December 26, 2011

December 23, 2011

Joseph’s Journey (For Randi Gray Kristensen)

Joseph had grown old enough not to believe
The occupiers of the holy places in Jerusalem 
Whose lies, curled like shavings of cedar
From his blade, surrounded him on the floor, 

Sweat for the few shekels that he earned,
Taxed by Romans whose peace defiled rivers 

With blood, mountains with their standards.
Yet as far east as the roads crowded with caravans 

Could travel, spears sprouted from the sand.
The coin from Mary's uncle burned in his palm, 
And Joseph turned it once more, perhaps, for an omen
That would ease his heart from the gossip in his town. 
But when she greeted his eyes and blessed his hands,
He lowered his head and surrendered to her love.



Give thanks to Randi, who has made me restart my practice of writing a poem or story for Christmas. I've collected some of the best in Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

December 21, 2011

Vote For Geoffrey Philp’s Blog @ Jamaica Blog Awards

For the second year in a row, my blog has been nominated in the Best Overseas Blog category of the Jamaica Blog Awards. Give thanks!

Since I began using Google Analytics on Monday, October 26, 2006, this site has had over 500,000 visitors from 217 locations:

The white areas represent locations where I've recorded only one visitor. Not to worry, Pinky. Tomorrow the world!

Readers have come from as far away as Tajikstan and as near as Hialeah, yet the top ten locations have remained stable:

1. United States: 141,604
2. Jamaica: 23,034
3. United Kingdom: 17,856
4. Canada: 15,880
5. Trinidad and Tobago: 11,142
6. India: 10,552
7. Philippines: 8,206
8. France: 8,042
9. China: 7,512
10. Germany: 5,132

Many of the readers are students seeking information about writers such as Mervyn Morris, Dennis Scott, Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Vic Reid, and Olive Senior. 

Others are looking for posts about Bob Marley, Marcus Garvey, and Rastafari. And still others search for information about writing, contests, and conferences.

For 2011, the top twenty posts followed the usual pattern with a two big surprises: "Have a Marcus Christmas and New Year" with 1366 hits and "Jamaica is One Love": with 513 hits.
Here, then, is the roundup of my top twenty posts for 2011:

1. "Meanings of Bob Marley's Songs": 4744 hits
2. "'Epitaph' by Dennis Scott: An Appreciation": 3401 hits
3. "'Colonial Girls' School' by Olive Senior: An Appreciation": 2696 hits
4. "Little Boy Crying" by Mervyn Morris: An Appreciation": 1726 hits
5. "Have a Marcus Christmas and New Year": 1366 hits
6. "'I Shot the Sheriff': A Fable of Freedom" : 1278 hits
7. "Happy Birthday, Marcus Garvey": 1179 hits
8. "Top Ten Things Every Writer Should Know": 1170 hits
9. "What Can Bob Marley Teach Bloggers?": 938 hits
10. "About Geoffrey Philp's Blog": 921 hits
11. "In My Own Words: Andrea Elizabeth Shaw": 749 hits
12. "A Rubric for Poetry?" :730 hits
13. "Bob Marley: Making of a Legend": 722 hits
14. "Happy Birthday, VS Reid": 547 hits
15. "Jamaica is One Love": 513 hits
16. "Obama Rejects Plea for Marcus Garvey": 511 hits
17. "Polyglot Writers": 425 hits
18. "'Marrysong' by Dennis Scott": 409 hits
19. "'Mass Man' by Derek Walcott: An Appreciation": 381
20. "Broward Coronation Film Festival": 380 hits 

If you have enjoyed reading any of these posts, please follow this link to vote for my blog in the category: Best Overseas Jamaica Blog:

The voting ends on January 2, 2012, so as we say in Miami: "Vote early and Vote Often."

December 9, 2011

Have a Marcus Christmas & New Year

As the holiday season approaches, I want to give thanks to the readers of this blog on the RSS feed, web site or following on Twitter or Facebook. I also want to give thanks for those who have supported my work by buying my books and "Liking" on Amazon.  

A few of you have also sent direct PayPal donations through the Donate buttons, which I have posted at the end of popular blog posts, and for this I also give thanks.

Inshallah, I will begin some projects for the New Year, so I'm going on a blog vacation to work on the first drafts. If I receive any new information about contests or calls for papers, I'll post on Twitter: @geoffreyphilp

In the meantime, why not visit my author page @ and buy a few books? They make great Christmas presents!

Have a great holiday and I promise that in 2012 that I'll continue posting about writers and events that you care about.

One Love,


Marcus and the Amazons (Kindle)

Marcus and the Amazons (Print)


December 8, 2011

“Christmas Flash Mob” by Cynthia James

so they lit the third candle, the rose among the mauve,
a half-split caimito really, on the evergreen, the plum,
gradating to a fuschia, vulva-centred, fleshy white,
a moist black star buried in every quadrant whorl

but no witness to this story to fill its many gaps:
how a girl hearing voices that she pregnant
(second hand), just ups and take a journey
to a distant land to visit an old cousin by herself,
that a baby leaping in a womb confirm; they say
she end up staying with the cousin six months

and the cousin husband, old Mahal, you know Mahal,
revving car and turning corner, with lip and foot and hand;
he doubt; they light a candle on his head; strike him dumb;
and Shadrack, too, for years we live with Shadrack,
walking up and down with rope, brown gown and jesus-
sandals clanging bell, a dead ringer for the same John

so I’m telling Bev about this flash mob, livening the humdrum,
this Sunday stir up, twelve-eleven; people in their dan dan!
Everybody singing: Exultez de joie, acclamez votre roi!
led by a doe-eyed angry man playing an organ

and I say: We just practising to maim and kill tomorrow
the only way we know how. See those stalks clawing
the promised fire at the centre of the ash coal dawn?
See how right now we longing for the white stuff?
All this, One cycle, One répétition. Near Easter, we
cursing the same white stuff: White Stuff, Begone!

and my daughter ups and say: You know you! You’d better
keep your mouth shut! Your great grandmother shut her mouth
so you could born. You always jeopardizing things, opening
up your big mouth. But I tell her: No worries, this poem not
getting print no how. Is just you know how sometimes when
you’re breathing and you notice that you’re breathing, just so

you start to gasp because you cannot find your rhythm? Well
the half-split caimito’s just a figment of that Carib woman
far from home, dreaming a slice-a black cake, and a slice-a
Scrunter pork and a drink a ponche à crème! Ah! to top it off

© Cynthia James 2011

About Cynthia James

Cynthia James is a Trinidadian, living for the past 3 years in Toronto. She writes poetry and fiction and her work can be found in publications such as Callaloo, Caribbean Writer and The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse

December 7, 2011

Marcus Garvey’s Christmas Message, 1921

Despite the attempts of many black intellectuals to link Marcus Garvey with failure, Garvey's message was never confined to a "Back to Africa movement." Anyone who has read The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey will recognize the smear, which began with the "Garvey Must Go" movement and has been repeated most recently by Eugene Robinson in Disintegration and Charles Johnson, writers for whom I have enormous admiration and respect.

Garvey was Afrocentric and he was a product of his times. Garvey's call of "Africa for Africans" was similar to the other separatist nationalist agendas throughout Europe and the Americas. Garvey's readings of history led him to the conclusion that the white power structures would never willing relinquish power and that peoples of African descent would never secure their human and political rights without a solid economic base. To this end, he built on the foundations of Booker T. Washington with economic self-empowerment while expanding on the intellectual development that W.E. Dubois sought without the divisive idea of a "talented tenth" being the salvation of the race.

The crisis of the "Abandoned" that Robinson delineates in Disintegration is the logical conclusion of the integrationist movement of DuBois and the NAACP, which has secured the political rights of African Americans, but has failed in delivering any method of economic empowerment to the other 90% (or is that 99%?) of the populace. In other words, we have rights, but we have failed to recognize our economic power.

Garvey wanted dignity and freedom for all the "sons and daughters of Africa." It was a message of hope, which he eloquently delivered in December 1921.

Christmas Message to the Negro Peoples of the World.
December 1921

Fellow men of the Negro Race,

Greeting:— To us is born this day the Child Jesus—the Christ. The Shepherds and wise men are now wending their way toward Bethlehem, there to behold the Wonder of God. Because, there, in a manger, is to be found the Baby Christ who is to be the Redeemer of the world.

And so our thoughts go back for more than nineteen hundred years. We hear the shout "Hosanna in the Highest, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."

With all the preparation the human race has made to welcome into the world the Christ who is to redeem us, we find ourselves still in confusion, still fighting, still exploiting, still merciless in our onslaught one upon the other. But on this Christmas morn may we not all members and brothers of the great human family, forget our differences, and in one glorious chorus sing put to the world "Peace, perfect peace?".

Christ died to free Mankind.

When we come to consider the Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God, and that this Child of our own flesh, yet spirit of the Great Creator has been sent to link us nearer to our common Father, will we not admit of the reason that there should be but very little differences between us, What will we gain fighting the battle of man against man? Absolutely nothing but death; and was not this Child Jesus sent into this world to teach us the new life, the life of Love, of Charity, the Life of Mercy? What greater example do we desire than that which He gave in His own Life? He suffered, He died that others might be free. Yet even with the great object of the Cross before us, even though He died on Mount Calvary to make us free; even though He overcame death, the grave and hell to demonstrate to us the new life possible to each and everyone, we have not yet turned from the path of sin to enter into the glory of His Eternal Kingdom.

The Spirit of Christmas.

Instead of planning a career of sin on this Christmas Morn, may we not lift our thoughts to that grand and noble Father who save to us on this day His Royal Son, whom He has made our brother, and ask Him to bless each and everyone of us that our hearts may be touched with the true spirit of the first Christmas morn? That first day in the stable at Bethlehem was a beacon of a new born hope, for with the birth of the Prince of Peace there came to us an age of spiritual grace, which in its course sought to link man nearer to his God, and coming down the ages for more than nineteen hundred years, we have tried to preach Him as He appeared to us in His innocence, His Love and in His Charity.

Christ labored for thirty three years to teach us the way to glory, but in His career man, his brother sought the life that he could not give; he persecuted Him, he derided Him, he jeered Him and at last he crucified Him. But when that which was physical in the Christ died, the spiritual continued, and from earth betook its flight to heaven, there, probably, for all eternity, to look down upon the sinful, wicked world, and still to shower upon us blessings that we really need.

We shall never succeed in taking the Spirit of Christ out of the world, because in some of us, still, there is that spark of love, charity, and mercy that links us to our God. But may we not ask the Great Omnipotent, the Great Creator, our Eternal Father to send once more into the world, just at this time and oh, how we pray that it be on this Christmas morn, our brother Christ, so that He may calm the raging storm and in truth pour out His benediction upon a corrupt world, a soulless human race, and make us subjects fit for Eternal Life?

Hail! the New born King

As with the angels let us sing, "Hail the New Born King, the Prince of Peace, Hail to the Son of Righteousness, for with Thee there is life, without Thee there is death". For as thou died upon Calvary's mount to make us better, to redeem us from our sins, may we not hope for a continuance of that love even for today? and knowing Thee in Thy bountiful love for all mankind, may we not further ask that Thy Spirit lighten up our hearts and bring to us by the touch of Thy grace, the knowledge of the Everlasting Brotherhood of Man, and the Eternal Fatherhood of God?

As the angels now rejoice in heaven over this new birth, so we rejoice on earth, four hundred millions of us, who are members of this Negro race, feeling that Thou art our King, that Thou art our Savior, that thou shalt be our Emanuel. We love Thee because Thou art the Son of God. We praise, worship and adore Thee because Thou art the Prince of Peace.

The Prince of Peace Our Guide to-day.

Let others in their sin, in their wickedness seek after the infant Life that Thou gavest to all mankind. We in our simplicity shall find refuge for Thee even in the land of Egypt. Yes, the world of sinful, wicked men cried out "Crucify Him! Crucify Him! But Lord because Thou art our Master, because Thou art our Prince of peace, because Thou art our Redeemer, we shall render unto Thee all help possible, even in bearing the Cross up the heights of Calvary, for in life Thou hast been our friend; in death we know Thou shalt remember us, and now that Thou art sitting at the right hand of God, the Father, now that Thou hast conquered death, the grave and hell, surely in Thy mercy Thou shalt remember us. So today even though hundreds of years have rolled by since Thy crucifixion, we know that there is in Thine heart, there is in Thy soul a warm spot for the Sons and Daughters of Africa whose forebears bore the cross for Thee up the heights of Calvary to Thy crucifixion.

We sing and shout with the angels; we ring our joy bells; we blow our horns in praise because Thou art indeed the Jesus, the Christ, the Emanuel to us, the Son of Righteousness, the Prince of Peace.

As sons and daughters of Africa, may not four hundred millions of us the world over on this Christmas morn pray for the redemption of that Motherland which sheltered our Blessed Redeemer when the wild, wicked men of the world sought His life; in the same manner wild, wicked men seek the lives of Negroes today, and burn, lynch and kill them because they have not the strength that makes man mighty. But with the Almighty Power of God and with the guidance and mercy of our Blessed Lord we feel that one day Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hand, and whether it be at the second coming or before, we shall all sing our Hosannas, shout our praises to God for freedom, for liberty, for life.

"For Christ is born of Mary,
     And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
     Their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together
     Proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God our King,
     And peace to men on earth."

From The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey


Exonerate Marcus Garvey

To be delivered to President Barack Obama

December 5, 2011

Broward Coronation Film Festival

Two brand-new, must-see documentaries filmed in Jamaica recently, “The First Rasta” and “Bad Friday,” will be premiered at the Broward Coronation Film Festival’s “Tribute to the Patriarchs” on Friday, December 9, 2011. 

The double-bill at the Joseph C. Carter Park, 1450 W. Sunrise Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, starts at 7:00 pm with “First Rasta,” a documentary that gives an authentic and comprehensive account of the little known historical origins of the Rastafari Movement. 

Produced by award-winning French music journalist Hélène Lee, First Rasta, traces the exceptional journey of Leonard Percival Howell, a Jamaican revolutionary/religious figure who has virtually disappeared from the history books. Also known as the “Gong”, Howell established a Rasta community of 4,500 members at Pinnacle in the hills of St. Catherine, Jamaica, where the Rastafari philosophy and Way of Life was formalized, along the first agro-industrial enterprise devoted to producing marijuana among other produce. 

The second documentary film on the double bill, Bad Friday: Rastafari After Coral Gardens, starts at 9:00 pm. Bad Friday chronicles the history of state violence against Rastafari in Jamaica during the infamous “Coral Gardens Incident” of Easter 1963. The “Coral Gardens Incident" was a brutal moment in the history of Jamaica just after independence from Britain, when the Jamaican police shot and killed a number of Rastafarians and rounded up, jailed and tortured hundreds more all over the island. 

Bad Friday: Rastafari After Coral Gardens is directed by Deborah A. Thomas and John L. Jackson, Jr., who both have production credits along with Rasta musician Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn, and the late Rasta activist Junior “Ista J” Manning. The documentary was shot on location in Jamaica, and the original score features modern renderings of the traditional musical forms that comprise the roots of Reggae music. 

Admission to the Broward Coronation Film Festival is $10.00 at the door and Under-12s are free. Food and refreshments will be on sale. Part proceeds from the event will be in aid of the Anthony White Scholarship Fund. 

The “Tribute to the Patriarchs” will be the climax of a month-long celebration of the 81st Anniversary of the Royal Coronation of H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie I and Empress Waizero Menen of Ethiopia. The Film Festival Tribute is presented by the Rootz Foundation Inc. in association with the City of Fort Lauderdale Parks & Recreation Department. 

For more information at the Broward Coronation Film Festival call Rootz Foundation at 954-981-1176 or Carter Park at 954-828-5411.

November 30, 2011

The Jamaica-born Grandmaster of Chess: Maurice Ashley


By Opal Palmer Adisa
“Chess is an intellectual discipline masking as a game,” says Maurice Ashley, who is touted as the first African-American International Chess Grandmaster in the history of the game. But Ashley is actually Jamaican, born in Kingston, where he attended Seaward Elementary School. His formative years were spent in Tower Hill, where his grandmother raised him and where he came to know himself. At the impressionable age of nine, his older brother taught him how to play chess, but Ashley remarks, “Back then, it was just a game. I liked it, but I didn’t know at that time that the game was going to be my destiny.” He later attended Wolmer’s High School for Boys before immigrating to the USA, at the age of twelve, to join his mother. 
Excitement about living with his mother for the first time with his two siblings was partially tempered by his new environment that belied the American dream. “Coming out of poverty in Jamaica, the mere fact that you are standing on American soil, is an advantage, but the reality was a lot of day-to-day violence --the level was worse in Brownsville, Brooklyn. There were drug-dealers and prostitutes,” Ashley recalls. However, he learned to navigate and steer clear of the numerous traps that were everywhere in his new community.
School gave Ashley direction, and because of the friendships he formed, his keen interest in chess grew. “I started to take it seriously in high school in Brooklyn. I thought I was smart, until I lost to a friend. Then I saw a book in the library and I started reading. I didn’t know there was a strategy to chess. My friend had also read all of these books. He had been reading and playing, and that’s when I knew knowledge is power.” So Ashley became an avid student of chess and was determined to be at the top of his game. He studied and taught himself.
Still, Maurice Ashley did not recognize his talent until he was a student at City College, New York. His passion and love for the game spews from his mouth as he recounts his journey. “I was so in love with chess, I was doing it all the time. It was like a force. I would beat people and I loved the feeling of beating people, and I just wanted to keep doing it. I never thought of chess as a profession.”
Chess became not only a profession for Ashley, but also the very foundation of his life. In 1993 when he was only 20 years-old, Maurice Ashley, as a result of coaching the National Champions from Harlem to victory, became the first ever African American Master in US History. In 1999 Ashley was honored as the first Black person in history to become an International Grandmaster.
Maurice Ashley’s love for chess and his international recognition, has led him to his mission: to share chess with young people around the world. The release of his book, Chess for Success: Using an Old Game to Build New Strengths in Children and Teens, serves as a cornerstone of his advocacy.

Ashley’s success begs the questions: How does a Jamaican boy from an impoverished neighborhood, without a father present, become a chess master? Is it simply destiny or are there other forces at work? Ashley contributes his success to his mother, who left him as an infant, and labored hard in the USA for ten long years so that he and his two siblings could eventually join her and be united as a family. 

And despite the vices in their immediate surroundings that could have mitigated their success, Ashley states categorically: “My mother made sure that I understood coming from Jamaica that you hold on to your opportunities. She kept us focused. You had to go to college; all of us were going to college.” And indeed Maurice Ashley and his two siblings all went to college and are at the top of their respective fields.
Perhaps an additional secret to his success is connected to dogged determination. In chess, Ashley found his passion, and a drive to beat his opponents, which led him to study and practice continuously. His assiduousness paid off when in 2002, he became the first African-American in history to qualify for the US Chess Championship. The crowning event came in 2003, when United States Chess Federation awarded him the title of Grandmaster of the Year. 
But Ashley still identifies as a Jamaican, and his bond to this island and its culture is deeply embedded in the food, especially ackee and salt-fish with roast breadfruit, and of course jerk chicken that he loves. However, his Jamaican-ness goes deeper, and he stays committed to his culture and the development of the island.
In an interview on October 13, 2011, I asked the following questions:
OPA: What do you love about Jamaica or being Jamaican? 
MA: The fact that we are some of the hardest working people on the planet. Give us an opportunity and we will run with it. Just try to catch us and you won’t.
OPA: What are you hopes for Jamaica? 
MA: That our people become well-educated and using initiatives like chess to bolster that effort, we can show the world the advanced skills of which we are capable. I think a polished and comprehensive educational system has to be developed in Jamaica, where we can use our talents as a means of helping bigger countries to carry out some service that they may needed. That means we have to create an extremely comprehensive educational base, so those countries do not automatically link Jamaica with tourism --that Jamaica becomes known for technology as well. I hope that Jamaica goes the way of some of those countries in Asia --finding our niche in technology. 
I don’t think more advanced techniques are available to the general population, like what I do with chess: deep thinking. When you start with a platform with young people, it will magnify in a few years.

OPA: Why should children learn to play chess? 
MA: All the skills we want our children to have, problem solving, analytical reasoning, focus and concentration, are embedded in the game itself, in the playing of the game itself, so kids have fun and learn at the same time and they don’t even know it.
Chess strategy doesn’t begin until you realize that there is another mind playing against you. Most people are about themselves, but the competition is about someone trying to beat you, so you have to take that into consideration. 
The great thing about chess is that you are punished for bad thinking; you are punished for impatience. You have to stop and plan ahead before you move, or else you are going to lose the game. Kids don’t want to lose, so if they have a good coach they begin to play and play well, and those are skills they can use in life to be successful.
OPA: What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome to succeed?

MA: I believe that life is a series of challenges that we are consistently overcoming. I am challenged even now in my life. I embrace challenges--that is the way you become successful by embracing the challenges of life.

With every challenge one gains experience that has to be harnessed in order to move to the next level. Ashley uses these stepping-stones, and that has helped him to navigate his life. These are the lessons that he has honed as a man, and that he wants to impart to young people. The proud father of two children, a seventeen-year-old daughter who is an "A" student and a nine-year-old son, Ashley models his practice on his children. “I started teaching my children chess when they were three years-old. I made sure they both had a foundation for chess. My daughter didn’t pursue it, but she is good. Now my son and I do chess puzzles every day.”
Until very recently, Ashley had stopped playing chess to be a full time, stay-at-home father, so that his wife, who had put her career on hold to allow him to travel, had the opportunity to pursue some of her dreams, including being principal of a school. But Ashley is excited to be playing chess again. Back on the chess trail, Ashley is embarking on a six-island tour to promote chess in the Caribbean for young people, and visited Jamaica from November 10-12, 2011.
Ashley says, “I am bringing chess technology, much of which is donated, to assist the chess efforts in these countries, to lend the voice to the idea that chess is great for kids and it should be supported.”
In addition to being a Grandmaster, an author, and an inventor, Maurice Ashley is also the designer of a smart phone application: “Maurice Ashley Teaches Chess,” which was launched in 2010 and has sold in more than 25 countries. Still he remains close to his cause, which is to promote chess as a viable mode of education for young people. To this end, he has traveled widely to speak to, and encourage youth in indigent neighborhoods throughout the USA, South Africa, and Central America.

Ironically, Maurice Ashley says he isn’t sure in what concrete ways he contributes to Jamaican society, but acknowledges that when people know that he is Jamaican it engenders a sense of pride. Reflecting more he adds, “I support chess initiatives in Jamaica, and what they are trying to do to build up chess on the island. I do what I can to support the Jamaica Chess Federation.”
Whenever someone does something, great or small, it reflects on his family, as well as his country. Maurice Ashley’s achievements are but more evidence of the global contributions of Jamaicans. Perhaps it is the yams as sports fanatics have been attributing to Usain Bolt’s phenomenal achievements; maybe it’s in our water, in the very air, or maybe it is in the foundation and dreams that have been instilled in us by parents and others who made endless sacrificed to keep us focused, and made us dream beyond what could even be imagined.
Regardless of the source of our greatness, Jamaicans such as Maurice Ashley are helping to create a more diversified and accomplished profile of who Jamaicans are and the new frontiers we are traversing. 
As Maurice Ashley says, “Knowing that chess is a blessing for kids helps me to keep spreading that message.” So I invite you to introduce a child in your life to chess as well as other endeavors that could guide them towards success.
Learn more about Maurice Ashley and all that he is doing to promote chess and keep the Jamaican flag waving high by visiting his website:
Please contact Opal Palmer Adisa at if you have a story to share. She plans to do a profile of 50 Jamaican women and men, living in the greater Jamaica Diaspora who have had exceptional accomplishments. Also, Adisa’s novel, Painting Away Regrets, is set to release this November 2011.

Images from the Miami Book Fair International

Caribbean Lit. Luminaries (L. to R.):Heather Russell. Donna Aza Weir-Soley, 
Gordon Rohlehr, Opal Palmer Adisa, Ramabai Espinet

Wimpy Kid Creator: Jeff Kinney

Book Monster Invades Miami

For more, please follow this link:

November 29, 2011

Independence and After Conference @ Black Atlantic Resource Debate

Dr. Eric Williams

LC-USZ62-125505 (b&w film copy neg.) Publication may be restricted. For information see "New York World-Telegram ...,"

To mark the centenary of the birth of Dr Eric Williams and in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of independence in Trinidad and Tobago, a one-day conference INDEPENDENCE AND AFTER: DR ERIC WILLIAMS & THE MAKING OF TRINIDAD & TOBAGO was held at the Institute for the Study of the Americas on the 27 September 2011. This conference explored the shaping of Trinidadian politics and society under the Williams’ administration and the legacies of this period today. The conference was filmed and all panels are now available to view on:

For more information, please follow this link:

Anancy Festival 2011 @ YouTube

Performances and interviews from the South Florida Anancy Festival 2011.

Videographer - Mark Shapley

November 27, 2011

Polyglot Writers: Writing Across Languages


Polyglot Writers: Writing Across Languages

The Creative Writing Program proudly welcomes poet and playwright Nathalie Handal and poet Ishion Hutchinson to its 2011-2012 reading series, Polyglot Writers: Writing Across Languages on Nov. 29 and 30, 2011.

The series celebrates our global society, where languages float across borders, race and class and have created a nation of polyglot people. At the University of Miami, our student body represents 146 nations and it is common to walk across the campus and hear conversations in more than two or three languages. Not unusual when you consider that the U.S. Census Bureau has determined that the number of people speaking a language other than English at home has doubled in the last three decades.

Polyglot Writers explores the fluidity of words as they define and redesign the narratives of writers who come from multiple languages, cultures and traditions. This year, we have also partnered with Books & Books to host writers’ salons, where we will engage in fine desserts, after dinner drinks, and conversations that focus on the play of language in all its forms.

Playwright and poet Nathalie Handal is the author most recently of Love and Strange Horses (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010). Of her writing, Pulitzer Prize winner Yusef Kumunyakaa has written: “This cosmopolitan voice belongs to the human family, and it luxuriates in crossing necessary borders.” Handal is also the editor of the groundbreaking anthology, The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology. 

Poet Ishion Hutchinson’s work has appeared in the LA Review, Callaloo, Caribbean Review of Books, Poetry and International, and first book of poetry, Far District, was the winner of the Academy of Poets’s Larry Levis Prize.

Dr. Christina Civantos, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Spanish, and Dr. Patricia Saunders, author of Alien/Nation and Repatri(n)ation: Caribbean Literature and the Task of Translating Identity, will lead the Writers’ Salon in a lively discussion.

Fiction Master’s Class
Tuesday, November 29
3:30 - 5:30 p.m.
427 Ashe Building, 1252 Memorial Drive, Coral Gables

Tuesday, November 29
7 - 8 p.m.
Location: CAS Gallery, 1210 Stanford Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146

Poetry Master’s Class
Wednesday, November 30
3:15 - 5:15 p.m.
427 Ashe Building, 1252 Memorial Drive Coral Gables, FL 33146

Writers’ Salon
Wednesday, November 30
8:30 p.m.
Books & Books 265 Aragon Avenue Coral Gables, FL 33134

“Polyglot Writers” Reading Series is sponsored by the University of Miami’s Creative Writing Program, Department of English, College of Arts and Sciences, American Studies Program, Women’s and Gender Studies Program, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures’ Joseph Carter Memorial Fund, Multicultural Student Affairs, and our partners at Books & Books.

Contact information: M. Evelina Galang, Director of Creative Writing, 305 284 5573,; Daisy Hernández, Graduate Assistant,

November 25, 2011

"The Thanksgiving Kitten" by Geoffrey Philp

Maybe it was the dead calico in front of Desiree's house that finally did it. Or maybe it was the heaviness on her chest since she began taking a new medication. Or was it the bodily pains from fibromyalgia, which had forced her early retirement from teaching kindergarten?

"No more kiddies to save, mother," said Janice, her daughter, before she left for Seattle. Desiree had waited by the phone all day, but Janice hadn't called even though she'd promised to phone every Thanksgiving.

Now only an empty plate from Desiree’s Thanksgiving tuna lay on the counter beside a red vial from her many visits to Aventura's ER.

"Find the thing you love," said the young resident as he carelessly scribbled another prescription for OxyContin.

How Desiree had even gotten out of the bed that she'd shared with her husband until one slap ended their marriage was still a miracle.

Awakened by meowing in her garden, Desiree looked out the window. Nothing.

She couldn’t go back to sleep. Desiree put on her bathrobe and went to the kitchen for her morning routine when she saw the cap of the vial lying on the counter. Desiree had forgotten that she'd taken off the cap.

Opening the cupboard, Desiree took down a glass, opened the fridge, and found a carton of milk hiding behind a bottle of vodka. As she filled the glass with milk, Desiree heard the meowing again.

This time it was louder.

Desiree put the carton back in the fridge, but left the half-filled glass on the counter. Tightening the belt around her waist, Desiree went outside, and looked around the yard. Still nothing.

Desiree was about to go back inside when she heard a shriek. She walked around the side of the house: a ginger tail was stuck in the rainspout.

Desiree bent down and eased her fingers into the sides of the rainspout. The ginger tail hissed. She gently coaxed the tail, hind legs, forepaws, and head into the sunlight.

The kitten licked her hand.

Bundling the kitten into her arms, Desiree went back into her kitchen and poured the milk from her glass into a bowl. Sticking out its pink tongue, the kitten lapped noisily.

Desiree covered the vial. For now, the pills could wait.

November 24, 2011

"A Thanksgiving Fable" by Geoffrey Philp

After a terrible hurricane destroyed their village in Benin, the children of Olokun awakened on a strange land across the sea.
"What shall we do?" asked Agana Erí, the youngest. "We can't go back across the water and if we stay here, we will die."
"I agree," said Olona, the middle child. "We are doomed."
"Our mother would never leave us here alone," said Osupa, the eldest. "We must find a way to get her attention and win back her favor."
So the three daughters travelled into the heart of the land and lived off what they could find. As the months passed, they made their homes, each with her own garden. Agana Erí grew corn; Olona planted yams, and Osupa raised poultry. 
At the end of the year, the children of Olokun gathered by a palm tree that faced the east and placed their offerings at the foot of the tree.
Agana Erí, offered hominy cooked with garlic; Olona boiled yam with coconuts, and Osupa, stewed a white rooster in coconut oil. The children placed their offerings in a large blue clay jar, the color of the seawater, and waited for a sign from their mother. 
Osupa faced her two sisters and from what she could remember, picked up a shell, and placed it next to her ear. Then, she turned to Agana Erí and Olona.
"What would you like to ask our mother?" 
"We demand to know why we are here?" inquired Agana Erí.
"We want to know why she has left us?" Olona pleaded.
Osupa held her breath and placed the shell next to her ear. Then, she faced the sea and exhaled.
"Oh, mother," she said, "your children have asked me, 'Why are we here?' 'Why have you abandoned us?' Please, answer us."
Osupa covered the jar with leaves from the palm tree and took three steps back. She circled the tree with flour and made a sign for the four winds in the sand.
Olokun's children waited in the silence, but nothing happened. They waited and waited for days for something to happen, but nothing ever did. They watched and waited until the offerings began to rot and ants feasted on the corn, yams, and the chicken.
"She did not accept our gifts," said Agana Erí. "She must still be angry with us."
"We are lost," said Olona. "We will never go home."
"I am not sure what this means," said Osupa as she cradled the shell. "But I do know our mother would never abandon us."
"I am tired of waiting," said Agana Erí and she went off to her hut, where the corn towered over the rows of flowers around her front door.
"Me, too," said Olona and she marched off to her hut, where the vines from her yams climbed over the branches of the gumbo-limbo.
Osupa said nothing, but kept the shell to her ear, waiting for an answer.
Olokun's daughters worked and worked and worked and soon the land was transformed into a garden. Flowers grew along the sides of the hills and streams became as clear as mirrors.
But then, one day the wind shifted and the ants began crawling up into the top of the palm tree. Osupa's chickens roosted in the eaves of her hut. The vines from Olona's yams flailed wildly in the air.
The winds uprooted the corn and broke off the vines of the yams. The rains lashed their houses and one by one, they fell. Olokun's children ran out into the open spaces toward the sea.
"We are doomed," cried Agana Erí.
They gathered around the palm that faced the east and looked out at the clouds, which gathered like a dark fist over the land. Afraid, the children said a prayer they thought they had forgotten:
I praise the Spirit of the vast Ocean. I praise the Spirit of the Ocean who is beyond understanding.

Spirit of the Ocean, I will worship you, as long as there is water in the Sea.

Let there be peace in the ocean. Let there be peace in my soul.

The Spirit of the Ocean, the ageless one, I give respect. Ase.
The winds continued howling across the land and up the sides of the hills. Lightning flashed across the sky and then thunder, like a thousand trees falling in the forest.
"It is a sign from our mother, she has come to destroy us," said Olona.
"We have offended her and now she shows her displeasure," cried Agana Erí.
"Let us see if this is true," said Osupa, and once more, she placed the shell next to her ear and listened.
Suddenly rising out of the water, there was the most beautiful woman they had ever seen. She had cowrie shells in her hair, red opals around her neck, and her dress was as white as coral. Her voice was like the sound of the ocean rising out of the depths where no light has ever entered.
"Mother, do not kill us," cried Agana Erí.
"Why would I do that my children?" asked Olokun. The sea crashed down behind her. "Your prayer brought me here. I am only here to answer your questions."
"Why have we suffered so much?" asked Olona.
"Why have you rejected our gifts and why haven't you answered our prayers?" asked Agana Erí.
Olokun laughed and once again the sea rose up behind her and the wind swirled around her dress.
"You are the answer to your own prayers," she said. "Look at this land. Count the gifts with which you were born and the blessings you have multiplied with your own hands. You are the gifts that have pleased me. I will never leave you and nothing you do can ever displease me. I love you, my children."
"So why did the hurricane come and take us away?" asked Agana Erí.
"Hurricanes come and go. Don't pray for hurricanes to go away. Pray to be strong when they come and stronger when they leave."
And with that, Olokun disappeared back into the depths of the sea and everything returned to normal--as if nothing had happened.
And from that day on the grateful children of Olokun gathered on this day to give thanks to their mother for the bounty of the seas, the land, and the air

Olokun was pleased and continued to bless them for the rest of their lives.

Image: "Olokun" by Christina Philp


November 23, 2011

In This Great Future, You Can't Forget Your Past

 (L. to R.) Marlon James, Geoffrey Philp, and Edwidge Danticat

The Miami Book Fair International is not only a great event to publicize and sell books, it's also a place to meet old friends and to talk shop before rushing off to the next reading. 

After my reading of Marcus and the Amazons, I met up with Edwidge Danticat, Evelina Galang, and Marlon James. Edwidge had just returned from New York, Marlon was leaving for Mexico, and Evelina was planning a reading for Ishion Hutchinson at the University of Miami. 

 (L. to R.)Geoffrey Philp, Edwidge Danticat, Evelina Galang

Maybe one of these days we'll get a chance to sit and have an extended conversation in Evelina's backyard. 

Are you up for it, Evelina? 

Have a great Thanksgiving, my friends.

November 22, 2011

Marcus and the Amazons: Rain, Rain, Go Away

 (L. to R.) Henry Cole and Geoffrey Philp

I should listen to my mother-in-law more often. 
On the morning of my reading from Marcus and the Amazons at the Miami Book Fair International, I was awakened by the sound of rain beating against my window. My mother always said that rain was a blessing, but in this case, it didn't look that way. I was beginning to doubt her hard won wisdom too.

Still, my wife and I pressed on. We got into my car and as we were driving down the I-95, it looked as if it was going to be a terrible day.
When we reached 79th Street and there was no sign of let-up, I told my wife, Nadia, to call her mother because I didn't want her to get drenched by coming to my reading.
"Tell Geoffrey not to worry, mi hija," said Anatolia, my mother-in-law. "Everything will be all right."
So, we drove on buoyed by Anatolia's optimism. How could she not be optimistic? My mother-in-law lived through La Violencia in Colombia and struggled for a long time as the matriarch of the family to make sure that her children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren would be safe and secure.
I parked in the main lot of the Wolfson Campus and my wife and I walked over to the Author's Lounge in the main building. After an interview with Jessy Shuster and Barbara Howard, I went to room 1164 where I met Linda Bernfeld, Regional Advisor of SCBWI Florida, and Henry Cole, author of A Nest for Celeste.
Henry is one of the most gracious authors I have ever met and his book, A Nest for Celeste, is not only a good story, but also dramatizes some of the values of Marcus and the Amazons: courage, friendship, and loyalty.
During the reading, I also had the opportunity to share the platform with my son, Andrew, and my "adopted" son, Patrick. 

 (L. to R.) Geoffrey Philp, Patrick Pollack,and  Andrew Philp 

Every father wants his children to succeed. It was a wonderful experience to share the stage with them and to see them present themselves and their ideas so competently. Once, again, my boys made me feel so proud.

 (L. to R.) Patrick Pollack and Andrew Philp
Despite my initial fears, the reading was a success and several of my friends including Rosie Gordon-Wallace and Mervyn Solomon, who gave spontaneous introductory remarks to begin the program, were there to offer their encouragement.
Of course, my mother-in-law was there and she brought her angels with her.

 (L. to R.) Patrick, Anatolia, Andrew, Ramona, and Edna Mae.
Thank you, Anatolia, for giving me hope when I thought everything was going to be a disaster. Your words were sunshine.

& give thanks to your beautiful daughter, Nadia, for taking all these photos.

One Love