June 29, 2009

Growing up without Dad: Sheron Hamilton-Pearson

Sheron Hamilton-PearsonIt’s funny, but I never knew that my granddad was not my father until I was almost eight years old. As far as I knew, Ma Lion and Rag & Bone (as I affectionately named them) were my mum and dad--in fact, they were really my grandparents.

Much later, I learned the story of my birth to an underage mother who delivered me whilst in the care of the local authority. The story goes that when my grandmother saw my huge saucer black-as-coal eyes, she was mesmerized and vowed not to leave without me. I was three months old and I lived with her until the age of 14.

When I learned the truth about my grandparents, I don’t remember yearning for my real father. His name was never mentioned. It was as though I was a product of an Immaculate Conception or better still – that I’d fallen out of the sky!

Much, much later in life when my grandfather died, my thoughts turned to the father I never knew. I started to wonder what he looked like, where he lived, but the overriding question was – why he never sought me out? What was it about me that could stifle his curiosity?

I heard talk among family and friends that he lived close by and that he’d fathered several mixed-race children, but I was never conscious of our paths ever crossing. I thought, like the perfect fairytale, my spirit would have recognized the blood connection if he ever came near.

Years went by and I gradually gave up hope of ever seeing the man who was responsible for my creation. But then, out of the blue, there was a message with his address and that he wanted to see me. I was amazed at the fact that he lived on the route I travelled daily. If he had looked out his window at any given time, he would have seen me on my various sojourns along that beaten path – back and forth, back and forth. Yet strangely, our paths never coincided and we never collided.

I should have known that his summons was an indication of something wrong; he had cancer and wanted to make his peace. But where do you begin, this stranger before you who searches your face as you search his, studying every line, pockmark and mole – desperately seeking self in the reflection of each other’s eyes. Where do you start, what questions to ask, it all seemed futile. After all, he was dying and he knew it!

He just wanted peace.

Did I have the courage to grant him absolution, give him penance of a few Hail Mary’s for the lifetime of deprivation?

It was sad, really. I was angry and bitter, but you can’t rail against a dead man and he was the walking dead – the soul was leaving and he was just a shell of a man. I did learn about his love of music and poetry, and his artistry is now my legacy.

His funeral that followed was a dispassionate affair--father in name only. I mourned him as I would a distant acquaintance.


Sheron Hamilton-Pearson was born in London, but now lives in the Bronx with her daughter. Ms. Hamilton-Pearson, who works in the legal field, is an aspiring writer and poet whose works have been mainly published online.

June 28, 2009

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

It's been very difficult to stare at those four digits, 1958, because it was the same year I was born. And the more I look at it, the more I have to ask myself, what is the meaning of a life?

I realize that on the face of it, the question seems absurd because of its relationship to Michael Jackson. I didn't know the man, so what's the big deal?

But in just talking with friends and family over the past few days, I've also realized that Michael's life had a profound effect on all our lives.

So I come back to the question, what is the meaning of a life?

As I said in a previous comment, Michael's life forces me to answer these questions:

Am I erasing the effects of racism in my life?
Am I honing my skills to perfection?
Am I creating opportunities for others?

To which, I'll add one more,

Am I accepting my inner peace?

This will probably be the last post that I write about Michael because I truly wish that he will Rest in Peace.


June 26, 2009

He Would Dance: Michael Jackson

he would dance,
even when his frail body could no longer bear
the weight of all our fears

or when we questioned his allegiance
under the spotlight's unforgiving glare
he would dance,

his dervishes leading him into a trance
where we witnessed the joy of an answered prayer
a rapture that lifted us higher than we'd ever dream or dare,
he would dance.

---Geoffrey Philp---

Related Post:
"A Tribute to My Friend, Michael Jackson" by Deepak Chopra

June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson: Spirit Dancer

Michael Jackson

When I was sixteen, I hated Michael Jackson. Nearly every girl that I knew had a Michael Jackson poster on her wall. I'd enter the room and there would be Michael Jackson smiling above her bed--it should have just said, "Michael was here." Talk about a mood killer. And to top it, we were both the same age!

Still, I couldn't envy the man. Not only because he was a genius, but because I felt an affinity for him as a fellow Jehovah's Witness. And I know how a religion like that can weigh down the soul.

For Michael was born to sing, he was born to set our souls on fire--to show us how a spirit body could soar.

Year after year Michael would create great music. In Jamaica, I'd stand there at a party waiting for the moment, hoping for a slow dance when the DJ would play "Got to Be There" or "Ben." If I got that dance, things would be looking up--that is until he'd stare at me again.

I continued to listen Michael's music when he played with my hero Bob Marley in Jamaica, and when I came to Miami, hoped again that they'd play "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Rock with You" at a disco in Miami. In those early days in Miami, nobody knew about Bob Marley, so Michael became my musical pimp.

Michael's music followed me through my young adulthood, student days, college days, young married days, young fatherhood days--no road trip was ever complete without a Michael Jackson song: "It's just a Thriller" Even now when I have to get on the treadmill every morning, Michael leads me out of my stupor with "Shake Your Body Down to the Ground" or "Beat it."

Those songs, those songs. Those songs I'll never forget and which have become permanent fixtures on my iPod:

"The Way You Make Me Feel",

"Man in the Mirror"

"Dirty Diana


"Billie Jean"

"Rock With You."

and my favorite, "Human Nature"

But what I'll always remember is the first time I saw him on MTV and the opportunities that he created for every single R&B, hip-hop, reggae singer, …

And when he moonwalked!

And, yes, there were the dark moments in his life. He is gone now so they won't follow him into his next life.

And if anyone is still inclined to judge, listen to "Human Nature" one more time.

Rest in Peace, Brother.


Top Ten Michael Jackson Songs

Bob Marley and Michael Jackson in Jamaica (1)

Bob Marley and Michael Jackson in Jamaica (2)

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ChangeMakers: Peter Ferguson

Peter Ferguson
As a celebration of Caribbean Heritage Month, Jamaican-based photographer Peter Ferguson will introduce ChangeMakers: 101 Portraits of Men in Jamaica to South Florida at 2:00 PM on June 27 at the South Regional-BC Library in Pembroke Pines (7300 Pines Blvd, Pembroke Pines). The book signing will also give the photographer a chance to meet Florida-based Jamaicans who are themselves making important contributions in their adopted communities.


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Growing Up Without Dad: Winner!

Who's Your Daddy?Sheron Hamilton-Pearson has won an autographed copy of Who’s Your Daddy?: And Other Stories.

Congratulations, Sheron!


June 24, 2009

Blogger and Me: A Three Year Journey

BloggerWho'd have thunk it? Blogger is turning ten and 290,000 hits later, this blog is almost turning three.

It has truly been a remarkable ride from what started as a lonely post on a Christmas evening to a gathering of so many blogger friends and acquaintances--many of whom I'd love to meet or with whom I'd love to share a cup of coffee or a Red Stripe.

And it's a community from all over the world! Here are the Top 25!

Source: Google Analytics (May 24, 2008 to June 23, 2009)

Some of them are students who needed some more information about my story, "My Brother's Keeper," from The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories. Some have been teachers who've used my poetry rubric, list of Caribbean authors and famous Caribbean Americans.

And some have been constant companions, writers and readers, over this journey of give and take, posting and commenting, teaching and learning.

I have learned about the work of so many writers and poets and I've gained so many new readers who've said to me when we've met in person, "I recognize you from the Internet. I never knew about your work until I read your blog."

But more than anything else, blogging has opened the door for me to receive many invitations to read from my work, publish, speak out against injustices, and to share the poems, short stories, essays and novels of Caribbean and South Florida writers whose work I enjoy. This, in turn, as one of my friends at the Caribbean American Book & Art Fair remarked, has also made me a more confident writer.

And it's good to feel that I am contributing in a positive way to the ideas in Caribbean blogosphere. For if there is one idea that I'd love to reach a critical mass in the consciousness of the Jamaican and Caribbean community, it's what I learned from Rastafari: It is up to InI to create the future that I desire.

I have learned that I cannot wait for anyone to do anything for me. Anything that I want to do, I will have to do it for myself. And if I gain a few more friends along the way, then it's a few more rounds at the bar.

Blogging represents a kind of freedom that I've never experienced before. It's the freedom to publish, to say, to do, to express myself in a medium that doesn't have the constraints of poetry or fiction writing. And if I think I've written a good poem or short story, then I don't have to submit (God, I hate that word!) my work all over the place and wait until a few prescient publishers understand my work. I just publish it here.

Blogging the ultimate form of democracy--which is why the abbreviated forms of blogging such as Twitter have gained such popularity. And coming from a place with people who love to decide who should have a voice and who shouldn't, then you can only imagine the level independence that I feel very time I post.

It's a way of whispering in the dark: I am here. I am alive. Is anyone out there?


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What Does it Mean to be Caribbean-American?: Marisella Veiga

Caribbean American Heritage Month

Caribbean Homes

I was born on an island in the Spanish Caribbean, Cuba. Three years later my family went into exile in the United States. However, it wasn’t until I finished graduate school in northwest Ohio in the mid-1980s, that I decided to explore my roots in the region.

Returning to Cuba was not an option. We had family members in both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Unemployment was high in Puerto Rico in 1986. Yet I stood a better chance there without bureaucratic hitches common to immigrant workers.

By moving to the Caribbean, I’d hoped for a better understanding of my own heritage. My Spanish improved, my understanding grew. And one of the truths I came to know while living on this beautiful island was that I remained a Cuban exile. Puerto Rico was not Cuba.

Neither was the Dominican Republic. I learned that during a three month artist-in-residency there. But on both islands I saw glimpses of what my life would have been if I had remained in Cuba.

I stayed in Puerto Rico for two and a half years, eventually finding part-time work as an English editor with United Press International. The company’s San Juan bureau covered 27 Caribbean nations, including Surinam and Guyana. That job provided me with a broad education on the region.

As a result, I became interested in Haiti. At the time I was on the English desk during the first elections that island had in 30 years. When the turmoil settled some, I decided to see Haiti for myself. I talked with two women journalists who had traveled there often, alone.

As I looked out the window of the airplane at the deforested Haitian mountains, a thought popped into my head: I’m coming home. Home? I thought. Yes.

Home to Haiti.

I remembered that Cuba lay a few miles west, across the Windward Passage. To date, it’s the closest I’ve been to my actual homeland.

That moment clarified my relationship to the Caribbean—no matter which island I was visiting or living on, I was home.


Marisella VeigaMarisella Veiga was born in Havana, Cuba, and went into exile with her family in 1960. She was raised both in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Miami, Florida. She received a B.A. in English from Macalester College and a Master’s in Fine Arts in Poetry from Bowling Green State University. Her writing has appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers and literary anthologies. Veiga has won The Pushcart Prize XX, Best of the Small Presses, Special Mention in Fiction, the Canute A. Brodhurst Prize for Best Short Story in The Caribbean Writer. She was also given the Evelyn LaPierre Award for Journalism in Alexandria, Virginia. She is a nationally syndicated columnist with Hispanic Link News Service. Recently, Veiga released a spoken word recording with Eclipse Recording Studios that has collected a few. The CD is Square Watermelons: Ten Essays on Living with Two Cultures.

June 23, 2009

Green for Human Rights in Iran

"Every man got a right to decide his own destiny
And in this judgment, there is no partiality"
"Zimbabwe" ~ Bob Marley

Give thanks to Rethabile,who has enjoined me in this cause.
One Heart

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June 22, 2009

Derek Walcott @ Caribbean American Book & Art Fair

Derek Walcott

Every time that I think Derek Walcott has nothing new to teach me, he surprises me. For given his age, it is easy to think that the old man has joined the ranks of those stale, Caribbean intellectuals and artists who continue to mouth the same old platitudes, repackaged in endless variations, without any regard for the present situation in the region.

But Walcott showed he was still the literary lion of the Caribbean when after a brilliant introduction by Carole Boyce Davies and poetic tribute by Donna Aza Weir Soley, he mounted the stage at the Caribbean American Book & Art Fair to read from his latest manuscript, White Egrets.

The fire, the passion, the love of these islands that Walcott, like Shabine in "The Schooner Flight," knows "from Monos to Nassau," was still evident. Yet I will admit I was a bit shocked when he held the railings--a hint of mortality?--to steady himself.

Walcott prefaced the reading by criticizing what he terms the current philosophy of Caribbean tourist officials, which he defined as "slavery with a smile" and described the new mega-hotels cropping up over the region as the "new plantations by the sea." He blamed the governments for giving away many of our beaches to the new prospectors without setting up the necessary tax structures that would benefit the nationals by the erection of theatres, museums, and other educational/cultural institutions.

Then, using his actor's gift of timing, Walcott led us through his litany of poems that culminated in two poems for Barack Obama.

Although the first poem, "Forty Acres" was commissioned by the Times, Walcott was reluctant: "I told them that I didn't write occasional poems, but when I heard how much they were going to pay me, I accepted. Like any good whore says, 'I have children.'"

Walcott then spoke about the origins of the poem: the promise of "forty acres and a mule," the engravings of Hart Benton, and gave us a lesson in Latin about the relationship of the Latin word for "plough" and poetry (hints of Heaney?)--and the connections to Jasper Johns' evocative use of the stripes of the American flag as a series of furrows.

The second poem, "The World is Waiting," was written, Walcott explained, after the BBC realized that he could "be had" and offered him a favorable amount of money.

"I didn't know where to begin," said Walcott in a bewildered tone, "so I went for a haircut."

What emerged from that simple haircut (and taught me about another of his modes of composition) was a poem in which Walcott managed to link the issues surrounding Obama's inauguration, "‘is that a Muslim or an African name, Obama?’" to the landscape of the Caribbean, memories of Malcolm X, King, Garvey, Frederick Douglass, the yapping dogs, the church in Alabama and the hopes of many people, but especially those of black people, around the world.

But before Walcott began, he treated us to a musical arrangement by Galt MacDermot of the poem.

"So the world is waiting for Obama, my barber said," and the music and the words merged into a lilting calypso that was followed by Walcott's reading.

Then came the shock of recognition and the audience rising to their feet to applaud another poetic triumph.

Walcott stood, signaled to the soundman, and then sat as he left us with the musical benediction ringing in our ears.


For more photos of the event, please follow this link: Caribbean American Book & Art Fair

June 21, 2009

Colin Channer's Tribute to his Father

Colin ChannerThe following is an open letter by Colin Channer to his deceased father, Charlie.

, the founder and artistic director of the Calabash International Literary Festival, was honoured by the St Elizabeth Homecoming Committee on Sunday, the final day of this year's festival.

However, for Channer, who grew up in Kingston, to honestly accept and appreciate the award, he must revisit the relationship with his father, who is from St Elizabeth, and invoke his spirit.

Dear Charlie,

I don't know if you know, but I'm going to be getting an award next week. I'm getting the award at Calabash, a literary festival down in Treasure Beach, a district not too far from Watchwell in St Elizabeth, where you were born in 1932. You were buried there in '75. I didn't go to the funeral. Complications, you know.

To read more, please follow this link:



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June 20, 2009

The George Lamming Pedagogical Centre

The George Lamming Pedagogical Centre
June 19, 2009
Cave Hill

On Tuesday, June 23, the name of one of this country’s illustrious sons and an outstanding Caribbean citizen will be inextricably linked to the academy when the University of the West Indies honours George Lamming. His name will be permanently inscribed on the pedagogical centre at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination (EBCCI) at Cave Hill, joining other distinguished regional citizens in a complex that pays tribute to the genius of Caribbean culture. The ceremony starts at 7.30 p.m.

The naming of the centre, which overlooks Cave Hill’s expansion project at the Lazaretto, will take place in the Walcott Warner Theatre. Cave Hill Principal and Pro-Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and Professor Lamming are expected to be present for the occasion and to address the gathering.

In was only on March 12 this year that Sir Hilary, while presiding over a ceremony that honoured Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott and late theater director and dramatist Earl Warner by naming the EBCCI theatre after them, said university administrators “want to bring the spirits of our great artistes into (this) space as a standard for our students and for the community.”

During next week’s ceremony an excerpt from the “Ma & Pa Scene” from Lamming’s first novel, In the Castle of My Skin, will be performed by Cecily Spencer-Cross and Clairmonte Taitt, in addition to three readings by participants in Professor Lamming's creative writing workshop.

Attendees will be able to obtain copies of Lamming’s latest publication, Sovereignty of the Imagination, launched this year on his birthday, June 8 when he turned 82.

Lamming has been described as “a poet, novelist, essay writer, orator, lecturer, teacher, editor and tireless activist for a new world-order and a New-World order”. He was born in 1927 in Carrington Village, St. Michael and attended Roebuck Boys' School, from which he won a scholarship to Combermere School. There, guided by his teacher, the late Frank Collymore, who permitted him to use his private library, Lamming developed a passion for reading and began his literary career as a poet.

While only 19 years old, and on the recommendation of Collymore, Lamming was hired by El Collegio de Venezuela, a boarding school for boys in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, where between 1946 and 1950, he taught English to young Hispanic students. He migrated to England in 1950.

The 2008 citation that chronicled his story for the ceremony that conferred on him the Order of the Caribbean Community said: “Lamming encountered England as an already mature and profoundly organic intellectual, whose most vivid childhood memory was of the March 1937 Labour Riots in Barbados, and whose Trinidad experience had exposed him to that country's poets – Cecil Herbert and Eric Roach – and young nationalistic intellectuals, in those early days of Universal Adult Suffrage, wildcat politics, emergent trade unionism and agitation for social and political reform.

“The depths of Lamming's understanding of social, political and historical issues are soon revealed in his first four novels: In the Castle of My Skin, (1953), The Emigrants, (1954) Of Age and Innocence (1958) and Season of Adventure, (1960). In the Castle of My Skin presents the plantation as economic, social and psychic structure, locating the Barbadian village in its erased history of feudal serfdom, and recognising the ambiguity of colonial education as an agency of both social emancipation and mental re-enslavement.

“Lamming's novels and essays for three decades afterwards would mercilessly scrutinise the new class of intellectual proprietors and overseers produced by that education.”

Lamming was honoured by CARICOM for “50 years of extraordinary engagement with the responsibility of illuminating Caribbean identities, healing the wounds of erasure and fragmentation, envisioning possibilities and transcending inherited limitations”. The region also applauded his “intellectual energy, constancy of vision, and an unswerving dedication to the ideals of freedom and sovereignty”.

A new primary school at Welches, St. Michael that replaced Erdiston Primary and Carrington’s Primary, has been named after Lamming.


* Office of Public Information
* Tel.: (246) 417-4076
* Email: publicinformation@cavehill.uwi.edu

June 19, 2009

Caribbean American Book & Art Fair 2009

Caribbean American Book & Art Fair

Caribbean Expressions

Celebrating Derek Walcott

1992 Nobel Literature Laureate

June 19, 20, 21, 2009

Miramar Cultural Center

2400 Civic Center Place Miramar, Fl 33025

For Information Call 954-357-7478/754-224-8150/786-537-5897


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June 17, 2009

What Does It Mean to be Caribbean American?: Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

Caribbean American Heritage Month

I was born in Chicago in the heart of December. This is a significant point for me because I’ve always hated the cold and am deeply attracted to anything tropical. Surrounded by a Midwestern bounty of apples, pears and berries, I preferred mangoes, coconuts and passion fruit. I never wear black, but dress in bright pinks, reds and purples. My favorite meal is ackee and saltfish with plantains and sorrel. Soca, ska, reggae and calypso fill most of my vast CD collection. People frequently ask me where my accent is from although I have never lived anywhere but in Chicago. Do these things make me Caribbean American? I don’t think so but they reveal where my heart is.

The first time I visited Jamaica, I felt a spiritual shift within. I traveled to Accompong and Nine Mile where I felt a connection that’s hard to explain. When I returned to Chicago, friends said they could sense a change in me. I believe that it was a spiritual recognition that I experienced.

A few years later, I married a man from Tobago. The eventual plan was to live part of the year in Tobago and the other in the U.S. The marriage didn’t survive, but it created a daughter with a Caribbean spirit so strong that she spoke in deep patois her first five years. Her father’s accent is not that deep and he’s not talkative, yet she speaks as if she were born in Tobago. She considers herself Caribbean American and I work hard to ensure that she knows and respects her heritage. She recognizes most Caribbean flags, eats curried goat and pillou and loves jelly coconuts. She also knows who Marcus Garvey, Maurice Bishop and Jamaica Kincaid are and why they are important to her heritage. To me, being Caribbean American means loving and respecting Caribbean culture and values while living in America.


Rosalind Cummings-YeatesRosalind Cummings-Yeates is a freelance journalist specializing in Caribbean and Latin American travel and culture as well as arts and lifestyle topics. Her blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, explores travel, culture and fashion and how they all connect.

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June 15, 2009

Who's Your Daddy? @ Books & Books

Reading at Books & Books

Reading in front of family and friends, especially when there are new readers in the audience, is never easy. On the one hand, I wanted to read something that showed I had grown artistically and the faith that my family has had in me—not to speak of the money they’ve lent me—had been justified. On the other hand, I wanted to introduce new readers to my work. It’s that delicate balance that I faced when I read at Books & Books on June 9, 2009.

Of course, Mitch Kaplan helped me in satisfying the expectations of old and new readers by mentioning my previous books and setting a context for Who’s Your Daddy?. Mitch has always been a great supporter of local writers and he also recalled the earliest readings that I and many other writers have given at my favorite South Florida Indie bookstore. It was a generous introduction that helped to set the stage for the stories.

I started with “Third Time,” a humorous tale about a young man who uses his father’s advice about the “third time being the charm” to his own advantage. The audience enjoyed the double entendres and the social commentary that was part of the subtext of the reading.

That, I thought was the end of the presentation, but in responding to a question, I read “My Jamaican Touch” as an example of my experimentation with meta-fiction and magical realism. The story was a hit and my mother-in-law enjoyed it even though I had some light hearted humor at her expense.

The book signing that followed was special for me. I met old friends such as Mary Luft, Vicki Hendricks, and Barbra Nightingale, who will be reading at Books & Books on June 19. 2009.

This was one of those readings in South Florida that I’ll always remember, not only because nearly all of my extended family was there and that I introduced a few new readers to my work, but I also read stories that confirmed a feeling that I’ve had for a long time—I’ve become pretty good at this writing thing.


Please follow this link for more photos: Reading of Who's Your Daddy? @ Books & Books.

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June 14, 2009

Growing Up With or Without Dad

Who's Your Daddy?How do our fathers' absence or presence shape our lives?

This is the question that I've thought about in my fictions--the role of fathers or surrogates in the lives of boys: Benjamin, my son, Uncle Obadiah and the Alien, Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories, and most recently, Who’s Your Daddy?:And Other Stories.

There have been many books written about the issue of fatherless boys in the Caribbean, but the one that has most influenced my writing on this subject is Edith Clarke's, My Mother Who Fathered Me.

Sadly, the topic is still relevant. So, between today and Father's Day, I will be offering an autographed copy of Who's Your Daddy?: And Other Stories for the winning post on either one of these topics:

Growing Up With Dad

Growing Up Without Dad

The winner will be selected at random, but take a moment to read the contest rules to learn more. Plus, you gotta be older than 18, to enter. Some of the stories in Who's Your Daddy?: And Other Stories deal with "mature" subjects and I don't want to be accused of "corrupting the youth."

For Bloggers:

Write a short post (maximum 1000 words) on one of these topics:

Growing up with Dad

Growing up Without Dad.

Link to this post and leave a comment on this blog with your url, so I’ll know that you’ve entered.

For Readers Who Do Not Blog:

Write a short post (maximum 1000 words) on the topic:

Growing up with Dad

Growing up Without Dad.

Send the post to me in the body of an e-mail (geoffreyphilp101 at gmail.com) with either topic in the subject line:

Growing up with Dad

Growing up Without Dad.

Please include a digital photo (.jpg).

Good luck to all!


June 12, 2009

What does it mean to be Caribbean American?: Adrian Castro

What does it mean to be Caribbean American?

Do you consider yourself to be a Caribbean-American?

Yes. My folks are Cuban and Dominican, so I can’t really say I’m Cuban or Dominican. Add to the fact I was born in the Republic of Miami, a fine Caribbean city.

How does this affect your work?

It completely informs my work. It’s history, culture, religion, and roots.

When did you first realize that you were a Caribbean-American?

When I realized the Pan-ism of the Caribbean. By traveling thru the Caribbean and seeing the similarities in culture, geography, etc...

Is it important to celebrate Caribbean American Heritage Month?

Well, for one who is Caribbean, I think everyday/every month is Caribbean Heritage Day/Month. How do you escape where you’re from and who you are? Keep in mind the river the forgets it source will soon dry up.


Adrian CastroOne of the most vibrant Caribbean/South Florida poets, Adrian Castro's work scintillates with tonality, bilingualism, clarity of image and spirit. On the publication of his first collection, Cantos to Blood & Honey, Victor Hernandez Cruz wrote, “Reading [Castro]...is like ritual itself, like ceremony. Castro's criollo bipolarity and polyrhythmic versing approximate chant.

The poems are clear maps of migrations, from the indigenous Orinoco and island hopping, to the Spanish sailors who v
anished into Siboney maracas. The sounds of the Yorubas upon wooden vessels crossing the Atlantic, singing the first salsa into the stars. History is organized burglary.

Adrian Castro has realized his geophysical position in the spider web of Caribbean history as an individual and as a larger portion of blue space
.” Adrian’s work has been widely anthologized in publications such as Paper Dance: 55 Latino Poets, One Century of Cuban Writers in Florida, and Little Havana Blues. His most recent collection, Wise Fish, was published by Coffee House Press. He lives in Miami, Florida.


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June 11, 2009

New Book: Sovereignty of the Imagination by George Lamming

George LammingThe new book by the illustrious Caribbean novelist/thinker George Lamming has just been published here, said Jacqueline Sample, president of House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP).

Sovereignty of the Imagination, with its main essays “Sovereignty of the Imagination” and “Language and the Politics of Ethnicity,” is the third Conversations title by Lamming and the second in the series published by HNP.

The tight relationship between politics, knowledge, language, and the spaces of freedom in Lamming’s writings makes him one of the most important political novelists in Caribbean literature,” said Anthony Bogues, a political scientist at Brown University.

Writer Fabian Badejo said that the Barbadian author’s text is “rich, elegant and intellectually seductive as ever; the thrust always towards a new Caribbean ‘with the sovereign right to define its own reality and order its own priorities’.”

It is as if he were humming Bob Marley’s "Redemption Song" as a dirge, then intoning it as an anthem of ‘cultural sovereignty’ which [Lamming] describes as ‘the free definition and articulation of the collective self, whatever the rigor of external constraints’,” said Badejo.

For Lamming to publish a book of this quality in the Caribbean when he is much sought after by publishers abroad, is also an investment in his belief and work, in the people and region where his life’s commitment abides,” said Sample.

Sovereignty of the Imagination is available at Amazon, spdbooks.org, Novelty Trading Company and House of Nehesi Publishers. Ask at your favorite bookstore.

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June 10, 2009

What does it mean to be Caribbean American?: Opal Palmer Adisa


I was once my mother’s daughter, and then I became myself. I was once exclusively Jamaican, then I became Caribbean. I was once Caribbean-American and now I am a citizen of the world.

While there is a specific geographic region known as the Caribbean Islands or the West Indies [sic] – now we all know and agree that Columbus was lost and his sense of geography was seriously off, and that there is a particular country known as Jamaica [sic] aka Xaymaca, and while documents could be offered to prove or suggest that I am from one or more of these regions, and while my own work baptizes me as a member of that community, at this specific moment in time, I throw off all such labels and simply and profoundly identify as a citizen of the world.

I am the world. Who am I? I am the self, seeking self, the self that is not bound to any specific place or people, but intimately and inextricable connected to all places and all people. If absolute truth exists, then there are no borders, and we should work hard to dismantle those that have been erected for it is shameful that Cuba is the only country presently that the USA still has an embargo against. Is it not Caribbean? Perhaps evidence will point to the fact that it is as American as the USA. Ask its Taino people who still reside in the mountainous region. Caribbean? American? New World? Or of the world?

While I understand that for some, these terms are useful, as they, erroneously, are frequently employed to infuse the speaker with pride and an opportunity to wave an appointed flag, the term, Caribbean-American continue the hierarchical paradigm that credits and points out the contribution of a particular set of people in opposition to others, thereby pitting the same people against or in competition with cousins, etc. Who does the term Caribbean-American serve? What really does it mean? Does it mean the same thing as Ja-American, which is how my American born children refer to themselves?

My poem, “Fi Me People” in Caribbean Passion (Peepal Tree Press, 2004), was my first attempt to dismantle and move away from these and all such terms that situate us in a limited and limiting geographic hemisphere, and instead write and think from a place of commonality, of soul, of identification of a more inclusive historical and cultural ethos. We are one, we is de same, is we dat!

But allow me to critique the term Caribbean-American and what it attempts to hide and what it purports to be, which is a lie. First, like all hybrid terms, it straddles, undecided, seeking to benefit from both. It does the wide-legged dance, refusing to sever ties, and consequently, frequently is of very little help, in any meaningful way, to either place to which it clings. 90% or more of the Caribbean-Americans I know will never ever go back to their respective Caribbean island to work, or struggle, or make any meaningful contribution. These same people are quick to jump up and declare, with hands pounding their chests, that they are Jamaican or St Lucian or Bajan, yet they are forever badmouthing the islands, the Caribbean.

“Mom, Jamaica has gone to the dogs; nothing but a whole heap of ignorant, incompetent politicians.”

“Lawd, things well bad and tough, no order.”

“Me couldn’t never live there any more.”

Those who still have relatives at “home,” with whom they are in touch, send funds and gifts, but almost none of them send money to establish any trust for the larger society, whether in small ways like books for a library, or sheets for hospitals, or contribution to UWI scholarship fund or a village school. Their reasoning: “Waste a time send stuff fah de old thief dem fi thief it off!” Followed by kiss teeth.

I would imagine that such a lot are comfortable with the term Caribbean-American and will cheer for June to be acknowledged as Caribbean Heritage Month so that the innumerable contributions of Caribbean people to the USA are celebrated. However, the truth is, these people are Americans, who don’t want to be identify as African-Americans, believing their Caribbeanness makes them special, above the rest, different, but decidedly not African-American, an identification they most vehemently oppose, not understanding that they are pawns of the old divide and conquer paradigm.

Caribbean-American is not Caribbean, no matter how much ackee or dashine or pelou you might eat. The term Caribbean-American allows for a false illusion, a refusal to accept either the voluntarily or forced exile status. Caribbean-American is hiding behind an island that you have long left and to which you have no intention of returning. Caribbean-American is don’t lump me with those African-Americans, I am not one of them. Better than, or different from, but just not one of them. Caribbean-American allows for empty, big talk, “Me have a place me can also go back to, a place where me belong.” Caribbean-American is a peninsular, not one or the other and therefore neither.

I was born and raised in Jamaica, spent the first sixteen years of my life there, then three more years after college, between the ages of 21-24. Since then, I have lived in the USA. I have lived for a longer, more consistent time in the USA than I have lived in Jamaica or elsewhere. What does that make me? I have an American passport, and enjoy its privileges. What does that make me? I write out of homesickness or love-sickness and a memory trapped and warped by time about that tiny place that has shaped me. What does that make me? I dream of going back there to live, although I am almost certain that I could not live there full time without suffocating. What does that make me? Caribbean or American or neither? Where do I belong? To whom do I pledge allegiance? I know it does not have to be binary, either or, but I am trying to be honest with myself and so I must question how useful or accurate is that term.

Do I love the Caribbean? Unequivocally! Do I dream and pray that it will be better, economically, socially, politically so those who want to stay and remain for the long haul, will have opportunities and freedom from homophobic and religious persecution? Yes. But is that enough from this place of relative safety? I suppose the term is most useful to extricate the place from America’s vapid dream vacation romance, to bring it into the dialogue as a peer, rather than a recalcitrant child, that we are here, and have made formidable contributions to the development of this society, but so has every Black person to the new world.

Where is Africa in the global dialogue? Are those countries in that the second largest continent of over 922 million people more unified and providing more opportunities for its people? How does the term, Nigerian-American or Ghanaian-American serve Nigeria or Ghana anymore than Caribbean-American serve Jamaica or Grenada?

We pollinate and populate wherever we go and we bring the nuances of who we are with us and as writers and artists, lawyers and doctors and Indian queens and architects, we are the work, and the work is us, then the work too becomes all the hybrid and transformation that we become.

The term is only useful as a marker, but it lacks any other currency of legitimization. I am Californian, and when I was in Egypt I was Egyptian and when in Brazil, Brazilian. We must celebrate everything about us, but be mindful that without being here, we would not have been who we are now and more likely would not have achieved what we have. We are walking histories. We are transformers. We are shape-shifters. We are the new mobility, no different that our cells phone that did not exist nor was not thought of, when I was born, but now we all depend on them, whoever we are, wherever we go.

I am not a hyphen, a straddler caught between two places; my feet are firm on whichever land I stand. I throw in my lot with the people, I am the people and the people are me. My name is my name and I Name Me, Name, not Jamaican, or Caribbean, not even Caribbean-American, just Name.


Opal Palmer Adisa
Diverse, innovative and multi-genre, Opal Palmer Adisa is an exceptional talent, nurtured on cane-sap and the oceanic breeze of Jamaica. Charismatic and informed, Adisa’s concerns span the gamut from the environment to children, and as such there is hardly any topic that she has not written about either in poetry, prose or essay. A highly sought-after motivational speaker, Opal Palmer Adisa has lectured and read her work throughout the United States, Europe, South Africa, South American, and the Caribbean. Her newest collection of poetry and prose, I NAME ME NAME, 2008.
Visit her website: www.opalpalmeradisa.com
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June 9, 2009

Justice for Ken Saro-Wiwa

Ken Saro-Wiwa

clipped from www.guardian.co.uk

Shell pays out $15.5m over Saro-Wiwa killing

The oil giant Shell has agreed to pay $15.5m (£9.6m) in settlement of a legal action in which it was accused of having ­collaborated in the execution of the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other leaders of the Ogoni tribe of southern Nigeria.

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June 8, 2009

What does it mean to be Caribbean American?: James Nadal

What does it mean to be Caribbean American?

What does it mean to be Caribbean American?


Are we Americans Yet?

There was the exhilarating sense of adventure, mixed with the quiet anxiety of venturing into the unknown. Though but a mere six years old, I can still remember the trip along the Puerto Rican north coast, down PR 2 from San Juan to Ramey AFB, a long drive that would alter our lives forever, for better or worse, or a bittersweet combination of the two.

Growing up bicultural, bilingual and a military brat to boot, makes for a strange life, a chameleon like existence, or who the hell am I anyway?

Our father told my brothers and I that we were going to be Americans, and would from then on, he would try to speak to us in English so we could learn the language, which was the first step. This was before we knew there were academic studies on the proper introduction and teaching of a language. Our names were anglicized into this new environment--as if by changing our names we would become one of them. Nice try, Dad. Then we were placed in regular classes in their schools. We would become Americans, and that's the way it was.

My father had the novel idea that we could learn English by listening to American records. With the constant playing of this music at our house, we listened to all the ones my dad bought at the Base Exchange, and it was my luck that Elvis had exploded on the popular music scene and so he turned out to be my main inspiration. I still speak English with a Southern drawl, and can copy Elvis perfectly. Though I must add that Harry Belafonte was a close second, because my father had spent some years in Trinidad and so “Day-O” was a perennial favorite, and also a huge hit back then. This added to the bewilderment.

I picked up a stuttering stammer that I carry with me still when I get nervous or drunk. The translations in my head were not quick enough for my tongue. I would discover later that my breathing was too shallow and hurried. I was supposed to breathe and speak with the serenity of a Zen master when approached or called upon by the teacher. My mind was a rush of words and confusion. I was panting like a rabid dog. I was not informed of this breathing technique back in 1956.

One great advantage in our cultural assimilation procedure was that we went frequently to the movies on the base as a vital part of our curriculum. It was through the eyes of a child sitting in the theater that I got an insight into this seemingly continuous and varied way of life. I was to learn later as a teen that history is always written by the victors, and the movies were not always quite realistic in their portrayals, but that’s for another story.

The food was undoubtedly different. There were all these new names that went along with the introduction of a new cuisine. The main diet seemed to revolve around the hamburger and French fires, and those were in constant demand and supply. I learned about mustard on balogna sandwiches, and peanut butter and jelly. I was curious about ‘leftovers’ which was a new concept as at our house there were never any of those. I would note here that a lot of the kids I met were very supportive and kind enough to accept me as a new friend and invited me into their homes; they were just as curious about me as I was about them. To those, I am forever grateful.

My mother went along with this integration process just so far, and so Spanish was the language at home. She wanted us to hold on to as much of our culture as possible and had the foresight and discipline to back her up. As everyone knows it is the mother who really runs the house. “Man Smart, Woman Smarter.” She continued to cook and serve our traditional Puerto Rican food, though she did try to incorporate some American dishes into our diet. We preferred our own, and so it was.

We did over the next few years learn the language, and adapted very well to our new lives, and thus became who we were. For we behaved like and were like typical American kids while on the base, but when we off the base, or visiting relatives, we were Puerto Rican again.

We went on an overseas assignment to Spain, where we were lucky in that we could speak the local language and used that to a great advantage. But the Spaniards considered us “Americanos.” So it seemed like it had gone full circle. Upon return to Ramey in Puerto Rico, we were in a much better position to enjoy the experience, being of course older and wiser.

So, who were we? Well, it has turned out that we were both of the above. I can recall asking my father many times during memorable situations, “Papi, are we Americans yet?”

The experience has carried over into a dualistic personality blend which has, in retrospect, served me well into adulthood. Evolving into a lifelong existence within the two cultures, I still enjoy very much the music, food, literature, and experiences which have led me to where I am. I am lucky to have many lifelong friends from “here and there,” and would not change a thing save for maybe learning that breathing technique sooner.

For my father, Jan A. Nadal.


James NadalJames Nadal (b. 1950) was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 1956, he and his family moved to Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico, and in 1958, they moved to Zaragoza, Spain, where they lived until the end of 1960. After this brief stint, his family relocated back to Ramey.

Nadal traveled a lot as a young man playing music and seeking adventure in the Caribbean and in North and South America. He has been married since 1979 to Maria Nadal with whom he has had three children.

James has been a professional chef for many years in the Aguadilla to Rincon area of Puerto Rico, and has continued his interest in music by writing articles for music websites. He is the music editor for allaboutjazz.com. Family, food, wine, and music--the essence of life!


Top Ten Caribbean Theatre Classics: Results

Top Ten Caribbean Theatre ClassicsFirst, give thanks to all who participated by submitting and voting. This has been an educational experience for me and I hope that I'll be able to do more posts like this.

I'd also like to thank Cheryl Williams, who proposed the topic, and I hope this was helpful for all the teachers who read and contribute to this blog.

The Results

Top Ten Caribbean Theatre ClassicsThe two that were omitted on the last vote were as follows:

In the Beautiful Caribbean by Barry Reckord

Pantomime by Derek Walcott

They both received 4% of the total vote.

June 6, 2009

What Does it Mean to be a Caribbean-American?: Winner

James Nadal has won an autographed copy of Who's Your Daddy?: And Other Stories for his essay,"What does it mean to be Caribbean American? or Are we Americans yet?"

James's essay was chosen randomly and will be published on Monday when I will also announce the results of the "Top Ten Caribbean Theatre Classics."

Congratulations, James!


Who's Your Daddy @ Books & Books

who's your daddy

Mark Your Calendar!

Tuesday, June 9, 2008 @ 8pm

Books and Books

265 Aragon Avenue

Coral Gables, Florida 33134


June 5, 2009

Calabash 2009: Reflections

Calabash 2009

For the four days that I was in Treasure Beach for Calabash 09, I saw two Jamaicas. The first greeted me in the warmth of the people of people of St. Elizabeth--which extended to the festival--and the second announced itself in the bold headlines of the newspapers reporting yet more murders in Kingston and the efforts of the government to curb crime.

Two realities in stark contrast emerged with the sunrise and sank into the Caribbean Sea at sunset. And the dissimilarity cannot be merely attributed to the difference between urban and rural Jamaica. Rather, like all social phenomena, they exist by individual and/or collective consent.

So, on the one hand, there were the organizers, audience, and participants who came together to create an environment where a community could share and define themselves, as Pico Iyer suggested, by their values. In the case of Calabash 09, the values were annunciated by the tags: Peace & Love.

This is not a coincidence. Peace & Love were the principles that guided Rastafari in Jamaica during the seventies—one of the most creative periods of our history. Then came the unofficial civil war (of which we’re still seeing the effects) and the exodus.

Calabash 09 had that seventies feeling—that vibe of serious play between the audience and participants. For those four days, I witnessed the natural graciousness of Jamaicans (like Anthony Bourdain’s welcome by a Jamaican matriarch even as he warned about crime in Jamaica) and got a glimpse of pre-diaspora Jamaica without the internal contradictions that led to the mass immigration.

And the vibe was important. It started, as always with the music—reggae--which was omnipresent throughout the festival. Peace and Love was encoded in reggae. Peace and Love was present even in midst of the most apocalyptic choons by Bob Marley and the Wailers, whose lyrics led Kwame Dawes to coin the term “reggae aesthetic” to describe the influence of reggae on Jamaican culture. According to Dawes, the “reggae aesthetic” combines music, identity. community, politics, economics, and spirituality. Sounds like Calabash to me—which began with music and ended with music and benediction. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. For Jamaicans are, as Kwame once said to me in an e-mail, “a spiritual people engaged in matters of faith rooted in experience.”

In other words, Calabash demonstrated a model for social interaction in Jamaica which is based on indigenous values that are part of our history and culture. We know this. And if we could allow for the kind of tolerance that used to be part of our cultural life and is still practiced in the countryside, we could be on to something. For it is when we are most open that we are most beautiful.

For me, it was a glimpse of what heaven should be: a lover by your side, sky, beach, books, Red Stripe, and great conversations with interesting people. For I-ver.

Our politicians instead of spending time trying to curb crime should be stressing, especially in the face of globalization and the creation of niche markets, the positives aspects of Jamaica culture. It’s like Mother Teresa said when she was invited to an anti-war rally, “I will never attend an anti-war rally. If you have a peace rally, invite me." But attitudes like that can only come from leaders who are committed to and who will embody our highest ideals.

Calabash began with the commitment of a few idealists, but as a another strong woman, Margaret Mead, said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” I don’t want to see worldwide change. I’d just like to return to a place that doesn’t have 1,611 murders in one year. I don’t want two Jamaicas. I’d just like a Jamaica of One Love.

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