Monday, 31 October 2011

Hope Zoo - Coming Attraction, The Scarlet Ibis

Coming soon to the Hope Zoo will be Scarlet Ibis. See clip below. 

Sunday, 30 October 2011

With Justice - Eyewitness Account of Norman Manley


With Justice


Extract from the Novel Raising Ramiro

National Heroes Circle, formerly known as Race Course
Archdeacon Simms, the Headmaster of Jamaica College, tapped his fingers on the table, but was otherwise still, even his breathing was slow and low. A wave of warm air blew into the open-sided tent, and with it the chatter and laughter of the few hundred spectators who came out to see the first renewal of the Jamaica Schools Championship at Sabina Park.

Around the table with him were the school's Sports master, other House masters and the Head Boy. Also there was the school's star athlete, Norman Manley who was recovering from winning the heats of the Class One 100-Yard Dash by drinking a tall bottle of water. The Sports master finally spoke, deliberately measuring each word to match the importance of the moment.

    "Overall, Headmaster, we are in third place: nine points behind Wolmers, five points behind St George's College," he tried to keep his anxiety in check, deliberately not looking at Norman. "There are three events left to go. We can, at best, place third place in the Long Jump - that is one point - and that is an event that will widen the gap between us and the leaders. Mr Manley is the favourite for the 100-Yard Dash - that is five points for us. The best chance that we have of taking the championship home to Old Hope Road is to win the 4 x 100 Relay. Headmaster, we need to field our very best sprint team."

The conversation paused as they were distracted by a loud cheer that swept the wide expanse of the grounds. Spectators at the Wolmers side of the park found new energy to wave their maroon and gold flags. Their athlete just won the Class-One Long Jump, pulling them further away from the pack.

Sitting in trees or on carts or simply standing around, hundreds of citizens of Kingston who had taken the afternoon off to watch the sports day were also reacting with excitement.  Near to the Jamaica College tents, men and boys hailing from Half-Way-Tree, Matilda's Corner and straight up to Mona and Gordon Town patiently waited on their next opportunity to bruk out - that would be when Manley leaned for the finals of the 100-Yard Dash.

The first staging of the athletics meet the year before had gone exceedingly well and was so completely covered by the press that the renewal was highly anticipated by the entire city. Even members of the exclusive Kingston Cricket Club, whose grounds they were using, had left their plantations and offices to enjoy an afternoon of sports. Everyone had their own declared favourite team, but they all came out to support the boys.

    The Headmaster considered Norman. This boy was the single most important reason for their sporting achievements last year and also these games. Aside from his own personal achievements, he motivated the boys to push their own expectations of themselves higher and to embrace discipline and effort. At this moment, the weight of the school's success at these games rested on his 17-year old shoulders.

    "How would you select the relay team Manley?" Headmaster Simms asked.

    "Sir, I think I could run a leg..." Norman started, but was interrupted by the Sports master.

     "Yes, yes, that is a given assumption Manley. Who else?" The man was nervous.

     "William Scarlett on the first leg; he is fast, but he cannot chase. Robert Beckford Yeats on the last leg; he flies when he gets the baton, but can also lose focus and drop the baton during a pass. I will run third and plant the baton in Beckford Yeats' hand."

Norman paused because the real reason for the anxiety was his decision on who would run the second leg and pass the baton to him.

    "Hugo Taylor Grant to complete the team, Sir."

    "Why do you not have the Class 2 champion, Kingsley Millingsworth, or our mile runner, Louis Beckford Yeats?" The Sports master wanted to know.

Norman replied: "They are good strong runners Sports master, but I do not know how they will perform in the relay."

    "Explain that Manley," The Headmaster ordered, but also continued. "Millingsworth and the younger Beckford Yeats have performed marvellously for this school. They have helped us to collect medals in cricket, shooting, boxing, they are True Blue boys and always willing to serve. Why won't you have them on your team?"

    "They did not come to training, Sir; Taylor Grant did," Norman said simply. "It is because of him we always had a full side to practice baton changes and know the abilities of every leg of our team. It is fair that he gets the chance to run for J.C today," Norman ended quietly and firmly.

His Headmaster without pressing too much, rejoined: "Son, the entire J.C. community wants this win and are depending on us to make the decision that will be in the best interest of the school. I want you to also think about that Norman, but the final decision we entrust to you."

Norman straightened his back and met every gaze under the tent.
    "I am motivated by my school's prayer: Create among us the spirit of comradeship and loyalty to one another. When we are called to rule, make us rule with justice. That is my guide for the decision to give Taylor Grant the second leg, Sir."
Port Maria clock tower
The announcer called for the finalists in the 100-Yard Dash and Norman left the tent.

He took his place behind the whitewashed starting line. He wanted the championships win as deeply as anyone else in the school, so he had to stay in the moment and do his best to win this race. The other five boys at the starting line were fast, but Norman decided to put them on the offensive by leading from the moment the gun gave them their release.

There was a clean start and Manley heard the boys to his left and to his right breathe and stride with determination; but he pushed harder, stayed relaxed, and burst the tape for his school. Not staying for the result, Norman jogged back to his tent, beckoning the relay team over as he did.

The rejected Millingsworth, the younger Beckford Yeats brother, Father Beckford Yates and some old boys were also there.

    "Manley, the old boys said that it is too close to play around with a victory," younger Beckford Yeats said. "I know how to change baton with my brother, I can run third and you can do the second leg."

    "We can't distract the team now gentlemen. We have a good team for J.C. that we are going to run," Norman said.

    "You going to deliberately lose," said Millingsworth, "And for what Manley, to spite us? We were doing other activities for J.C. and you know it! Don't play around."

The simmering merriment of spectators outside just then burst into bubbling shrieks and excitement. The Sports master ran into the tent with the widest smile of the day.
    "A national record! Manley, you ran the 100-Yard Dash in ten seconds flat. It's official!"

Norman nodded and pulled his relay team away from the hubbub; he would celebrate later.

With one event left to go, the points standing had Wolmers in the lead with 26; St George's second with 24; and Jamaica College with 17 points. Their only chance of the championship was to win the relay and hope that the other two front runners did not place.

The starter's gun found Scarlett off the line first, just as he promised. He ran a beautiful leg and handed the baton ahead of the others and safely into the hands of Hugo Taylor Grant. Although he got a good lead and anyone watching could see that Hugo put his whole heart into his duty, the legs of the Wolmers, St George's, Potsdam, New College and Mandeville Middle School boys left him behind. Hugo plodded on, his eyes locked into those of his captain Norman Manley, filling those unforgiving moments with every ounce of running effort that he could muster. Only when Hugo was one stride away did Norman, in blind trust, turn his back leaving one arm outstretched, palm open. When the wooden tube was solidly in his palm, Norman closed his fingers around it, and activated his limbs came into action, and focussed on closing the distance that he had been given.

When Norman passed the baton to Robert Beckford Yeats, only two teams were left to pass; Norman had regained third position for JC. Robert managed to clip all but the man from Potsdam.

Nervously, the Sports master and Father Beckford Yeats - an old boy himself - added up the points. Jamaica College, 24; St George's 24; Wolmers 26. They were disappointed; but the referee was calling the Jamaica College Headmaster over. The official count added three extra points to Jamaica College for achieving the new 100-Yard Dash record.

Headmaster Simms wanted Norman to be at his side when he received the Olivier Challenge Cup. Sir Sydney Oliver agreed that it was appropriate to wait a few minutes and allow the boy to be hoisted on the shoulders of the public celebrating on the dusty grounds of Sabina Park.

Other Eyewitness Accounts

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Young Heroes - Inspired by Jamaica's National Heroes

Note to Jamaicans
The dome at the Jamaica 50 Launch
Jamaica House, Kingston October 2011
The stories that are told around the lives of the National Heroes of Jamaica are efforts to put together living histories of times gone by. Many of the stories, however, do not satisfy as they do not advance universal values but rather underscore the survival activities of an oppressed people.

These short fictional pieces offer a different view. They bring forward the national heroes as young people with personalities still being formed. Delivered with action and suspense, each tale highlights one or more of the following themes: Community spirit and service; respectful, god-fearing behaviour; thoughtful action; and a thirst for learning and knowledge. In addition, the words of the National Anthem, or actual words of the heroes themselves, are given life as a phrase is included in each story.

These tales will be expanded over time in different media, such as skits that can be read or dramatised by a small group.

Overall however, my goal is that you will enjoy reading these short episodes, and I would love your feedback. They are my creative work and if you would like to reproduce them; we need to discuss it first.



Young Heroes 

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Chance cannot satisfy hope - Eyewitness account of Marcus Garvey

Young Heroes 

Chance cannot satisfy hope - Marcus Garvey

Wildflowers Spanish Town Road Kingston, Jamaica
Wildflowers in the Spanish Town Road median
across from the DC Tavares Finson Market
Portia Simpson Miller Square, (Three Miles)

Marcus closed the gate of his parents' yard and hustled along Market Street. The bag of marbles at the bottom of his capacious shorts pocket clicked softly, keeping time with the pace of his jogging. On any given Saturday afternoon, boys would be gathered at the side of the printery, and if Marcus selected his challengers carefully, he could increase his cache by at least a third. He never left the outcome of anything important, like a game of marbles, to chance.

It was a typically busy afternoon in the market town of St Ann's Bay; and even more so as the harvest season was nearly over and people had money in their pockets. Two ships were at the docks as raw sugar was loaded in their holds while the crew enjoyed a few days in the town. He watched as a loader man hauled fresh fruits and vegetables from a mule-drawn dray parked at the corner with Market Street and took them into a hotel. Marcus paused to allow a drover with a small herd of goats to cross before him - rams were known to buck - and decided that he would stop and buy an othahetie apple at the cart.

A motor vehicle honked incessantly urging the goats to hurry along. The driver did not wait, but instead made a wide arc to negotiate the corner; he could not see the dray in the bend and he could not brake in time. A fender clipped a mule. It reared and kicked the motor vehicle driver in his side, causing him to completely lose control of the vehicle and crash in the wall of a doctor's office. There were ample hands to lift the driver inside for help. The mule looked all right until his driver urged the team forward and it refused to put one its back leg down and pulled its share of the weight limping along on three legs.

"I would have been at that spot a few moments later," Marcus reflected as he looked around at the damage. The crashed car, the limping mule and some wasted vegetables that slid off the cart during the melee.

He was more aware of his safety during the remainder of his walk and was alarmed that the speed of motor vehicles and their lack of agility simply made traffic more dangerous. He could only imagine what the streets of busier places like Montego Bay and Kingston were like.


Marcus had a successful afternoon of marbles and returned home with two heavy pockets. On his return trip he passed the mangled motor vehicle that had been pushed on to an open lot. Later that evening there was the report of a single gunshot; his father, who had been reading the Gleaner, mumbled that it must be the vet putting down the injured mule.

Mr Garvey settled his folded newspaper on a side table as Mrs Garvey came in to serve dinner.

Marcus took up his school slate and started to write. After Church the next day, he was still scribbling and erasing and rewriting on his slate. By afternoon he was satisfied and asked his father to read his thoughts.

After Mr Garvey read the short passage he said, "Interesting son, a real vision into the future. What do you want to do with it?"

"I want to print it and circulate it to the custos, the pastors, the magistrates, the Governor..."

"What about sending it to the Gleaner son? A letter to the Editor."

Marcus got a sheet of clean writing paper, his pen and inkwell and, in his best handwriting, wrote:

The Editor Sir,

The industrious people of St Ann's Bay are suffering from the benefits of mechanical advancement. Motor vehicles can be seen now every single day on our narrow streets, which can barely serve the needs of man and beast, and all too often, it is the reason behind awful carnage where we intended only faster and more efficient transportation.

Only yesterday, the hard labour of an honest farmer was wasted when a motor vehicle critically injured a trusty mule which suffered greatly before it was put down. That farmer may now have to incur debt to replace the mule and perhaps deprive his children, of schooling or his land of expansion for more production. That very same motor car would have killed me. Had my steps been only a few paces faster, I would have been on that spot of disaster.

Chance cannot satisfy hope in this country. We cannot rely on luck, we need to put our God-given intellect to create laws that regulate how motorised vehicles must travel on the roads. These laws should address speed, caution in going around corners and perhaps which roads must be out of bounds to them. With the power of the automobile, must come additional responsibility on the operators; and those drivers will only respond to binding laws.

Marcus was about to sign his name, but at the last moment felt shy, and instead signed it 'A Youth'. He carefully blotted the ink, folded the letter and placed it into an addressed envelope. His father would mail it at the post office while he was at school.

A week later the letter was published and it caused discussion in the marketplace and rum bars of St Ann's Bay. Later that week the Baptist pastor's topic was "The law, God's protection for the people".

Over the next month, other letters showed up on the pages of the Gleaner concerning the issue of traffic. Most were descriptive but a few were sceptical of laws restricting speed and personal freedoms. Others weighed in against those arguments making reference to a new law in England that restricted the speed of locomotives in built up areas; and that it was only a matter of time before regulations came for motor vehicles.

Marcus read them all and only wished that he had signed his full name; but he was also sure that there would be other times and other issues on which he could express his twelve-year-old mind.


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Young Heroes - True Wisdom - Sam Sharpe

Young Heroes

True Wisdom – Sam Sharpe

Aerial view of the approach to Wigton Wind Farm Manchester
From the vantage point of the back of his farm horse, Bakkra Lynch smiled broadly and enjoyed the fight. O the stubby grass at the edge of the cane piece two small boys - each was about eight years old - were on the ground locked in a fierce struggle.

They were skinny but the way that they handled each other: grabbing the opponent’s arm or leg or ear or cheek,  spoke of the intensity they brought to the battle. Sam, at the moment, heavily kneeling on one knee, pressed his elbow in the ribs of Cicero who was pinned on the ground. Obviously in pain, Cicero, got his leg hooked into Sam’s supporting leg and gave it the hardest jerk that he could. Sam cried out in pain as his ankle twisted, and as he reached to hold it, Cicero jumped on him and pummeled blows hard in his face. Sam managed to grab Cicero's arm and bit down hard on his wrist, causing the other to squeal. At that point, a pair of thick arms dislodged the two and bore a tearful Sam away.

Annoyed that his sport had been spoiled, Bakkra Lynch nevertheless did not stop Brownie, the plantation’s brawniest and gentlest worker. Bakkra Lynch's eyes slid to Daddy Servius the cart driver. Brownie was not known for his initiative, but the old African was just staring into space. Bakkra Lynch spurred his mount and rode off.

There was little peace that evening in the village as the mothers of Cicero Ellis and Samuel Sharpe had it out in a tracing match with each other. Cicero’s mother pointed to the scar on her son’s wrist caused by the wicked beast Sam; and Sam’s mother said that her boy was probably lamed for life because of a thieving snake. It went on until another chorus of women reminded them that the missionaries said that that true Christians must be patient in affliction.

The following morning, Sam’s ankle was swollen and his mother pleaded with the headman to have him taken up to the slave hospital for treatment, which was agreed and arranged.

Sitting with his back against the cool cut-stone limestone blocks of the hospital building, Sam rested and tried to make sense of how he and his best friend, got into a terrible fight.

They were both gathering the short stalks of cane left behind in the fields by the men; running jokes with each other. Their game was to see who could make the highest pile before Daddy Servius came with the cart to collect the cane for crushing.

On return from a long row there was one pile instead of two and each boy claimed it as their own. Sam threw a verbal taunt at Cicero, and Bakkra Lynch, who was nearby, laughed and said that Cicero was a likkle mawga dawg who will serve Sam forever….that was when the fight started.

From where he sat, Sam could see the great house, the factory, rolling cane lands, the jungle-thick grove of trees fringing the river that cut through the land, and further away on a rocky piece, the village. He counted as many of the workers as he could see in the fields; then counted the overseers; then he looked for Bakkra Lynch.

Sam wondered why the world was the way it was.

He returned to his mother Saturday night, three days later, and as soon as she had finished fussing over him, Sam limped to Cicero’s family hut, looking for his friend. He found him looking at the book with pictures that one of the missionaries gave to him. Some of the children had already given Cicero the nickname, Bookman. But before they could settle down to make amends, from not too far away, a voice called.


It was Daddy Servius sitting in the doorway of his hut, beckoning to them. He had some curious ways, the old African, and every now and then he reverted to his mother tongue instead of English.

Trench Town Reading Centre Library 2011

They went to him and sat in the dirt as directed. Daddy Servius drew the web of Ananse and said “Know how to use the web; it teaches true wisdom.”

He drew a fat belly animal with four legs and said, "Live like the crododile and adapt."

Beside it, he drew a knot, "Strongest bonds are made in the spirit of peace and reconciliation."

One by one Daddy Servius drew the symbols of his people that encouraged contemplation and thought. Cicero pleased the African by showing how he could draw the symbols on his own.

At Church, the next morning, the Baptist preacher read a different set of wisdom from a book. It fascinated Sam that, like Daddy Servius did, the missionaries could put down thoughts and save them for later, like food or money. He decided then, that he must learn to do that; learn how to read and to write.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Photo of The Jamaica Legion Poppy 2011

Honouring the Jamaica Legion 

Poppy Day Falmouth 2010

Sam Brown Parade Commander, British Colombia

Prime Minister Andrew Holness to participate in Remembrance Day 2011

The Jamaica Legion JDF Website

Remembrance Day 2011

Pride and Glory - Gleaner 2011 article

Jamaica's war memorial cenotaphs 

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Hope Zoo Ostrich Pair

New addition, an albino Burmese Python

Young Heroes True Respect for All -George William Gordon


Other Eyewitness Accounts
Bless Our Land - Nanny of the Maroons

The frog pond at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Hope (Hope Gardens)
Eyewitness Account of George William Gordon
True Respect for All

Mr East tapped gently on the mahogany door of his boss’ office before opening it and going in. Mr Gordon was describing a new plan that would advance the sale of land, and the two professional gentlemen seated across the table from him were leaning forward, almost drooling with dreams of returns on investment. Ambitious men always visited the offices of George William Gordon because he knew how to make money.

    "Mr Gordon, your father’s messenger is here," East whispered in his ear.

Without hesitation, George excused himself and saw the messenger in an ante room next to his office. It was his nature to put his family first.

The messenger handed George a note, which he read quickly. His father was asking to see him at the Myrtle Bank Hotel after his luncheon, not, as George expected, a polite request for money. George scribbled a reply and told East to put a sum of money in the envelope before dispatching the messenger.

As the Custos - the  first citizen of the parish, Joseph Gordon was extended particular courtesies by the hotel, and a sheltered nook in the lobby was reserved for his use. On George's approach, he stood up from the comfortable rattan arm chair and they shook hands.

The hotel had been their meeting place ever since George opened his own office in the capital: his father’s home was out of bounds and he no longer wished to wait in his father's offices - a place that represented privilege that he could never obtain and which he quietly resented. After asking about his son’s health and general well being, George’s father explained his request for a meeting.

    “George, you have been very kind to my wife and I in ways that we will perhaps never be able to repay, but I nevertheless find myself in the situation where I have to sell Cherry Gardens and move into a smaller house. I have found a suitable property in Barbican Pen. I wanted you to hear it from me first.”

An unvoluntary jolt of sadness took George back more than ten years in teh space of a single, slow pulse of his heart. Cherry Gardens was his lost paradise, and the idea that it was moving beyond one step beyond even the tenuous bond of being his father's home suspended his senses. He instead, through memory, heard his mother calling him and his sisters and brother to breakfast. She had prepared cornmeal porridge on an open fire under the shade of a guango tree not too far from the great house. The children sat on the ground at a safe distance from the pot and each waited for their bowl of hot, sweet, morning goodness. Around them, other residents of the plantation were sullen and silent as they and their children made their way to work in the fields.

Gordon had only happy memories of the Cherry Gardens plantation, his family were favoured above all the slaves because their mother had borne all of the master’s natural children. They were a part of the house staff and so he knew every room in the great house while other children knew the shortcuts to the boiler house.

For some reason, he never knew why, when he was still small his father invited him into his study and gave him books and told him to teach himself to read. When he was ten years old George stopped working at the plantation altogether because he was sent to his godfather for schooling.

The schooling never stopped even after his father decided to get married and his mother’s family was forced to leave the plantation.

Parliament 2011
May 5 Budget presentation of the Leader of the Opposition
    “It is not shame, it is just how things must be,” his mother told them.
She held her head high when the other workers mocked her and her children as their belongings were carted away. George never entered his father’s house again.

Moving out of Cherry Gardens, however, brought George closer to the city and he quickly shed “country boy” ways and slipped into a new urban skin. He easily fit into the company of free natives and developed the skills and instincts of a man of business which allowed him to move between the worlds of the coloureds and the planters. The fact that his father, the Custos of the parish and member of the Assembly, openly acknowledged him certainly did not hurt. 

    “…so this is your opportunity to take the seat,” senior Gordon said. George had completely missed the last few minutes of his father's monologue.

    “I beg your pardon Custos,” said George.

    “Surprised that I would back you?” his father said slightly amused. ‘Sir, you have shown yourself to be as excellent man as any in the Kingdom, and therefore the world."

Using his fingers, Joseph Gordon counted-off his son's virtues.

    "You have established yourself as a sound man of business; oh yes, I have heard about this Mutual Assurance Society that will bring more land into the hands of hard working people. You are a man of God, though I cannot understand why you moved away from our Church. You have elevated your mother and sisters and set their feet on the path to secure futures. My financial fortunes, as you know, are greatly diminished, but I do have some influence and, with your permission, seek to put your name forward as the representative of the people of St Thomas, where I know you already have significant land assets.”

    “But I am just 22,” The words came out of Gordon’s mouth even as he saw the great potential for rapid personal advancement….

    “How is your mother?”

    “It was a question that the elder Gordon asked whenever they met, and George had always said, as he did now, “Sheisdoingwellthanksforasking.”

    “I tried to do the best by her George. I hope that you see that; but true respect for all the people of Jamaica will never happen until more native people, like you, become the leadership of this country. Will you offer yourself for nomination?” Gordon senior's Scottish pragmatism was no more evident than when he was brokering a deal, a trait his son inherited.

    “You honour me, Sir," said George. "I will consult my associates in the parish and here in the capital and let you know in short order.”

The two spoke briefly about an anticipated game of cricket and shortly afterwards, parted company.

George did not immediately return to his office. He stopped at his solicitors and gave instructions that they make an immediate offer to purchase Cherry Gardens so that his father and stepmother would not have to leave their home. By the end of the day, George decided that he would accept his father's support for the Asembly seat and represent the parish of St Thomas.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Young Heroes - Our Light Through Countless Hours - Paul Bogle

Other  Eyewitness  Accounts
Eyewitness Account of Paul Bogle 

Our Light Through Countless Hours

National Dance Theatre Company's Gerebenta
performed at the Little Theatre in 2011
Seven-year-old Paul huddled under the house; alone, nervous, but  not afraid. He had been there for some some hours and now it was pitch, black night. Normally at this time on a Sunday he would have returned from evening service, and his mother would be urging him and his siblings and cousins to go to bed.

But there had been no Church service in Stony Gut that day. In the morning when the families were preparing the after church supper, the militia rode into the village, turned over cooking pots and demanded to know where recent runaways, Osonoko the Coromante; and Briton, who was born on the plantation had gone. No one knew - they said.

They were especially harsh on Quamina, because she had a history of being defiant. They put her to stand in the sun while they rode a horse through her house.

"Dem not here me seh!" she insisted, and the tone of her voice gave courage to the other villagers who refused to run into the bush and instead sat and kept their eyes trained on the militia men as they rampaged through huts and kitchens and vegetable plots and hen houses. Then they put Quamina into the cart first and ordered all of the young people, the adults and the elders into to join her. They drove away - no doubt to the workhouse for punishment - leaving the children alone in the village.

Paul ran under his parents' hut as soon as the commotion started and stayed there. He was hungry, but felt he could ignore the pangs and stay safe until his parents returned; but he could not ignore the scared crying of the other children, especially when evening and its darkness came.

Emancipation Park 2011
He crept out and found eight-year-old Phibba in her mother's kitchen shivering and frightened. The faint embers from the cooking fire, where a breadfruit roasted until it burned, were barely there. Paul went behind the house for some dry banana leaves, tore them up, blew on the embers and used them to feed a small flame. Phibba placed a few pieces of wood on the flame and soon there was a small but steady fire, giving them courage in the dark.

In the night, Paul went from hut to hut, calling out and encouraging the children to come with him. He led them, many crying, to the flame in Phibba's kitchen. When he had done that, Paul went out again into the nearby bushes, calling out the names of the children he knew. In all more than 20 children eventually huddled together in the kitchen where they roasted fingers of plantain and ate them.

The night was long, but they held each other and Paul led them in the singing of songs from Church, "In this world of darkness, so we must shine. You in your small corner, and I in mine." They knew it well and it gave them courage.

Bell Tower, Holy Trinity Cathedral, North Street Kingston
Comforted, the smaller children drifted off to sleep and the older ones told Ananse stories. They heard how the spider man used his wits to stay alive and to look after his own family. Finally, after all the stories were told and the firewood was finished and the fire was once again red embers, only Paul was awake. He listened to the breathing of the children and their somnolent shuffling until daybreak, which was when the cart returned with the weary adults. Despite being away all of Sunday, they would have to work again that morning in the fields.

The parents were relieved to find that all of the children were safe together and praised them all for their bravery.

When Phibba's mother asked them if they were afraid, she said, "No Mama, our Paul was our light through countless hours."

Our Light Through Countless Hours

Flamingoes Regain Front Enclosure at Hope Zoo

Flamingoes Regain Front Enclosure 

The Hope Zoo continues to improve. On October 8, the three flamingoes were seen in the renovated front enclosure. This was the original location of flamingos in the hope zoo. The birds seemed a lot more comfortable in the new surroundings where they are getting direct sunlight on their feathers, and where they can have a good splash in moving water. The enclosure is shared with a few other waterfowl and fish. The next moment of delight will be when the expected dozen flamingoes move in.

A chance encounter with Operations Manager, Mr Richards revealed that the enclosure next to the peccaries is being cleared for zebras. That will certainly be a favourite of visitors.

Another beautiful view at the zoo was the return of the plumage of the ostrich pair, especially the male. A pair of creamy Sulphur Crested Cockatoos is also in and sharing space with macaws.

We also noted that the Cuban spiny iguana is now back on display across from the peccaries. Tapping on the glass in the snake house is a thing of the past as railings to keep visitors further back have been installed.


Papa Romeo - A Fly Guy Aviation Adventure

As a young jet pilot, Kit Khouri had it all, and lived life sometimes to excess. A tragic crash led to a police charge that changed his life. Through a series of events, he is slowly rebuilding his life. A Caribbean aviation adventure series. Papa Romeo was serialised in the Gleaner's Youth Link in 2010.
AKindle - Papa Romeo

Young Heroes - Bless Our Land - Nanny of the Maroons


Young Heroes

Eternal Father Bless Our Land

Nanny of the Maroons

The Shane Drummers perform at the
Two Seasons Talking Trees Literary Fiesta, May 2011

High in the green mountains in the East of the island of Jamaica lived a young woman who loved her family very much, but she was always getting in trouble as she enjoyed going on long hikes in the forest and hunting in the mountains instead of tending to the chickens and weeding the vegetable gardens.

"Where is my Nanny now?" Her mother would often sigh and anxiously look out for her daughter who would arrive home in the late evening after a day of hunting and carrying mountain doves that she caught and which she knew her family enjoyed to eat.

Nanny's people lived in a beautiful place, but they always had to be on the watch for they were free Africans who were in danger of being trapped and returned to a life of bondage on the plantations.

Late one night, Nanny, her brother Quao and friends Kofi and Yaw decided to go all the way down to a lagoon to catch fish. It was the night of a full moon and big cooking fish were sure to be there.

They knew the route in the dark, but in bright moonlight they easily reached the lagoon, cast their lines below the glinting water and into the dark deep. In no time, Yaw, who was best at fishing, pulled in two good sized eating fish. Nanny hoped for some parrot fish to slowly barbecue over a pimento wood fire.

They had been there only a short time when the soft sound of horse hooves approaching on the dusty road caused Nanny and her friends to lay low and look over to the coast road. A small group of armed uniformed men were riding from the East. That could only mean one thing - the militia, also taking advantage of the moonlight, were looking for runaways. Fear pricked Nanny's skin as she remembered when only a few years ago her family had run away from a plantation and were taken into a community to become a part of the Windward Maroons. She kept her head low as the soldiers always had expert mountain trackers with them.

The mounted party stopped and dismounted. One man stayed to look after the horses and the rest of the group disappeared into the fern and trees that fringed the coast road, very near to the path that Nanny
and her friends used. There was no knowing when the men would return and it was not wise to stay until daylight, so the group pulled in their lines and crept away from the watchman and the horses and made their way back across the road and up the mountain by another route.

As they passed down a dense path near where there was an old Taino cave, Nanny smelled a cooking fire,
"Ji nah," she whispered, which means "stand" in their father's language, Akan. The group stood and listened. They could hear water in the distance hitting against the rock cliff of the lagoon; they heard croaking lizards and nothing else, but the smell of smoke was faintly there. After a minute or two, after hearing nothing more they made off even more carefully than before. Then, they heard a woman's moan.

Nanny held the hand of her brother and pulled Yaw and Kofi to her.
"The runaways found the cave," said Nanny. We must help them before the militia gets there."

"But Nanny, they have guns...." Yaw said.

"Yes, but He Who Knows and Sees Everything is on the side of right, which is our side. Yao, it will be  your job to stay here and listen. If we meet trouble run and get help from our elders. We will pray for your nan ti yeah, safe journey.

Like shadows, Nanny, Kofi and Quao stepped lightly through the dense bushes and leaves until they got to the cave. By this time the smell of the cooking was strong and there was definitely shuffling and muffled moans coming from within the ancient cave.

"Agoo", called Nanny quietly, so that the persons inside were keeping watch would know it was an Akan person outside and not an enemy. All went quiet inside of the cave.

"Agoo", called Nanny again.
"Akwaaba", said an anxious voice.
Nanny slowly went inside of the cave and in the flickering firelight saw a group of women and children holding each other in a corner.

She went to the oldest woman in the group, the elder, and knelt before her.

"Mother, men with guns are near. You must leave now and come with us."
"We are happy to leave but my granddaughter is hurt. If she moves she may die."
She pointed to a young woman at the back who was crying and holding a pregnant belly.

"I can take her," said Nanny. "Mother, please go with my brother and my friend. They will take you to safety. We have little time."

"The Great One has sent you, so we must do as you say," said the woman and she gathered the rest of the group and were led off by Quao and watched from the rear by Kofi and Yaw.

Lawn, Jamaica House

Nanny felt the young woman and saw that she had a fever. She left the cave and went in search of herbs. Near to a stream she smelled and found ginger, pulled up a root and filled the gourd she carried on her belt with water. On a drier part of the hillside she pulled a handful of leaves from a clump of fevergrass.

Returning to the cave, Nanny boiled the herbs and urged the young woman to have a good draught of the weak tea. After the young woman seemed in a little better shape, Nanny got the young woman to her feet and urged her to lean and start walking to their hidden village.

When daylight eased its way into the sky, Nanny and the young woman were still far from home and in the distance, Nanny could hear the men tracking their path - sensing which way they were, closing in. Nanny knew the danger of giving away the location of her village, so decided to go down a gorge and cross the narrow point of a river to the other side. That route led to even more rugged mountainside with tracks that were harder to find, but which Nanny knew most of them very well. It was their best chance to elude the trackers, but it did expose them at one point to extreme danger.

The young woman with her was trying to be brave, but she was clearly in great pain again.
Nanny lifted her on her back and made her way down the side of the gorge, holding on to bushes and plants to maintain balance on the way down. She got to the bottom and finding the exposed stones she knew would be there, crossed to the other side and started the climb again, this time fully exposed to the men with guns who were now on the opposite bank.

She heard the leader give the order to load their weapons: there was a good chance of being shot.
Nanny laid the young woman in a sheltered nook behind a boulder and faced the men.

Since escaping from the plantation, the mountain had been her home and she worshipped her God freely there She paused to do this now. Bending on her knees, her back to the hunters, she raised both arms up to the still grey sky, heavy with moisture-laden clouds.

She called out, "Eternal Father, bless our land. Guard us with thy mighty hand."

The first cracks from the guns broke the peace of the valley. A wild boar nearby darted further into the bush, a flock of parakeets left a tree as if on one pair of wings, their calls adding anxiety to the air.

A volley of gunshot travelled across the valley in the direction of Nanny, and with her upraised hands she caught them and with a downward arc of her arms, she sent them back to the men.

Later when the young woman gave birth to her baby, she whispered this story to her mother who told her to hush, then prayed against bad thoughts.

Back on the plantation, being treated for shot wounds, the men also told this story. They were believed as they had the scars to prove it.

Monday, 10 October 2011

St Hugh's Past Students Among the Tremendous 2011 Law School Group

St Hugh's Past Students Among the Tremendous 2011 Law School Group

Members of the St Hugh's High School family were among the hundreds of well-wishers who turned out for the the presentation of graduates from the Norman Manley Law School (NMLS) on October 8 2011 in the Assembly Hall of the University of the West Indies, Mona in Jamaica.

The Edwards twins.
Second year student Kerri and graduate Laura 

At least two of the class of 128 students were identified as past students. They are Miss Laura Edwards - daughter of English teacher Ms Edwards - and Mrs Leone Hines-Smith.

The members of the Council of Legal Education, other leading Attorneys-at-law and Custodes were assured that the graduates are fit and ready to serve.

In his remarks, Principal of the school, Professor Stephen Vasciannie, noted that the class of 2011 brought the school great joy. He said that the school's moot teams took 1st, 1st, 3rd and 4th in International competitions. And 1st, 2nd and 2nd in the Region. The class was considered to be socially involved as expressed by the strong support they gave to several non-scholastic activities, including cultural events. At least two graduates have also been accepted on full scholarships by prestigious institutions to pursue advanced education in the law.

La Familia Fidelitas
From left: First year student Alicia Dixon, retired Deputy Principal, Daphnie Morrison; teacher and mother of the Edwards twins Ms Edwards; second year student, Karlene Mitchell; second year student, Kerri Edwards; graduate Laura Edwards; retired English teacher, Jacqueline Cousins.
     In his address, Minister of Justice, Delroy Chuck, urged the graduates to "Serve the interests of your clients; but above all, serve the interest of must be paramount."

The legislator said that the country had good judges and lawyers and urged the group to respect their peers and seniors, and reminded them that the law is a practice and that they will not know everything in the field.

Minister Chuck openly admitted that the country's justice system is not perfect and urged the new legal minds not to succumb to corruption and not to serve in the chambers of lawyers who were known to be associated with wrongdoing. The minister, who is also a graduate of the NMLS, urged the classmates to join the government's efforts to improve delivery of justice noting that there was a backlog of some 460,000 cases in the courts.

Elizabeth Levy (l) supporting graduate
and St Hugh's classmate,
Leone Hinds-Smith

He noted that many lawyers were searching for jobs and suggested that the areas of mediation, dispute resolution and international commercial law could be viable areas to pursue.

Minister Chuck said that the field of mediation allowed new lawyers to gain valuable experience and also to expand their network of contacts. He also reminded them that a few months ago the 
Financial Services Authority Act was passed, paving the way for more legal work in international trade and business.

The building of Justice Square in Downtown Kingston and improvements to existing court houses were some of the projects Minister Chuck said were being pursued by the government. He however also noted that increasing the number of court staff and exposing them to additional training was also important if the goal is to expand the number of court hours beyond the average of five hours per business day.  

Minister Chuck said that the new lawyers will have to be courageous and try new things to make the country's justice situation better. He reminded the group of the pioneering work of National Hero, the Rt Excellent Norman Washington Manley, and that they should push the work of the school forward in their time.

In her response, Valedictorian Kamille Adair thanked the Principal for telling them always to banish self doubt. She urged her classmates to "maintain a prevailing attitude of excellence and make a contribution to society." 

Ms Adair had many happy recollections, but also took the time to remember classmate Mrs Karen Hugh Sam Lee who was killed. The class created a memorial fund in her name through which they will provide financial assistance to future students.

In her final remarks, the Chairman of the Council of Legal Education, Jacqueline Samuels Brown, urged the graduates who hailed from six Caribbean territories, Israel and the USA to take heed of the words of the Jamaica National Anthem  and "Let justice and truth be yours forever."

Gwyneth Harold is the writer of the young adult novel, Bad Girls in School