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Welcome

194_19326930002_7424_nOne great thing about Jamaica is that whether you were born here, moved here, came for a visit, hang out with Jamaicans, or just love Jamaican food, music, sports or culture, you become a part of a really cool community. This is the ‘My Jamaican Life’ community – a bunch of people who just think Jamaica is really cool.

I have lots of plans and ideas for interesting Jamaican articles, stories, recipes and features. So if you like what you see here, and don’t want to miss a thing, just click on the FOLLOW button to the right, or at the bottom of the page to follow this blog. You’ll get an email telling you when I post something new. Nothing more, nothing less. No spam, no unsolicited emails. That’s a promise.

But because this is a community, I also want to hear from you. I want to know what you like and dislike about the site, and what you’d like to see me add to it. I want this site to belong as much to you as it does to me. I promise to read and respond to all your messages and emails.

So let me personally welcome you to ‘My Jamaican Life’. One love.

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Nursy – The Woman Who Loved Me

Recently, I stumbled across an interesting article called What My Nanny Left Me written by Ross Kenneth Urken. In this tribute to his Jamaican nanny, Urken spoke of the impact of this lovely woman on his life, and the part she played in his formative years, leaving him with cherished memories, an enduring love for her, and … her Jamaican accent.

This reminded me of my own beloved “Nursy”, a woman who dedicated years of her life to help raise me and my brother.

Nursy was our family’s helper from before I was born, caring for my older brother before me. Her own daughter, Cordell, was already grown.  I became irrevocably attached to her from the start. When I was two years old, Nursy left my parents’ employ for a period, as she had decided to attempt farming and chicken rearing. But she was no businesswoman, and so within months, having lost the money to sustain the endeavour,  she returned to our home. But I refused to speak to her. When I eventually did, my words broke her heart “Nursy, why you leave me? My mommy and daddy don’t leave me. Why you leave me?”

It seems she was determined not to leave me again, as she remained with us through three moves, even when we left Montego Bay for Morant Bay at the far end of the island, 250 km from her own home in Savanna-la-mar. I remember that on Thursdays, my parents would close the store early to go to Kingston to purchase goods. On those days, Nursy cooked me pumpkin soup with boiled dumplings. Then I would sit in her room, watching her mend’ frocks’, on the old sewing machine, pumping the foot pedal as she worked.

My brother, Nursy and me.

My brother, Nursy and me.

Sometimes, she made me read passages to her from the Bible, as reading strained her eyes, and it was she who made me memorize the names of all the books of the Bible, in chronological order. If my parents were late in returning home, I would fall asleep in her bed as she sang church hymns to me. I still remember the songs she loved – Amazing Grace, and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

It was she who introduced me to Anansi stories, relating them to me while she washed clothes in a huge round aluminium tub in the yard.  I barely remember the stories, but the thing I do recall with great clarity, is the loud squeaking sound that the clothing made, as she held them with both hands, rubbing  the soapy material between her fists.  Not until I was grown, and tried to reproduce the sound did I realize that I ought to have made her teach me her methods.

She was the only person in the world who called me, as if it were my name, ” A lady”, because that was what I was going to grow up to be, and my brother she called “A Man.” I remember the first time she telephoned my house and said to my poor husband “Mek mi speak to A lady”. I don’t quite know how he ever figured out that I was the person she meant.

She amused us greatly with her range of expressions, including some which I have never heard from another living soul.  Her favourite expression of surprise was  “Kiss mi auntie an’ tigah bone!” which made us laugh, because it made absolutely no sense.  Sometimes she would shake her head in disbelief, declaring “…from I was christen… from I was born….” She never spoke of any future plan without the added phrase ” if life spare.” Even at bedtime, she would say “I will see you in the morning, if life spare.”

She was also the reason why I would occasionally launch into full country patois, to my parents’ shock and dismay. With hands on hips, did their precious little girl produce this outburst one afternoon “Lawd ma! What a way dis cloth pretty eeh!”

In truth, Nursy was a terrible housekeeper, and she smoked, although always outside, and never around us children. It was a habit my mother detested. Mom complained that she did not keep the house clean, insisted on washing everything with way too much bleach, and ironed pleats into all the wrong places. But she had two enduring qualities. Firstly, she was scrupulously honest. More than a few times would we come across errant dollar bills of various denominations laid out to dry – sometimes large amounts of money that had been forgotten in someone’s pockets. And secondly, she loved my brother and me unreservedly. These two qualities were enough for my parents to keep her in their employ after we had outgrown the need for a nanny, and even after we had gone abroad for our various educational pursuits.

Finally, when I was eighteen, and attending school in Canada, mom and dad made their final move to Mandeville, and Nursy decided to return to her home in Sav-la-mar. I did stay in touch with her over the years, sending her news and photos of my own children.  Whenever I called or visited, they would tell her “Is yuh Chiney daughter”.

Visiting Nursy in 2005

Visiting Nursy in 2005

The last time I spoke to her, she was being cared for by one of her nieces. Nursy was no longer able to speak, but I was told that she smiled at the sound of my voice, and that she kept the photos of my children in her Bible, often taking them out to look at them. She passed away a week later at the age of 90.

When I came across Urken’s memoir on his Jamaican nanny, it took me on my own trip down memory lane, reminding me of this woman whom I loved. The thing that delighted me the most about his story, was the strength of the impact of the Jamaican culture on his character through this one woman. So beloved was she, that he adopted her accent and the bits and pieces of her culture that she taught him, as a way to identify with her. It is a tangible sign of his love for her.

My father taught me patience, gentleness, forgiveness, and long division. My mother taught me that studying hard is the key to success. Nursy could not help me with my homework, and she gave me no great advice or words of wisdom to live by. All she did was love me, and there is no prerequisite for that. It was enough.

Now, when I think of her, I know that she is in heaven singing Amazing Grace with the saints, and watching lovingly over her children – including the Chiney ones.

 

 

Jamaican long jumper seeks financial help to complete her PhD in clinical psychology

“>Yanique Levy Jamaican long jumper, former Miss Jamaica and aspiring clinical psychologist Yanique Levy will be unable to complete her doctorate at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida without financial assistance.  Grateful for the wholehearted support of her family, who have given their all to get  her to where she is now, Levy has been exploring every avenue available to her, and in desperation, is turning to the public to assist her in achieving her ambitions.

“I have applied for scholarships at Nova but have not yet received a response. I also continuously search for scholarships but most are for residents of the US and not international students. Also, I have hand delivered many letters to organizations and no one could assist.I cannot apply for a student loan in Jamaica because only persons studying in Jamaica have access to student loans there. In the US, I have to apply for a loan with a cosigner. I had a cosigner who had to withdraw last week at the 11th hr for personal reasons leaving me in the situation I find myself now.I have applied for jobs on campus  but the earliest available one is in August.”

Levy has been an athlete since prep school, representing Immaculate Conception High School at Boys and Girls Championship, winning the sprint hurdles in class 4 and making the finals in the long jump and sprint hurdles events every year thereafter. She continued track and field throughout her undergraduate years at the UWI Mona where she represented them at the intercollegiate championships as well as the intercampus championships. She went on to compete for Jamaica at the CAC game in July 2011 in the long jump where she placed 4th and the Pan American games also in 2011 where she made the final.  She hopes to represent Jamaica in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

Levy is working very closely with the Sport psychologist at the sport psychology clinic at Nova.  While she was in Jamaica, she assisted the track team at Immaculate Conception High and the football team at Waterhouse football club by teaching them various psychological skills to help achieve peak performance in sports and in their life in general. She hopes to complete her PhD in order to make a positive contribution to her country.

“The country and our Jamaican people are under stress. I am spurred to making a contribution because I am very concerned about the alarming number of violent and heinous crimes being committed on a daily basis. With a Doctoral degree, I would acquire a more solid foundation in psychological principles. This will better prepare me to play my role in improving the mental health of clients.”

In the area of Sports psychology, Levy states that athletes “are faced with many challenges and pressures which make them increasingly susceptible to depression and anxiety issues.” She is concerned that there is a stigma attached to mental health issues which prevents many Jamaicans from seeking help. Her goal is to increase the availability of help while decreasing the stigma associated with psychology.

Apart from her track and field and academic pursuits, she entered Ms. Jamaica in 2008 where she won the most congenial award and also received the Miss Jamaica World Sports Award. She is seeking help from the public to complete her PhD through fundly.com. To help Yanique, click https://fundly.com/help-yanique#comments and make a donation.

Jamaican Student Entrepreneurs create organic shampoo using sorrel and rosemary

It is said that Necessity is the Mother of Invention, and this invention began with the need to defeat dandruff. Javin Williams, a teenager fresh out of high school, was the one battling this common complaint. The harsh chemicals in the shampoos on the market purported to deal with the problem, while helping his dandruff, were actually creating other problems. Frustrated, he turned to his grandmother, who advised him to wash his hair with rosemary water. In short order, the dandruff disappeared.

Healthy, dandruff free hair

Healthy, dandruff free hair

Some time later, as a mass communication student at Northern Caribbean University, this enterprising young man, along with his sister, Kamla, a social work major, and medical technology student  Kimiesha Maxwell, used this hair remedy in a Business Plan Competition put on by the Morris Entrepreneurship Centre.  With no prior knowledge of how to develop a business plan, they placed respectably in the top five, prompting the Centre to offer their assistance in further development.

During market testing, the team encountered a number of complaints and turned to the Scientific Research Council for help in ensuring that their ingredients were safe. Meanwhile, Kamal Smith, a medical technology student, was brought on board to help in turning the simple remedy into a shampoo and conditioner.

Their research showed them that several common shampoo ingredients, particularly those which created lather, were actually harmful to hair, causing breakage, dry scalp, eczema,  itching and other hair and skin problems. Some of these products are sulphur, sodium laureate sulphate and sodium benzoate. Additionally, parabens were discovered to be carcinogenic.

The team set about creating a safe, organic, low-lather shampoo that would not be harmful to hair, but which would help it to heal from the harsh ingredients it had been exposed to.  In addition to rosemary, they turned to indigenous plants such as lemongrass and peppermint, as well as sorrel, which was found to add body to hair and improve its natural colour.

In June 2012, Herboo Enterprise was officially registered. The two-in-one shampoo and conditioner was put on the market in Mandeville pharmacies, and began to receive positive reviews and win loyal users offering enthusiastic testimonials as to the product’s effectiveness.

Herboo Team

The Herboo Team on the cover of their University Newsletter. (L-R) Kamal Smith, Ashadane Wright, Kamla Williams, Kimiesha Maxwell and Herboo CEO and founder, Javin Williams

Late last year, Herboo entered a local Business Model Competition sponsored by the Development Bank of Jamaica. At this time, Mass Communications major Ashadene Wright joined their team and they won the contest at the NCU level. Mentored by Hazel Wright O’Connor of the Morris Enterpreunership Centre, the team went on to win the national competition. After this win, with Douglas Lindo from UWI now on board to help mentor the group, they flew to Salt Lake City, Utah, to compete with Universities on an international level.

Herboo 100% Organic Shampoo

Herboo 100% Organic Shampoo

Kamla Williams described the experience as “mind-blowing’, being exposed to ‘the genius that is out there’ in the many amazing inventions by students from such prestigious universities as Harvard and Stanford University. Still, Herboo Enterprise held their own, placing 8th out of 42 teams in the competition, and winning the award for the most impressive international competitor. They even managed to surprise the judges in their presentation, by introducing them to sorrel and its uses. Herboo walked away with US$6,000 and an inspiring educational experience. Kamla explained that learning the business model and seeing how effective it is, was invaluable and has inspired them to make it an ongoing part of their process.

Herboo Enterprise still creates their shampoo in the kitchen of Javin and Kamla’s mother in Cedar Grove, Mandeville. The herbs are sourced from their backyard garden. But their goal is to continue to grow their company, and they have plans to introduce many new items to their product line.

Herboo Shampoo  is currently available in Three Angels Pharmacy, James Family Pharmacy, Can Care Pharmacy, Park View Pharmacy and NCU Bookstore, all in Mandeville, and Fontana Pharmacy islandwide and online.

Herboo Enterprise is also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HerbooEnterprise

 

Spread A Bed Initiative by Asafa Powell

Asafa Powell is raising funds to provide bedsheets for Kingston Public Hospital. Please support if you can.

Spread A Bed at KPH | Indiegogo.

National Geographic article about Saving the Goat Islands in Jamaica

Read about it here: Saving Goat Islands, Jamaica.

Jamaica – Fencing for gold

Fencing has not been a sport that is traditionally followed in Jamaica, so not many people would be aware that in October 2013,  Ohio-based Jamaican, Allison Miller won the nation’s first gold medal for fencing in the Central American and  Caribbean (CAC) Championships in Guatemala. Soon thereafter, in November, Jamaica then won another gold medal in the London International Open 2013, through Caitlin Nicole Chang, who resides in Britain.

Allison Miller fencer     Photo Shannon S. Evans

Allison Miller

Photo Shannon S. Evans

It was only recently, in April 2012, that the Jamaica Fencing Federation was incorporated in Jamaica by President and founder, Jamaican born James McBean from Spanish Town, who competed previously  in the American college system making it to the top 15 in the US in his last two years of college. The federation was subsequently admitted as a member to the International Fencing Federation FIE in November 2012. Since then, and with the support of the Jamaica Olympic Association, McBean has been working hard to introduce the sport of fencing to Jamaicans. His team consists of Christopher Samuda as advisor, Kevin Jackson, secretary, Marc Ramsay and Laurel Smith as consultants.

fencing

Tia Simms-Lymn in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Photo courtesy of the International Fencing Federation FIE

As the JFF visit high schools throughout the island, demonstrating the sport to students, McBean has been very encouraged by the interest displayed. He is of the opinion that competitiveness is culturally engrained in Jamaicans at a young age, and that fencing is another avenue through which young people can demonstrate their physical and intellectual dominance of another in a a healthy way. The JFF operates from five standards of conduct: etiquette, modesty, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit. These standards McBean borrowed from his Tae Kwon Do training, and he believes them to be appropriate for today’s Jamaican youth. Fencers are forced to think and react quickly, and the sport is therefore excellent in helping young people develop acute coordination between the physical and intellectual realm.

In mid 2013,  French National, Jean Pierre Riffaud joined the JFF as the organization’s first fencing coach. Based in Mandeville, Riffaud became a part of JFF’s pilot program – the development of the Manchester Fencing Club, the first fencing club in Jamaica’s history. At present, Riffaud is the only coach on the island, but plans are being made for additional coaches to come to Jamaica. A club has also been established at Wolmer’s Boys School in Kingston. The students are able to make use of  equipment donated by the FIE to Jamaica.

James McBean - founder of Jamaica Fencing Federation

James McBean – founder of Jamaica Fencing Federation

Photo Shannon S. Evans

The establishment of the JFF has allowed fencers of Jamaican heritage all around the world to represent Jamaica in their favoured sport.

In 2013, 14 year old Tia Simms-Lymn, a British born fencer of  British and Jamaican parentage, was the first person to represent Jamaica in fencing on an international level.  Even before the JFF existed, Lymn had been seeking a way to represent the country of her ancestry, although she was already ranked no. 1 in Britain in her age group.  She was therefore thrilled to be first on board once the JFF had been admitted to the FIE. Her participation is also key in demonstrating to Jamaica what can be accomplished on an international level.  Lymn has been fencing for the last 7 years. She has been British Epee Champion in her age group for the last three years and in 2011 was double British Champion, in the Foil and the Epee. The Foil and the Epee are two of the three categories of fencing weaponry, the third being Saber.

Tia Simms-Lymn

Tia Simms-Lymn

Photo courtesy of the Italian Fencing Federation

In February 2014, she represented Jamaica in Guatemala at the Pan American Championships. And in March 2014, she competed in the largest and most prestigious under-15 fencing competition in the world, the Challenge Wratislavia, in Wrokaw Poland, where over 2,000 fencers participated. Once again, Jamaica came out on top with the silver medal, with Lymn beating out previously undefeated top seeds.

Lymn then flew to Plovdiv, Bulgaria where she competed at the Cadet World Championships in April 2014.

In addition to these three outstanding ladies, a number of fencers residing in the USA, England, Germany and Wales are also representing Jamaica at local levels.

The JFF looks forward to training new members for their club, here in Jamaica, as well as encouraging fencers around the world who are of Jamaican heritage and who would like to represent the country to do so.  Allison Miller, Caitlin Nicole Chang, and Tia Simms Lynn are all hoping to qualify to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.

You can give them your support and keep up-to-date on their activities at their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/JamaicanFencing

 

 

 

 

President Obama says thanks to MoBay artist – News – Jamaica Gleaner – Friday | April 4, 2014

Jamaican ex-cop gets ‘hero’ award for bravery – News – Jamaica Gleaner – Sunday | April 6, 2014

I am a Jamaican

Karl O’Brian Williams – Jamaican Actor & Playwright.

karlagain

Karl O’Brian Williams
Photo by Peter Ferguson

Karl O’Brian Williams was studying English at UWI, Mona Campus when he happened upon a course  on 20th Century Theater.  It seemed like a good opportunity to take a class that was fun and did not involve exams. Little did Williams know that this introduction to the world of performing arts would change the course of his life for good.

The class was his first foray into the academics of acting and the performing arts, and it sparked a fire that would not be extinguished. Williams actually began his working life as an English teacher at Camperdown High School, but he also managed to audition for and win an acting role at the Pantomime Company, which paid him a stipend for his role in Janga Rock. He continued to win roles in JMTC productions, and appeared in Norman Rae’s production of Guys & Dolls.

By day, Williams had been working in the field of public relations. In 2001, he finally decided that he wanted to work full time in theatre, so he quit his job and went to New York to audition for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). While he did not get into the four year degree course, he was accepted to do a Certificate Course in Shakespeare Acting in London.

After his stint in London, Williams returned to Jamaica to complete a Diploma in Education at UWI, since teaching was the only other area outside of theatre that he had an interest in pursuing.  He then got his MA in Educational Theatre at NYU.

Williams went on to teach, act and write plays. As he explains, all these areas are related and are part of a whole. Theatre is a lifestyle that requires doing many things at once.

To date, Williams has produced three plays.  Random, Black That I Am, and Not About Eve. His play Black That I Am received the 2005 Actor Boy Award for Best New Jamaican Play.

Not About Eve, which he started writing as far back as 2001, did not come to the stage until 2006, when it won that year’s Actor Boy Award for Best New Jamaican Play. It went on to be staged in New York to great critical acclaim. It was chosen to be showcased at the National Black Theatre Festival in 2013 in North Carolina. Williams is only the third Jamaican playwright to have his play chosen for this prestigious event, joining such stalwarts of Jamaican theatre as Trevor Rhone and David Heron.

notabouteve

Photo by Rami Abouemira

Williams has also recently been invited to stage ‘Voices From The Black That I Am’ in Glasgow, Scotland at ‘A Pie, A Pint and A Play’, which is a lunchtime theatre event to be held this summer. The production is a series of monologues that is a slight variation from the original play.  The event showcases emerging and established writers from Scotland and recently, from other countries.  It is housed at the Oran Mor Theater in Glasgow.  Williams’ production will be staged May 12-17, 2014.

Williams says that it is very special to know that he can write something that is so uniquely Jamaican, and that it can still be appreciated by people who are unfamiliar with the Jamaican culture.  He claims that he does not typically write about stereotypes such as the ghetto life or dancehall or the reggae culture, but instead focuses on other aspects of life that are still authentically Jamaican, but are perhaps not as prominent.

Seeing his plays on stage brings great satisfaction to Williams, knowing that those are his words, and his work that is being portrayed. He points out that although Not About Eve was written as far back as 2001, it is still relevant today. It is what he strives for, creating works that will continue to be relevant in years to come and that will still resonate with audiences long into the future.

Apart from producing plays, Williams continues to act in numerous productions. His most recent role was as King Herod in Craig Hutchinson’s adaptation of  Oscar Wilde’s Salome, called “Salome Reversed”.

karl

His company in Jamaica, MADKOW, is a partnership with Michael Daley, which was involved in bringing Not About Eve to production. The  company strives to promote upcoming actors and playwrights in the industry.

As the artistic director of Braata Productions, which operates out of New York, Williams also assists in promoting Caribbean Culture to the wider society.  The non-profit organization has three arms. Their choir of folk singers puts on concerts and promotes this aspect of Jamaican culture to the community. Their educational outreach involves sending teachers into schools to expose children to Jamaican and Caribbean theatre culture.  And their theatre workshop produces plays and promotes and helps to develop new writers and playwrights from the Caribbean.

Williams also teaches public speaking at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY) as well as teaching theatre in other organizations throughout NYC.

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