August 31, 2007

"Miss Lou” Celebration for South Florida

Jamaican poet Miss LouMiami, Florida (August 31, 2007)--The Second Annual Community Cultural Tribute and Scholarship Fundraiser honoring the life and legacy of the late Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley, O.M., O.J., will be held on Friday, September 7th, beginning at 7 p.m., at the Sierra Norwood Calvary Baptist Church, 495 NW 191 Street, Miami Gardens.

Under the patronage of Jamaica’s Consul General, Mr. C. P. Ricardo Allicock, the event will again observe Miss Lou’s Birthday (Sept. 7), through song, dance, and drama in commemoration of her work.

All proceeds from this event will be donated to the fund for victims of Hurricane Dean and to the “Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley Memorial Scholarship,” at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica. At the initiation of the annual scholarship program, two students from the School of Drama were the recipients of the first scholarships, presented in November 2006.

As the program continues, scholarships will be rotated through the Schools of Performing Arts of the Edna Manley College.

According to Mrs. Norma Darby, Director of the Florida-based folklore group, the Jamaican Folk Revue, Miss Lou, throughout her life and career, made immeasurable contributions to Jamaica’s cultural development and left a legacy, which has given to all, a sense of dignity, authenticity and pride, in our heritage and culture.

As she encouraged the community to join in celebrating the legacy of the late Louise Bennett-Coverley, Mrs. Darby spoke of the variety of local South Florida performers participating in what she described as an entertaining, “belly-full of culture”, evening. Some of these artistes include dub poet, Malachi Smith, Ms. Jeanne Powell (South Florida’s Miss Lou), Sierra Norwood Calvary Baptist Church “Ring Ding” children’s group, Ms. Sophie Nicholson-M.C., Tallawah Mento Band, Body Nation Dance Theatre, “Ms. Ivy” Armstrong, the Jamaican Folk Revue and a number of our literary talents.

Tickets are $10 per person. Books, CD’s by Miss Lou and some of our local writers will be available for sale.

For further information, please call the following:

(305) 613-4365. (305) 510-7705, (954) 432-6243, (305) 652-7336.

About Louise Bennett-Coverly:

The Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley, (Miss Lou as she was affectionately called) died in July last year, at age 86, in Toronto, Canada where she had resided for more than a decade. Described as Jamaica’s cultural icon, Miss Lou accomplished an illustrious career as poet, playwright, comedienne, lyricist, and actor. She was also the recipient of several international and national awards and accolades throughout her career.


A portion of the funds collected will be earmarked for Hurricane Relief and donations of canned goods, batteries, and flashlights will be welcomed.


August 29, 2007

August Issue of Caribbean Review of Books

Caribbean Review of BooksOver at JahWorld, Pam Mordecai has some interesting thoughts about the latest issue of the Caribbean Review of Books, which contains among its many delights:

Man for all seasons
Brendan de Caires on Havana Red, Havana Black, and Havana Blue, by Leonardo Padura, trans. Peter Bush

Wish you were here
Melanie Archer on An Eye for the Tropics: Tourism, Photography, and Framing the Caribbean Picturesque, by Krista A. Thompson

Many tongues
John Gilmore on The Trickster’s Tongue: An Anthology of Poetry in Translation from Africa and the African Diaspora, ed. and trans. Mark de Brito

Kinky reggae
Jonathan Ali on She’s Gone, by Kwame Dawes

Power of one
Philip Nanton on Beyond the Islands: An Autobiography, by James Mitchell

News about Caribbean books, writers, and art

Reading list
Shadowing Sir Vidia

Imagination’s gold
David Dabydeen on the forgotten poems of Egbert Martin

“Writing is about discovery”
Geoffrey Philp talks to Nicholas Laughlin about litblogging

Worthless women
Marlon James on Jean Rhys and her female characters

Listening in
B.C. Pires on jointpop’s January Transfer Window

Nicholas Laughlin on Nikolai Noel’s Forgiveness; Judy Raymond behind the scenes with Meiling; Garnette Cadogan on V.S. Naipaul’s non-fiction

“Mangrove”, by Vahni Capildeo; “Rats But No Worry”, by Thomas Reiter

Calabash 2007; photographs by Georgia Popplewell


August 27, 2007

A Shameless Plug for Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories

AnancyGrandparent's Day is on September 9, 2007, and there's no better way to celebrate than to give your parental antecedents a copy of Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories.

I can see it now. The family is gathered around the dinner table and the youngest child (with appropriately missing front teeth) lisps, "This is for you, Grandpa!"

The old man bursts into tears and says, "This is what I've always wanted. O, thank you, thank you, thank you, my children. This is a blessing. I love you. I’ll love you all forever!"

And they lived happily ever after.

Think about it. Eternal familial bliss from the purchase of Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories!

Too over the top you say? Maybe. But why not give it a try?

Want your grandfather to love you forever? Buy him a copy of Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories.


August 24, 2007

African Americans and the American Story

Geoffrey Philp's Blog Spot
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

In this bold declaration of human rights, the Founding Fathers began the story of America as a land of freedom. But with this optimistic statement came a dirty little secret: the subjugation of Native Americans and African Americans. Given the history of history of the earliest European settlers and the relatively short lifespan of the culture, the means that many European or White Americans would use to prove the manifestation of these ideals in their lives resulted in a particular type of American xenophobia and materialism that shunned any kind of introspection. Underlying these noble intentions were the all too human emotions of fear and shame.

Yet, as the Federal government expanded and grew increasingly dependent on immigrant labor to fuel its economic growth, the country faced a dilemma that grew out of the Declaration of Independence and the statement at the base of that great icon of freedom, the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor…Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." For although many of the newcomers did not belong the ethnic stock of the original settlers, they did come with expectations of social mobility and freedom. So, the question could rightly be asked, who is an American? And unlike Old World cultures that had creation myths which developed into a national literature, America's creation myth was enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. In practical terms, however, the question, which became increasingly complex over many decades, was resolved in a crude yet effective method. The degree to which the newcomers would gain entrance to American society was the means to which their stories matched those of the original settlers: persecution in their homelands, voluntary migration, journey across the sea, facing adversity and eventual triumph. This story became the paradigm for American citizenship, and many non-European groups gained "honorary" European or White status, provided, of course, that they should also appropriate the language, customs, and mores of the original settlers. The Great American Love Story was born.

Forgotten in the myth of the Great American Love Story is the African American story which is much different. For despite the enormous gift of Alex Haley's Roots, the African American story begins with persecution/slavery in Africa, involuntary migration, the Atlantic Holocaust, slavery in America, and the long march to freedom that began with the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow/Segregation and the Civil Rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This story, as the Caribbean poet Kwame Dawes points out, has become the de facto definition of authentic blackness in America and the means by which immigrants of African descent gain entrance to African American society. It is also quite different from the Great American Love Story held by the majority culture and echoed in that quintessential immigrant's tale, The Godfather: "I love America."

This is not to say that African Americans do not love America. They love America with such fervor and devotion that they have paid with blood for every word, every comma, every dash, every pen stroke in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. But this is a story of unrequited love. As the African American novelist James Baldwin said in The Price of the Ticket: "You reach a point in your life when you realize that the country to which you have pledged allegiance has not pledged allegiance to you." With that realization comes the awful truth: exclusion from mainstream America is based on the fear of Otherness--the presence of melanin--and the dissimilarity of the Great American Love Story and the Long March to Freedom which casts African Americans such as Malcolm X and Dr. King as protagonists and the hordes of faceless Europeans or Whites as antagonists in the ongoing, brutal story.

But what are the consequences of these stories? How do they play out when African Americans and White Americans encounter each other as strangers at a ball park or supermarket, each with their differing stories, yet sharing a common xenophobic trait of American culture? To a large extent, the encounters are marked by shame, fear, and anger.

For many White or "honorary" Whites, African Americans, especially males, are always ready to wreak their wrath on anyone because of the injustices of the past. The Long March to Freedom is interpreted as "You must pay for what your daddy and your daddy's, daddy's daddy did to me. I'll never forgive or forget what you've done to me and what you're doing to me every day." And because no single individual, White or "honorary" White can change the system of institutional and cultural racism, every African American, until proven otherwise, is a potential enemy who will use "any means necessary" to take from them what they have rightfully earned. And they have. But with this understanding of the plight of African Americans, there is always the nagging guilt that the fortunes of America were built on the exploitation of the American underclass, which is largely African American. And while others groups because of their stories and the absence of melanin have been able to make considerable economic and social progress, African Americans, remain at the bottom of the social ladder. The actions of some "honorary" Whites add insult to this injury by denying the validity of the Long March to Freedom story by saying in so many words, "My daddy didn't do anything to you. I, too, have suffered. My family has suffered!" and re-tell their version of the Great American Love Story which usually ends with the challenge, "I have done it. My family has done it. Why can't you?"

For many African Americans, it's not that simple. Their attitude to the Great American Love Story is summed up in the words of Malcolm X: "We didn't land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us!" The undercurrent of rage that is still palpable in the African American community is fueled by the absence of economic opportunity based on the presence of melanin. It's enough to make some members of the community hate themselves or to act out some of the worst stereotypes. For if there is no hope, why bother if you're not going anywhere? And those who try to forge some kind of freedom, like those in the gangster culture of hip-hop, it's a freedom built on negation that cannot affirm human values such as love, joy, peace, and beauty. They mistakenly believe that freedom means the ability to do anything you want when freedom actually means the ability to serve in any way you want. But even the word "serve" because of its association with slavery has a negative connotation, and this attitude denies the possibility of the pursuit of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." A life of service to an ideal greater than one's life is a life truly lived. Without service, the pursuit of life, liberty, and the attainment of happiness is vanity and a chasing after the wind. So, for many African Americans, until proven otherwise, every White person is viewed as a potential obstacle, someone with a Massa attitude of entitlement based on ethnicity that must be countered with the attitude, especially here in the South, "That ain't go play with me. Slavery days are over, cracker!" Also the exhortation of many Whites for African Americans to "get over slavery" comes as insult and gives further proof the role of Whites as antagonists in their story. And even the exhortation becomes a lie in the experience of many African Americans who carry the story of a brother who was acting as if he was free and was upbraided, beaten, and persecuted because he needed to be taught a lesson. Usually by the police. And those who show any signs of the audacity to dream a new identity free from the constraints of the story they have been breast-fed from infancy, that encourages the acceptance of victimhood are ignored. Or sometimes just plain beaten for being uppity by some who think of themselves as the last bastion of a retrograde system they need to defend. Usually by the po-po.

The intransigence of some Whites and "honorary" Whites to examine their role in the continuing economic disparity in America, and the lack of personal agency on the part of some African Americans to live beyond stereotypes and to celebrate the positive values of their community comes with a price. However, these actions do not belie the validity of the Long March to Freedom and the Great American Love Story. In fact, the stories strengthen the communities because they tell the story of who they are and how they came to be. And until we learn to honor both stories, we will merely continue to repeat the words of the Declaration of Independence, but never live them. For neither story is the full story. They are the story of America, the journeys, voluntary and involuntary, toward freedom.

August 22, 2007

Writing is for Crazy People

Caribbean writerOver at Harriet, Patricia Smith reveals writer's angst:

I'm sitting in front of my laptop, bleary-eyed, listening to a muted Lightnin' Hopkins and staring at the 17th line of a poem that I've been working on for four years....This profession--this writing of measured and meaningful lines--is for crazy people...Just a line? They really don't get it, do they? There's absolutely no way to explain that nine words, tweaked mercilessly at least once a week for the past 1460 days, can feel so vital, so damned necessary, and not tomorrow, but right now.

And what makes a writer obsess over a line? Craftsmanship and the desire to create one's style. And what's the most important aspect of style? As Sam, the surrogate father of Halley in Athol Fugard's "Master Harold"... and the Boys explains, "The secret is to make it look easy."

Click here to view the rest of the post: It's 1:31 a.m....


August 21, 2007

The Audacity of the Adventure of House of Nehesi Publishers

George LammingBy George Lamming

Throughout our Caribbean Region economic activity is to a large extent externally propelled. Investment initiates from outside and the collective investors are elsewhere: tourism, insurance, banking are some of the major pinnacles of authority which determine what choices we make in exercising control over our daily lives. The Governments may govern; but they do not rule.

It is against this background of an imagined sovereignty and an enforced dependence that we must measure the audacity — and there is no other word for what I mean — the audacity of those who initiated from within the adventure of House of Nehesi Publishers. Such boldness of enterprise in the area of publishing can easily collapse in five months; so the 25th anniversary of Nehesi can arguably be celebrated as though it were the 50th. And the evidence of the distinguished volumes it has produced is so abundant that the founders and their supporters are entitled to invent their own calendar for this purpose. Year 25 should be accorded the applause due a 50th anniversary in recognition of Nehesi’s capacity for digging deep in their indigenous human resource, and surviving the perils of waiting for some external force to determine your own agenda.

We celebrate House of Nehesi as a symbol of what it could mean to achieve a genuine sovereignty of the imagination.

George Lamming (1927) a novelist and poet from Barbados, is best known for his coming-of-age novel, In the Castle of my Skin. He teaches at Brown University.

House of Nehesi


Fabian Badejo


P.O. Box 460

Philipsburg, St. Martin


Tel/Fax (599) 542-4435


Offshore Editing Services

Editor’s Note:

World-renown Barbadian novelist/scholar George Lamming recently congratulated House of Nehesi Publishers on its 25th anniversary in 2007. By May, the small press outfit had already released nine anniversary-year publications. The St. Martin publisher with a Caribbean-wide outreach has also managed to publish a list of literati from within and beyond the region, including Dr. Lamming, that belies its size and admitted limited resources.

*George Lamming, Caribbean novelist/scholar (Saltwater Collection/file photo)


August 20, 2007

Update on Hurricane Dean

Hurricane Dean JamaicaDamage caused by Hurricane Dean - Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM)
August 20, 2007
Last Updated: 1100 AM EDT


St. Thomas: extensive damage has been reported from several communities. Significant wind damage to roofs, storm surges, flooding, collapsed structures, impassable roadways are among the many reports.

St. James: the community of Coral Gardens is severely affected by wind damage.

Kingston and St. Andrew: severe wind damage and downed power lines in the Riverton city area. Also, a fallen tree caused the collapse of a residential building in the Chambers Lane Area of Liguanea, St. Andrew.

Clarendon: flooding has been reported from the Denbigh gully.

Portland: several roadways in Port Antonio, Manchioneal, Mount James and Mount Airy in Buff Bay are blocked.

St. Mary: several roadways from Junction to Broadgate are impassable, blocked by fallen trees.

St. Catherine: storm surges have been reported along the Port Henderson road in Portmore rendering the roadway impassable along with roof damage in the communities of Naggo Head and Newland. The Newland Road is also impassable due to a fallen utility pole. Additionally, sections of the roadway have been eroded in Hellshire due to storm surges and rising water levels have been reported in Old Harbour forcing the evacuation of several persons.


Telecommunications: cellular telephone lines are down in sections of Portland, St. Mary, and Clarendon and there is no communication link with St. Thomas with efforts are underway to re-establish this.

Electricity: well over 125,000 Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) customers are without power supply.

Water Supply: there have been reports of damage to water supply systems.

Source: Gleaner/Power 106 News

August 19, 2007

Hurricane Aid for Jamaica

Hurricane Dean Aid Jamaica


South Florida's Jamaican community made preparations Saturday to rush donations and other relief to the island after Hurricane Dean sweeps over it today.

The Jamaica Consulate General and the Jamaican Diaspora Southern United States Advisory Board set up several drop-off spots in Miami-Dade and Broward counties where people can go to give bottled water, flashlights, nonperishable food, batteries and first-aid kits.

''We are hopeful Hurricane Dean's path will be diverted away,'' said Ricardo Allicock, Jamaica's Consul General in Miami. "But in the event it is not and Jamaica does suffer, Jamaicans here are prepared to be of assistance.''

Drop-off sites open today are:

• Tortuga Imports, 14202 SW 142nd Ave., Miami-Dade. 305-378-6668.

• Holy Family Episcopal Church, 18501 NW Seventh Ave., Miami Gardens. 305-652-6797.

• Kendall Community Church of God, 8795 SW 112th St., Kendall. 305-274-3072.

• Holy Sacrament Episcopal Church, 2801 N. University Dr., Hollywood. 954-432-8686.

• All Lauderhill fire stations. 954-739-0100.


Here is a list of organizations that will provide aid and/or drop off points for anyone seeking to help Jamaica if HurricaneDean causes major damage.

Jamaica Foundation of Houston - Andy Adams
Telephone: 713-772-4456
Fax: 713-785-4095

Jamaican Diaspora Tennessee - Janet Brown

Organization Name: United For Jamaica - Jason Walker
Phone: 404 533 1248

Atlanta Jamaican Association - Allan Alberga

Chicago Concerned Jamaicans, Inc
Phone: (312) 602-4548

Doreen Chin
Membership Chairperson
Jamaica Diaspora of Indiana
P.O Box 55632
Indianapolis, IN 46220

Voicing For Jamaica
Address: 43 Lancaster Gate, LONDON W14 0NL
Phone: 07904 299 472

Jamaican Diaspora Southern United Status - Marlon Hill

Tortuga Imports,Inc.
14202 SW 142 Avenue
Miami, FL. 33186

Holy Family Episcopal Church
18501 NW 7th Avenue, Miami Gardens, FL

Kendall Community Church of God
8795 SW 112 ST. , Kendall-Miami, FL
(305) 274-3072

Holy Sacrament Episcopal Church
2801 N University Dr, Hollywood -Pembroke Pines, FL
(954) 432-8686

City of Lauderhill Fire Stations (open 24 hours)
Most central - 1181 NW 42 Way
Phone: 954-739-0100
Situated just behind De Jamaica Shop south of the Lauderhill Mall

Karline's of the Palm Beaches
4047 Okeechobee Blvd.
Suite 230, West Palm Beach 33409
Tel: 561-932-0103
Contact" Karline Ricketts

MDI Racing
10351 Southern Blvd.
Royal Palm Beach. FL 33411
Tel: 561-798-2433
Contact: Michael Clark

Jamaica Impact, Inc. “JAMPACT”
Contact: Camille T. Barrett, President Elect
Phone: (212) 459-4390
At this time, we are only taking monetary donations to the JAMPACT Disaster Relief Fund. Donations will be accepted through our online payment system, PayPal, at and checks should be made payable to "JAMPACT Disaster Relief Fund" and mailed to the following address:
P.O. Box 3794
Grand Central Station
New York, N.Y. 10163

*All such donations will be tax deductible.

Ms. Jennifer Edwards 336-643-5813
Jamaica National Assoc.
8003 Goldenrod Drive
Greensboro, NC 27455

Organization Name: Break Away Moments - Sandy Isaacs
Phone: (321) 439-5572

Jamaica American Association of Central Fla. - Herbert Dawkins
Phone: (407) 697-4654 or (407) 292-3719

Collection points in Orlando

Quick Ship Caribbean Services
2153 W. Colonial Dr. (In the Magic Mall)
Orlando, Fl. 32804
Tel: (407) 999-9501
Owner: Roy Rattray

FiWe Caribbean Cuisine,
6601 Old Winter Garden Rd.
(corner of Hiawassee Rd. & Old Winter Garden Rd (by Walgreens)
Tel: (407) 293-6393
Owners are Sean & Shari Bedasse.

Mark's Caribbean Cuisine
10034 University Blvd
(corner of Dean Rd. & Univer. Blvd
Tel: (407) 699-8800
Mark Jathan (owner)

Jam Rock Caribbean Cafe
5770 Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway,
(located in Old Town)
Tel: (407) 397-7625
Leroy & Marlene Smithson (owners)

Dollar City Plus
1752 Silver Star Rd.
@ Silver Star & Clark Rd. in Ocoee
Tel: (407) 563-9152
Monica Gray (owner)


August 17, 2007

The Rastafari Memeplex

Rastafari"A group of Rastafarians, who feel that dancehall artiste Munga's promotion of himself as "the Gangsta Ras" with attendant image, is a perversion of the integrity of Rastafari, say they intend to pursue the use of intellectual property protocols to protect and preserve the culture and symbols from misuse."

~Jamaica Observer (July 30, 2007)

Although the current crisis within Rastafari over the use of the "Gangsta Ras" image has been problematic, the controversy surrounding the issue has been exacerbated by the passing of the "generational baton." As an author who has created Rastafari characters and someone who attempts to understand the meaning of experience especially within the Jamaican/Caribbean context, the struggle over the symbols of Rastafari is of enormous interest particularly as it relates to the use of violence or violent images in Jamaica. For while the emergence of "Gangsta Ras" is disturbing, it would be disingenuous to ignore because Rastafari was born out of violence.

According to Joseph Owens in Dread, his seminal study of Rastafari: "In December 1933 Leonard P. Howell was arrested for using "seditious language and blasphemous language…to boost the sale of the pictures of "King Ras Tafari of Abyssinia, son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba" (14). Leonard P. Howell, the founder of Rastafari in Jamaica, was ultimately sentenced to two years imprisonment on the charges of "sedition and blasphemy" (Owens 26). Thus from its inception, Rastafari has been the subject of violence, and during its evolution, the movement has shown characteristics that ethologists such as Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene, 1976) would define as a "high variance" memeplex. Basically a meme is a unit of information and a memeplex is a cluster of ideas/memes that aggregate around a subject. Although there has been some debate over the biological/chemical basis of memes, as Dawkins contends, I like to think of a meme as metaphor for understanding the relationship between people and information, and how that information is transmitted among people, groups, and over time.

The current memeplex of Rastafari began when Leonard P. Howell and "many hundreds of Rastas"(Owens 19) in Pinnacle, St. Catherine, Jamaica, continued with their proclamation:

Haile Selassie, Ras Tafari, was the "Son of God" come to govern all mankind.

As the meme spread quickly through Jamaica, especially among the poor, it attracted several other memes that had been present in the culture, but did not have the centripetal attraction of the image of Rastafari. One of the earliest memes that contributed to the explosive growth Rastafari meme was the inclusion of Marcus Mosiah Garvey as a prophet or as “John the Baptist reincarnate” (Owen 25). The connection between Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Marcus Garvey's UNIA, Jamaica’s history within Plantation America, which included the importation of Asians after the failed Apprenticeship period, and the nascent liberation struggles in Africa gave rise to complex (and sometimes contradictory) memes within Rastafari:

The use of marijuana as a sacrament

Wearing of locks and the Nazarite vow

Use of the King James Version, Apocrypha, and other sacred texts

Use of reasoning to discern truth

Black people as the Lost Tribe of Israel

Connection between the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the months of the year

Black people as the true Israelites

Superiority of the Black man

Divinity of Haile Selassie and Black people

Divinity/Unity of all mankind: One God, One Aim, One Destiny.

Opposition to Babylon (authority)

Rejection of victimhood and personal agency

Creation of a metaphysical identity of InI rather than one based on race, class, or creed

Voice of the poor, dispossessed, and disenfranchised

Creation of the term InI to signify the connection between Jah Rastafari ("I") and the individual ("I")

The inviolability of personal experience.

Rastafari's sustainability, sometimes in the face of the harshest persecution by colonial and postcolonial authorities ("Babylon"), has been largely due to its insistence on the individual interpretation of Rastafari and its tolerance for individual revelation in the brethren's ostensible acceptance with a nod, passing of the chalice, and outreach to anyone who but says the name of Rastafari. Also, because Rastafari does not have a central governing body, the Opposition to Babylon meme has given rise to ascetic (Boboshanti) and proactive (Coptic) interpretations.

The spread of Rastafari was also aided by the rise of Reggae that came with its own memeplex:

Praise for love and sex

Voice of the poor, disenfranchised, and dispossessed.

Rebellion against authority

The equality of all humanity: equal rights and justice

Appeal to the moral imagination

Positive (upful) social messages

Use of the King James Bible

It may be useful of think of Rastafari, which began as a movement to proclaim the divinity of Haile Selassie, and Reggae, a musical form that evolved from Mento, Ska, and Rocksteady, as expressions of the Jamaican ethos, and these similarities made them virtually indistinguishable because many of the Reggae songwriters were Rastafari.

As in the early days of Buddhism and Christianity which spread along trade routes, Rastafari and Reggae spread along the modern drug trade routes, and because of the championing of the cause of the poor and dispossessed, rebellion against authority, and the unique combination of politics, sex, religion, justice, and equal rights, it became the music of the young and powerless in the Caribbean and throughout the world. For if you could dance, chant, smoke weed, make love, and change the world by bringing down Babylon, then, "Wheel and come again, my selector!"

All of these changes have been happening within Rastafari for the past seventy years and because of its close association with Reggae, the tensions between the purely religious meme of Rastafari, and the economic interests of Reggae/Dancehall artistes who are Rastafari were almost inevitable. Added to the geographical and temporal displacement within the memeplex of Rastafari, the struggle will continue and some may attempt, as with the lawsuit against "Gangsta Ras" to form a centralized body of Rastafari. Yet this would be in direct contradiction to Rastafari's validation of individuality.

Also, from all appearances, it would seem as if the "Gangsta Ras" image exploits the meme of Opposition to Babylon and has taken the approach of the Nyahbinghi. Ras Munga’s decision, as a Rastafari and commercial artiste, has most likely been based on the following factors:

Commercial success of hip-hop culture's glamorization of violence

Mainstream American media's inability to deliver hardcore sex, so it delivers hardcore violence

The specter of AIDS

"Gangsta Ras" if it can produce danceable music, successfully exploit the "opposition to Babylon" meme within Rastafari by appealing to the sense of injustice and social inequality in Jamaica and the Caribbean, and asserting that violence is the only alternative against the forces of oppression ("Babylon") may become a commercial success. Indeed, Ras Munga may even have the precedent of some of Bob Marley's songs that were chanted by freedom fighters in Africa; "And brothers you're right, you're right, you're right, you're so right/ We'll have to fight, we'll have to fight, fighin for our rights" ("Zimbabwe"). But Marley's songs were never a glorification of violence for violence’s sake and they were always directed against authorities that used physical and psychological violence against the oppressed. Violence was always a last resort as Marley explained in an interview that seemed to posit Rastafari as the opposite to violence:

I wanna tell ya: if them want to win the revolution, them have to win it with Rasta.' Cause if you win another way, you have to go fight again. When you're Rasta and you win, there's no more war.

With so many meanings and memes, Rastafari will evolve as the adherents adapt the message to meet their needs. This has happened with nearly every spiritual movement and Rastafari is no different. What can only be answered in the heart, soul and mind, balanced against the human need for seemingly shared spiritual experiences, may precipitate a human response to the question, what is Rastafari? And the answer may just be, there is no one Rastafari, but many Rastafari.


Previous Posts on Rastafari

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Rastafari

Rastafari @ the X Roads

"Get up, Stand up": The Nobel Truth of Rastafari

Rastafari and Renaming: A Model for Freedom

Reggae, Rastafari & Aesthetics

Retelling I-Story: "Redemption Song

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We Don't Need No More Trouble


August 16, 2007

Pamela Mordecai Have a Blog

Pam MordecaiPam Mordecai has launched a new blog, JahWorld, and has started immediately with an interesting post, The Creole and How and What I write. She’s also running a poll: Should Jamaica designate Louise Bennett Coverley a National Hero?

Here’s a sample of the post,
The Creole and How and What I write:

Much of what I write, poetry or prose, is a gift from that earliest community of speakers who in a relatively short space of time created this language, quick and brisk after the slavers brought us across the Long Water, and a gift from all those speakers who have used it since then. People and events, jokes and stories, images and ideas not only come quick to me when I use Jamaican Creole; they also rejoice me in a special way, one that I'll try to describe some other time.

I know more great posts are on the way.

About Pam Mordecai:

Grandmother of Zoey Rita as of 20 July, also the birthday of my brother, Richard, murdered in 2004. THE TRUE BLUE OF ISLANDS (2005 - poems) was written for the Rajah, acronym of his initials and a perfect fit for him. Zoey is gorgeous, spitting image of her father, though she has her mother's and great grandmother's long fingers and dark curly hair. I'll write poems and stories for her, writing being the way I've earned a living for over twenty years. Most recently completed project: a play, THE PIG FROM LOPINOT, commissioned by the Lorraine Kimsa Young People's Theatre in Toronto. Thirty books so far, including textbooks, collections of poetry, children's books, anthologies of writing by Caribbeans. Miscellaneous critical writing. Numberless poems and stories in journals, textbooks and anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic. Most recent book: PINK ICING: STORIES, published by Insomniac Press in 2006.


Reading: Marva McClean's Bridges to Memory

Marva McCleanEducator and author Dr. Marva McClean will discuss her book of poems, Bridges to Memory, on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the South Regional/BCC Library, 7300 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines.

“The poems,” says the
author, are “rooted in the crucible of the Caribbean/African American Diaspora.” She says the work is intended to provoke readers to reflect on those personal and public experiences that have shaped developments in their lives and given voice to their identity.

“In the aftermath of slavery and the tumult of this post colonial era,” says McClean, “we are challenged to construct bridges to memory in search of our ancestral footprints, those mile markers to anchor us and assert our place in this New World. In excavating the past through poetry, I hope to unearth some of the intangible artifacts that will signify the future, not just for me, but for others from the Diaspora as well. “

A Jamaican born educator and writer, McClean researches and writes about issues of ancestral heredity and inherent tensions in the creative journey of a woman of color in the Americas. Her book is published by the Caribbean American Commentary Newspaper. For more information, please visit

Founded in 1974, the award-winning Broward County Libraries Division, library, provides essential quality of life community service as well as outstanding customer service throughout Broward County. The library consists of 37 branches, more than three million items for public use, 970 permanent staff, 114 part-time staff and $4.6 million in grants with 41 grant-supported positions. Broward County Library is the ninth largest library system in the United States serving 10 million customers annually.


August 15, 2007

Palibra: A New Opportunity for Writers

Geoffrey PhilpFrom The BackList by Felicia Pride

Palibra is the evolution of our on-demand society - an online, digital forum where everyone can be an author and get paid. Only 99 cents to download your favorite material! An unheard-of 30% royalty rate for authors!

If you love to write and you love to read, Palibra's the place.

PUBLISH TODAY It's always free to sign up and post your work. Closet poet? Published writer promoting upcoming or experimental work? Unpublished writer ready to jump start your career?

Palibra's the place.

WRITERS WANTED A site for readers and writers needs... WRITING. Lots of it. All of it. If it can be written, it can be posted, it can be on Palibra. YOU are your own editor. Whatever you want to publish, now you CAN.

Palibra, a new publishing platform for writers, was started by author Edwardo Jackson and his partner Curtis Midkiff. Authors already down with Palibra: Lolita Files, Gloria Mallette Karen Quinones-Miller, Kenji Jasper, and...soon to be Felicia Pride!

Writers and readers alike WE NEED YOU! Go to today!

Post now, post often, and spread the word!


As part of my practice to put my word into action, I have posted a short story, "Sister Faye and the Dreadlocked Vampire" @ Palibra.

Why not go over and check it out!

August 14, 2007

Review of All or Nothing by Preston Allen

Miami writer Preston AllenAllen’s dark and insightful novel depicts narrator P’s sobering descent into his gambling addiction. P, a Miami native, is a school bus driver and desperate gambler who spends his nights (and many of his days) in South Florida casinos.

Both a surprisingly likable and an often despicable character, P is a perpetual loser with a $1,000-a-day habit who lies to his wife and scrounges in the seats of his bus looking for loose change the kids left behind. He takes the small amounts of cash that his destitute, dying mother offers him to support his obsession. P knows he’s sick, but he doesn’t want any help; he lusts for the next big score.

Finally, his luck begins to change, transforming him from a broke degenerate into a legendary professional gambler in a signature black cowboy hat. The well-written novel takes the reader on a chaotic ride as P chases, finds and loses fast, easy money. Allen (Churchboys and Other Sinners) reveals how addiction annihilates its victims and shows that winning isn’t always so different from losing.

From Publishers Weekly (August 13, 2007)


Preston L. Allen is the author of the novels Hoochie Mama, Bounce, Come with Me, Sheba, and the short story collection, Churchboys and Other Sinners. His stories have also appeared in several of the Brown Sugar series. Preston is the winner of the Sonja H. Stone Prize in Literature and a recipient of a State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Fiction. He lives in Miami, Florida.

Preorder your copy of All or Nothing by Preston Allen

ISBN 978-1-933354-41-5

August 13, 2007

Caribbean Curitibas?

Geoffrey Philp's Blog Spot
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”
~ Margaret Mead

Over at Hunter of Genius, Maximillian Kaizen discusses the implications of Margaret Mead's revolutionary statement and gives several examples of urban renewal and she notes the work of Jaime Lerner in Curitiba. Lerner's achievements include solving helping orphaned or neglected street children and solving the city's flood problems, making Curitiba on of the World's Fast Cities.

Maximillian has high hopes for Cape Town which she describes as a "city [that] jostles between 1st and 3rd world: ideas, attitudes, infrastructure, cultures that don’t mix easily" and this has led to a flight of the creative class. Sounds familiar? His solution is to synergize the creative class.

I think the same could be done in Jamaica and the Caribbean. The entire archipelago could be dotted with Curitibas that have solved their problems with the imagination and will of a committed citizenry.

Imagine what we InI could be...


August 10, 2007

Frank and Traffic School

sixty word short storyHere's another of those sixty word stories. Of course, I don't think I will ever match the brevity of Ernest Hemingway's famous six word short story:

"For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn."

Frank and Traffic School

Dear Geoff,

We won’t be able to use computer for the next few days. Last week, I was in a car accident and to avoid points on my driver’s license, I had to go to traffic school.

I opted for the online version.

I spilled my beer while taking the test and cruising the Internet.

Everything’s crashed.





August 8, 2007

Rastafari @ the X roads

RastafariAbout a year ago, I was interviewed by Darren Middleton, who uses my book, Benjamin, My Son, as part of a religion course at Texas Christian University, about the influence of Rastafari on my work. The interview became part of an article, "Dreadlocked Dante," which will be published in an upcoming issue of Caribbean Quarterly. I was reminded about the interview by a recent post in Yannick's Misadventures regarding a group of Rastafari and their attempts to sue dancehall artist, Munga over his "Gangsta Ras" image:

No one has copyrights, or ownership of Rasta. Did this group invent Rasta, muchless to claim ownership? And are we to stay stagnant? No Rasta will evolve, does evolve and has evolved and will not remain what confined to anyone individuals ideas or and one group.

I agree especially with the idea," No one has copyrights, or ownership of Rasta." Rastafari belongs to no one or if it does, it belongs to InI. But here's the section that really caught my eyes:

Especially with a generational baton pass at hand, even in the Rasta community we see a generational ideological battle

This generational crisis within Rastafari matches a part of the interview in which Professor Middleton (DJNM) asked me (GP) the following:

DJNM: My own research convinces me that Rastafarians, especially those in Africa, are revising their Christology these days, in that they either downplay or deny Haile Selassie’s divinity. Jason/Benjamin certainly seems to symbolize this trend, no? At one point, he champions the Rastafari for their moral values – unity and oneness – and not for their Christology (p.124). Thoughts?

GP: Jason is what I would call a secular Rasta – he accepts the unity and oneness, but not the divinity of Haile Selassie. All religions adapt and change, but in changing they face the issue of remaining true to their core ideas. If Rastafari can perhaps come to a compromise – Haile Selassie represented the kingly aspect of the Christ nature and preserve InI, the indwelling god connected to God, they could survive.

My interest in the survival and the meaning of Rastafari is not casual. I have been fascinated by Rastafari since my adolescence and this interest was enhanced by the music of Bob Marley and the Wailers. The last part of Yannick's observations also paralleled some of the generational issues in Jamaican/ Caribbean writing. As a young writer growing up during the seventies and interested in the theme of identity, I had to ask myself, how is my work similar to and different from these writers:

The Colonials (writers born in the thirties) preoccupied with the creation of a regional identity with work that demonstrated that they were equal or if not better than their counterparts from England, Spain, France, and the Netherlands.

The Postcolonials (writers born in the forties) who were interested in creating a national identity out of the experience of a particular island.

The Independence/Reggae Generation (writers born in the fifties/early sixties) who came of age during the seventies and began creating work that sometimes focused on the disillusionment with national independence and the Caribbean diaspora.

The influence of Rastafari and Reggae were very important in my development as a writer for the following reasons:

Music in my own tongue, in my own voice and about my experiences to which I could sing and dance.

Creation of values to contradict the racist, postcolonial attitudes that were prevalent in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

Creation of aesthetics that gave me the confidence to create out of my experience works such as Benjamin, My Son, "Sister Faye and the Dreadlocked Vampire," and Uncle Obadiah and the Alien.

Replacement of a racial/national/ identity with a based on wholeness and grounded in the metaphysical identity of InI

As the main character in Benjamin in, My Son says,

Although I could never accept Haile Selassie as the reincarnated Christ, it [Rastafarianism] helped me overcome my woundedness over my wealth, my colour, and my class. I saw the oneness in things – like the light the Impressionists said suffused all things (124).

For it has always been my contention the central tenet of Rastafari, InI, that embraces diversity while at the same time engaging the moral imagination of its adherents and the artists who have been influenced by Reggae (a sonic representation of the experience of Rastafari) provides a basis for aesthetics, the creation of identity, and prophetic discourse within the struggle for personal and national liberation. I've also realized that Rastafari contains the solutions for psychic wholeness, especially for people of African descent who have survived the Atlantic Holocaust.

It will be interesting to see how the temporal and geographical isolation of Rastafari as a memeplex will manifest itself in the upcoming years.


Previous Posts on Rastafari

"Get up, Stand up": The Nobel Truth of Rastafari

Rastafari and Renaming: A Model for Freedom

Reggae, Rastafari & Aesthetics

Retelling I-Story: "Redemption Song

August 6, 2007

Two Book Reviews: The Girl With the Golden Shoes by Colin Channer

Colin Channer Jamaican authorBook Review: The Girl With The Golden Shoes By Bob Ham

With hundreds of writers, filmmakers and playwrights adding their respective twists on the coming of age story each year, it is amazing that anyone has the time or energy to come up with a new, heretofore unseen view on a character's shaky and often troubled steps towards adulthood.

Yet, with increasing regularity new voices gently float above the din and, thanks to the ever-growing access to the work of artists from even the most remote corners of the globe, a great number of those voices belong to non-Western speakers.

So it is that we American readers have been blessed with Colin Channer, a young writer of Jamaican descent, who acknowledges the archetypes of this kind of story, but adds a tart, sunbaked world view to it which invigorates the tale, giving it an exotic and dangerous spin only hinted by his contemporary peers.

The character that Channer gives us to follow in this story couldn't be more marginalized nor on the outskirts of the society that she was raised in. If being a young black girl living on a small Caribbean island during World War II weren't enough, Estrella Thompson is also not very well-regarded within her fishing village. She was brought there by relatives to stay with her grandparents after her mother died giving birth to her. In a culture rife with superstition and fanciful religious fervor, this marked the girl as an outsider, a status that has been amplified in the ensuing years due to Estrella's headstrong attitude, curiosity and her ability to read.

It is her curiosity that is her undoing within the village, as a chance meeting with a military diver (whom the rest of the children fear is a monster) that coincides with a drop-off in luck for the fishermen is enough to force Estrella out of the village. Although she is angered by her ousting, the decision crystallizes her focus, leaving her only one concrete solution to her bad fortune: she needs to find her way to the town of Seville, buy a pair of shoes and then get a job.

The rest of the novella is taken up with Estrella's journey, an arduous trek filled with unsavory characters and situations, and it is in the latter two-thirds of the novel that Channer's prose truly takes wings. He imbues each step with nods to Estrella's fellow wanderers (Dorothy, Don Quixote, Dante) and packages each page with rich sensory details that put a gentle haze over each scene. As well, Channer is able to move swiftly between the fractured English of Estrella's inner monologue to straightforward narration to the myriad of dialects and languages of each character with an ease that neither confuses nor alienates the reader.

What is especially striking is the way Channer subtly shows the changing spirit of Estrella. She is still as iron-willed and singularly-focused as she is at the beginning, but little shifts in her vocabulary and tone give her even more depth as she moves through the story. By the end of the book, her English is still cracked, but she feels wiser and more assured having been able to mix the knowledge she has gained through her books with what she gained by tactile experience.

Although the book's brevity is to be admired, it is also the book's undoing. The ending feels a little too pat and quickly wrapped up. Although anyone who understands the culture and time period in question knows that Estrella's story is far from over nor will it be a journey free of troubles, still it would have been a much stronger story were that explored or the story ended more ambiguously.

That being said, The Girl With The Golden Shoes, is an otherwise spotless book by a writer of rare talent and voice. With Channer's age and abilities, I doubt we have heard the last of his storytelling and the literary world is better off for it. There are too few voices speaking from the margins as strongly and lovingly as Channer does in this book.


Hope in the Unseen

Tossed out of her island village, a girl seeks her destiny on the road

Reviewed by Tina McElroy Ansa

Washington Post: Sunday, August 5, 2007; Page BW07

Estrella Roselyn Maria Eugenia Thompson, the heroine of the short, beautiful novella The Girl with the Golden Shoes, is one of those characters who steal your heart. It seems not exactly correct to call her a character, however. She feels too real, too genuine. She is more like home folks, those friends and relatives you know from the inside out.

In fact, much of Colin Channer's touching story shimmers with truth and authenticity. The Girl With the Golden Shoes is essentially a Caribbean fable that holds a universal vision of self-discovery and resonates with the local patois floating on a soft, salty breeze. It is the story of 14-year-old Estrella, who, in 1942, sets out in her only dress, fleeing her seaside fishing village for the "city," in hopes of work and a pair of shoes. Threatened and abandoned by her family and ostracized by her community, she makes her way alone. The sin for which she must pay is that of seeking the unknown, whether on the pages of a book or in the voice of a stranger from under the sea. Her fellow villagers fear that a six-week run of bad fishing was caused by Estrella's brashness in engaging a scuba diver on the beach. They "felt as if the girl had put them under siege, a sense that if they didn't act, then history would remember them as people who'd watched and waited while their way of life was slowly laid to waste." But, as the exiled Estrella makes her shaky way -- by foot, by bus, by horse, by truck -- readers realize what the villagers did not: An explorer is simply what she is. She can't help herself.

Channer, the Jamaican-American author of two previous novels and a short story collection, conjures up unforgettable images. On the first leg of Estrella's trip, her "stubby, silver bus" crawls "north along the wild Atlantic coast…like a beetle on a trail of gum."

Estrella's story is one of longing, strength, wrong-headedness. And through it all, the reader falls under the sway of a flawed but brave heroine who can be hard as flint or as vulnerable as a newborn. "What did it mean that all her thoughts of fishing hadn't frozen into hate? You have to harden your heart, she told herself. Otherwise, you might go back."

Yearning is a leitmotif in this novella, and Channer hits every note of that theme with heart-wrenching specificity. At one point in her journey, a hungry, lonely Estrella spies a comforting scene:

Across the street she saw the orange light of bottle torches glowing in the stalls. . . . She could also see the silhouettes of dogs and milling people, and smell the garlic marinade in which the cuts of shark were left to soak all day before the old negritas dipped them in the cornmeal batter, turning them to make the grainy mixture cream the meat, which they'd slide into the iron pots that had been used by their grandmothers, and the batter-covered meat would settle in the oily depths where all the salty flavor lurked and gain a brittle shell.

Parts of Estrella's journey are difficult to endure. At the end, the author has readers on their seats in "a whitewalled Buick Century " right along with the heroine, fearful that she is being taken to a fate even worse than she envisioned. Still Channer is such a master that the reader feels safe in his hands.

The Girl with the Golden Shoes is a sparkling gift, the tale of a meager, shoeless, raggedy abandoned Cinderella whose hardships make her all the wiser. "I see for myself now," Estrella muses. "All man is man. All flesh is flesh." ·

Tina McElroy Ansa's fifth novel, Taking After Mudear, will be published in October.


Jamaica's Independence Day

Jamaican Independence


August 3, 2007

Frank and the Tennis Ball

sixty word short storyEver since I learned about these sixty word stories, I've been fascinated by their economy. They are great writing exercises that work almost like haiku, and I've continued to learn compression without sacrificing the essentials. Here's a story that I enjoyed writing.

Frank and the Tennis Ball

The THUMP! made me think someone was trying to break into the house. I ran outside with a baseball bat to confront the intruder. Frank was throwing a ball against the garage door and clutching it in his glove as it bounced back.

“What are you doing?” I asked, expecting an answer about cause and effect.

“Playing catch with God."


Have a great weekend!