I Am Shanique Myrie

or Jamaicans and Women are also Human

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is currently hearing the case of Ms Shanique Myrie against the Eastern Caribbean state of Barbados. Ms Myrie is accusing Barbados1 of subjecting her to vaginal fingering2, insults and other inhumane treatment during detention before she was deported to Jamaica. Ms Myrie holds that the substandard and discriminatory treatment she received, including exposure to “forceful, brutish language” was due to her Jamaican nationality. Ms Myrie is not the only Jamaican woman who has accused Barbadian officers of discriminatory treatment3.

I am a woman who bears a Jamaican passport and I travel primarily alone. I have never been subjected to the treatments described by Ms Myrie et al but I have also never sought entry into Barbados, but depending on the outcome of this case, I just might pay them a visit. I look forward to reading the judgment, regardless of the conclusion, and eagerly anticipate the ironing out of regional border control policies that will undoubtedly arise from such an intense exposé.

Nationality-based discrimination is still a strong human reality, and it is not only a personal prejudice practiced by a few opinionated individuals; it is institutionally legitimized and taught and it does not only take place at international ports of entry. It exists in the labour markets of some developed countries where immigrants automatically receive lower wages and different benefits than natives, ceteris paribus. It exists within the justice and education systems where persons who are incompetent at a country’s accepted language are automatically at a disadvantage.  It exists in service and hospitality industries where some patrons are asked to pay upfront while others can pay after being served, where the swiftness of service depends on the accent of the customer; even in Jamaican resort areas, there is a marked difference between the service given to Jamaican nationals and those from foreign countries. I maintain the opinion that Jamaica is the least xenophobic of countries, or reversely xenophobic as it seems as if we are prejudiced against our own and more respectful of foreigners and the Jamaican minorities of a certain social esteem and skin tone.

Even more rampant in societies is gender-based discrimination.

P2147497 851x1024 I Am Shanique Myrie

Sand on the beach appears homogenous, but on closer inspection you will find that each grain is different, much like groups of people. Ubuntu (bracelet): We affirm our humanity when we acknowledge that of others.

According to the United Nations Population Fund, one in three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some other way4. In an article entitled “Jailed and Raped in Barbados,” a Jamaican woman makes chilling allegations of being repeatedly drugged and raped in a Barbadian lockup. She made several reports of the rape and her claims did not receive any immediate attention. She said, “My biggest fear is not the men; it’s the women; because the women are the ones who let in the men and let them rape me.” We women might be instinctively more nurturing but we are certainly not immune to the disease that is bigotry. There is an evident reluctance among women to support each other. Even though we share the oppression; we do not appear willing to fight the power that is sexism. We do not acknowledge that we are, as women, perpetuating misogyny when we regard each other so callously.

I am still searching for the acceptable explanation as to why only one of the seven CCJ judges is a woman, when women are 51 per cent of the global population, and are faring far better academically than our male counterparts within the Caribbean region. Women continue to be underrepresented at senior levels in politics, law, banking and the civil service, especially. The recurrent elevation of men to positions of significant power is reinforcing negative attitudes regarding the competencies of women, not to mention the arbitrary patriarchal beliefs that are accepted as norms throughout the predominantly Christian region.

Women, Jamaicans and Jamaican women, we must look within ourselves and fix our attitudes towards each other. Society already gi’ we basket fi carry water because we cannot change who we are even if we had the desire to. We are disadvantaged because we are Jamaicans, we are disadvantaged because we are women but internally we have to rise above and reach beyond these stereotypes, we have to expunge them from within ourselves in order to effect change outside of our spheres. Let us do this and look forward to the day when the world is more accepting and just.

  1. or their appointed customs and immigration officers []
  2. dubbed a cavity search []
  3. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jailed-and-raped-in-Barbados and http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Another-Bajan-horror-story_12652203 []
  4. http://www.unfpa.org/gender/violence.htm []
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Coming Home

I enjoy traveling (duh!) so much that one of my philosophies happens to be ‘home is internal’ but I am sure that if I were among the 100,000 homeless Jamaicans I would barely have the opportunity to travel. But let us imagine that by some stroke of luck I did, my journeys would be fruitless because everyone who has ever gone anywhere knows that half the joy of travel is in the coming home.

The Jamaican government has denied approximately 7,0001 average Jamaican families home ownership by allocating $45 billion from the National Housing Trust (NHT) [which is ‘entrusted with the mission of increasing and enhancing the stock of available housing in Jamaica as well as providing financial assistance to the most needy of our Contributors who wish to build, to buy or to repair their homes’] to a four-year fiscal consolidation plan. This ‘plan’ has not yet been explained in full to Jamaicans, who were informed of this and other shady measures during a national broadcast that ended with Minister Peter Phillips kissing our dear Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller on the cheek.

5206656424 d53a2cbd0f b 300x225 Coming Home

Ball moss: A parasite that could fight cancer.

Why does the NHT have so much money to spare when many Jamaicans live in substandard conditions, on literal gully banks in lean-tos that can be taken away in the wink of an eye? Why does the NHT have so much money to spare when 120 persons labelled as squatters were evicted from a property and were only provided with communal tents? Why does the NHT have so much money to spare when a common feature of the dwellings of many constituents of both persons who presented this broadcast and several in their cabinet are shaky, corrugated walls, ready to be taken by the wind? Poverty, torment and violence seem to be the only thing Jamaican politicians desire to cultivate.

I have been contributing to the NHT for six years but like many Jamaicans I do not yet own a home, primarily because I do not consider myself ready for a mortgage, and the sum the NHT is offering single applicants will not allow me anything that suits my tastes. Come to think of it, $216,000 of NHT’s money has come from my salary2 and while that sum cannot build anyone a home, I feel entitled to a say in what they do with it. I at least want a clear explanation as to what exactly the money will be doing, what the implications will be for my monthly contributions or any mortgage I will apply for and what plan is, if any,  for replenishing this money.

Home is a shelter from storms — all sorts of storms.
~ William J. Bennett

Housing is an integral part of any society and all aspects thereof have large repercussions for the economy; you simply cannot have an economic plan and hinge it on taking funds from a housing agency- it sends the wrong message. Even if the money goes to good use the agency is already failing at its mandate and the right sentiments have not been expressed by our

5277619442 e189ae45aa b 300x203 Coming Home

I wonder if any homeless people inhabit these remnants. Near Port Royal, Kingston

government on the matter. I sincerely hope every contributing Jamaican takes this loan/gift to heart, even if (like many religious fanatics, common in Jamaica) you have lost faith in owning a home in this life and only have the one in heaven waiting.

K.x

  1. averaging the cost of a modest, two bedroom home at $7 million []
  2. yes, I record my payslips []
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2012 Journeys

Now that 2012 has properly digested, I feel like writing about it, or the most memorable aspects of it which happen to be myP7256766 2012 Journeys travels. In all, I took five solo trips and enjoyed every single minute of each of the 49 days I spent on the road. So here’s a rundown of my journeys, discoveries, memorable moments and the tools that helped me to hold it all together.

Big Magic in Houston (7 days)

I had my sights set on New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for several years and was intent on going in May however I did not get the time off. The travel bug had already bitten so I was intent on making a trip the moment I could so I went on musicfestivaljunkies.com to find another concert. Free Press Summer Fest was what I decided on. I made a great choice.

Summer Fest itself was outrageous (in a good way), perfect because I tend to prefer outdoor concerts with several stages as there is always something to groove to. Major Lazer, Willie Nelson, Afrojack, Snoop Dogg and Z-Ro and a hundred other acts did not disappoint. I was also impressed by the platform the festival offered to not only big time companies and food and craft vendors but to the various causes that were allowed a place to express themselves, like The Center for the Healing of Racism and the Rehumanize campaign.

Houston itself does not have a distinctive character, in my opinion, but the arts scene and the various attractions are worth it.  CityPass allowed me to see five of them for only $39. It is a good investment for longer trips with less demanding agendas; I forewent the aquarium because it seemed to have been more of a restaurant than something I would find breath-taking. The museums were all impressive with very well curated collections. At the Museum of Fine Arts I saw Renoirs, Rembrandts, Van Goghs and Picassos but what moved me (almost to tears) was a mural, Odyssey, made with gunpowder by Cai Guo-Qiang. Uncut stones and fine jewellery at the Museum of Natural Science’s gem gallery were a sight to behold, an experience brilliantly enhanced by a jazz backdrop. The butterfly display was also pretty amazing.

Houston Ballet’s Made in America and Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes was an enthralling, mesmerising journey1. The moment I stepped outside the hall, I was greeted by fireworks generated by the Astros’ victory. One beautiful night. One unforgettable seven-day weekend.

Green, Friendly New Hampshire (7 days)

The main purpose of this trip was to visit my sister who had recently done breast cancer surgery. I was very happy to see her and heartened by the wonderful people she was lucky enough to have around. New England is lovely in summer- green, green everywhere and oh so clean; I enjoyed the relative quiet.

I was invited to a bring-your-own-meat party2; it was a new concept to me but I had a lot of fun with my sister and her friends who were all very hospitable and friendly. I had a head-clearing berry picking session at Brookdale Farm in Hollis, wonderful sushi at Mikata in Merrimack, a gigantic soft-serve ice-cream at King Kone, cheesecake and hearty pilsner at Martha’s Exchange brewery and more good beer at Old Amsterdam Bar and Nathaniel’s Family Eatery, both in Nashua. I re-read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in Greely Park and lived on Panera Bread. I recommend Castro’s Back Room for cigar lovers, League of NH Craftsmen for souvenirs and Cooking Matters for a quick repast and spice shopping.

Power Food Trip to Washington, DC (18 days)

Volunteering at the AIDS 2012 conference was, undoubtedly, one of the most memorable experiences of my life so far. Experiencing such a powerful and savvy city for the first time was tremendous. All the big talkers, celebrities and other inspiring figures at the conference itself, all the monuments, museums, memorials, all the political activism and social hipness was refreshing. I met a fellow blogger, @CucumberJuice, who was also a volunteer at the conference and a Thai food connoisseur.

DC has all the developed beauty and cultural diversity of a well-planned capital city. I enjoyed myself bar hopping in Adams Morgan; this was my first time staying out past 2am on a Friday night and apart from the shocking bottle service menus, I had a good time. Of course, I had a good walk around the National Mall to see the museums and monuments. I must implore you not to take the bike taxis as they are quite expensive and move no faster than a brisk walker. Yes, I made the mistake. The best part of this was delicious brunch at a lovely restaurant called Old Ebbitt Grill- the dexterity of the waiters there should be a tourist attraction, seriously.

I stayed at a hotel in DuPont circle for a while. There was nothing much going on at nights in DuPont and I was led to discover sushi bar nightclub hybrid called Sushi Taro; this is the place for you if you enjoy fresh rolls with cocktails and karaoke. I also spent a lot of time at Pentagon Row in Arlington; there is a Simon Mall with all the major shops and a lovely Food Court with several eateries including a not-so-great Italian Ristorante Murali and the amazing Nando’s Peri-Peri. There are also some good restaurants in the Clarendon, VA neighbourhood including a Cheesecake Factory franchise. I shamelessly declare that I would return to DC, if only for the varied dining options.

Third Edition of North Sea Jazz in Curacao (6 days)

I have been attending the Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival since its first staging in 2010 and it is always a great joy and pleasure. Three Stages, two nights, one magical experience. This year was magnificent- the new beach stage was truly a treat. Imagine this night scene- sitting beneath a thatch cabana with the voice of Jill Scott or India Arie permeating the salty air; it was to die for. The top performers were Santana, Alicia Keys, Randy Crawford, Maná and The Bright Mississippi.

It was my first time staying at Blue Bay, which is an old plantation on which have been constructed lovely villas and fully-equipped apartments. It is a very beautiful, expansive property with courteous staff and a well-cared beach. There was paid Wi-Fi throughout the property and free Wi-Fi on the beach.

I hereby send a major shout-out to Mookie Job, owner/operator of Tik Tak in Punda IMG 0020 300x300 2012 Journeyswho always finds tickets for me each year, even when they are sold out. I owe to him the beautiful experience I had of seeing Stevie Wonder live in 2011 and he also made it possible for me to see Santana in 2012. The owner of Café Vienna in Punda was a friendly waiter- he served me a chilled, refreshing glass of rose; the best I ever had. It was also good to finally meet fellow blogger @sablikatriumph.

Abundant Life in New Orleans, then South Beach (11 days)

IMG 0742 2012 JourneysI welcomed 2013 in The Big Easy and got my official induction into the Who Dat Nation. It was beautiful to be walking into a football stadium with brass bands all around. We lost against the Panthers but the vibe inside the Superdome was very happy and the party still went on at Champions Square and I enjoyed the alligator sausage po’ boy, jambalaya with Andouille and root beer.

Walking around the French Quarter was fun, the street performers and artists in Jackson Square were mostly seriously talented people. The art galleries on Chartres Street displayed some strong contemporary pieces and a few had antiques on display. I got the mandatory coffee and beignets at Café du Monde and compared them to those at Morning Call, both very delicious except that at Morning Call you get to shake your own sugar. I cannot begin to relate to you the amount of food I had in New Orleans, the number of dishes was only surpassed by the number of cocktails. The Doc Brinker’s Special at Camellia Grill, the Pimm’s Cup and Hot Muffuletta at Napoleon House and hush puppies at Adam’s Catfish were some of the more impressive gastronomic treats.

Riding a streetcar up and down St. Charles, drooling over the gorgeous homes in the Garden District, City Park, the Museum of Art and Sculpture Park, the Riverwalk, the majestic cemeteries and the beautiful Mississippi river were the top daytime attractions. The annual Celebration in the Oaks which featured pretty lights and everything you expect at a fair and more appealed to the child in me. I highly recommend it as an evening activity for families.

I appreciated my time on Bourbon Street but Basin and Frenchmen Street had a more local feel and much more live jazz. I took advantage of the liberal open container laws of Orleans Parish, always had a drink or two in hand, night and day. The hand grenades on Bourbon Street were refreshing- a little weak for me but the Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s lived up to its reputation.

2012 05 18 1337367621 2012 Journeys

Fly Jamaica Airways – I hope to travel with them this year.

The beauty of New Orleans was not in the tasty food, drinks, or unique buildings. I met so many warm-hearted people who became instant friends. I had a lovely walk around Louis Armstrong Park and Faubourg Tremé which was celebrating its bicentennial – 200 years, and is the oldest African-American neighbourhood in the United States. Across the road from Armstrong Park I wandered into a bar called Michael’s3. The bartender picked up on my Jamaican accent and became an instant friend, telling me of his voyages to Negril and recommending places to go and things to see around NOLA.

I spent a few days in South Beach on my way back home. I did a little of the requisite clubbing but I spent most of my time on property at Freehand Miami, ordering GrubHub and relaxing. Enjoying a film on the grass, outdoors, with a few hundred other people and some pets- SoundScape Miami was my most memorable South Beach experience.

Tools of the Trade

So here are the products and services that kept me through almost 50 days on the road.

  1. Google Maps (iPhone) – I am indebted to this app for a lot of navigation assistance, including public transit routes and P7256768 300x225 2012 Journeysschedule. I also used Maps to find good places to eat and shop.
  2. Tripit Pro – Kept me organized on the road and aware of my flight status. Tripit sends useful and timely reminders via text and push notification.
  3. MeetUp – Helped me find like-minded people and events that suit my interests.
  4. CouchSurfing – I used CouchSurfing to meet up with amazing people- locals and fellow travellers.
  5. TravBuddy – I met one local in Houston through TravBuddy. She has become a close friend.
  6. Red Pocket – Kept me connected with a reliable, prepaid voice and data plan.
  7. My iSound Portable Power – Kept me charged and in charge.
  8. GrubHub – Brought the food to me when I was not feeling up to the walk.
  9. Super Shuttle – Provided reliable airport transportation in Houston and Miami.
  10. AirBnB – I used this amazing resource to rent two very lovely, very different apartments that both felt like home. The most unique accommodation options may be found here, you can literally rent a plane, train, or automobile (modified for livability, of course)! You rent from owners and landlords, most properties are private apartments but the bed and breakfast operators have been catching on. The options are a) entire home/apartment b) private room and c) shared room. AirBnB is usually less expensive than a hotel and provides much more flexibility.
  11. Starbucks – Hangover recovery and pastry provider. The best one, in my humble opinion is at Clear Lake in Houston

Here’s to 2013 and the journeys therein.

  1. I spent only $15 on this for a seat worth $180  with their Under 25 Fridays program. It did not matter that I was a foreigner. []
  2. I brought pork chops and the snob in me insisted on preparing my own jerk sauce. []
  3. Unbeknownst to me, Michael’s was a gay bar but I am still happy I went and I will return next year for an eggnogatini. []
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One Love: Jamaican Blogger Tag

Happy New Year y’all! 2012 was a lot of things, it was full of amazing events and I had the opportunity of enjoying precious moments with some of the planet’s most beautiful people.  I can assuredly say that it was a very good year that I never want to relive.

“A Blogger Tag is a game (so to speak) where bloggers of all niches endeavor to form links, possibly discover new information and new bloggers and have fun while doing so. It starts with one blogger (in this case, me) who chooses the topic of the Tag and then gives a list of questions or one general question which is wide enough to have its answer broken down into list form. After the first blogger answers said question(s), he or she will “tag” other bloggers to continue the tag.”JaBajaNas

Thanks to Nas for tagging me and providing the inspiration for my first post of 2013. These are not deeply profound questions but hopefully my answers will serve to reveal a bit more of what lies within the heart and soul of Karee. So here goes…

  1.  Why did you give your blog its name?
    I called my blog Negril Stories because I happened to own the domain at the time I decided I would start blogging. There was no thought whatsoever put into it. I do not live in Negril and I have not written much pertaining to the resort town but it is among my favourite places in Jamaica.
  2. Why did you start blogging and why do you blog now?
    I started blogging during a brief period of unemployment, simply to combat boredom; I also took up photography during the same spell. I decided to continue because I do not otherwise have the opportunity to write creatively and I want to develop my skill in order to eventually publish short stories and perhaps a novel.
  3. Do you think being Jamaican influences your blogging style?
    I am not sure that being Jamaican has influenced my blogging style, but it certainly affects my content. I write about my daily experiences in my island home- from public bus preaching to incarcerated musicians to pum pum to corrupt politicians to the sea. I have traveled quite a bit but never managed to write about my journeys here- this is something that should change in 2013.
  4. What do you think about the increase in bloggers in Jamaica?
    More people writing! I wonder if that means more people reading? We all deserve an avenue to express ourselves and the world wide web is an excellent one. I admire the efforts of all new bloggers, whether they are doing so for entertainment, financial gain or to effect social change. No matter how short or frivolous, what we write is a revelation of our souls, publishing it is equal to sharing a chunk of our hearts and is always a very bold move. Thank you, readers, for receiving me with such openness.
  5. What is your favourite thing about being Jamaican?
    2012 09 30 1348964813 300x300 One Love: Jamaican Blogger TagI like being Jamaican because there is no single Jamaican identity. I am from an island that is so small, yet so big and diverse. Yes, diverse; although differences are not institutionally encouraged, Jamaican people have managed to find excellence in varying arenas; Out of Many, One People. I am very proud of being among a nation of so many who have defied our various social ills and sought after impossible dreams. All of that and cheap rum.
  6. Ackee and saltfish or “ (mackerel) run down”?
    Because I love coconut so much run down automatically wins; however I hate having to choose. Let it be known, though, that I detest boiled green bananas so please never put any on my plate. Ever.
  7. Stew peas or stew chicken?
    Stew peas with pigtails- heavy on the coconut milk, served with perfectly white rice and blanched string beans with carrots. There is no other way.
  8. Tastee Patties, Juici Beef Patties or Mother’s?
    Neither. The best patty in the world is from a small green shop in May Pen called *drumroll* Green Shop, officially (and listed on foursquare as) Richard Alexander & Company bakery. The patty is superior because of the crust which is a deliciously light and crumbly phyllo pastry; the filling could be replaced with that of Juici to make the perfect patty.

    grnshop One Love: Jamaican Blogger Tag

    Green Shop Patty

  9. Pantucky or KFC?
    Why is jerk pork not an option? Nas? KFC’s BBQ hot wings are a nice treat on occasion but I live on jerk pork and chicken which are far healthier.
  10. What do you hope to be the future of blogging in Jamaica?
    I look forward to seeing more community based blogs; it is a crying shame but many Jamaicans live insular lives, including myself. I want to see more instances of social responsibility being expressed via the world wide web because in this country we cannot rely on mainstream media to give us much more than the most gruesome tales, and even that they fail at. Having a cadre of bloggers emerging from small communities would be a great way to keep our country emotionally connected and promote local knowledge of our big, small island.

I hereby tag Stannyha, Jamaipanese, Chatimout, Cucumberjuice, Ren_Egade, StunnerJ and Ashleigh.

One love and, as always, walk good.

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Sometimes Coffee, Sometimes Tea

The 11-month-old Jamaican government has spent $60m on luxury1 SUVs.

2012 05 18 1337367621 300x300 Sometimes Coffee, Sometimes Tea

Fly Jamaica Airways | May it not suffer the same fate as Air Jamaica.

“When you drive a government car you are given a gas allowance, but when persons drive their personal cars they are not given a gas card,” was a remark from Minister of Information, Sandrea Falconer on the matter. It can be concluded that the tax payers of this country are buying ministers luxury motor vehicles in order that we might also buy them petrol. Paraphrase, “driving government owned cars is important because it enables us to receive fuel from your tax money.” Does the minister seriously believe that this is an acceptable thing to say to the people? I wonder how much is on this gas card anyway. Is it an unlimited amount as long as it’s going into the government owned vehicle?

aus·tere

adjective /ôˈsti(ə)r/

1 : Severe or strict in manner, attitude, or appearance: “an austere man with a puritanical outlook”.

2 : (of living conditions or a way of life) Having no comforts or luxuries; harsh or ascetic.

I would have been impressed and positively inspired if it was reported that one of these ministers opted for an eco-vehicle. When last I checked petrol cost $130 per litre2. Many Jamaican citizens have been forced to park our cars and rely on public transportation because we cannot afford this petrol but our Minister of Information is relating to us that they cannot afford it either so they need cars bought with our money so we who cannot afford the petrol for ourselves can afford it for them through taxes. Such a strong sense of entitlement is not acceptable in periods of austerity.

While several countries are successfully rebounding from the recession, the Jamaican economy is steadily contracting. Our government is supposed to be implementing austerity measures in view of the IMF deal3 that we are so desperately waiting to hear concrete information on. Any increase in fiscal spending should be carefully measured; one cannot simply buy vehicles for ministers so they may benefit from gas cards. It is not important that former ministers drove similar vehicles; it is never a valid excuse that a previous cabinet operated in like manner.

Several of these ministers issued with SUVs reside in the Kingston Metropolitan Region where there is a public transport system of debatable reliability which happens to have been losing us millions of dollars. I have never heard of a politician opting to use the bus service because he/she cannot afford petrol. While this would be good to hear, I know very well that it will not happen. Jamaica is a democracy – we elect leaders who pretend to be for the people but are much too self-important to regard themselves as of the people. They are high above us and must live lavishly while the masses suffer. The distribution of wealth in Jamaica is disastrously disparate.

Even our Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, who never declines an opportunity to boast her love for the poor, has insisted that she is above economy class travel (especially when the US Secret Service is awaiting her at the airplane door, she simply cannot be the last passenger to disembark). I will not doubt that she is a well-intentioned politician but her arrogance and aloofness are getting in the way. No person being paid from the public purse can acceptably want to live at the high end of the spectrum while austerity measures, to a degree of which we are not yet sure, loom.

2011 12 20 1324421932 300x300 Sometimes Coffee, Sometimes TeaChristmas is upon us- the most wonderful time of the year where sellers outnumber buyers. Many of those peddling especially worthless items (like fire crackers, fee fees4, balloons and paper hats) will be children of poor circumstance. Most of the vendors (who will undoubtedly be harassed by police for ‘hustling’) will not make enough money to have something special on the menu for Christmas evening. Our ministers will likely be hosting or attending lavish functions with the elite corps. They will be merry and wear wide grins, much unlike the passing grimace they gave to the young boy who tried to hustle a wash of their windscreen for an extra holiday $20, the same kid who probably won’t have money to buy lunch at school on January morning, who probably will not attend for more than three days in the month because he has not the means, who will not benefit from the PATH5 programme because he doesn’t attend regularly enough to be eligible anyway.

But we buy them cars, just so we can buy them gas.

K.x

P.S. “sometimes coffee, sometimes tea” is an expression used to mean that some days will bring more fortune than others. I could never figure out which one is supposed to be better – the coffee or the tea. For me, all drinks below 80 proof are equal. What say you?

  1. by Jamaican standards, anyway []
  2. that is approximately US$5.50 per gallon []
  3. or no deal []
  4. a type of overly-decorated whistle with a balloon attachment []
  5. like welfare, but not exactly []
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Konshens: Good Boy Gone Bad?

Commentary submitted by a contributor who desires anonymity. The opinions expressed herein may not be those of Karee, the author of Negril Stories.

Garfield Spence got the perfect start to a music career in 2005 when he recorded his first song with his older brother Delus titled ‘Pon di Corner’. Shockingly, this track went to number one in Japan and due to this success, the duo performing under the name Sojah (Sons of Jah) toured Japan.

Fast forward to 2007 and the younger of the duo, Konshens re-emerged on the music scene with his first solo effort, Winner. The track was well received publicly, getting steady rotation on radio, television and in the streets. All eyes and ears were focused on Konshens. He was dancehall’s new sensation.

Since his debut as a solo act, Konshens has managed to impress the public year after year with popular chart topping songs such as Rasta Imposter, This means Money, Good Girl Gone Bad (ft Tarrus Riley), and Realest Song. The rising star soon became a top tier dancehall entertainer.

For promoters, producers and the general public, Konshens is seen as the ideal dancehall artiste. He is young, professional, intelligent, conducts good interviews, has a wide variety of songs, a US visa, no criminal record, the girls love him, men rate him; you get the picture. His clean-cut image has landed him performances on major stage shows- both local and foreign, endorsements by Corporate Jamaica etc.

In 2010/2011 dancehall slowed down drastically, many songs and artistes fail to hit and find favour with the public with the exception of one man who took control of dancehall, it wasn’t Konshens, it was Dancehall Super Star Vybz Kartel. Kartel, like Konshens, who is loved and rated greatly by both men and women enjoyed tremendous success as he pushed the envelope to the limit with sexually explicit and arousing songs such as Dumpa Truck, Freaky Gal Parts 1 and 2 among others.

September 30, 2011: Vybz Kartel is arrested on ganja possession and murder charges and as the charges pile up, it is evident that Kartel will be behind bars for a long while.

With the World Boss incarcerated, though still having tracks flood the airwaves, other dancehall artistes began to vie for the top spot to replace Kartel. But who could fill the ‘addivoid’? Popcaan(Kartel’s protégé), Khago, Cham and Konshens are the front runners in this race. Popcaan and Khago are rated mostly by males and lack the catalogue/popularity as Konshens; Cham is loved mostly by the female audience but he has been too inconsistent and away for too long. Konshens seemed to have the advantage as he is the only one of this set who is loved greatly by both male and female audiences but something was missing.

It’s either a mere coincidence that his material started to get raunchier or it’s that Konshens realized hardcore dancehall was what the people wanted. Whatever it is, the ‘nice boy, clean cut’ perception of Konshens started to transform, as his new material got more lewd and explicit song after song. I would say his bad boy image emerged in late 2011 with the song Bad Gyal on Overproof riddim.

At first people started to think “Konshens get bad” and then he did ‘Gal a Bubble’ and people’s reaction were “Whoa, Konshens Bruck out”. He pushed the envelope a little more when he did Stop Sign and it started being whispered that his songs sounded like Kartel’s songs. By this time, his fan base was growing tremendously both locally and overseas and as the women loved it, so did the men. The next song was brought to my attention by the numerous tweets on my timeline with women tweeting the lyrics ‘squeeze me throat and siddung pon b**dy, suck off mi nipple and siddung pon b**dy’. Then it finally hit home that Konshens bruck out fully now as many people on social media made remarks about missing Kartel and though nobody can replace him, Konshens is doing a good job with his f@ck songs.

But the wildest of all was yet to come and he pushed the envelope wide open when he appeared with Leftside on the track ‘Clap Dat Booty’ which pays homage to all exotic ‘go go’ dancers. The video or what some call a ‘mini-porno’ was shot in Taboo ‘Strip’ Club and shows both artistes tipping, grabbing and spanking fully naked girls as they climb the poles and exhibit their ‘dancing’ tactics. This is perhaps the most x-rated video ever done in dancehall- unlike music videos that leave a little to your imagination, this video was quite explicit. It brought you up close and personal inside Taboo, it was so lewd that Youtube removed the original version from their site. Immediately the controversy started, many loved it and made reference to him filling Kartel’s shoes nicely but this time many were disgusted. Here are some comments from taken from viewers on Youtube:

Konshens a try get the spotlight weh Kartel leave. As soon as Vybz gone Konshens start behave bad”.

Yow da one ya exxxtreme, it slap weh!!!!”

Konshens should change his name now considering he has taken a different path”

Is it wrong to say I loike it!!!”

Leftside and Konshens are trying the same method Kartel used to get ppl talking unfortunately Konshens just downgrade his career”.

Konshens just rise the bar for sexy vidz”

The video raised concerns about Konshens’ image, his degrading women and exposing kids to sexual content among other issues; this perhaps could see the video doing more harm than good. When Konshens sat down with ER’s Anthony Miller, he appeared unmoved and unperturbed by the criticism. He said the following

Whole heap a people say dem lose offa Konshens and lose offa Leftside but at the end of the day people a people…a person is a person even before the artiste even before the image of the artiste that you like, is not always about what you like”

Every song that I sing is 100% real and it reflects me…if dem a listen to di whole a di song dem weh mi sing dem will understand seh its not the pretty nice boy like wha yu think, is a regular yute and me a go do regular people tings; if you was a fan of Konshens, the pretty nice bwoy, I think you gone down the wrong road.

When asked about possible negative effects of his bew image, Konshens said

I will bear the burden because, hear wha now, mi haffi be real 100% real and my career is based on me being real…me nah try fi justify me being in a strip club or shooting a video in deh but guess wha, me nuh have to justify it, I’m a adult”.

But where was this Konshens in 2007? Was the “pretty nice bwoy” who sang Winner and Realest Song not the real him? Is he truly being himself or is just filling the ‘addivoid’ because highly sexually charged lyrics breeds popularity in the dancehall?

To me, it would appear as if Konshens took a gamble with his career especially with that video, I think he analysed where society is now, what dancehall wants and is missing and decided that either he continues with the regular clean, friendly songs and stay at one level or push the envelope, put on some Kartel like bravado, win over some of his fans and take over the top spot. Also it could have been that his confidence (some may say arrogance) has gotten the best of him and based on his standings (financial and otherwise) he can afford to gamble big.

Is he winning? Well for now, he seems to be winning as he is on all major dancehall shows here and abroad. His Subkonshus camp is seeing more popularity, producers are hunting him down to record him and he has gained more fans/popularity in the last year.

Any setbacks due to his new bad boy image? Well its rumoured that the Ministry of Health’s Safe Sex ad featuring him was pulled from the airwaves after the Clap Dat video caused quite a stir. I have gotten no confirmation as to the reason why it has been removed but it was removed indeed.

To fully assess the negative effects of Konshens’ new raunchy sexually explosive songs/behaviour you would have to watch what happens over the next few months. Lets see if Corporate Jamaica shies away from booking him and distances him from their promotions or blocks him from appearing on live events they sponsor then maybe one would be able to say his image has been affected.

For now the confident dancehall front runner continues his sexual teaching and preaching which is evident in his new track ‘On your Face’ on the Wild Bubble Riddim. Listen to that track and go back and listen to his tracks from 2007- 2010 and you tell me, is Konshens a Good Boy Gone Bad?

Sojah – Pon Di Corner

Sojah – Mi Mada

Konshens – Winner

Konshens – Realest Song

Konshens – Gal  Bubble

Konshens – Stop Sign

Konshens - Clap Dat feat Leftside
Konshens - On Your Face

Konshens - Gyal Siddung
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RIP Dobie Gray (200 days later)

DobieGray 234x300 RIP Dobie Gray (200 days later)

Dobie Gray died on December 6, 2011 of complications post cancer surgery.

Two-hundred days ago, while I was busy turning 23 and carefully evaluating my existence, a man I regard as one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time was becoming a casualty of cancer. It somehow managed to escape my attention, and I am just finding out today after enduring the awkward silence and inexplicable embarrassment of asking a fellow audiophile whether Dobie Gray was still performing.

Dobie was born in the small Texas town of Simonton [or nearby Brookshire], into a family of sharecroppers. His birth name is not certain, it is acepted as Lawrence Darrow Brown but he has also been credited as Leonard Victor Ainsworth, Larry Curtis and Larry Dennis. He died at the age of 71, according to his official website but several news sources reported he was 69.

BIOnancy RIP Dobie Gray (200 days later)

Dobie Gray's most resounding hit "Drift Away" has been covered by many great singers.

The details of Dobie’s birth and death are shrouded in mystery but his long and dynamic career as a singer and songwriter was an indisputable success. Dobie’s career in music started in the early 1960s when he moved to Los Angeles with hopes of becoming an actor but he enjoyed greater success in writing and recording music. He started off in Los Angeles working with Sonny Bono and Specialty Records. He recorded several songs under each of the names listed above until shortly before his first hit “Look at Me”, when he joined the independent Stripe Records, who suggested he took on the moniker Dobie Gray.

Dobie Gray’s most resounding hit, “Drift Away”, has been covered by many great singers including Ray Charles, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Uncle Kracker, Michael Bolton and Roy Orbison (who managed to die on the exact day I was born). His other signature songs “Out on the Floor”, “Loving Arms” and “The In-Crowd” are equally timeless. Dobie wrote a semi-autobiographical song “City Stars”, performed by David Ruffin. He has also written for Julio Iglesias, Johnny Matthis, Ray Charles and Charley Pride among others.

Dobie used his fame to help support political causes. He campaigned for Jimmy Carter in his 1976 road to presidency. According to his official website1, Dobie Gray, upon his own insistence, was the first artist to perform in South Africa before an integrated audience.

To Dobie, two-hundred days later, I dedicate the words of Mentor Williams that I learned through your distinctively soulful, soothing and inspiring voice.

Thanks for the joy that you’ve given me
I want you to know I believe in your song
Rhythm and rhyme and harmony
You help me along makin’ me strong

Thank you for the love and strength, through music.

K.x

  1. http://www.dobiegray.com/biography.html []
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Mothering and The Bane of Four Vaginas

Happy Belated Mother’s Day. It is a beautiful thing that there is a day just to appreciate motherhood – being a mother by biological or other means. I greatly respect the impact numerous matriarchs have made on my life, whether they have led by good or questionable example.

Since Dr. Sandra Knight’s tale was published in the Jamaica Observer, Jamaican news media has been, admirably, persistent in reporting and following up on cases of sexual abuse against children. A small number of Jamaicans last week marched in solidarity with Help Jamaica Children – a charity that was born on the same day Dr. Knight’s report was published. I respect the efforts of these bodies and everyone who does more than lament about these unfortunate happenings, but my hope of reparation for victimized children still dangles like a bit of chicken suspended from a boat on a stick, with a bask of hungry crocodiles below, wide-mouthed in anticipation.

I do not remember having felt so terribly sickened at any actual moment in my life than I felt yesterday when I read yet another story in the Jamaica Observer of innocence stolen. I am still unable to eat. Could you endure Mother’s Day at 15 years old with a 4-month-old bundle of joy that was implanted by your biological father? Would you even call your stepsister to extend the day’s greetings when she, at 14, bears a bundle a month younger than yours and acquired in the same fashion? You are both motherless – your mothers died of HIV/AIDS related symptoms, most likely contracted from the man who gave you brothers who were also your sons. You both and your children may also be infected, the article sheds no light on this.

After a DNA test proving this man is the father and a report that he is mentally sound, I wouldn’t hesitate to non-surgically remove his penis, but I am not the law. He was lucky to have impregnated four of the women with whom he has had sex, how many other children could he have similarly molested without the evidence of offspring? I wonder whether our unconscionable state even considered granting these poor girls the choice of having an abortion while they were in the nation’s ‘care’. Was it too late?

Justice is impossible in this case as these girls are bound for life to the striking resemblance of their rapist father. Their formative years have been greatly damaged as both are out of school with no hope of returning until they have someone to take care of their children, and even then how well can they be expected to learn?

I cannot offer any advice or solution to the sexual abuse of children. I want to tell my little brothers and sisters to be careful, but it is too difficult to warn persons of those they have come to know as protectors. Relationships will strain and life will be pointless and loveless if we cannot trust. I want to tell parents to hold their children closer but some parents are sick, too- they are desperately in need of affection and care and cannot give what they do not have. Why can’t we all have good intentions? Why don’t we respect childhood anymore? Where has love run off to?

Here is a bit of sad, yet hopeful, music to temper your thoughts.

Walk in love,

K.x

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Montego Bay

20120309 084843 Montego Bay

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Extra Virgin

On Monday, I woke up to over 900 new emails that indicated listings have been added to my online directory. I was filled with wonder at this strange happening, as in the average week I get no more than 4 new entries. Needless to say, this was an onslaught of SPAM and all but one of the first 12 listings were advertising a fake hymen prosthesis.

So, I was curious and googled this artificial hymen thingie. “Kiss your dark secret goodbye in 5 minutes for only $29.95.” “Marry in confidence – your secret is kept.” “In a few moans and groans you will pass through undetectable.” Oh. My. Gosh!

Self-acceptance is a journey that takes different turns on a more or less long and winding road for each individual. I understand that we all have aspects of ourselves with which we are uncomfortable, but it is so dreadful that the main purpose of this ‘prosthesis’ is to deceive another person. So heartbreaking that former sexual experiences are described as one’s “dark past” and need to be hidden. So ridiculous that the marketers of this Chinese hymen explicitly state that one must “place it inside the vagina”, then caution that “this product is for external use only”.

I was born with a vagina. For almost all of my teenage life, I regretted this fact and considered my femaleness [and the not-so-pleasant frills that came along with it] a curse. Exposure to the experiences of other women, though, has caused me to become more grateful for my circumstances. I’ve also had many opportunities for heightened awareness and experienced positive sharing environments, which have made me more embracing of my womanhood, despite societal conditioning.

My vagina is a symbol of strength and potential, it is beautiful, capable, delicate, and most importantly, it is mine. I accept my vagina as I accept my black skin, wooly hair, chipped tooth and quirky family. Perhaps someday I will learn otherwise but at this point in my life deceit has no benefit to my happiness, ecstasy or memory.

Regret will always be present in humans and as far as I know our experiences cannot truly be undone. If your virginity is among the things you wish to take back, I am very sorry for you. I will not try to convince you of my ideals but I encourage you to live your life in a manner that satisfies your own conditions. I understand that in many cultures this hymen on wedding night [or lack thereof] is a serious matter, but my stance does not change- be honest with yourself, your partner and your vagina.

Walk good, and in the words of RHCP, “I love all of you.”

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