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Category Archives: Blog Posts

My Tribute to Uncle Ray

It has been almost a month since Uncle Ray passed away and even now, I find it difficult to put my thoughts and feelings into words.

Uncle Ray was one of the first persons to find this blog and post a congratulatory message. He always made me feel that I was special to him. He was a man who was small in stature but larger than life, overflowing with warmth, love and generosity. A dynamo who was always on the go, filled to the brim with ideas and plans and dreams. His ability to engage people where they were allowed him to capture those iconic photographs for which he is known, as people from all walks of life responded to his down-to-earth personality. He was a man who could walk with beggars and kings. So great was his love for Jamaica that he dedicated his life to capturing images of its splendour, its heartbeat – each photo a memory, a treasure, a moment in time.

His gift to the world is immeasurable and he will be missed.

Wan luv, Uncle Ray. Walk good.

Service of Thanksgiving will be held at Stella Maris Church, 62 Shortwood Road, Kingston 8, on Saturday March 12 at 10:30am. In lieu of flowers, a donation in aid of the Chinese cemetery will be taken. 

Link to photos of his book launch in 2015 : Tiffany Lue Yen

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More Love, Less Fear – a Jamaican author’s powerful story of his journey of love

Robert Lee contacted me some weeks ago asking if I would read, and write a review of his book, More Love, Less Fear. It has been an amazing, emotional experience. Robert’s story is such a personal one that I feel honoured that he has shared it with me. From the first paragraph, Robert begins to confide in you as though you are his closest friend, and from that moment, there is no turning back. The book must be read. The story must unfold.

This is a first-person account of Robert and his wife’s life as they go through the experience of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease.) that eventually claims his wife, Theresa. But it is about more that the sickness. It is really a story about wringing every bit of life out of life that you can. It is about reaching for and choosing to love in a way that is stronger and greater and more determined than you ever thought possible.

The road that Robert and Terri walked was one that no-one would envy. What do you do when you discover that your beloved wife’s body is going to waste away slowly before your eyes? What do you do when you have to face your own death? What do they do? They live. They love. They fight through depression and frustration, anger and despair, and emerge into a place of love and peace and yes, even happiness.

The book moves quickly, with not a boring spot in sight. Robert tells his story with humour and sincerity. Jamaicans will appreciate references to familiar places and people, and may be intrigued to discover that Robert’s wife, Theresa, was the founder of the famed Wassi Art Pottery Gallery. But this is a story for everyone. As you pause at the end of a chapter, you feel as though you have been reminded of some powerful truth that you had forgotten. And as you let it sink in Robert provides a quote that puts everything you just absorbed into words that cut straight through to your heart.

This is a book that will remind you of how much stronger and better you can be. It will tell you that when life throws you the worst there is, there is an alternative to bitterness and resentment. You can be battered down and stripped bare, but not even death can beat you if your weapon is love.

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are. —Bernice Johnson Reagon” … (qtd in More Love, Less Fear, Lee, 46)

This is an emotional ride. I can not properly describe this incredible journey. You must let Robert do that himself. You can find More Love, Less Fear on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/More-Love-Less-Fear-Memoir/dp/1504325265

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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.

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.

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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

 

 

 

 

I am a Jamaican

Karl O’Brian Williams – Jamaican Actor & Playwright.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

The absolute yummiest macaroni and cheese casserole

IMG_3703At least that is what my kids call it! This macaroni and cheese dish is truly delicious. It is my adaptation of a recipe passed down to my husband from my mother-in-law. My 11 yr old son would eat it every day if I let him. It has the gooeyness of pizza on top, a little crunch from the breadcrumbs, and of course, bacon bits!

1 400 oz package elbow macaroni
125g light cheddar cheese grated
250g mozzarella cheese grated
2 1/2 oz parmesan cheese grated
1 tsp salt

White sauce:
50g (about 6 tbsp) unsalted butter
1 small onion chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
50g (about 3 1/2 tbsp) all purpose flour
2 cups milk
black pepper to taste
paprika to taste

Topping:
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/3 pack bacon (optional)

Directions:

Boil 6 cups water
When water is boiling, add macaroni and 1/2 tsp salt
Boil according to directions then remove from heat and drain

Put aside 1/2 of the mozzarella and parmesan for the topping
Mix the rest of the cheese together

Heat saucepan on low heat and add butter. Be careful as butter burns easily.
Add onion, garlic and then mix in flour
Add a small amount of milk and stir into flour. Add the remaining milk while mixing or whisking to prevent lumps
Add 1  1/2 tsp salt, black pepper and paprika
When the milk begins to boil, lower heat and keep mixing for 2 mins
Remove from heat

Pour macaroni into a large casserole dish
Mix in the shredded cheddar cheese along with half the parmesan and mozzarella and add the white sauce
Cover with foil and bake at 350F for 30 mins

Remove casserole from oven and sprinkle on remaining cheese and bread crumbs
Bake uncovered for 15 mins until the cheese is melted and the top is brown.

Chop bacon into small pieces and fry until crisp
Remove from oven and sprinkle bacon bits onto casserole

Enjoy.

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