Thursday, 25 August 2016

NEWS FEED: Why teachers migrate + Tuning the Summer Olympics + Roger Clarke inspires scholarship

LONG LIVE MR. CLARKE: What better way to honour the memory and legacy of a departed stalwart who made groundbreaking contributions to his chosen field? We make note of the launch of the Roger Clarke Scholarship, which will be tenured at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) in Portland, as of next month. Valued at $250,000, it was launched by the CB Group at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Tuesday, much to the pleasure of Clarke’s widow, Sonia. “My hope is that the recipient will love agriculture as [Roger] did and will do your organization proud,” she told reporters. According to Dr. Keith Amiel, Corporate Affairs Manager at the CB Group, the scholarship (which will cover tuition and other expenses for one CASE student each year, is a fitting tribute. “For all his dedication and passion for agriculture, the CB Group is pleased to present CASE with [this scholarship],” Amiel says, “as they continue to mould future generations of Jamaicans, excited, energized and wired about agriculture.”

IF THE PRICE IS RIGHT? In the wake of recent speculation that the migration of teachers could be increasingly affecting the island’s CXC pass rates, at least one education official has publicly weighed in on the matter. “Losing our teachers means the system is being haemorrhaged and the long-term implications will shake the core of the education system,” observes Howard Isaacs, the newly installed President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), who was speaking at the 55th Annual JTA Conference at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa in St. James on Monday. When it comes ‘the money question,’ Isaacs says, it’s a tough call. “We recognize that it is not possible for the Government to match the salaries offered in [some] overseas markets,” says Isaacs (left), pictured above with former president Doran Dixon. “However, a concerted effort must be made to review the salaries and conditions of work for teachers. As a country, are we doing the best for our teachers?”

ON YOUR MARKS, SET, PLAY: Wouldn’t it be supercool to tune in to the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, and see musicians from all over the world competing for the gold medal? Attorney Don Foote feels so too. “Music is a sort of sport and music is entertaining, as well as therapeutic and enjoyable. These are all characteristics of sports generally. We don’t have music as a category, and I feel there can be some buzz around the possibility of having music as a part of the Olympics,” he said in a recent interview. “I am not asking that reggae music be a category, I am speaking of music generally. All participating countries could have their style of music in the entries. I think the details can be worked out as to how this could be accomplished.”

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

STRENGTH, COURAGE & WISDOM: Women Who Roar yields a powerful mix of humour and history

ANCESTORS' CALL: The LTM cast captures a wide range of voices in the music-and-drama production.

Madame Rose Leon, Florence Nightingale, Lady Bustamante, Nanny of the Maroons. Their Jamaican connection aside, the central thread that joins these formidable icons together is that they were women who used their guts and determination to make significant contributions to nation-building that still matter to this day.

Their stories come in for rousing, amusing and thought-provoking celebration in Women Who Roar, a solid production recently put on by the LTM Pantomime company at the Little Little Theatre in Kingston.

Produced by Barbara Gloudon, with notes from a selection of Jamaican history books and musical arrangements by Grub Cooper and Noel Dexter, Women Who Roar (coming on the heels of Tanya Batson-Savage’s sublime hit Woman Tongue) is peppered with anecdotes, reflections, poems, and monologues that highlight the clout and capacity of Jamaican women to tun dem han’ mek fashion, stand by their man in times of crisis, build up strong families and shine on the world stage.

The aforementioned legends aside, we meet women as dynamic and diverse as the mother of Jamaican art Edna Manley (Latoya Newman-Morris), who gave us powerful works like "Negro Aroused"; the Jamaican matriarch in Toronto (played by Anya Gloudon) who drops some ‘island spice’ on the white woman with her smelly dog at the bus stop. Here’s a dark-skinned keeper of the keys at a mental asylum in Britain who has to stamp her authority to get some respect. There’s Louise Bennett-Coverley, the original lioness, reminding the world that our dialect is as compelling as it is colourful.
And just because the women couldn’t do it alone, homage is paid to a wide array of men (Company members Derrick Clarke, Adrian Harris, Shama Reid and Kevin Halstead are standouts in the cast), who gave them everything from sugar to bitter gall. But it’s the ladies, of course, who command the spotlight, and kudos are due to the likes of Jacqueline Higgins, who shines in several roles (most notably as the one-and-only Miss Annie), alongside Nicole Taylor Thompson, Barbara Johnson and Cecelia McCarthy Reid, among others. 

The musical numbers (“One Thing Lead to Another” and a spicy finale among them) add oomph to a production that doesn’t boast the most attention-grabbing set design or ‘electric’ lighting but, as with any LTM show, delivers sensible and stylish costumes – and true Jamaicanness straddling the comic, dramatic and folkloric. 

Overall, Women Who Roar is a laudable show that brings the noise, while echoing the historical footnotes of the female stalwarts whose moral and life-affirming examples still point the way forward. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

UP RISING: Actor Ackeem Poyser shines in roles that show off his crowd-pleasing style

FRESH FACE: Poyser, 24, has set his sights on a stage, film and TV career.

Watching Ackeem Poyser in action you don’t just see a School of Drama graduate displaying the skills and techniques he’s picked up over the years or Probemaster Entertainment’s crowd-pleasing new star giving the audience their money’s worth. We see a talented 24-year-old actor who is fast-tracking in his career, with the requisite energy and emotional intelligence (and some eye-candy appeal for the ladies thrown into the mix).

With his slender, runway-ready physique, edgy haircut and taut five-foot-eight-inch frame, Poyser’s got the total package and makes a cool new addition to the class of budding leading men that already includes Akeem Mignott, Danar Royal and Brian Johnson. Prior to signing with Probemaster a couple of years ago, Poyser was getting his feet wet in the dramatic and comedic arts, landing roles in everything from stage (Courthouse Drama, University of Delcita with Andrea Wright), television (Paul Beale’s Join Tenants on CVM) to film (he wrote and directed Yardicus, a spoof of Spartacus, available for viewing on YouTube).

While at the School of Drama (he graduated in 2015), he appeared in shows like the Thespy-winning Ruined (“I played a rebel leader,” he reminds us) and 2014’s An Echo in the Bone, in which Leonie Forbes (below) saw him and recommended him to David Tulloch, the Probemaster general, who cast him in a Prayer Partner remount and JMTC’s At the Barricades.

Now comes his big breakout role as the virile Kristian, a ‘sextrepreneur’ who bites off more than he can chew in 3some (pictured below), the hottest ticket in town this season, a play full of steamy, skin-baring action. How did Ackeem prepare for the “demanding” role? “Whole heap of push-ups,” he jokes. “There’s a comical and a dramatic element to the character, so I had to go back to my drama school roots and find the most realistic approach. Dissect the character, look at the obligations, what he wants, what motivates him, the obstacles.”

For the most part, Poyser nails it, educing the character’s blend of inner strength and habitual recklessness to memorable effect. Having a pair of fired-up female costars to keep pace with helped tremendously. “It tookus some time to be comfortable around each other and get to know each other, but it came together,” he says of swapping lines (and much more) with Carline Brown and Sabrina Thomas. “I think we built a strong chemistry and it’s still a work-in-progress.”

For the record, Tulloch is proud of his rising star. “He’s one of my new young guns, shiny and glistening,” he tells TALLAWAH, laughing. “I think he has a whole lot of potential and he’ll go far if he remains focused and in control.”

Whether he’s reflecting on his former nine-to-five hustle as Entertainment Coordinator at Beaches Negril (“I felt like I was straying from what I really wanted to do”), meeting Konshens, his brother from another (“I met him once; we took some pictures”) or overcoming major financial hurdles, Ackeem is refreshingly candid with an easy-going, club-kid vibe.

In the years to come, he wants to do more buzz-generating theatre roles for sure and, finally, land some film gigs. “My dream growing up actually was to be a film actor, which is the dream for millions of youths coming up, and there’s a part of me that still wants to fulfil that dream,” shares Poyser, whose TV guilty pleasures include Power and Grimm. “I love series and movies, and I don’t just watch movies for watching movies’ sake. I like to spend time to analyze and learn new things.” 

> Keep up with Ackeem on Instagram @iamvybzkeem

> REVIEW: Read TALLAWAH's response to David Tulloch's 3some

MAN OF THE MOMENT: A milestone birthday, 3 new gold medals and worldwide acclaim, Bolt’s living the sweet life

THIS IS 30: The poster boy of track-and-field enters his third decade in style.

What do you give to the man who’s got it all? On Sunday, Usain Bolt celebrated his 30th birthday over in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with the most enviable of birthday presents: three shiny new Olympic gold medals to add to his impressive collection. 

As we all know, he won them after copping the sprint double (100M and 200M) and anchoring the Men’s 4X100 relay team to a show-stopping win that brought the crowd to its feet inside the Olympic Stadium. You can still hear the deafening cheers across the ocean.

The overall consensus: what a talent! The world has never seen the likes of Usain Bolt and as far as those world records go (9.58 seconds in the 100M and 19.19 seconds in the 200M) they will in all likelihood remain unchanged for years to come.

Having cemented his place in global sporting history, the most fascinating thing about Bolt is that he’s gloriously unchanged – still a down-to-earth, fun-loving sportsman who prefers to let his performances do the talking. He gets a serious high off those big, supersized crowds.

The legend-cementing ‘triple treble’ speaks volumes of how history will remember this modern-day phenom, on whose account the sleepy Trelawny village of Sherwood Content is bound to become a future tourist destination.

To wit, the Trelawny massive (including Mayor Garth Wilkinson) can’t wait to have that new statue unveiled in his honour in time for Heroes’ Day in October, at the Falmouth Water Square. A grateful people’s fitting tribute to a native son.

Everybody has their own take on how the all-important history books, generations from now, will report on the athletic prowess and game-changing verve of Usain Bolt. (Ranked in the pantheon reserved for Ali and Jordan? Certainly.) But what say he? “I want to be remembered as one of the greatest. I have worked all my career, all my life, so hopefully they can read about me as one of the greatest ever in this sport,” he revealed to an interviewer while in Rio.

There have been the highs and lows, the triumphs and letdowns, but Bolt has wisely opted to take it all in stride and hold fast to this mindset as he gears up for a final lap before walking off into the retirement sunset. “I’m never disappointed in anything I do. I still have the world records, even though it’s been a long time. I am happy. I am an Olympic champion again, and that’s the main thing.”

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

NEWS FEED: The CXC Maths problem + Elaine’s world-record potential + Is Al Miller a ‘fall guy’?

MILLER’S CROSS TO BEAR: As prominent Kingston pastor Rev. Al Miller awaits sentencing for his involvement in the infamous Tivoli/Dudus affair that still haunts us as a nation, Miller’s very public ordeal is a major talking point in several quarters of society, not least among them the religious community, where there have been calls for a reversal of the guilty verdict to calls for him to step down as leader of Fellowship Tabernacle. Dr. Garnett Roper, however, senses more powerful forces at play. Could he be on to something? “Al Miller has taken the fall for a Jamaican political class and system of justice that knows only to prosecute one section of its population,” he wrote in stern newspaper column recently. “It is one thing to be a fall guy and somebody’s stool pigeon; it is a worse thing not to know that that is all you are.” Very strong words indeed.

WHAT THE NUMBERS MEAN: Can the blame for Jamaica’s 14.3 percent decline in CXC Mathematics passes this year be placed squarely on the mass exodus of qualified teachers in recent times? “It is estimated that 111 fully qualified teachers left the system in 2015. It is believed that many took up teaching opportunities overseas. Undoubtedly, this would have affected the preparation of a significant number of students,” Education minister Ruel Reid has said in response. “This loss would have had a significant impact on the ability of schools to maintain the standards of teaching and learning which would have been established particularly over the past four years.” Thankfully, there’s some good news: the education ministry is set to develop the Mathematics, Science and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) teacher initiative to increase the number of fully qualified maths teachers.

HOW FAST CAN SHE GO? After copping the sprint double in Rio, what’s next for Jamaica’s sprinting sensation Elaine Thompson? Re-teaming with coach Stephen Francis to produce even more astonishing performances. “This year, I still think she can run probably 10.6. I’m not sure how many more times we are going to ask her to do the double. Maybe we will choose one over the other at the World Championships, but for next year and later this year, we have to focus on getting her to run as fast as we think she can run based on what we saw at the Trials and here [in Rio],” declares Francis, who thinks his student has world-record potential. “I think she has another 10th of a second in her, with decent breeze and temperature. Right now, she is better than she was at the Trials and hopefully by the end of the season, she will get a chance to show it.”

Saturday, 20 August 2016

COUNTRY STRONG: New St. Andrew Custos, Dr. Patricia Dunwell, champions national unity, spirit of volunteerism

WOMAN IN CHARGE: Dr. Dunwell accepts her instrument of appointment from Sir Patrick Allen during Thursday's ceremony.

After 49 years of marriage and serving organizations as diverse as the Stella Maris Foundation, the Board of Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities and the Stony Hill community training centre for girls, Dr. Patricia Ann Marshall Dunwell (a mother of two and grandmother of two) has learned what it takes to build strong families and even stronger communities. For her, it’s about holding fast to the simple courtesies.

“We build stronger families by caring for one another, learning how to forgive and learning to be real peacemakers. As soon as a quarrel develops you find a solution instead of allowing the situation to escalate. Going back to the old days of raising children right, we used to have ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ all around. It was never just my child or your child. As the saying goes, it takes a village,” she tells TALLAWAH, moments after being sworn in as the new Custos Rotolorum of St. Andrew, an important office to which she brings a wealth of experience, passion for making a difference and can-do spirit.

The swearing-in ceremony, attended by a who’s who of Jamaican government officials, colleagues and well-wishers, was held on the grounds of the Hope Botanical Gardens on Thursday afternoon. “I feel both honoured and humbled for the trust that has been placed in me, by appointing me to the office of Custos, and I am committed to working diligently and efficiently to execute the duties of this high office,” she said in her response to the appointment.

As Custos, Mrs. Dunwell is the chief magistrate and the Governor General’s representative in the parish, presiding over a lay magistrate body comprised of approximately 1,500 Justices of the Peace. “I urge and request the JPs and the business community to assist you with support, as you discharge your responsibilities, thus making this a successful tenure for you and the parish,” noted Governor General Sir Patrick Allen addressing Thursday’s ceremony. “I am placing in your hands all the Justices of the Peace of St. Andrew. Take care of them and they will take care of you,” he added.

A successful dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon (since 1990), who has given almost 20 years of service to the Kingston Public Hospital, Dr. Dunwell says her vision for the future development of the parish is nothing complex. “As your new Custos, [the role] comes with many areas of responsibility, but I am committed to the promotion of heightened mediation and conflict resolution across this diverse parish, helping our communities be the best they can be.”

The spirit of volunteerism, she says, is alive and well in the parish and Jamaica at large, and she remains hopeful that it will continue to play a vital role in the creation of ‘a better Jamaica’ – nation-building and family life fortified through the sharing of time, talent and treasure.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

‘RIO’ MOMENTS: Team Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson, Usain Bolt and Shericka Jackson savour their Olympic glory

SPEED SISTERS: Jamaica’s newest sprint queen Elaine Thompson (centre) likes the taste of her shiny Olympic gold medal, which she gives a playful bite while attending the medal ceremony for the Women’s 100M Final inside the Olympic Stadium at the ongoing Rio Olympics in Brazil on August 15. Also showing off their hard-won prizes: silver medallist Torie Bowie, left, of the United States and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who secured the bronze for Jamaica. (Photo: Getty Images/ 

RUNNING MEN: Usain Bolt (centre) kick-started his Rio campaign for a historic third consecutive sprint treble, when he outshone the rest of the field to win the 100M gold. Unsurprisingly, he was all smiles on the medal podium, posing for photographers, next to worthy contenders Justin Gatlin (silver, USA) and Canada’s bronze-medal winner Andre DeGrasse, inside the Olympic Stadium. (Photo: Getty Images/

PEAK PERFORMERS: Day 10 of the Rio Summer Olympics is one Shericka Jackson (right) will never forget. The resilient Jamaican athlete poured her heart and soul into that performance in the Women’s 400M final inside the Olympics Stadium on Tuesday. For her sterling effort, in spite of the odds, Jackson copped the bronze medal for Jamaica, just behind America’s Allyson Felix (left), who won the silver and Bahamian wonder woman Shaunae Miller, who bagged the gold. Here the three outstanding athletes share a photo-op on the medal podium. (Photo: Getty Images/