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.


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.


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.


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”.


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

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


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


Jamaican Dog Sledder Enters Alaskan Race

Now, if a young man from St. Ann, Jamaica, decided that he wanted to take himself as far out of his comfort zone as he possibly could, and push himself to the absolute limit of his physical and mental endurance, what would he do? Oh, I know. He would become a dog musher, and enter the Alaskan Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, otherwise known as “The Last Great Race On Earth”.

This 975-mile race in sub-zero temperatures takes you through treacherous mountains, frozen rivers, dense forests and windswept coasts in unforgiving weather and long hours of darkness.

Starting in Willow, 50 miles north of Anchorage and ending in Nome, this year’s race commenced on March 1, 2014.  The winner is expected to arrive at Nome in about nine days. It may take an additional week before the last contestant arrives at the finish. There are 69 mushers, most from Alaska, some from Norway, and others from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. And then there’s Newton Marshall, the 30 yr old former tour guide who is currently working in security in Jamaica. Well, no. Currently he’s not working. Currently, he is traversing some of the harshest conditions on earth with a handful of dogs and a sled.

Newton Marshall, Jamaican Dog Musher

Newton Marshall, Jamaican Dog Musher
Photos courtesy of his support team

The race commemorates a 1925 rescue mission that carried diptheria serum by dog sled to Nome.  The mushers will travel in stages that vary between 18 miles and 85 miles. The participants will have spent the past year preparing for this event, training and fund raising for the purchase of equipment and supplies for themselves and their team of dogs.

Marshall has been mushing since 2005.  While he was working at Chukka as a tour guide, the company started the Jamaica Dog Sled Team to run dry land dog carts for tourists. Which of course is just one small step away from doing dog sledding for real. In Alaska. Fighting frostbite in the mind-numbing cold. You can see how that would follow, right? Right.

This is actually not Marshall’s first run on the Iditarod. He’s done it three times before, finishing only once, in 47th place. This year he’s back with his sixteen dogs: Monica, Eric, Ghost, Ratchet, Palmer, Comet, Disco, Jumpy, Liesle, Chili Pepper, Relay, Trick, Daisy Mae, Willy and Ellie. His goal? Just to finish the race.

So what does it take to be run this trail really? You have to be fit, and not too tall or heavy, since every pound you carry makes it that much difficult for your team. You have to be prepared to face moose, caribou, wolves, buffalo and other wildlife that may be a threat along the trail. You don’t want the snow to be too icy, or too slushy, since both these conditions cause problems. You or your dogs run the risk of falling and breaking a limb, getting lost, suffering from snow blindness, frostbite, hypothermia or any number of other illnesses or injuries along the way.  The dogs can get tangled or even strangled, and you or your dogs could fall through ice. There is a mandatory 24 hr stop, plus two more 8 hr stops but you must be prepared to deal with the fatigue. There’s no doubt about it; this sport and this race require mental and physical toughness in spades.


Photos courtesy of Newton Marshall’s support team

Newton Marshall is clearly up to the challenge. As he says on his website, “I want to show kids from Jamaica or anywhere in the world that if you want something you have to go get it yourself.”

You can show Marshall some love and keep up with the race from the warmth of your own home, by visiting his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MushinMonNewton and you can support him by purchasing t-shirts, books and other items, or even by sponsoring a dog, by visiting his website at http://www.mushinmonnewtonmarshall.com/

Wednesday, March 4th

I’d really like to encourage everyone to follow the race on Newton’s Facebook page as it is still in progress. Conditions on the trail appear to be unusually hazardous this year as several mushers have already had to drop out due broken bones, broken sleds and various injuries.  Newton Marshall has stopped at least twice to assist his fellow mushers, helping one guy with a broken leg get to safety. He is really making us proud. He is an exceptional guy. https://www.facebook.com/MushinMonNewton

Aeron Cargill – Illustrator and Photographer

Aeron Cargill - illustrator and photographer

Aeron Cargill – illustrator and photographer

Aeron Cargill is an illustrator and photographer based in Kingston, Jamaica. His illustration work includes designs for children’s books, novel covers, etc. He particularly enjoys concept art, which includes character design, as well as storyboarding for TV ads and productions. In his spare time, he returns to his first love, and his introduction into the world of art and photography, which is creating pencil portraits.

When Cargill was 16, a photographer friend introduced him to the art of photography. He was already a pencil portraitist with an art background, so photography seemed to develop as a natural extension to his talents.

When he won the CXC Caribbean award for art in 2001, which was his first major award, it demonstrated to him that the visual arts was a worthy pursuit, despite society’s cues to the contrary. This award gave him the encouragement he needed to pursue an artistic career, and confidence to grow as an artist.

aeroncargill rex

In early 2009 he decided to take his talents in illustration and photography to a professional level. Today, his technique has moved completely over to the digital realm as he uses painting software and a stylus and tablet setup. All his work still starts life in a sketch book and then is translated and completed on the computer. He now prefers digital painting due to the advantages of speed and the freedom to mix effects of traditional mediums over each other in a way not possible in traditional physical counterparts, plus the ability to edit so that changes can easily be made.

To date, Cargill’s work has been published by six publishers, one of which has three books on Amazon which feature Cargill’s illustrations.

aeroncargill illustration

Aeron Cargill Illustration

On the photography side, Cargill takes pleasure in crafting a memorable image and contributing to the history of a person’s life. He considers the technical aspect as being secondary to the knowledge of connecting with another person, and creating an image that both tells a story and gives a glimpse of the inner person. He also takes pride in pleasing his clients with attractive photos achieved through his efforts.aeroncargill bianca

In the long term, Cargill’s aim is to achieve a more cinematic look to his photography. He hopes to develop a more moody and emotional style, be it romantic, pensive, or even epic. In terms of his illustration he hopes to explore more experimental ways of rendering his muses and possibly cement a definitive trademark style.

While he has traditionally used a great deal of realism in his illustrative work, his aim is to introduce textures and patterns to achieve a more ornate look. He also hopes to use advanced techniques to fuse his photography and illustration skills together.

Cargill’s work can be found at his website at aeroncargillart.com

Me neva did know

Me neva did know
Seh me neva born yah
Inna me homeland

Me neva did know
Till you call out to me
Seh me fe feel shame
Ah me ancestry

Ching Chong Chiney gyal
Gwaan back to China
Afta me neva go China yet
How me fe go back

Me neva did know
Seh just cause me deh
Back a one shop
Counting change

An’ me mama and papa
Talk two different tongue
Dat me was different from you
Dat me neva belong

Me neva did know

True you seh me too rich
An me hair too sof’
An me eat too much rice
An how Chiney eat dawg

Afta me neva eat no dawg yet

Ah stew chicken me love
An’ escoveitch fish
And stew peas an rice

But me neva did know
Seh me nuh fe feel pain
Cause me is a child of privilege
An’ fi you great gran mumma was a slave

An a only yuh get di right fi complain

True me neva did know
Seh out of one people
Neva really mean me

True me neva know

But don’t mind you hear
Cause me naw insult you back
Me naw seh “Go back a Africa
True you black.”

Me just shut me mout’ tight
An smile all ‘roun
Cause me know seh me born right yah so
Inna Kingston town.


I’m told that to be a good writer, you need to cut your heart out and bleed onto the page. I think this qualifies.


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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