Wednesday, 16 January 2019

BOOK OF THE MOMENT: Oswald Harding shares his fascinating life experiences in a candid new autobiography

STORY OF MY LIFE: Harding's book takes us into the world of a public servant, successful attorney and patriarch.

YOU’D be hard-pressed to find a more devoted family man than Oswald ‘Ossie’ Harding. As expected, several of his close relatives were on hand at the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) last October to see him receive a Musgrave medal for outstanding contribution to Jamaican life, among a bunch of fellow stalwarts like Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze and Mervyn Morris.

At the event, his son Jeremy told TALLAWAH that no one was more deserving of such a prestigious honour than his old man. Longtime admirers, especially those readers who’ve picked up a copy of his just-published autobiography, Grandson of Essie (LMH Publishing), will agree without hesitation. 

Packing 230-plus pages, the book candidly sets out the journey of Oswald Gaskell Harding, in his own words. A patriot and public servant who became well known to Jamaicans as a stalwart of the Jamaica Labour Party, Justice Minister, Attorney General and Senate President. In fact, Harding’s stint from 1977 to 2002 sets him apart with the distinction of being the politician with the longest continuous tenure in the history of the Jamaican Senate.

And that’s not even half of his story. In addition to highlighting his public and political persona, the memoir delivers chapters centred on his early years, sojourns abroad (in Canada and Mexico, in particular), not to mention his experiences in the world of academia.

And we also meet the committed husband, father and grandfather, as the book delves into his life at home with the family. Did we neglect to mention that Harding is also a renowned art collector, with a world-famous collection of ceramics? To wit, the 2018 Musgrave medal he received was in tribute to his exploits in the arts.

These days, Harding (who still has a law practice in his native St. Andrew) remains a patron of the arts and dedicated collector, work he took up a notch when he retired from politics in the early 2000s. Still passionate about academics, his retirement allowed him to read for a PhD in philosophy from Mona’s University of the West Indies campus.

Dr. Henry Lowe is a fan of the autobiography. “His complete person has been revealed. As a lawyer, entrepreneur, lover and supporters of the arts, politician, statesman, public servant, academic and family man, [his identities] are all blended in an interesting set of related stories,” offers Dr. Lowe, who knows a thing or two about outstanding achievement. “This is the work of an outstanding Jamaican who has a great story to tell, and hopefully, it will delight and inform those who have the good fortune to read it.”

For his part, Harding hopes his words will inspire Jamaicans now and in years to come. “I have led an interesting life, and I say so with all modesty,” he notes. “If my story could inspire others to achieve, then this book would have been worth the effort.”

WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE: Sports legend Connie Francis reflects on her achievements and a brand new era for J’can netball

ON THE BALL: "It’s been a pleasure seeing the girls develop," Francis says of coaching in the Elite League.

ANOTHER season of the Berger Elite Netball League is almost at an end, and the Manchester Spurs are on a winning streak. Their coach is Connie Francis, the legendary Sunshine Girl and former national skipper who represented Jamaica at five World Championships! Today, in her early 50s, looking very fit and trim, Francis is a devoted mom and long-serving employee at Seprod. Netball is still a rewarding passion. As she tells TALLAWAH, this chapter of her life is about giving back to the sport she so loves and having the time of her life. 

TALLAWAH: Is netball in Jamaica still as exciting as in your heyday? 
Connie Francis: That era is gone. It’s a different brand of netball being played now, very different from when I was a player. But I’ve been enjoying this new aspect of my life in netball as a coach. 

TALLAWAH: What do you think of the new crop of star girls – Jhaniele, Vangelee, Thristina, Shanice…? 
Connie Francis: They are talented girls. Jhaniele is an excellent shooter, and the others are very, very good players. I wish them all the best because the country needs the best to represent us.

TALLAWAH: Do you miss coaching at the national level? 
Connie Francis: No. I still coach at Mico, and I enjoy it very much. I did my time as a national coach. Coaching is something I love. I love seeing the players grow and develop, so it doesn’t matter if I’m coaching at the prep school level or the national level. I get to help players be their best. 

TALLAWAH: So there’s no tension between you and Netball Jamaica. 
Connie Francis: I don’t have a rift with anybody in the current association. It’s about respecting the president’s decisions and those who have been put in the positions. I don’t have any problem with anybody. 

TALLAWAH: What’s it like coaching in the hyper-competitive Berger Elite League? 
Connie Francis: This is my third year. It’s been good. The only problem is that we don’t get time for practice because we have players from various parishes on the team – from Westmoreland, Manchester. But they are elite players, so they adjust to the coaching with the limited time we have and when we come together for matches. It’s been a pleasure seeing the girls develop. You work with what you have and you hope for the best. 

TALLAWAH: How did you feel to receive one of the icon awards during the Sunshine Series in November? 
Connie Francis: You know, after playing for so long and representing my country, it was really a surprise and a great honour. I felt privileged to have been selected among the ladies to receive it.

TALLAWAH: What do you consider your greatest achievement? 
Connie Francis: The love of the sport and the camaraderie. I played with some really great girls who loved netball. And that passion for the game has stayed with me all my life. 

TALLAWAH: How do you measure your happiness these days? 
Connie Francis: By my relationship with God and my kids. The success of my children makes me very happy. They are humble and respectful people. What also makes me happy is when I get up in the morning and I run my four miles. I do it six days a week. That’s when I link in with the Lord, and he prepares me for the day. And I tell myself that nothing will unsettle me.

LETTER FROM MANDEVILLE: Residents express mixed views as scandal bags become a thing of the past in Jamaica

CARRYING ON: The ban on single-use bags is taking some getting used to for folks in Manchester.

“DO you want to purchase a bag?” the cashier inquires.
“How much for it?” the young lady asks her.
“Just $130.00.”

As more and more customers arrive at the Shoppers’ Fair supermarket at the Manchester Shopping Centre on this warm Saturday morning, the lines at the check-out points are getting longer. With the ban on certain single-use plastic items now in effect across Jamaica, customers here can choose to take home their groceries in free brown paper bags or via a medium-sized Progressive Shoppers shopping bag that will add $130 to their receipt.

Brown paper bags aren’t sturdy enough to carry certain kinds of groceries, especially tin goods, so the $130 bags are going fast. Extra bucks for the proprietors. The ban on the (usually free) black scandal bags is still fresh so, unsurprisingly, many customers forget to leave home with their own bags to carry their groceries, etc.

“They’ve been arguing a lot,” the cashier tells me when I ask about the transition and the customers’ reactions to ‘the new system.’ It hasn’t been a smooth transition, she concludes. But, by all accounts, some people are taking it in stride. After all, it’s become super-clear that there will be no reversal of this islandwide ban that the Holness-led government put into effect on January 1. New year, new rules.

“It’s a win and a loss,” says Jason Hurley, an Ingleside resident, who was among the shoppers handing over the $130 for a bag to carry home items for his fridge and his pantry. “Not everybody remembers that they won’t get the scandal bag, so for those who commute by public transportation it will be harder, but for those who drive it will be a bit easier.”

He’s cool with the new system. “It’s not affecting me,” he says. “You just have to go back in time to when your mother used to go shopping and had to bring her own bag with her to carry home the goods.”

While other Mandeville residents like Debra Mitchell and Rosemarie Simpson (who bought a new shopping bag for $200 to use over and over) say the removal of scandal bags is ‘alright’ for them, others like 64-year-old Mary White are on the fence. “I had to go for a box last week because I didn’t remember. It was very sudden. I don’t think it was initiated properly. And not everybody has the money to buy the bags being sold,” she tells TALLAWAH, standing outside the Super Plus food store awaiting her ride home. “But I agree that we have to do something about the plastics because when it rains they clog up the drains and we have to protect the environment.”

Manager at the Super Plus branch, Dawn Davidson, says the transition hasn’t been easy for her staff and customers. “It’s been challenging because some customers don’t remember to bring their own shopping bags. We give boxes but some of them can’t manage the boxes, and we have to have someone accompany them to the bus stop. So it’s a challenge right now,” she says. 

Views were similar at the action-packed Mandeville market, where one female vendor with ground provisions and tomatoes had a few black scandal bags on sale. “We sell them because we have them, but we know that them soon out,” she says. Looking on is a plump, light-skinned peddler with her arms laden with sizeable blue and red shopping bags, for $100 each. 

What can ever truly replace the good old scandal bag? Sharon Davis wanted to know. Her two cents: “No matter what, it still ah guh use same way. Scandal bag can’t out. Even if people don’t bring them on the road, we use them for garbage bag at home.”

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

ON THE COAST: Ambitious Negril strikes a chord despite technical challenges

TOUGH CHAT: Richards (as Ras-I), left, and  Facey (as Detective Brown).

Negril (DPT Productions)
Director: Oneil Richards
Cast: Aurelio Holmes, Natasha Heron, Yvette Richards and Oneil Richards
Venue: Stephanie Hall Auditorium (Holy Childhood High)

ALL is not as it seems in Negril, a commendably written and acted theatrical drama-thriller from DPT Productions, headed by budding playwright-producer Oneil Richards, who not only wrote and directed the production (which recently completed a semi-islandwide tour) but also has a starring role.

Richards plays Ras-I, a cool-conscious Rastafarian who runs a small natural-juices business with his partner and equally good-natured friend Ras Juvie (Aurelio Holmes). They work in the bustling tourist mecca of Negril, occupying work space at the Virtuous Mall, next to Speedy (Melvin Miller) who “sells movies” and Cutey (Natasha Heron), a boutique owner and single mother to schoolboy Akeem (Nathan Fagan).

They are struggling but hardworking people just trying to make ends meet. So you understand their frustration at being constantly harassed by Detective Brown (Donovan Facey), a crooked cop who reminds them that “this place run under order. If you don’t pay, you can’t stay.”

Things get even more interesting when three sassy girlfriends arrive to soak up the sun and get their groove on while on vacation. Ras-I, meanwhile, musters up the courage to reveal his feelings for Shernett (Yvette Richards), the ‘empress’ he sees all the time because she lives nearby but has never approached. Together, they hold some deep conversations about life and love and the Biblical story of Leah, Jacob and Rachel.

But Detective Brown is the pestilence that will not go away. Something’s got to give. And it does – in a clever twist that gives the story some jolt and a great climax.

In spite of its shortcomings (poor lighting, sound glitches and other technical flaws), Negril is an ambitious little play that strikes a chord and makes a solid statement about extortion, criminality and undercover police work, juxtaposed with such themes as faith, family and the power of friendship.

As one character wisely observes, “We expect better from those who should know better, but we don’t expect perfection.” Tyrone’s Verdict: B

KEEPING THEM SAFE: New Safe Schools Monitors Programme selected for funding from NLPB

IN ONE ACCORD: Davia Moore-Gordon (2nd left), Acting Principal at The Randolph Lopez School of Hope, with VMBS' Courtney Campbell (left) and Naketa West (2nd right); Minister Claudia Ferguson, Secretary at the NLPBC and Rt. Rev. Stanley Clarke, NLPBC Chairman.

PROCEEDS from the 2019 National Leadership Prayer Breakfast, set for Thursday, Jan. 17, will be pumped into the Peace Management Initiative’s (PMI) Safe Schools Monitors Programme, which commences this month. The announcement was made on Tuesday morning, as the NLPB committee hosted a press briefing inside the Rio Bueno Suite of the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston. 

The aim of the project is to provide greater security and support to pedestrian students travelling from school in the Kingston Central police division. The main schools being targeted under the initiative are: Kingston College, Holy Trinity High, St. George’s College, Kingston Technical and Alpha High and Primary.

According to the PMI, the main risks to the students on their way home include bullying, harassment and robberies. Six safety resource monitors will be trained in the areas of conflict resolution, psychological first aid, mentorship and guidance and first aid.

“The [PMI project] is a timely response to a growing crisis in our communities and is fully deserving of our support at this time,” says Rt. Rev. Stanley Clarke, Chairman of the NLPB committee. “It is imperative that we find effective ways to end the scourge of fear and insecurity facing our children at school and play. It is imperative that we collaborate to find effective ways to disarm the perpetrators of crime and violence. It is imperative that we collaborate to find effective ways to win the war against what is not good for Jamaica.”

The project, which will also include the promotion of community initiatives, town hall meetings, socials and workshops, is scheduled to run from January to June.

Now in its 39th year, the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast (sponsored by the VM Foundation), sets aside funds from annual donations to support a charity selected by the committee. In the past, they’ve made sizeable contributions to Children First, the Eira Schrader Home for the Aged, last year’s adoptee the Randolph School of Hope, among others.

This year’s prayer breakfast theme, “I Pledge,” was inspired by the national motto.

BEAUTY OF THE WEEK: Talking art and life, inner and outer beauty with Lindsey Lodenquai

GLOW GIRL: “I’m really basic when it comes to my diet,” Lodenquai shares.

ONE of the bonafide highlights at the Company Dance Theatre’s 30th anniversary season in Kingston was Lindsey Lodenquai’s solo piece “Blood at the Root,” with choreography by Tony Wilson and Nina Simone on vocals. Splendid. Solemn. Sublime. We’ve always been impressed by the young dancer’s precision, passion and commitment to craft whenever she hits centrestage. These days, she’s coming into her own not just as performer but as a first-time mom and a businesswoman, whose increasingly popular company New Wave is all about what’s cool, hip and trendy in Jamaica’s creative industries. 

On life at 25: “It’s good. I definitely feel like I’m on the right path. I just want to keep exploring and trying new things.” 

On her approach to healthy living: “I make sure I drink lots of water and eat as healthy as I can. I eat mostly fruits and vegetables. I’m really basic when it comes to my diet.” 

On her time at the Martha Graham School in New York in 2016: “It was a great experience. I definitely learned a lot about that technique. But in the end I decided that it wasn’t for me.” 

On what always makes her laugh: My friends make me laugh; they make me smile. Hanging out with them is always fun.” 

On clearing the mental clutter: “I find that getting regular exercise is good. That really helps. And keeping focused and having a special zone for yourself is also important.”  

On sleep: “I have a 16-month-old, so I don’t get as much I would like (Laughs). 

On what’s next for New Wave: “The plan is always to improve on the brand as much as possible. We have something planned for Reggae Month and we also hope to do a summer series. This year we want to make all our projects bigger and better.”

CHAT ’BOUT: PM Andrew Holness talks regionalism; Dr. Peter Phillips pledges tough Opposition leadership; Usain Bolt on his future in football, and more…

“There is no need for the concern; the market will be able to align with the changes. I know that it will take some time for people to get used to it. But removing plastic bags from the waste stream is an important first step, and there is never a wrong time to do the right thing.” – Government senator Matthew Samuda reiterating the importance of the islandwide ban on single-use plastic bags 

“The world is taking notice of what is happening in Jamaican women’s football, and this will serve as further encouragement to players at all levels that, despite their circumstances, with the right attitude, approach and support, they can make it on the international stage.” – Sports minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange welcoming news of Reggae Girl Khadijah Shaw receiving The Guardian’s Footballer of the Year award 

“There is no doubt that this is a community on the move – a community that is determined to provide opportunities for all its citizens to maximize their potential and so enhance our prospects for sustainable growth and development.” – CARICOM Chairman Andrew Holness on the current state of regionalism 

“I have had other offers, but I want to make sure it’s perfect for me. I am not just going to do it because the first one I did was just because I wanted to play. And it didn’t work out. I want to make sure if I am going to do it, it’s beneficial for both me and the club. That’s what I am waiting one, so we will see.” – Usain Bolt on future stints with professional football clubs like Central Coast Mariners 

“As Leader of the Opposition, I pledge the continued vigilance and moral courage of the party that I lead to hold the Government accountable, as we advocate for a better Jamaica that offers opportunities for all people and not just a few.” – PNP President Dr. Peter Phillips giving his 2019 New Year’s message