Mi No Want No Woman Look Mi!

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

imagesEverywhere mi turn, macca jook mi. Look how mi a try emancipate miself from mental slavery. Mi a defend gay people rights inna fi wi country. It look like mi mighta ha fi go stop. Trouble deh a road, mi naa bring it a mi yard.

Di whole a wi inna Jamaica grow pon Bible. An from yu a pikni, big people tel yu seh man an woman business a no fi pikni. An wen yu grow lickle bigger, dem mek yu know seh man fi sex woman an woman fi sex man. No man an man an woman an woman slackness! Dem seh a so God seh inna Bible.

Mi memba di first funny man mi know. Im did work inna one beauty parlour pon di same road weh mi did live. Mi a bout eight, nine. Dem deh age. An mi get fi understand seh im never ‘normal’. Im did walk an wine, an im hair did straighten. An im a hairdresser! Dem deh time, dat a woman work.

Mi can’t member di first funny woman mi know. It look like seh wi no so fussy bout dem deh woman inna Jamaica. A di funny man dem wi tek set pon. An chruu woman an woman a fren, an woman love hug up dem fren, woman coulda funny an yu no know.

‘BRAZEN PROPOSITION’

All dis fi seh, mi did get one next email from ‘Jordan’ last week. It funny. But it never sweet mi. A now mi know how di man dem feel wen man try hold dem down an dem no want it. Mi a big woman. Mi know mi mind. Mi naa follow ‘Bible’ go burn fire pon gay people. Mi have lesbian fren. But mi naa sex dem. Mi no gay, an mi no want no woman look mi.

Si di email ya: “Good day Prof Cooper, how are you? I took a look at your blog it’s nicely set up. The articles are interesting.The patois makes me dizzy though as we read only english during my time at UWI. I know you don’t remember me but we ‘met’ briefly on the jogging trail a few mornings. I’ve always hoped you were gay but i never had the courage as a student to make such a brazen proposition!

books_4“It would be good to have intelligent gay role models for homosexual youth in Jamaica, however i don’t think our society is ready for this.The PM seems to share the same sentiment as evidenced by her apparent avoidance of the issue which i believe to be a wise decision at this time. Developing a thriving economy and minimising corruption should be top priority …. well things may change unexpectedly … look what happened in Brazil a few years ago! Anyhow take care and keep up the exercise …. you look good girl !”

Liberty come from carelessness. It look like mi ha fi go stop write column fi Gleaner an tek bak mi privacy. If a no cuss dem a cuss mi, a look dem a look mi. Di ongle smaddy mi want look mi a one nice, ageable genkleman. No young boy. No old man. No married man. No man weh a sex man an uman. Yu ha fi can read an write. Yu ha fi have teeth. If yu qualify, come put argument. Otherwise, beg yu please lef mi in peace!

PRAPA-PRAPA SPELIN

Evri we mi ton, maka juk mi. Luk ou mi a chrai imansipiet miself fram mental slievri. Mi a difen gie piipl raits ina fi wi konchri. It luk laik mi maita a fi go tap. Chrobl de a ruod, mi naa bring it a mi yaad.

Di uol a wi iina Jamieka gruo pan Baibl. An fram yu a pikni, big piipl tel yu se man an uman bizniz a no fi pikni. An wen yu gruo likl biga, dem mek yu nuo se man fi seks uman an uman fi seks man. No man an man an uman an uman slaknis! Dem se a so Gad se iina Baibl.

Mi memba di fos foni man mi nuo. Im did work inna one beauty parlour pon di same road weh mi did live. Mi a bout iet, nain. Dem de iej. An mi get fi andastan se im neva ‘naamal’. Im did waak an wain, an im ier did chrietn. An im a ierjresa. Dem de taim, dat a uman work.

Mi kyaahn memba di fos foni uman mi nuo. It luk laik se wi no so fosi bout dem de uman iina Jamieka. A di foni man dem wi tek set pan. An chruu uman an uman a fren, an uman lov og op dem fren, uman kuda foni an yu no nuo.

‘BRAZEN PROPOSITION’

Aal dis fi se, mi did get wan neks iimail fram ‘Jordan’ laas wiik. It foni. Bot it neva swiit mi. A nou mi nuo ou di man dem fiil wen man chrai uol dem dong an dem no waahnt it. Mi a big uman. Mi nuo mi main. Mi naa fala ‘Baibl’ go bon faiya pan gie piipl. Mi av lesbiyan fren. Bot mi naa seks dem. Mi no gie, an mi no waahn no uman luk mi.

dizzySi di iimiel ya: “Good day Prof Cooper, how are you? I took a look at your blog it’s nicely set up. The articles are interesting.The patois makes me dizzy though as we read only english during my time at UWI. I know you don’t remember me but we ‘met’ briefly on the jogging trail a few mornings. I’ve always hoped you were gay but i never had the courage as a student to make such a brazen proposition!

“It would be good to have intelligent gay role models for homosexual youth in Jamaica, however i don’t think our society is ready for this.The PM seems to share the same sentiment as evidenced by her apparent avoidance of the issue which i believe to be a wise decision at this time.Developing a thriving economy and minimising corruption should be top priority …. well things may change unexpectedly …. look what happened in Brazil a few years ago! Anyhow take care and keep up the exercise …. you look good girl !”

Libati kom fram kielisnis. It luk laik mi a fi go tap rait kalam fi Gleaner an tek bak mi praivisi. If a no kos dem a kos mi, a luk dem a luk mi. Di ongl smadi mi waan luk mi a wan nais, iejibl jenklman. No yong bwai. No uol man. No marid man. No man we a seks man an uman. Yu a fi kyan riid an rait. Yu a fi av tiit. If yu kwalifai, kom put aagyument. Adawaiz, beg yu pliiz lef mi in piis!

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

I Don’t Want Women To Proposition Me!

emancipate-ourselves-from-mental-slavery-big-text1At every turn, I’m under attack.  I’ve been trying so hard to emancipate myself from mental slavery. I’ve been defending gay  rights in Jamaica.  But it seems as if I might have to stop and start minding my own business.  I can’t take on other people’s troubles.

All of us in Jamaica were raised on the Bible. As children, we were told by adults that sex was not for minors.  As we grew older, we were taught that heterosexuality was the norm.  Homosexuality was condemned by God:  that’s what the Bible says.

I can still remember the first gay man I became aware of.  He worked in a beauty parlour on the same road where I lived. I was about eight or nine years old at the time.  And I came to realise he wasn’t ‘normal’.  He walked with a swing in his hips and his hair was straightened.  And he was a hairdresser!  Those days, that was women’s work.

I can’t remember the first gay woman I became aware of.   It seems as if we’re not so obsessed about them in Jamaica. It’s gay men who are constantly scrutinised. And since women are open about friendship and love to embrace each other, they could be gay and no one would be any the wiser.

‘BRAZEN PROPOSITION’

All that to say, I did get another email from ‘Jordan’ last week. It was funny. But I wan’t amused. Now I know how men feel when a man tries to have sex with them and they don’t want it. I’m an adult. I can make up my own mind. I’m not going to uncritically accept any interpretation of the Bible that claims we should call down hellfire on gay people. I have friends who are lesbian. But I’m not having sex with them.  I’m not gay and I don’t want to be propositioned by women.

Here’s the email: “Good day Prof Cooper, how are you? I took a look at your blog it’s nicely set up. The articles are interesting.The patois makes me dizzy though as we read only english during my time at UWI. I know you don’t remember me but we ‘met’ briefly on the jogging trail a few mornings. I’ve always hoped you were gay but i never had the courage as a student to make such a brazen proposition!

SMILEEE“It would be good to have intelligent gay role models for homosexual youth in Jamaica, however i don’t think our society is ready for this.The PM seems to share the same sentiment as evidenced by her apparent avoidance of the issue which i believe to be a wise decision at this time. Developing a thriving economy and minimising corruption should be top priority …. well things may change unexpectedly … look what happened in Brazil a few years ago! Anyhow take care and keep up the exercise …. you look good girl !”

People take liberties with you if you’re not careful. It looks as if I’m going to have to stop writing for the Gleaner and reclaim my privacy. If it’s not abuse, it’s unwelcome advances.  The only person I want to proposition me is a suitable gentleman of an appropriate age. No young boy. No old man. No married man. No man who is having sex with men and woman. You have to be literate. You must have teeth. If you qualify, you can make an offer. Otherwise,  please leave me in peace!

One Of The Two Gleaners!

Unknown“I saw it in one of the two Gleaners.” That’s what a friend of mine said a couple of weeks ago when I asked her where she’d heard about a news item we were discussing. And she didn’t mean online and print. We both had a good laugh. We couldn’t believe that in the 21st century, Gleaner was still the generic name for a newspaper. And it’s not just in Jamaica. Even in the diaspora, readers of a certain age think of British, Canadian or American newspapers as Gleaners.

Unknown-1The Gleaner Company must be quite pleased with the enduring appeal of its brand name. For almost two centuries! As Shabba Ranks would say, “Dem a brandish.” On the other hand, I don’t suppose the owner of that much younger newspaper would be amused to see that it is branded as one of two Gleaners – especially after 21 years in business. If it’s any consolation, having two ‘Gleaners’ is a good thing. It gives the consumer choice. Monopolies have a way of becoming very arrogant.

I used to write a column for ‘the other Gleaner’ in the 1990s. When I read some of those articles now, I’m amazed at how little things have changed over the last two decades. We keep on having the same quarrels about language and colour and class and beauty contests, for example.

TO DI WORLD

An earlier version of last week’s column, ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall’, was published in 1993. And I proposed then that we start to judge beauty in distinct racial categories. My positively race-conscious Miss Jamaica competition – both World and Universe – could work in one of two ways.

winnerEach year, contestants all of the same racial type could compete against each other: one year only African; the following year only ‘Out of Many One’. And so on: European, Chinese and Indian. Every type of beauty in turn! Equal opportunity. Affirmative action.

Or, each year, we could have contestants of all the racial types competing in segregated contests. Each contestant would be judged in the usual categories, according to the standards of her own racial type. Not someone else’s. The contestant who got the highest individual score, whatever her racial category, would be the overall winner.

This second option might be harder to manage. There would still be a sense of competition between racial categories. But just think of all the money the promoters could make running five beauty contests each year instead of just one! And it wouldn’t matter if the judges of international contests couldn’t see the beauty in our Miss Jamaica. We’d be confidently sending a message ‘to di world’ that we acknowledge the beauty of all of our women: ‘red and yellow, black and white’.

BLACK DON’T CRACK

imagesThe following year, as the annual quarrel about beauty contests heated up, I wrote another piece about sidelined royalty: farm and festival queens. These competitions are not even billed as beauty contests. It’s ‘talent’ that seems to count.

One of my male friends sent me a wicked response to last week’s column: “Next time I see a good-looking, dark-skinned woman, I will, as seems to be required by the current code, have to compliment her for her intelligence and talent, the favourable characteristics which women of her look are stereotypically assigned.”

Brains do last longer than beauty. And, in any case, since ‘black don’t crack’, as the African-Americans say, the intelligent and talented black woman often ends up looking much better than many a ‘beauty’ in the long run!

QUEEN OF QUEENS

Heritage Month will soon be here. We continue to celebrate Queen Nanny of the Maroons as an alternative model of queenship. Beyond the beauty contest business! In 1994, The University of the West Indies Press published Maroon Heritage, edited by the archaeologist Kofi Agorsah, who excavated many sites in Jamaica.

tumblr_mc3vppCtpZ1rdpg2so1_1280In that collection, there’s a brilliant essay by historian and poet Kamau Brathwaite in which he creatively makes sense of the myth that Nanny used her bottom to deflect the bullets of British soldiers: “There is no way that Nanny could have turned her back & done what they say she did. But she could have turned her back, lifted her skirt, & displayed the derriere as a symbol of derision & abuse which is a very common feature of ‘the culture’, as you know.”

Well, all I could think of when I read that lovely bit of mythmaking by Brathwaite was the image of Nanny in a batty-rider. I know some people will be absolutely offended by this imaginative ‘disrespecting’ of Nanny’s queenly image. But, let’s face it. The bottom is a very political surface in our culture. Sexual politics.

Which brings us to Miss Jamaica Dancehall. The potent female bottom in dancehall culture is surely related to the myth that Nanny used her bottom to ward off the bullets of British soldiers. In any case, in many African cultures, female elders will threaten to denude themselves as a way of bringing delinquent males in line.

So Queen Nanny can be seen in a new light: the sexy warrior queen. Perhaps, she’s an unexpected role model for today’s dancehall queens. A royal exposure of the female body! And you can say you saw it in the original Gleaner.

Language Rights and Wrongs/ Langgwij Raits an Rangs

The Maroon, Haiti

The Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica is convening an international conference on Language Rights and Policy in the Creole-speaking Caribbean on January 13 and 14.  Here’s the link to the conference website:  www.caribbeanlanguagepolicy.com/conference-information.html

For far too long, the Creole mother tongues of the vast majority of Caribbean peoples have been dismissed and devalued by the formal educational institutions in many countries across the region.  An outstanding exception is Haiti where Kreyol is recognised as an official language.

In Jamaica, for example, we desperately maintain the fiction that English is the mother tongue of most citizens.  It is not.  English is a second language that is inefficiently taught in schools and inadequately learnt by many students.

In a newspaper article, “Whose class are you in?”, published in the Jamaica Gleaner on  October 24, 2010, I raise the disturbing question of how children in primary schools are ever going to learn anything at all if teachers try to communicate exclusively in English, a language that most students do not understand.  Here’s the link to that article:

jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20101024/cleisure/cleisure4.html

Even at university level in Jamaica, many students need to take remedial classes in English.  Our school system has simply failed students all the way up; and just passed them on.  If we were to take the Creole mother tongue seriously as a language of instruction in schools we would do a much better job of teaching English.  At the very least, students would learn how to distinguish between the two languages.

The Jamaican Language Unit’s historic conference will address the pressing issue of a Charter on Language Rights and Language Policy for the Caribbean region.  As noted in the press release for the conference, the draft charter that will be on the agenda of the two-day meeting was designed by a group of “30 international experts on Caribbean languages and their roles in education, the law and culture.”

The target audience for this far-reaching conference comprises Ministers of Education, Justice and Culture.  The question of language rights is serious business even though many elites across the region think that Creole languages are a big joke.  Language rights are, ultimately, a matter of social justice.

Langgwij Raits an Rangs

Old Bailey, London

Di Jamieka Langgwij Yuunit op a Yuunivorsiti a di Wes Indiiz, Muona, Jamieka a kip op wan outanashanal konfrans pan Janieri 13 an 14 bout Langgwij Raits an Palisi ina di Kyaribiyan konchri dem we piipl taak Kriyuol.  Si di link tu di kanfrans websait ya so:  www.caribbeanlanguagepolicy.com/conference-information.html

A lang taim nou dem a dis an luokount di Kriyuol mada tong we muos a di piipl dem ina di Kyaribiyan taak.  Dem naa tek di langgwij dem siiryoz ina skuul ina plenti a di konchri dem aal kraas di riijan.   No Haiti.  Dem av plenti sens.  Fi dem Kreyol langgwij ofishal.

Tek Jamieka far instans.   Wi a fuul op wiself an a gwaan laka se Ingglish a fi wi mada tong.  Notn no go so.  Ingglish a wi sekan langgwij.  An dem naa tiich i gud ina skuul; an plenti a di pikini dem naa kech i gud.

Mi rait wan nyuuspiepa aatikl, “Whose class are you in?”, we Gliina poblish pan Aktuoba 24, 2010.  An mi aks wan siiryos kweschan:  Ou di pikni dem iina praimeri skuul a go laan eniting at aal, at aal if di tiicha dem a taak to dem iina suoso Ingglish?  Wan langgwij we muos a di pikni dem no andastan.  Si di link ya:

jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20101024/cleisure/cleisure4.html

Aal a yuunivorsiti ina Jamieka, plenti a di styuudent dem ha fi a tek ekschra lesn fi fiks op dem Ingglish.  Fi wi skuul sistim naa chriit di pikni dem rait.  Dem dis a fiel, aal di wie op.  An di sistim dis a paas dem aan. If wi did av di sens di tek fi wi Kriyuol mada tong siiryos, an yuuz i fi tiich pikni ina skuul, dem wuda laan Ingglish.  If notn els, dem uda nuo di difrans bitwiin di tuu langgwij.

Di Jamieka Langgwij Yuunit big-taim kanfrans a go diil wid siiryos-siiryos bizniz.  Wi ha disaid wa wi a go du bout langgwij raits and palisi fi di Kyaribiyan.  An wi ha fi rait i dong ina wan dakument.  Di aaganaiza dem sen wan leta tu aal a di nyuuzpiepa an riedyo stieshan.  An dem se di dakument we dem a go diskos a di kanfrens staat fi rait op.   A 30 outanashanal aatariti pan Kyaribiyan langgwij – we nuo ou di langgwij dem fi yuuz ina skuul and kuort-ous an ina di kolcha jineral – a dem kom tugeda an rait op di dakument.

An dem waan di Minista dem fi Edikieshan, Jostis an Kolcha fi kom a di kanfrans.  It big an it braad.  Yu si dis langgwij raits bizniz.  A siiryos ting.  Plenti a di tapanaaris dem aal bout gwaan laik se fi wi Kriyuol langgwij dem a wan juok ting.  Hmmm. Ina di lang ron, langgwij raits a diil wid jostis fi puor piipl.