Wednesday, 31 January 2018

OUT & ABOUT: Miss Kitty and Shelly bring the ‘Flava’ + Marisa Benain supports Ashé + Etana gets love at Reggae Month launch, plus Grammy night

ON THE RECORD: Jan. 28, United States. “Loyalty” has its rewards! Rapper Kendrick Lamar and songbird Rihanna share the spotlight while accepting the Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration during Sunday’s action-packed 60th Grammy Awards ceremony at Madison Square Garden in New York. Lamar also won Best Rap Album for his critically acclaimed opus, Damn, which spawned hits like “Humble” and the award-winning RiRi collabo. (Photo:

THE GIRL IS MINE: Jan. 22, Kingston. Reggae ambassador and chart-topping songstress Etana gets a warm hug from Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, at the recent launch for activities to mark Reggae Month. Consummately productive, Etana’s latest studio album (a work-in-progress) is due out later this year. (Photo: Sleek)

BODY BEAUTIFUL: Jan. 21, Kingston. Curves ahead! Khadine ‘Miss Kitty’ Hylton scores a perfect 10 while putting in an appearance at the launch party for Grace Foods’ new ‘Flava with a Beat’ campaign, at the Kingston Waterfront. This is voluptuous with a capital K. (Photo: Sleek)

MISS CONGENIALITY: Jan. 21, Kingston. Grace ambassador and sprint queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce oozed laid-back glamour as she posed for the cameras while attending the ‘Flava with a Beat’ campaign launch party. The first-time mom says she intends to return to the track this season. (Photo: Sleek)

UP FRONT: Jan. 17, Kingston. Marisa Benain (Director of Culture, Plié for the Arts founder and NDTC senior) was among the arts-community standouts attending the launch (at Ashé headquarters) to kick-start celebrations for the performing-arts company’s year of activities for their 25th anniversary. (Photo: Sleek)

NEWS FEED: Japan donates millions to assist Spanish Town Hospital + St. Andrew’s Randolph Home is 2018 NLPB beneficiary + Operations at children’s homes to be assessed

SOLID SUPPORT: The Japanese government has offered a $9.4 million grant to the Spanish Town Hospital to provide essential ultrasound equipment to enhance medical services at the St. Catherine-based hospital, which is being upgraded to a Type A facility. Japanese Ambassador to Jamaica, Hiromasa Yamazaki, participated in a grant signing ceremony with Minister Chris Tufton at the health ministry’s New Kingston offices recently. The grant falls under the Asian country’s Grassroots Human Security grant programme, which last year provided the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital with $8.2 million for the acquisition of ultrasound machines. The Grassroots programme was established in 2013. 

WORTHY CAUSE: Each year the proceeds from the collection taken up at the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast is donated to an institution that looks after the underprivileged, the poor and the destitute. Past beneficiaries include the Trench Town-based Eira Schrader Home for the Aged, the Glenhope Place of Safety and the Marie Atkins Night Shelter for the Homeless. This year, on the occasion of the 38th renewal of the NLPB, the funds are being donated to the Randolph Lopez School of Hope (located on Golding Avenue, near UWI Mona), which cares for physically and mentally challenged youngsters, aged six to 20 years. In 2017, a little over half-a-million dollars was given to Children First to assist with their holistic life skills and skills-building project at the South Camp Juvenile Correctional Centre, benefitting 50 wards of the state. 

> Sound byte! 
“It’s important that [we] get a clear understanding of what transpired. We’re going to do a full audit of all the children’s homes to make sure that they are all operating at the requisite standard so we can mitigate any possible recurrence of fires because this is not the first [incident] that has occurred at children’s homes. So we need, very importantly, to get to the bottom of this one.” – Youth, Education and Information minister, Ruel Reid, in response to the recent fire at the Walker’s Place of Safety, which claimed the lives of two female wards

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

CULTURE VULTURE: Reigning Festival Queen launches first project + Dr. Floyd Morris’ latest honour + Shape of Water leads pack of Oscar hopefuls

> The Shape of Water earns lion’s share of Oscar nominations
Come next month, Guillermo Del Toro’s sci-fi spectacle The Shape of Water could have a ‘titanic’ night at the Academy Awards. The critically lauded film recently earned a whopping 13 Oscar nominations, as it continues an impressive awards season run. In addition to several mentions in technical categories, The Shape of Water is a contender for Best Picture, director (Del Toro), lead actress (Sally Hawkins), supporting actress (Octavia Spencer), supporting actor (Richard Jenkins) and original screenplay. The rest of the field for Best Picture includes Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, Three Billboards and The Post. To see the complete list of nominees, log on to The winners will revealed during the 90th Academy Awards ceremony scheduled for March 4.

> Festival Queen takes aim at youth entrepreneurship with debut project
“This initiative will cultivate a culture where youth become job creators and not job seekers. The youth need to be equipped with the necessary entrepreneurial skills and develop business acumen for them to become self-sufficient and generate their own economic opportunities.” So says reigning Miss Jamaica Festival Queen, Dainalyn Swaby, who recently launched her project, ‘Learn. Earn. Return,’ in her home parish of St. Elizabeth. The project will be implemented in St. Elizabeth, Kingston, St. Thomas and Clarendon, targeting 50 persons (aged 17-30 years) in each parish.

> Author Dr. Floyd Morris picks up RJR/Gleaner honour award
Coming on the heels of the release of his memoir, By Faith Not, By Sight: The Autobiography of Jamaica’s First Blind Senator (ImagiNation Books), Dr. Floyd Morris has been presented with the RJR/Gleaner Honour Award for Education. Visually impaired since age 20, Dr. Morris (who completed doctoral studies at UWI Mona last year) chiefly credits his determination for seeing him through. “At the worst times I know how to summon up from deep within myself the determination to go on. There were discouraging moments along the journey, but with the appropriate encouragement and support, I pressed to the mark and achieved ultimate success,” the former Senate president says now. “If a blind person who hailed from humble beginnings could have accomplished this tremendous feat, so can anyone.”

GRAMMYS 2018 RECAP: Marley’s Stony Hill wins Best Reggae Album; Bruno Mars cops six awards

OH, WHAT A NIGHT: Bruno Mars accepting one of his awards during Sunday's live telecast.

DAMIAN Marley is gaining on his brothers fast. The youngest of the Marley siblings (aka Junior Gong) won the Grammy for Best Reggae Album on Sunday, bringing his tally so far to four. While Ziggy has nabbed six career wins already, Stephen still holds the lead with eight trophies (for albums and production credits on other Marley projects).

Junior Gong’s Stony Hill, released on his birthday last July, found favour with the Grammy voters, who gave him the nod over first-time contender Chronixx (Chronology), past winners Morgan Heritage (Avrakadabra) and strong candidates J. Boog and Common Kings (Lost In Paradise). In 2001, Junior Gong won his first Reggae Grammy for Half-Way Tree. Four years later, Welcome to Jamrock, considered an instant classic, copped both the reggae trophy and the award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for the album’s title track and lead-off single. 

Responding to the news, Jamaica’s culture minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange said Marley’s latest triumph brings into focus “the very impressive record that he’s establishing,” adding that, “It’s not only a win for Junior Gong but a victory for Jamaica’s reggae music.” 

Meanwhile, Sunday’s action-packed ceremony marked the 60th anniversary of the biggest night in music, honouring outstanding achievement in the past year. 

Pop superstar Bruno Mars was the toast of the awards, bagging six wins, which also represented a sweep of all the major awards: Album of the Year (for 24K Magic), Record of the Year (“24K Magic” and Song of the Year (“That’s What I Like”). Broadcast live from Madison Square Garden, the star-studded show saw performances by Rihanna, Kesha, Kendrick Lamar and many more. 

> Winner’s Circle: ….And the Grammy Goes To
Best Gospel Album: CeCe Winans, Let Them Fall In Love 
Best Gospel Performance: CeCe Winans, “Never Have to Be Alone” 
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration: Kendrick Lamar and Rihanna, “Loyalty” 
Best Rap Album: Kendrick Lama, DAMN 
Best New Artiste: Alessia Cara

A BETTER LIFE: ‘Right Girl’ zooms in on ghetto pressures, deception and ambition

STICK BY ME: Elise and Mignott get up-close in this scene from the must-see play.

Right Girl, Wrong Address (Jambiz Productions)
Director: Trevor Nairne and Patrick Brown
Cast: Sharee Elise, Akeem Mignott, Courtney Wilson, Kenesha Bowes and Glen Campbell
Venue: Centrestage Theatre, New Kingston

SOMETIMES one is tempted to agree with the songwriter that to be poor is a crime. To countless inner-city residents that’s the conclusion you readily draw. Who feels it knows it. A young lady who’s lived in the ghetto all her life is convinced that she’s destined for a better life, to finally escape the squalor and suffocation. To leave the ghetto behind, she needs a well-paying job, but she’s repeatedly turned down at interviews because of where she lives. Cue the Etana soundtrack.

Desperate and at the end of her rope after a long and fruitless search, Charmaine Ned (Sharee Elise) has come to Pine Productions – a music production company run by brothers Adam (Akeem Mignott) and Ricky (Glen Campbell) – to apply for the post of Adam’s personal assistant. This is the opportunity she’s been waiting for. She decides to give her employers a false uptown address. What would you do if you were in her position?

That’s one of the poignant questions playwright Patrick Brown poses to viewers of his latest theatrical offering, Right Girl Wrong Address (now playing at Centrestage in New Kingston). Hugely enjoyable and utterly thought-provoking, the play succeeds in painting a compelling, vivid portrait of the trying circumstances, the enormous obstacles, people from certain quarters face in their attempts to rise above – escape – their harsh socio-economic realities.

It’s also a play about choices and consequences, and Charmaine Ned has some tough lessons to learn. But you empathize with her. You don’t agree with all her decisions, but you understand where she’s coming from and admire her ambition and her determination. It’s a well-drawn character brought to full-bodied life by Elise, who proves she can muster up real emotional depth and nuance in portraying a down-on-her-luck young woman who decides to take a big risk to get ahead.

But when unexpected office romance blooms, will Charmaine’s ‘deception’ be exposed?

All of the actors turn in strong performances, but I was particularly impressed by relative newcomer Kenesha Bowes, who is superb as office-cleaning lady Nicey (a young woman with “three babyfadda and two o’ dem wukliss”), who has cultivated a tough exterior in response to life’s hard knocks. By contrast, Courtney Wilson’s Ras Iley, a wannabe I-Octane, didn’t get the memo that real talent is a primary pre-requisite for breaking into the music biz.

Strong, commanding and charming when required, Mignott and Campbell bring a genuine fraternal chemistry to the roles of Adam and Ricky, brothers and business partners who have each other’s back through thick and thin, love and war. 

The set design (chiefly depicting the Pine Productions offices) benefitted from a classy touch and minute details, but patrons who wanted to see the ghetto-fabulous “Patty Pan” that Charmaine calls home were left disappointed. 

Yet another fine example of Brown’s masterful storytelling (blending humour and drama, wit and comedic punch), Right Girl Wrong Address is one of the best productions you’ll see in town this season. Tackling poverty, pride and prejudice and one young woman’s risky push for prosperity, the play both entertains and enlightens. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

CULTURE VULTURE: The Mango Girl filmmakers want to work with J’can talents + Voice of a Woman Fest set for this weekend + Three Billboards cleans up at SAG Awards

…AND THE AWARD GOES TO: The Martin McDonagh-directed dark comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri fortified its Oscar chances this past weekend with multiple wins at the all-important Screen Actors Guild Awards in Hollywood. The critically acclaimed film scored wins for Outstanding Ensemble, Best Actress (Frances McDormand) and Best Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell). Allison Janney took home the supporting-actress prize for her work in I, Tonya, while Gary Oldman’s bravura turn as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour secured him another win for outstanding lead actor. Wonder Woman copped the statuette for outstanding stunt ensemble in a motion picture. Screen legend Morgan Freeman was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. 

ISLAND STORY: “It was important to shoot this film in Jamaica because I want it to be authentic to my roots and home country but also for job creation. It’s important to empower young writers and actors [about] the possibilities and position of Jamaica as a destination for other film producers,” says Jamerican author and motivational speaker Dr. Ava Eagle Brown, who is turning her autobiographical work, The Mango Girl, into a feature film. “Our aim is to have as many Jamaicans involved as possible and bring in foreign talent only where it is absolutely necessary. As a result, we will encourage local talent to stay here and embark on their careers.”

LADIES FIRST: An Evening with Grace Jones will kick off the much-anticipated Voice of a Woman Festival (the brainchild of British director and activist Maureen Bryan), set for this weekend (Saturday, Jan. 27 and Sunday, Jan. 28) at Kingston’s Carib 5 Cinema and Ocho Rios’ Cove Cinema (Island Village) respectively. A screening of Jones’ 2017 biopic (Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami) will precede a Q-&-A session with the entertainment legend. The Ocho Rios leg is an all-day affair, with appearances by powerhouse talents Queen Ifrica, Makeda Solomon, Gabrielle Blackwood, Michelle Serieux and Laura Facey, whose new documentary, Paddlin’ Spirit, will be shown at the festival. Visit for details and ticket information.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

MAN OF THE MOMENT: Omar McLeod captures his first Sportsman of the Year title – and shares his Reggae Grammy pick

WINNER TAKES ALL: McLeod shares a light moment with Grange, who presented him with the Sportsman of the Year trophy. 

ABOUT seven years ago, Omar McLeod was at home glued to his TV screen watching the National Sportsman & Sportswoman of the Year Awards and happy that two of his favourite athletes – Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce – had copped the most coveted trophies of the night. He turned to his viewing partner, his mom, and said, “I want one of those. I will get one of those.”

As we all know by now, McLeod now has one of those. On Friday night, before a packed Grand Jamaica Suite at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, the 23-year-old record-setting sprint hurdler emerged the top pick for Sportsman of the Year, for the first time in his career. The award, presented by culture and sports minister, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange (McLeod’s cousin!), capped a fantastic year of achievement for the star. Alia Atkinson was named Sportswoman of the Year.

Well groomed and looking sharp in his dark suit, the World and Olympic champion gave a rousing acceptance speech (refusing to deliver a prepared script), in which he not only recapped his journey but also talked about lessons learned and offered words of encouragement to aspiring athletes and other young Jamaicans. “I said I would not stop until I made my dream come to fruition. And I said it with a big heart and an aspiring mind. To any child from the ghetto, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something. Dream!,” said the sprint hurdler, who now holds the national record of 12.90 seconds. “Nobody can take away your success.” 

After the ceremony, McLeod stayed behind and did press interviews and posed for pics with everyone from photojournalists and sports administrators to family members, friends and fans eager to capture a smartphone selfie with the Olympic gold medallist and man of the hour. 

>> FAST TALK: McLeod shares his culture favourites and more 

> Reggae artistes: Chronixx and Romain Virgo 
> Dancehall stars: Aidonia and Vybz Kartel 
> Best movies ever watched: “Too many to count.” 
> Global icons he most admires: VCB and Usain 
> On being crowned 2017’s Sportsman of the Year: “It feels good. It’s one of my lifelong goals I’ve now achieved.” 
> His pick for Best Reggae Album winner: “Chronixx, of course!” 
> Plans for 2018 include: “Breaking more records, winning more races and having fun while doing it.”

SHOP TALK: Designer Mark Anthony on taking risks, venturing into womenswear, and his cozy new space

OFF THE RACK: The ace designer has stocked his new shop with plenty of eye-catching items.

ONCE you set foot inside Mark Anthony’s new digs on Windsor Avenue (off Lady Musgrave Road) in St. Andrew, you feel like you’ve just stepped inside the sleek, spacious walk-in closet of one of those bachelor pads you always see on MTV’s Cribs or BET’s How I’m Livin’. That was a calculated move on the designer/businessman’s part. “I want people to feel at home whenever they come here,” he tells us, measuring tape around the neck, as he handles some business on his laptop on a warm Tuesday afternoon. “So in doing the renovation, that was something I wanted the team to bear in mind.” Mission accomplished.

In case you didn’t know, Mark’s shop has made the move from Argyle Road, where it was based for the past two-and-a-half years to this cozy enclave a few side streets away, taking over space previously occupied by the owners of floral enterprise Best Buds Limited. The new spot was officially opened on December 5.

What a transformation! Shelves and shelves, racks and racks of shirts, pants, tonnes of accessories and scores of other items either created by the designer and his team or added to the lavish display to entice customers. It’s a far roomier space, complete with fitting rooms and an office.

For the record, Mark had no qualms about relocating the business at a time when many would advise against it, given, for one thing, the economic climate and other factors. “Critics will say now is not the best time to be making this kind of move, but it’s an existing business that has relocated and opened in time for Christmas. The right time for me is now,” he says. “It’s a risk but as long as you have life and breath, you should take it. It’s always a learning curve.”

Not be nosy, but did the move cost him a pretty penny? “Put it this way, there’s nothing about renovation that’s cheap. But I’m very resourceful. I have good friends and family, and you call on people you’ve done favours for,” he explains. In his own words, he feels like he’s finally found his home sweet home. “I don’t plan to move again anytime soon,” he says. “This is home.” 

Menswear is Mark Anthony’s forte. His long and ever-growing roster of clients includes celebrities, corporate-world professionals, a few politicians and the regular walk-ins. It’s time, he feels, to add womenswear to the mix. “It will be the female version of what the Mark Anthony brand has always offered,” he says. “Sophistication, class, elegance.” The womenswear line will hit the market, hopefully, by the time summer arrives. In the meantime, the designer intends to increase his staff size. At present he employs two full-time in-house workers and some freelance seamstresses who work from home. 

He has a line of cuff links coming out soon. Mark Anthony shoes? Yes, he wants to do a line of footwear, too. But nothing happens before its time. Says the 37-year-old businessman, “I’m taking it in stages.”

Saturday, 20 January 2018

‘YOU DESERVE IT!’ 7 Stellar Moments at the 57th National Sportsman & Sportswoman of the Year Awards Gala

REASON TO SMILE: McLeod and sports/culture minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange strike a pose for the cameras.

Star power, glitz and glam, and great energy commingled as the sporting fraternity, under the auspices of the RJR/Gleaner Sports Foundation, paused to celebrate the past year’s most outstanding achievements in sports, honouring top individual athletes, administrators and teams. TALLAWAH was at the Jamaica Pegasus-hosted ceremony (emceed by the enduring Neville Bell and Dahlia Harris) on Friday night to capture the highlights: 

> First-time winner Omar McLeod spoke from the heart, shed a few tears and elicited resounding applause, as he gave his Sportsman of the Year acceptance speech at the podium. “Obviously I did something great to receive this,” the 23-year-old sprint hurdler quipped, before going on to reminisce on his journey and urge young dreamers to keep their eyes on the prize, while thanking his bonafide supporters. “This award is not just for me,” he said, “it’s for all the people who genuinely believed and cared.” 

> Though celebrating 50 years of making hits, Ernie Smith is as energetic and young-at-heart as ever. The sole musical performer of the night, he dipped into his repertoire for the classics, giving sprightly, sing-along renditions of “Life is Just for Living,” “Play Di Music,” “All for Jesus” and “Duppy or Gunman.’ 

> For the second straight year, the VMBS Youth Award was presented during the ceremony. Wolmer’s Girls standout Aiko Jones, who excels on the volleyball court, received the award from VMBS’ Peter Reid, while proud mom Paula-Ann Porter-Jones beamed, seated close to the front of the audience. Both of Aiko’s parents represented Jamaica in volleyball. 

> A Don Wehby speech is not to be missed, if only for the anecdotal humour and nuggets of wisdom that he always imparts. His thought-provoking keynote address was no different, challenging public and private sector interests to play their part in building Sports Jamaica Incorporated, even as he expounded on the role of sports in tourism and its role as a unifying force to reduce crime. 

> With 21 global medals to her credit, including eight Olympic medals (three gold) and five won at the Commonwealth Games, Veronica Campbell-Brown remains Jamaica’s most decorated female athlete, carrying on the Merlene Ottey legacy. Stunning in black, she drew a standing ovation when she went up to collect the Gleaner Iconic Award for global accomplishment (being presented for the sixth time), wiping away the tears as she made her way back to her chair. 

> The first big award of the night, the Chairman’s Award went to veteran pollster and sports administrator Don Anderson, for outstanding contribution to the development of sports in Jamaica. The biggest surprise of the night: cricketer Oshane Thomas secured the most votes to win the People’s Choice Performance of the Year Award. 

> “It is history in the making that a swimmer has won this award twice,” Alia Atkinson remarked. As expected, the swimming sensation copped Sportswoman of the Year honours for the second time in her flourishing career. Unavoidably absent, she sent us a video message, in which she thanked the event organizers and urged her fellow compatriots to continue the fight for sporting excellence, in spite of the great odds.

WOMAN ON A MISSION: New NAJ president Carmen Johnson draws on her faith and fearlessness to take on her toughest leadership role

CALL OF DUTY: "The biggest challenge I face is successfully completing the negotiations," says Johnson.

Taking over as President of the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ) has presented Carmen L. Johnson with the role of a lifetime. She speaks candidly about her vision, her challenges and the road ahead.

THE first thing that grabs your attention upon entering the boardroom at the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ) secretariat on Trevennion Road in Kingston are the framed wall photographs. Neat rows of portraits of past presidents who have served the 71-year-old association with distinction. There’s Dame Nita Barrow, the body’s first appointed leader, and there’s a smiling Edith Allwood-Anderson, the most popular (unforgettable rather) president to serve the NAJ.

Since November 1 of last year, Miss Carmen L. Johnson, a veteran of the nursing profession, has been occupying the seat at the head of the table. Johnson, a devout Christian and mother currently in her 50s, comes to the post at a time of radical developments in the health sector. But she is undaunted by current and future challenges. Elegantly slender with erect shoulders and a workmanlike demeanour, she exudes the aura of someone who is used to taking on Herculean leadership tasks and coming out on top. We get that kind of confidence from her. At the same time, Carmen Johnson knows she has big shoes to fill.

“Having learned from those who have gone on, my main objective is continuing the work so that our association can advance to the next level, the level that they envisioned,” she reports. “We are now in our 71st year, and I hope the association will go on for another 70 years and remain viable and relevant to the needs of the nurses.”

And what the island’s nurses need at the moment is a more “acceptable” wage package from the government as the negotiations intensify. “The biggest challenge I face is successfully completing the negotiations, so that the nurses feel they are being adequately compensated for the meaningful service they have been giving their country. If we can achieve some meaningful level of remuneration for the nurses, I would feel satisfied,” Johnson says.

When she speaks of the plight of nurses who struggle to make ends meet, Johnson is speaking as someone who has been in that position. Who feels it knows it. “It’s what I know for myself. Many of our nurses can’t afford to buy food after paying their bills and making student loan payments. That’s what we’re talking about. Nursing education is no longer sponsored by the government; it’s now under the university council. So nurses have to borrow from institutions like Students’ Loan Bureau, which is quite expensive,” she explains.

Frankly, the president says, the Holness government’s current wage offer just will not do. Last month, the NAJ met with State Minister Rudyard Spencer, who stressed that the government’s increase offer still stands at six percent. The Government is offering the nurses three percent in year one and three percent in year two. When a revised offer was demanded, it still remained at six percent but amended to four percent in year one and two percent in year two. “We got it in writing, and we have since responded to the ministry, declining the offer,” Johnson tells us, rifling through her papers for something to back her up.

So the negotiations tug-o-war will resume in 2018, but hopefully it will come to a mutually beneficial resolution. “We are hoping we’ll be able to appeal to the Government’s conscience, so we can broker an agreement. We want them to be cognizant of our position, as we are cognizant of theirs,” Johnson emphasizes, with no shortage of concern in her voice. “Saying to the nurses, ‘Here is six percent; this is all we can offer’, what you are saying to the nurses is, ‘You can go.’ I’m really hoping we can reach the point where both parties will have a win-win situation.”
Every leader wants to have the strongest possible team to work with. As NAJ President, one of Carmen Johnson’s greatest concerns is the large number of A-grade nurses leaving our shores in search of a better life overseas. “Some of our best nurses are migrating faster than we can speak to them. That’s where a major management challenge lies. We can’t keep the experienced and trained nurses. We are losing them to the US and Canada. So a lot of the inexperienced nurses are being thrown into management positions. The nurses are willing to work but you find that the younger generation nurses are not as strong as the older ones,” Johnson explains.

She adds, “Sometimes there are more patients to care for with less staff. The number of patients can be overwhelming, so a major responsibility is how we the experienced ones groom the younger ones, because the challenges exist. You have resource challenges and challenges in balancing the clinical side and the humanistic side.”

Problems aside, the life-altering experiences that have come with being in the nursing profession have been the most rewarding of Carmen Johnson’s life. While at Knox College, she wanted to pursue sociology, but as a member of her church committee that would regularly visit the sick and the shut-ins, she was being groomed for the work she’s doing now. Even people who knew her then told her she was a natural care-giver.

Johnson officially became a nurse in the late 80s and by November 1990, she was being assigned to the St. Ann’s Bay Hospital. As with any job, there were days when she felt like throwing in the towel out of frustration, but the encouragement and support from her extended family, church brethren, fellow prayer warriors and work colleagues keep her going. In fact, her co-workers knew they had found their next president in Carmen Johnson. “I think they wanted me for the job more than I wanted it,” she remembers, laughing. “As part of our succession planning, they thought I would be the right person for the job at this time, so I accepted the honour.”

Drawing strength from her Christian faith (she attends the Runaway Bay New Testament Church when he goes home on weekends) and those within her circle, Johnson, who is not married and enjoys her own company, feels suitably armed to continue fighting the good fight. “I’m happy the way I am. I know how to survive and I have that structure around me to help me,” she says. “I take my life in stages. I plan and move from one level to the next level.” 

> Miss Carmen on staying healthy and hearty: 
“I exercise a lot. It’s one of my addictions. I eat healthy. Water is my medicine, so I drink a lot of that.”

THE BIG STORY: Hard news and history collide in the well-made drama The Post

DYNAMIC DUO: Streep (as Kay Graham) and Hanks (as Ben Bradlee) in the buzzworthy new film.

IF nothing else, The Post, superbly directed by legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg, is about the tough ball game that is the newspaper business. It’s early 1970s in Washingon DC. President Richard Nixon is in the White House and the Vietnam War rages on. 

Washingon Post publisher Kay Graham (a terrific Meryl Streep) has her most challenging decision to make: will her company, her family business, be ultimately ruined if she gives the go-ahead for the paper to publish a front-page story exposing years of US government secrets, having to do with the cause and conduct of the Vietnam War? It’s an enormous risk to take.

This is highly classified information (stolen from the Pentagon) revealing that the country’s leaders long conceded that they couldn’t win the war but kept deploying soldiers to the frontlines to avoid humiliation.

The New York Times broke the story and had field days with it, but a government injunction barred that newspaper from doing any follow-ups. Playing catch-up, The Post’s team, led by feral editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), wants to score some points of their own, especially when they land the lion’s share of the leaked information.

Careers could be destroyed, but the restive public has a right to know. Right?

What plays out is a tug-o-war of conscience, ego and a thirst for the big story, combined with ideas centred on accountability and truth to power. When the Supreme Court gets involved, it all boils down to a case of freedom of the press versus government security – and the media defending its essential role in a democracy.

It’s compulsively watchable stuff, with great pacing and high-calibre acting – Streep and Hanks chewing the scenery like the pros they are. It’s also testament to Spielberg’s genius that there are hefty doses of suspense and dramatic tension to keep viewers riveted.

Penned by screenwriters Josh Singer and Liz Hannah, the film also explores women in power and the great challenges that come with keeping a newspaper, the business, profitable and at the top of its game. 

Kay Graham really had to cultivate a thick skin and, in bringing this formidable lady to life, Streep’s portrayal delivers moments that unsurprisingly hark back to her Oscar-winning triumph as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Indeed, women are the fairer sex but these women can teach you a thing or two about rolling with the punches. 

Mrs. Graham arguably delivers the most memorable line in The Post, when she tells us that, “News is the first rough draft of history. We don’t always get it right, but if we keep at it, that’s the job.” Tyrone’s Verdict: A-

Friday, 19 January 2018

FLASHBACK 2017: Noted Jamaicans share their picks for 2017’s top newsmaker, food event, song, and more

> JAMAICAN OF THE YEAR: All of Jamaica 
Nominated by Dr. Wayne Henry, PIOJ Director General 
“I’d have to make a collective choice and say the people of Jamaica, for staying resilient and for continuing to believe. These are extremely difficult times, but the people of Jamaica continue to push on and press on.”

> NEWSMAKER OF THE YEAR: Commissioner of Police George Quallo 
Nominated by Prof. Stephen Vasciannie, UTech President 
“His year was positive with ups and downs. It is a difficult job. The crime problem has gotten out of hand. So I commend him for his stick-to-itiveness and his determination.” 

> The SPIRIT OF JAMAICA Award: The Press 
Nominated by Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment-Brown 
“In a way I think the media raised a number of important issues and sought to drive these issues further along in the national conversation in different formats. There were challenges, but they soldiered on and incorporated that in their way of communicating with the people of Jamaica.” 

> FOOD EVENT OF THE YEAR: Restaurant Week 
Nominated by Kandi King, Miss Jamaica World Pageant Director 
“I was one of their ambassadors, and I got some insight into how they developed the brand. And the food was absolutely amazing. You got to experience dining and enjoy meals at discounted prices that you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to.” 

> SONG OF THE YEAR: “Just the Way You Are” by Tarrus Riley 
Nominated by Kristen James, star of Queen Esther 
“I like the message that it sends to women. I like the realness of the lyrics. Tarrus has a voice that’s divine, and I really respect him as a songwriter. I got a chance to see him live recently, and he’s very creative, very vibrant. He’s one of the best.”

ACCESS GRANTED: Shaggy & Friends 2018 delivered plenty of highlights – on stage and off

It couldn’t have been a Jamaica House event without an appearance by PM Andrew Holness, who joined wife, Juliet, and Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett for a photo-op alongside the man who made the event possible, Orville ‘Shaggy’ Burrell, and international headliner Sting

Dancehall hitmaker Shenseea represented well for the music industry’s rising stars, turning heads in a super-stylish get-up (and shiny, mile-long hair), as she performed catchy tunes from her growing catalogue. 

As expected, Ding Dong and his cadre of hyper-flexible Ravers managed to raise the show’s energy level to epic proportions, reeling off chart-topping hits that always get the party started, tempting patrons in the crowd to join the excitement unfolding on stage. 

Third World gave one of the most appealing sets of the night that included renditions of timeless classics (“96 Degrees in the Shade”, “Reggae Ambassador”…). The man with the golden voice, lead vocalist AJ Brown, didn’t mind sharing the stage at one point with Mr. Bombastic, who also greeted the crowd during sets by Sting and Barrington Levy

Husband-and-wife duo Bunji Garlin and Fay-Ann Lyons peppered their sets with lively banter and humour, while performing the rag-waving anthems that the carnival lovers know so well. 

Former Fugees frontman Wyclef Jean played it cool backstage, ahead of his main-stage appearance to thrill the fans with hits old and relatively new. 

“Every Little Thing She Does”, “Englishman in New York”, “I’ll Be Watching You”, “Roxanne”, “Message in a Bottle” (with Agent Sasco”) and brand-new track “Don’t Make Me Wait” (featuring Shaggy) – bass guitar hero Sting hit all the golden notes, unequivocally winning over the crowd.

(Photography by SLEEK)