Wednesday, 29 April 2015

CHAT 'BOUT: Sound bytes of the week from Stephen Vasciannie, Usain Bolt, Garry Sinclair, and more

"I first competed in Ostrava in 2006 and always enjoy competing there, as the enthusiastic crowd always creates a good atmosphere. 2015 will be my seventh time to run the Golden Spike meeting and my third time to run the 200M. I hear the stadium has been renovated for this year's meet. I look forward to the race and coming back to run in the new stadium for the first time."  Sprint powerhouse Usain Bolt announcing his participation in the IAAF-endorsed Ostrava Golden Spike athletics meet in the Czech Republic, scheduled for May 26

"More channels are going to be discontinued going forward. We, along with the rest of the industry, are broadcasting for the public's benefit a number of channels that are technically unauthorized. And because we are the biggest player, we are working assiduously to broadcast only authorized channels. Obviously we cannot do that in a vacuum. From a competitive standpoint, whatever we as an industry decide we will discontinue as well."  Managing Director of the merged LIME and Columbus Communications (Flow), Garry Sinclair, on reviewing the company's operations following the removal of 19 channels from its cable TV network

"Violence against youth has noticeably been on the rise, and it is quite unfathomable that our children are seemingly targets for hooligans and this cannot continue. We need to give our children an avenue to grow and experience development instead of driving fear that they may be killed... Community parenting has a place in Jamaica's society, and as well-thinking residents, it is only fitting for us to look after each other's children as if they are our own."  UWI Mona-based Chancellor Hall issuing a statement on the weekend in the wake of recent heinous acts against children being reported in the press

"We should be prepared to analyze services and activities through racial perspectives. We all condemn racism, and are all parties to treaties banning racism, but we must take additional steps to ensure that facilities relating to education, health, politics, employment, economic advancement and life chances are opened up on the basis of equality to everyone."  Jamaica's Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Stephen Vasciannie, addressing the OAS last Wednesday on the vast number of unsung contributions made by persons of African descent

"Bob Marley is a huge inspiration in my life, and it's an overwhelming honour to be playing the legend in a new musical. I am so excited to be working with Kwame and an amazing cast and group of musicians, bringing the story of this pivotal moment in Marley's life to the stage."  Actor Mitchell Brunings on landing the coveted title role in Marley, set for its world premiere on May 6 at the Center Stage Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland

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WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE: Author Sandra Potts takes readers down memory lane in Bittersweet Memories

I REMEMBER ME: "When I set my mind to doing something, I get it done," reflects Potts, pictured above with students of her alma mater in Portland.

Every year on her birthday, of all days, Sandra Potts buys and presents a gift to someone of her choosing. More often than not, the lucky soul is an individual with a pressing need that Sandra wants to help take care of. This kind of generosity and selflessness has served her well and defines the woman Sandra E. Potts is or, more to the point, the woman she has become. Hers is a remarkable and inspiring story that zooms into focus in her first book, a soothing and well-written collection of autobiographical stories, self-published as Bittersweet Memories.

With the unflinching candour of someone who's seen it all and done the rest, Potts transports her readers from the rough-and-tumble Upper Fair Prospect in Portland, where she blossomed into a curious little girl with a taste for adventure and knowledge, to the super-competitive world of Wall Street, where she rose to become a force in her own right. 

But ask Sandra about the single most transformative period in her life, and she'll take you back to the horror of September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Centre towers came under the infamous terrorist attack  and she lost her mom to cancer shortly thereafter. Instead of crumbling under the weight of these unspeakable losses, Sandra decided to embark on the biggest challenge of her life: becoming a full-time registered nurse.

Trading the sharp suits and boardroom bravado of Wall Street for the antiseptic world of patients and hospital rooms meant going back to school to gain the necessary qualifications - which she did without hesitation. Today there are no regrets, and she spends countless hours at the Queen's Hospital in Brooklyn, which she now calls home. 

And, as she enjoys this change of pace and the bliss that comes with serving the people of her community, Sandra Potts is convinced that she's found her true calling. "When I set my mind to doing something, I get it done," she reflects, sitting across from me on warm Saturday afternoon inside Liguanea's Kingston Bookshop, on the occasion of a book signing for Bittersweet Memories. "That's how I choose to see life. Just set your mind on accomplishing a particular goal, and you'll start running in the direction that you want to go."

Unsurprisingly, history, reflection and memory lend Potts' book a nostalgic quality that's a hallmark of honest introspective writing. "When people read my book I want them to be inspired and know that they can triumph over whatever it is that they're going through," says Potts, who has number of other book projects lined up, including a collection of her poems. "I've been there and done all of that, so this is my testimony of being lifted out of depression, facing the stresses of hard life and surviving to tell the story."

Deeply committed to paying it forward, Potts has decided that all of the proceeds from Bittersweet Memories will benefit her alma mater Windsor Forest Primary in Portland. Acting Principal Paulette Donegan welcomes the gesture. "I feel elated because [the funds] will help us to open a reading resource centre and get some computers for the students," says the principal, who attended the book signing, with a trio of students.

On May 1, Sandra Potts will be 54 years old. It's also her mother's birthday, she reveals. You already know how she will mark this special milestone. "I'm always thinking of giving back to somebody else," she tells TALLAWAH, her radiant glow seeming all the more pronounced. "I never think of celebrating me."

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TALKING BOOKS: Easton Lee's Kiss Mi Granny + New Michelle O bio + Becoming Harry Belafonte

MAMA MADE THE DIFFERENCE: Show of hands those who've read or own a copy of Easton Lee's 2000 anthology From Behind the Counter? This seminal book of poems introduced many Jamaicans to the wit, lyrical prowess and vivid recollections of one of the most esteemed chroniclers of our island heritage. More than a decade later comes Kiss Mi Granny (Bala Press), Lee's recently published collection of stories and verse, in which he gives voice to the wisdom and priceless good humour of the island's matriarchs, paying homage to their strength, perseverance and their legacy of grace, quiet dignity and courage. 

HOW DOES SHE DO IT: For many she's the quintessential high-achieving Black woman, the First Lady the world had been waiting for. But author and journalist Peter Slevin has a new dimension to reveal. The Washington Post veteran details his account of the Commander-in-Chic in Michelle Obama: A Life, which publishers Knopf have dubbed the first comprehensive account of the evolution of this formidable achiever and woman of purpose. As the bio unfolds, the author traces Mrs. Obama's roots from the working-class childhood she enjoyed in Chicago's South Side all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. "The many new details," USA Today reports, "combined with a keen sense of the political and social dynamics at work during Mrs. Obama's formative years, makes this book a standout." 

LIFE BEYOND MEASURE: Harry Belafonte's journey is already the stuff of legend. How this son of immigrant Jamaican parents parlayed his humble Harlem roots into global-icon status is the focus of Judith E. Smith's new 368-page biography Becoming Belafonte: Black Artist, Public Radical (University of Texas Press). By and large, it's an interpretive study that explores Belafonte the actor-musician, civil rights activist, humanitarian and family man  spun in the context of class relations, human rights and Black pride. "[Becoming Belafonte] is so engaging," Kirkus Reviews raves, "readers will crave a sequel.

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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

OUT AND ABOUT: PM Simpson-Miller + Ziggy Marley + Veronica Campbell-Brown + John Varvatos + Rev. Norlene Jackson + Ashani + Usain Bolt

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: April 26, United States. Music, high fashion and philanthropy were the life of the party this past Sunday evening in California, as uberdesigner John Varvatos brought out a host of his celebrity friends, including Grammy winner Ziggy Marley, for the 12th Stuart House benefit (hosted annually by the celebrated menswear architect) in Los Angeles. Marley, who graced a 2015 John Varvatos promotional campaign with brother Stephen, brought wife Orly Agai and his kids along to share in the evening's festivities. (Photo: Getty Images)

FAMILY FIRST: April 23, St. Andrew. They say success is nothing without the right person to share it with. That timeless adage rings true for emerging reggae-soul crooner Ashani, who took a break from the stage and lyming with guests to share lens time with his dear mom, Anita Smith, at the Redbones-hosted launch party celebrating his debut EP, Unbreakable, last Thursday night. (Photo: Skkan Media)

ALL THE KING'S MEN: April 19, Brazil. As expected, the 2015 Mano a Mano challenge climaxed with a winning performance from Usain Bolt, who stopped the clock in 10.12 seconds to turn back the fierce challenge of some worthy opponents in the 100M dash. Following the medal presentation ceremony, the World's Fastest Man joined his racemates Churandy Martina (from the Netherlands), Ryan Bailey (of the United States) and Brazil's own's Carlos Gomes Moreira for a round of photographs. (Photo: Getty Images)

MAKING STRIDES: April 19, Brazil. The Jockey Club Brasileiro also saw some sizzling action from the ladies, especially in the 100M, where Jamaican sensation Veronica Campbell-Brown gave a glimpse of what's to come this season with her comfortable win over her competitors, including American speedster Carmelita Jeter(Photo: Getty Images)

HEAD TABLE: April 18, St. Catherine. Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller recently served as patron for the Jamaica Baptist Women's Federation's annual prayer breakfast, which was held at the Caymanas Golf Club on Saturday. Sharing a moment here with guest speaker Rev. Norlene Jackson, PM Simpson-Miller called for the continued implementation of social intervention programmes to protect our women and nurture our children. (Photo: OPM)

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Monday, 27 April 2015

PLAYING THE PART: David Heron, Ano Okera among castmates for Baltimore’s upcoming Marley musical

SHOW STOPPERS: Okera (left) and Heron both landed key roles in the production.

When Marley, the highly anticipated new bio-musical about Jamaica’s greatest reggae superstar debuts at the CenterStage Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland early next month, the show will be brought to rousing life by a wildly diverse and accomplished troupe of actors, among them a handful of young and talented Jamaican thespians, who are presently living and working in the States.

David Heron, the renowned actor-playwright (Against His Will, Ecstasy) will appear as Tony Welsh; fast-rising talent Shayne Powell steps into the role of Malakai, and the articulate Ano Okera will play Don Letts while lending his expertise to the production team as the show’s dialect coach. Meanwhile, the radiant Allison McLean, who has appeared in local productions like Basil Dawkins’ Where is My Father? scored a spot as a member of the ensemble chorus.

And in response to the question on everyone’s lips: who has the enviable task of portraying Bob in the show, complete with physical transformation and guitar riffs? That honour falls to actor-singer Mitchell Brunings, who became an international singing sensation in 2013, when he gave a pitch-perfect rendition of “Redemption Song” on Holland’s version of The Voice.

Brunings, based in the States, is joined in the cast’s top tier by other principals such as Seycon Sengbloh as Rita Marley; Susan Kelechi Watson as Marcia Griffiths; Crystal Joy as Judy Mowatt; Michaela Walters as Cindy Breakspeare, with John Patrick Hayden appearing as Island Records honcho Chris Blackwell and Damiann Thompson as Bunny Wailer.

When writer-director and CenterStage Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah set out to write the script he knew he didn’t want to produce a clichéd retelling of Bob’s timeless story. Instead, he opted to settle on a specific period. As such, his Marley chronicles events surrounding the two years the Gong spent in self-imposed exile after surviving an assassination attempt in 1976, before going on to transform himself into one of the 20th century’s most important and recognizable pop-culture figures. 

Explaining his process, Kwei-Armah told an interviewer, “I felt that rather than do a biographical musical about Bob Marley I would find the moment that personified who Bob was, and the run-up to the assassination attempt and the exile in London showed who he was and what he believed in.”

Artistically, the show weaves together dialogue with Bob’s original music, particularly anthems from his Rastaman Vibrations and Exodus era. With choreography by Germaul Barnes, music and lyrics from Bob’s catalogue, and book and direction by Kwei-Armah, Marley opens at the Centre Stage in Baltimore on May 6 and runs through June 14. 

> For showtimes and ticket information, log on to

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Saturday, 25 April 2015

EYES ON THE PRIZE: On-the-rise singer Ashani talks roots, ambition, and being Unbreakable

FINDING HIS VOICE: "I want to give my fans an experience," shares the 23-year-old entertainer.

As the five-piece backing band strikes up the first few notes of Ashani’s new single “Unbreakable”, the singer decides to do a bit of improv, sharing the inspiration behind the R&B-influenced reggae tune that bears the title of his freshly debuted EP. He owns the moment, and by the time he wraps the vocal performance with his pair of competent backup singers, the crowd is clamouring for more and an encore soon follows. 

To those who know Ashani best, this confident, take-charge singer-songwriter we see basking in the spotlight, on the occasion of his first EP launch at the Redbones Blues Café, is a far cry from the timid boy raised by his grandparents in Newport, Manchester and brought up in the church, while attending Cross Keys High. “He was very, very shy, even to talk to somebody he was afraid,” remembers his mom Anita Smith, who joined the hundred-strong, standing-room only audience at the launch on Thursday night. “He’s still a shy person, but not like when he was younger.” 

Born Renaldo Asheen Miller, Ashani credits his humble beginnings, his grandfolks in particular, for instilling in him an abiding appreciation for life’s simple pleasures and the age-old importance of choosing humility. For the record, Ashani believes there’s hardly anything more glorious than a weekend away in the country, especially rural Manchester, which will always be home, sweet home. “It’s very quiet there. I love the coolness of the country,” he tells TALLAWAH. “It’s the best place to really catch up on life and just relax and take it easy.” 

But Ashani is a city man now, and has been ever since he took up a scholarship courtesy of Red Stripe, to pursue four months of studies in vocals and music at the Edna Manley College’s School of Music. Fast-forward a couple of years and he’s linked up with The Solid Agency’s Sharon Burke, who currently manages him, and the team at Big 12 Records, who helped him craft and co-produce the songs that comprise the six-track EP. 

Unbreakable is a labour-of-love project he describes as a first sampling of the artistic journey he’s making. “I want to do songs that have crossover potential. Songs that will really get people’s attention,” says the 23-year-old, who fuses reggae, soul and R&B, and has recorded his own sprightly version of “One and Only Girl” by John Legend, of whom he’s a big fan. The track also appears on the EP. 

When asked to reflect on what he’s bringing to the music scene as his star begins to ascend, Ashani pauses to gather his thoughts. What he knows for sure is that the last thing he wants is to come off as a one-dimensional artiste. 

“I feel that my greatest challenge is doing the kind of music that more than one group of listeners will like and not just the people who know me and support me, but people everywhere who hear the music,” he admits. “I want to write and sing about different topics, not just about finding love and losing it. I want to give my fans an experience.” 

> ASHANI’S TOP FIVE: Getting to know the rising star 

Book he recommends: I enjoy reading books like The Secret that teach you about the laws of attraction.

Favourite reggae musicians: I like Tessanne Chin and Tarrus Riley. I want to emulate his career. 

His taste in movies: From I was a boy I’ve liked action movies, so I’m a fan of Transformers and Fast and Furious. 

Mentor of the Moment: Shaggy. I’m around him a lot and he’s been helping me. 

Definition of success: Being in that place where I’m at peace with myself; I can see where I’ve reached on my journey and what I need to do next. 

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Friday, 24 April 2015

SMART START: First Angels Jamaica launched to support growth-oriented entrepreneurs

HEAVEN SENT: First Angels Jamaica members, including Joseph A. Matalon and Sandra Glasgow (left), with DRT Communications' Danielle Terrelonge-Irons (centre), enjoying a light moment at the launch.

The challenges that Jamaican entrepreneurs regularly face in accessing growth capital - and the need to fill a critical gap in the ecosystem for venture capital in Jamaica - are the twin factors that led to the birth of First Angels Jamaica (FAJ), a new local-based angel investor network, which has the backing of partners like international financial giants the World Bank Group and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Though First Angels Jamaica was created back in July of 2014, it was officially launched inside the Jamaica Pegasus' Legacy Suite on Wednesday morning during an intimate ceremony that attracted a number of young entrepreneurs and established names from the local business community. In a nutshell, the FAJ network is geared towards helping growth-oriented entrepreneurs by providing them with access to start-up capital and mentorship.

But what exactly is an "angel network"? By definition, it is a formal group of high net-worth individuals who make direct investment of personal funds into early-stage businesses. "[They] play a critical role in helping start-up or early-stage ventures achieve above-average growth," explains FAJ Chairman Joseph A. Matalon. "They not only provide patient capital but play the role of coach, mentor and board member, introducing entrepreneurs to potential customers, helping them solve potential problems, and gain credibility in the marketplace."

Fast out the blocks, First Angels has already recruited 13 investor members and two associate members. The network has so far held three pitch events and viewed presentations from seven entrepreneurs, from which the team, including Sandar Glasgow (Managing Director of BizTactics Limited) have picked their first candidate, a Jamaican start-up, for investment. They have selected DRT Communications Limited, a company that specializes in developing comprehensive communication strategies for regional and international clients. The investment process will be concluded later this month.

The way Glasgow sees it, the Jamaican economy, one characterized by low growth and high debt, is in need of new innovative sectors driven by private-sector-led entrepreneurial activities. "We really do believe," Glasgow says, "that small-business growth and development in Jamaica is critical to the overall growth of our economy."

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Thursday, 23 April 2015

IN COLD BLOOD: Child 44 plays up the intrigue, riveting suspense

HEAT AND DUST: Gary Oldman (as Nesterov) and Tom Hardy (as Leo) in a tense moment. 

A strongly acted and wrenching crime drama, based on the novel of the same name by Tom Rob Smith, Child 44 weaves a tangled web centred on a series of connected child murders that grips Moscow in the wake of World War II. As directed by Daniel Espinosa, it carries us into a world of KGB agents, expedient executions for treason, and fractured family lives.

Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy), a hero for the Soviets and a highly respected man of the law finds himself knee-deep in the investigation stemming from the brutal slayings of the kidnapped young boys, all between the ages of nine and 14, their nude bodies discovered by the train tracks and in the woods severely mutilated. With the help of a schoolteacher he's been seeing named Raisa (immaculately played by Noomi Rapace), Leo hatches a plan to stop the killer before he strikes again. The plot thickens when Raisa comes under investigation for espionage, an offence punishable by death. But Leo refuses to denounce her, and his choice sets into motion a chain reaction that puts both their lives in jeopardy.

Child 44, with its ominous score and tell-tale cinematography, combines the captivating storytelling of a noir thriller with the heart-pounding intrigue of murder mystery. It's a lengthy film but it's expertly paced so there's hardly any sagging, and the performances are compelling to say the least. 

Hardy (Warrior) and Rapace (the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), nursing thick Russian accents, are impressive in their roles - with fine supporting work coming from Vincent Cassel (Black Swan) as a corrupt high-ranking weasel of a major and Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as General Nesterov, a brooding veteran who takes Leo under his wing when he is dispatched from the capital.

Though Smith's storytelling is a skilful merging of fiction and fact, the movie conjures up a dark chapter in Russian history, chiefly its war-torn past, combined with the ugly business of child killings. As a whole, Child 44 is as unsettling as its dark subject matter suggests and as gripping as the most brutally candid noir narratives. Tyrone's Verdict: B+

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Wednesday, 22 April 2015

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Empire soundtrack brings a lush mix of sounds and star power

ALL IN THE FAMILY: The chart-topping album features music from the popular show's debut season.

With the exception of movie musicals like Chicago and Dreamgirls and such classic films as the Whitney Houston-led The Bodyguard and The Preacher's Wife, we've seldom come across a worthwhile cinematic event that gets the soundtrack it deserves. But today you sense a whiff of fresh air thanks to Empire, the brash and deliriously entertaining television drama that's been setting viewership records (in the tradition of Scandal) and attempting its own revolutionary impact on the music biz with its take on studio-to-radio success. 

What's more, Empire (and its hypnotic weekly score) holds up a mirror to the contemporary Black-in-America experience, capturing the highs and lows of running a family business and, for the record, just how much rap music has evolved with the times. Yes, the soundtrack boasts a hefty hip-hop quotient, but it manages to reflect other mainstream sounds du jour — a channel-surfing of genres, including R&B and pop, soul and funk. 

Jussie Smollett gets the disc off to solid start with "Good Enough," a melodic mid-tempo groove full of passionate vocals. By contrast, Courtney Love brings a strain of melancholy to the breakup ditty "Walk Out On Me," while the supreme confidence and slick rhyming skills of Yazz anchors tracks like the hip-hop-spiked "No Apologies" and "Keep It Movin'". 

But any mention of the album's cream-of-the-crop tracks must include "Conqueror," Estelle's sublime and beautifully penned ballad about empowerment and self-affirmation. (You'll want to replay this one a few times.) Then there's Jennifer Hudson's tuneful gem "Remember the Music," which will remind you why J-Hud is one of the best pop-R&B vocalists worthy of Whitney's crown. 

When the album debuted atop Billboard's 200 Album Chart earlier this month, it was confirmation of the record's wide-ranging appeal — and how deeply the show (conceived by Lee Daniels) has impacted the cultural Zeitgeist. It's the soundtrack Empire's loyal fans deserve. Tyrone's Verdict: A-

DOWNLOAD: "Conqueror," a empowering, soulful anthem from Estelle

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BOOK OF THE MOMENT: Poet Shelly-Ann Harris delivers a satisfying debut with The Goodies on Her Tray

WELL VERSED: Harris' breezy debut explores the roles and concerns of Jamaican women.

Jamaican women have always led dynamic and complicated lives, subject to their fair share of struggle, heartache and, fortunately for some, contentment. Emerging poetess Shelly-Ann Harris does a fine job of capturing some of their stories in The Goodies on Her Tray (Breadknife Productions), her breezy debut collection of 30 poems that are as lyrically potent as they are sensitively crafted.

In her writing, Harris, a 2008 Redbones Poet of the Year and JCDC Literary Arts awardee, shares hard-learned lessons and poignant observations about the Afro-Caribbean experience and local traditions as she explores how our women set about “developing a thriving career, accepting ourselves completely and ultimately living a fulfilling and happy life” – simultaneously drawing particular attention to “both the spirit-filled and vexing undercurrents of Jamaican culture and history.”

The results, in large part, are noteworthy testament to trials and triumphs, with Harris’ soulfulness, wit and capacity for Scripture-quoting and spirituality echoing throughout the book.

From the beauty of childbirth (“Conception”) to the satisfaction of hard and honest labour (“Cleaning day Lady”) to the complications often attendant to intimate relationships (“Cold Return”), Harris smartly employs vividly descriptive language to reel us in, as she gives voice to an assortment of circumstances. Passion and grace notes dance together in pieces like “Butterfly Waitress”, “Rose Petals for Bruises”, “I Rest My Dreams” and “Abundant Life”, in which the poetess offers such memorable lines as, “Knowing that suffering is beautiful is the doorway to abundance.”

In his endorsement of The Goodies on Her Tray, Professor Edward Baugh lauds Harris for her effective use of sharp imagery and refreshing insight. “These poems will attract and hold the reader’s attention. Their feelings and ideas are grounded in specific situations realized with some imaginative verve and striking images,” Baugh reports. “There is a pleasing range of subject matter, personal and social, and the concern for craft is to be commended.”

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Friday, 17 April 2015

ON THE SCENE: Highlights from Child Month launch + KC’s 90th anniversary launch + Barack Obama at Jamaica House + Household Workers Awards launch + Usain Bolt out and about in Rio

SIMPLY BRILLIANT: President Barack Obama’s recent stopover in Jamaica would not have been complete without that special moment between the US Commander-in-Chief and Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller being captured on film for all to see. It came during the President’s courtesy call on Jamaica House (for a round of bilateral talks), where PM Simpson-Miller brightened the occasion in an eye-popping yellow ensemble. Call it the bright side of international relations! (Photo: OPM)

A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN: How time flies! This year the North Street-based Kingston College is observing its 90th anniversary, with plans afoot for a raft of celebratory-themed activities. A launch to get the ball roling was held at the school recently. In addition to Principal Dave Myrie and board chairman Michael Vaccianna, the launch drew appearances by Keith Whyte of the Calabar Old Boys Association, Dr. Patrick Dallas of the KC Old Boys Association, Major Basil Jarrett of the Jamaica College Old Boys’ Association and Lyndon Latoure of the St. George’s College Old Boys’ Association. (Photo: Kingston College)

CLEAN SWEEP: The brainchild of Jean Lowrie-Chin, the Grace Kennedy-sponsored Jamaica Household Workers Awards, back for its second iteration, drew a sizeble turnout for its launch at Grace’s downtown Kingston HQ last week. Above, Grace CEO Don Wehby is seen addressing the gathering. The main prize going is named in honour of the late domestic doyenne Heather Little-White. Entries for this year’s awards are to be submitted to Grace by no later than May 15. (Photo: Grace Kennedy)

CHILDREN WILL LISTEN: One of the most anticipated periods on the local calendar for the young set, thanks largely to its focus on issues pertaining to the nation’s most vulnerable citizens, Child Month got its 2015 launch (organized by the National Child Month Committee) on Wednesday morning at GraceKennedy;s head office. Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna )third left) was on hand for the event, fielding questions from attendees and sharing plans for the weeks ahead.  (Photo: Grace Kennedy)

ALL TOGETHER: The World’s Fastest Man poses with a grouo of teenagers as he makes an appearance at Rio de Janeiro's most traditional favela, Mangueira, in Brazil. Bolt is in town for this weekend’s Mano a Mano meet at Rio's Jockey Club on Sunday. In a press conference Friday, Bolt reaffirmed his goal of running sub-19 seconds to break his 200M world record this season – and his intention to go for one more season after the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio. (Photo: International Business Times)

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BUILT FOR SPEED: Solid friendships, dazzling stunts anchor action-packed Furious 7

VROOM WITH A VIEW: Walker (as Brian) and Diesel (as Dom) in a scene from the box-office-topping film, now playing.

They say past behaviour is the most reliable indicator of future behaviour and as far as the Fast and Furious franchise goes, not much has changed. And that’s terrific news for moviegoers who like their popcorn with nonstop action and healthy servings of drama and humour. 

As Chapter 7 in the high octane, high grossing franchise unfolds one comes to realize that while age has mellowed Dom and the crew, at heart they remain the thrill-seeking daredevils we’ve followed since the first instalment blazed into cinemas back in 2003 – and who seem to exemplify the very idea of living on the edge. 

And yet there’s a sad postscript to this saga, given the tragic and untimely death of Paul Walker (who plays Brian), who perished in a vehicular crash along with a close friend in Los Angeles last year in one of the unfortunate accounts of life imitating art we’ve ever heard of. Even so, Paul’s memory and legacy live on in Furious 7, best described as an adrenaline rush of a movie laden with breathless action sequences, fisticuffs and death-defying stunts aplenty, the picturesque backdrops of Tokyo, Abu Dhabi and LA and the precipitous mountainsides of Azerbaijan, where the film crescendos to its stunning climax.

Fast-paced doesn’t even begin to describe what graces the screen, and that’s nothing to complain about. To get a proper grasp of what the movie is about is to acknowledge that the guys have to attend to unfinished business, which comes in the sinewy shape of hardened assassin Deckard Shaw (The Transporter’s Jason Statham), who is intent on exacting revenge on those who had a hand in the London ‘incident’ that left his brother seriously paralyzed.

That includes Dom (Vin Diesel) and the posse who reteam to deal with this latest adversary. But that’s easier said than done, as Shaw’s the ruthless type who amasses a body count without even blinking an eyelash. (Witness the movie’s opening scene.) What eventually plays out is a battle between “shadows and ghosts,” as described by Kurt Russell’s character, the leader of the armed forces who recruits Dom’s crew for the fight against this common enemy. If Furious 7 represents the final instalment in the series, what a way to go.

The humour and light banter among the brothers fly with the same warp speed as the action itself, and old faces like Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges (tech whiz Tej), Tyrese Gibson (motormouth Rhone), Michelle Rodriquez (Letty), Jordana Brewster (new mom Mia) and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (as Officer Hobbes) are joined by Djimon Hounsou, who plays a nefarious operative who has partnered with Shaw. Then there’s that mystery girl with the curls and the accent who could make or break the mission.

Though the Fast and Furious movies have always been about the flashy whips built for speed and the unbelievable action sequences that defy the laws of physics, at the core you’ll find arcs of friendship, loyalty and family fiercely protecting its own. In the end, Furious 7 reacquaints us with a group of friends who prize their unbreakable bonds above all else and remain true to that come what may. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

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MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Songbird Cherine presents the Groove Campus Tour + Sprint king Usain Bolt ready to wow in Rio

IN THE FAST LANE: Fresh from his debut encounter with the Leader of the Free World in Kingston, the World's Fastest Man has landed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for this weekend's highly anticipated Mano a Mano track meet in at Copacabana Beach. On Sunday, April 19, the Jamaican sprint king will take part in an exhibition 100M race against two other competitors for the second year in a row. No word yet on who Bolt's opponents are, but the action promises to sizzle under the hot Brazilian sun, with fans gathering along the beachfront to get a good view of the spectacle. Upon landing in Brazil a couple of days ago, Bolt instantly became the centre of fan frenzy, typical of his international appearances, and no is no doubt currently enjoying the warm hospitality reserved for superstars of his ilk. Meanwhile, Brazil comes in the wake of Bolt's record-setting performance in the 200M at the UTech Classics on Saturday and precedes his upcoming races in Paris, New York and Beijing, China.

GROOVE THEORY: More than ever, Cherine Anderson is making it clear that there's no duet more powerful than the harmony between artistry and activism. Taking the lead among her industry peers yet again, the enterprising songstress and her team are about to kickstart the Groove Campus Tour, a much-welcomed new initiative aimed at connecting excellent musical bands with student-centred outreach projects, while promoting education, creativity, entertainment and social responsibility. It's a biannual tour that will commence fund-raising efforts for student-led projects through a series of live on-campus concerts. Further widening the reach, on Wednesday the artiste premiered the Cherine Anderson Groove Campus show on Bess 100FM, a programme that will be aired on the station this and every Wednesday between 5 and 6pm. For the Spring Edition of the Groove Campus Tour, a diverse batch of projects has already been confirmed, among them the Queen's School Breakfast Project, the Munro College Gears Up Cadets Project, the Holy Trinity Keep It Moving Fitness Project and a pool refurbishing project at the G.C. Foster College in St. Catherine.

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