Monday, 31 March 2014

SHOW TIME: The University Chorale delivers an enjoyably flavourful 2014 season

CENTRE STAGE: The Mona-based choir has energy and stylish flair to spare.

The University Chorale may be the kid sister of the internationally renowned University Singers, but with their startlingly mature stage presence and wonderfully diverse and escapist repertoire, they can give their older sibling quite a run for their money.

The 28-voice choir, under the direction of O'Neil Jones (himself a member of the Singers), made this lucidly clear at the Philip Sherlock Centre on the weekend as they staged their 2014 concert season, a rhythmic and richly entertaining melange of classical selections, Negro spirituals, Afro-Caribbean and Jamaican folk gems, showtunes and a dash of reggae. A neat and winning package.

Still, what makes them truly appealing, and fun to listen to, is the irresistible joie de vivre they bring to the stage, and repeatedly so, whether rendering a robust take on "Shadowland" (from The Lion King soundtrack), on which the talented Danielle Lee lends commanding solo work, or the melodiously heartfelt delight "Done Made My Vow," to mention a couple of the prime highlights.

The beautiful, varied lighting and vibrant array of costume changes added to the spicy variety. But it was the fantastic repertoire that proved most memorable and applause-worthy. And what UWI Chorale/University Singers concert would be complete without the triumvirate of Noel Dexter, Djenne Greaves and Dr. Kathy Brown turning in some of their fabulous arrangements. They delivered big time, with Greaves interpreting Bob Marley's best love songs and a medley of dancehall hits; Brown looking to the Motherland for her mighty version of "Senzenina"; and Dexter dipping into the archives and resurfacing with a sprightly, humorous folk suite.

That the soloists were barely audible at times (particularly during the rendition of Happy Feet's "I Wish") is my lone complaint. But that takes nothing away from the show's overall success. Put simply, it's impossible to resist the choir's grace, flair and charm.




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COFFEE TALK: Shop Caribbean adding a whole new dimension to the CFW experience

MORE IS MORE: Before you know it, June will be upon us, and with it the arrival of fashion week. From June 11-16, Caribbean Fashion Week (CFW) will bring its dynamic, one-of-a-kind energy (spectacular runway shows, top-flight musical acts) to Kingston' National Indoor Sports Centre. And because Pulse always aims to deliver, there's something fresh and exciting being thrown into the mix this year. "We have a lot of special things going on with CFW this year," hints Pulse's Fashion Director, Romae Gordon, speaking exclusively with TALLAWAH at Sunday's all-white Colour Festival at Hope Gardens. "We just launched Shop Caribbean, and it's like a new dimension in terms of a focus for [fashion week] because it obviously hones in on business for designers, which is a big deal and has always been a concern for people participating." She continues, "And now we've created this platform where people can sell online. We're gonna have a nice on-site shopping experience as well." For more on Romae Gordon, look out for our full-length interview with the ageless beauty later this week.

THE LITERATI: Just when we though the Calabash 2014 lineup couldn't possibly get any more appealing, what with Chris Farley scheduled to read from Game World, Millicent Graham from her soon-to-be-published anthology, and Salman Rushdie set to reason with Paul Holdengraber, news comes that festivalgoers can also expect appearances by British lit queen Zadie Smith and African literary legend Ngugi wa Thiong'o. Alongside Jamaica Kincaid, among several others, the prize-winning authors will make the trip to Jamaica in May for the Jake's, Treasure Beach bash that already seems poised to top all previous stagings. If that is even possible.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: TALLAWAH caught up with Protoje at Saturday's special Earth Hour concert at the Ranny Williams Centre, and while he is not quite ready to reveal the name of his much-anticipated third album (due for release in September), he admits that the project is a work-in-progress. As for the title, he points out that it will come as a surprise for those of us expecting a continuation of the numbers trend, à la The Seven Year Itch and The Eight Year Affair. So much for our little guessing-game

AHEAD OF THE PACK: Party over here! Clarendon's Edwin Allen High and St. Andrew's Calabar High are still in celebration mode after claiming top honours at the 2014 ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys & Girls Athletics Championships which culminated, electric style, inside the National Stadium on Saturday. Heartiest of congrats to the champion schools who are no doubt looking forward to successfully defending their titles next season.




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Saturday, 29 March 2014

OUT & ABOUT: Setting the scene with Randy McLaren, Voicemail, Jerry D, Mr. Lexx, Chevaughn, Yvonne Wilks, and Rodney Campbell

SINGULAR SENSATION: March 27, St. Andrew. Putting on a stellar show comes naturally to the kreativ aktivis Randy McLaren, who brought a mix of militant dub poetry, live music and powerful, timely messages to his thrilling lunch-hour concert, Ah Who Dis? at Mona's Philip Sherlock Centre on Thursday. (Photo: Randy McLaren)


TECH SAVVY: March 27, St. Andrew. The Mona Campus-based MITS Building on Thursday played host to the local launch of Microsoft Office's edgy new 365 software. Scores of eager patrons flocked to the event to get tips from the pros and to get their hands on the new digital upgrade. (Photo: Skkan Media)

THE BRIGHT SIDE: March 25, Kingston. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary celebrations of the RJR Cross Country Tour, hosted by the Countryside Club, singer Chevaughn (centre) and the Voicemail duo (sharing a moment off-stage) were on hand to entertain the sizeable audience in song. (Photo: Skkan Media)

MISTER POPULAR: March 25, Kingston. One of the hardest working men on the Jamaican airwaves, Vibemaster Jerry D accepts a token of appreciation from the RJR Group's Yvonne Wilks for his tireless efforts in helping to make the Cross Country Tour such a big success. (Photo: Skkan Media)

TALE OF THE TAPE: March 20, Kingston. The playful energy at last week's iteration of the Boom Energy Drink-sponsored Star Check Thursdays was readily embraced by Thespy winner Rodney Campbell (left) and fellow mischief-maker Mr. Lexx, who were spotted issuing fair warning. (Photo: Infuzion.Inc)




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CHAT 'BOUT: This week's quotables starring Andrew Holness, Prodigal Son, Ziggy Marley, Prof. Hubert Devonish, and Cedella Marley

"I am proud of our champions; this is the right time to come on board and support the Reggae Girlz. They need proper training and proper nutrients, which I am here for. I don't know how long this ambassador thing will last, but I am going to be here for the Reggae Girlz forever because every mickle mek a muckle, and I encourage everyone to come together and support these talented girls." -- Cedella Marley on being named the new ambassador of Jamaica's senior women's football team
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"The problem that the UWI finds itself with is that the governments of 14 contributing territories have agreed to a formula for funding UWI, and the Jamaican government has committed to it, but, in reality, not doing what it has signed on to do." -- UWI Mona's Professor Hubert Devonish addressing the Human Resource and Social Development Committee in Parliament this week
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"I am way more focussed on the support I am getting from my real fans. Those are the people who are looking out for me. I am not focussed on naysayers. I'm just going to continue to put out good music and focus on what I am doing." -- Deejay Prodigal Son on the flak over his decision to branch out into the reggae-dancehall market
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"We are going to empower the people in West Kingston and going to talk the things about crime in this country because the PNP is far more culpable. So I want you to appreciate and understand that we are not running from any commission this trip." -- Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Holness, addressing supporters at the East Central St. James annual conference on Sunday
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"We have been nominated in the Reggae Album category already and never won, as well as we've been nominated in other categories outside of reggae and won. If it's good music then what will come will come. If it's a Grammy nomination then okay. But if it's not then don't make the music any less." -- Ziggy Marley responding to dissenting talk over the Marleys' continued dominance of the reggae award at the Grammys




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Friday, 28 March 2014

NEW AND NOTEWORTHY: The season's best books highlight a sense of place and dramatic inner lives

LIFE FORCE: Graham's upcoming second anthology is steeped in memory and landscape.

In 2009, Millicent Graham put the literary world on notice with the release of her spellbinding debut poetry anthology, The Damp in Things (Peepal Tree Press), which more than lived up to the hype that preceded it. Five years on, the Jamaican authoress, widely considered (and rightly so) a new-generation Olive Senior, is back with another sample of the journey she is making. The Way Home, her sophomore collection, arriving on June 1 (she's still with the Peepal Tree family) finds Graham, an exemplary product of the Wayne Brown school, focusing her lens on such themes as memory and landscape, and the very idea of home as both a physical and emotional space. These are finely crafted poems imbued with the scribe's signature blend of atmospheric setting and lyrically transporting imagery.

With critically laureled efforts like By Nightfall and The Hours (which Stephen Daldry adapted for the screen with Academy Award-winning results), Michael Cunningham proved his deftness at keenly examining the price of human frailty and tragic yearning. Fans of the masterful storyteller won't be disappointed when they pick up his latest, The Snow Queen (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux), which goes on sale May 6. In spite of its magical, fairy-tale-sounding title, the book is actually set in New York City and spins the tale of two brothers: one who finds religion after witnessing a compelling vision in Central Park, while the other sadly turns to drugs to inspire his songwriting.

Apparently you can go home again, or so finds the young Nigerian protagonist at the heart of Nigerian-American Teju Cole's much-anticipated new novel, Every Day is For the Thief (out this week from Random House), which chronicles a young Nigerian based in New York City who returns home to Lagos for the first time in 15 years to find the big city both familiar and strange. "Cole is among the most gifted writers of his generation," proclaims Calabash 2014 co-headliner Salman Rushdie, who has joined the likes of the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Marie Claire and CNN in declaring Cole's book a funny, mournful, and acerbic portrait of modern-day Africa.

Few writers know the African-American pop-culture landscape as intimately as Nelson George (also a noted critic and filmmaker) whose acclaimed books include the memorable hits The Death of Rhythm and Blues (2003) and 2005's Hip Hop America. This month marks the release of The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture and Style (William Morrow Press), which the Washington Post hails as "an authoritative history of the groundbreaking syndicated TV show that became an icon of global pop culture.

Ever wondered who ranks as the most powerful woman on the internet? That honour easily falls to Arianna Huffington, who revolutionized the online reading experience with the Huffington Post, now a global brand and the gold standard for Web journalism of all stripes. To say the least, Arianna has managed to redefine what it means to be a successful journalist in today's ever-evolving world. How does she do it? In her must-read new book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-being, Wisdom and Wonder (Harmony Press), she puts forward candidly insightful arguments centred on her own challenges of managing time and raising daughters. As with most of Arianna's previous publications (over ten and counting), she draws on the latest groundbreaking research in the areas of psychology and physiology to highlight the advantages of, among other things, profound meditation and mindfulness, terrific tools in achieving that much-sought-after balancing act.




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FIVE QUESTIONS: Dr. Erna Brodber on reflection, inspiration, and what she's most thankful for

WONDER WORDS: The author is among the writers featured in the new Kunapipi, out now.

As part of the year-long celebrations to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Poetry Society of Jamaica, their monthly fellowships at the Edna Manley College's Ampitheatre are being dedicated to recognizing the stalwarts who've contributed immensely to the literary excellence that Jamaica has become known for. And who is more worthy of recognition than Dr. Erna Brodber, the iconic novelist, sociologist and edutourism pioneer who graced the podium this past Tuesday night to read from works new and old.

TALLAWAH: Tonight you read your new short story "The Babyfather" for the first time in Jamaica. Was it written to mark a special occasion?
Brodber: Yes, it was was, and I enjoyed reading it here. I was asked to contribute a piece for [the latest edition of the] Kunapipi journal. So I wrote it specifically for that.

Readers everywhere generally have nothing but glowing praise for your storytelling prowess, and your most recent release, The World is a High Hill (Ian Randle Publishers), is certainly another triumph. How do you stay inspired?
Most of the time it's a case where I just happen to have the time, and [the major themes] are ideas you think you think about all the time. If you live life you must reflect on it, and when you reflect on it, sometimes you're surprised by what you come up with. I have lived life as a therapist, as a case worker, and people talk to me, so I know certain problems that people have, but I don't always know how their stories end. But in writing my book I had time to reflect on how the story should end. So there are real-life stories that I don't know how they end, but as a writer, you have to create your own endings.

What has been the single greatest contributor to your success?
I suppose living where I live, down in the [St. Mary] country. It's good for reflection, and coming from the family that I come from, I never lacked for encouragement.

Did you study any of the masters growing up?
I didn't do English at university, but I had a very good experience in sixth form [at Excelsior High] that transformed the way I felt about books and literature. And as they say, the rest is history.

When all is said and done, what do you know for sure?
Bwoy, I don't know anything for sure (Laughs). How can you? I really don't, except that I give thanks for all that has happened to me. I've been around for a long time.




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THE BUZZ REPORT: TALLAWAH serves showbiz and culture headlines from Kingston to MoBay

D'Angel keeps reminding us that she's a Jill of all trades intent on widening her reach. The reggae-dancehall bombshell, author, businesswoman and doting mother is adding film actress to her résumé this year, having landed among the cast of the upcoming urban flick Jamaican Mafia, which co-stars Paul Campbell and Mykal Fax, who penned the script and heads the cast as a go-getter who bails on corporate America and falls in with the wrong crowd after learning that he's the nephew of a high-profile gangster. D'Angel reportedly plays Robin, the leading lady of a powerful crime boss. No word yet on the movie's release date but it's first trailer is available for online viewing.
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Still in Jollywood, the Greater August Town Film Festival (GATTFest) will take over the Courtleigh Auditorium in New Kingston from April 24-27. Branded as "the Caribbean's biggest community film festival" (an initiative of the UWI Community Film Project), the event will showcase Jamaican, regional, and international short films, with such promising highlights as a red-carpet premiere of the docu-drama Bedward; a film workshop; two nights of film screenings; the Greater August Town Community Tour; and an awards ceremony to wrap things up. Here's the best part: you can submit your own short films (drama, comedy, sci-fi/horror, documentary, dance/musical) by April 4 to be screened at the festival provided that they make the grade, of course. Go to uwicommunityfilmproject.com to find out more.
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And while we're on the subject of upcoming festivals, Reggae Sumfest 2014 is bringing the noise to MoBay's Catherine Hall July 13-19, with a pyrotechnic lineup that already includes supersongstress Tessanne Chin and award-winning hip-hop sensation Wiz Khalifa. Also hitting the mainstage: Chronixx, Sanchez, Jah Cure, and the Zvuloon Sound System out of Israel. And each week will bring new additions to be announced. Stay tuned.
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The follow-up to his acclaimed debut The Seven Year Itch and sophomore triumph The Eight Year Affair, Protoje's upcoming third solo album is our selection for the Most Anticipated Album of 2014. While the project is yet to be named, the ace musician obviously loves to play the numbers game, so it's our guess that a digit will turn up in the title. The disc is slated to drop in September and is preceded by the hypnotic first single, "Who Knows," a Chronixx-assisted jam.
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Get your work noticed! For all the talented emerging writers seeking a "buss", you ship has come in: TheCaribbeanWriter.org is now accepting submissions, and is an ideal platform to get feedack on your short stories, poems and essays, etc. Closer to home, April 30 is the submissions deadline for the JCDC-sponsored National Creative Writing Competition, where attractive prizes (medals, trophies and cash awards) are reserved for the most outstanding entrants in categories spanning poetry and prose, essays, novels and plays.




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ON THE DOWNLOAD: Listen up! 5 buzzworthy singles from new and upcoming releases

Protoje and Chronixx: "Who Knows"
Protoje's lead-off single from his forthcoming yet-to-be-titled third studio album forges a pure, gratifyingly laid-back vibe on which Chronixx supplies a poignant hook conveying a tropical sense of place ("chilling in the West Indies") and Mother Nature's bounty ("the sunshine, rivers, and trees"). Produced by Winta James for Overstand Entertainment, it's sure to entice and, indeed, satisfy, fans of both new-generation hitmakers. Take a listen. [B+]
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Cody Simpson and Ziggy Marley: "Love"
Buoyed by a hefty dose of acoustic guitar riffs and pop-confection allure, the Aussie heartthrob's tune explores romantic filfilment to winning effect, thanks in no small part to the flavour of Ziggy's special sauce. Take a listen. [B]
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Rootz Revealers: "She Pray"
Steeped in soul and conscience, this is a contemporary band that deserves to be better known. Here, the group delivers empowering strains and emotional uplift straight from the old school, as they potently examine the depths of a mother's love and the power of divine guidance. Take a listen. [B+]
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Wayne Wonder: "Let Me Love You Tonight"
Wayne must be acquainted with a lot of powerfully seductive women who keep him inspired. Good for him. The long-serving reggae ambassador's melodious latest (off Nature's Way's Sweet Personality Riddim) recalls much of his past work in both melody and theme. At least he stays true to his signature sound and consistently so. Take a listen. [B]
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Shaggy and Matthew Schuler: "Lovin' You"
With a sly wink and snazzy hypnotic appeal, this radio-ready jam from the Jamaican megastar and The Voice alum, a tuneful mid-tempo ode to those loyal lovers out there, is bound to get the party started. Take a listen. [B+]




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Thursday, 27 March 2014

ACT OF DARING: Louie Rankin talks fame, family, and the latest on Shottas 2

ROCK SOLID: "I'm successful, so I give God thanks for that. I can't complain. I'm living good."

You recognize him immediately, looking sporty in a crisp white tee, baggy short pants and matching black sneakers, greeting Devon House patrons as his mini-entourage looks on from a safe distance. The humble, laid-back vibe Louie Rankin' exudes is a far cry from Teddy Bruckshot, the ruthless baddie he portrayed to terrifying effect in the gritty urban classic Shottas that helped, er, rank him among today's most in-demand Jamaican actors with Hollywood ties. (At present, he's a member of the Screen Actors' Guild. ) Still, working in the movies is just one dimension of this lifelong entertainer and businessman, who is equally candid whether the conversation touches on philanthropy, his marriage, or the Jamaican food he simply cannot resist. 

TALLAWAH: After co-starring urban screen favourites like Shottas and Belly, you've earned a mega-sized fanbase among today's Jamaican youth, most of whom don't even know that you're a 30-year veteran of the dancehall. How would you say venturing into film changed your life? 
Rankin: My life was changed when I did Belly because it became one of the biggest ever blockbusters in gangster movie history. It was like a version of Scarface. So it had a major impact and did a lot for me as an actor. On the music side, I got a Grammy in 1992 for a song called "Typewriter". So I've come a long way, done a lot. The older folks know me as Louie Rankin, but the younger generation call me Teddy Bruckshot. 

Director Cess Silvera announced on Twitter last year that the Shottas sequel had been given the green light. What can you tell us about it? 
The only reason the movie has not been made is that the production company in Hollywood won't do it unless I'm gonna star in that movie. 

But didn't Teddy kick the bucket in the first movie? I vividly recall that final encounter between Teddy and Biggs (Ky-Mani Marley). 
I can give you a secret. I got shot in my mouth, but the bullet is supposed to have come through here. [He indicates his left cheek]. 

Oh. So are you confirming that you're on board to do the sequel? 
No, it's not been confirmed because I'm asking for a lot of money, and if they don't go to my expectations I don't think I'll do it. 

So when was filming scheduled to begin? 
It should have been done already. I am not the problem, but I am the negotiator. That's it. 

What's next for you professionally? 
I just finished another movie called You Ain't No Killer. I did some of the scenes in Negril, some of it in Portmore. And I also have another movie coming soon. It's called We Run These Streets. So I'm working. And if you know anything about me, you know that everything I do is through Hollywood. So I'm like an industry actor now. 

How are things on the family side? 
I have another baby on the way, due April 17. My seventh. Mi just ah do my ting, so maybe when I'm gone my kids will have something because I'm valued a lot right now. 

You've been with your wife for the past 28 years. How does she feel about your movie-star life? 
My wife is good, man, that's why I've been with her all this time. She is a Jamaican, and she knows where I'm coming from. She saw me go through the grind and the struggle. She's always there; she accepts it. A lot of times when I go out, women go crazy over me, but she doesn't mind that. She already knows she's The One. She knows her place. So I love her. 

What do you miss most about Jamaica when you're overseas? 
Dem ting yah. [He points to the dish before him]. Devon House grapenut ice-cream. Ackee and saltfish with roast breadfruit. Fried parrot-fish. I love those things. So I always miss Jamaica. I miss Jamaica so much sometimes that I just fly in to come eat and then go back. Since the year began I've been here about six times. I have a villa in Negril, 11 bedrooms, so I just come and hide. My security keeps me there, so people don't even know I'm in Jamaica. 

You're almost 50. How would you describe your life in general up to this point? 
I'm successful, so I give God thanks for that. I can't complain. I'm living good. And none of my family is hungry. Beenie Man says his money pile up; mine is like uncountable right now. So I wouldn't complain. 

With money, fame and influence comes great responsibility. What will you do with yours? 
What I would like to do is create about two or three good colleges in Jamaica, so the youths who don't have the money for education can get loans like in America and Canada. I just want to do something for the youths. I don't want them to go and do bad things. So that's my dream, and I know I'mma do it.




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AFTER THE STORM: With the Cuban Light-bulb Saga now behind him, what's next for Kern Spencer?

IN THE CLEAR: Spencer, photographed in Kingston, following his acquittal on Monday.

Breathing a sigh of relief and flashing the thumbs-up, Kern Spencer gamely greeted supporters and photographers upon exiting the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court on Monday morning, minutes after being freed of the money-laundering and illicit enrichment charges, stemming from the immensely publicized Cuban light-bulb scandal, that hounded him (and his co-accused Coleen Wright) for more than five years.

In light (no pun intended) of his exoneration, thanks in large part to diligent defence work by a team led by legal luminary KD Knight, one supposes truth was the winner, when all is said and done. Even so, the journey up to Monday was incredibly messy, and, it goes without saying, marked an emotionally exhausting period for Spencer and his family.

Still, in spite of the treacherous emotional waters the former junior energy minister (and North-East St. Elizabeth MP) waded into, you get the feeling that he hasn't come adrift. Put another way, his triumph has reaffirmed, for me, that Kern is a tough-minded, straight-shooting and supersmart trooper who knows how to deal with adversity -- and ultimately come out on top.

"I am a decent and honest law-abiding person who would never do several of the things I was accused of," he reportedly told journalists moments after his acquittal. "It was very hurtful at times to have sat and listened to some of the things that were said by people who should have known better." There you have it.

But now that he's weathered the storm and what-not, inquiring minds want to know: what's next for Kern Spencer? It's anyone's guess how his story will unfold from here on, but a return to representational politics, let alone Gordon House, seems highly unlikely. Given his penchant for the social scene, live music, and youth-focussed projects, perhaps a few business ventures are in the cards. Until then, it wouldn't come as a surprise should he take to keeping a low profile.

In any case, spending quality time with the family seems the obvious priority at present. As a Gleaner report confirms, he's already re-embracing his role as the father of young sons who were incessantly "ridiculed" and "called names" by schoolmates. For his mom, Peggy Spencer-Ewen, the judge's ruling is a victory to be savoured. "I am at peace," she says. "I am just happy for the ruling."

More often than not, a new chapter means a fresh start. But what Kern Spencer has duly earned is a new lease on life. "He seems more optimistic and upbeat than before," a reliable source confides to TALLAWAH. "He is ready for a change."




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Wednesday, 26 March 2014

LEADING BY EXAMPLE: All eyes on new UWI Mona Guild President, Lerone Laing

STRONG SUIT: "I personally want to make a contribution to national development."

What does it take to lead the infamously demanding student population of the UWI Mona Campus? For starters, ambition, a big heart, and a whole lot of great and workable ideas. Lerone Laing fits the bill and then some. At 22, the humble, articulate and unbelievably wise beyond his years lad was just elected President of the university's Guild of Students for a tenure that officially commences on June 1. As Mr. Laing (no relation to Isaiah) prepares to enter office, here's the skinny on the big man on campus. 

Who he is:
"I am a humble individual who has a passion for student representation," admits the former St. Mary High School head boy, who is currently reading for a degree in Economics. "I have a long history of being a student leader." 

What inspired his run for the presidency:
"The primary factor that propelled me is my passion for advocacy on a whole, in addition to the encouragement I was getting from my friends and family," offers the Chancellor Hall chairman. "They believe in my ability to lead and make a difference. So I just took the encouragement, mixed it with the fact that I know I can do it. I know I can make a difference." 

First things first: 
According to Mr. Laing, to say there's room for improvement in the current state of relations between the Guild and the general student body would be an understatement.
"One of the key problems is that there seems to be a discord. Yes, there are deficiencies in some areas, but there are a lot of good things being done by the Guild overall," he notes. "So the first thing I'll seek to address is bridging that gap, getting the Guild in line with the students and their concerns." 

As for tackling other pressing issues affecting campus life, he means business: 
"Are we truly getting value for money in paying for certain services and facilities on campus?" he asks. "Many students complain that they don't get the right kind of customer service, so that's something I'd like to address in a very respectful but strong way." The same goes for proposing a public-private sector partnership when it comes to the subsidizing of tuition fees, and coming up with solutions for the myriad challenges facing commuting students, who incidentally account for the overwhelming majority of the campus' population. 

Laing is the real big man on campus in the physical sense, too, with a hefty built that could have him pass for a rugby all-star. But..... 
"Basketball is the sport that I play," says the part-time athlete (about 6'2"), who fancies himself a well-rounded chap who knows there's much more to life than constantly burying your nose in a book. "I also like football, but I don't really play. Apart from that I enjoy reading and keeping up with current trends, I study economics, so I like to follow world issues." 

If he has his way, Laing could very well become the next Dr. Peter Phillips:
"I hope to be in either the Ministry of Finance, or the BOJ, or the Planning Institute of Jamaica," he says of his post-UWI plans. "I hope to be with some government agency or have some influence in that regard. I personally want to make a contribution to national development." 

On a lighter note, his top five pop-culture faves of the moment are: 
Best movie ever: Coach Carter; Must-listen reggae hitmakers: Chronixx and Assassin; Ideal read: The Economist; Motivational quote: Sizzla's "I'm so solid as a rock, they just can't stop me now."; All-time greatest hero: Nelson Mandela. 

Any final words, sir? 
"I basically want to make a very serious impact and allow the students to know that the Guild is here for them, and they should be aware of that."




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LEAPS AND BOUNDS: Imaginative and intriguing, the University Dance Society advances from strength to strength

RHYTHM OF LIFE: Eye-popping scenes from the UDS in performance at the Philip Sherlock Centre on the Mona Campus.

"Our hope for the society, and for this season actually, is to raise the standard and the reputation of the UDS to a whole new level. We want to be recognized and considered as a major dance company in Jamaica." This coming from a clearly elated Chelsea Brown, alluding to the promising future of the Mona-based University Dance Society, which she currently serves as president.

Though the UDS is predominantly made up of student artists and energetic teenagers, the group is no green thing, having been conceived as the University Dance and Gymnastics Society way back in 1971, subsequently rebranded the University Dance Society. Very much like the Edna Manley College's School of Dance, a large number of the awesome talents now representing the mainstream companies across the island (and abroad) got their start in the UDS, which has swelled to over 140 members split among beginners, intermediates and advanced-level performers.

Only a week after sharing the stage with the likes of Movements Dance Company, L'Acadco, Seattle's Ashani and the NDTC, for the 2014 Jamaica Dance Umbrella showcase, Brown and the crew returned to the mainstage of the Philip Sherlock Centre to unveil -- and make splash with -- their new season of dance (the company's 43rd!) evocatively dubbed "Floetry: Moving through the Antilles."

Weaving together strands of the theatrical, live music elements and even spoken word, the presentation featured appearances by UDS' campus cousins UDAS and the UWI Pop Society, among others, to bring to audiences a wonderfully vibrant and youthfully energetic take on West Indian realities then and now.

"Our goal was to fuse all these elements together to depict the Caribbean through the ages, through movement and its flow from the past, from slavery to the present day," explains Brown, 18, a "half Bahamian, half Jamaican" Medical Sciences junior. "We wanted the season to allow people to remember where we're coming from, to acknowledge and give thanks for the present and to enhance the potential for the future and make a difference. Because, truth be told, the future is the only thing we can influence."




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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

I NOMINATE YOU: Honouring eco-champions and community heroes with the Action Awards and the Ubuntu Awards

THE GREAT OUTDOORS: Eco-activism forms the core of the Environmental Action Awards.

If you haven't done so already, there's no better time than the present to pay tribute to that unsung hero in your life -- or your community. And the Ubuntu Awards is an ideal medium to do so. 

A brainchild of the UTECH Cares Project, the awards programme was devised to specially honour those Jamaicans who unfailingly recognize the humanity of others.

"Those persons may be local heroes, grassroots community builders or other community leaders who, through their work, have brought out the best in others around them and have not sought recognition or accolades for the contributions that they have made and continue to make to Jamaica," the university's Office of Community Service and Development explains.

Entries ought to be submitted to the office before or on April 18, after which a selection committee will choose the honorees. June 28 has already been set aside for a ceremony to celebrate them.

With the aim of rewarding excellence in environmental stewardship nationally, the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) presents the Environmental Action Awards, an initiative set up to recognize, particularly, the efforts of our young eco-warriors. So don't hesitate to send in your nominations for Youth Environmental Leadership, Waste Management, Biodiversity Conservation, Trees for the Future, and Most Environmentally Aware School (to cite a few of the key categories) via jamtrustent.org by May 1st.




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Monday, 24 March 2014

NEWS AND NOTES: What's new, what's next, what's trending in local entertainment and culture

BOOKS: A relatively new kid on the block, the BURT Award for Caribbean Literature aims to recognize innovation and creative excellence among today's hardworking West Indian authors. Alongside peers from Antigua & Barbuda (Joanne Hillhouse's Musical Youth), Trinidad & Tobago (Glynnis Guevera's Barrel Gun) and Dominica (Joanne Skerrett's Abraham's Treasure), a trio of Jamaicans are vying for the prize this year, namely Diane Brown (Princess in Brooklyn), Colleen Smith-Dennis (Inner-city Girl) and, pictured above, AdZiko Simba (All Over Again). Valued at CDN$10,000, the award will be presented during the gala event of the OCM Bocas Literary Festival in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, on April 25.
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FILM: An official call has been put out requesting submissions for the 2014 Caribbean Tales International Film Festival by May 1st. This year's iteration of the increasingly popular cinema fest launches in July and runs until mid-September at various venues across Toronto, encompassing everything from the Canadian National Exhibition to the Scotiabank Carnival. Send entries and/or make enquiries via caribbeantales@gmail.com.
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MUSIC: This year's National Children's Gospel Song Competition (put on by the JCDC) has slipped into high gear, with the fourth and final elimination show set for Friday, March 28 at the Rehoboth Gospel Assembly on Constant Spring Road in Kingston. One of the JCDC's signature programmes that aims to annually unearth stunning young singing talents, the competition is open to vocally gifted kids between the ages of six and 15 years. Following the elimination round, the most outstanding entrants will go on to compete in the semi-final round ahead of vying for overall top honours in the grand finale set for May, in celebration of Child Month.
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SOUND BYTE: "It's one of the far-reading health policies not only in Jamaica, but in the Caribbean. It has significantly transformed the health landscape. It has done a tremendous job over these 10 years, worthy of international recognition." -- Health minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson addressing the 10th anniversary banquet of the National Health Fund (NHF) at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston, where a number of staff, beneficiaries and other persons were recognized.




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