February 28, 2007

Name Your Top Ten Caribbean Novels

Top Ten Caribbean NovelsSubmissions for the “Top Ten Caribbean Novels” will begin today. Without getting too complicated, I’ve decided to break it down into two rounds.

Also, if you can't think of twelve, put what ya got!

I'm doing this in a spirit of play.

Coda(3/3/07) Let's just make this fiction--short stories, novels, & novellas!
And if you can't remember, check out the list @ Caribbean Beat: <http://caribbean-beat.blogspot.com/2006/04/west-indian-canon.html>

In case you get lost, here is the direct link to the survey:


Type in your 12 choices.

When you reach your 12th choice, hit SEND survey and you done!

Give thanks and spread the word!


Submissions for the “Top Twelve Caribbean Novels”: March 1, 2007 to March 16, 2007

The twelve highest scoring books will be published on March 16, 2007 and voting for the “Top Ten Caribbean Novels” will begin on March 18, 2007.


Voting for the “Top Ten Caribbean Novels”: March 18, 2007 to March 31, 2007.

The final voting results will be available on March 31, 2007

Definition(s) for the TOP TEN Caribbean Novels

The setting of the novel should be in the Caribbean or the diaspora and the characters should be of Caribbean descent or second generation.

The author does not have to be of Caribbean descent.

The author does not have to be alive—except in her/his work.

Please submit only once. We are operating on the honor system.

Here’s the link for the submissions: Name Your Top Twelve Caribbean Novels


Podcast of "An Evening With Malachi Smith"

Malachi SmithIt was a gathering of old and new friends who waited in anticipation for the premiere of the dub-u-mentary, Dub Poetry: The Life and Work of Malachi Smith. Mr. Ricardo Allicock, Consul-General to the Southern United States, Mervyn Morris, Oku Onoura, Jabulani Tafari, Tomlin Ellis, Donna Weir-Soley and many, many more came to honor our I-dren, Malachi. We were not disappointed.

The film traced the life of Malachi from his birth in Westmoreland to his emergence as a dub poet in Kingston and his growing influence in South Florida since he moved here fifteen years ago. Many of the interviewees focused on the seeming contradiction of Malachi's twin vocations as a police officer and poet, and there was a chilling moment in the video when he puts on his bulletproof vest, kisses his family goodbye, and gets in his Miami-Dade cruiser, "This is what I do every day."

Give thanks to Alicia A. Antone, Director, African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, Air Jamaica, and Reggae Concepts for hosting the event.

To view more photos, click on this link: Flickr photos of Malachi, et al

For a podcast of the event, click on this link: "An Evening With Malachi Smith."

February 26, 2007

In My Own Words: Opal Palmer Adisa

Jamaican writer Opal Palmer AdisaAlways there was judgment, about how you looked, about what you did or didn't do, about your very existence. Mostly the judgment was condemning, filtered through very narrow and warped Judeo-Christian lens about good and bad, right and wrong. It was quick and potentially deadly--like a dry coconut falling off the tree hitting someone in the head or as bitter as susumba eaten without salt.

Before my adolescence, I always riled against this attitude that seemed so prevalent in Jamaica. To want to be different was to set oneself up to be judged and even more devastating, to be ridiculed and reproached. I often wondered what was the impetus behind the quick tendency to judge and dismiss; what role did our enslavement, and hundred of years of being told and officially educated that who we were and where we came from was of no significance have to do with our penchant to judge and discard each other?

This collection, these stories are ten odd years in the making – writing. The title, Until Judgment Comes, is both a warning as well as a recognition that these male characters are going to be judged. However, as writer, I am also suggesting to readers that they need not judge these men or their lives because judgment will come in its own time, to both readers and characters. Although I have been working on these stories for ten years, I have been thinking them up for twenty years. When my first collection came out, Bake-Face and Other Guava Stories (1986), I knew that I would write corresponding stories about men--although I didn't think it would take me this long. But I am glad that it took me so long or I would not have met Devon and Sheldon or Ebenezer. Nor would I have been able to write with honesty or through the lens of a parent, who is always working and talking about parenting, at the aberrant--although in some cases, it has become normal and accepted—mother son/relationships that exist in some sectors of our community, and how this inability to mother impacts the lives of these boys as they become men who are sometimes warped and whose anger gets played out as misogyny. Judge not, lest you be judged likewise.

Which is how the role of the old woman in the Teachment sections, the narrative device that connects these stories, came about. The old woman serves as the scale balancer: observant and compassionate. She was reared by her grandfather who schooled her to be open and to refrain from judging others without knowing their pain. She knows all of these men, and invites readers to get to know them through her eyes. She is the conscience of the community and provides respite for both reader and character. She is also the writer's alter ego, allowing me to comment without being heavy-handed. This collection really marks our journey from internalizing the scars of enslavement, which from my understanding and assessment of where we are as a people (not just the Caribbean, but the entire African American and African diaspora), to erasing the scars (the total chaos and wanton, random violence and hatred that emerge in our daily lives and that brings pain to ourselves and to others), to how we find our way back, through meditating on self and community, on love of ourselves, for each other, and to peaceful harmony. We have to stop judging and condemning and pick up true, unconditional love instead.

Until Judgement Comes: Stories About Jamaican Men

ISBN: 1-84523-042-6
Pages: 240
Published: 05 February 2007
Price: £8.99



February 24, 2007

Pam Mordecai: Upcoming Appearances

Pam Mordecai has taught and trained teachers, been a TV host, edited an academic journal and been a small press publisher. She has published over thirty books, including textbooks, children's books, poetry collections, and (with her husband, Martin) a reference work on Jamaica. She has published articles on Caribbean literature, education and publishing. She has also edited/co-edited ground-breaking anthologies of Caribbean writing including Jamaica Woman, Her True-True Name and From Our Yard. Pink Icing, her first collection of short fiction, appeared in Fall, 2006. She lives in Toronto.


26th February at 8:00 p.m.
McNally Robinson Bookstore
1120 Grant Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba

1 March 2007 at 7:00 p.m.
On Edge Reading Series
Emily Carr Institute – Room 405
Granville Island

7 March 2007 at 3:00 pm
University of Calgary
Conference Room for the English Department (SS-1015),
Social Science Building

7 March 2007 at 7:00 p.m.
St Peter's Church

10 March 2007 at 10:00 a.m.
McNally Robinson Bookstore
3130 8th Street East
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

5 May 2007
Children's Writers' Circle
Annual Seminar
Kingston, Jamaica

Eden Mill Writers Festival
Fall 2007

For more information, please contact:

Pamela Mordecai
446 Bartlett Avenue

Toronto, ON M6H 3G7

Tel: 416 532 0004

Fax: 416 532 7302


February 23, 2007

The Top Ten Caribbean Novels

Geoffrey Philp

Another meme about books and ranking has been making its way around the blogosphere, so to put a Caribbean twist on the meme, here are my Top Ten Caribbean Novels:

10. In the Castle of My Skin (Ann Arbor Paperbacks) by George Lamming

9. The Dragon Can't Dance by Earl Lovelace

8. Brother Man (Caribbean Writers Series; 10) by Roger Mais

7. The Duppy (Anthony C. Winkler Collection) by Anthony C. Winkler

6. The Dew Breaker (Today Show Book Club #23) by Edwidge Danticat.

5. Children of Sisyphus (Longman Caribbean Writers Series) by Orlando Patterson

4. Divina Trace by Robert Antoni.

3. The Palace of the Peacock by Wilson Harris

2. A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul. See also Miguel Street.

1. Love in the Time of Cholera (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This was taken from my Amazon Listmania. Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/Top-Ten-Caribbean-Novels/lm/28E6LYTCZGX1X/ref=cm_lm_byauthor_title_full/105-1897478-8201203

I know this is going to generate all kinds of heat, but that’s what happens when you make a list. Tell me what you think, nuh?



February 22, 2007

Where Have All the Men of "Soul" Gone?

R&BGrooving down State Road Nine this morning to “How Could I Let You Get Away” (Live) by The Spinners, I was listening to Philippe “Soul” Wynne’s channeling of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Al Green (ironic that Al Green though younger should outlive him), when I thought, where have all the men of R&B gone?

I’m not talking about age, I’m talking about stage.

R&B right now is crowded with boys, and boys only sing about ONE THING or as Lauryn Hill would say, That Thing. That’s all boys sing about. And it’s all right. Boys will be boys. I didn’t say cads. I’ve been a boy, still am a boy, and probably will always be a boy in some respects.

What I’m talking about is the kind of singing that men like Al Green, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and other R&B singers used to sing about—what all “Soul” singers sing about:

The fears and vulnerabilities inherent in loving and losing the love of your life and how to continue despite the losses--the paradox of being strong and weak at the same time.

The predicament of being in a relationship with a woman who makes more money than you do, while all of society and your friends say you should be the “man”—provider. The double bind of that and still loving.

How a woman can leave you weak in the knees, but because you have agreed to play the role of a “man”—which means you have grown up from the “boy” stage of only thinking about one thing--you can offer support despite your own flaws.

How to be a protector, even if the woman doesn’t need protection—she can hold her own—been holding her own—but she KNOWS you’d take a bullet for her—do anything for her because that’s how deep a man loves.

How despite all that, a woman can drive you crazy when you are trying to have a relationship—knowing the person—and she does the very human thing of putting up walls—hiding because of her own fears of intimacy and trust that you are also facing—and telling us how that FEELS in the midst of the relationship.

How it FEELS when trust is broken.

Or as Al Green used to sing, “Love and Happiness.”

I imagine if 2Pac hadn’t gone to live in Mexico, he could have matured into a man—he was already showing signs. André "André 3000" Benjamin , Kanye West, and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton, look like they may also mature, but I’m talking about right now. For with James Brown and a host of other big stars gone, the situation looks bleak. Brian McKnight and Lionel Ritchie can’t do it by themselves.

Or is this part of a larger picture of the disappearance of black men from American life?

I certainly hope it isn’t.



February 21, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mervyn Morris!

For MM ætat LXX anno MMVII

I still remember listening to music in your campus home,
the drive up to Munro, your flowing supply of tales,
your patient ignoring at my young poet's vain wails
at plain critique. Across the years my thoughts roam,
days wholly gone, vanished like the last sea-foam,
into pale nothingness. You write of the sharp nails
in Christ's hard hands, you work out the details
in tightest lines. An epigram says much more than a tome.
Your words reverberate with brightly living scenes,
with kindest regards, and yet each honestly chosen
in a brilliant flash, not one embroidered; simple, straight.
We see beneath, we know what each poem means,
we know that the moment has been held and frozen,
each word, each letter, bears its fullest weight.

Fragano Ledgister, author of Class Alliances and the Liberal-Authoritarian State: The Roots of Post-Colonial Democracy in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Surinam, teaches political science at Clark Atlanta University. He has also published poems in Focus 1983 and the Penguin Book of Caribbean Verse in English. The father of two sons, both in college, he lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mervyn Morris, who is also the Featured Caribbean Writer, has recently published a wonderful poem, "The Lovers (After Rene Magritte)" in Caribbean Writing Today.

February 20, 2007

New Book by Opal Palmer Adisa

The stories in this collection move the heart and the head. They concern the mystery that is men: men of beauty who are as cane stalks swaying in the breeze, men who are afraid of and despise women, men who prey on women, men who have lost themselves, men trapped in sexual and religious guilt, men who love women and men who are searching for their humanity...

The stories are framed by the memories of an old Jamaican woman about the community that has grown up around her. The seven stories are structured around wise sayings that the community elder remembers as her grandfather’s principle legacy, concerning the nature of judgement, both divine and human. Each story uses a saying as the starting point but the stories are far from illustrative tracts. From Devon aka Bad-Boy growing up with an abusive mother, to Ebenezer, a single man mysteriously giving birth to a child, to the womanizer Padee whose many women and children struggle to resolve issues with their father, each story reveals the complex, and often painful, introspective search of these men.

Until Judgement Comes: Stories About Jamaican Men

ISBN: 1-84523-042-6
Pages: 240
Published: 05 February 2007
Price: £8.99

Opal Palmer Adisa is a Jamaica-born, award-winning poet, educator and storyteller. Anthologised in over 100 publications, she is a regular performer of her work throughout the USA and presently lives in Oakland, California, when she is not traveling.



February 16, 2007

Fear of the Perp Walk

A few weeks ago, I was visiting one of my older friends who works in downtown Miami. As I walked around his office that overlooked Biscayne Bay and glanced at the photo of his wife, children, and grandchildren that adorned his desk, I felt a tinge of admiration for him.

Here he was, a man from the Caribbean, who had come to Miami with nothing, and had built his career to the point where he was one of the most respected men in the community. Because of his position and income, he and his family had been shielded from some of the more virulent forms of racism in Miami—unless, of course, he decided to go to 7Eleven in shorts and a T-shirt, which is another issue. But by all appearances, everything was irie. I told him as I peered through yet another magazine with his picture inside that when I grew up, I wanted to be just like him. He laughed.

And then he said it.

“Yeah, I keep those pictures for my mother, so that when the time comes, she’ll remember those and not when I’m handcuffed and doing the perp walk.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. If even he was vulnerable to that fear that I had felt so often but never breathed, what about the brothers on the streets far down below us, crossing the street, eating hot dogs, and waiting for the light to change?

And with one in three black men involved in the legal system in Florida, it’s a permanent fear.

And it’s not because I would ever think that he was involved in anything illegal. I don’t think he is. Nor am I naïve enough to think that he couldn’t be involved in illegal acts. We all have a Shadow. But from what I’ve seen of him, he has always been ethical and just in his dealings. So that even he at the height of his acclaim could still be afraid sent chills through my body.

But the sad fact is that he has every right to be. It’s part of American life.

Dave Chappelle has a routine about his white friend, Chip, who defies the law and police officers, but he is never punished. The audience usually laughs and that is a measure of truth. Chip does things that Dave, as a black man, could never get away with. No mayter how simple the run in with the police, the fear is always there that the police will overreact and you’ll end up dead. Yet Dave’s friend, Chip, is always allowed to slide. Black men rarely slide. Everything is a major crime. And never thumb your nose at police officers like Chip. That’s what the McDuffie riots were all about.

For no matter how high you’ve climbed (it’s better when you’ve succeeded, the fall is even more delicious; so if you’re thinking about climbing, this is how you’ll end up, kid), we’re coming to get you and you won’t be able to hide your face to save your family from embarrassment. We want everyone to see it was you. And it was you, wasn’t it? It was you!

Lights, Handcuffs, Action!

And it’s not just that it’s a fear of failure that’s been magnified by our minority status. And its not that our lives are immune to the archetypal Destroyer and Trickster whose job it is to disrupt everything whenever we need to move to a higher level of understanding. I’m not talking about that. What I’m talking about is the almost Kafkaesque fear that rightly or wrongly and, unlike our white counterparts, there will be an undeniable assumption of guilt and there will be unequal treatment under the law because we can’t all afford another lawyer like Johnny Cochran. It’s that added layer that we all have to deal with. We must not only win the race while starting twenty yards behind and running with one hand behind our back, but run with the fear that once we get to the finish line, the cops will be there to lead us away because no one can run that fast unless they’ve been doing something illegal, right?

And those days when you did win the race are always in doubt because one day the police and reporters will appear at your front door. They will lead you away in handcuffs with all kinds of lights—white, blue, red—in your face and cameras everywhere.

Doing the Perp Walk

It’s the one element of black life in America that eats way at the psyche of very black man in America. No matter how much he has walked the straight and narrow path. And if I could with this post banish it away from the minds, hearts, and bodies of all my brothers, I would.

I would.


Related Post: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Arrested.

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February 15, 2007

Caribbean Writing Today

A sample issue of Caribbean Writing Today is available online and features poetry, fiction, and non-fiction from the Caribbean and the various diasporas. Edited by Wayne Brown, the journal features the work of Edward Baugh, Mervyn Morris, Olive Senior, Pamela Mordecai, Ramabai Espinet, and lesser known writers such as Sharon Leach, James Aboud, Jacqueline Bishop, Anu Lakham, and Amanda Smyth.

There is also a reprint of CLR James’ “Kanhai: A Study in Confidence” which examines cricket and Caribbean identity.


February 12, 2007

Caribbean Artists, Globalization & Community

We MediaAfter attending the We Media Conference on media globalization and reading Stephen Bess (The African Spirit: Ring Shouting @Tuesday, February 06, 2007), I’ve been thinking about the role of the Caribbean artist and his/her audience. I’ve also been thinking about Caroline Neisha’s post at Caribbean Beat: Why is it that accomplished actresses like Thandie Newton take roles in commercial slap-stick comedies like Eddie Murphy's Norbit?

It all sounds like the Amos 'n Andy debate. If the roles aren’t there and the artist has to eat and has the desire to express his/her talents, then it's Steppin' n' Fetchin' or Norbit. There are those who stand on the sidelines and say, “I would never do that!” But we've all had times when we have been inauthentic, but we did some soul searching, recognized the reason, and made the decision that it would never happen again. Artists are our collective soul searchers, but we have to have the desire to know who we are, recognize that we have a problem, and then change. We have to change how we view artists and their role in a community. Basically, we have two views about artists.

One is that they should live cloistered lives locked away from everyone and everything. This, to a certain extent, is a European view of the artist and the metaphors of the walled garden and the hermetically sealed environment abound.

The other is of the artist as a working member of the community. This is an African view of the artist and the models of the griot and the call-and-response that I talked about on Stephen’s blog:” Call and response is an integral part of African worship and life and a perfect metaphor for the artist and community. Both are united in a common purpose in lifting the person/ community/Spirit to a higher level and this is only done with praise.”

Both models are true. An artist needs time and space to think through a creative problem, which means a certain amount of aesthetic distance, but also needs the support of the community to eat, drink, be a part of, in order to draw the images and sounds that are a necessary part of creation in order to make his/her work relevant to the community.

I think we should be moving closer to the African model. It’s most like us. It fits us. But sometimes, like the cuts on dresses that many of our sisters continue to wear because the dress comes from fashionable America (dresses that don’t take into account the ampleness of certain body parts of our sisters), we put up with being uncomfortable, sometimes in our own skins, because we don’t know who we are and put our own dressmakers out of business for the "foreign" skirt. We have no idea of our own beauty, and we ignore our artists who are always saying, “But you are beautiful!” To which they get the usual answer, “Me, you must be mad!”

Because of many historical and cultural factors in the Caribbean, the role of artists is underappreciated. Both Olivier Stephenson and I have talked at length about this, so I won’t go into the details here, but using the call-and-response analogy, it is clear why our artists continue to flounder.

We don’t expect much from our artists.

Part of that comes from mercantilist approach to life, which is understandable. Most societies are based on materialistic pursuits. Nothing’s wrong with that. We have to eat. It’s when you exclude the arts, and given the historical factors in the Caribbean, you begin to run into trouble. And especially since we are plagued with what Francis Wade has dubbed the “Likkle Man Syndrome” of low expectations.

This extends from commerce to the arts and is almost as cruel as Dave Chappelle’s jokes about “Keeping it real.” We are always preoccupied about our artists selling out--probably because we haven’t developed a collective identity or the identity we hold in our minds is a caricature: “weed smoking, arrogant, war-like, sex-loving, t’ree job holding Jamaican!”

It also reminds me of my trip to Super Perros. Right across the road from Super Perros was this brother's shop. Now I don’t know where in the cycle of development he is, but my instincts tell me that even when Super Perros has opened a new branch in Jacksonville, he will still be on the corner selling "authentic" Jamaican food. This is what we expect. For if he were to get any bigger, open a great place, then he would have "sold out." His place wouldn't be "roots." The owner and his patrons are locked in a vicious cycle of low expectations.

The same can be said of the arts. Many Jamaicans complained about Steven Segal’s Marked for Death and the caricatures that were supposed to be Jamaican. And they were right. But that’s all the American writers knew about Jamaicans: —“weed smoking, arrogant, war-like, sex-loving, t’ree job holding Jamaican!” But a more serious argument should be asked of those who complain, when was the last time you bought a book by a Jamaican/Caribbean writer? Some Hollywood movies are made when the book rights are first bought and then the movie is made. The optioning of a book is based on the popularity of the book, which is reflected in sales and the writer’s ability to get more money on his/her next book deal. Are we keeping our writers in a cycle of low expectations? In other words, one way that we can begin to probably see movies about ourselves is to buy books by our writers (hint, hint, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, look to your left--you know what I mean?)

We also continue to hold on to dangerous ideas such as “the starving artist.” It's a disservice. An artist will create whether s/he is well-fed or starving. Putting aside technical aspects that can be taught, the greatness of an artist is a matter of his/her perspective that can usually be copied, but can never be taken away. It’s permanently embedded in his/her DNA. Whether they choose to manifest the gift is another question. But you have to believe the gift is worth the time to develop the necessary skills.

Do we have the skills? Listening to our politicians, you'd think that we didn't have anything that the world wanted and they keep warning us about the "threat of globalization." Gobalization is only a threat if you don't have a talent nor an identity and then you stand at the mercy of the bullies of the world.

If you have something that the world wants and you believe in that product, then you gain the world. The problem is too often that we don't have the faith to build and when we do build, we build half-heartedly, and in hope of making a quick sale, we devalue what we have so that we can retire early and live large, never realizing that the value lies in the work itself. If you disbeileve me, look what's happened with Reggae and you'll realize what I'm talking about. We once had a music that was driven by the heart and that only Jamaicans could play or if a musician wanted to learn how to play reggae, he had to come to Jamaica to be schooled by the old musicians at Studio One.

But then we did all kinds of things to the music and we called it Reggae and now it can be played on a computer. I have nothing against computers, but the original reggae sound was a soul/ heart sound that was as authentic as a Jamaican accent--no matter how hard you try, you can't fake it. You're either a yardie, or you have to spend a whole heap a time a yard before you can sound like a yardie. Now we are giving up on that too.

The great thing about life is that as long as you are reasonably healthy, there is always hope. We can dig deep into ourselves again and find something that the world wants. It may even be right under our nose. Something like eco-tourism in the Cockpit Country --a place like nowhere else in the world. And there are many artists all around us. Don't let any of the living artists become another Amos & Andy. Those actors did what they did in that time because they did not have the power/money to produce their own material. With the advances in technology that I've seen (one of my friends, George Gabb, has recently been involved in the production of an interesting movie, The 7Swords), the means are present. The call has been made. What will be the response?



February 11, 2007

Wrap-up of We Media Conference

Geoffrey Philp at We Media in MiamiOne of my big regrets this week (you couldn't tell by the photo, right?) was not being able to attend more of the sessions at the We Media Conference at the University of Miami. The panels covered some very interesting topics, but a recurrent one was the emergence of blogs in the media. Although there are some who view blogs with disdain, they should be reminded that freedom of the press is a human right as John Maxwell states in his column today:

“Freedom of the press does not belong to the press, as many imagine. Freedom of the press is a human right derived from the freedom of expression guaranteed supposedly in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and documents such as the Jamaican and Trinidad Constitution. Freedom of the press, being a human right, cannot belong to corporations.”

On the positive side, I did meet (as opposed to meeting/reading online), Georgia Popplewell (Global Voices and Caribbean Free Radio), Alice Backer (Global Voices and kiskeyAcity ), Lisa Stone, (BlogHer), Melissa, Luis Carlos, and Oso.

Georgia has posted photos (the picture of me is from the set) of the Conference on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/georgiap/sets/72157594525075779/

Alice has written about the Conference:


Here are my three photos after the conference:


Next time, around I hope that I’ll be able to attend more of the sessions, but Black History Month is never the shortest month of the year for me.



February 9, 2007

Results of Survey: Blogging and Community

I want to thank all those who participated in the survey, and y’all are an interesting group of people out there.

If you'd like to see the actual results, they have been published here http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dfcj9dbr_107dm8rpn and the calculations have been published here: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=p_IaL8VWNj1yIywNvMMwWBg.

1. In one sentence, what is your definition of community?

The overwhelming majority agreed that community meant values and purpose. In included this question because if I ever come back to this survey, I will understand the claims of the arguments.


  • A community is a group that shares one or more common interests that benefit many or all members thereby ensuring the survival of the group.
  • Community is a coming together of individuals, and the governmental, corporate, and civic sectors of society for the common good of enriching, protecting, and inspiring prosperity and well-being among all people.
  • Like-minded people with a vision of how things should be, and who have the tools to make their vision a reality.
  • A community is a place where people of like political orientation (but sometimes from diverse backgrounds) get together to share ideas and to participate in community building activities.

2. Using my definition of community, I belong to at least one community.

Seventy-percent of the participants belonged to at least one community. An interesting comment that was e-mailed to me privately and the person is willing to share: "Maybe it is just me being a 'brit' but I couldn't answer most of the questions on your survey
a - one of the first questions ask about belonging to more than one community and since I do consider that I belong to more than one (equally), then the rest of the questions applied to 'belonging to more than one community', Also, there isn't a tag for Neither (which is distinctively different from Not Sure), which I rarely tick on a survey."

Am I beginning to show a cultural bias after so many years of being in America and academia? Hmmm

3. What is the name to your community? If it doesn't have a name, what should it be?

I loved these responses. I know pollsters aren't supposed to show bias, but it showed me the varied readership of the blog.


  • The Graduate-Students-Who-Are-Broke Community
  • I belong to myriad communities, so I have to say this question stumps me. How do I choose the
  • Stadler Center for Poetry Stonecoast Literary Program Cave Canem etc.
    One community is academia
  • Retirees from Miami-Dade Cobblestone Oaks Tai chi class Toastmasters
    South Florida writers and teachers of fiction and poetry.
  • The Place Where all Belong and Prosper
  • I belong to many communities. Work related communities where colleagues come together for common causes. Faith based communities, fun based communities, social communities, etc.
  • Women/Working-Class/Caribbean/Writers/Dissenters/Spiritual Journeymen and Women.
  • Literature, Orisha. Not sure
  • New Warriors

4. Everyone should belong to a community.

I included this question because one of the assumptions is that everyone should belong to a community and being in a community is a good thing. Forty-six percent of the participants strongly agreed and twenty-nine percent agreed.

5. A community should have goals.

Maybe it's the nature of those who have participated (I strongly believe it is), but forty-six percent strongly agreed and thirty-three percent agreed. I am making certain assumptions here, but this group is literate, with access to technology, and probably...Myers-Briggs anyone? Therefore, I wouldn't expect these results from other demographics.

6. The community of which I am a member has specific goals.

Thirty-eight percent strongly agreed and thirty-three percent agreed. Based on the results of the previous question, I am not surprised.

7. What are the goals of your community? List one.


  • The preservation of values and the continuation and nurturing of family.
  • Communities de facto have goals, whether these are accidental or otherwise. Otherwise they can't be realted. My family is one community. Its # 1 goal is to secure the well-being of its members. Mt online-writing group is another comunity.
  • Its goal is to keep its 6 members productive. The Writers Organizations to which I belong are communites; they also exist to secure their member's well-being and to keep writing in the community vibrant and, as much as possible, lucrative. I could go on...
  • They vary but the formal communities to which I belong stress literacy & diversity.
  • Developing knowledgable, thinking, ethical people

8. Using my definition of community, blogging creates community.

Thirty-three percent strongly agreed and forty six percent agreed. What kind of community is does the Geoffrey Philp's Blog Spot create? I hope its one based on the mission, which is to create a space for anyone interested in writing from the Caribbean and South Florida.

This has also made me think about the role of blogging and a recent post by Stephen Bess (The African Spirit: Ring Shouting @Tuesday, February 06, 2007). I am thinking of the relationship of a writer and his/ her community. I can feel a post coming on.

9. I was born in this region.

Fifty percent were born in the Caribbean and forty-six percent were born in North America. I always have to include this question because those belonging to the "Creative Class" (I'm making certain assumptions here) are a highly mobile group for whom cyberspace has become one of their addresses.

10. I now reside in this region.

Ninety-six percent live in North America. What happened to all the Caribbean folk from question nine? Miami?

11. Gender.

An equal amount of female and male participants. This has me thinking, especially about Professor Zero’s blog and the question of “matriarchal” and “patriarchal voice.” What is the voice of this blog? Are there such things as “matriarchal” and “patriarchal” blogs? What do those terms mean? What are the values associated with “matriarchal” and “patriarchal” blogs? What kinds of comments do “matriarchal” and “patriarchal” blogs invite and by their very nature exclude?

12. To which category do you belong? Check all that apply.

Most of the participants are blogger/readers, which is also seen in the comments, and "link love" that we share. We all belong to many communities, but a common bond would be a love for books.

Again, thank you for participating. This was lots of fun.



February 6, 2007

Happy Birthday, Brother Bob!

Bob Marley

Sestina for Bob

It started with a silly quarrel when my lover
changed the music from Sean Paul--she wanted to listen to Bob.
I wish all our choices were that simple--not the struggle
everyday between the open sea and the comfortable yard--

the blind hunger that disguises itself as freedom
and becomes what we most dread.

It's like when I'm listening to Natty Dread,
"Bend Down Low" when Marley's talking to a coy lover.
You know he wants her, but he still wants his freedom.
And you can imagine her outside Island House as her head bobs

up and down--she knows she'll become one of the women in the yard,
but she wants the man behind the music, so why struggle?

Yet for Marley that was all that mattered--the struggle
to change our hearts, so when InI, the Twelve Tribes in that dread

day, disgusted with the shistem, will leave yard,
and Africa will welcome us with open arms like a neglected lover.
We'll find the dreamland we’ve always wanted, the place that Bob
glimpsed in the streets of Trench Town, searching for freedom.

But is Africa the only place that we'll find our freedom?
In England, in America, in France, is it only the struggle
that will give us peace, that will help us find the place that Bob
told us about in "So Jah Seh"? Urging the faint-hearted dreads
in the heart of Babylon, who hated him like a spurned lover,
to never give up their hope and promised a better yard.

For he never forgot that Babylon tried to murder him in his own yard,
jumping over so many fences in Trench Town to find the freedom

he never found in the sweet kisses of his contented lovers,
as he trod through I-ration, and couldn't sleep because of the struggle
while the ancestors tormented him, tugged at his dreads
flowing over the stones. He could never rest as they whispered, “Bob

we are here in the dark, hungry, and waiting. Bob, Bob
the politicians, the traitors are betraying the youth a yard,
and there's no more turning back, there's no more retreat, dread.
This time, the fatherless children must fight for their freedom,
their lives will never be their own unless you continue the struggle,
only then will their eyes soften towards each other like old lovers."

It hurt too much, so I left the room when Bob began Songs of Freedom,
his voice with the smell of yard spilling over the lyrics--his struggle
to convince us he would always be here, like a constant lover.


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February 4, 2007

Happy Birthday, John Hearne

John Hearne By Fragano Ledgister.

The first Jamaican novel I ever read was John Hearne’s Land of the Living, which I found in my high school library when I was thirteen. I had no idea then, of course, that a few years later I’d be John’s student in a creative writing class at UWI. Nor that he would be my mentor and friend.

John wasn’t the first of the writers I admired that I would meet (that was Mervyn Morris, who, completely by accident, became responsible for my habit of ordering “café solo” as the first thing I consume whenever I land in Madrid), but he has probably had the greatest impact on me, both as someone who encouraged my writing poetry and who encouraged my entry into journalism.

Reading John’s “Cayuna” novels provides us insight into the story of Jamaica as it moved from colonialism into independence. The device of creating a fictional version of Jamaica (as Mervyn Morris says, “Cayuna is Jamaica right down to Green Stripe beer”), permitted him to explore change both in Jamaican society (the bauxite industry, the Rastafari movement), and in relation to neighbouring countries (events in Haiti, the Cuban Revolution) in a mode that allied both distance and closeness. The accents of Cayuna and the places are as Jamaican as it is possible to be, and yet separated from the real Jamaica by an infinite distance.

John enjoyed creating fictional countries. Cayuna is one of two that he shaped out of West Indian reality with his pen (he also created the Caribbean countries of Saint Pierre and Navidad, modeled on Haiti and Cuba respectively, but little action takes place in them). The other is “Abari”, based on his experiences in Guyana in the late 1950s, which appears in two novels (The Checkerboard Caper, one of the “Robin Blackmore” thrillers that he wrote together with Morris Cargill, and The Sure Salvation). Yet he could, and did, deal directly with the real Jamaica and Guyana (the latter in his short story “At the Stelling” which is included in the Independence Anthology of Jamaican Literature).

He had to tread carefully, I suspect, as a white Jamaican who did not sound Jamaican, in a society that was changing rapidly and in which the privileges, which a generation before a person in his situation would have taken for granted, were disappearing. It’s noteworthy that the only novel set in Jamaica on which his name appears as an author is his first, Voices Under the Window. The three Robin Blackmore thrillers (in which the hero is a white Jamaican planter) were written under the pseudonym “John Morris” although the authorship was well-known. When he switched political allegiance from the PNP to the JLP in the late 1970s persons unknown painted “John Hearne is a British CIA” on the walls of the Creative Arts Centre at UWI (which John ran). A rather catty mutual friend commented at the time, that the capital letters looked just like John’s.

John’s politics were never quite in step with Jamaica’s actual politics. John was a Whig gentleman whose conception of the good political order drew from the best impulses of the British liberal tradition. He had joined the PNP in the post-war period along with other liberal gentlemen who saw Norman Manley’s project as vitally necessary to the creation of a free and just society. His break with the PNP (which meant the ending of his friendship with Michael Manley), followed not, as some might think, the PNP’s close relationship with Cuba but the Orange Street fire, which he saw as a descent into thuggishness that was simply unacceptable. John was to be quickly disappointed with the JLP, which lacked the Whig tradition of the PNP.

But, deep down, John was not really a political person. He was a writer who urged his students to observe the world and write what they saw. He also represented, for those students, a bridge to the origins of modern West Indian literature as he had been a protégé of Roger Mais in the early 1950s, and Mais had encouraged his early writing. In teaching us he was, fairly consciously, acting to promote a literary tradition.

John’s work deserves to be brought back before the public eye, in particular, the four Cayuna novels which capture a time now gone forever when Jamaica seemed on the verge of wonderful things.

Fragano Ledgister, author of Class Alliances and the Liberal-Authoritarian State: The Roots of Post-Colonial Democracy in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Surinam, teaches political science at Clark Atlanta University. He has also published poems in Focus 1983 and the Penguin Book of Caribbean Verse in English. The father of two sons, both in college, he lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
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February 3, 2007

Everyday Grace, Everyday Miracle

When we are doing well and during the darkest times of our lives, we are surrounded by grace, mercy, and even miracles—every single day. What keeps us from more fully experiencing this truth? We are limited by a lack of connection to our true self, a lifetime of the habit of going it alone, and the need to learn how to completely surrender to grace. Once we know how to live by faith and learn how to tune into the Divine, we can experience deep gratitude and find far more joy in our lives.

Everyday Grace, Everyday Miracle shares the story of a remarkable woman who successfully remade her life in the midst of adversity and who now leads women and men to their larger lives. Other profoundly inspiring stories come from men and women around the world who connect readers to a life-changing truth—that our everyday experiences are full of gifts from God.

Jamaica-born Lorna Owens is a graduate of the University of Florida School of Law, Gainesville, Florida and has operated her own law practice since 1993, practicing in the area of criminal law and entertainment law. She has represented major clients in negotiating management contracts, distribution deals, recording contracts, performance contracts and advised them on advertising and marketing.


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