Monday, 19 October 2020

Young Heroes of the Caribbean - Young parents try to do the best for the son who they love

 Young Heroes of the Caribbean


I am grateful to nation builders who understood that history is an important source of inspiration. My 2014 novel, Young Heroes of the Caribbean, was inspired by the seven National Heroes of Jamaica. I imagined each of the heroes as a child or a youth who had already formed a sense of purpose, and integrity in their characters.


In my book, I amplified the story of each hero alongside that of a contemporary Jamaican family, with young parents trying to do the best for the son who they love.


I am sharing that book as a download here:


https://www.goodreads.com/ebooks/download/22639096-young-heroes-of-the-caribbean




Thursday, 17 September 2020

Intergenerational Strength

Recently, I have been doing research about dog pedigrees and also bloodlines of horses for my general interest, I am not and will not be getting into breeding animals. Being immersed in this has perhaps turned my mind to the current Parliamentarians, so forgive me if this information struck me.

These connections can be lessons in leadership and how to build intergenerational strength. Remember that old time religion told us more than one time that acts of parents can affect up to the fourth generation, both to help and also to hurt. I have no difficulty with the connections set out below, let them be a lesson to all who read them of the impact of habits and associations.

So here are a few of my observations about Parliamentarians in Jamaica sworn in Tuesday, September 15, 2020. I wish them the greatest success in advancing the welfare of Jamaica and the whole human race.

President of the Senate Hon Tom Tavares Finson, nephew of former minister of Housing Hon DC Tavares Jr MP who was on the team that wrote the 1962 constitution of Jamaica. His father, DC Tavares Snr was a real estate businessman who co founded Tavares & Finson.

Senator Senator Sherene Golding Campbell is the granddaughter of former Speaker of the House Tacius Golding MP, and his wife, the founding Principal of Old Harbour High School Mrs Enid Golding nee Bent. Senator Golding Campbell is the daughter of former Prime Minister Bruce Golding and daughter of businesswoman and creator of the ubiquitous Jamaican cheese bread Mrs Lorna Golding nee Charles. Senator Golding Campbell is a niece of former Speaker of the House Pearnel Charles Snr MP and cousin to Dr Michelle Charles MP and the Hon Pearnel Charles Jr MP.

Hon Pearnel Charles MP and Dr Michelle Charles MP are children of the immediate past Speaker of the House Pearnel Charles MP.

Senator Charles Sinclair Jr is a former Mayor of Mo Bay and also son of the fomer Mayor of Mo Bay Charles Sinclair Snr.

Mr Mark Golding MP is the son of lauded medical pioneer Sir John Golding.

Mr Julian Jay Robinson MP, is the son of jurist in the International Court of Justice, Patrick Robinson. He is also the nephew of former Member of Parliament Helen Robinson who famously declared that she was not going be associated with criminals saying, "me nah hug up no gunman".

Min of State in Finance Atty-at-Law Marsha Smith MP, is the daughter of former MP and Atty-at-Law Ernie Smith.

Hon Daryl Vaz MP, son of Mr Douglas Vaz MP and fashion designer Soni Vaz

Mrs Ann-Marie Vaz wife of Daryl Vaz

Dr the Hon Peter Phillips MP, is a son of former Principal of Moneague College Aubrey Phillips CD and author of the book 'Adolescence in Jamaica" nd there is an annual lecture in his name. Dr Phillips is also a nephew of former Chief Justice of Jamaica Sir Rowland Phillips.

Mr Mikael Phillips MP, is a son of Dr Peter Phillips MP and pioneering Rastafarian ital restaurateur Sister Minnie Phillips.

Senator the Hon Kamina Johnson Smith daughter of historian, writer and Ambassador HE Anthony Johnson.

Dr the Hon Nigel Clarke MP, son of the former Supreme Court Justice Neville Clarke and nephew of former Minister of Government and leading cocoa agro-producer Claude Clarke MP. Dr the Hon Nigel Clarke's maternal grandfather Harold Percival Gibson was an executive in the Jamaica Agricultural 
Society and the Citrus Growers Association.

Mr James Roberton, son of esteemed maritime pioneer Mr Ismael Robertson CD.

Most Hon Andrew Holness, protégé of Most Hon Edward Seaga

Mrs Juliet Holness, wife of Andrew Holness

Hon Olivia Grange, protégé of the Most Hon Edward Seaga

Hon Desmond McKenzie, protégé of Most Hon Edward Seaga

Not The End


Success to All

Monday, 31 August 2020

Vibration from Palampalam - A Young Man Makes Life In Jamaica

The beauty of an allegorical story is that it is open to interpretation, you fill in the blanks or undo the mysticism in the search of the underlying point of the story and on the way, make other discoveries.

Vibration from Palampalam A Novel by Dorrell Wilcott published by Arawak publications in 2012, leaves me with the impression that although this book is not an allegory, the author is deliberately misleading the reader by skipping over and around situations that should be important to the story and yet expending description and commentary on seemingly lesser matters. The reader is left wondering about the reason for the deliberate gaps and the mystery behind what was paid careful attention  

The modest 142 pages is an action packed story of the life arc of the protagonist Dalphus Congonza. It starts with his parents' stories and ends with a look at the adult start-up of his progeny.  This completeness of a life story suggests that it is a memoir, but a memoir that does not trust the reader, so while it is not the story of an airbrushed hero, the material feels redacted and so, incomplete.

The foreword by Patrick Bryan is helpful in explaining the protagonist when he says, "First, his ambition is to throw off the scars and the negative features of that childhood, and to succeed in spite of them. Second, and in contraction, some of the values that he disdains and which contributed to the disfunctionality of his family became a part of his own value system."

    "The novel is not preoccupied with race and colour. However, they both have an enormous inflience in shaping the lives of people and contributing to the dysfunction within the Dalphus' family," Bryan says.

Dalphus grew up with minimal education in Palampalam which was supposed to be a frightfully haunted woodland within the rural community of Service. He is the only child in a family where there was no love among its three members. Even though Dalphus caused hurt to his mother early on, it was his childish reaction to her obvious scorn of him. Wilcott says of the mother, "who had seen everything that she disliked about her husband in that little boy." 

The natural environment of rural Jamaica is integrated into the book from beginning to end. Dalphus' father cleared dense woodland and built the family home; as an adult, Dalphus shaped a rocky hilltop overlooking the community of Service, for his own large and splendid house. Woodland was also where his closest friend died. Dalphus made his living from farming the rocky, land, but he did it successfully and managed to pass down the interest in farming to one of his sons.

Relationships between the character and the women in his life are complicated; his mother, lover, wife, mother-in-law, and elder daughter. He knows that he is not excelling in these relationships, but he displays incompetence in how to improve them, and relies on his friend Gus to play the role of conciliator and way-maker.

When he was just about out of his teens, he lived for a few years in Cuba and was able to work hard, take use of opportunities that came his way and save money. He is awkward with women but finds ways to incorporate them in his life. At a bar, Primela admires him and "he declined, almost becoming flustered", then "he looked at her again. The chemistry or whatever they used to call it mixed furiously."  He, quite easily, leaves Primela for Emma, which was a financial arrangement, "Dalphus had hitched a fee simple in Emma's financial empire."

Later back in Service as a married man, his mother-in-law is banned from his home for her destructive slander, and his eldest daughter, the apple of his eye, disappoints when she marries against his wishes.

Dalphus' relationships with men seem steady and true and valuable, aside from Bandy-Leg who tried to take sexual advantage of him as a naive teenager. Gustavius became a lifelong confidante, and wise counsellor for both himself and his wife, the beautiful, educated and unworldly Odagled who defied her family to marry him. 

As a businessman, Dalphus understands and is not held down by society's prejudices that were against him for reasons of his colour and lack of education. He worked around the established religious institution, the police force, financial institutions and even his sometimes coveteous neighbours at Rico's Bar. He rises above those challenging situations and masters them. He also, somehow, becomes reconciled with his father, but did not with this mother. 

Here we arrive at the rock bottom of all of the story of Dalphus: the lack of a loving relationship with his mother, Tantal, which left him stone dead to anticipating and nurturing sensitivity in family and intimate relationships. By the end of the book, however, he is grateful to have actually shared loving moments with his wife and to have experienced love with his children. His children, however, were not a united family, each  one deciding to be set against the ways of the others. Dalphus did nothing to heal the rifts between the siblings, and was a participant by making it obvious that Daphnie was his "chosen one".

Wilcott's choice of what he paid great attention to writing about, was diverse. He set out the matters around the death of Gus in excruciating detail, yet the three marriages in the book were glossed over, or became commentaries on society in general. 

Dalphus witnessed physical violence in his home, as his father beat his mother, and we later learn that his father also regularly beat his longtime lover. These beatings were not described in the book, yet Wilcott did described how his father met retribution, the wounds that he suffered and his long convalescence.   

The writer paid reverence to the very existence of Marcus Garvey who influenced Dalphus' father's philosophy and actions, but he does not go beyond this reverence to actually show the teachings in action, perhaps almost ignoring them. Wilcott also lets us know that Dalphus is distressed that descendants of Africans who were enslaved in the Americas had not built on the successes and sacrifices of the Haitian revolution.

It is a theory of mine that stories of relationships with the protagonist and his or her mother defines many contemporary books by Jamaicans. This book fits into that category. In these stories, the actions of the mother greatly influence the success or failure of the protagonist. Applying this scrutiny to Tantal, the mother of Dalphus, she was ascribed only one action within her true control, her choice of husband Ciezo Congoza. Everything else about Tantal is ascribed to the society in which she lived. Tantal existed as a light-skinned Jamaican who was raised by a snobbish light-skinned Jamaican woman but yet Tantal chose to marry a dark skinned follower of the black liberation teachings of Marcus Garvey. Ciezo Congoza, beat his wife if he felt threatened by her words and also, and separately, neglected her for the more stimulating company of his lover in the town of Service. 

Dalphus was the victim of his mother's frustration about her husband and she transferred her prejudices to him, nurturing attitudes that would influence him to behave that he was better than, and different from the other children in Service. It also gave him resilience when facing prejudices against him and allowed him to simply walk over them towards his personal goals.

Many more ideas are not fully set out in the story leaving them open to interpret the true weight that they have on the protagonist, or not. Given the openness of this, readers will find it interesting to meander with Dalphus through his life in a Jamaica of once upon a time, but perhaps, still here with us.

END

For more discussion on mothers in books by Jamaicans, visit this link to another page on my blog




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Tuesday, 25 August 2020

 Published in The Jamaica Observer literary magazine "Bookends" in August 2018

Down The Rabbit Hole We Go

     “Alice is about a girl being her own hero,” the 16 year-old said on the journey between May Pen and Kingston. We were having a literary discussion which included the original novel, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and my memory threw up the memoir, The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands.

Both books are about an unaccompanied female going through challenging situations; both have the words "Wonder" and "Adventure" and “Land” in the title, and the books were published eight years apart. Seacole’s memoir was published in 1857, eight years before the novel in 1865. Could Carroll have been influenced by Jamaica's Mary Seacole when he created Alice? I did a split screen to compare the two books, and found similar scenes and themes.

Alice voluntarily goes down a rabbit hole without regard for personal safety, following her thirst for adventure and in pursuit of the White Rabbit, a rabbit is the lure in greyhound racing and also hounding. Mary Seacole left Jamaica, following her lure, money, which was forever elusive to her, but more important to her was her thirst for adventure and the thrill of testing her will against a world where the deck was stacked against success for a single Black woman.

Alice encountered systemic prejudice against her in Wonderland, then one by one she wins over the characters to become allies: the White Rabbit, kept mistaking her for his servant MARY-Ann, the caterpillar who spoke to her contemptuously, the duchess who was dismissive on their first meeting and the Hatter, March Hare and Dormouse at the tea party. Seacole wrote about racial and gender prejudice, whether against her or other persons, and how she got around it. Alice's encounters in Wonderland are mostly with male characters, notable exceptions being the duchess and the queen; akin to Seacole, whose adventures happen in the company of men.

Alice cries a sea of tears and swims in it with several animal characters: Seacole made journeys across the Caribbean Sea the Atlantic Ocean through Asia Minor to the Black Sea, pleased to interact with persons of different nationalities and ethnicities and accepting good and bad fortune as they came.

Alice carelessly drinks and eats mysterious substances that result in spectacular body changes: Seacole was renown for her preparations that healed victims of deadly diseases. Alice is illustrated wearing a pinafore, but had not been doing work when her adventure started. Could this be a reference to Seacole’s work as doctress and restaurateur, which required her to wear an apron every day?

Seacole extended herself too much to be successful in business, but always turned her situation around through hard work, friendships and alliances. Alice acquires nothing in Wonderland except experiences with memorable characters, none of whom advance her mission of getting home: pompous birds, haughty caterpillar, queer Cheshire Cat.

Alice's encounter with the duchess and the lunatic tea party fringe, I think, are allegories for the Crimean War which eventually brought Seacole into international prominence. The duchess is unfriendly to Alice, and thrusts her baby on her and sits in a kitchen where her cook is overusing black pepper. Perhaps this represents Florence Nightingale who respectfully received Seacole, but who is focused on giving care. Black pepper in the kitchen could be gunpowder and general munitions. Seacole becomes a hostess in the Crimea: Alice becomes a hostess at the tea party, a confusing affair which I suggest represents the chaos and confusion of war.

The trial of the knave in Carroll's book who was accused of the crime of stealing the queen's tarts is Seacole's return to society as a pauper from the Crimea. Tarts made with black pepper are special to the queen. Could these special black pepper tarts be a connection to the West Indies, the sweet source of British wealth built by Black labour?

After her memoir was published, Seacole’s care for British soldiers during the Crimean war was celebrated by citizens and royalty: In the final chapter of the novel, Alice grows taller than everyone else in the courtroom, including the queen and the king. She is tremendous, but they are revealed to be nothing more substantial than a deck of playing cards and then fallen leaves.

In my view, there is more than a passing similarity between the date of the publishing of the memoir and the first Alice book. The place of the family of ten-year old Alice Lidell in Carroll’s affections is secure, but which other single, unconnected, non-courtesan, proper, and determined woman could have influenced the creation of the fictional Alice, but Mary Seacole?

Do consider these things before you give the thumb down, "Off with her head!"

-30-


Thursday, 20 August 2020

Four Novels of Summer - Jamaica

The themes of my four novels of Summer 2020 were again YA and adult novels by Caribbean authors that are set in the Caribbean. The selections were through the Jamaica Library Service and I enjoyed them all in different ways. My secret to enjoying a book is to read with perception so that you can be more aware of the writer's style of storytelling, and the core reason for telling the story at all.

If I were to recommend any or all of these books, it is that they tell stories of good over evil, self forgiveness and the huge potential of the human spirit to guide lives in big and small ways. 

This cluster were all authored by women: three Jamaicans and one writer from Antigua and Barbuda. All settings are, I believe, between the 1990s to the present and the books were published between 2013 and 2019, making them very recent publications. All four books are set in the major urban centres: Jamaica's capital Kingston, Jamaica's major tourism city Montego Bay and the capital of Antigua and Barbuda, St John.

These are the books:

 Musical Youth (2013) by Joanne Hillhouse 

A shy, insecure, young teen develops her confidence and builds true friendships through a youth musical programme with youngsters her age. Through preparations for the final production, she unearths her own family story and has to confront all that it presents. The story integrates the music of the islands and also global pop music in the world of the young people.  

Lest We Find Gold (2019) by Melanie Schwapp  

A woman suffers disappointment in her marriage, but this is directly related to what she learned about man and woman affairs as a child.

I have placed this on my domestic violence and Jamaican mothers shelves because of the ongoing themes that are presented in the books that I read.

This book is firmly set in Jacks Hill and Mona, St Andrew Jamaica, with nostalgic touches on deep rural Jamaica, it also has delicious episodes of food preparation with local ingredients.

Based on the forward and afterward notes, this book connected very closely to the personal life of the author.

Inner City Girl: Other Rivers To Cross (2018) by Colleen Smith Dennis

This is the ongoing story of a young woman who has now completed secondary school and has ambitions to start university. Despite having overcome disadvantages of being born and raised in a deep urban area to a struggling single mother. Through fickle fate, she has tumbled back down the social ladder from where she escaped.

The author plunges the story back in a rough environment of poverty and shows us the pitfalls and the meagre opportunities that must be seized upon as any hope to advance in life.\

The bonds of fast friends, both old and new, and flimsy family more interested in maintaining social standing than family love and care.

The role of the older woman and the reformed man are carefully explored and Kingston city from the waterfront to the hills is the stage.

Tangled Chords (2014) by Brenda Barrett

An energetic episode in the lives of two young people from Montego Bay whose lives have been intertwined since childhood friendship and now, they realise that it has matured to adult love.

The complex nature of power dynamics within families, which extends to domestic employees and also wealthy cliques are explored.

Barrett pays homage to the music of Bob Marley in the hero's band and his mental resilience.

Over time, I have found themes that are very popular to Jamaican, and perhaps Caribbean writers, and these books fit into what I have come to expect and easily find in the set-up of the novel.

The primary theme, by my reading, is the role of the mother. In three of these books, the books start with the mothers having already died, and we are told their flaws as humans and in the role of mother, especially in the area of setting a good example for their daughters. Yes, the protagonists are all young women.

The books use the independent sexual choices of the mothers - not as victims of sexual crimes - as a launch to demonstrate the negative impact of these decisions on the women and their families. So who picks up the slack left by these mothers? Of those three books, it is rural family members or the family domestic staff. 

In the one book where there is a good mother, she is hands-off in child rearing, being more excited and focused on her professional achievements and ensuring that she has a good relationship with her husband and a marriage based on mutual respect and love.

Turning to the father figures: in three of these books, the fathers were prevented by the mothers from being a part of their children's early lives, which definitely had a negative effect on the entire home. 

The Bad Mother is now a common trope for Jamaican literature, which makes me wonder what it says about the society talking to itself through writers. I do wonder how the subject matter in novels is very different from the popular music that we hear, but I have rationalised this down to the gatekeeping. Many of these novelists are self published and self promoted, while the music is produced through a commercial process which is predefined by attributes, the popular ones being: Songs to the long suffering mother, songs for sexy women, songs for gyallis, songs for gangsters, love songs for Jamaica, and songs of divine adoration.  The stories being told by our writers are somewhat different.

END





 



Thursday, 30 July 2020

Component of a Knowledge Society


Security is the primary reason why we live in communities. I do not wish to discuss security, but to present the idea that for security to be assured, communication needs to happen within the group so that everyone who has a role can be prepared to do it.


In the public sector, this translates to effective communication between agencies and also between the state and its publics. During emergencies and national events this communication is more visible, but it happens every day. At a strategic level, this communication would be led by specialised government bodies guiding policies and actions for the subject areas for which they command.

 

For clarity, this is what I am saying: for legal matters, the opinion of the Office of the Attorney General is sought; for environmental matters, the National Planning and Environment Agency has to put in a word; for citizenship issues, the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade lay out the facts and provide a way forward.

 

The public sector cannot be an equivalent to the private sector as each ministry is an essential operation that strengthens the whole under direction of Cabinet and also under the oversight of Parliamentary Commissions.

 

Notwithstanding the excellent quality of products that are currently delivered by the public sector communications agency, the agency does not provide executive level services for its subject area of public sector communication. If such support were to be tabulated, it would begin with the actual implantation of the existing 2015 GoJ Communication Policy and development of a strategic plan that will usher components of the policy, where relevant, as is done in other subject areas.

 

Specialist MDAs are supposed to provide whole of government executive support for major projects from the concept development stage, use networks to build alliances, provide expertise for the evaluation of bids, provide monitoring and quality assurance during project development and implementation and also participate in the evaluation and billing. Perfection is often not achieved, but that is the role of specialist institutions in major

projects. In addition to specialist bodies, government also relies on cross functional teams drawn from its MDAs to provide some oversight of executive level activities.

 

Communication practitioners in MDAS have a full slate of scheduled and seasonal work that is dedicated to the corporate plan of their entity, so undertaking major projects will require outside contractors whose work should be under adequate oversight by professionals with the required experience and skills. Many times, for large projects, these skills do not reside – in fullness – within these diverse bodies. To say it another way, in the field of communications, individual public sector MDAS does not generally have the specialist skills required to carry out large and complex projects, this is really not required for the regular functioning of the bod.


Aside from this, the public sector itself does not have a cadre of executive C Suite level practitioners to assist MDAs to develop, select and monitor major communication projects that are beyond the scope of the established scheduled activities.

 

Conceivably, the government executive agency for communication can shear away the more mundane activities and instead focus on high level substances that require analysis, deeper research, multi-sector collaboration and corporate governance, talent recruitment, development and protection.


The cost of communication tools has dramatically been reduced to the point where even low income persons can deliver a polished product from software that they got free or at a low cost. Training to undertake communication projects are available in Jamaica and or through certification on the Internet or through practice.

 

The NWA shed itself of construction and moved into quality assurance and implementation, In Agriculture, government plantations, factories and farms are no more; in Transportation, the national airline is extinct.

 

There are cost savings that can be made to enable the public sector communications agency to deliver higher level services to the government:

  • Accelerate the automaton for booking, distribution and billing processes for stock items;
  • Eliminate content platforms that do not locomote towards the national development goals;
  • Eliminate production of physical materials
  • Reassign records and archives to the Institute of Jamaica or Jamaica Archives and Records as appropriate
  • Outsource content production to agile creative houses and state-of-the-art suppliers.

These savings can create a high performance unit of professionals whose experience and knowledge would make them the equivalent of Queens Councils, Major Generals, Professors, Licensed Public Accountants, Commissioners and Surgeons that are found at the apex of other disciplines.  

 

If Jamaica is to be a knowledge society then the public sector has to exploit the value to be gained from the deployment, utilization and retention of knowledge professionals.


https://jis.gov.jm/media/FINAL-Nov.-11-2015-GoJ-Comm.-Policy-Final-doc.pdf

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Caribbean Writer Webinar explores the past and the future July 18 and 19 2020


"Imagine your own future, or someone else will do it for you"




The University of the Virgin Islands held a two-day webinar on July 18 and July 19, 2020 to launch Volume 34 of its annual literary publication, The Caribbean Writer; it also held the space for the annual Virgin Islands Literary Festival.

The theme, Diasporic Rhythms: Interrogating the Past, Re-imagining the Future was anchored by writer of children's books and the Editor-In-Chief of The Caribbean Writer, Alscess Lewis-Brown. As segment host, writer and storyteller, Elaine Jacobs, complimented the organizers in the re-imagination of the annual Virgin Islands Literary Festival as a teleconference.
DAY 1
On the first day, July 18, the rhythms and the past came early in the programme in the form of Calypso with a discussion on the forthcoming book "God, The Press and Uriah Butler", by its author and the first speaker for the event, Calypso King Hollis, "The Mighty Chalkdust" Liverpool.  Tubal Uriah Butler was a spiritual, labour and political leader in Trinidad and Tobago who participated in decisive public issues between the 1930s and 1950s. Hollis views the mission of Butler as incomplete, and this book serves to open discussion about the man, his work, and the role of media in bending the public view. Butler himself was given great honours during his lifetime. He holds the country's highest honour, the Trinity Cross. To show the magnitude of respect, the North/ South highway on Trinidad is named for him; while the East/West highway is called the Churchill-Roosevelt after the 1940-1945 war years world leaders of the United Kingdom and the USA.

The Speculative Fiction workshop featured writers Cadwell Turnbull whose most recognised work is the novel "The Lesson" and Tobias Buckell whose Halo novel was listed on NY Times Bestseller List for Paperback Trade. 

This workshop was more a discussion between the two authors who interestingly spent parts of their young lives in the USVI and also fielding questions from the audience. When asked how they believed the Caribbean experience could fit into persistent themes in science fiction, both agreed that living on an island was akin to living in the shadows of an empire, and facing immanent alien invasions. Such invasions can be viewed from the past with the migration of Central American peoples through the islands- as pursued and pursuers - to the arrival of the Europeans and the peoples they introduced. For the present, these invasions can be interpreted as tourism and expatriate workers.

Turnbull and Buckwell also insisted that works of science fiction was an an opportunity for Caribbean people to imagine a future of our own. Buckell retold his feelings of dismay when he read a serious passage about islanders building a spacecraft, and realized that the audience found it funny and even ridiculous. Hurt, he did not read that passage for many years until he was invited to the Caribbean. The response of the Barbadian audience to the same text was understanding and appreciation. Caribbean people have no difficulty imagining ourselves as world leaders in any space that we choose to occupy. For this, Turnbull and Buckell insist that if you do not imagine your own future, someone else will do it for you. Such imagining seems even more relevant now during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Attendees were invited to visit a blog with a bibliography of Caribbean Science Fiction writers: http://caribbeansf.com/

Canadian university lecturer born in South Africa, Rozena Maart, hosted the workshop Memoir Writing and what she calls Life Writing. In her guidance, Maart urged writers to place themselves at the centre of their stories, but to consider the writing process similar to that of peeling away layers of an onion to discover and to present "what is hidden, what is forbidden and what is repressed".

Maart also encouraged writers to deeply explore the language that they will employ to tell the story in the memoir. She notes that she gave privilege to the patois that she spoke at age eight in her first life story writing project.  Maart herself grew up in a world where English and Afrikaans were the official languages where she lived.

Encouraging writers, Maart put forward the position that each individual inherits not only the physical traits and perhaps talents of ancestors, but also their dreams and that it should be among the pieces of evidence that a life writer must research.

Interspersed with the workshops, writers whose works have been published in The Caribbean Writer read their stories and poetry. Among them were poets Biko McMillan author of "Writing on Roots" (StCroix); Timothy Hodges (Anguilla); Andre Bagoo (Trinidad and Tobago); Corrine Binnins (Woodside, St Mary, Jamaica) and Joshua Nelson (India).

Short story writers and novelists included Natalie Corthesy (Jamaica); Mary Rykov (Canada originally from Puerto Rico);  Joanne C Hillhouse "Musical Youth" (Antigua and Barbuda).

DAY 2
The featured speaker for the second day was Caribbean storyteller Paul Keens Douglas (Trinidad and Tobago), who encouraged writers not to think about conforming to the language as written in texts, but to use the language as a tool for for real creativity. He even went to say that he may wish to recite one verse of a poem and dance the second verse. He acknowledged being greatly influenced by the writing of Louise Bennett Coverley whose Anancy Stories written in patois were published in the 1940s in The Daily Gleaner in the newspaper of record in Jamaica.

The poetry workshop was led by writer Ana Portnoy (Puerto Rico) with two writers from the USVI Tiphanie Yanique "How to Escape from a Leper Colony: A Novella and Stories" and Richard Georges "Epipheneia".

Yanique, read two of her poems which led to a question of whether she was suggesting male dominance. One poem was about a bull awaiting a mate and the other about an island, which was referred to in the feminine. Yanique said that each poem was a separate reflection on issues relating to the sexes. Georges read from his award winning work about the effect of Hurricane Irma on the Virgin Islands which upheld the view that devastation does not mean destruction.  

Content writer and blogger, Ellie Hirsh, led the workshop on Writing for Children and books that are targeted to young audiences.

Charlene Abramson Joseph (USVI) read her book, The Vienna Cake Mystery where the guilty has to be found out and restitution done to restore good order.

Winnifred "Oyoko" Loving (USVI) read her book "My Name Is Freedom" which is conversations of self-awareness and encouragement between children and the older members of their family. The book creates an opportunity for the discussion to continue in the minds of the readers.

Publisher, Denene Milner, gave a background to her mission of being a publisher for Black children's stories written by and illustrated by persons in the Black community. Milner's mission is to publish books that place the humanity of contemporary black children at the centre. She read from Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut written by Derrick Brown and illustrated by Gordon C James. The book highlights the  affirmations and well-being that flows with a boy's visit to the barber shop.

Other readers who were listed included Kirk Ramdath (Canada and T&T); Shenny De Los Angeles (Dom Rep). 

View the full programme of the webinar at the link below.

END



Monday, 23 March 2020

The Liturgy Speaks the Gospel

The Liturgy Speaks the Gospel



I attended a business event in Downtown Kingston one morning in late November, 2018.
A Minister of Religion stepped forward to offer the opening prayer as is customary in Jamaica.

He did not offer a prayer. He went through a series of actions that put a smile on my lips because I recognised it as a scaled down version of the Morning Prayer liturgy that is driven by passages from The Bible. 

The Morning Prayer tradition has scripture lessons assigned for each day of the year. Taken together, they provide a lesson. After a few years of following this practice, worshippers become familiar with the The Bible, the Old Testament and also the New Testament.

For example, the format for the Fouth Sunday in Lent which fell on March 22, 2018, the four readings covered hope provided by God's promise through Jesus.
 1. It told the story of the anointing of a shepherd and youngest boy in a family to become the leader the nation needed; 
2. The reading is reassurance of God's presence in your life, a told through the Shepherd's Psalm; 
3. The evangelist Paul's letter of hope through Jesus, the light of the world;
4. The parable of the Blind Man as the authoritative source that Jesus is the Light of the World. 

The cleric that morning downtown could not follow the liturgy of Morning Prayer as he had been allotted five minutes, and this is how he used it. He said:

“Revelations reign upon the earth. Reading from the book of Revelations, chapter 5.

'Then one of the elders said to me, Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals'.

"Recently, I was walking on the streets and saw art on the roadside. It was the Jamaican flag, but a lion was carrying the Jamaican flag and my mind went back to a song that I know very well, I will teach you.


'The Lion of Judah shall break every chain,
The Lion of Judah shall break every chain,
The Lion of Judah shall break every chain,
He will give us the victory, again and again'.


“As we come together at this conference, think of the goal and think of the victory at the end. In scripture, the Lion of Judah was Jesus himself, he was slain on the cross, and became victorious and there was the resurrection after death. Have that picture this day as we say the National Pledge.


"Before God and all mankind, I pledge my heart, my mind my body in the service of my fellow citizens. I stand for justice and for peace. To work and think so that Jamaica may advance the welfare of the whole human race.
And that puts together why we are here today, Amen.”

In five minutes, the Reverend delivered an opening sentence, scripture reading, hymn, prophetic homily, intercession and benediction. The hopeful message was that the seminar will achieve its purpose.


The purpose of the seminar was to help development practitioners overcome social barriers and that the lifestyles of people living in depressed communities will dramatically improve and keep getting better.

The reverend himself is assigned to an extremely tough neighbourhood.
/ghd
March 23, 2020


Sunday, 22 March 2020

Curbing Intimate Partner Violence in Jamaica- The Way Forward

She said no, on March 19, 2020 when the police gave her an opportunity to make a report about being beaten up by her lover. The beating happened during daytime in the street in their community, seen by onlookers and a video recording was shared. Still, the lady refused to start a legal process that would protect her and bring her justice.

Observers may be forgiven if they consider a probable life trajectory….
She lives with low self esteem, having grown up being abused and belittled; she will be beaten by him again, and if she leaves him, his abuse will be replaced by that from another, and again. Her case will include substance abuse, child neglect and or child abuse; and maybe her story ends as a homicide and or suicide. I hope not, but what does statistical research tell us about intimate partner violence in Jamaica?
  
What we Know – Situation Analysis
Mr Anthony Harriott was the lead author of the 2012 Caribbean Human Development Report (CHDR), reported that there was a 4% gap between men and women in situations involving domestic violence. Both sexes are victims and perpetrators in the culture of violence. The figures do not tell us the cases when the violence involved persons of the same sex and persons who are not in intimate relationships.

Harriott further says that the questionnaires suggest that victims of domestic violence by intimate partner to be a victimization rate of 2.3 per cent of the population.






The 2016 IDB Report Crime and Violence in Jamaica by Anthony Harriott and Marilyn Jones further distilled these figures and said that 15.4 per cent of women who were victims of gender based violence reported the matter to the police.
The document gives remedies but a significant pull quote is, ‘Proactive, pre-emptive policies need to target at-risk groups, eradicating violence before it starts.”

The Women's Health Survey 2016 authored by Carol Watson Williams, published jointly by the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) and UN Women also repeated that "Jamaica has no reliable estimate of the prevalence of violence against women, including intimate partner violence. The statistics do not allow an examination of intimate partner violence as a discrete category of interest." 

Watson Williams, using a model that was developed for CARICOM, sampled 2,145 households from rural and urban communities and included all parishes. Her results indicate that 27.8 per cent of all women in Jamaica have experienced intimate partner violence. If you use the traditional way to round up numbers, that would be one third of the female population, but UN Women reports this as one quarter of the population.

There were 1,017,697 females over the age of 15 counted in the 2011 Population and Housing census that was undertaken by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN).  At the highest level, about 250,000 females would have been affected.
 In 2017, UN Women said that one third of women, worldwide have this experience. It would then appear that Jamaica falls within the global norm.

Watson Williams identified the three strongest risk predictors of intimate partner violence as: childhood experience of violence; controlling behaviour of a husband/partner; alcohol use by the perpetrator.

Institutional data from hospital sources quoted in the survey show that between 2013 and 2014, 2,975 patients were treated for injuries resulting from assaults. Of this amount, 2,677 (89%) were women and girls, 1,765 (59%) being females between 10 and 19 years old.
The survey also mentions a Draft National Strategic Action Plan with Strategic Priority Areas, that if followed, is expected to create an environment in which gender-based violence is eliminated, or at the very least, significantly reduced. The highlights of the plan are set out below:
  • Preventive actions to re-programme the cultural practices away from acceptance and tolerance of gender-based violence, to one in which there are significant social, cultural and legal disincentives to violence against women and girls.
  • Improving services available to victims and improving investigations, prosecution and enforcement, are also expected to help reduce the prevalence of gender-based violence.




The 2015 UNDP publication, A Study of Women, Politics, Parliament and Equality in the CARICOM Countries – Jamaica Case Study  makes a damning statement, that I have not been able to find support within the documentation. It says, “The law and the legal environment in the Jamaican judicial system is itself characterized by gender inequality. Because of this, incidents of sexual harassment, abuse, rape, and incest are frequently treated lightly and not as serious offences.” I am puzzled by this outlook. In Jamaica, rape and incest lead to criminal convictions. Abuse with intent to physical harm is an offence. Harassment, I could agree, is not a criminal and perhaps not a civil offence.  

On March 25, 2020 the Human Resources and Social Development Committee of Parliament which started its work in 2016, and chaired by a clergyman, recommended the removal of abortions from the Offences Against the Person Act and that a civil law Termination of Pregnancy Act be brought into force; this is a major indication of support for females who do not want to carry a pregnancy to term.

Furthering the argument that the society is not inherently violent to women, lecturer in Social Anthropology, Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work, the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. Dr Herbert Gayle in an article published in January 2020 said, “Violence against women: Lead with Science versus gut feelings and campaigns.”
He said, “The number one reason women die in Jamaica is because men are at war, and women get caught up in it. This accounts for two-thirds of all female deaths in Jamaica. Women die as a result of being branded informers, as gang sleepers, as background war strategists, to trigger or upset the opponent, or in family or corner wipe-outs. In simple terms: if we focus on the gang violence that kills over 1,000 males each year, we would save the lives on two-thirds of the women who die each year in those wars. We could then successfully focus on femicide – which does exist. By treating the problem of violence against women as an isolated issue we are exposing a lot of women to extreme violence. Such approaches also waste money for as long as the war continues it will take more money to continue fixing women without looking at men.” 

A Gleaner article that was published on September 11, 2016 said that Dr Gayle, and others conducted a study that found, “approximately 70 per cent of domestic disputes are centred around finances, and while men are more likely to physically abuse women, it is the women who are generally more likely to instigate the conflict.” The article headline was Men: Silent Sufferers - Male Victims Of Domestic Abuse Less Likely To Cry Out
“A local study has found that approximately 70 per cent of domestic disputes are centred around finances, and while men are more likely to physically abuse women, it is the women who are generally more likely to instigate the conflict.

The recently completed study looks at power and conflict in the home and represents a serial snapshot of society.

It was carried out between 2007 and 2014 by Dr Herbert Gayle who said, "What we found is that men are twice more likely to batter the women and women are twice more likely to initiate the fight then lose the fight."

"The problem we are finding, though, is that we make this assumption that once it's domestic violence, it's the woman who is the victim.”

The 2012 Caribbean Human Development report that was mentioned before seems to bear this out in the table that shows a four to six per cent gap in crime reporting between men and women.



  
The 2020 UN Human Development Perspectives: Tackling Social Norms, A Game Changer for Gender Inequalities presents data that shows an appreciation for the complex nature of gender inequality, and that it may not always be a manifestation of injustice and oppression.

What the document says about Jamaica is that the country is in the High Human Development category and that between 2010 and 2018, seven per cent more women were more educated than men; in 2018, 19 per cent of parliamentarians were women; and 13 per cent more men participated in the labour force.

The data presents no area in the world as an example of gender utopia.

Europe and Central Asia has the narrowest Gender Inequality Index of 0.2, but 25 per cent more men participate in the labour force and 21.2 per cent of seats in parliaments are held by women. Sub Saharan Africa has women in 23.5 per cent of the parliamentary seats and there is a nine per centage gap between men and women in the workforce, but the Gender Inequality Index is much higher at 0.5.

The report suggests that social norms maintain inequality and work needs to be done to “change unequal power relationships among individuals within a community or challenging deeply rooted gender roles.”

It presents a three-pronged tool to dismantle gender inequality: education, awareness and incentives.
Jamaica already has in place many of the recommendations of UN agencies to reduce gender based violence such as legislation protecting each gender in access to education, inheritance and land ownership. There is access to reproductive health resources, excluding, up to now, legal abortions on demand. There is promotion of gender equality in employment.

In Summary

This is what we know from this limited selection of surveys and reports:
·        Jamaica does not count the number of cases in Jamaica of intimate partner violence;

·        A survey done in 2016 reported that 27.8 per cent of females surveyed said that they had experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetime which would number about 254,000 females if expanded to the population as a whole; and this is very close to the 30 per cent norm reported in 2018 by UN Women;

·        The rate of violence victimization of 2.3 percent of households affects roughly 15,000 households across the country while it should not be ignored that some of the violence is caused as an offshoot of male conflict. Women are twice as likely to initiate behavior that results in violence and them being labeled as victims;

·        Nearly 90% of assault victims seen by hospitals are female; and 15% of victims make a report to the police;

·        The reasons why women do go to the justice system for help, in the majority is not recorded but it excludes fear of being beaten again and fear for the safety of children;

·        One study says 70% of domestic discord is over finances, so these decisions to seek help could be influenced by decisions about money.

What are the recommendations:
·         Harriott and Jones: ‘Proactive, pre-emptive policies need to target at-risk groups, eradicating violence before it starts.”

·         Williams: Preventive actions to re-programme the cultural practices away from acceptance and tolerance of gender-based violence, to one in which there are significant social, cultural and legal disincentives to violence against women and girls.
  • Improving services available to victims and improving investigations, prosecution and enforcement, are also expected to help reduce the prevalence of gender-based violence.  

Where Do We Go From Here?
The Prime Minister's 2020 Budget Presentation was delivered on March 19, 2020, the same day that the battered woman in Westmoreland rejected the opportunity to bring charges against the man who beats her and hurls insults at her in public, and in whom she places her affections.

The leader’s presentation stated the work that is being done to reduce violence in the society such as converting police stations into modern, citizen-friendly workspaces and bringing in more crime fighting technology. He also noted that to control violence the social culture has to change.

His remarks were focused on areas that are currently under the Zones of Special Operation (ZOSOs) when he said, "While we can reduce murders by controlling the space, controlling violence is more difficult as it has become a part of how we interact and behaviours have to change. We have seen that the change in the environment - improved physical infrastructure, waste disposal practices, willingness to resolve conflicts through restorative justice - has had a lasting positive impact."

Watson Williams' survey noted that domestic violence has no social boundaries, so I can tentatively foresee that these very important and much needed measures in violence prone communities will still not significantly reduce intimate partner violence.

Last year, the Wife of the Prime Minister moved to make Jamaica deliver the pilot of a regional Caribbean Women and Child Initiative (CariWaC) initiative, that is specifically targeted at reducing intimate partner violence. The vision is to have a space in the community where a woman who is living in poverty can receive empowerment services from trained health specialists. The initiative became the subject of severe criticism because of the timing of the launch of the initiative for Fathers' Day, and its laudable mission is still to be realised.
   

Let us return to more useful material from the Women's Health Survey and what it can teach. The recommendations are precise:
1.     Strategic and ongoing research and application of the findings is needed to make the National Strategic Action Plan on Gender-based Violence successful;
2.     Increase the capacity of the police and health services to help women who are ready to receive help;
·         The survey suggests that health and justice professionals can and do identify victims and make referrals, but sadly, half of these women reject help until they are broken down from abuse, in desperation, they become receptive. Indeed, counselling centres and shelters in each parish are vital to building up confidence in women who are at risk or who are already victims. Women and girls, the survey says, speak about their experiences to people who can actually offer help, and who do help when the women are mentally and emotionally ready to accept that help. CariWaC hopes to be a part of this solution.

·         The move to empower the justice system to press charges on a suspected abuser when the victim has not made a report can be interpreted as an intrusion on an adult female’s rights. One woman's personal terror is not a risk to a population. Our society has made a long journey towards increasing sovereignty of self. Forcing an adult female to participate in a legal process for her own well-being is reducing her status to that of a person who is incapable of making a decision or a minor. Even if it is reasonably sure that this will benefit her welfare, it is an infringement of choice. Time will decide whether we accept this as a society, or not.
3.     Structured and sustained behaviour change campaigns that continue the shift in thinking around gender norms and roles to create a society in which violence against women, including intimate partner violence, is openly rejected and firmly addressed.

Thanks to local, Jamaican research, such as the Women's Health Survey, and international surveys, there is sufficient information to inform broad decisions that can reduce intimate partner violence in a population. The balance of my essay is how I would structure a communication campaign where violence is openly rejected and firmly addressed.

Dr Herbert Gayle, in his article Violence against women: Lead with Science versus gut feelings and campaigns.” in February 2020 highlighted solutions individuals can make to reduce their risk of domestic abuse. These can be adapted for both males and females:
1.      Address the entire frame of domestic violence in your home and community
2.      Manage money issues before they escalate
3.      Establish partnership
4.      Have a detailed history of the family of your partner
5.      The church should lighten up on patriarchy messages and provide services for victims
6.      End the privacy custom related to intimate partner violence.

The community of development practitioners have been addressing the scourge of
violence and have collectively been discussing how to enable communities to have a
culture that regenerates of non-violence.

Professor Harriot’s 2012 UNDP Citizen Security Survey (CHDR), carries figures that
have been  very troubling to Jamaicans.
On page 13 it says, “In the In 2017, Jamaica’s homicide rate was 56 per 100,000; in
2018, the homicide rate dropped to 47 per 100,000, but remains three times higher
than the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. Forbes Magazine listed
Jamaica as the third most dangerous place for women travelers in 2017.

In 2018, Business Insider ranked Jamaica 10th among 20 of the most dangerous places
in the world. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently cited crime as the
number one impediment to economic growth. The Jamaican government concluded
that corruption and the transnational crime it facilitates presents a grave threat to
national security.” 

The 2014 National Security Policy goes into tackling organized crime in depth, but
does not mention domestic crime, suggesting that these types of crime are not an
ingredient of the homicide rates. Dr Gayle himself notes elsewhere that to solve
violence against women, violence against men needs to be solved.

In its early editions, the annual Best Practices for Community Development
coordinated by the Planning Institute of Jamaica has given focus to specific issues
that occur in communities.

In the 2020 edition, the focus was towards finding definitions for and identifying best
practices for community development and they indeed touched on reducing violence.
Notable among the presentations were from expert on violence reduction, University
of Ottawa Professor Emeritus Irvin Waller; and also the Mona School of Business and
Management Managing Director Dr Olivene Burke who outlined best practices.
Waller highlighted success in several cities where crime had increased and how he
believed that Jamaica can lower its crime rate by 50% in two years. Dr Waller’s
essentials are:
1.     Enable a National Violence Prevention Board informed by global portals and engaging regional and local violence prevention boards;
2.     Implement a plan with components of diagnosis, mobilization, implementation and evaluation; using mapping of areas of social data including deprivation; identify outcome goals
3.     Mobilise the relevant sectors
4.     Provide adequate and sustained funding including training
5.     Engage the public.
Giving a graphic example of investment, Waller said that the investment in the plan should be funded to the value of a cup of McDonald’s coffee for each individual in the population.
In March, 2020, a McDonald’s cup of specialty coffee was about US$3.30 and the population, according to the 2011 census conducted by STATIN was 2.8 million individuals living in Jamaica. Waller’s recommendation is that the budget for the plan should be US$9.2 million, the equivalent of J$1.25 billion.
In her presentation, Burke said that the process to engage communities should follow the following practices:
1.     Evaluate community readiness, which Burke says is the extent to which a community is adequately prepared to implement a development intervention or programme. 
·        Awareness and understanding of issues by the community
·        Motivation by the community to get involved and buy into the intervention plan;
·        Evidence of social and psychological ties within the community;
·        Capacity of local leadership to undertake developmental work;
·        A governance structure in the community with rules;
·        Presence of resources;
·        Knowledge of the ecological environment with regards to sustainable economic livelihoods;
2.     Establish workable collaborations through partnerships, as these can strengthen organisations through long term cooperation and collaboration and the ability to combine human and other resources;
3.     Develop a practice where data informs policy and decision making. Data analysis should be fundamental to programme monitoring and evaluation;
4.     Plan for sustainability by identifying the financial and social impact on the expected social value.

To achieve the goal of reduced domestic violence needs to address violence in the society in general, which must include outreach to males, but not exclusively to males.
No one programme can address this, but a wholistic approach which no doubt must also be integrated into almost every other social programme to include education, health, national security, labour and employment, wealth creation, housing, poverty reduction, housing and land ownership, just to name a few.
Although the approach must be far-reaching, the sustainability and regeneration will be achieved with the change in cultural norms. The rest of the essay will give suggestions on how to make that change.

 
Taino carving of a woman crying
Planning For Results
Without delay, the mission is to rapidly reduce domestic violence by motivate the influential segments of the society to socially reject the provocation and beating up of spouses and partners as reprehensible behaviour.

Waller says that a violence reduction plan should cost J$1.25 billion, the implementation cost will be multiple times this amount. A creative cost estimate which will include filmmaking, events, artiste development, theatrical productions and wayside advertising would probably be ten times more in a year employing the very best talents and expertise who can deliver the very best outcomes.

There are many valid models of behaviour change that could be examined and adapted for specific communities. These models, in different ways, consider the reality of prevailing lifestyles, and the importance and role of self-discovery and reflection. The models allow for some degree of relapse and do encourage consistency and refreshing action. Perhaps there is no right way and no wrong way, just the way that is best for the health of the person and of the household and community. The health sciences have professionals who competently deliver on these theories and have models for prediction and they make good theoretical sense and have yielded encouraging results.

Alongside this, I also have noted the tremendous resources of time, people and money that these theories employ and which need a high level of external support in order to be sustained in the long run; they seem not to readily rejuvenate. It almost feels like a form of dependency. Without the external sustenance, there are heartbreaking stories of recidivism or relapse or reduction in rate of progress. The HIV/AIDS behavior change reports offer some examples.

Global AIDS Update 2018  for the Caribbean noted in its At A Glance column that, “Renewed commitment to combination prevention that is tailored to populations and locations with the greatest need is required to accelerate reductions in new HIV infections.” And in its investment summary, “The financial resources available for HIV responses in the Caribbean increased until 2011; since then, it has declined, largely due to scaled back international support. Between 2006 and 2017, the availability of domestic resources increased 123.7%, while international resources have decreased by 16%. In 2017, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) provided 57% of the total HIV resources in the region; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) provided 8%.”

This over reliance on external support should be a matter of concern to that community. There are anecdotal stories of when the social intervention support is removed, the community deliberately reverts in order to force the NGO or the state to keep the support going.

Then there is the information blitz approach, which is sometimes used to shame the society into behaviour change. This action is without behaviour change theory and probably shows absolutely no significant return for the effort that is put in. I am deliberately withholding giving examples of this high visibility and low return approach.
  
Community Buy-In, Tie-In, Accountability and Support is the Solution

The communication support here should focus on bringing together consensus on domestic violence that reaches every corner of the society. This is what we are going through right now.

Supporting storytelling will give examples, show, tell, provide opportunities for discussion. Use the data to devise what stories to tell when, where to place them and the media to use in each case.

Opportunities for reward whether through winning competitions and being provided an opportunity to further ones dreams should be built into the rewards and payback. This is the discipline of marketers.

There will be members of society who do not respond to either, and this is where punishments and reminders should come in, probably through the justice system.


March 2020 marks the full awareness of countries outside of China to the threat of the COVID-19 virus and at the point of my writing, there is no good prediction as to what the full disaster will be for the lives and livelihoods lost and economies damaged. What I have seen, around me, is how fear for immediate personal safety is impacting behaviour change. With nary a whimper, the mature segments of entire societies have accepted a common threat and have put up little resistance to changing established ways of life. Ramping up behaviour change comes with a sharp prod to an emotional trigger.

I stood at a food takeout counter a few days ago, about a metre away from a woman and we were the only customers in the store. She scrutinized me and landed quizzical and challenging glances on me; I was too close for her comfort. My mission was to be close to the counter because the staff in the store are not the most alert when it comes to customer service, so pity the feelings of my fellow patron. Normal is now abnormal. All right is now all wrong.

We have witnessed this time and again in Jamaica. An item is stolen and it is returned because a community leader sent a message that it was a mistake or wrong behaviour. There was an understanding of acceptable behavior.

The video recording of the Westmoreland couple was peopled with supporters of the violent man. He did not hit her in a moment of rage, it came after several minutes of loud confrontation. He felt comfortable with his planned actions because he had backative, strength in the number of men around him who were lauding his behavior and berating the woman. To change this, the man must truly believe that he will be socially ostracised for beating his girlfriend, even if she had done him wrong. The supporters who he wants in his life must but be the persons who will starve him of social comfort.

I have participated in a community response that kept a woman safe until she was emotionally strong enough to change her situation. In that matter, the man's football crew stopped welcoming him into their midst. He received the pain of rejection and that kept her safe.

Hidden from our understanding is the reason for his rage, but we should also accept that provocation can escalate a situation to extreme violence. This is where the value of culture comes in, for persons to use discernment and see danger and how to avoid it. Storytelling and evocative language to teach survival is a very powerful tool which has become disused in recent times. It is a mistake, I think, to allow a higher standard of behavior to one side of a relationship, and not another. If you are having a relationship with a partner who will flirt, be prepared for emotional pain. If you are causing emotional pain to a person who has a history of getting into an explosive rage, assess carefully what you are willing to endure in the relationship.

If this sounds like I am projecting personal responsibility, I am, but I also acknowledge that many of us do not fulfill our own personal expectations all of the time, which is why the community is important.

The community can be paid professionals or meddlesome family members, friends and neighbours who offer an open door policy. One will be non-judgemental, the other will give their unwanted views as they offer care and support, or simply act to protect themselves against a threat to good order in the society.
  
To get a community to have a standard of accepted behaviour, we need stories that tell us what is wrong and what is right; that identify the victim, the villain, the hero. Factless fables should not be told as if they were truth, but told as wisdom in fancy dress so that it captures the imagination. Most stories can be for entertainment, but in many, there are stories that bear far more riches, and we should unearth them, place them where they will have impact and use them to define what is acceptable and what is not.

Unfortunately, for decades, an unsuspecting Jamaican audience were exposed to perhaps, too many harmful, and glamourous soap operas and TV mini-series from the USA that were bereft of sustaining nourishment. I would say the mini-series genre from India, derided as melodramatic, contains much more value.

I give much praise to the theatre community in Jamaica which have had a longstanding history of projecting relatable stories to mixed audiences, leaving them with smiles and hope. I like to highlight the vividly named Tek Yu Han Off A Mi, one of many stage productions which addressed and gave resolution to domestic violence.

The popularity of social media has allowed individuals to coalesce around their most comfortable subject areas and norms and empowerment and to swarm opposing views and brutally denunciate them online and beyond. This is a natural role of a society, allow members to know good from bad, harmful from healthy.

A quick check-in on thee deprecatory words that are popular in Jamaica, disgusting shameful, dunce and stupid show that they were in decline, but are now in modest to steep resurge. Perhaps this is evidence of the prevalence of "denunciatory culture" where you get brutally taken down for stepping out of line. It is not an enlightened way for a society to move, but it is performing a role that had been suppressed in modern times.

Disgusting had been declining in use until the late 1990s

Dunce started to grow in popularity in the 2000s

Stupid became more popular in 100 years and is still growing in use
I am against the use of deprecatory words to promote behavior change, what I see from these trends is that society is open to finding ways to define what is good, what is not good. This is information to be used in planning. I further say that the use of shaming and berating and fighting is currently prominent in Jamaican culture and this is an opportunity to perhaps promote other kinds of ways to find resolution.

The objective must be to reduce domestic violence, and for that it must be recognized that behavior of more than one person needs to be supported.

Tonight, April 4, I watched an apology from a member of the public, orchestrated by the police, for breaking the all-island curfew. The man used the words disgraceful and demeaning to describe his behaviour. Words that - I am very willing to underscore - he does not use in his normal speech. The public accountability - I am using this word instead of shame and pillory - as taken up on social media, looks as if it will be effective in stopping him and others from repeating the offence. 

The plan should map the places where the pockets of domestic abuse is likely occurring - reported and unreported - and develop data to do mapping of these areas. The research already done says that it is not restricted to one geographical area and it affects roughly 15,000 households and 254,000 females over the age of 15.
These females and their spouses will be the target audience.

The strategy should have a five-year lifespan so that it can enter the mind of one generation of youth from age 15 and carry them through adolescence to adulthood.

It should be anticipated that the quality of the expressions should become refreshed through demand. If one aspect is lacking resources, the message it can stay alive through another.

The strategy is to utilize storytelling to promote a discussion about matters that lead to domestic violence. The strategy would be to select stories from already published work, develop them into creative expressions, create platforms for engagement so that the responses can be measured and mapped.

To adequately create a sustained national discussion, there needs to be penetration across all platforms and all markets. The marketing plan would consider the number of radio stations with listenership of more than 15,000 at any time, the television stations.

It will create partnerships with the leading creators in film, music and music videos, public murals, theatre and events across disciplines.

There needs to be synergy across the platforms. A story selected must find expression on stage, in musical performance and music video, in public spaces through murals and transit, on radio, on games and in discussions online.

Targets for engagement on each platform has to be done frequently and should inform the next roll-out of materials. This will include social media measurement and listening; broadcast media listening and analysis.

The police stations and hospitals where assault victims come for treatment should have a protocol in place where reports and cases are logged and provided to the head of mission. These will be analysed to determine what it means for the engagement with society.

The wide sweeping investment in social behavior to be accompanied by rewards and punishments by members of society, through social media means and others, should be carefully set out with deliverables written out as numbers. If the numbers do not roll in, at the required rate, the exercise will be a failure and a waste of all inputs and resources.

Behaviour change should be accountable to numbers such as sales figures, immunisation rates, returns on investments and any other meaningful investments.

Right is rewarded and wrong is corrected and punished. Will the society want to buy into that? Let's try.








What this will look like is within two year roll-out of
1.     Three hit songs per popular genre with live stage performances and interviews
2.     Three major theatrical productions
3.     Three feature films taken from short stories
4.     Three one-year radio dramas
5.     Murals in targeted communities
6.     Associated Print and digital PSAs
7.     Games
8.     Literary events and competitions
9.     Inclusion of elements of the productions in every major national musical and sporting event or championship

Measurement Activity
1.     Demonstration of visibility of each initiative across popular platforms
2.     Demonstration of engagement of each initiative with target audiences
3.     Required level of participation achieved for call-to-action activities
4.     Web visits and click-throughs correlated with media coverage

Outcomes
1.     Increase in reporting of domestic violence cases
2.     Increase in reporting of domestic violence cases
3.     Increased demand in services for victims of domestic violence
4.     Use of data by health, justice and social service professionals
END



END


/gd
March 21, 2020
Updated April 3, 2020