Monday, 25 September 2017

BOOK OF THE MOMENT: Lorna Goodison brings together classics and brand-new pieces in her massive Collected Poems

THE BEST OF HER: Goodison's latest is dedicated in love and gratitude to her parents.

CRITICS and book lovers the world over long discovered that, among contemporary Caribbean poets, Lorna Goodison is in a league all her own. There’s genius in her, and it manifests time and time again in the spellbinding verse that’s become synonymous with her often warm, sometimes curious voice.

After releasing close to 10 anthologies, the celebrated wordsmith has blessed us with her Collected Poems, a superthick volume amassing some 600-plus pages of beloved classics, some of her own favourites and choice selections from all the collections she’s published over the years.

It means that within these pages, Goodison’s longtime devotees and new fans can enjoy highlights from Tamarind Season, Turn Thanks, Travelling Mercies, Oracabessa, Controlling the Silver, Goldengrove and I Am Becoming My Mother. As a brawta, the massive book closes with 11 previously unpublished poems, including “Ferryman,” “Cuthbert’s Last Journey” and “For Claude McKay.”
Collected Poems was published by the Manchester, UK-based Carcanet Press, which also delivered Chinua Achebe’s Collected Poems, Kei Miller’s The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion and Prof. Mervyn Morris’ Peelin’ Orange: Collected Poems earlier this year.

Unsurprisingly, she’s dedicated the book “in love and gratitude” to her first teachers – mother Doris Louise née Harvey Goodison and father Vivian Marcus Goodison. 

As expected, Goodison’s work here explores a wide range of subjects and themes, not least among them identity and family, history and memory. “The publication of Lorna Goodison’s Collected Poems, with their extraordinary music, sensuous texture and powerful historical imagination, is a major event,” proclaims book critic Jahan Ramazani. “These poems are stunningly alive to the nuances of love, beautifully pitched and tuned, rich with feeling and insight.” 

Goodison, a past recipient of the Gold Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica and winner of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, is the reigning Poet Laureate of Jamaica.

#WORK&WEALTH2017: What’s your philosophy on money and wealth creation?

ARE you a hoarder, a save-it-then-spend-it type or an unabashed shopaholic and big spender? Whether you fall into one of these boxes or defy categorization, you can’t deny the fact that money matters – especially in these harsh socio-economic times. In honour of this month’s ‘Work & Wealth’ theme, we asked a few personalities to share their personal feelings on dollars and sense. 

DELANO FORBES, CEO Phase 3 Productions
“I do believe in saving, but I’m not quite there yet. For me, it’s a cycle – you save up and then spend it on something that you really want. But it’s also important to save up to meet longer term goals, which is where the whole idea of wealth creation comes in. Growing up in the family business, my parents definitely instilled in me an appreciation for money. There was a time when we almost lost everything, so I know the value of money.”

KARLA TULLOCH, singer-actress
“To me, building wealth is more important than regular saving because you have to focus on what’s more lasting. Having enough to live comfortably for the moment is good, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have enough for the rest of your life. So you have to secure your future, which is the most important thing.”

SAMANTHA BREVETT, stage manager-actress
“I’m more of an investor. So I invest so I’ll gain the benefits in the long run. I still want to live comfortably in the meantime, so I try to save a lot and live within my means.”

JERRY BENZWICK, comedian-actor
“I tend to spend everything, so now I’m trying to gain an honest appreciation and respect for money. People say you must spend money to raise money, but I’m just terrible with money in general. So I’m learning to take a more sensible approach. But I do believe in building wealth, so that you can leave tangible things behind for your loved ones.”

TALLAWAH MONITOR: “It’s no longer about me” – Shelly talks about being a first-time mom

MOM ON DUTY: Fraser-Pryce talks parenthood and passion for track-and-field 
“Being able to create life and give birth to my son [Zyon] was just a wonderful feeling. It was a really emotional thing as well, because I never thought I would be in that position,” first-time mother Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce recently told the Observer’s Garfield Myers while in St. Elizabeth to make a charitable donation on behalf of her Pocket Rocket Foundation. Becoming a parent, she says, has also challenged her to reassess her priorities. “It’s just time-consuming. I have to now realize it’s no longer about me – when I want to sleep and when I want to go anywhere. It’s now about my son.” In case you’re wondering, the 30-year-old sprint queen is not ready to hang up her spikes just yet. She resumes training at MVP next month. Retirement can wait. “I don’t think it will be that hard for me,” she says of one day leaving the sport. “For me, everything is a season. When that season comes and it’s time to move on, you will know. For right now, there is a burning sensation that there is more to Shelly-Ann and more to offer.” 

NO WORRIES: New JFF boss sees great things ahead for the association 
Taking over the reins as President of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) is a tall order for Clarendon’s Mark Ricketts, but he waxes optimistic about the long road ahead for him and his executive. “We feel we have the full support of the board of directors, and I hope we have a very positive impact going forward. And from what we have seen, there are good things on the horizon,” Ricketts says. “We cannot speak of any particular arrangement, but we are working and we do hope that in short order, we will see positive change.” 

ON A ROLL: Yardie star Shantol Jackson does Matey Chronicles 
Thespy nominee Shantol Jackson has stepped in for Sakina Deer in Matey Chronicles at Centrestage, as Deer is on a much-deserved week-long break. Catching up with Jackson, she seems to be having a blast bonding with her costars Glen Campbell, Sharee Elise and Courtney Wilson, and inhabiting the role of Lola, a restless young woman sashaying into the life of another woman’s man. Jackson (Bad Apple, Country Wedding) is also fresh from the UK where, alongside Everaldo Creary, she was working with Idris Elba filming scenes for his highly anticipated directorial debut Yardie. It was a rewarding learning experience for the 24-year-old actress, but the weather often “got unbearably cold.” Jackson’s other screen credits include the TV series Real Friends and the acclaimed short film Sugar. 

“I believe in service”: Dr. Shane Alexis on stepping forward 
Is Dr. Shane Alexis the man for the now vacant South East St. Mary seat? Perhaps, but in any case, he’s admittedly a firm believer in service and nation-building above self. “Jamaica needs professionals who are willing and able to offer themselves for service. For me, it’s country first,” the PNP candidate recently told The Gleaner’s Erica Virtue. “I have offered myself because I believe in taking a hands-on approach. I believe in service and I have answered a call to participate in nation-building.”

Friday, 22 September 2017

GOOD NEWS: Interactive TV brings fresh vibe to tourist entertainment + National Catholic Conference opens Sep. 29 + CCRP to honour 11 C’bean stalwarts

ICONIC STATUS: The Caribbean Community of Retired Persons takes very seriously their mandate of championing the concerns and achievements of the group that it seeks to serve across the region. On Tuesday, September 26, the CCRP will host a Jamaica 55 Living Legacy Awards ceremony, where a number of luminaries and estimable Caribbean nationals will be presented with awards for their sterling accomplishments over the decades and for their contribution to national and regional development. The honorees are Prof. Mervyn Morris, Mike Fennell, Patsy Ricketts, Noel Dexter, Horace Levy, Major General Robert Neish, Cecile Jarrett, Clembert Powell, Marie Clemetson, Norman Jarrett and Leonie Forbes. The ceremony will take place at the Mona Visitor’s Lodge, UWI Campus. For ticket information, call 469-1944. 

VIEWING PLEASURE: We love our tourists! Thanks to the newly launched next-generation-hospitality Interactive TV by C&W Business, visitors to Jamaica can now experience a revolutionized hotel-room entertainment package. “Interactive TV delivers what today’s travelers have come to expect, which is the same high-quality TV experience while vacationing as they enjoy at home,” explains Donovan White, C&W Vice President. It provides guests with the ability to record their favourite shows via a personal video recorder, access popular streaming services (Netflix, Hulu) and enjoy the best of Jamaica. Interactive TV is the latest in the lineup of ICT solutions introduced by C&W Business to support the Jamaican tourism industry. 

GATHER IN MY NAME: Observing the theme “Opening the Door to Life in the Kingdom of God,” the National Catholic Charismatic Conference takes over the Karram Speid Auditorium (Merle Grove High) from September 29 to October 1. Attendees will enjoy dynamic workshops, interactive sessions and praise and worship. The keynote speakers confirmed to address the gathering are Father George Kintiba and Father Paco Gavrilides. There’s a registration fee of $1000. For more information, call 970-1804 or log on to

Thursday, 21 September 2017

JUBALEE! J’can Folk Singers deliver festive and nostalgic 50th anniversary concert season

FANTASTIC 50: The celebrated choir marked their special milestone with their best season yet.

FOR a 50th anniversary concert season, you expect the performers to pull out all the stops to put on a stellar show for their supporters. The Jamaican Folk Singers, now celebrating their half-a-century, took this to heart last weekend as they served up a rich musical feast, full of folk gems, standards and tunes from the Jamaican Songbook that put you in sing-along mode. Throw into the mix some engaging, innovative choreography, a lovely set design and frequently gorgeous lighting.

In the end, the show represented a rebirth of sorts for the iconic choir, while paying tribute to their founding mother, the late great Dr. Olive Lewin.

Celebrating the journey to 50, the Singers took us over the hills and valleys of history and memory with songs that speak vociferously to our African and cultural heritage. The first half (split into three segments) delved into work songs (“Rio Grande,” “Checkaman,” “Chi Chi Bud” and “King Power” among the highlights), Kumina songs (“Guinea War,” “Slow Me Gungo” among them) and a poignant In Memoriam suite, where solemn, occasionally mournful numbers like “Fi Me Love”, “Oil In My Lamp” and “Yerri Me” paid reflective tribute to Dr. Lewin.

Good old-fashioned storytelling was the order of the second half, with Coleen Lewis serving as a competent and eloquent narrator/raconteur. The choir took us all the way back to Africa, back to the slavery era and back to the dawn of Emancipation (“Bogle,” “Tambo,” “Moses”, “Jubalee”), charting a course that eventually culminated with the advent of reggae and dancehall through the ska/mento portal. With special guests The Tallawah Mento Band supplying infectious accompaniment, what played out was a sweetly festive and nostalgic delight.

The show closed with a robust revival suite that affirmed the spirit indomitable of our Jamaican forebears. Among the highlights were “Plant De Letta”, “Come We Go Up a Galalee”, “All De Ribba Dem,” a rousing “Daniel Saw/Keyman Medley” and the timeless, powerful reminder that “Daniel God surely will deliver.”

QUOTES OF THE WEEK: Sound bytes from Chancellor Robert Bermudez, PM Andrew Holness, Dr. Peter Phillips, and more

PEOPLE POWER: Phillips greeting party supporters during Sunday's grand PNP conference inside the National Arena.

Opposition Leader Dr. Peter Phillips
“It cannot be that the Jamaican construction industry – our architects, our engineers, our contractors who design and build the National Stadium, the Jamaica Conference Centre, New Kingston, the BOJ Building, the Scotia Centre – are now being told that in order to redevelop Kingston and construct the new Parliament building, we have to get foreign expertise to design and build. That is not going forward; that is moving backward.” 

Professor Densil Williams 
“Despite concessions from the Government, Jamaican firms will always find it difficult to compete head-on with Chinese firms. The neo-liberal project is more hospitable to the types of resources the Chinese firms bring to the table than those offered by Jamaican companies. If we want to deal with discussions about Chinese invasion seriously, we need to first determine whether there is an alternative to the neo-liberal restructuring pathway to development.” 

Columnist Ian Boyne 
“Jamaica is lacking that sense of common purpose. Economic growth alone can’t inspire citizenship; only atomistic individuals. The updated version of money jingling in our pockets is empty and uninspiring. With the [JLP and PNP] following the same economic programme, the difference must be in the vision of building that New Jamaica.” 

New UWI Chancellor Robert Bermudez 
“The reality is that the university is not a business and that, although there are business aspects to the university and there are things about business that could be useful, the university should not be approved as a business, as it is not here to make a profit; it is here as a common good.” 

Prime Minister Andrew Holness 
“We have to strike the balance and ensure the required interconnectivity to drive us forward. It is this relationship, among a range of service providers, infrastructure developers, providers of goods and technology and services that will ensure the linkages in our economy, to ensure our growth and job-creation success.”

WAKE-UP CALL: Consultant urologists urging J’can men to get screened early for prostate cancer

HEALTH WISE: “The level of awareness needs to increase; the message has to be spread more widely,” insists featured speaker Dr. Robert Wan (inset).

SUNDAY’s Prostate Cancer Medical Conference, which drew a standing room-only audience to the Talk of the Town perch of the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, touched on several critical areas in the orbit of cancer research, prevention and treatment. But the presentation that, unsurprisingly, seemed to resonate most deeply with attendees (including scores of Jamaican men of all ages came during a session dubbed “Can You Prevent or Reduce Your Risk of Developing Prostate Cancer?” presented by Asian-Jamaican consultant urologist Dr. Robert Wan.

Speaking with TALLAWAH afterwards, during the lunch-time coffee break, Dr. Wan voiced concern at the large number of men he’s been treating in recent years who come for treatment when it’s too late. “We are still seeing too many men at the initial presentation with advanced prostate cancer. For a man with a PSA of 4 or 5, the cancer is usually very small and curable. But within the last two weeks I saw two patients with PSA of upwards of 4,000, so the cancer has already spread throughout the body and cannot be eradicated,” explained Wan, who’s been a practising physician for over 40 years. “So the level of awareness needs to increase; the message has to be spread more widely.”

So can you prevent or reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer? “Yes,” Dr. Wan hastens to point out, “but it requires a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle.”

For the record, prostate cancer has been the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Jamaica for the past 15 years. More specifically, incidence of prostate cancer in the island currently stands at 78.1 per 100,000 men in the population, according to data from the Jamaica Cancer Society.

Like his colleague Dr. Wan, Dr. Venslowe Greaves argues that men are simply not heeding the warning to come in and do their check-ups before it’s too late. “What concerns me most is the fact that the message is not getting out there. Men are still coming in with high PSA levels,” says Dr. Greaves, who earlier presented on ‘Radiation in the Treatment of Prostate Cancer’. “So my recommendation is that Jamaican men fall in line and get their screening done, especially if they have a history of prostate cancer in the family.”

Then there’s the touchiest subject of all – that of the rectal (anal) exam, which gives a lot of men the heebie-jeebies. As a result, many of them shy away from the doctor’s office. Dr. Reaud Gafoor (who spoke on ‘Advances in the Management of Castrate Resistant Prostate Cancer’) is a firm believer that early detection is key to saving more lives. “It’s something we have to address, this cultural bias against the rectal exam. It has come from the top down, and there are a number of misconceptions where that is concerned,” Dr. Gafoor emphasized during Q-&-A. “I have seen a number of cases where earlier screening would have made the level of disease curable.” 

The conference/symposium, which also featured insightful power-point presentations from Dr. Michael Brooks, Dr. Garth Reid, Dr. William Aiken and Dr. Belinda Morrison, forms part of the Jamaica Cancer Society’s month-long series of activities, in observance of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

TALKING FASHION: Designer Mark Anthony riffs on his meteoric rise, his business and the icon he most admires

MR. CLEAN: "There were days when I felt like giving up, but I just remind myself that what's life without challenge," the 37-year-old admits.

THE story of how Mark Anthony Scott became one of Jamaica’s most sought-after menswear designers is as fascinating as the designer himself. “I’ve been in the industry all my life but I wasn’t always practising,” he tells us on a cool Tuesday evening inside his cozy Argyle Road shop in St. Andrew. As he explains, Mark’s uncle owned a tailoring establishment and after school he went to work with him. But in those days it was just a means to an end; he had no major couture ambitions.

That perhaps explains why, in 2007, he traded the fabric and the sewing machine for the camera and the tripod stand to venture into video production and set up his own company with the money he had saved up. 

Within record time, he wooed a number of clients, including corporate power players to film their commercials to complement his other writing and directorial projects. Mark was on a roll until things hit a lull. What started out as a fresh and exciting prospect eventually lost its appeal. “I think what happened is that the industry got really slow, and all these different video production companies were popping up. The industry got saturated.”

Mark Anthony took that as his exit cue. “I had a decision to make, but working for people wasn’t an option,” he remembers. That’s when the idea of pulling on the tailoring experience he’d gleaned from working in the family business to start a shirt line was born. Why fork out thousands of bucks for something he could make for himself?

By 2014, he was working from home with a few clients on his roster, subsequently using his car to visit those clients for measurements and to make drop-offs, thereby making the service more personal. “People liked that,” he recalls.

Within a year, he was ready to open Mark Anthony Designs (here on Argyle Road, off Lady Musgrave) and with adequate marketing and promotion the business took off. Today, standing inside the cozy space, the 37-year-old, who says his customers are like family, declares himself a full-fledged menswear designer, specializing in everything from done-to-order suits, shirts and vests to trousers and an array of accessories to complete the look. His niche market, after all, is the business professional.

“In order to be relevant, you have to keep up with fashion; be different; be creative. Your pieces have to be fresh, functional and clean,” the designer remarks. “People can go anywhere and buy a shirt, but it’s not the same with a Mark Anthony shirt. Wearing a Mark Anthony design, you will always stand out from the crowd.”
Creative challenges, he insists, come with the territory. “There’s not a day that I have to look for challenges; they come with the desire and the need to create and perfect the art of what you do. I’m always thinking of new designs and new concepts,” he says. But he does admit that the going can get really rough. “To be honest, the love and passion I have for fashion keeps me going. There were some days when I felt like giving up, but I just remind myself that what’s life without challenge,” he says. “You just have to find that drive.”

He salutes his fellow designing brothers like Carlton Brown and Uzuri’s Karl & Mark (“It’s just a handful of us”) and singles out Ralph Lauren from among his international favourites (“He has always been an icon in my eyes. If I were to emulate anyone it would be him.”) 

Mark Anthony is the first to admit that he makes no fuss about the future, but he does want to find worthy partners to introduce his brand to new markets and introduce new products to his catalogue. “I’m definitely looking to expand the product line and go into the Caribbean and international markets. Starting a women’s line is also part of the vision,” he notes. “I wish I could predict what life has to offer, but my thing is to just take it one day at a time. This is my second year at this level of business, but I’ve learned that if you can make it five years in business, you can go 50 years.”

> MY STYLE, MY WAY: Take a peek inside the designer's personal 'closet'

NEWS FEED: FIFA World Cup tickets now on sale + Jamaica-China relations mark 45 years + PSOJ taps Byles for 2017 Hall of Fame

TOP OF HIS CLASS: Its past honorees include the likes of corporate power player Earl Jarrett (2015) and business titan Gary ‘Butch’ Hendrickson, who was last year’s selection. So it was only a matter of time before Richard Byles got his turn in the spotlight. The Chairman and former President of the Sagicor Group is set to become the 25th inductee into the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica’s uber-prestigious Hall of Fame, according to a release from the PSOJ. Hailed by such stalwart colleagues as Dennis Chung, who says, “Byles exemplifies the calibre of business leaders needed to propel Jamaica and its economy forward,” Byles’ stewardship at Sagicor has been characterized by a series of mergers, acquisitions and divestments, which have led to massive increase in profits and net worth, as well as contributed to the entity’s amplified brand awareness.

THE CHINESE CONNECTION: Some 45 years have elapsed since Jamaica and China first established bilateral diplomatic relations. To mark this milestone, China’s State Councillor and Director of the Central Affairs Office, Dr. Yang Jiechi, recently jetted into the island for a one-day official visit and meeting with PM Andrew Holness. Among other things, the two leaders discussed the Framework Cooperation Agreement for production capacity, which PM Holness deems an important opportunity for Jamaica. “We see this as the basis on which Jamaica could expand significantly its manufacturing sector through the production-capacity sharing possibilities that came as a result of the framework agreement,” Holness said, “and we will be pursuing this in a deliberate way. We expect that trade between both countries will increase.”

FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED: With just eight months to go before the start of the 2018 World Cup of Soccer in Russia, football’s world governing body FIFA has already commenced the selling of tickets. Fans can apply for tickets to any of the 64 matches, with prices ranging from US$22 for the cheapest seats (a price available to Russian fans only) to US$1100 for the top-level seats at the grand finals. According to reports, there’s a lottery system in place for ticket requests. Applications made by October 12 will be collected and buyers picked at random. Another application phase will begin on December 5. The highly anticipated tournament kicks off June 14 and runs through July 15.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

HOT TOPIC: What major long-term benefits will ZOSO yield for Jamaica?

KEEPING THE PEACE: Commentators have described the ZOSO as "a breath of fresh air" and a strong anti-gang strategy.

MUCH ado has been made about the zones of special operations (ZOSO), being powered by the security forces, with strong reactions emanating from all quarters of society. By and large, the assessments are mixed for this military-backed anti-crime initiative that recently began in earnest in the Mount Salem division of St. James. Regular citizens are greatly concerned about certain aspects, but the reassurance has been given that, “the law ensures that the human rights of citizens are protected and that the security forces account for their actions.”

Against this backdrop, a number of public figures and social commentators have been speaking out on the effectiveness of this strategy and what we ultimately stand to gain from it, in addition to a marked reduction in the national crime statistics.

Forcing criminal elements out of their habitats, some persons feels, will make communities safer, especially in the notorious troubled hotspots across the island. “There is a major point that critics of ZOSO overlook; don’t underestimate the power of displacement,” argues columnist and talk-show host Ian Boyne. “When you push criminals and gangsters out of their comfort zones, their familiar territory and their base, [it becomes] easier [for them] to make mistakes and be caught. Displacement makes them highly vulnerable.”

From another vantage point, attorney-at-law Anthony Gifford believes ZOSO is a great start for dismantling gangs, which account for a great deal of the heinous crimes. He has a sensible and workable suggestion to make. “Gangs are generally made up of males 13-25 years old. If we are able, through a system of mentorship and assistance to develop well-rounded students, it will deprive the gang of new recruits,” he notes. 

For him, the courts system also has a role to play. “If we position a court in the communities to quickly deal with the disputes, the need to take matters into one’s hand may decline. If serious crimes are dealt with speedily and efficiently, it may function as a deterrent.” 

Meanwhile, there are those who heap praises on the security forces for a solid start via the project in Mount Salem (the first zone declared by PM Andrew Holness) that has already borne fruit. “This change is breath of fresh air that is linked to the additional training and preparation that was done before the operations began,” offers Stephen Edwards, President of the JLP’s young professional arm, G2K. “This, by itself, is a tremendous success for which the security forces should be commended.” 

While Boyne feels PM Holness should expedite the announcement of the next designated zone, Glenn Tucker says there’s no need to rush. According to Tucker, once adequate resources are made available and the officers receive the full cooperation of the citizenry, the ZOSO will be an islandwide success.

“These [zones] will be needing resources immediately – resources for infrastructure, social workers, mediators, assistance for small-business persons who have no collateral and regular consultations with the citizens who must be treated with respect,” the educator and sociologist insists. “At the centre of this initiative has to be a strong, well-resourced, dependable and community-oriented police force.”

NEW ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Stage debutante Kim Rubie talks about her breakout role, mommyhood and life as an uptown brownin’

LOOKING AHEAD: "There's much more to do, so many things to conquer and achieve," Rubie says of plans for her acting career.

ACCORDING to those who know her best, Kim Rubie is a born drama queen, a natural fit for the stage and the world of theatre. Whenever she would have one of her ‘moments’ while at work or in the company of friends, the suggestion always arose for her to seek out opportunities to transform this natural gift into something worthwhile. She finally took them up on it and sent a Facebook message to David Tulloch, whom she knew from her days attending St. Andrew’s High for Girls. A reply from Tulloch eventually led to a part in his latest domestic saga, White Skin, Black Heart, in which Rubie gets to vividly demonstrate what her friends knew all along: she belongs on the stage.

One of the most exciting newcomers of the season, Rubie brings conviction and fiery energy to the part of Madison, a cantankerous ex-wife who refuses to move on. By her own admission, Rubie is nothing like the half-crazy Madison, who is intent on heaping misery on her hubby Nicholas (played by Tulloch) and his new flame Kerry (Neisha-Yen Jones). But she gets the character; she feels her pain. “I understand where she’s coming from. She doesn’t want the man for herself anymore, but she doesn’t want to see him with anybody else; she can’t handle it,” Rubie notes. “In a way she thinks she’s better than people. I kinda had to step outside of myself to find the character.”

Job very well done. “It had a lot to do with David’s direction,” Rubie says. “I tried to become her as much as possible, but it wasn’t easy. Deep down she’s evil.”

Rubie, who is of Syrian and Black descent and grew up in Havendale, St. Andrew, with her adoptive parents, had her share of mean people to deal with growing up. Leaping readily to mind are those early years at St. Andrew’s, where she was mercilessly picked on by some of her peers. “In first form, they were horrible to me. They called me all kinds of names. It really toughened me up, so by second form I was able to deal with the bullying,” says Rubie, who lost both her birth parents early on. But life had other blessings in store.

After leaving St. Andrew’s, she got into the Randolph-Macon Women’s College located in deep rural Virginia, where she studied Sociology and Anthropology, minoring in Studio Art. “It’s a small college in a small town; everybody knows everybody. I missed home a lot,” shares the actress and trained artist, who now makes her nine-to-five livelihood as a graphics designer.

And when she’s not working, this mother of two is tending to her munchkins, the absolute loves of her life. “I’m a single mom, so it’s work nine-to-five then home with them. I sometimes miss out on spending time with them, so I try to make up for it as much as possible. And now that I’m getting into acting, it’s even more challenging, but they understand that mommy has to do what she has to do,” the 34-year-old explains. “My kids are young so I have many more years ahead with them, teaching them and visualizing for them.”
Back on the theatre scene, Kim Rubie is a promising first-time in whom David Tulloch is well pleased. “I thought she did a great job with the role. She’s easy to direct and she tries her best,” the ace playwright/director tells TALLAWAH. “I’d love to see what she delivers after another five or so plays.” 

Rubie, who will catch a movie at the cineplex every now and again and loves her dancehall, feels more confident in her womanhood these days, and those pangs of stage fright she felt at the outset of the production are now behind her. It goes without saying that Kim Rubie is just warming up. “I’m definitely not satisfied yet. This is not it. There’s so much more to do, so many things to conquer and achieve,” she says. 

What about the ideal stage role she’d love to bring to life? A ruffian. “I tell people all the time, I am not your average brownin’,” she fesses up. “I would love to play a role where I get to bring out the other parts of me. Something out of the box that would really shock people.” Kim Rubie lets put a hearty uptown girl laugh.

Monday, 18 September 2017

TALK OF THE TOWN: Camille Davis stars in Mango Wars, named Pure Bulk Syrup ambassador (plus Kamila’s divorce, Wyndham’s US$100M budget)

For Camille Davis, taking a break from the stage is not synonymous with taking a break from artistic pursuits. The acclaimed actress is on a self-imposed hiatus from her Jambiz family, but she’s appeared in not one but two movies since then. First up was the Nick Cannon-directed King of the Dancehall, which garnered mixed reviews. This month brings Mango Wars, from writer-director Kyle Chin, which premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). “I’m not done acting,” Davis tells Talk of the Town, during a recent morning school run with her fresh-from-Miami daughter Alexandra (aka Lexie), who just turned 5. “It was a personal decision to take a break. I’m enjoying my daughter and I’m trying new things.” That means signing on to serve as the new brand ambassador for Pure Bulk Syrup and appearing in the accompanying print and TV ads, alongside comedy kingpin Oliver Samuels.[Watch]

These days Kamila McDonald feels like a bird set free. Newly divorced from reggae star Siccature ‘Jah Cure’ Alcock, the fitness entrepreneur told Flair that she’s ready to put the collapse of her marriage firmly behind her. “I am at a place of surrender and at a place of peace. It took a really long time for me to get to this place. In life, anything that costs you your peace is expensive, and it’s a little bit too expensive,” she told the magazine. “It’s been difficult, a rollercoaster of emotions, but it has been a transition, and it has taught me many lessons.” Spoken like a true lady. 

UWI recently unveiled a new Marcus Garvey bust on campus, but Yasus Afari and other patriotic Jamaicans are still not impressed with the work done by sculptor Raymond Watson. Something’s got to give. In the meantime, the university declines to comment on the hoopla or divulge the cost incurred to produce both statues. 

And speaking of big money, the Wyndham New Kingston (formerly the Hilton Hotel) is being refurbished, over three phases, to the tune of US$100 million, as “Project 77” by new owner Kevin Hendrickson. Per media reports, the hotel missed its spring 2017 reopening deadline, due to delay in accessing government permits. But, as passersby have noticed, the work continues in earnest. 

> What’s the good news emerging from Minister Ed Bartlett’s recent trips to Google headquarters and other Silicon Valley sites? 

> Who is a worthy successor for CCJ President Sir Dennis Byron, who is set to leave office next year after seven years in the post?

Friday, 15 September 2017

THESPY/ACTOR BOY WATCH: 5 Best Actress hopefuls going for gold this season

MAKING A SCENE: Williams leaps into action in Wah Sweet Nanny Goat.

It’s that time of year again, when we jump-start our countdown to theatre’s biggest night (the Actor Boy Awards) and its precursor, the Thespian Spirit Awards (aka the Thespies), now heading into its eighth year. This week, we highlight five strong leading-lady contenders who could see their names on the Best Actress ballot in the New Year.

Neisha-Yen Jones in White Skin, Black Heart
As Kerry, a young woman who finds love and a new lease on life after a job loss, to see it all subsumed by ex-wife drama, Jones gives a revelatory performance (in her debut stage role in local theatre), proving that her much-buzzed-about success on London’s West End and on Broadway was no fluke.

Angela Jarrett in Wine & Roses
We hadn’t seen her in action in quite a while, but her return was well worth the wait. Jarrett delivered as a hot-to-trot cougar whose eager-to-please paramour Jonathan (Ackeem Poyser) gets too clingy, while her estranged husband Edgar (Michael Nicholson) tries to worm his way back into the picture. Jarrett owns every scene she appears in.

Dahlia Harris in Dat a Gwaan Jamaica
No stranger to the down-to-the-wire race (she’s taken home awards for Judgement and Concubine?), Harris brings authority and hilarious characterizations to the portrayals she gives in this clever dancehall comedy revue, which she also wrote, produced and directed with sterling results.

Sakina Deer in The Matey Chronicles
Hands down, it’s one of her most courageous turns to date. After playing housekeeper Munchie in Frank the Freak, Deer turns up the heat as Lola, a restless mistress who is tired of being the woman on the side. She wants her prominent married lover (Courtney Wilson) to choose between her and the wife (Sharee Elise). With Deer serving a peppery sauce, the scandalous affair brings heartbreak – and spawns a juicy blog that puts the gossip mill into overdrive.

Renae Williams in Wah Sweet Nanny Goat
Having demonstrated considerable range via such star-making vehicles as Saving Grace and 70X7: The Real Truth, Williams was on her A-game as she brought to life Janet, a devout Christian and single mother whose long-buried secrets come back to haunt her. It’s a meaty, gratifying role that confirms Williams’ leading-lady bonafides.

CULTURE VULTURE: Father HoLung presents Queen Esther + Top dance companies for Plié gala + Medical experts to address Prostate Cancer symposium

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: A new production from Father HoLung & Friends is always cause for celebration. Major buzz is expected to build up towards the premiere of Queen Esther, their latest musical spectacle (based on the popular Old Testament saga) set to draw large audiences to the National Arena in early November. Greg Thames, who did phenomenal work with last year’s Moses remount, is returning to the director’s chair to guide the large ensemble cast on-set. Father Richard HoLung supplied the book and lyrics, while leading man Wynton Williams reprises his role as Musical Director. Queen Esther will play for school audiences on November 9 and 10, 15-17, with the gala shows scheduled for the 11th and 12th, 18thand 19th. As is customary, all proceeds from the shows will benefit the work of Missionaries of the Poor. For ticket info call 948-6173 or 948-0287. 

MAGIC & MOTION: Lovers of fine dance theatre are in for a splendid treat this month, when Plié for the Arts puts on Amalgamation: An International Dance Gala at the Little Theatre on September 23 and 24, commencing at 7:30pm and 6pm respectively. The two-night recital promises electrifying, ovation-worthy performances from local and international talents, namely the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica, the American Ballet Theatre, Alonso King Lines, the Company Dance Theatre, Jamie Thompson, Movements Dance Company, the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble, Sade Bully, Terk Lewis and the world-renowned Alvin Ailey. The raft of sponsors includes such champions of the arts as Wata, the Jamaica Observer, Flow and the Jamaica Tourist Board. For details and ticket info, contact the organizers at 

PREVENTION & CURE: To mark Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, a number of events have been scheduled for September. Among the major highlights on the roster is the Prostate Cancer Medical Symposium, slated for Sunday, September 17 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. Being put on by the Jamaica Cancer Society in partnership with the Jamaican Urological Society, the University Hospital’s Tony Thwaites Wing and the National Health Fund, the symposium will feature keynote presentations on critical aspects of prostate cancer treatment, including screening, diagnosis and radiation. Several consultant urologists will bring their vast expertise to the podium. Among the speakers are Dr. William Aiken, Dr. Venslow Greaves, Dr. Robert Wan, Dr. Michael Brooks and Dr. Leroy Harrison. The event is free for members of the public.

#WORK&WEALTH2017: What has pushed you the most to be mentally tough – and how did you handle it?

In honour of this month’s ‘Work & Wealth’ theme, we asked a few noted personalities to speak on those experiences that gave them the mental toughness required to survive in the challenging world of work.

ROSIE MURRAY, actress and broadcaster 
“Just my capacity for weathering storms. I believe in God; I have faith. I make sure that anything I take on I can manage it. My disappointments I turn them into appointments. I don’t take on what I can’t manage; that’s my way of handling challenges. I utilize all of my talents – I sing, I act, I play music, I bake, I do motivational speaking. I pull on all those talents. And I think that’s the way everybody should go about it. Don’t be one-dimensional; be diverse, be bold.”

DAVID TULLOCH, playwright and producer
“I think it was my personal acceptance that what I am doing is not a run-of-the-mill profession. It’s hard to create an income from the arts, so I had to condition my mind for what I’d have to do, the decisions I’d have to make, and you approach it from that angle, and give thanks for the small mercies. You have to know your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t swim in waters that you know you can’t swim in and give thanks even when there’s no water to swim in. You have to condition yourself to make ends meet. A lot of theatre practitioners don’t take this on as a profession because this is a career path that is extremely tough, and so they stay away from it.”

OSHANE GRANT, President of UWI Mona Guild of Students
“Most of it was not just me wanting to persevere, but having persons around me who pushed me. That motivated me and made me stronger because after a while I started to believe that I could change my life. I started to believe that I could do it. There were many times when I was tempted to go back to my violent past [Grant is a reformed gang member who hails from Darliston, Westmoreland], but after a while I was like, what’s the point? Being in that kind of environment gets tedious. So most times I just put on my happy face and focus on the shared joy of knowing that there’s more to life. I don’t feel like a man; I feel like a gentleman, which is much better.”

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

RELATIVE VALUES: ‘Glass Castle’ transforms Walls’ memoir into an Oscar-worthy look at forgiveness, freedom and family

TRAVELLING LIGHT: The homeless Walls family makes a stop on their eventful journey criss-crossing America.

SOME true stories are so priceless they deserve to be shared with the whole world. Next to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Jeannette Walls’ bestselling memoir The Glass Castle sits at the top of the list. This month, her story gets the big-screen treatment, with assured direction from Destin Daniel Cretton. But the source material aside, the most appealing thing about the movie is its pair of Oscar-calibre performances from Brie Larson (as Jeannette) and Woody Harrelson (as her eccentric father Rex Walls).

By the end of this two-hour adventure of a movie, there are so many conclusions to draw. Above all, Jeanette Walls is the very definition of survivor. Hers is a deeply affecting tale of homelessness, identity and belonging juxtaposed with a rampant exploration of family, forgiveness and freedom. 

You see, for most of her young life, Jeannette Walls, her three siblings (Bryan, Marcelle and Marina), her mother Rosemary, a painter (Naomi Watts playing against type) and her dad Rex, a temperamental drinker, smoker and dreamer extraordinaire, were homeless, criss-crossing the American mainland to flee bill collectors and the police, living in abandoned houses they’d often transform into fixer-uppers and taking showers at the public pool. As Jamaicans would say, they have no abiding city.

The kids didn’t go to school. “You learn from living. Everything else is a lie,” Rex tells them with frightening authority. What we witness is a traumatic childhood and adolescence that leaves Jeannette and her siblings badly scarred, physically and otherwise. In one scene, young Jeanette gets second degree burns while boiling hot dogs. In another, her father’s idea of teaching her to swim is to toss her into the deepest end of the pool and have her fight her way back to the surface. Strangers look on in horror.

His finest hour comes when he sits down to blueprint the glass castle he’s going to build for the family. All they have to do is find the perfect place to lay the foundation.

But Rex, who passed away in 1994, also taught his children survival skills, how to nurture an unbridled spirit of adventure and how to stand up for themselves. The best thing he did for Jeannette, however, was give her a journal one Christmas, which soon sparked a passion for writing and led to a job at New York magazine, years after she saved up enough money in her piggybank and fled the nest to attend college.
Years later in New York, when Jeannette is settled in her magazine job and is engaged to a handsome financial analyst named David, her parents are squatting with kinfolk in an abandoned building on the Lower East Side. They still don’t see eye to eye, and Jeannette doesn’t approve of their chosen lifestyle, but she tries to maintain a relationship regardless. 

To have come through such an ordeal and morph into a well-adjusted and productive citizen exemplifies Jeannette’s strength, and Larson does a fantastic job bringing all her dimensions – plus the rage, the fear, the vulnerability – to an award-worthy portrayal. Harrelson, last seen in War for the Planet of the Apes, turns in a masterful performance, playing a broken family man who refuses to give up his delusions and the deep-seated beliefs (and eccentricities) that come to define his life. 

The Glass Castle is simply an unforgettable tale of the ties that bind. The relatives that come into our lives make us proud or they make us cringe and hang our heads in shame. But when all is said and done, they’re family. Tyrone’s Verdict: A