Chikungunya Spells Death

hqdefaultReverend Glen Archer, our champion spelling coach, seems to have died from chik-V complications. According to a Gleaner article published last Sunday, “He had been suffering from renal failure for the past five years, requiring dialysis two to three times per week.

 But his condition worsened in December when he got the Chikungunya virus”.

I don’t suppose the ministry of health would count Reverend Archer’s death as chik-V-related. He was probably not a ‘confirmed’ case. But there is so much anecdotal evidence of death as a result of the virus. Why has the ministry refused to acknowledge the high number of suspected cases?

And why has chik-V vanished from the news? It certainly has not left the bodies of its victims. Many of us are still suffering: fingers cramped up; feet hurting; constant pain all over with very little prospect of lasting relief. Chik-V is now chronic. It’s stale news.

Apart from the announcement of Reverend Archer’s death and Dr Shane Alexis’ warning of worsening complications (‘Chik-V combo’, February 12, 2015),  one of the most recent references to chik-V on the Gleaner web site turned up in Dr. Michael Abrahams’ amusing poem, “2014 Year in Review”, posted on January 5, 2015: “CHIKV pop dung almost everybody”. Dr. Abrahams’ estimate of the spread of the disease is much higher than that of the ministry of health.  And probably far more accurate!


On the Observer’s website, the report on Reverend Archer’s death published last Monday also pointed fingers at chik-V. Before that, the latest reference to chik-V appeared in Mrs. Barbara Gloudon’s column, “From CHIKV to scepticism in the nation’s health care”, published on January 9, 2015. Neither Dr. Abrahams’ poem nor Mrs. Gloudon’s opinion piece is hard-core news.

Mrs. Gloudon proposed that chik-V “could be regarded as one of the most disturbing events we have experienced in a long time”. And, as a veteran journalist, she fully understands how news works. So she adds: “One is tempted to brand it a nine-day wonder . . . . ” That’s the temptation the media, in all forms, must always resist – the big story that quickly burns out.

Mrs. Gloudon doesn’t end her sentence there. She continues, “but it has turned out to be more than that”.  Chik-V is noteworthy “for the sneakiness of its attack and how painful the hurt it brought us, the likes of which we had never known before. The pains still continue for many.

images-1“Last September, when out of nowhere it descended on us the minister of health soon became eligible for the unenviable title of most battered politician of the year. Beaten into submission by the growing tide of public disaffection over CHIKV, the national health system trembled”.

But chik-V did not sneak up on us. It did not descend from nowhere. In 2011, the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned us that chik-V was coming. They jointly published a document, Preparedness and Response for Chikungunya Virus Introduction in the Americas.


I don’t know when that document reached Jamaica. Unless it arrived after December 29, 2011, the Jamaica Labour Party would have been the government in office. Was the minister of health, Dr. Baugh, aware of the threat of chik-V? And, if so, what did he do about it?

In an article published in the Observer on September 26, 2014, with the headline, “Baugh: Chikungunya now a full blown epidemic”, the former minister of health speaks out: “According to Dr Baugh, all the doubts raised by the Government in response to the Opposition’s complaints about the uncontrolled spread of chikungunya in Jamaica have now been erased. He accused the Government of being arrogant and out of touch with reality on the ground”.

PAHO-technical-reportDr. Baugh is right. But it’s a case of no better pork, no better barrel. Both the JLP and the PNP failed us. Chik-V should not have come on us like a thief in the night.   The security guards should not have been sleeping on the job. I suppose the JLP government was too busy campaigning in 2011 to pay attention to chik-V.

But what’s the ‘excuse’ of the present Government? In May 2012, PAHO and the CDC put on a training workshop on chik-V at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel. Fourteen people from Jamaica attended that meeting. Did they spread the word? It doesn’t seem so. They should all be fired for negligence.

I recently gave an old lady a ride to the University hospital. She thought she had chik-V. A friend of hers had recommended kerosene oil for the rash. After using it one time, she stopped. She didn’t like how her skin was looking.

One of the tragedies of the chik-V epidemic is that the medical doctors had no idea how to help us. At first, they prescribed Panadol. And that was it. Then they added steroids to their bag of tricks. So we resorted to all kinds of self-medication: leaf of life, bizi, guinea hen weed, single bible, kerosene oil!  On and on we experimented.

If chik-V didn’t kill us, the combination of ‘cures’ certainly could. The doctor who tried her best to treat my unconfirmed chik-V told me recently that a new strain of the virus is on its way. And dengue is here as well. PAHO estimates that there may be more deaths from dengue than Chik-V across the Caribbean. Only God can help us.

Big Tingz A Gwaan Fi Mis Lou

CHAKA-CKAKA SPELIN Miss Lou dead an gone. But wi naa figet weh shi do fi big up fi wi Jamaica culture. A she mek plenty a wi know seh wi no ha fi shame bout fi wi heart language. It a no no bad talking. A one good-good sinting. Wen wi long-time people dem did come from Africa, dem never get no chance fi walk wid dem bag an pan. Dem come wid dem two long hand. Tie up. A thief dem thief de man bring dem ya so. Dem never plan fi come. miss_lou_cover_final_2

Still for all, dem bring nuff culture inna dem head cup. It did full up. Dem bring dem talent an dem skill. Dem a farmer, artist, doctor, lawyer, teacher, soldier, banker, cook, stylist – all kind a different-different profession. An dem bring dem whole heap a language from all bout. Wen di English people dem force on fi dem one dehgeh-dehgeh language pon di African people dem, dem dis twist it up, an bruck it up, an mix it up wid fi dem owna language dem. An dem mek up one new language. Jamaican.

Tuesday gone, di first book weh write bout Miss Lou launch up a University of the West Indies, Mona. A Prof Mervyn Morris write it. An a Ian Randle Publishers bring it out. It name Miss Lou: Louise Bennett and Jamaican Culture. Prof Morris tell wi bout di whole a Miss Lou life.

Den im talk bout how shi did act inna pantomine an shi write some a dem. An shi did collect up Anansi story. An shi do Ring Ding programme pon TV. An shi write nuff poem. An Prof Morris tell wi bout Miss Lou an fi her Aunty Roachy weh did deh pon radio. Di last-last ting Prof Morris tell wi bout a di dead lef. Wa Mis Lou call di ‘whole a heap a culture an tradition an birthright’ weh left fi wi.


An a Prof Eddie Baugh launch di book. Im show wi seh a long time now Prof Morris did a study Miss Lou. In a 1963, im did preach one sermon, ‘On Reading Louise Bennett, Seriously’. Yu see dat deh comma. It serious. It mean fi seh a no joke Prof Morris a joke.

Im know seh wen certain people hear bout ‘reading’ Miss Lou, dem a go waan laugh. Dem no know seh Miss Lou write down her poem dem, fi instance. Dem tink she shi dis get up an chat. Nutten no go so. Wi ha fi understand seh Miss Lou sit down an tink bout wa shi a go get up an seh. Respect due!

Dis ya Thursday, Prof Morris an Prof Baugh a go deh pon NewsTalk 93FM a talk bout di book. A di programme “Big Tingz a Gwaan”, weh mi an di yute Tyane Robinson do. It broadcast 4:30 in a di afternoon. An it come on back pon Saturday 3:30. So unu fi try ketch it. Wi talk in a so-so Jamaican.

Den mi deh a Liguanea Plaza last year an one man pass mi an seh, “Miss Lou daughter”! It sweet mi so till. One a di ting mi find out in a Prof Morris book a dis: Miss Lou womb did tek out chruu it did a gi her problem. So shi couldn’t have no pikni. Well, mi know seh Miss Lou got nuff culture pikni an gran-pikni an great-gran-pikni. Give thanks!

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN Mis Lou ded an gaan. Bot wi naa figet we shi du fi big op fi wi Jamieka kolcha. A shi mek plenti a wi nuo se wi no afi shiem bout fi wi aat langwij. It a no no bad taakin. A wahn gud-gud sinting. Wen wi lang-taim piipl dem did kom fram Afrika, dem neva get no chaans fi waak wid dem bag an pan. Dem kom wid dem tuu lang an. Tai op. A tiif dem tiif de man bring dem ya so. Dem neva plan fi kom.

imagesStil far aal, dem bring nof kolcha ina dem ed kop. It did ful op. Dem bring dem talent an dem skil. Dem a faama, aatis, dakta, laaya, tiicha,suoja, bangka, kuk, stailis – aal kain a difran-difran profeshan. An dem bring dem uol iip a langwij fram aal bout. Wen di Inglish piipl dem fuos aan fi dem wan dege, dege langwij pan di Afrikan piipl dem, dem dis twis it op, an brok it op, an miks it op wid fi dem uona langwij dem. An dem mek op wahn nyuu langwij. Jamiekan.

Chuuzde gaan, di fosbuk we rait bout Mis Lou laanch op a University of the West Indies, Mona. A Prof Mervyn Morris rait it. An a Ian Randle Publishers bring it out. It niem Miss Lou: Louise Bennett and Jamaican Culture. An Prof Morris tel wi bout di uol a Mis Lou laif.

Den im taak bout ou shi did a kina pantomain an shi rait som a dem. An shi did kalek op anansi tuori. An shi du Ring Ding pruogram pan TV. An shi rait nof puoem. An Prof Morris tel wi bout Mis Lou an fi aar Aunty Roachy we did de pan riedyo. Di laas-laas ting Prof Morris tel wi bout a di ded lef. Wa Mis Lou kaal di ‘whole a heap a culture an tradition an birthright’ we lef fi wi.


An a Prof Eddie Baugh laanch di buk. Im shuo wi se a lang taim nou Prof Morris did a stodi Mis Lou. In a 1963, im did priich wahn sorman, ‘On Reading Louise Bennett, Seriously’. Yu si dat de kama. It siiryos. It miin fi se a no juok Prof Morris a juok. Im nuo se wen sortn piipl ier bout ‘reading’ Mis Lou, dem a go waahn laaf. Dem no nuo se Mis Lou rait dong aar puoem dem, fi instans. Dem tingk se shi dis git op an chat. Notn no go so. Wi a fi andastan se Mis Lou sidong an tingk bout wa shi a go get op an se. Rispek juu!

Prof Morris

Prof Morris

Dis ya Torzde, Prof Morris an Prof Baugh a go de pan NewsTalk 93FM a taak bout di buk. A di pruogram “Big Tingz a Gwaan”, we mi an di yuut Tyane Robinson du. It braadkyaas 4:30 in a di aaftanuun. An it kom aan bak pan Satide 3:30. So unu fi chrai kech it. Wi taak in a suoso Jamiekan.

Den mi de a Liguanea Plaza laas ier an wahn man paas mi an se, “Mis Lou daata!” It swiit mi so til. Wan a di ting mi fain out in a Prof Morris buk a dis: Mis Lou uum did tek out chruu it did a giar problem. So shi kudn av no pikni. Wel, mi nuo se Mis Lou gat nof kolcha pikni an gran-pikni an griet-gran-pikni. Giv tangks!


Miss Lou is dead and gone. But we won’t forget what she did to celebrate our Jamaican culture. She is the one who made a lot of us understand that we don’t have to be ashamed of our heart language. It’s not talking bad.  It’s a very good thing. When our ancestors came from Africa, they didn’t get the chance to bring all their belongings. They came empty-handed. And their hands were tied.  They were abducted and brought here. They hadn’t planned to come.

All the same, they brought lots of culture in their heads. Full to the brim. They brought their talents and skills. They were farmers, artists, doctors, lawyers, teachers, soldiers, bankers, cooks, stylists – all kinds of different professions. And they brought a whole variety of languages from the continent. When the English people imposed their single language on the Africans, they twisted it, an mangled it up, an mixed it up with their own languages. And they created a new language. Jamaican. Unknown-2

Last Tuesday, the first book to be written about Miss Lou was launched at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Prof Mervyn Morris is the author. And it was published by Ian Randle Publishers. The title is  Miss Lou: Louise Bennett and Jamaican Culture. Prof Morris tells us all about Miss Lou’s life.

Then he focuses on her career.   She acted in pantomimes and she even wrote some of them. And she collected Anansi stories. And she hosted the Ring Ding programme on TV. And she wrote lots of poems. And Prof Morris tells us about Miss Lou and her Aunty Roachy who were on radio. The very last thing Prof Morris talks about is legacy. What Miss Lou herself described as all of that culture and tradition – the  birthright –  that’s left for us.


And it was Prof Eddie Baugh who launched the book. He said Prof Morris has been studying Miss Lou’s work for a very long time. In 1963, he preached a sermon, ‘On Reading Louise Bennett, Seriously’. That comma is very significant. It means that Prof Morris really isn’t joking.

He knows that when certain people hear him say ‘reading’ Miss Lou, they’re going to want to laugh. They don’t know that Miss Lou wrote her poems, for instance. They think she just got up and chatted off the top of her head. That’s not so at all. We have to understand that Miss Lou sat down and thought about what she was going to get up and say. Respect due!

This Thursday, Prof Morris and Prof Baugh are going to be on NewsTalk 93FM  talking about the book. It’s the programme “Big Tingz a Gwaan”, which the young man, Tyane Robinson, and I  do. It comes on at 4:30 in the afternoon. And it’s aired again on Saturdays at 3:30. So you should try to try to catch it. We speak pure Jamaican.  (How yu like that bilingual pun!)

Then I was at the Liguanea Plaza last year and a man passed me and said, “Miss Lou daughter”! I was so amused! One of the things I found out in Prof Morris’ book is that Miss Lou had had a hysterectomy because she’d been having lots of problems. So she couldn’t have children. Well, I know that Miss Lou has lots and lots of  culture children and grand-children and great-grand-children. Give thanks!

Bob Marley’s Literary Legacy

Bob Marley is one of the finest poets Jamaica has produced. His skilful use of language – both English and Jamaican – compellingly affirms his highly charged literary sensibility. Biblical allusion, proverb, riddle and Rastafari symbolism are all potent elements of his creative writing. His words require the careful critical attention we usually give to poets who don’t know how to sing.

In “One Drop”, Bob Marley vividly defines reggae as a “drumbeat … playing a rhythm/resisting against the system.” And the central concern of his songs is, most certainly, beating down the oppressive social system. Babylon, the whore, the fallen woman of St John’s Revelation, must be chanted down in fiery poetry.

The Rastaman’s chant against Babylon echoes the fall of biblical Jericho. The power of the spoken word is brilliantly manifested in the distinctive language of Rastafari. With upful lyrics, Rastafari condemn downpressors of all stripes. And they teach a revolutionary philosophy that puts truths and rights at the very centre of the new curriculum.

In “Crazy Baldhead”, from the Rastaman Vibration album, the theme of revolution resounds. The social institutions of Babylon are seen as dysfunctional – the educational, religious and penal systems. “Brain-wash education” must be rejected and the con-man/crazy baldhead sent running out of town:

Build your penitentiary

We build your schools

Brain-wash education to make us the


Hateraged you reward for our love

Telling us of your God above.

We gonna chase those crazy

Chase those crazy bunkheads

Chase those crazy baldheads

Out of town.

Here comes the con-man

Coming with his con-plan

We won’t take no bribe

We got to stay alive.


Marley’s lyrical “Redemption Song”, from the Uprising album, is a classic example of the songwriter’s literary skill. The opening lines telescope time, compressing a whole history of exploitation and suffering into minutes:

Old pirates, yes

They rob I

Sold I to the merchant ships

Minutes after they took I

From the bottomless pit

Marley’s use of the word ‘pirates’ confirms the fact that many heroes of the British empire were nothing but common criminals. Sir John Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake were key actors in the slave trade, earning great wealth from the business of human torture. But Marley also reminds us that Africans were implicated in the mercenary enterprise of transatlantic slavery.

The ambiguous placement of Marley’s neutral ‘they’ inextricably links both the robbers and sellers. There is no real difference between the ‘they’ who rob and the ‘they’ who sell. True, if there were no buyers, there would be no sellers. But the instinct to exploit seems to be our common inhumanity.

iaap2In “Redemption Song”, Marley also acknowledges the divine hand that enabled victims of enslavement to rise from the bottomless pit of horror that was the Middle Passage:

But my hand was made strong

By the hand of the Almighty

We forward in this generation


This triumph requires of us a song, as the Melodians so plaintively chanted in Rivers of Babylon. Putting to music Psalm137, verse 1, they, like Bob Marley, knew that song is therapy:

Won’t you help to sing

These songs of freedom?

Cause all I ever have

Redemption songs.


Redemption SongsBob Marley appears to be contrasting songs of freedom with redemption songs. There’s a popular hymnal, Redemption Songs, that was first published in London in 1929 or thereabouts. It has become part of the religious culture of Jamaica, regularly showing up at wakes. The title page describes the book in this way: “A choice collection of 1,000 hymns and choruses for evangelistic meetings, solo, singers, choirs and the home.”

Redemption Songs seems to have come to Jamaica with evangelicals from the United States. It was my friend, Erna Brodber, a historical sociologist and novelist, who persuaded me that Marley is actually rejecting “redemption songs”. They are part of the Euro-American religious legacy. And that’s all he was once forced to have.

But there’s another meaning of redemption that I think we should also take into account. Redemption is the act of buying oneself out of slavery. The religious and commercial meanings of ‘redemption’ converge in Marley’s song. Redemption songs are also songs of freedom. There is divine grace – the hand of the Almighty. But there is also the practical justice of freeing one’s self from both physical and mental slavery.

Marley’s Redemption Song is both a rejection of evangelical Christian orthodoxy and an affirmation of a new redemptive vision. So, Marley pays tribute to Marcus Garvey, who 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.”

But Garvey does not stop there. He gives a profound warning: “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.”Garvey is advocating a new kind of education. Not ‘head-decay-shun’, as Rastafari mockingly describe colonial schooling. If that’s all we ever have, we will continue to be enslaved by old notions of redemption. Like Bob Marley, we must create our own new songs of freedom.

Kaci Versus Rapunzel

In the Miss Universe contest between Kaci and all those Rapunzel lookalikes, our girl didn’t stand a chance. In his review of the show which is on YouTube, the comedian Dutty Berry makes a pretty good guess about why Kaci didn’t win: “I don’t know if is because her hair short an a whole heap a hair company a sponsor di show an dem love di Rapunzel look.”

If you don’t remember the fairy tale about Rapunzel, here’s how the story goes. A man and a woman live next door to a wicked witch. Maybe, she was just a lonely old woman. But this is a fairy tale, so she has to be a witch. The ‘normal’ woman gets pregnant and starts to crave rapunzel, a plant that grows in the witch’s garden. It has a beautiful flower and the leaves and root are edible.

The man steals a plant and is caught by the witch. He begs for mercy and she proposes to let him off on condition that the couple give her their child. Yu see how she wicked! Or lonely. The poor man agrees. His wife gives birth to a beautiful girl and the witch claims her prize. She calls the child Rapunzel.

As the little girl grows, so does her hair. She ends up with long, golden hair. This is going to be a big problem. When she turns 12, the witch locks her up in a tower in the middle of the forest. There are no stairs and no door, just one window.

I suppose this fairy tale is a warning about what happens to girls at puberty. They end up trapped by wicked witches who are afraid that the girls will get pregnant – especially if they are beautiful and have ‘tall’ hair. Sometimes, the wicked witch is the girl’s own mother.


Rapunzel-fairy-tales-and-fables-1004994_375_500Rapunzel’s only visitor is the witch who would give this command: “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair so I can climb the golden stair.” What a stress on poor Rapunzel! Her golden hair becomes a ladder. Can you imagine the pull on her scalp! Of course, since this is a fairy tale, one is not supposed to raise these practical questions. But I think this story is quite subversive. It suggests that beauty can be a terrible burden for women.

Anyhow, the story gets better. You know there has to be a prince to rescue the damsel in distress. He comes riding through the forest and hears Rapunzel singing. He falls in love with her voice but can’t figure out how to get up to the tower. Then the wicked witch comes and he learns the magic words. In his case, letting down Rapunzel’s hair is foreplay. Next thing, the prince climbs up and in two twos Rapunzel is pregnant with twins.

Locking up girls isn’t a reliable contraceptive if there’s a prince on the loose. It’s the boys who should be locked up. When the wicked witch finds out that Rapunzel is in the family way she cuts off the golden hair and casts the disgraced young woman out into the wilderness. A familiar fate for pregnant teenagers!

The witch sets a trap for the prince who comes climbing up Rapunzel’s detached hair – now a weave. So many men have been caught by weaves! The witch pitches the prince down to the ground and he falls on thorns and is blinded. I suppose this is his punishment for impregnating Rapunzel.

The prince wanders around the forest for months. He eventually hears Rapunzel singing and is reunited with her and his children. Rapunzel starts to bawl and her tears of joy cure his blindness. And they go off to his palace where they live happily ever after. So what’s the moral of this improbable story?


the_real_life_rapunzel_01_dWomen all over the world have been tricked into believing that ‘tall’ hair makes them beautiful. Even when it becomes a rope around their neck! And so many of the Miss Universe contestants seem to have weighed themselves down even more with Rapunzel weaves. Dutty Berry asks Donald Trump a wicked question: “A vex yu did vex because yu tink seh Kaci woulda mek hot gyal stop buy weave?”

On her return to Jamaica, Kaci Fennell did an ‘On Stage’ interview right at the airport. Naturally, she was asked about the short hair affair. Her response was beautifully plain and simple: “This is how I look best. And if this is not what they wanted, then it just wasn’t for me.” I wish more Jamaican women could be sensible enough to realise that ‘tall’ hair can’t make them beautiful. In fact, some weaves are downright ugly.

Beauty contests and language are two issues that continue to cause contention in our society. Dutty Berry deals with both of them. He commends Kaci for her answer to the social media question: “Fen-Fen sit down pon da question deh like hassock.”

Then he continues, “An di old Kardashian reject Colombia, wid di waist-trainer glue inna her waist, tek bout 10 centuries fi give fi her response. You tell me now. Yu see why Jamaica need fi mek Patwa be di official language! So we can buy time too and pause and think after each line.”

Dutty Berry has been nominated for a Youth View award in the category Favourite Breakout Celebrity for 2014. With lyrics like that, he’s a sure winner. Unless he’s trumped, like Kaci.

Looking For Mr Wrong

rockfort5Over the last four months, I’ve been going to the Rockfort mineral bath almost every week. I decided this was excellent therapy for my unconfirmed chik-V. I’d been advised not to lift weights because of the stress on the joints. So exercising in the mineral water was my way of compensating for missing the gym.

The $300 entry fee for senior citizens is a bargain. It gives you 45 minutes in the pool. When I asked about the time limit, I was told that the Ministry of Health had recommended the restriction because of the potency of the minerals. I have absolutely no confidence in the facts and figures coming out of that ministry. So I usually take some ‘brawta’ minutes. I have to drag myself out of the pool.

The mineral bath is an underused resource. It’s next door to the cement factory, so I know that’s an issue. The risk of industrial pollution puts people off. Sometimes, I’m the only person in the pool. But I think the benefits of the mineral water outweigh the risk of inhaling cement dust. And since it’s the Caribbean Cement Company that’s maintaining the bath, one does have to take the sour with the sweet.

One of the lifeguards encouraged me to write about the healing power of the mineral water so more patrons would come. I selfishly felt conflicted. I really wouldn’t want to be in the pool at its full capacity of 50 persons. One week, as I drove into the parking lot, I heard the screams of children on a school outing enjoying themselves. I didn’t even make it to 20 minutes that day. I just couldn’t take the noise.

There are private baths, but these have not been open for quite a while. I gather that they are to be refurbished soon. The last time I used the private baths, several years ago, I was disappointed to see how rundown they had become. So I’m not surprised they’ve been closed.


I certainly missed my soothing mineral bath while I was away. I had gone to King’s College, University of London, to have a public conversation with the Martinican zouk singer Jocelyne Beroard of the band Kassav. We spoke about Caribbean popular music and dance. And we expressed our love for the Creole languages that have been created in the region.

Kassav is the French Creole word for cassava. The band chose that name to signify nutritious local food which, like music, nurtures body and spirit. And they sing in Creole to affirm the value of the language. It’s a political issue – reclaiming the power of our shared African heritage.

Billed as a ‘Moving Conversation’, the event was part of the ‘Modern Moves’ research project directed by Prof Ananya Kabir of the Department of English. This energetic project tracks the movement of African rhythms across the cultures of the diaspora.

The very first morning I came home, I made a move to the mineral bath. I needed to thaw out from the London cold and the Paris tragedy. I was waiting at the intersection of Windward Road and Michael Manley Boulevard to merge with traffic on the highway when a youngish male driver hit my car in the rear.

We both got out of our cars and our conversation went something like this. He asked me, “So what we going to do?” And I said, “How you mean? We going to exchange information.” I suggested that he pull in behind me out of the traffic. He said there wasn’t enough room so he would park ahead of me. Well, you know what happened. Mr Wrong took off at such a speed I’m surprised he didn’t crash.

All I could do was laugh. It was completely ridiculous. And I did understand why Mr Wrong made a dash for it. He took one look at my relatively new car and decided he was not going to take any responsibility for fixing it. He probably didn’t even have a driver’s licence, much more insurance. It made no sense to run him down. Looking for Mr Wrong would be a complete waste of time.


There are so many of these incidents every single day. Hit-and-run driving is a common offence. We really have to do something extraordinary to bring order to the chaos on the roads. Taxi men are a special case. I have seen a taxi man in the right-turn lane move to the left, across two lanes of traffic, and turn left just as the light is changing! Driving is clearly a daredevil sport.

LiteracySignI’m convinced that a high percentage of drivers are not literate and so they haven’t read the road code. And even those who are literate do not seem to understand the language of the code. And if they do understand, they are certainly not obeying the rules. I think the minister of transport and works needs to commission the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona to produce an oral version of the road code translated into the heart language of the Jamaican people.

Until we get drivers to ‘feel’ the meaning of the road code, we are not going to get compliance with the rules. But, I suppose, some of us would rather die on the road than acknowledge the power of the Jamaican language to influence behaviour. That’s a high price to pay for downright ignorance.

Wa A Joke To You A Death To Me


Charlie Hebdo office

Charlie Hebdo office

Wen mi see weh di Kouachi bredder dem gwaan wid a Paris, mi seh to miself mi better seh sorry quick-quick to di whole heap a KC old boy weh bex wid mi all now chruu mi did run lickle joke wid dem inna mi column, ‘KC old boys desire male sex’. Dem never waan no woman go a dem big dinner. So mi seh a ongle man dem waan: di male sex.

Wa burn some a di man dem a di next meaning a di headline weh mi did a play wid inna di column. Mi mek it sound like seh dem waan fi sex man. God know, mi never know dem wuda tek it so hard. Mi did tink seh dem must see seh a romp mi a romp wid dem. How mi kuda tink seh every Jack man no waan Jill? No must joke mi a mek!

Nuff a di old boy dem never tink it funny at all at all. Dem seh mi a seh dem funny fi true. An dem threaten fi kill mi. See one a di deadly email weh mi get ya: “You are truly a disgusting piece of protoplasm. I hope you spend the rest of yuh life ah look behind you because kc roots run deep in the communities of downtown Kingston and rural Jamaica.”

Some a di confident KC old boy dis laugh it off. Dem never bawl out chruu no stone no lik dem. One young old boy weh go a UWI seh to mi, “Miss, I don’t know why dem going on like dat. Because is long time dem saying dat bout us. And me don’t mek it bodder me.” A no dat im seh word fi word. But a dat im mean.


It look like seh di old old boy dem tek it harder than di young old boy dem. Mi did hear seh some a dem did a threaten fi sue Gleaner. Dem no sex man an Gleaner a scandalise dem. Mi no waan no KC old boy, young or old, go a Gleaner office go shoot up poor Oliver Clarke an di editor dem sake a mi column.

images-3Put fun an joke aside. Wen mi tink bout it, sex come een like religion. Who yu sex a who yu be. A di said same way people feel seh di god dem worship a who dem be. Dem a Christian, dem a Jew, dem a Muslim, dem a Rasta. Dem religion a dem livity. It a dem nature. Same like how yu sex a yu nature. An eena fi wi Jamaica language, wi all use di word ‘nature’ fi mean sex life. Like how wi seh lime cut yu nature.

By di way, mi wonder if LIME a go change fi dem sour name when dem married to Flow. Dat deh name never mek no sense. It no sweet wi. A no like eena Trinidad an Tobago weh lime mean party. An wat mi no understand, di company no name LIME down deh. Dem a Cable and Wireless. Anyhow mi ongle hope LIME nah go cut Flow nature.

Di Charlie Hebdo cartoonist dem shuda did know seh dem no fi tek Prophet Muhammad mek poppyshow. Still for all, dat no mean dem shuda dead fi dat. An mi shuda did know seh mi no fi run joke wid Jamaica man seh dem waan fi sex man. Mi jook dem pon dem nature. An mi sorry. Old-time people seh, “Wa a joke to you a death to me.” An a true.


jack-n-jillWen mi si we di Kouachi breda dem gwaan wid a Paris, mi se tu miself mi beta se sari kwik-kwik tu di uol iip a KC uol bwai we beks wid mi aal nou chruu mi did ron likl juok wid dem ina mi kalam, ‘KC old boys desire male sex’. Dem neva waan no uman go a dem big dina. So mi se a ongl man dem waan: di miel seks.

Wa bon som a di man dem a di neks miinin a di edlain we mi did a plie wid ina di kalam. Mi mek it soun laik se dem waan fi seks man. Gad nuo, mi neva nuo dem wuda tek it so aad. Mi did tingk se dem mos si se a ramp mi a ramp wid dem. Ou mi kuda tingk se evri Jak man no waan Jil? No mos juok mi a mek!

Nof a di uol bwai dem neva tingk it foni at aal at aal. Dem se mi a se dem foni fi chruu. An dem chretn fi kil mi. Si wan a di dedli iimiel we mi get ya: “You are truly a disgusting piece of protoplasm. I hope you spend the rest of yuh life ah look behind you because kc roots run deep in the communities of downtown Kingston and rural Jamaica.”

Som a di kanfident KC uol bwai dis laaf it aaf. Dem neva baal out chruu no stuon no lik dem. Wan yong uol bwai we go a UWI se tu mi, “Miss, I don’t know why dem going on like dat. Because is long time dem saying dat bout us. And me don’t mek it bodder me.” A no dat im se wod fi wod. Bot a dat im miin.


It luk laik se di uol uol bwai dem tek it aada dan di yong uol bwai dem. Mi did ier se som a dem did a chretn fi suu Gleaner. Dem no seks man an Gleaner a skyandalaiz dem. Mi no waan no KC uol bwai, yong ar uol, go a Gleaner afis go shuut op puor Oliver Clarke an di edita dem siek a mi kalam.

Put fon an juok asaid. Wen mi tingk bout it, seks kom iin laik rilijan. Uu yu seks a uu yu bi. A di sed siem wie piipl fiil se di gad dem worship a uu dem bi. Dem a Krischan, dem a Juu, dem a Muslim, dem a Rasta. Dem rilijan a dem liviti. It a dem niecha. Siem laik ou yu seks a yu niecha. An iina fi wi Jamieka langwij, wi aal yuuz di wod niecha fi miin seks laif. Laik ou wi se laim kot yu niecha.

Bai di wie, mi wonda if LIME a go chienj fi dem sowa niem wen dem marid to Flow. Dat de niem neva mek nuo sens. It no swiit wi. A no laik iina Trinidad an Tobago we laim miin paati. An wat mi no andastan, di kompini no niem LIME dong de. Dem a Cable and Wireless. Eniou mi ongl uop LIME naa go kot Flow niecha.

Di Charlie Hebdo kyaatuunis dem shuda did nuo se dem no fi tek Prafit Muhammad mek papishuo. Stil far aal, dat no miin dem shuda ded fi dat. An mi shuda did nuo se mi no fi ron juok wid Jamieka man se dem waan fi seks man. Mi juk dem pan dem niecha. An mi sari. Uol taim piipl se, “Wa a juok tu yu a det tu mi.” An a chruu.


18BROTHERS_IDS-articleLarge-v2After seeing how the Kouachi brothers terrorised Paris, I said to myself I’d better apologise right away to all those KC old boys who are still angry with me because of my joking around with them in my column, ‘KC old boys desire male sex’. They didn’t want women to attend their grand dinner.  So I said they only wanted men:  the male sex.

What hurt some of the men was the other meaning of the headline that I was playing around with in the column. I made it seem as if they wanted to have sex with men.  God knows, I didn’t know they would take it so hard.  I thought they must see I was teasing them. How could I think that every Jack man doesn’t want Jill? I must have been joking!

Many of the old boys didn’t think it was funny at all.  They said I was saying that they are really ‘funny’.   And they threatened to kill me.  Here’s one of the deadly emails I got: “You are truly a disgusting piece of protoplasm. I hope you spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulder because kc roots run deep in the communities of downtown Kingston and rural Jamaica.”

Some of the confident KC old boys just had a good laugh.   They didn’t protest because they didn’t feel attacked.  One of the young old boys, who is a student at UWI, said to me, “Miss, I don’t know why they’re getting on like that. Because people have been  saying that about us for a long time now. And I don’t let it bother me.” That’s not what he said word fi word. But that’s what he meant.


It seems as if the old old boys took it harder than the young old boys.  I heard that some of them were threatening to sue the Gleaner. They don’t have sex with men and the newspaper is scandalising them.  I don’t want any KC old boy, young or old, to go to the Gleaner office and shoot poor Oliver Clarke and the editors because of my column.

images-2All joking aside. When I think about it, sex is like religion. Your sexuality is your identity. In the same way, some people think that their religion is their identity. They are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Rasta. Their religion is their way of life. It’s their nature. Just as one’s sex is seen as natural. An in our Jamaican language, we use the word ‘nature’ to mean sex drive. For example, we say that  lime slows down your sex drive.

By the way, I wonder if LIME is going to change their sour name when they get married to Flow. That name made no sense. It doesn’t appeal to us. It’s not like in Trinidad and Tobago where lime means partying. And what I don’t understand is that the company isn’t named LIME there. It’s Cable and Wireless. Anyhow, I only hope LIME isn’t going to slow down Flow.

The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists should have known not to make a mockery of the Prophet Muhammad.  All the same, that doesn’t mean they should be killed for it. And I should have known not to  joke around with Jamaican men about their being homosexual.  I hit them at the core of their identity. And I’m sorry. Proverbial wisdom warns, “What’s a joke to you is deadly serious to me.” And that’s the truth.

Death By Satire In Paris

I happened to be in Paris last Wednesday when freedom of the press was murderously assaulted at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. For most of the day, I was playing tourist at the Louvre museum. I visited the Egyptian Antiquities galleries.  I also viewed some of the lavishly displayed paintings of Europe, including the Mona Lisa, which has become a fetish, cordoned off behind three layers of barriers and further protected by what I presume to be bullet-proof glass. Miss Mona seemed rather pleased with herself and all the attention.


Ancient Egyptian headrest


Headrest from Tanzania

I ended my tour with the Arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas – all squashed into one collection. At the Louvre, Europe is clearly the centre of the world. This is understandable. What is less acceptable is the way the rest of the world is represented. In the Egyptian collection, I was struck by the following text which I’ve translated: “The Egyptian slept on a low bed, even on the floor, the head resting on a wooden support, as is still done in some countries of Africa.”

The peculiar phrase, “in some countries of Africa”, seems to imply that Egypt is not in Africa. If it were, ‘other’ would have been used instead of ‘some’. Ironically, even when a shared cultural practice across the African continent is highlighted, Egypt is sealed off. Indeed, in many museums of the Western world, Egypt is methodically cut off from the rest of Africa. Why?

The Louvre is relatively close to the offices of Charlie Hebdo. But it wasn’t until very late in the day that I heard of the attack. Insulated in the artfully constructed fictions of the museum, I had no access to ‘real’ life. At a restaurant that evening, I saw on TV the unsettling news of the carnage at Charlie Hebdo. From the safety of my hotel room, I continued to watch the drama on the BBC.


Colonisation is a france of a thing. The brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, the perpetrators of the murderous attack, who were killed by police on Friday, were of Algerian heritage. Algeria was once a colony of France. There’s a famous Black British slogan that lucidly expresses the complex relationship between coloniser and colonised: “We are here because you were there”. The Algerian presence in France is a direct consequence of French colonisation of Algeria.

The Battle of Algiers trailer

One of the BBC reporters commented on the “flawless French” of the Kouachi brothers. In other words, they didn’t sound like foreigners. Language continues to be seen as a marker of identity. But it is sometimes quite unreliable. Despite the flawless French of the Kouachi brothers, they were unquestionably alienated from mainstream French culture. Though born in France, they had a fatal flaw. Their home culture was not French. Their religion was not Catholicism; it was Islam. And they were radical Islamists at that.

On Wednesday evening, militant mourners gathered across France to protest against the murders. The slogan that captured the national mood was this: ‘Je suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie). In this formula, the collective ‘I’ is the French nation united against an unstated, but clearly implied, “you”: those outsiders who do not share the normative values of French culture.

Furthermore, to assert that “I am Charlie” is to claim freedom of expression, particularly the cutting art of satire, as an essential constituent of French national identity. The capacity to laugh at one’s own weaknesses and that of others is at the heart of satire. Nothing – no one and no god – is sacred. In effect, failure to pass the satire test means failure to become French.


Devout Muslims who insist that Allah must not be mocked alienate themselves from their adopted homeland. They fight their god’s battles and they take no prisoners. One of the most insightful condemnations of the murders came from a representative of the Muslim community in London who was interviewed by the BBC. I’m so sorry I didn’t catch his name. He asserted that it is antiquated ideologies that need to be murdered, not journalists.

On Thursday at noon, a minute’s silence was observed in France in honour of the dead. As the bells tolled at Notre Dame cathedral, Parisiens gathered in the rain to demonstrate solidarity with the victims of the attack. The BBC interviewed some of the mourners. Chris, a perceptive young man, lamented: “The sky is falling on our heads”. This vivid image evokes the terrifying collapse of the natural order of things.

ahmadBut the fall of the sky can also be seen more positively as an opportunity to rethink what we consider to be natural and normative. Can France begin to conceive the nation as fundamentally multicultural, making space for marginalised communities?  By Friday, at least 19 persons in total lost their lives before the three-day terror in France came to an end.

In response to the “I am Charlie” slogan, a new perspective emerged: “I am Ahmed”. That’s the name of one of the policemen who was murdered outside the offices of Charlie Hebdo.Yes, Ahmed was Muslim. And he upheld the laws that protect freedom of speech. Even the licence of cartoonists to make a mockery of his religion! The French Enlightenment writer Voltaire famously declared, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”. That is exactly what Ahmed Merabet did. And his heroic act cannot possibly be satirised.