest in the earnings of the industry?

DISTINGUISHED WRITERS

UNESCO identifies seven creative fields in which selected cities are judged: Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts and Music. I think Kingston’s creativity extends way beyond music. We could just as easily have been recognised as a creative city of literature. And it’s not only Kingston; it’s the entire country.

Jamaica has produced a whole heap of distinguished writers. Edward Baugh, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, Erna Brodber, Colin Channer, Michelle Cliff, Neville Dawes, Kwame Dawes,  H.G. DeLisser, Lorna Goodison, John Hearne, Roger Mais, Rachel Manley, Claude McKay, Kei Miller, Mervyn Morris, Tony McNeill, Mutabaruka, Velma Pollard, Claudia Rankine, Trevor Rhone, Andrew Salkey, Olive Senior, Dennis Scott, Tanya Shirley and Sylvia Wynter are just some of the writers whose work has received international recognition. Many have won major literary prizes.

Linton Kwesi Johnson, who was born in Chapelton and migrated to the UK as a child, enjoys the distinction of being the second living poet and the only black poet to be published in the Penguin Modern Classics series.

lead_960Marlon James recently won the 2015 Man Booker prize and a 2015 American Book award for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings.  With all its blood and gore, the novel is Kingston hard-core. James’ transformation of the murderous reality of the city into brilliant literature is a powerful manifestation of the creativity of Jamaicans.

CULTURAL CAPITAL

In the 1970s, the Jamaica Tourist Board rebranded the island this way: “We’re more than a beach. We’re a country.” UNESCO’s designation of Kingston as a ‘Creative City of Music’ is good news. But we’re much more than music. We’re a creative country in so many domains.

So how are we going to turn our new UNESCO branding into cultural capital? And where is our museum of Jamaica music? It’s on Water Lane, an alley in downtown Kingston. The creators of our music deserve much, much better than this.

The director/curator of the so-called museum, Herbie Miller, has been given basket to carry nuff water. He has done his best to apply tar. Every Sunday in Reggae Month, he hosts a public forum on our music at the Institute of Jamaica’s lecture hall.  This year, the focus was on Don Drummond.

don-drummond-collage-1

Kingston is, indeed, a capital city for music and literature. If only all our politicians could understand this and invest in our culture!

Mek Sista P tek her time!

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

Wat a way certain people a run down Sista P fi call election! A wa mek? Ascorden to Constitution, election no ha fi call so till way down a April. 2017! Di way me seet, since Sista P never call election last year, she might as well tek her time decide her mind.

5237368-cunning-smiling-red-devilDem a throw word pon Sista P seh she no know weh she a do. She dis a wait-wait an dem no know a wa she a wait fa. She mek dem know seh she a wait pon God. An a it mek dem a tek her mek poppyshow. If plenty a dem odder politician did wait pon God fi tell dem weh fi do, tings mighta plenty better fi wi. It look like a devil a tell some a dem weh fi do.

Suppose Sista P have big plan weh she naa tell nobody? Member seh a February 26, 2006 she beat out Peter Phillips fi turn leader a di PNP. Mi wonder if Sista P a consider fi step down after 10 year. If she do dat, PNP ha fi pick a new leader fi carry di party go eena election. An dat a go tek lickle time.

Sista P no gi mi no message fi gi unu. An God no reveal nutten to mi. Mi a no no prophet. Mi dis a wonder. An all me know, Sista P no ha fi fret bout fi her legacy. It safe. Di first woman fi turn prime minister eena Jamaica! Dat kuda never easy. An all who like gwaan like seh Sista P a eedyat, mek mi aks dem a who a di eedyat dem weh mek her turn prime minister?

DEM TOO RENK

Den mi can just see di runjostling fi tek over from Sista P. Di best candidate me tink, a di said same Peter Phillips weh Sista P did dust out fi turn party leader. Im have sense an im work hard. An it no easy fi deal wid IMF an ha fi a carry pure bad news come gi wi. Well lickle good news to. But not to dat. Fi wi dollar pop down. An it look like seh it naa go ketch up itself fi now.

If Sista P gi up di prime minister work, she have nuff tings weh she can do. Di first ting mi wuda like see her do a fi write one book bout her life. No ongle wa deh pon Wikipedia. Bill an receipt. She can get one duppy writer fi help her write di book. An she no ha fi shame fi get help. Nuff cebrelity wid book, a duppy write di book.

PortiaA20160127RBAn wen di book come out, Sista P can go lecture all bout. A yard an abroad. Michael Manley dweet. P.J. Patterson same way. Eddie Seaga. Wen politician lef office, dem no ha fi siddung a dem yard naa do nutten. Sista P have fi her Portia Simpson Miller Foundation weh set up eena 2010. She can gwaan divel it up.

Sista P no fi mek none a di man dem shub her out a office. Dem too renk. A chruu she a woman mek dem a tek liberty wid her. Look how much old man deh eena Parliament! Anybody a tell dem fi go a dem yard? An Sista P stronger an dem. Mek dem wait! God wi tell Sista P when a di right time fi fly di gate. Time longer than rope.

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

Wat a wie sortn piipl a ron dong Sista P fi kaal ilekshan! A wa mek? Azkaadn tu kanstityuushan, ilekshan no a fi kaal so til wie dong a Iepril. 2017! Di wie mii siit, sins Sista P neva kaal ilekshan laas ier, shi mait az wel tek ar taim disaid ar main.

Dem a chruo wod pan Sista P se shi no nuo we shi a du. Shi dis a wiet-wiet an dem no nuo a wa shi a wiet fa. Shi mek dem nuo se shi a wiet pan Gad. An a it mek dem a tek ar mek papishuo. If plenti a dem ada palitishan dem did wiet pan Gad fi tel dem we fi du, tingz maita plenti beta fi wi. It luk laik a debl a tel som a dem we fi du.

blog-1-1

Supuoz Sista P av big plan we shi naa tel nobadi? Memba se a Febieri 26, 2006 shi biit out Peter Phillips fi ton liida a di PNP. Mi wanda if Sista P a kansida fi step dong aafta 10 ier. If shi du dat, PNP a fi pik a nyuu liida fi kyari di paati go iina ilekshan. An dat a go tek likl taim.

Sista P no gi mi no mechiz fi gi unu. An Gad no riviil notn tu mi. Mi a no no prafit. Mi dis a wanda. An aal mii nuo, Sista P no a fi fret bout fi ar legisi. It sief. Di fos uman fi ton praim minista iina Jamieka! Dat kuda neva iizi. An aal uu laik gwaan laik se Sista P a iidyat, mek mi aks dem a uu a di iidyat dem we mek ar ton praim minista?

DEM TUU RENGK

Den mi kyahn jos si di ronjaslin fi tek uova fram Sista P. Di bes kyandidet mi tingk, a di sed siem Peter Phillips we Sista P did dos out fi ton paati liida. Im av sens an im wok aad. An it no iizi fi diil wid IMF an a fi a kyari pyuur bad nyuuz kom gi wi. Wel likl gud nyuuz tu. Bot nat tu dat. Fi wi dala pap dong. An it luk laik se it naa go kech op itself fi nou.

ghostwriterIf Sista P gi op di praim minista wok, shi av nof ting we shi kyahn du. Di fos ting mi wuda laik si ar du a fi rait wan buk bout ar laif. No ongl wa de pan Wikipedia. Bil an risiit. Shi kyahn get wan dopi raita fi elp ar rait di buk. An shi no a fi shiem fi get elp. Nof sibreliti wid buk, a dopi rait di buk.

An wen di buk kom out, Sista P kyahn go lekcha aal bout. A yaad an abraad. Michael Manley dwiit. PJ Patterson siem wie. Eddie Seaga. Wen palitshan lef afis, dem no a fi sidong a dem yaad naa du notn. Sista P av fi ar Portia Simpson Miller Foundation we set op iina 2010. Shi kyahn gwaan divel it op.

Sista P no fi mek non a di man dem shub ar out a afis. Dem tuu renk. A chruu shi a uman mek dem a tek libati wid ar. Luk omoch uol man de iina Paaliment! Enibadi a tel dem fi go a dem yaad? An Sista P chranga an dem. Mek dem wiet! Gad wi tel Sista P wen a di rait taim fi flai di giet. Taim langa dan ruop.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

LET SISTER P TAKE HER TIME!

Just look at how certain people are trying to force Sister P to call elections! Why? According to the Constitution, elections don’t have to be called until way down in April. 2017! The way I see it, since Sister P didn’t announce the date last year, she might as well take her time to make a decision.

They are undermining Sister P, claiming that she doesn’t know what she’s doing. She’s just waiting, waiting and they don’t know what she’s waiting on. She let them know she’s waiting on God. And now they’re taking her for a joke. If a lot of those other politicians would wait on God to tell them what to do, things might be much better for us. It looks as if it’s the devil that’s telling some of them what to do.

editorsforumj20130620rmWhat if Sister P has big plans she’s not telling anybody? Remember that is was on February 26, 2006 that she beat Peter Phillips to become leader of the PNP. I’m wonder if Sister P is considering stepping down after 10 years. If she does, the PNP would have to pick a new leader to take the party into elections. And that’s going to take time.

Sister P hasn’t given me any message to deliver. And God hasn’t revealed anything to me.  I’m not a prophet. I’m just wondering. What I do know is that Sister P doesn’t have to be concerned about her legacy. It’s safe. The first woman to become prime minister of Jamaica! That could never have been easy. And as for all those who like to insist that Sister P is an idiot, let me ask them who are the idiots who made her prime minister?

THEY ARE TOO RUDE

Then I can just see the infighting to decide who is going to replace Sista P.  I think the best candidate is the same Peter Phillips Sister P defeated to become party leader. He’s sensible and hard-working. And it’s not easy to deal with IMF and have to bring us only bad news.  Well, a little good news too. But not so much. Our dollar has collapsed. And it doesn’t seem as if it’s going to recover any time soon.

If Sister P gives up the job as prime minister, there are lots of other things she can do. I think her first project should be writing her autobiography.  Not just what’s on Wikipedia.  But the whole bill and receipt. She can employ a ghost writer.  And she doesn’t have to be ashamed of getting help. The books of many celebrities are written by ghosts.

TIME+100+Gala+TIME+100+Most+Influential+People+qwSYDPRKYtZlAnd when the book is published, Sister P can do lecture tours all over. At home and abroad. Michael Manley did it. P.J. Patterson as well. And Eddie Seaga. When politicians leave office, they don’t have to sit idly at home.  Sister P has her Portia Simpson Miller Foundation that was set up in 2010. She can continue to develop it.

Sister P shouldn’t make any of those men force her out of office. They are too rude.  It’s because she’s a woman, that’s why they are are taking liberties with her. There are so many old men in Parliament! Is anybody telling them to go home? And Sister P is fitter than them. Let them wait! God will tell Sister P when it’s the right time to make the call. All things in their time!

 

 

 

Stage show in Heaven for Lady Saw

Marion Hall’s recent decision to get baptised again won’t surprise anyone who has been following Lady Saw’s flamboyant career. In a 1998 interview in the Uncensored series on FAME FM, the deejay frankly announced, “Lady Saw is a act.”

ladysaw-alterego.jpg

She describes her 2014 album, Alter Ego, in this way: “It’s Marion Hall with a touch of Lady Saw.” The deejay’s spectacular performance of the role of Lady Saw is not usually seen by her detractors as a calculated decision by the actress Marion Hall to earn a very good living on the dancehall stage.

This self-possessed artiste has always claimed the right to privacy and freedom to escape her public image. In that interview almost two decades ago, she draws a straight line between her job and her true-true identity: “I’m a nice girl. When I’m working, you know, just love it or excuse it.”

Many critics just can’t love Lady Saw’s performances or excuse her transgressions. So she’s usually censured for being far too slack. Or worse, she’s dismissed as a mere victim of circumstances, mindlessly playing the expected role as sex object.

SEXISM IS THE ISSUE

Crotch-grabbing-collection-WooHoo-michael-jackson-12121433-804-1200In that FAME FM interview, the deejay was questioned about her body language: “Lady Saw, you do things like, yu grab yu crotch onstage … .” Her answer makes it clear that sexism is the real issue: “Uh-huh. Michael Jackson did it and nobody say anything about it.”

The interviewer persists: “And you gyrate on the ground. I mean, do you think this is acceptable for a woman?” Lady Saw responds boldly: “Yes, darling. For this woman. And a lot of woman would like to do the same, but I guess they are too shy.”

Lady Saw is absolutely right. Her female fans enjoy her daring. They would like to act like her. But they are trapped in roles of respectability. So they leave it to her to speak and gyrate for them. And she simply brushes off criticism: “I think critics are there to do their job and I am here to my job … . To entertain and please my fans.”

Even those critics who would never admit to being fans are often mesmerised by Lady Saw’s brazenness. They are caught between self-righteous condemnation and open-mouthed fascination. For example, Papa Pilgrim, a radio disc jockey in Salt Lake City, in his 1993 report on Reggae Sunsplash Dancehall Night, published in The Beat magazine:

“Then came a performance that was more vulgar than any I have seen from anyone anywhere! Her name is Lady Saw, and as a Jamaican friend commented, you cannot put enough Xs in front of her name to adequately describe what she did. To quote from the August 3 Gleaner, ‘She went to the bottom of the pit and came up with sheer filth and vulgar lyrics which made Yellow Man at his worst seem like a Boy Scout.'”

-1

NOT ONLY SLACK

There’s always been another side to Lady Saw. She knows her Bible. At 12, Marion Hall was baptised in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And that upbringing has left its mark on her alter ego. Lady Saw can be as pious as ever.

She has quite a few hymns in her repertoire, celebrating divine guidance. For example, Glory Be to God:

When I remember where I’m coming from

Through all the trials and the tribulation

Yes, the hardship and the sufferation

I have to go on my knees

And sing praises to God

Glory be to God!

Praises to His name!

Thanks for taking me

Out of the bondage and chains.

Lady Saw knows she has a duty to help liberate young women from the bondage and chains of unwise choices. In that Uncensored interview, she was asked, “What would you say to a young girl now out there who wants to be nothing but just like you?” It’s Marion Hall who answers: “I tell them all the time them come to me with it: ‘I want to be like you, Lady Saw.’

“‘Like me? You choose suppen else.’ I can tek my consequences dem right now. I don’t know if she strong enough to deal with what I’m dealing with. So I don’t encourage them to be like Lady Saw. Sometimes they say, ‘I love all yu songs.’ I seh, ‘Yu try listen to the good ones, not the bad ones.'”

FEMINIST EMANCIPATION

Heartbeat-6-1Marion Hall’s conversion inspired a typically witty response from Ninja Man, aka Brother Desmond: “A di greatest move anyone ever mek in the history of dancehall. Lady Saw don’t need a pound of flour. She don’t need a pound of sugar. She don’t need nothing. All she need now is God. God bless her and put her which part she fi reach. And she feel that is time now.

“She do her time wid di devil. Now is time to serve the Lord. In the name of Jesus … . As the Bible tell yu seh, yu know, when one gi im soul yu know, Heaven bruck loose, yu know. So yu know a stage show up there last night.”

I’m going to miss Lady Saw. She’s been a model of feminist emancipation from sexual repression. I hope Marion Hall will find a way to keep her alter ego in the church.

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.

the-bluest-eyes1

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

filename-bng-105-jpg

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.