News and Views by Dionne Jackson Miller

pointed commentary on current affairs in Jamaica and the Caribbean


April 2012

The JLP’s Shadow Cabinet Ministers– How Are They Doing?

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness
Photo - Wikimedia Commons

Jamaican Opposition Leader Andrew Holness named his Shadow Cabinet at a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) press conference three months ago. Do you remember who they are? Here’s the list again.

Andrew Holness – Opposition Leader – defence, development, operations of the Office of the Prime Minister

Audley Shaw – Finance, Planning, Growth and Economic Development

Delroy Chuck – Justice, National Security, Electoral Matters and Leader of Opposition Business in the House

Arthur Williams – Information, Public Service, Labour and Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate

Kenneth Baugh – Health and Quality of Life

Karl Samuda – Transport, Works and Infrastructure Development

Edmund Bartlett – Tourism and Travel Service Development

J.C. Hutchinson – Agriculture, Mining and Natural Resource Use

Daryl Vaz – ICT and Digital Society Development

Horace Chang – Housing, Water and Environment

Shahine Robinson – Social Security and Poverty Reduction

Gregory Mair – Industry, Commerce and Energy

Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange – Youth, Sports, Gender Affairs, Entertainment and Culture

Desmond McKenzie – Urban Renewal, Rural Development and Local Government

Senator Christopher Tufton – Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Investment

Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert – Education and Human Resource Development.

In an earlier post, I said we should demand more from the Opposition. The Opposition’s effectiveness hinges on the effectiveness of its Shadow Ministers.

Some spokespersons, like Ed Bartlett and Olivia Grange were given portfolios with which they were very experienced, having shadowed the portfolio before and then having spent four years as the responsible Minister.

Others, like Christopher Tufton and Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert now have to master a new subject. So at this stage, they are not all on equal footing. In addition, it’s reasonable to expect that the JLP would still be re-grouping after their December 29 electoral loss. There will be assessments to be made, reviews and individual and collective soul-searching going on.

That said, since the Opposition Leader promised a vibrant Opposition, who have we seen and heard from so far?

Photo - Akinbostanci

Audley Shaw, Delroy Chuck, Horace Chang, Arthur Williams, Gregory Mair, Ken Baugh, Karl Samuda, Ed Bartlett and Desmond McKenzie are the primary spokespersons who have been visible, along with the Opposition Leader himself. Olivia Grange has so far been heard primarily responding to the government’s position on the Jamaica 50 celebrations.

We’ve heard very little, if anything, on their portfolio areas from Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, Daryl Vaz, Shahine Robinson, J.C. Hutchinson or Christopher Tufton.

As stated, it’s early days yet, and another three to six months will give us a better picture of who’s taking their portfolio responsibilities seriously. It will be interesting to see if the list of who is speaking out or not changes in the months ahead.

Has anyone impressed you yet, and if so, who?


News and Newsworthiness in the Age of Social Media

Photo - Palto

I received several very interesting and thoughtful responses to my post “Is the Yendi Story “News?” and wanted to share them with you and continue the conversation about what makes a story newsworthy. It’s a question which members of the public often ask, baffled about the content of a newscast or stories on the main pages of a newspaper.

Journalism professor Tony Rogers in an article on outlined the basic criteria as follows:

Impact or Consequences


Loss of Life/Property Destruction





In relating those factors to the Yendi story, communications lecturer and broadcaster Hume Johnson made a similar list on my blog:

1. Proximity.
2. Significance
3. Relevance.
4. Prominence.
5. Human Interest.
6. Conflict.
7. Unusualness.

She said:

Photo - Rosengurtt at en.wikipedia

“The Yendi story satisfies #4. She is, for all intents and purposes a celebrity – prominent individual in our Jamaican community. So it is news. Yet the particular story is only ‘soft’ news. Should we give attention to soft news? I would say depends on where in the paper you put it. Front page – that would be absolutely scandalous; yet those whose aim is to sell newspapers will trump a political story for a soft news story because the ‘business model’ of the media industry and the revenue agenda would be chief determinant in this scenario.”

The problem, of course, is that these criteria are applied subjectively by editors.

Hillary Profita, formerly of CBS (the home of 60 Minutes) pointed this out in a 2006 article on the company’s websitein the context of a discussion about the role that race and class play in leading US news outlets to cover stories  like the disappearance of Natalee Holloway (white, middle-class, teenager), while ignoring that of  Marion Fye, (36 years old, a single mother of five children, unemployed and African American).

Natalee Holloway
Natalee Holloway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She suggested that an indicator of the public’s rejection of the criteria applied by editors could be

“…the fact that more are veering toward the Internet to get news, where to a greater degree the news judgement is one’s own.”

She also echoes the sentiment I expressed about how editors and newsroom people decide what is newsworthy in noting that:

“…editors claim to know (what is newsworthy) when they see it. Unfortunately, in my view, that decision seems to boil down to what those of us in newsrooms, and not readers, care about.

And there’s the problem. What draws the interest of people in the news business (what they like to read and write about) often bears little relationship to what people who live in communities like Marion Fye’s care about. In that sense, what newspapers deem “newsworthy” is not actually information that is most relevant in terms of its potential effect on readers’ and viewers’ lives, but what is most out of the ordinary.”

It was in that vein that I had disagreed with Hume’s analysis by stating that:

“The story satisfies no. 1 – proximity – she is a celebrity, but she is ours, she is Jamaican, we all watched her become runner-up in Miss Universe and many people have been following her career. People feel close to her.

It also satisfies no. 5 – human interest. It is also unusual, no. 7 – of course, not in the sense of a woman becoming pregnant for a man, but the surrounding circumstances, the announcement on FB, the reactions and huge response, combined to make the way this story unfolded unusual – that fueled the story still more.

Relevance – no. 3 – I don’t know who determines what is relevant – if people are interested in someone or something, news about that person or thing will always be relevant.

…timeliness – again, she broke the news, the reactions started then she fueled it with the interview, and all this was being reported as it happened.”

Keriann took the discussion further by placing the story squarely within the framework of the social media age.

Author - Jeff Ogden

“It most certainly satisfied news value no.6 as well – conflict. The responses illustrated a conflict of values in the society. The country was clearly divided among those who thought the circumstances were no big deal and those who disapproved, and each side was vociferous about its position. That conflict matters, because each society (especially developing ones) must determine the value systems that will inform policies, laws, etc.

Unusual is also being defined too narrowly as a news value. It does not only address the sensational (man bites dog). It describes that which is unexpected. And the reactions have made it clear that Yendi was not expected to make the choices she did. If she was, there would not have been any heavy interest in her announcement or the aforementioned conflict.

Your argument about timeliness and the age of her pregnancy is also flawed. The stories of the intense reaction were carried within hours of the intense reaction. And it’s the reactions which made the story big. Also, if we’re discussing the pregnancy itself as a story (which it was for entertainment segments), then the age of the pregnancy doesn’t matter. It’s when the public discovers it, that it matters. The birth of former US presidential candidate John Edwards’ love child did not become news until well after the child was born.Should American media have ignored the story because they didn’t know about it as soon as his lover was pregnant? In cases when pregnancies are news, they do not become news when the parents become aware. They become news when the public does.

All journalism students will be familiar with your list of news values because it was developed to provide a means of helping media practitioners determine which stories will be of public interest. The closer an editor or journalist followed those principles, the more s/he was guaranteed public interest, which is the ultimate aim. It’s a shortcut to the right decision because naturally, editors cannot pick up the phone and call every potential news consumer everyday or conduct a focus group before choosing stories. So s/he unconsciously applies the news value test to stories everyday, hoping s/he made the right call. o The level of interest in her story will tell her whether s/he applied the principles well. Overtime, if a news source keeps making the wrong decisions, it will be penalised with low ratings in the market.

Photo - Wikimedia Commons

But here’s the clincher: in the age of social media when a story immediately goes viral, the public interest is already apparent! When there is already public interest, your system for determining public interest doesn’t need to be dissected because the end result (which the system was set up to determine) has already been achieved. It’s like working an equation backwards. You must get the same result or your inputs were wrong.”

Thanks to all who have commented and Hume and Keriann in particular for their thoughtful and considered respones. I’d love your comments as well. Is the migration to social media an indicator that traditional media are ignoring the interests of the public? Do newsrooms need to rethink how they apply the criteria of what constitutes a newsworthy story? And as Keriann suggests, if a story goes viral on social media, does that  make the list redundant?

What My Jamaican Nanny Left Me – The Other Side of the Story

Nurse and Child - Mary Cassatt
Photo - Wikimedia Commons

The Huffington Post published a poignant story about a Jewish man reminiscing about the legacy of love left to him by his Jamaican nanny, a story that’s heartwarming and touching.  Or is it?

The story is indeed well-written and moving. But suppose we read between the lines? The question the story raises for me is whether this is a classic case of a Jamaican woman who was forced through economic circumstances to leave her children back home to raise other people’s children far away. It’s possible that her children were already grown, but the story says she had SEVEN children back in Jamaica and another child in the United States, for whom she prayed every night.

I’m not judging her, or other Jamaicans who feel the need to migrate to support their families. Many feel they have no choice. But the fact is that this has been recognized as a major contributor to our societal problems like juvenile delinquency, and yes, crime.

Coco bread with a Jamaican beef patty
Coco bread with a Jamaican beef patty (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So when Ross Urken speaks lovingly of the evenings his Jamaican nanny spent reading to him and his sister, ask who is reading to the thousands of kids left motherless back in Jamaica. When he speaks about how she exposed him to Jamaican patties and jerk chicken, ask about the exposure of the children left behind.

Lecturer in Social Work at the University of the West Indies Dr. Claudette Crawford-Brown reported on the phenomenon she termed the “barrel children” syndrome in the 1990s.

UNICEF (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A 2007 UNICEF report cited her seminal work as follows:

“As early as 1993, Dr. Claudette Crawford Brown, from the University of the West Indies (UWI) came to the conclusion that the absence of mothers was a key determinant to the involvement of children with violence.

In a survey she found that 80% of children in conflict with the law had their mothers absent, while this was the case for only 30% of other children, and migration was the second most important reason explaining the absence of mothers.”

Those left behind are particularly vulnerable to abuse, which should be of interest, given the recent focus on the sexual abuse of children.

A 2009 UNICEF study on the impact of migration in the Caribbean stated that:

“The impact of parents’ migration on children can be devastating as it threatens the long-term well-being and development of Caribbean adolescents into adulthood…

“Many children left behind suffer from depressions, low self-esteem which can lead to behavioural problems, and (are) at increased risk of poor academic performance as well as interruption of schooling.”

The potential for abuse is especially great when the mother migrates. The study states that:

“According to the evaluation of the Health and Family Life Education programme, 18% of the respondent children (average age of 14.7 yr) experienced forced sex. The vulnerability to abuse significantly increases when a child loses the protection of a parent(s)…

When the mother migrates, abuse whether it is physical, emotional, sexual or neglect is more likely to occur.”

Interesting, although the reason given for migration is to help the family, often the migration of the father impacted the family left behind by reducing the available financial resources with “little remittances coming back …”

Boeing 737
Photo - Wikimedia Commons

The children left behind have been found to suffer a range of psycho-social issues.

“The most common psycho-social problems are feelings of abandonment, sadness, despondence, despair, anger, lack of trust, low self-esteem, and inability to concentrate at school. The abandonment of a parent(s) sometimes has permanent effects on the child’s life, and many spend their entire lives struggling with feelings of rejection and loss.  The many broken promises of reunion with their parents further tend to result in emotional instability.”

The paper concludes that:

“These implications of parents’ migration on children threaten the long-term well-being and development of Caribbean adolescents into  productive adults.”

Many of those issues remain.

Dr. Audrey Pottinger was quoted in the Jamaica Observer in 2008 as saying that she had conducted a small study in which children whose parents had migrated to North America or the United Kingdom, reported feelings of loneliness, anger, anxiety, fear of rejection, abandonment and sadness.

Speaking at a Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) Symposium, she said:

“I compared children who had parents divorced, died or migrated. We found that migratory loss seems to affect more areas of the child’s life compared to divorce and death.”

She found that migration caused mental consequences even though parents stayed in contact with their children and sent money and gifts.

Seventy-seven per cent of the children said they were concerned about who would take care of them once their parents left and 71 per cent had increased somatic illnesses (triggered by depression) after the migration. Forty-five per cent said they did not understand why their parents had migrated, even after family discussions,  and 20 per cent said they were never informed prior to the migration – they just came home one day and were given the news that their parent left.

She noted that there were statistically significant differences in the occurrences of depression in children whose parents migrated compared to those whose parents had not.

“Depression was found significant in both the Trinidad and the Jamaican group,” she said. “In addition, in Jamaica the children were more at risk for suicidal ligation and poor school performance.”

So forgive me if I’m not clicking my heels with joy at the legacy this Jamaican nanny left her American charge. It leaves me wondering about the impact on her Jamaican children. And even if this nanny’s children were all grown and well-functioning adults when she left, it reminds me of the thousands of other children suffering from absent parents. No, this story doesn’t warm my heart. It saddens me.


Links to the UNICEF reports are provided, but for completeness, the citations are:

1. The Impact of International Migration: Children Left Behind in Selected Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Anna Lucia D’Emilio et al. Division of Policy and Planning, UNICEF. 2007.

2. The Impact of Migration on Children in the Caribbean. Caroline Bakker, Martina Elings-Pels and Michele Reis. UNICEF Office for Barbados and Easte

Is the Yendi Story “News?”

Yendi Phillips
Photo – Wikimedia Commons

Of course not, traditionalists say. How can that be news? Well, it certainly doesn’t fit into the politics-economy-crime triumvirate with which we like to bombard our listeners and viewers. Forget the fact that people are interested in a much wider range of issues such as health, diet and nutrition, consumer affairs, and yes, entertainment.

God forbid we cover and talk about what people are interested in. No, to make the bulletin, it must be about the Net International Reserves, the International Monetary Fund, five people gunned down somewhere or a cass-cass in one of the political parties (which many people give not one hoot about – I actually think that most of the people interested in the happenings within the political parties are the politicians, their die hard supporters and we reporters).

I’m not saying Yendi’s pregnancy should have led the newscast. Please. But most major newscasts entirely ignore anything in the entertainment arena which doesn’t involve ground-breakings and speeches by government Ministers.

Many of us in media have very straight-laced, hide-bound and yes, out-of-date

Photo by DNY59

notions about what constitutes the “news” and what we should be talking about on current affairs programmes. The issues of interest to the lives of most people are often ignored.

Case in point – I once had a huge argument in the newsroom because I wanted to interview the author of a book about marriage and divorce from a Christian perspective. The book in question is called “The Man I Married is Not My Husband, the Woman I Married is Not My Wife.” It was written by a priest who spent years doing marriage counselling. My colleagues  couldn’t see how that issue was relevant to a current affairs discussion programme. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   Well, it’s relevant to people’s lives. By definition for me, that makes it current.

(Disclosure: I have a personal connection with the author. Having said that, the book is a fascinating read, and it’s in local bookstores. Go look for it! )

Entertainment is big business and entertainers have millions of fans.  Vision 2030 states that:

“Cultural and creative industries represent one of the fastest growing sectors of the global economy, representing up to 7% of the world’s GDP with growth forecast at 10% per annum, driven in part by the convergence of media and the digital economy.”

The document further states:

“…while Jamaican music accounts for an estimated 3% of world music sales, amounting to US$1 billion in 2003, the country itself received only 25% of this sum or some US$250 million.”

Tell me, how is anything to do with an industry like that NOT big news?

Wikimedia load spike on June 25, 2009, followi...
Wikimedia load spike on June 25, 2009, following news of Michael Jackson’s death (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Beeb, the BBC, surely one of the most conservative news-gathering organisations in the world, led several newscasts with the death of Michael Jackson, and covered his doctor’s trial extensively. Were there no wars or famines anywhere else in the world? Yes, but on the day Michael Jackson died, no one (slight exaggeration perhaps!) was interested in anything else. There was no bigger story. The BBC, and everybody else, HAD to acknowledge that.

60 Minutes is one of the most respected news magazine programmes in the world. They cover entertainment issues and interview celebrities. ALL THE TIME. It is their treatment of the issues that sets them apart from the National Enquirer. Examples of recent stories they’ve dealt with – interviews with Adele and young country star Taylor Swift. 

People no longer have to wait for RJR and JBC, once the only game in town, to deliver the news we want to give them, when we want to give it to them.  No, the advance of technology has democratized media, and the public can now get, and indeed demands, real-time news delivery on issues in which they are passionately interested. Not all of us understand that yet.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

Many reporters – and people who don’t participate – see social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as a waste of time. Can you waste hours on Twitter and FB? Of course. But with 800 million active users on Facebook and 500 million users on Twitter, are we really going to ignore the power of those new media? That is where people are talking to each other, and sharing information. That is where you can gauge WHAT people are talking to each other about, especially in the case of Twitter.

Which takes us back to Yendi. She chose to announce her pregnancy on FB.The news spread quickly, and the newspapers reported it on their websites. Was that a bad decision? Was that violating the standards of journalism? Let’s go back to the basics of journalism. What are the elements of a story? Who, what, where, when, why and how. The issue here is the “who.”

I checked her social media stats. Yendi has over 15,000 followers on Twitter, and over 144,000 likes on FB. Granted she’s still a baby compared to Lady Gaga who has over 23,000,000 followers on Twitter and over 50,000,000 likes on FB. Still, Yendi’s numbers are nothing to sneeze at.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

So there is a sizeable community of people interested in her and in news about her. So, yes, whether I personally care anything about Yendi or not, any news editor and producer must understand that stories about her are legitimate news stories.

Now, news of her pregnancy would normally be slotted into the entertainment news segments. But the reaction to the announcement was not normal. The explosion of comment led to the issue “trending” on Twitter, meaning it was one of the top issues being discussed. That is huge, and THAT catapulted the story out of the entertainment news niche.

A range of issues has emerged from the discussions and chatter –  the concern about people seen as role models having children out of wedlock, the color issue, the class issue, the Rasta issue and more. There are many issues that can be treated in a thoughtful way, that would take the discussion beyond veranda suss and still hold the interest of people interested in the story.

Everywhere I went, this was what people were discussing. They were reading the posts on the internet and watching Yendi’s interview. Make sure you understand that even the people saying everybody should leave Yendi alone WERE STILL TALKING ABOUT THE STORY!

Should we ignore the clear interest in this issue and focus exclusively on the Net International Reserves et al?  Sure , we can do that. But don’t be surprised if one day we wake up to find that we are talking to nobody but ourselves.

So, now that I’ve had my say, what do YOU think?

Portia, that Time 100 List and Gay Rights

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller
Photo - Office of the Prime Minister

Jamaica House and the People’s National Party (PNP) have been making much of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller’s inclusion on Time Magazine’s List of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. The list comprises, Time says, “the people who inspire us, entertain us, challenge us and change our world… the breakouts, pioneers, moguls, leaders and icons.”
It sounds really great for the Prime Minister of a small country like Jamaica to be included on the list. She is one of 38 women listed, more, the BBC reports, than ever named before.  And after all, she’s not in the rogue section populated by people like North Korean leader Kim Jong Un or Syrian president Bashar al-Assad!

But why is she there?

The blurb about her is written by US Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, daughter of former NY city councilwoman Una Clarke, herself a Jamaican, and a longtime friend of Jamaica.

Yvette clarke
Yvette clarke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clarke says that Portia is :

“the embodiment of perseverance and strength.”

I have no quarrel with that description. It says a lot for her that she emerged from the recent political campaign with her head held high after one of the most vicious series of sustained and personal attacks I have seen on a political candidate.

Clarke goes on:

“In 2006 she made history, becoming the first woman to be elected Prime Minister of Jamaica. She was re-elected in December 2011.”

That is a fact. No room for quibbling there. She goes on:

“While she has worked for many years as a public servant representing all Jamaicans, there is a great sense that her leadership will expand far beyond her island nation.”

I’m not going to argue with that statement. Whether it’s true or not will be seen soon enough.

But then Clarke goes on to say:

“In addition to her call this year to break with the British monarchy and make the island a republic,  Portia is promoting full civil rights for gays and lesbians, a courageous move in a country with a violent history of homophobia.”

WHOA! STOP. Cue screeching brakes. What? What the hell? When did we in Jamaica and the media miss such a ground-breaking and phenomenal development?

Oh, come on. The Prime Minister is doing  nothing of the kind.

This all started at the leadership political debate on December 20, 2011 in response to a question I asked, which was originally directed to then Prime Minister Andrew Holness. The question was related to former Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s  famous statement in a 2008 BBC interview that gays were not welcome in his cabinet.

At the debate I asked this:

Q: Mr. Holness, Jamaica has an international reputation for homophobia. What do you think of former Prime Minister Golding’s statement that homosexuals were not welcome in his Cabinet, and do you share that sentiment?

Mrs. Simpson Miller, in her rebuttal, said this:

“Our administration believes in protecting the human rights of all Jamaicans. No one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. Government should provide the protection. And I think that we should have a look at the buggery law and that Members of Parliament should be given the opportunity to vote with their conscience on consultation with their constituents but for me, I do not support the position of the former Prime Minister because people should be appointed to positions based on their ability to manage.” (My emphasis.)

Now, this was a courageous stance, and one for which Simpson Miller took a lot of flak. But do you remember how fast the PNP rushed to “clarify” her statement when the anti-gay lobby began denouncing her for allegedly promising to repeal the buggery law? (And clearly she had done nothing of the sort.)

But the PNP made sure to emphasise the limits on Simpson Miller’s statement. The party said in a statement on December 27, 2011:

“The People’s National Party (PNP) has labeled as deliberate mischief making by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), suggestions that it supports a repealing of the Buggery Act. The PNP says that is not its position.

“PNP Campaign Director, Dr. Peter Phillips said … that the PNP has no position to repeal the Buggery Act, and that the issue arose out of a question posed to party leader Portia Simpson Miller during the recent national debate with prime minister and JLP leader, Andrew Holness.

“…there is no position taken by us of a repeal…” Dr. Phillips said. He adds that the Party Leader has proposed a review of the Act, and not a repeal of it.”

All this is true, but you must admit that Simpson Miller’s position falls short of “promoting full civil rights for gays and lesbians” as is being claimed.

Dare I suggest we remind ourselves of the recently enacted Charter of Rights. The Jamaica Forum for Lesbian, Allsexuals and Gays (JFLAG) was pushing for a clause prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Ha! They would have had a better chance promoting non-discrimination on the basis of being vegetarian or not liking track and field. Point is, I didn’t see any politician, including the Prime Minister, in Parliament championing that cause.

Instead we now have a constitutional amendment in the Charter of Rights in section  13 (3) (i) which provides for:

The right to freedom from discrimination on the ground of being male or female; race, place of origin, social class, colour, religion or political opinions.

The PM has been in the spotlight a lot recently, whether hugging Prince Harry or being called upon to comment on the fake flag fiasco in Montego Bay. That spotlight is likely to shine throughout her tenure as Jamaican Prime Minister. Part of that attraction is that she has made history and continues to do so. Has Simpson Miller overcome a lot to arrive at the pinnacle of politics in Jamaica? Clearly she has. Her memoirs will make fascinating reading.

Did she take a courageous stance on the buggery law? Yes she did.

But is she “promoting full civil rights for gays and lesbians”? No, she isn’t.

Let’s not oversell the stance she did take, or re-write history. Perhaps the PNP should once again “clarify” the PM’s position? But there’s no political benefit to be gained from that now, is there?

What’s your take?

“One Day on Earth” – sweeping global documentary

(Photo - Wikimedia Commons)

On Earth Day here in Jamaica, I watched “One Day on Earth,” an incredible documentary in which filmmakers across the world spent 24 hours taping on 10.10.10, (October 10, 2010) eventually resulting in 3000 hours of video, sculpted into this breathtaking documentary, described as the first film shot in every country in the world.

The result is not perfect. The running time is a little too long, and the ending feels somehow unsatisfying and incomplete.

Nevertheless, the film is a beautiful one, both in concept and in cinematography.  Its beauty lies in its diversity, in its multiple portraits of everyday people from all over the world, in the re-discovery of the moving similarities of our lives and the stark and often tragic differences. The sheer audacity and ambition of the project are impressive.

Fisherman Returning 10.10.10
photo - W.Alberto Velez


We see, for example, fishermen in different seas simultaneously at work, and the universal joy when babies are born.






Konbek Water Babies South Sudan 10.10.10
Photo - Project Education Sudan

In a later shot, however, we witness severe water shortages in Bali and the Congo, where desperate people drink water from animal troughs and contaminated wells, while developed countries like France, Canada and the United States have surplus water being used for decorative displays and recreational parks.

Belize wedding - 10.10.10
Olivera Rusu photo

This a story of  the tragedy of war and the giddiness of love, of the grandeur of nature and of  the pollution of man.

But above all, it is the story of people on earth on this one day.








People like us.






People unlike us.

Photo - Nita Deda - 10.10.10










One haunting image was that of an Ethiopian woman complaining that her daughter wouldn’t get married and preferred to go to school, and that of all her daughters, this one was the least use to her. We were left to imagine the difficulty of this young girl’s life, the pressure from her mother and community to enter an early marriage, and to pray for strength for her, and for someone to help her withstand the cultural mores which threaten to doom her to poverty and servitude. And that was just one brief moment in the film.

The project founders describe the documentary, which is the first in a series, as “creating a time capsule for the whole world to better understand itself.” Similar work was done on 11.11.11 and there will be a third marathon filming on the 12.12.12.  It will be interesting to see how the project directors differentiate the sequels. They have set a high bar for themselves.

Conclusion: Well worth watching 

Photo - Pamela Ruddick - 10.10.10

On Earth Day – Five Reasons I Love Jamaica

Jamaicans who live abroad say it’s not until you live in another country that you really appreciate how lovely this island is. Not me. I don’t need to move thousands of miles away and freeze my a## off to enjoy what’s all around me. Here are just 5 reasons why.

1. Every Saturday morning, the jellyman comes calling. Deliciously fresh coconut water and jelly right at my gate, although I live in the middle of the city. Or as several of my social media friends pointed out, some of us are lucky enough to have the coconuts growing right in our backyards!

2. Gloriously coloured flowers everywhere you turn. Whether you find them in a carefully cultivated garden, or in the form of a random “weed” growing by the roadside, their bright hues are so prevalent it is, actually, very easy to take this feature of Jamaican life for granted.

3. The sea, in all its moods – I felt compelled to stop by White Horses in St. Thomas the other day, just to look at the waves galloping in and snap a quick picture. And then there are our beaches. Sheer bliss!  I can never quite understand the delight with which people overseas jump into cold, grey, opaque water, but then, hey, I’m spoiled. Sparkling blue water, (generally) warm, so transparent you can see right down to the sandy, white bottom…that’s a beach!

(Doctor’s Cave Beach, Montego Bay – photo – Wikipedia)

4. The mountains – majestic, soaring all around us. The UWI Bowl is a great place to really FEEL the presence of our mountains. I climbed to the Blue Mountain Peak once, and will never forget it. It felt like we were on top of the world!

(photo – Wikimedia Commons)

5. The Fruits –the mango is surely one of the most glorious fruits on the planet, bar none!   Julie, Bombay, East Indian, Number 11 and more – who can choose?

(photo – ALEAIMAGE) 

Then there are the naseberry, sweetsop, grapefruit, starapple, guava (harder and harder to get those though), tangerine, ortanique, ugly, tamarind, pawpaw…I’m making myself hungry!

Sugar apple with its cross section
Sugar apple with its cross section (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What would you add to this list?

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Trayvon Martin Protest - Sanford
Trayvon Martin Protest – Sanford (Photo credit: werthmedia)

Jamaica has jumped enthusiastically onto the Trayvon Martin bandwagon. Don’t get me wrong, I’m following the story closely as well, and have had several discussions on radio about it. But some Jamaicans have been asking why we are so focused on Trayvon’s story, but you rarely see that level of interest in the many cases of killings in Jamaica – many of which also involve children. Here are a few ideas.

1. It’s much easier to do veranda commentary than it is to jump up from your computer and get involved. Protesting is a hot, sweaty activity that usually involves missing work and risking your face being on national TV or in the newspapers, associated with, gasp, a cause!


Witness the poorly supported civil society protest outside the Ministry of National Security to call for better policing. This was shortly after the killings of Immaculate High School student Vanessa Kirkland, which I wrote about here and 13-year old Niketa Cameron, both allegedly by police.Vanessa’s death, in particular, provoked outrage. Should that outrage have translated into support for that protest? Why would Jamaicans who were expressing longing to join a march for Trayvon, not have supported a local protest?

Most local protests, however, are organized by groups like Jamaicans for Justice, which are viewed, at best, with scepticism by many Jamaicans, and at worst, with downright hostility, as I said here. In fact, JFJ has recently written to the papers, trying to change the perception of the group. Is that attitude to the human rights groups a factor? I believe it probably is.

2. The US media cover such stories in a way that the Jamaican newsrooms don’t (can’t?) Blow by blow coverage, digging into everybody’s backgrounds, camping out outside offices and homes, and hours of hours and HOURS of airtime devoted to the story. They bring victims to life. Trayvon sounds like the kid next door, and you are drawn into the story in a way that doesn’t seem to happen often here. Here’s an example. Quick –  what do you know about Niketa Cameron? Probably nothing. I bet her name didn’t even ring a bell.

3. The racial element to this story has proved irresistible. Many, or most of us, have family in the US.

Trayvon Martin Protest - Sanford
Trayvon Martin Protest – Sanford (Photo credit: werthmedia)

Our fathers, brothers, husbands, uncles, cousins and friends are black men living in the States. They could have been Trayvon Martin. That’s certainly what it feels like.

Having said all this, a colleague said to me that she does not believe the cases are comparable. INDECOM, the Independent Commission of Investigations,  investigates police killings in Jamaica and immediately started to probe the killings of Vanessa and Niketa. In other words, the responsible government agency sprang into action, and made this known publicly. On the other hand, she says, in Florida, the authorities failed to act.

She points to the outrage over the case of the Kingston College student allegedly killed by the X-6 driver, and the way the authorities here in Jamaica were forced to react to that public outrage. She argues that if a teenager walking in Cherry Gardens had been killed by a resident on neighbourhood watch patrol, there would have been similar outrage here.

What do you think? Is she right?

In Praise of “Minor” Sports



In Jamaica, if you’re not a footballer, a runner or a cricketer, dog nyam yuh supper. We’ve lauded our CARIFTA track and field team which won 77 medals including 34 gold. That is great, and we are all grateful to the hard working athletes and their coaches who keep the flag flying high (all three colours of it!)

 (CARIFTA swimmers – Gillian Haughton photo)

Our CARIFTA swimmers, who came home from the Bahamas with 32 medals – ten gold, sixteen silver and six bronze, have received much less attention. I’m told the team was met at an airport by a TVJ cameraman. Full stop. The children frequently complain of the limited attention they get from the public.

They did, however, get more attention than the chess team,  which gave us two CARIFTA champions , and an overall third place, or the water polo team, which is in re-building stage, and where our under-15 boys placed second of four teams to win a silver, our under-19 girls came away with the silver against Trinidad and Tobago, and our under-19 boys, were bested by Trinidad and Tobago and Curacao to take bronze.  (CARIFTA water polo teams – Malden Miller photo)

Fact is, in Jamaica, track and field, (men’s) football, (men’s) cricket and to a lesser extent, netball, are the big sports (the reaction to women’s sports is another story -our netballers were excelling for years with little attention, the Reggae Boyz made ONE World Cup, where they failed to advance, and became superstars). But the reality is that there are many other sports which Jamaicans are playing, and playing well, albeit not at the stratospheric level of track and field.

We have youngsters competing  in synchronized swimming, volleyball, tennis, badminton, gymnastics, and the list goes on.

The athletes in many of these sports have to be really determined to compete, especially at the regional and international levels. Family members usually have to underwrite the entire cost of competition including travelling and uniforms. It gets really expensive, really quickly, and many give up.

So why bother? Why not stick with the big four? Actually, there are many reasons why we need to broaden our horizons, and think beyond the popular sports.

Young people should be given the opportunity to explore all their talents, and their potential. A so-so runner may be a dynamite swimmer. A mediocre footballer may be a promising tennis player.

There is potential for scholarships in many of these areas, not just track and field.

We need to see the potential for development in sports generally and expanding the sports we support will allow more young people to excel.

Then, there are the undeniable physical and health benefits. We need to encourage as many young people as possible (and older people, in fact!) to become physically active, whether they are going to become sports stars or not.  Researchers have indicated that 3-6% of pre-school children in the Caribbean are obese, with the figure in Jamaica being 6%.

The scientists reported that overweight and obesity is prevalent in the 10-19 age group with females showing a higher rate than males (18.9% compared to 16%).

Given that obesity and overweight are known risk factors for chronic disease, and inactivity nearly doubles the risk of cardiac disease, anything that will encourage physical activity must be welcome. Exposure to a wide range of sporting activities will allow more children a chance to find an activity with which they are comfortable and which they enjoy.

Other benefits of sports have been well documented, improving social skills, fostering team spirit, teaching kids how to win and lose. Again, the more sports we are able to offer, the more children will be able to benefit.

Veronica Campbell-Brown, Berlin 2009
Veronica Campbell-Brown, Berlin 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not all children can be Usain Bolt or Veronica Campbell-Brown. But that shouldn’t be our only measure of success.

Disclosure: I am not a sportswoman, and never was. Despite my complete lack of coordination, I comfort myself with the thought that I just wasn’t exposed to a wide variety of sports! 

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