Friday, October 26, 2012

Two Weeks in Jamaica 2008 - Reflections on Hurricanes

Man running from storm surge (Front of Gleaner 25/10/12)

In this season of hurricanes, when Montego Bay has once again been spared the worst, so nothing of note to recount, I am instead posting a piece I wrote in 2008, called Two Weeks in Jamaica. We have relived these two weeks this year, (not consecutively). I cannot say how much the lessons learned from the two weeks in 2008 resulted in nation building, but what has been shown strongly during the passage of Hurricane Sandy is the care people have shown to their neighbours, especially by young people towards the elderly. I salute them and hope their kind acts are recognized. Isn’t this the Jamaica we want?


Usain Bolt
     In the third week of August, Jamaica stunned the world by winning 11 medals, 6 of them gold, in track events in the Beijing Olympic Games. Jamaicans worldwide, glued to their TV sets, watched as our athletes won heat after heat. On days of finals, tension stretched to breaking point. All of us in Jamaica held our breath until the winning moment when we burst into a frenzy of celebration. In Kingston, the capital, at a busy intersection where a large TV screen was mounted, a huge crowd stopped traffic, as people waved flags, banged pot covers, laughed and cheered.
     The first of these celebrations took place when Usain Bolt won the men’s 100m in record time. He also won the hearts of spectators as he celebrated in his own way, with his trademark salute, and performed his favourite dancehall moves—“gully creeper” and “nuh linger”.
     Then Shelly-Ann Fraser, Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson won gold and two silver in the women’s 100m. People in the poor inner-city district, where Shelly-Ann comes from, were over the moon. The stigma—nothing good comes out of the ghetto—was blown away in 10.78 seconds.
     When Usain Bolt won the men’s 200m in record time, followed by Melaine Walker’s gold in the women’s 400m hurdles and Veronica Campbell Brown’s gold in the women’s 200m, we were ecstatic. The gloom that descended when the women failed to medal in the 100m relay, soon evaporated when the men’s 100m relay team won gold.

To share the euphoria, the optimism and the unifying force, as it swept through this island, was an incredible experience.
In Kingston after Hurricane Sandy (Collin Reid photo)

The following week, TV images brought us news we did not want to hear—Tropical Storm Gustav was heading towards Jamaica. I had lived here for twenty years before my first experience of a hurricane—Gilbert—in 1988. Jamaica had not been hit by a hurricane since 1951, and was not prepared. As a consequence, at our house, we were without piped water for 4 days, electricity for 3 weeks and telephone for 7 weeks. Others fared far worse.
     By the time Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004, the utility companies had learnt their lesson—telephone service did not fail; and water and electricity were restored within a week. We had learnt the wisdom of putting up hurricane shutters at the windows to prevent rain blowing in, between the glass louvre blades, but the downside was an incessant clanging and rattling which, together with a howling wind, went on all night.
     In 2007, we prepared for Hurricane Dean, but Montego Bay was spared the worst. Come 2008, here we were again, making preparations for Gustav, forecast to pass between Jamaica and Cuba. Instead, it made an unexpected turn to the south and slammed straight into the east coast of Jamaica. Floods washed away houses and bridges; landslides blocked roads and great chunks of road slid down mountainsides. Banana fields, in their final recovery from Hurricane Dean, were once again flattened. We in the west give thanks that we were only inconvenienced. As for those who were battered by the storm, with characteristic Jamaican resilience, they pick up the pieces and move on.

In the months to come, as we recall, talk and joke about these two weeks, the sincere wish of most Jamaicans is that the positives which flowed from the achievements of our hard-working athletes, and the lessons learned from the storm, be converted into decisive steps of nation building.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Books by Jamaican Authors for Children ages 8 -14

Please see the updated version of this post, August 2014

Children who read for pleasure improve their word knowledge, grammar and reading comprehension far beyond what is taught in formal classes. This holds true whether they are reading stories about children like themselves or different from themselves. Why then should we be concerned that books about children like themselves are available for their reading pleasure?

In her blog of October 16, 2012, Diane Browne wrote
“But where is the embracing of the Caribbean literature by the education system so that we may read about ourselves more often than we do, not only in set books, but just in the library at school? Do we think that our children can learn anything from the books being written now? Have our adult gatekeepers read the books and recognized their worth, not only as entertaining stories, but also as self validation, points from which discussion may arise in a young people valiantly searching for themselves , as all young people do? Books allow them to work through their fears, their sources of joy, their experiences, to try on various selves. It would seem a good thing if these selves could be related to their own lives.”

In relation to Diane’s observations, I will comment on a few school libraries I’ve seen. The best prep school library was spacious, full of books and had lending facilities, but the only Jamaican novel was ‘White Witch of Rosehall’. Most of the books in the library had been donated, so the school didn’t actually choose the books. Another prep school had no library. One primary school has a new purpose built library. They are gradually putting up shelves and unpacking boxes of N. American books which will fill the shelves. The school itself has neither a budget for library books nor for a full-time librarian.

I have therefore prepared a list of books by Jamaican authors for Children ages 8 -14. In addition to posting it on my blog, I will make the list available to any teacher librarian who is not aware of these books, especially the more recent titles. The prices of these books range from about $700 to $1,000. Supposing the price is $1,000, the cost for 1 copy of each of the first 25 books listed would be $25,000. For a school with 500 students, a donation of $50 from each child would cover the cost. The age range given for the readership is an average and there will be children above and below those ages who can read and enjoy the books.

Here’s the list:

1. Flying with Icarus by Curdella Forbes 2003 (Walker Books)

Carlong Sand Pebble Series available in Sangsters Book Stores
2. Jojo’s Treasure Hunt by Cherrell Shelley-Robinson 2003 (10-12)
3. Freedom Come by Jean Goulbourne 2002 (10 -12)
4. Island Princess in Brooklyn by Diane Browne 2011 (10-14)
5. Bernie and the Captain’s Ghost by Hazel Campbell 2010 (10-12)
6. Tek Mi! Noh Tek Mi by C. Shelley-Robinson et al 2008 (10-14)
7. Every Little Thing will be All Right by Diane Browne 2003 (8-10)
8. Little Island - Big Adventures by Maria Roberts-Squires 2007 (12-14)
9. Jenny and the General by Jean D’Costa 2006 (8-10)
10. Miss Bettina’s House by Hazel Campbell 2004 (8-10)

By Hazel Campbell, published by LMH,
available at outlets supplied by Novelty Trading.
11. Juice Box and Scandal                                                                                                                               
12. Tilly Bummie
13. Ramgoat Dashalong
14. Goat Boy Never Cries

By Diane Browne
15. A Tumbling World - A Time of Fire                                       
16. Cordelia Finds Fame and Fortune
17. The Ring and the Roaring Water (Available at Bookland)          

By Linda Gambrill (Beenybud Stories)
18. Miss Tiny (7- 9)
19. A Boy Named Neville (7 - 9)
20. Croaking Johnny and Dizzy Lizzie (7 - 9)

Island Fiction Series (Macmillan Caribbean 2009) available at outlets supplied by Novelty Trading

21. Delroy in the Marog Kingdom by Billy Elm 2009 (9-14)         

22. Night of the Indigo by Michael Holgate 2009 (12-15)

23. Blue Mountain Trouble by Martin Mordecai 2009 (8-12)

By Cedella Marley
24. The Boy from Nine Miles
25. One Love

26. A Jamaican Storyteller’s Tale by Lorrimer A. Burford ( 2005)

The following stories were written longer ago (‘70’s,’80’s; and ‘90’s) and are probably better known than more recent publications.

By James Berry
27. A Thief in the Village and Other Stories 1987 (12-up)
28. Ajeemah and His Son – Harper Collins1993 (8-up)

By Everard Palmer
29. A Cow Called Boy 1972 (6-10)
30. The Sun Salutes You (Republished by Macmillan Caribbean 2007) (8-12)
31. My Father Sun-Sun Johnson 1974 (8-12)
32. Cloud with the Silver Lining 1987 (8-12)

By Jean D’Costa
33. Sprat Morrison
34. Escape to Last Man Peak

By Andrew Salkey
35. Drought
36. Earthquake
37. Riot

By Vic Reid
38. Sixty-Five (1960), London: Longman.
39. The Young Warriors (1967), London: Longman.
40. Peter of Mount Ephraim (1971), Kingston: Jamaica Publishing House.
41. The Jamaicans (revised edition 1978), Kingston: Institute of Jamaica.
42. Nanny Town (1983)
43. The Horses of the Morning (1985)
For a comprehensive list of Jamaican and Caribbean books for children see

If anyone reading this post knows of, or has written other stories for 8 -14 year-olds, I would be most grateful if you would let me know.

Added in March, 2014, four books by Suzanne Francis Brown
The Mystery of the Golden Table (Arawak Publishing)
Searching for Pirates. A Port Royal Adventure (Arawak)
Marcus Garvey. (Suzanne Francis-Brown/Jean-Jacques Vayssieres)(Ian Randle Publ)
The Mermaid Escapade (E-Published, Kindle, 2013) 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

German Day Celebrations and Concert at Seaford Town

In this post, I depart from my usual topics on literacy to highlight an all-too-infrequent event in Western Jamaica - a classical music concert, this one in Seaford Town.
Seaford Town, also known as “German Town” was founded in 1835 by settlers from Westphalia in Germany. It is widely regarded as having the strongest German cultural retentions of all the places where Germans settled in Jamaica. It is a Jamaican national heritage site, in the hills of Westmoreland, about an hour’s drive south of Montego Bay.

On Sunday, September 30, 2012 two events took place in Seaford Town, courtesy of the German Embassy. One was the handing over of the sanitary facilities which were built to be made available to visitors to the Seaford Town Museum on German immigration.

Ambassador Josef Beck
The second was a special outreach concert, at Seaford Town Primary School, to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations between Germany and Jamaica. Ambassador Josef Beck opened the proceedings. He invited the Hon. Luther Buchanan, MP for Eastern Westmoreland and Minister of State in the Office of the PM; the Hon. Damion Crawford, Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism, and Councillor Paul Wilson, Deputy Mayor of Sav-la-Mar to bring greetings.

The appreciative audience was then treated to a classical concert which included the following items:

Nastassja Nass, soprano, singing ‘Lord I Obey”, the 1st Aria from ‘Jonah’ written by Samuel Felsted (1743-1802) organist at Kingson Parish Church in the 18th century. Natassja is a professional opera singer.

Instrumental pieces, by a number of composers, including Mozart and Saint Saens, for the following instruments: recorder, played by Rosina Moder of Music Unites; violin; viola, played by Kwame Kohl, a Jamaican who lives in Berlin. (His mother was one of the first members of Black Uhuru.); cello; French Horn; and trumpet.
Violinist, Cellist and Violist (Kwame Kohl)

Piece  for French Horn and Trumpet

Nastassja Nass
The final item, sung by Nastassja, was taken from the Reggae Opera, music by Peter Ashbourne, lyrics by Mervin Morris. The opera is 'Mikey'. Of it, Rosina Moder said, "It is a Jamaican story, loosely based - it takes poetic licence - on Mikey Smith." Smith, a poet, was murdered on August 17, 1983, in Stony Hill, St Andrew. One of his more popular poems and recordings is Mi Cyaan Believe It. There were excerpts from the opera in Kingston last week.

Larkland Williams assisted by Dr. Althea Neblett

After the musicians had taken their final bow, there was an impromptu item by Larkland Williams, a JUTA Tours operator, who performed the country and western ‘You picked a fine tome to leave me Lucille’ in German, much to the delight of Ambassador Beck and other German nationals.

As a token of appreciation, Jeremy Ashbourne, son of Peter Ashbourne, presented Ambassador Beck with a gift basket filled with local produce. Rita Hilton, Treasurer of the Seaford Town NGO, explained to the Ambassador what everything was.

After the classical concert, the Seaford Town marching band performed. The young people were well coordinated and entertaining, but unfortunately, because of the rain, they had to play inside the school instead of marching outside. The resulting volume was too loud for some of us, so we slipped out before they had finished.

I apologise for any errors and omissions in this post, which, as there were no programmes, I wrote from my own incomplete notes and internet searches. I had expected to see a report in one of the newspapers, but there were only photographs in the Gleaner’s Western Focus on Saturday, October 6. I would appreciate further input on this cultural event from my readers.