Wednesday, 15 February 2017

GOOD NEWS: Ziggy Marley wins 6th Grammy Award + Mandeville Hospital honours 150 nurses + GraceKennedy launches MPay payment platform

WINNING STREAK: Celebrating with his wife and kids aside, Ziggy Marley’s fans were foremost on his mind following his big win at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, where he copped Best Reggae Album for the sixth time in his illustrious career. Ziggy’s eponymous latest album, which has spawned hits like “Weekend’s Long and “Amen” (performed during Sunday night’s telecast), bested a field of five worthy contenders, completed by Raging Fyah, Devin Di Dakta & JL, J. Boog, Soja and Rebelution, to bag the golden gramophone. Post-ceremony, the 48-year-old messaged his Twitter fam saying, “Giving thanks to the @RecordingAcad for the honour, my family, and all the artists keeping #reggae alive and well.” Meanwhile, Brit superstar Adele was the toast of music’s biggest night this year, taking home trophies for Album of the Year (25), Record and Song of the Year (“Hello”). 

TAKING CARE: “It is very critical that our nurses be recognized for planning, implementing and evaluating our health care nationally, regionally and internationally. This is particularly important in a time of complex changes in the health services.” So says Angella Thomas, Director of Nursing Services at the Mandeville Regional Hospital, which recently honoured 150 nurses with awards for their dedication and committed service. And because there’s always room for improvement, Thomas says other initiatives are currently being worked on at the hospital, but priority is being given to the training, recruitment and education of staff nurses to heighten the quality of health-care service they provide. 

CASHING IN: GraceKennedy always has the average customer in mind. No wonder they’ve brought on stream GK MPay, a cleverly conceived mobile payment platform launched at the Hope Zoo during last week’s Money Goes Mobile campaign. “We have been working on this for about six years,” reveals company CEO, Don Wehby. “The concept was that we needed to have financial inclusion as part of our offerings, from the GK Financial Group. So the jerk man right down to the man that’s selling coconut was an integral part of our eco-system in designing this product.”

COVER TO COVER: Three captivating new books in tune with the Black experience

A MAN OF THE PEOPLE: Michael Holgate creatively explored the legend of Marcus Garvey with his brilliant Garvey: The Musical in October, highlighting some painful truths in the icon’s life story. With his provocative new book, Jailing A Rainbow: The Marcus Garvey Case, Justin Hansford is following suit. At just under 100 pages, it’s a thin volume, but it packs a punch. Published by Miguel Lorne Publishers and Frontline Books, the text chiefly tackles Garvey’s infamous mail fraud case in the United States, shedding new light on the various players who helped to thick the plot. There’s J. Edgar Hoover, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who reportedly planted spies at Garvey’s meetings, perturbed by his success at energizing the Blacks. Ransford also puts under the microscope Julian Mack, the judge who presided over the case, and the numerous letters allegedly sent to the US Attorney General, calling for Garvey to be deported. At its core, Ransford’s book champions Garvey’s innocence, while celebrating his groundbreaking work with the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and the Black Star Liner shipping company. But, most important of all, it further elucidates his sterling contributions to the Black consciousness movement, a work that’s still felt to this day. 

PRIME SUSPECT: Crime fiction is a relatively unheralded genre in West Indian lit, but at least one contemporary author seems determined to change that. With his Ross Camaho Quartet Grenada’s Jacob Ross wants to deliver stories laced with “richly observed characters” and “fast-moving narrative”. The Bone Readers (Peepal Tree Press) is the first novel in the series, tackling family dynamics, retribution and secrets with life-altering consequences. Set on the small Caribbean island of Camaho, it follows rookie cop Michael ‘Digger’ Digson, who is determined to find out who amongst a renegade police squad killed his mother during a political demonstration. But another case soon captures the interest of this no-nonsense man-on-a-mission: a cold case involving the disappearance of a young man whose mother is convinced he has been murdered. At 270 pages, The Bone Readers (shortlisted for the 2017 Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year) bears testament to “persistence and the courage to survive,” while compelling reminding readers that “secrets can be buried but bones can speak.” 

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO: In The First Black Society: Britain’s Barbarity Time in Barbados, 1636-1876 (UWI Press), an exhaustive exploration of the brutal course of Barbados’s history, Sir Hilary Beckles details the systematic barbarism of the British colonial project, where the practice of slavery “reached its apotheosis.” A prequel to Beckles’ Britain’s Black Debt, this 320-page text is essential reading for anyone interested in Atlantic history, slavery and the plantation system and modern race relations.

REAL TALK: It’s time to bring back the Jamaica Music Awards (the Jammies)

GIVING THANKS: Ziggy Marley (with his kids) accepting the award for Best Reggae Album at Sunday's 59th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.

With awards season now in full swing, one can’t help casting a keen eye over the local entertainment industry and getting the feeling that something is missing: an awards show that celebrates the achievements of our most outstanding musicians of the past year.

True, we have the annual Youth View Awards (YVAs), celebrating its 10th anniversary with a star-studded bash at the NISC this weekend. But that’s for the kids. What about an all-Jamaican awards show for the grown folks a la The Grammys, which rocked Los Angeles this past Sunday night? 

TALLAWAH checks reveal that back in the day, Jamaica did have such an awards ceremony, The Jammies, recognizing excellence in the music industry. But it eventually fizzled due to lack of sponsorship. Times have changed. I’m certain, with the right pitch and the requisite push, the show’s resurrection, or rebirth for that matter, would attract some corporate backing.

The team at JARIA does such an excellent job with the Reggae Month festivities each year. They could spearhead the planning and execution, in partnership with reps from the Ministry of Culture and Entertainment and those hard-working troopers at the JCDC. A total team effort, buoyed by some voluntary contributions, would certainly get the job done. Scores of young people, college kids in particular, would be willing to pitch in and help free of cost. 

Roots reggae, dancehall, reggae-soul, gospel, soca, alternative, even jazz. Our entertainers continue to churn out terrific sounds in these genres/sub-genres year in, year out, often via their own meagre resources and with little or no recognition for their efforts. 

What wonderful encouragement, the Jammies would offer to keep them productive and competitive, as they seek to challenge themselves creatively – especially the plethora of talented new artistes, taking cues from the veterans, who exude international appeal and have something meaningful to say.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

PEOPLE IN THE NEWS: Beenie Man cops YVAs Icon Award + Steven Gooden steps up to JSDA presidency + Elaine Thompson is a certified ‘Flow’ girl

SIGN HER UP: It comes as no surprise, given her phenomenal exploits at the 2016 Rio Olympics, that the endorsement deals have started to roll in for Elaine Thompson. The reigning Olympic 100M and 200M female champion has inked a deal with Flow to serve as a brand ambassador for the mobile giants. Other Flow ambassadors with a need for speed include Asafa Powell and Jaheel Hyde. “With all my commitments, I need technology that can keep up with me,” says Thompson, who recently anchored her MVP track club to a sizzling sprint-relay win at the Milo Western Relays in St. James. “Whether it’s training time, race time or personal time, Flow keeps me right on track.” In January, Thompson secured her first hold on the Sportswoman of the Year trophy at the RJR Sports Foundation-hosted awards at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.

THE ORIGINAL: Among Jamaican entertainers, Beenie Man is a man of many firsts. This weekend, he’ll add yet another accolade to the ever-growing list when he is presented with the inaugural YVAs Icon Award at the Youth View Awards, which is set to rock the National Indoor Sports Centre on Saturday night with a star-studded awards show and after-party. When the time came to choose the 2017 recipient of the Icon Award, the Grammy-winning hitmaker (nĂ© Moses Davis) was at the top of the selectors’ list. “The YVAs felt Beenie Man was more than worthy of the honour of being awarded the first-ever YVAs Icon Award,” the organizers said in a recent press statement. “Arts and culture being one of the many avenues the CHASE Fund supports, they are as equally excited as we are to announce this presentation to an artiste who has consistently carried his brand and Jamaica’s around the world.” With a career dating back to 1981 and a slew of albums (including last year’s Unstoppable) under his belt, Beenie Man is a past five-time winner at the YVAs, now in its 10th year.

MAN ON A MISSION: “Lobbying efforts will be continued on all matters relating to the securities industry to ensure an active role is played in the growth of the economy,” notes Steven Gooden, who now occupies the President’s chair at the Jamaica Securities Dealers Association (JSDA). “My focus will be on advocacy, the industry playing a role in advancing the nation’s economic agenda, market expansion and development.” Gooden, currently the CEO of NCB Capital Markets, comes to the presidency with seven years’ experience at the senior management level and a background steeped in unit trust management, private equity, corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions. The JSDA represents 16 securities dealers with offices throughout Jamaica and the Caribbean.

NEWS FEED: Women in Energy returns in March + National Gospel Song heats up + Int’l Schools Theatre Fest comes to Kingston

JAMAICA’S GOT TALENT: A year after Campion College triumphed as winner of the Jamaican leg of the Schools’ Shakespeare Festival, the International Schools’ Theatre Festival has partnered with another local institution to stage their event on the island. From Feb. 16-19, Hillel Academy will be hosting the 2017 International Schools’ Theatre Festival at the St. Andrew-based institution. According to the organizers, the festival has already attracted the interest of students and teachers from local and international secondary institutions. Lending their time and expertise to the laudable initiative, Edna Manley College faculty members, including Pierre LeMaire, Marlon Simms and Ouida Lewis will be presenting performing-arts workshops over the course of the four days. Each year, the International Schools’ Theatre Festival works with over 200 schools globally to develop and host drama festivals for students at the kindergarten level right up to Grade 13. Teachers are also trained via their prestigious International Baccalaureate Diploma Theatre Programme.

THE NEXT ROUND: As we previously reported, this year marks the 30th anniversary of the National Gospel Song Competition, and with auditions already completed, the elimination round is well underway. On February 10, entrants and judges met up at the Hollis Peter Lynch Hall in St. James. On February 17, the spotlight moves to the St. Mary’s Anglican Church Hall in Port Maria. March 10 brings another set of eliminations to the St. Mark’s Anglican Church Hall in Mandeville, before the action shifts to the Eastwood Park New Testament Church in Kingston on March 24. The grand finale, as is customary, will unfold during the summer, as the #Jamaica55 celebrations gain momentum. Singer-songwriter Marsha Jarrett, a 2017 World Championship of the Performing Arts contender, won last year’s competition with the high-energy entry “Send Up the Praise.”

GROW, BUILD, INFLUENCE: Can the women of JPS top last year’s mega-successful inaugural staging of the Women In Energy Conference? That’s the question on many people’s lips as the power company unveils the lineup of distinguished speakers and presenters who will grace the podium to bring messages of hope, inspiration and empowerment to, as will certainly be the case, a room full of young and young-at-heart career women. Once again, the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel is hosting the conference, slated for March 9-10. Leading the pack of local and international speakers is JPS’ dynamite CEO, Kelly Tomblin, and such teammates as Sheree Martin. Also in the mix: noted businesswoman Minna Israel, the ever-inspiring Dr. Nsombi Jaja and Olympian/philanthropist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. Women In Energy 2017 is being held under the theme “Doing Power Differently – Grow, Build, Influence.”

Friday, 10 February 2017

CHAT ’BOUT: Taming the crime monster + Making research more innovative + Holding our banks accountable

“We didn’t get here overnight, and our crime situation is not one-dimensional. There is no magic wand; there is no silver bullet, and there is no switch. We know it’s going to take the cooperation of all Jamaicans and the dedication of the security forces. And we are treating with the root causes rather than the symptoms.” – Minister of National Security, Robert ‘Bobby’ Montague, responding to the continued criticism of his ministry’s handling of the current crime situation in Jamaica

“If the banks are not able to recover the real cost of providing services from the persons utilizing the services, this could lead to unintended consequences such as increased inefficiency, restriction of services, reduced capital in the banking sector and lack of further investment in technology systems to improve service delivery to consumers.” – The Jamaica Bankers Association responding to ,proposed amendments to the Banking Services Act to increase customer protection via the regulation of fees and charges

“Nesta Carter, and to a lesser extent Jamaica’s entire programme, is being brought to shame and scandal by an action that is unjust in principle. Having listened extensively to almost all the discussions and analysis surrounding the issue, I find that, for the most part, the discussions have been charged with self-righteousness and emotionalism while missing the very essence of justice.” – Oral Tracey weighing in on the bigger picture surrounding Nesta Carter’s positive drug test that has stripped Team Jamaica’s male 4X100M team of the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medal

“The rules that govern copyright and intellectual property are becoming more complex, as technology and the world of publishing evolve. Because research is changing, it’s becoming more applicable and more relevant. Part of this is also the growth of what research is all about, because more and more students are doing research to be innovative, so there are researches around new products. People are interested in what their rights are and what they need to watch for.” – UWI Research Day Steering Committee Chairman, Dr. Denise Eldermire-Shearer, addressing a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on copyright laws and their impact on research

“Clearly, when anybody in the arts is acknowledged for the work they do, it’s a big deal, because there is no monetary reward in the arts. What you hope and pray for is that your work makes a difference in other ways. So when you get an award such as this one, it allows you to get more recognition, more prominence to do what you may not have been able to do otherwise. It gives you legitimacy and a stamp of approval that is so important in the arts. – Co-founder and producer of the Calabash International Literary Festival, Justine Henzell, accepting the 2016 Gleaner Honour Award for outstanding contribution to the arts in Jamaica

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT: Bob Marley Foundation empowering inner-city teens through annual One Love Youth Camp

ALL OF US: The motivational camp brought together at-risk teens and counsellors from inner-city communities.

One of the ways the Bob Marley Foundation is making a difference and contributing to a better Jamaica is through social activism and helping to groom the next generation of leaders and icons. That’s why, for the past three years, the foundation has been reaching out to at-risk youth, particularly those hailing from inner-city-based educational institutions, to take part in the One Love Youth Camp, in a bid to transform their lives.

From February 1-7, at the height of the annual festivities celebrating Marley’s legacy, some 50 kids and 30 facilitators took over the Tapioca Village retreat grounds (nestled on the St. Andrew/St. Mary border) for a week of rehabilitative and empowerment activities. In partnership with Ben & Jerry’s Ice-Cream and PYE Global - Partners for Youth Empowerment, the foundation hosted kids from such institutions as Denham Town High, Charlie Smith High, Haile Selassie High, Clan Carthy High and St. Andrew Technical, among others.

Activities ranged from group discussions, visual arts workshops and conflict resolution sessions to theatre arts, community building workshops and motivational talks. Among the facilitators and counselors was Aaron Nigel Smith, an educator and performing artist from Portland, Oregon, who believes well-run programmes such as the One Love Youth Camp deliver benefits that last a lifetime. 

“Creativity is important, empowering young people is important. That’s how we make the world a better place,” says Smith, who runs his own non-profit back in the States. “Not many people have access to this kind of outlet for personal development and creativity.”

 Seventeen-year-old twins Tia and Tika Campbell assure TALLAWAH that they made ample use of the camp’s offerings. “We learnt many different things, especially how people can work together to solve problems. The lessons were serious, but they made them fun,” share the Papine High graduates (currently enrolled at IUC), who were attending the camp for the second time.

Fourteen-year-old Ryece Wright also regaled us with tales of camp-life excitement and their learning experiences in the appealing all-natural setting. “We did some of the activities down by the riverside and that was fun. But what I enjoyed most was the group work,” shared the Holy Trinity High teen. 

Jacqueline Bryan, a trained social worker, says she has seen first-hand the remarkable impact the camp has had on the young people who’ve attended. “There is this one young man in particular who was so transformed by the experience that he participated again this year but as a mentor,” gushes Bryan, who teaches at Haile Selassie. “The camp rehabilitates them, makes them more focussed. And that’s our mission. It’s about the deliberate and intentional empowerment of our young people.” 

Looking ahead, sports teacher Shanavaan Clarke sees the camp widening the net. “I think this camp can only get better if we get youths from all over the island to participate, not just the inner-city youths,” Clarke points out. Smith agrees. “I think by continuing to make it a youth-based camp, empowering and training Jamaican youth,” he notes, “it will serve its purpose.”