jamaica (27)

 
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Hellshire beach, Jamaica, in 2008. The beach has largely disappeared since due to erosion. Photograph: Zickie Allgrove/Getty Images

 

Climate change is eroding beaches all over the Caribbean – even though the region contributes a tiny fraction of the emissions heating the planet.

Sunbathing mothers keep an anxious eye out for children enjoying horseback rides, as groups of young men engage in energetic games of beach football and cricket. Further along, a boombox blasts as the smell of fresh fish wafts across the shoreline.

For years, this was the scene at the Hellshire Beach in Portmore, St Catherine, on a public holiday or weekend when Jamaicans and visitors alike would flock to one of the island’s most popular beaches. Today, however, parents no longer bring their children. The horses, along with most of the beachline, have long disappeared and the few visitors who come to Aunt Merl’s or Prendy’s on the Beach – two of the few remaining seafood restaurants left standing – are confined to the benches inside. The beachfront has been swallowed by the surging tides, a result of decades of climate change and mismanagement.

“The recreational areas are totally gone so the sea is now right at the steps of the business places,” says Gladstone White, director of the Half Moon Bay Fishermen’s Co-operative, which has been lobbying for funding for infrastructure work to stabilize sections of the beach.

While island nations like Jamaica contribute a tiny fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions that are heating the planet, they are poised to suffer the worst consequences of the climate crisis. Coasts play a critical role in the economies of many Caribbean nations, whose population centers are close to the shore and who rely heavily on their ports and on tourists attracted to their picturesque waters. But beaches throughout the Caribbean are eroding as a result of rising sea levels and dangerous storms resulting from climate change. And many island nations lack the funding to invest in the infrastructure and innovation necessary to combat the changes – a situation made worse by the Covid crisis.

While Jamaica has a mixed record on environmental protection, the country is part of a coalition of small island nations that has been instrumental in lobbying for global climate action, and recently became the first Caribbean nation to increase the ambitiousness of its plan under the Paris climate agreement to reduce its carbon emissions.

But the US is set to withdraw from the agreement on 4 November, imperiling the treaty’s goal of limiting global heating to “well below” 2C, along with prospects for global action sufficient to ward off increased risk to the people and lands of the Caribbean.

Hellshire Beach, where the marine ecosystem is rapidly eroding, offers insight into what’s at stake for many Caribbean communities. Intensified storm activity and increased water temperatures are helping destroy offshore coral reefs that otherwise buffer the shoreline from pounding waves. The problems are compounded by unregulated commercial development and waste treatment, along with the removal of sand dunes and other vegetation. A landmark report published in 2012 found that Hellshire had lost up to 120 meters of shoreline in four decades.8169910888?profile=RESIZE_710x

When the scope of Hellshire’s destruction became clear, the government seemed ready to act quickly and decisively. A master plan to rehabilitate the beach was created – but then dashed in 2016 when the People’s National party (PNP) was swept from power. Since then, budding initiatives meant to invest in the beach have been consistently shut down, often without explanation.

Jamaica’s economic difficulties will thwart any short-term action to save the beach. The coronavirus has served a major blow to tourism and remittances, the country’s top two sources of revenue. The post-crisis receipts from both are forecast to fall to just around half the US$5.4bn of value they represented before the pandemic, with remittances ­expected to decline by 17% and tourism by 68%.

Jamaica’s National Environment and Planning Agency says that while rehabilitation efforts have been derailed by the economic impact of Covid-19, they will be picked up next year. But despite Nepa’s reassurances, a tourism official told the Guardian that the Hellshire master plan has been shelved indefinitely.

White, director of the fishermen’s co-operative, says the decision to scrap the master plan will hit members “big time”.

“Thing are so bad that fishermen are finding it difficult to find places to dock their boats,” he said.

Prendy’s on the Beach was once arguably the biggest and most popular seafood restaurant on Hellshire. Now that the beach has disappeared, so too have many of its customers – a situation exacerbated by government-imposed Covid-19 restrictions on public gatherings.

 

A seafood restaurant at Hellshire Beach. The sea is now perilously close to the businesses on the shore. Photograph: Christopher Serju

“I have to be creative,” says Donnete “Prendy” Prendergast, who has been operating her restaurant at Hellshire for more than 20 years. “So I do family packages for people who still come out even if they can’t get to swim. But honestly, not being able to swim takes away from the Hellshire experience, because they come here not just to eat but to have some recreation.”

Jamaica has long sent mixed signals on its commitment to environmental protection. Environmentalists recently protested against the government’s decision to allow bauxite mining in an area that supplies drinking water to the parishes of Trelawny, St Elizabeth and St Ann. The government also met with outcry over its decision to sell off fertile land to developers to build a new city, despite the fact that just a fraction of Jamaica’s land is available for farming.8169923854?profile=RESIZE_710x

And environmentalists, archaeologists and residents have been united in their opposition to the construction of a floating pier for cruise ships in Port Royal, arguing that the fragile ecosystem is in danger. Despite this, the pier opened last year to much fanfare but generated little economic spinoff for locals.

For her part, Prendergast would be content with the government showing its commitment to addressing climate change by taking one small step towards resolving beach erosion at Hellshire.

“I think the authorities need to really give Hellshire some love because it is really a beautiful place and what we offer is really unique because you can’t go get our festivals anywhere else,” she says, referring to the cornmeal-based Jamaican fried dough sold on the beach.

But time is running out for the Hellshire Fishing Village beach and its natural and manmade allures. Soon, the forces of nature, along with local and global inaction, will make it, and many more pristine beaches in the region, no more than a distant memory – a faded photograph in an old scrapbook.

Prendy’s on the Beach was once arguably the biggest and most popular seafood restaurant on Hellshire, but many of its customers have disappeared. Photograph: Christopher Serju

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Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz’s new book, Remain in Love, is a billet-doux to his bandmate and wife of more than 40 years, bassist Tina Weymouth, as well as documenting the couple’s musical journey together — first, as part of the most critically acclaimed New Wave band of the late 70s and early 80s, and later as co-founders of The Tom Tom Club, which topped the charts in 1981 with “Genius of Love.”

But there’s another ongoing love affair that Franz and Weymouth have been carrying on all these years, too, and that’s with the Caribbean — the Bahamas, in particular.

Talking Heads are sometimes described as a “world music” band, and Frantz’s introduction to Caribbean beats and rhythms began early: his parents had lived in Puerto Rico and traveled to the Virgin Islands and Trinidad, bringing home 78-rpm records of calypso and mambo songs that Frantz rediscovered as a young musician.

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When Jimmy Cliff helped introduce reggae to the United States with the 1972 film, The Harder They Come, it caught the attention of Frantz and Weymouth, who had recently met and fallen in love as students at the Rhode Island School of Design (where they also would meet Talking Heads singer David Byrne)

“Tina had this Plymouth Valiant that we drove up to Boston to see the movie, and we loved it so much that we immediately went and bought the album, and then went the next weekend to see the movie again,” said Frantz.

As a drummer, Frantz — who counts The Mighty Sparrow, Toots and the Maytalls, and “Funky Nassau” performer Ray Munnings among his favorite Caribbean musicians  — incorporated the syncopated beats of Caribbean music into his playing for Talking Heads, particularly after the band traveled to Nassau in 1978 to record their second album, More Songs About Buildings and Food, which included the hit song, “Take Me to the River.” The Brian Eno produced album was the first to be cut at Compass Point Studios, established by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell.

Everyone from AC/DC to David Bowie and the Rolling Stones would end up making albums at the studio, which operated from 1977 to 2010, but, “I think we recorded more albums there than any other artists,” said Frantz. In addition to Talking Heads’ More Songs About Buildings and Food and 1980’s Remain in Light and 1983’s Speaking in Tongues, Frantz and Weymouth utilized the studio on the west end of New Providence Island to make the first three Tom Tom Club albums.

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The Tom Tom Club was loosely inspired by Peanuts Taylor’s Drumbeat Club, a nightclub in downtown Nassau. The band included members of the Compass Point All Stars, the de facto house band at the Nassau studio.

Being in the orbit of Blackwell led to some interesting experiences —  “We used to live in the same building as Sean Connery, but Joe Cocker kept coming into the driveway and yelling, ‘Sean, give us a drink,’ so he moved,” Frantz recalled — but also some remarkable collaborations, including with pianist Tyrone Downie of the Wailers, percussionist “Sticky” Thompson, keyboardist Wally Badarou, and King Crimson singer Adrian Belew, among others.

Frantz and Weymouth loved the Bahamas so much that they became part-time residents of Nassau. “We bought an apartment (near Compass Point) that we still have, and the roof still leaks,” said Frantz. “That’s part of life down there. We still go down there, and hope to do so again in the not too distant future” — post COVID, that is.

For years, the couple and their family also took extended trips through the Out Islands on their 48-foot sloop, Katrinka, helmed by Tina’s father, a former U.S. Navy vice admiral.

“The Bahamas are 700 islanders in the sun, and we loved to sail from Nassau to Staniel Cay in the Exumas, and to snorkel in the Thunderbolt grotto,” said Frantz, who also recounted day trips from Nassau to deserted Allen Cay to visit the iguanas and to Big Major Cay, home of the Bahamas’ famous swimming pigs.

Other favorite stops include Lyford Cay, Cat Island, and out to the Exumas for the annual Family Island Regatta. “We had 22 years of bliss surrounded by a few hours of sheer terror,” laughed Frantz — a sentiment that will be familiar to anyone who sails.

Frantz and Weymouth’s Caribbean travels aren’t limited to the Bahamas: the couple traveled to Barbados in 1991 to produce an album with the British band Happy Mondays, explored the mountains of Jamaica during a stay at Blackwell’s Goldeneye hotel, and decamped to the legendary Oloffson Hotel in Port au Prince, Haiti on an art-buying trip.

Visitors to Nassau will find little trace of Compass Point Studios or the world-famous musicians who once inhabited its halls, but the vibrant Compass Point Beach Resort (originally founded by Blackwell and sometimes used by visiting stars) still welcomes guests to Love Beach and its popular beach bar. Frantz also is a fan of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, located in downtown Nassau.

“A lot of people go to Paradise Island and stay at a big hotel,” said Frantz. “We never go to those places. We prefer the Out Island experience, and the west end of New Providence is like that.”

“We love the easygoing, you-can’t-rush-life attitude of most people in the Caribbean,” Frantz added. “The people of the Bahamas are so happy to see you. It’s all about hospitality and equality’’

 
 

 

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From left: Drs Chantae Bardowell, Marla-Kay Richards, Thejasree Pulikanti, Shellian Blagrove and Shasha-Marie Williams.

Shasha-Marie Williams could have been a pregnant teen, because that was the norm in Flankers, St James, where she grew up; while Shellian Blagrove was expected to scorn her problem-plagued community of Mt Salem. Their friends – Thejasree Pulikanti wanted nothing else but to follow in her parents’ footsteps; Marla Kay Richards, a country girl, received far less lunch money than her classmates; and Chantae Bardowell felt like giving up many times.

Four of the five women attended Montego Bay High School, while the other walked the hills to Mt Alvernia High School, nicknamed ‘Alvernia’. All five were determined to become medical doctors, and nothing would stop them.

Now doctors at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, the young women have become inseparable on the front line as they join the fight against COVID-19, each having had close calls with the virus since it entered the Jamaican airspace in March.

But in spite of the overwhelming challenge that the global pandemic has caused since its emergence in China late last year, the young medical professionals are adamant that it won’t dominate their lives.

DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE
Drs Williams, Pulikanti, Richards and Bardowell have known each other for about 16 years, while eight years ago they met Blagrove while studying at The University of the West Indies, Mona.

They have been practising for an average of four years each, with Bardowell recently completing her studies in Cuba, and her first year as a medical intern. 

“We are all general practitioners making steps to specialise in the near future,” Williams told The Sunday Gleaner.

The most compelling story of the five is Dr Blagrove’s, who grew up in Piggott Street in Mt Salem, St James – an area written off by many. In fact, she has been questioned countless times by soldiers deployed in the zones of special operations (ZOSO) community, asking why she lived there and if she wasn’t afraid.

“I would proudly say because this was where I was raised. My parents and the church made me know that it doesn’t matter where you are from, but where you are going. I still live there,” she shared.“My community members are proud of me. My hope is to inspire little boys and girls to dream, even when it seems impossible.”

For Dr Blagrove, medical school was the hardest thing she has ever done, and she admitted she couldn’t have made it without the support of her four friends. “We played together, laughed together, studied together, and pushed each other. And today I am so proud that we work together,” the young doctor beamed.

Dr Williams was inspired to join the medical profession from as early as 11 years old, when she noticed white spots on her skin. “As time went by, they got progressively worse and appeared in places that I could no longer hide. The stares, finger-pointing and all the questions were nothing compared to the fact that my condition had no cure,” she said.

She was diagnosed with vitiligo, which sparked her interest in dermatology.

The 28-year-old grew up in Flankers, where the standard at the time was for young females to get pregnant and males to be involved in gangs.

“It was at that point that I knew, and where I saw it was also my responsibility to lead and motivate persons in whatever way I can to be better versions of themselves and members of society,” Dr Williams revealed.

THREE GENERATIONS OF DOCTORS
Dr Pulikanti has a totally different story, growing up in a home where both parents were established medical practitioners.

“As long as I can remember, I have wanted to become a doctor to help others. I am from a family with three generations of medical professionals, I simply never saw myself as anything else. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of those who raised me and I have not once regretted my decision,” said the 26-year-old. 

Pulikanti admitted that there were several times she felt like giving up, because medicine is difficult, but those moments were when support from her family and friends became vital to make it through.

“Undoubtedly, my greatest supporters have been my family, who helped me to become who I am today,” she stated.

Dr Richards grew up in Bickersteth, St James – a rural district she visits regularly. She had her struggles growing up in a family not the least affluent. Actually, most persons in her family did not even have a job.

“As a child in infant school, I questioned this and asked why? I was uncomfortable with it, knowing that we could not afford some things and I got way less money for lunch than other children in the class. At that point, I knew that I could not fall in the cycle and when I grew up I had to have a job, and not only a job, but a profession. Education would be my key to success,” she said.

The 27-year-old shared that her family was proud of her accomplishments, not only as doctor, but throughout her entire school years from infant to university. One of her most difficult moments was the beginning of fourth-year medical school and one week before one of her clerkship exams. Her mom died from breast cancer. At first, her coping skills were good but as the months progressed, Dr Richards got the strong urge to quit the programme. But the guiding spirit of her mother kept her going.

“One night, I had a vision of my mom giving me a strong warning not to do so, and that I must run the race with patience. It was that warning and her repeating it three times that motivated me to continue, and here I am today,” she proudly stated.

THE DRIVE TO GO ON
Dr Bardowell knew she wanted to be a doctor since primary school, and was even more convinced after she watched the movie John Q. She went on to study medicine in Cuba, at the Universidad de Ciencias Medicas de La Habana.

The 28-year-old, who spent her early years in Trelawny and Westmoreland, spoke about wanting to give up many times during medical school.

“I had several nights of tears, feeling hopeless and lost. Especially while being away from family and living on my own in a foreign country, with different culture, different people, different language. But despite those hard times, I had a drive, I had a goal, I had to achieve for myself, then for my family. I never wanted to let myself down. And that drive kept me going,” Dr Bardowell declared.

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Toots Hibbert, an influential and veteran Jamaican ska and reggae singer and founder of the band the Maytals, has died. He was 77. The cause of death is as yet unclear, though he had been recently tested for Covid-19.

statement from his family released on Sept. 11 reads: “It is with the heaviest of hearts to announce that Frederick Nathaniel ‘Toots’ Hibbert passed away peacefully tonight, surrounded by his family at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica.

“The family and his management team would like to thank the medical teams and professionals for their care and diligence, and ask that you respect their privacy during their time of grief.”

The youngest of seven children, Hibbert’s parents were both Seventh-Day Adventist ministers and he grew up singing in church. He moved to the country’s capital of Kingston as a teenager and formed the first version of the Maytals in the early 1960s. Over the following 10 years the group recorded with a series of producers that reads like a reggae hall of fame: Coxsone Dodd, Prince Buster, Byron Lee, Leslie Kong — and reeled off Hibbert compositions like “Bam Bam,” “Sweet and Dandy” and “54-46 That’s My Number,” which was inspired by a mid-‘60s prison term he served for marijuana possession. 

Hibbert was one of the early proponents of reggae in the late 1960s and scored a hit with the song “Do the Reggay.” In fact, he is often credited with giving reggae its name when he christened the 1968 song.

He was a contemporary and friend of Bob Marley’s, and for several years both were signed to Island Records. Speaking with the Jamaica Observer in 2018, Hibbert spoke of sharing bills with Marley’s band, the Wailers, in their early days. “Sometimes the Maytals would close, sometimes The Wailers would close the show. We had no problems, no professional jealousy, we were all very good friends,” he said. “Out of all of us though, me an’ Bob were very good friends. It was out of one of those conversations that I did the song ‘Marley.’ He was telling me that he was going to be a dreadlocks Rasta an’ I laughed an’ said, ‘I want to be a comb-locks’ Rasta like Selassie I,’ an’ he laughed, just like the words in the actual song,” he said.

The two both had hits with different songs called “Redemption Song,” featured on his first album for Island, “Funky Kingston.”

“When I did ‘Redemption Song’ in 1972, it went number one [in Jamaica],” Hibbert recalled. “Marley said he would do a ‘Redemption Song’ as well. He used a similar rhythm but different lyrics.” Marley’s version of the song appeared on the final album released during his lifetime, “Uprising.”

Also in 1972, Hibbert appeared in the groundbreaking film “The Harder They Come,” which starred Jimmy Cliff. His 1969 song “Pressure Drop” was featured on the film’s soundtrack and was covered by the Clash in 1978, introducing Hibbert to thousands of new listeners.

A seemingly permanent presence in reggae music, Hibbert continued to tour and record through the decades, appearing on Willie Nelson’s 2005 album “Countryman” and covering Radiohead’s “Let Down” for a collection of reggae Radiohead covers. He even joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers onstage for a performance of “Louie Louie” during a 2011 New Year’s Eve party in St. Barts thrown by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

In 2013 he was injured when a thrown bottle hit him in the head during a performance in Virginia. He missed several shows but ended up asking the judge to give the young man who threw the bottle a light sentence. “He is a young man, and I have heard what happens to young men in jail,” he wrote in a letter to the judge. “My own pain and suffering would be increased substantially knowing that this young man would face that prospect.” The man received a six-month sentence.

Hibbert was hospitalized just days after the release of his and the Maytals’ first album in more than a decade, “Got to Be Tough.” The album was co-produced by Zak Starkey, and features contributions from Starkey’s father, Ringo Starr, as well as Ziggy Marley, Sly Dunbar and Cyril Neville (read Variety‘s review).

“I’m very proud of what I’ve done and the love I’ve given,” Hibbert told Rolling Stone of the album. “But it’s getting harder and harder to give the love the people need, and they need it now more than ever. No time to waste.”

On Sept. 2, it was revealed that Hibbert was in stable but serious condition in a private medical facility in Jamaica. He was tested for Covid-19, although the results have not been announced.

Hibbert is survived by his wife of 39 years, Miss D, and his seven of eight children.

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Orlando Patterson - New York Times

For a tiny island in the Caribbean, Jamaica has long enjoyed an outsize global reach — there are the songs of Bob Marley and the gold medals of Usain Bolt, as well as the millions of sun-seekers flocking to the island’s pristine beaches. It is quite an accomplishment for a nation “barely the size of Connecticut,” as Orlando Patterson notes in his fascinating study, “The Confounding Island: Jamaica and the Postcolonial Predicament.” But shadows hang over this sunny picture, not least distressingly high rates of poverty and homicide.

Patterson is a Jamaican who has long lived in the United States, working as a sociology professor at Harvard University, which allows him both an intimacy with the island and a degree of distance through which to analyze it. Although he provides extensive citations and robust discussions of theoretical frameworks, he also offers a personal story of affection and frustration, perhaps most evident in the questions that form all but one of the eight chapter titles. These include: “Why Has Jamaica Trailed Barbados on the Path to Sustained Growth?” and “Why is Democratic Jamaica So Violent?” Indeed, these two questions are so significant, he devotes the first half of the book to them.

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"The Confounding Island: Jamaica and the Postcolonial Predicament" by Orlando Patterson.

Patterson starts by comparing Jamaica with its fellow former colony Barbados, which is 25 times smaller in area and, with under 300,000 inhabitants, possessing only one-tenth the population. Yet Barbados has more than twice the per capita G.D.P. of Jamaica and none of the political violence. To explain this, Patterson pursues lines of investigation that are not strictly economic. The themes of slavery and freedom run through his analysis; it is impossible to discuss contemporary Jamaica without their inclusion. Although Patterson’s time frame is postcolonial, to get to Jamaica’s economic present he navigates the pothole-strewn road of its troubled past.

Jamaica’s dramatic and complex history starts with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1494. In 1655 it fell under English control, and was subsequently transformed into a sugar powerhouse fueled by enslaved labor, until full abolition arrived in 1838. The island remained under British control until independence in 1962.

Such a trajectory is not uncommon in the Caribbean, but Patterson notes crucial distinctions in Jamaica’s development, particularly the British perception that it was dangerous and disease-laden compared with Barbados. As a result, there were fewer absentee plantation owners in Barbados and a more stable colonial population, which influenced the development of the island’s political institutions. The social history of these institutions is key to understanding how they functioned after independence, and why the implementation of what were often similar policies had divergent results

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Heywood Street market on West Queen Street in Kingston, Jamaica.Credit...Robert Rausch for The New York Times

From there, Patterson turns to violence, while also issuing some useful reminders about the nature of democracy. Jamaica, as he writes, is “genuinely democratic,” with a very robust civil society, and yet is rarely described as such. This is, in part, because of the notion that democracies, by their nature, are not violent, an idea “inconsistent with the realities of democratic history and practice.” Still, Jamaica remains an outlier in terms of scale, consistently topping global homicide lists.

Patterson examines how the political clientelism that took root in independent Jamaica has led to deadly “garrison-based politics,” in which a poor neighborhood is bribed or coerced through the threat of violence into voting for a particular political party. This phenomenon, mixed with persistent poverty, has given rise to the urban gangs and drug-related brutality that continue to blight the island. Patterson also revisits his own part in the development of Jamaica, returning to his time as an adviser to Prime Minister Michael Manley, who was the democratic socialist leader of the People’s National Party, and to the failure of the poverty-reduction program they tried to implement in the 1970s 

It is not all doom and gloom, however, especially when Patterson turns to Jamaica’s extraordinary cultural production. In examining the athletic prowess of the island’s runners, he swiftly dismantles any racist notion that Jamaicans are genetically more gifted as athletes, and instead returns to institutions. He lays Jamaica’s success in track and field at the swift feet of Michael Manley’s father, Norman, one of the nation’s founders, likening it to “the effect on track’s prestige in the United States had George Washington been a track star.” Manley was a talented athlete, and he promoted track and field as part of the formation of an independent national identity. Around this grew a nationwide infrastructure of running associations. Where institutions failed the economy, they proved to be champions in fostering athletics. In a similar vein, Patterson also looks at how the music industry has had enormous success beyond Bob Marley’s hits, in spite of the island’s limited resources.

Topics covered in other chapters range from women in the workplace to cricket, and such breadth makes this an eye-opening volume. It is also illuminating because Patterson carefully explores the complexity of the structural machinery behind Jamaica’s dazzling successes and dismal failures, rather than just chalking these up to simple causes. Although at times Patterson is critical of and disappointed by his fellow Jamaicans, his admiration for the nation’s independent spirit shines through.

Carrie Gibson is the author of “Empire’s Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean From Columbus to the Present Day” and, most recently, “El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America.”

THE CONFOUNDING ISLAND
Jamaica and the Postcolonial Predicament
By Orlando Patterson
409 pp. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. $35.

 
 
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Jamaica’s reggae megastar received a hero’s welcome when he came home after seven years in a US jail. ‘No guts, no glory – that’s my genesis,’ he says in a rare interview

 Reggae’s elder statesman … Buju Banton. Photograph: Shawn Theodore

At the end of 2018, the reggae star Buju Banton returned to Jamaica after almost seven years in a US prison, and Norman Manley international airport was mobbed. His flight was delayed, the chants of “We want Buju” ramped up, then after a brief prayer huddle in the customs area, he pushed into the arrivals hall to pandemonium. It took a phalanx of hi-vis-wearing airport workers to hustle him through to the waiting police motorcade, a task not helped by the workers’ attempts to get selfies with their charge.

It was a hero’s welcome because, despite being convicted in the US of intention to distribute cocaine, Banton is a Jamaican hero. For his first post-prison concert, at Kingston’s National Stadium, about 30,000 people were packed in with many more enjoying it from outside.

The love Banton gets from the Jamaican people is the sort of deep cultural bond that goes way beyond his considerable achievements. Dennis Brown had this relationship, as do Yellowman and Usain Bolt, because they represent and celebrate the Jamaica that doesn’t make it on to tourist-board literature – as Banton himself drily puts it, “without any redaction or Photoshopping”.

“I don’t know how many people turned out that night,” he says. “The numbers don’t really matter – it’s the celebration that matters, the gathering of the people. I love my people, they know that, just as I know my people love me – they know a grave injustice took place. There was a magnetic energy generated by the people in the National Stadium that night. If you had a meter you could have measured it!”

After two trials – the jury was unable to reach a verdict in the first – Banton was found guilty of illegal possession of a firearm and conspiracy to possess 11lb of cocaine with intent to distribute. He was sentenced to 10 years, reduced by two when the gun charge was dropped. The case rested on recordings made by a Drug Enforcement Administration informant who received $50,000 for his services; one video played to the court appeared to show Banton sampling the drug. He denied any involvement in any drug deal itself, maintaining it was all talk, and the prosecution accepted he had no financial involvement. But conspiracy is talk – it only needs somebody to be talking to somebody else about something illegal.

The cover for Buju Banton’s new album, Upside Down 2020 Cover Art for new album

In the 18 months since his release, Banton has never talked about the conviction or his time in jail. When pushed, he calls it “an improvised hell” he got through by reading, meditating and reflecting on life – his own and in general. “Time and space is relative,” he says. “You have to shield your mind, and as a man of hope and a man of faith I can see the world is right there and I am right there, but can absent myself from the mundane existence.” He seems untouched by the experience, physically and mentally, the same amenable, generous and humorous person I have met on previous occasions.

He has long disavowed Boom Bye Bye, the murderously homophobic single he wrote and recorded as a 16-year-old and which was released without his knowledge when he hit big. To remind people, he issued a statement on his release from prison: “I recognise that the song has caused much pain … I am determined to put this song in the past and continue moving forward as an artist and as a man. I affirm once and for all that everyone has the right to live as they so choose.”

Banton shares a background of extreme hardship with so many Jamaicans – “standpipe poverty”, he calls it, as the houses in his part of Kingston had no running water – but his particular affinity with his homeland is due also to his Maroon ancestry. He can trace his roots back directly to the rebel coalition of runaway slaves and indigenous people who, in the 18th century, retreated to the mountainous interior and waged a 10-year campaign against the British. The Maroons’ guerrilla tactics were so successful that they were granted their own land and autonomy from colonial rule. Today the Maroons’ Accompong village remains apart from the government and plays a big part in the black Jamaican psyche: rebels who refused to bow down.

“My Maroon heritage is very important to I, because it kept I close to my roots and my origins,” Banton says. “I think about it every day. It kept me solid through the recent years, because I know how my people suffered long and they fought hard for freedom. It puts my struggles into perspective and shows why every black man have to fight.” In the grounds of his comfortable Kingston home, Banton has a circular Maroon hut. “The tabernacle! It’s built of thatch and wood and it’s a place of meditation and contemplation, a place appropriate to my roots and how I relate to the world.”

On a more prosaic level, Banton’s closeness to the Jamaican people comes from his sound system days in the late 80s, at a time when the island’s dancehalls were assuming fresh cultural currency as a generation of artists prioritised domestic over international audiences. From the age of 15, Banton apprenticed on the Rambo International sound system, which travelled all over the island.

 
“I used to ride on the back of the truck, all around the Jamaican parishes. We’d set up anywhere we could gather the people. And those audiences could be demanding! Every night you had to have a new song or you’re not going to last. No guts, no glory – that’s my genesis. It kept you always creative and stylish, and fearless.”

Recording was an obvious next step. “I record my first song when I was 16 years old. [Dancehall star] Clement Irie had taken me up to the Blue Mountain studios in Kingston, I thought just so I could see what a recording studio look like. Straight away I became very nervous because I’m seeing all these people I only know from on record and they’re all wearing gold chains as big as a car rim – or bigger! Then they put me in the booth with headphones on, and told me when the red light comes on, that’s my cue. I started doing the number and I didn’t stop until the three minutes was up.” This became The Ruler. “I couldn’t really remember doing it, I just remember how they was all impressed because they’d never seen someone sing from top to bottom of a tune and not make a mistake.”

Within a couple of years, Banton was the island’s top recording artist; by 1992, he had beaten Bob Marley’s record for Jamaican No 1s, and Donovan Germain, the boss of Penthouse Records, gave Banton the run of the studio. There, together with the producers Dave and Tony Kelly, confidence met musical intelligence to create the Mr Mention album.

Buju Banton performing in Kingston in 2003.
 
 Buju Banton performing in Kingston in 2003. Photograph: David Corio/Redferns

This was an experiment born out of “wanting to come to the dancehall with a complete body of work. We was young men fresh out of school and we had the studio at our disposal, our brains bubbling, bursting. We wanted to make music that would work in the dancehall. We had a genuine interest in going on a journey.”

Mr Mention became the bestselling album in Jamaican history. Its 1993 follow-up, Voice of Jamaica, made a broader statement still, shifting between love songs, dancehall bangers, hip-hop flavours (Busta Rhymes features) and social concerns. Then came ’Til Shiloh and Inna Heights, stunningly crafted albums of melodic Rasta reggae conceived during his conversion to Rastafari. “Those were tremendous bodies of work, messages I received when I was going through my awakening: Rastafari and reggae music are together.” The music aimed to “re-educate the masses” about the religion and culture: “We have shared our music with the world and we see many people wearing dreads, but they don’t understand the teachings.”

This restless creativity earned him five Grammy nominations before winning him best reggae album for Before the Dawn in 2011 – the ceremony came days before his incarceration and he couldn’t attend – and is still evident on his first post-prison album, Upside Down 2020. Featuring stars such as John Legend and Pharrell, it mixes up past and present styles of Jamaican music, nods to hip-hop and R&B, and on a couple of occasions ushers country into the dancehall. The latter shouldn’t be that surprising – country was once huge in Jamaica – but Banton’s breadth of influences is still remarkable.

“You have to move forward – it’s liberation,” he says. “There is no future in the past. Let it serve as a guiding force, but that’s all. Music is in my blood. I can’t lock myself in a single room; evolution is what you’re supposed to do.”

At 46 and free from the hell of the last few years, Banton has earned his place as reggae’s elder statesman, and is a genuine inspiration for the broadminded generation of Jamaican artists coming through, the likes of Chronic LawJaz Elise and Leno Banton, son of star deejay Burro Banton, to whom Buju’s stage surname is a tribute. He is keeping reggae’s roots where the ground has always been most fertile: the regular Jamaican people. According to culture minister Babsy Grange, they “would have loved him just the same even if he’d come back in handcuffs”.

 Buju Banton’s new album, Upside Down 2020, is out now.

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It's Gonna Be Real Dancehall!!!

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Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley will be the executive producer of Bounty Killer’s upcoming album.

The Warlord made the revelation during an interview with radio disc jockey Nikki Z recently.  According to Bounty, the album comes 18 years after his 2002 album, Ghetto Dictionary, which was released by VP Records.

“Now its 2020 and I am working on an album also.  So I am building up the fire and gassin up di place… I am not done; I am not dead. I am ready again.   And, it has been like 18 years I put out an album 2002.  The Ghetto dictionary; that’s my last album. That’s two generations actually, so it’s overdue- way past overdue, so I am working on an album with Ghetto Youths,” he said.

“Junior Gong is gonna be the executive producer.  So it’s gonna be something to listen to. It’s gonna be the real dancehall. I’m gonna remind them what dancehall is.  Some people don’t remember what dancehall is and what the real foundation is… so we gonna take them to the real hardcore,” he explained.

Bounty, yesterday, shared a photo outside the Marley family’s legendary Tuff Gong studio in Kingston, with dancehall artiste Agent Sasco, formerly Assassin.The pair teased fans with an upcoming “deadly” Bounty Killer and Agent Sasco

Meanwhile, Bounty Killer said he was in no rush to complete the album, as that was not his style.

“In music, we have no time, no date. It’s when the music say its time.  Because you don’t give yourself deadline in music; never do dat.  Just make music come as inspiration.    Das why I haven’t put out an album in 18 years.  Cause I never look at no time like ‘yow a 10 years now enuh or 15 years, because everybody bukking me u and saying yow, is nearly 20 years,” he said.

Bounty Killer has released several studio albums since he burst onto the dancehall scene in the early 1990s.  The last one, Ghetto Dictionary: The Mystery, which was released by VP Records in January 2002 featured 20 tracks including hits such as Sufferah featuring Wayne MarshallMysteryHigh Grade ForeverPot of Gold featuring Richie StephensArrow and the title track Ghetto Dictionary.

The superstar has long spoken of the high regard which he has for the Youngest Veteran whom he has described as exceptionally brilliant, while Marley himself always refers to the artiste as a ‘legend’.Damian Marley and Bounty Killer in 2017.

Last August, Damian made it known that he would love to produce tracks for Bounty Killer, whom he said he first met while in his early teens.   He told the Jamaica Observer newspaper at the time that he loved the Killer’s music, and that the Seaview Gardens native always looked out for him from his teenage days.

Both men, along with Eek-a-mouse, had also collaborated on the hit track Khaki Suit, from Damian’s Grammy-winning Welcome to Jamrock album, back in 2005.

Damian Marley,Bounty Killer & Eek A Mouse - Khaki Suit

Damian is no stranger to being an executive producer, having produced Third World’s Grammy-nominated album titled More Work To Be Done last year as well as Kabaka Pyramid’s Kontraband in 2018, 

In the meantime, the One General told Nikki Z that he is not interested in new phenomena like streaming.

“I don’t know about dem tings.  I don’t pay attention to streaming.  I was here before di internet, and I don’t get too into di net.  I was here before di microwave; I was here before color TV just came out.  I was here before cable; I was here when TV signing off.  So I am not into all that internet fad,” he said.

In This Story: Agent SascoBounty KillerDamian Marley

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Cuba lends a Helping Hand with COVID 19

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The head of the 148-strong Cuban medical team that arrived here two weeks ago to help with Jamaica's novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) fight, wants Jamaicans to believe in the contingent that he says will do its best to give this nation's citizens the finest-possible medical care.

General practitioner Dr Eduardo Ropero said that he and his team members were oozing with confidence to get involved in the fight, alongside local health sector workers, to control and eventually tame the outbreak that has caused woe and destruction across the global landscape.

“We will not let the people of Jamaica down...Never,” Dr Ropero told the Jamaica Observer in an exclusive interview Friday evening, at the end of the team's 14-day quarantine.

“We are here to support the Jamaican health system to fight the new pandemic; interchanging knowledge with colleagues of this country and improve the knowledge and health of the Jamaican people,” the veteran practitioner of 25 years stated.

 The Cuban team of 46 doctors, 98 nurses and four technicians arrived in Jamaica on Saturday, March 21. Starting this weekend, they will be deployed across the four health regions (South East, North East, Western, and Southern) at hospitals and health centres. Dr Ropero will be based in the western region but does not know exactly where yet.

“Jamaica can depend on us 100 per cent. The Cuban medical personnel are filled with humanity and solidarity. We love our profession and we care for our patients,” Dr Ropero underscored.

Now that the period of quarantine has elapsed, Dr Ropero has joined other medical personnel, near and far, in appealing to remember that people that paying attention to health care tips is in their best interest.

He wants Jamaicans to know that the best approach in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis is for people to understand how importance it is to “wash their hands frequently, avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth if you are out of the house; keep social distance of almost one metre; use sanitary face mask or handmade mask” — a message that is now like an echo across the globe.

More can be done, he argued, while noting that some people refuse to self-isolate and don't understand that it is necessary for their wellness. Dr Ropero said that it is necessary to involve all media, in particular television, print, radio, and the Internet, in educating the population.4331651050?profile=RESIZE_710x

He, too, is not against the wearing of masks, as the debate rages over whether or not the items are necessary, as according to him, “the advice from the WHO [World Health Organization] is that just ill persons must use the mask, but it is very difficult to know when a person is sick — because the patient could be an asymptomatic person for 14 days”. Like other members of the brigade, he too has his fears of getting infected but remains confident that members of the team will be as careful as they can be.

“Yes, of course it is a real possibility, but if we follow correctly the safety indications, the risk of contracting the virus will be very low,” he maintained. Dr Ropero praised the Government of Jamaica, in particular the Ministry of Health and Wellness, for being “far-sighted” about coronarivus, citing the ministry's programme of informing the people from early about how to care for themselves, self-isolation, and effecting control on travellers. The first-time traveller to Jamaica, who has worked in Venezuela for seven years and Brazil for two, does not see a challenge for him and his team to fit into the Jamaican culture and enjoy what it has to offer, including the food. There are 77 members of the 138-team which has experience working abroad.

“Almost everything I heard about Jamaica is good — your culture is great; I love Bob Marley I heard from other Cuban doctors who worked here that you are very kind people, very friendly and hard workers; and of course all Cubans love Usain Bolt. He is unique.

 “The food is spicy, and yes, it is a little problem... a little hot for our mouths, but we try to get in the habit of eating spicy food. In the hotels the cooks are the best. The food is always delicious.”

Jamaica's dark side though — violence and crime — is of concern to the Cuban medical leader and his team, and they will do everything necessary to protect themselves. “I don't like what I hear about the violence and crime in Jamaica. In Venezuela and Brazil we treated shooting patients and some injured by the knife, and it's a painful picture for any person, even a doctor. But we are here to work and that is our main focus,” said the medic who admitted to being a sportsman of sorts, having played “a little baseball and soccer”, though confessing that he was not good at either.

The team was part of a contingent of Cuban medical personnel who were selected last year by a group of Jamaican technocrats who visited the north Caribbean socialist state from June 12 to 16 to recruit almost 300 professionals.4331661534?profile=RESIZE_710x

The selections were done by a team that was headed by senior director, human resource management in the Ministry of Health and Wellness Gail Hudson, and also included head of surgery at Annotto Bay Hospital Dr Ray Fraser, who studied medicine in Cuba; regional technical director for the Western Regional Health Authority Dr Diane Stennett Campbell; Nurse Educator Sheila Daley Jones; Director, Human Resource and Industrial Relations Coleen Ricketts-Evans; Director, Human Resource and Industrial Relations Pauline Roberts; Director, Nursing Services (KPH) Joan Walker-Nicholson; Chief Nursing Officer Patricia Ingram-Martin; Director, Nursing Services (Cornwall Regional Hospital) Gillian Ledgister; Director, Nursing Services (St Ann's Bay Hospital) Marcia Lafayette; Regional Nursing Supervisor (SERHA) Marcia Thomas-Yetman; and Senior Medical Officer (St Catherine Health Department) Dr Francia Prosper-Chen.

This is the third and final batch of medical personnel to arrive from Cuba within the last nine months.

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When you think of Carnival, soca music naturally springs to mind. And when you think of Jamaica, dancehall inevitably pops up.

But what do you get when you mix the two? Well, you'll find out on the road next month with Xaymaca International as the Carnival titans have flipped the script to make it a perfect soca and dancehall fusion!

Having started the blend last year with the introduction of their Queen of Dancehall costume, Xaymaca upped the stakes today and took it one step further by signing dancehall artistes Ding Dong Ravers and Teejay as their official ambassadors for their 2020 Carnival season.

And we don't know about you but we're VERY excited.

Loop got a special invitation to the official signing this evening, and we caught up with Ding Dong and Teejay to find out what they think of their new ambassadorial roles.

Ding Dong beamed: "I respect Xaymaca to the fullest because they believe in me and they're the first to believe in me in the soca world. Big up Romeich because he convinced me from the first year to do Carnival. It was a very important move in my life and it worked out to be the best.

"I've a big soca song this year and I hope to create history with it on the road with Xaymaca."

Revealing some of what he'll be bringing to the road on April 19, Teejay added: "I will come party and enjoy myself." And he promised plenty of "wildness" and "madness".

Kandi King, Xaymaca co-director, explained a little bit of the reason for the dancehall partnership. She told Loop: "We really just wanted to give our international masqueraders a taste of Jamaica. Of course you can't think of Jamaica without thinking of reggae and dancehall, and if you think about dancehall, you have to think about Ding Dong. 

"So we just wanted to diversify and give them a small taste of what dancehall has to offer."

Andrew Bellamy, Xaymaca CEO, added: "We'll be bringing the perfect fusion of the Jamaican culture with soca. We have the best of the local dancehall scene, we have Ding Dong and Teejay and we'll be bringing some of the strongest 2020 soca artists and you combine that with the experience we provide from breakfast through to lunch and dinner.... It's going to be an unforgettable experience for our masqueraders."

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Asafa Powell launches fitness and health website

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Asafa Powell, the former 100-metre world record holder and current Guinness Record holder for the most sub-10 runs has launched asafafitlife.com, a fitness membership platform to help people around the world take control of their health and meet their fitness goals, with hands-on guidance on workouts and nutrition.

“Health is our greatest asset,” Powell said. “Having over a decade of dedicated workout and nutrition experience as an athlete I felt it was time to share that.”

The services offered on the site include but not limited to a 12-week fitness plan, nutrition advice, as well as recipes and fitness videos. Having done a soft launch to get feedback and fine-tune the site, the response has positive.

It has given persons the opportunity to start their fitness journey with someone they trust, can relate to and know that the support they need is at their fingertips.

“I wanted to create a community,” Powell said.

Once people sign up, they get access to a range of his e-books like 'Live Like a Legend', a 30-Day guide to help people kick-start their journey to fitness. There is also access to a private group on Facebook that members can join to share their progress, provide support, share recipe ideas and keep in touch with Powell as they embark on their fitness journey.

The site also features more than 50 fitness videos providing detailed workout instructions for beginners as well as expert advice on how to exercise safely and effectively as well as Powell’s Nutrition Mission eBook.

To learn more about Asafa’s fitness membership platform and to see why it’s poised to change the game visit https://asafafitlife.com.

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Gordon Arthur ‘Butch’ Stewart O.J., C.D., Hon. LLD is an anomaly in the business world. He’s managed to not only create an estimated billion dollar empire, but has done so wearing an ever-present smile along with his trademark striped shirt. The man often referred to as the “Cupid of the Caribbean” (he’ll tell you why later) has control of his privately-owned Jamaican-based empire that today includes 23 Caribbean properties, Appliance Traders Ltd., ATL Automotive, ATL Autobahn and The Observer media company. All told, Stewart spearheads two dozen diverse companies that collectively represent Jamaica’s largest private sector group, the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner and its largest non-government employer.

The 78-year-old Sandals Founder and Chairman is responsible for flipping the “all-inclusive” resort market on its head and making it a luxury enterprise, offering everything from butlers trained by the English Guild to airport transfers via Rolls-Royce Ghosts. And he is constantly working, creating new opportunities set to engage guests, such as his new golf course in St. Lucia alongside Greg Norman, a new Rondovals at Sandals South Coast and refreshed restaurants and rooms at Sandals Royal Caribbean.

Simply put, the Jamaica-born businessman—who is still based in the Caribbean to this day—is fueled by a dogged passion for hard work, duty to country and love of family who always seems to be having the most fun. “Honestly, I’ve never worked a day in my life,” he says. And now, he’s sharing how to do what you love—as he did—and make billions in the process. Talk about living your best life…
Sandals-South-Coast-Aerial-View-e1570186246958.jpghttps://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Sandals-South-Coast-Aerial-View-e1570186246958-688x423.jpg 688w" alt="Sandals South Coast" width="752" height="462" />Photo Credit: Sandals

How did you get started in the hotel business and what drove you towards the hospitality industry?

Serving customers with a generosity of care and exceeding their expectations is the essence of hospitality and the values that have driven my lifelong approach to business – even before the start of Sandals. The late 70s and 80s were a politically sensitive time in Jamaica. As the value of the local dollar dropped, it became necessary to find a way to earn the stable foreign currency necessary to meet business obligations. That was the impetus for Sandals Resorts and exceeding expectations the source of its success.

You didn’t invent the all-inclusive concept, but you say you’ve perfected it. What do you mean?

After significant innovation in the space – from in-room amenities such as hair dryers and coffeemakers – which may seem quaint today to included transfers and premium brand drinks, we made a very conscientious decision in 2007 to go further, much further and create a premium all-inclusive resort experience that would compete successfully against any resort experience in the world. And we’ve done it. No beads, bracelets or winding buffet lines. The Sandals Resorts five-star standard begins with a phenomenal beachfront setting; selection of groundbreaking and beautifully appointed suites including over-the-water bungalows, which we introduced to the Caribbean; choice of at least 16 restaurants at every resort; top-shelf liquor and enhanced service including butlers trained by the Guild of Professional English Butlers. Quality, service, style and choice are what define our luxury included concept and we’re very, very proud of it.

What, in your opinion, is the secret to the success of your company?

Teamwork, a commitment to exceed expectations and leadership that makes these values the priority has been the essence of our success.

Rolls-Royce-Private-Transfer.jpghttps://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Rolls-Royce-Private-Transfer-688x458.jpg 688w, https://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Rolls-Royce-Private-Transfer-357x238.jpg 357w, https://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Rolls-Royce-Private-Transfer-225x150.jpg 225w, https://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Rolls-Royce-Private-Transfer-621x414.jpg 621w" alt="Sandals" width="752" height="501" /> Luxury stays at Sandals include private transfer via Rolls-Royces

Do you need consistent innovation and ingenuity to keep the brand fresh, or has the product simply perfectly established a formula at this point?

Any organization that stops innovating will not last very long. We are committed to exceeding guest expectations and they change, as they should. That’s why we include fast and free WiFi and have invested heavily in areas that today’s audiences demand such as quality interior and exterior design, excellent food and beverage, thoughtful service and new destinations. Whether it’s an incredible rooftop experience, opportunity go bowling or sip cocktails in an authentic speakeasy, we’ll never stop creating new ways to delight our guests.

Can you tell us about your five-star initiative?

Luxury customers know that signing chits and tipping don’t make for a better experience and that’s what our 5-Star campaign is all about. We are on a mission to dispel myths and to make sure customers seeking a true luxury resort experience – from in demand destinations and spectacular beachfront settings to standout suites, personalized service and incredible dining, consider Sandals Resorts.

What does Sandals offer that you yourself seek on vacation? What are you five “musts” for any hotel/destination?

When I travel, I look for an authentic vacation experience that’s true to the destination matched with the luxury of a 5-star resort, and I believe that Sandals does just that.

1. I’m a Jamaican who loves the water so a great beach with easy access and crystal-clear waters is a must!
2. Friendly, local staff are very important to me. I always like to learn more about a destination from the people who live and work there.
3. A variety of options! I like to have lots of choices when I’m on vacation. One day I might want to relax by the pool and then the next day, get out and explore the water sailing on a Hobie Cat.
4. Unique rooms and suites are key. I want to be wowed when I walk into my room, whether it be a large, spa-style bathroom or a pool on my balcony.
5. Top-notch dining is non-negotiable for me. A high-quality, authentic food and beverage experience is one of the most important elements of any excellent vacation.

Sandals-South-Coast-Bungalow.jpghttps://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Sandals-South-Coast-Bungalow-688x459.jpg 688w, https://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Sandals-South-Coast-Bungalow-357x238.jpg 357w, https://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Sandals-South-Coast-Bungalow-225x150.jpg 225w, https://hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Sandals-South-Coast-Bungalow-621x414.jpg 621w" alt="Sandals South Coast" width="752" height="502" /> Luxurious accommodation at Sandals South Coast

Photo Credit: Sandals South Coast

Have you considered opening Sandals resorts outside of the Caribbean? If you’ve considered it, is this something we might see in the future?

Options are always to be considered. For now, we are proud of what we’ve built in the Caribbean, which is our home; the Caribbean people who have benefited from the opportunities Sandals has presented and the many people we have introduced through the resorts to this incredible part of the world.

There are plenty of perks that come with being the leading Caribbean Luxury Included resort company but what are some challenges that you have faced in your career that you’ve overcome, and if so how?

Every success comes with challenges and I’ve had my share along the way. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but I would point to the period immediately following 9/11 as one of the most challenging moments in the history of the company, as it was for too many. With travel absolutely halted, there was great temptation to slash prices and cut services. We made the decision to bet on us and an American customer in need of our style of vacation. While we did put incentives into the marketplace, we also used that time to acquire new resorts and begin extensive renovation at existing resorts. The risk was rewarded, and the company celebrated by initiating “Operation Relax,” donating $2 million in free vacations to active-duty military at home or abroad.

Obviously traveling is a part of your routine, since you get to travel to so many stunning destinations, where would you say is your favorite place in the world?

My favorite place is to be on my boat fishing.

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Which of the Sandals properties do you enjoy the most and why?

Oh boy, that’s a tough one! I mean, how do you pick one child over the other? Sandals Montego Bay, our flagship resort, holds a very special place in my heart. I mean, that’s where the Sandals story first started. Whenever I visit Sandals Montego Bay, I’m always overcome with a flood of memories of those early days when we really had no clue how to run a resort. And yet, here we are in 2019 leading the way. The fact that Sandals Montego Bay recently completed a massive transformation from top to bottom, adding new rooms, new restaurants and new amenities will guarantee that a whole new generation of Sandals guests also fall in love with this amazing resort.

You’ve been in the game for a while now and have likely seen changes in the travel industry. How do you think the all-inclusive category has evolved since you started, in regards to luxury accommodations and service?

I think the most dramatic change within the all-inclusive space since we began in 1981, has been the shift in the perception of the category. Once upon a time, guests believed all-inclusive meant one thing: mediocrity. Every all-inclusive resort was the same. We changed that, paving the way for more entries into the category and more choice for consumers. And this is a good thing because Sandals has never aimed to compete on price. We are focused solely on quality of experience. This is why we take such tremendous pride in the location of our resorts, the beauty of our grounds, our incredible variety of suites that dazzle in their uniqueness from rondovals to over-the-water bungalows. It’s why we put so much care into our food and beverage, operating multiple standalone restaurants run by a dedicated staff and chef rather than servicing diners from a single commercial kitchen. Today’s luxury customer seeks customization above all else, personalization of every facet of the experience. That is the Sandals difference and the essence of our new 5-Star campaign.

What can we expect moving forward from the “Cupid of the Caribbean” (and how/why do you have that nickname)?

I always laugh when I’m called “The Cupid of the Caribbean” but when I first started Sandals in 1981, I was targeting the honeymoon market so everything was geared towards romance, for two people in love. And while weddings and honeymoons are a big part of our business, Sandals is also a great place for couples to get away and reconnect, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and enjoy the very best in luxurious accommodations, delicious dining, impeccable service and so much more. From romantic candlelight dinners under the stars to relaxing spa treatments in a seaside gazebo, we offer something for every couple at any stage of their relationship.

You’ve said in the past that you’ve “never worked a day” in your life, because you enjoy it so much. Do you think that’s the key to success in both business and in life?

Being fully engaged in the things that are important to me, committing to do my best – this is living life to its fullest. That is the ultimate success.

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Jamaica Enticing Travelers with Local Food

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TOURISM MINISTER EDMUND BARTLETT (SECOND LEFT), BITES INTO A ‘BAD DAWG’ SANDWICH AT THE LAUNCH OF DEVON HOUSE AS THE FIRST GASTRONOMIC CENTRE IN KINGSTON. OTHERS (FROM LEFT) ARE: HEAD OF THE TOURISM LINKAGES NETWORK, CAROLYN MCDONALD RILEY; CHAIRPERSON OF THE GASTRONOMY TOURISM NETWORK, NICOLA MADDEN-; AND SENIOR DIRECTOR OF TECHNICAL SERVICES IN THE MINISTRY, DAVID DOBSON. (PHOTO CREDIT: JIS)

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday July 27, 2017 – The rich, authentic and tantalizing tastes of Jamaican foods and wines are to be showcased when well-advanced plans by the Tourism Ministry to market Jamaica as a hub for Gastronomic Tourism materialize.

The first step in claiming a piece of that market is the establishment of a number of Gastronomic Centres across the island, with Devon House, in Kingston, as the first. For that heritage site, the Ministry plans to improve upon its environs by providing a space where visitors from across the world can come to cook their own meals.

“We’ll be establishing a kitchen. We’re inviting the world to come and cook at Devon House. Families can come; no chef will be in the kitchen, you are the chef,” says Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett.

As part of the culinary experience, a fully stocked farmers’ market will be established where visitors can purchase spices and condiments to include in the cooking of meals at Devon House.

Gastronomic tourism refers to that branch of the sector where persons make trips to destinations where the local food and beverages are the main motivating factors for travel. According to the 2012 United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) report, 88.2 per cent of persons “consider that gastronomy is a strategic element defining the brand and image of their destination.”

And head of the Tourism Linkages Network, Carolyn McDonald Riley, says Jamaica wants to carve out a slice of the market.

“If food is the dominant reason why people are travelling, then we should be marketing our foods, and what we do with food, this is one of the driving factors,” she said.


Read more: http://www.caribbean360.com/travel/jamaica-aims-entice-travellers-local-food#ixzz4o4aaHLDd

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Using Dancehall to Teach Maths and Science

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MINISTER OF SCIENCE, ENERGY AND TECHNOLOGY DR. ANDREW WHEATLEY (RIGHT) SPEAKS WITH SENIOR MANAGER, LEARNING, DEVELOPMENT AND CULTURE AT THE JN GROUP DR. RENÉE RATTRAY AND MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE PROFESSOR AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, CHRISTOPHER EMDIN.

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday February 24, 2017 – The Jamaica National (JN) Foundation has collaborated with Mathematics and Science Professor at Columbia University, Christopher Emdin, to launch it’s a project that fuses dancehall music with science.

The ‘Science Genius Jamaica’ education project was officially launched this week. While Science Genius uses hip-hop music in the United States to reach students, Science Genius Jamaica will use dancehall music to bring the subject to life for students and teachers in an exciting dancehall clash competition that is geared at helping them explore and discover the wonders of science.

Senior Manager, Learning, Development and Culture at JN Group, Dr. Renée Rattray, said the initiative aims to inspire the confidence of students by using music and culture to get them more enthused about learning.

“As part of the broader science movement initiated by Chris (Professor Emdin) in New York schools a few years ago, our project aims to connect youth culture with education, so that learning the rigourous content of mathematics and science becomes more effortless for young people,” Dr. Rattray said.

She noted that statistics showed that students were not performing as well as they should in Mathematics and the core science subjects. She said the pass rate for Mathematics is 48 per cent; Chemistry, 57 per cent; and Physics, 63 per cent.

“The influence of dancehall on our young people is a no-brainer. It is our popular culture and its influences, today, extend beyond class boundaries and country borders. It is like the air our children breathe,” she said.

Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Dr. Andrew Wheatley welcomed the project, noting that it is intended to convert students into science lovers through the use of popular culture.

“I thank the JN Group and its Foundation for setting an excellent precedence in public-private sector partnership in assisting in the rescue mission of science and mathematics in Jamaica. So let me say thank you for your efforts in birthing the new generation of scientists, mathematicians, statisticians, engineers, botanists – both girls and boys,” Dr. Wheatley said.

He also thanked Professor Emdin for taking the time to come to Jamaica to introduce his model of fusing popular music with science and mathematics education.

“Importantly, and as the educators have stated, this new fusion approach brings the sciences and the arts together and, in the land of reggae and dancehall I believe it will reap positive results in the near future and improve the national Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Science performance,” he noted.

State Minister for Education, Youth and Information Floyd Green also commended the JN Group for its initiative.

“We all recognize now that no one cap fits all and no one size fits all and you have to take different approaches if you are going to truly connect with your students,” he said.

Meanwhile, Professor Emdin noted that by merging dancehall to science “you are retraining the brain of youth who are embedded in dancehall, to reimagine themselves as scientists”.

“We are engaging in not just a cute programme; we are engaging in rewiring our generation,” he said.

Read more: http://www.caribbean360.com/news/using-dancehall-teach-maths-science#ixzz4Zo95lV9o

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PRINCIPAL DIRECTOR OF THE CULTURE AND CREATIVE INDUSTRIES POLICY DIVISION IN THE MINISTRY OF YOUTH AND CULTURE, DR. JANICE LINDSAY, SAYS A COMMITTEE WILL PREPARE THE DOCUMENTS NEEDED SO REGGAE CAN BE LISTED.

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Tuesday February 9, 2016 – Jamaica’s Ministry of Youth and Culture is moving to have reggae inscribed on the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Principal Director of the Culture and Creative Industries Policy Division in the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Dr. Janice Lindsay, says the ministry has set up a committee to prepare the documents expected to be submitted in March 2017.

“We have so far had one meeting. It has been a robust meeting. Essentially, the discussions have been about how we describe reggae when we put forward that nomination file,” she disclosed on Sunday.

Dr. Lindsay said the global appeal of reggae was why it should be inscribed on UNESCO’s list.

“We need to protect that distinctive history of reggae as an intangible heritage and we need to do this before someone else presents the elements in some other form as theirs,” she stressed, adding that the move would have far more bearing on future generations.

“[The young ones], 50 years from now, would not have forgiven us if they lived to read in bits and pieces that there was a music emanating from our country and that it was lost over time, because there was no proof of the origin and distinctiveness being uniquely Jamaican.”

Dr. Lindsay argued that important stories of Jamaica’s music must be safeguarded “since it is the only sure way of protecting the integrity of the music.”

 

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Health Minister Horace Dalley (right) and with Cuban Ambassador His Excellency Bernardo Hernandez (left) sign two Technical Cooperation Agreements between Cuba and Jamaica.

KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Ministry of Health yesterday signed two bilateral partnership agreements with Cuba. The official signing took place at the ministry’s head office in Kingston.

 The agreements signed are:

• Technical Cooperation Agreement between the Ministry of Public Health of the Republic of Cuba and the Ministry of Health of Jamaica.

• Agreement on Cooperation between Cuba and Jamaica for the functioning of an Ophthalmology Centre.

Health Minister Horace Dalley said thousands of Jamaicans have benefitted from the forty three years of diplomatic relations with Cuba. “Cuba has never refused to help us. Many Jamaicans have benefitted especially from the Jamaica/Cuba Eye care programme,” Dalley said.

 

 Under the Technical Cooperation agreement several Cuban health workers have been coming to Jamaica and making important contribution to the health sector.

There are currently 71 Cuban professionals working in Jamaica, 53 of which are from the Jamaica-Cuba Technical Agreement and 18 of which are under the Eye Care Programme partnership.

Of the 71 Cuban professionals in the island 27 are doctors, 36 are nurses and 8 are professional technologists.

On July 28, 2009 the Bilateral Agreement of Cooperation for the establishment of a Centre of Excellence was signed between the Jamaican and Cuban Governments. Out of that came the Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care Centre which was officially opened in January, 2010.

Since its inception, the Ophthalmology Centre has received in excess of 78,000 visits.

More than 24,000 people have been screened and more than 9,842 procedures done, all in Jamaica.

“There has been a concerted effort by both the Cuban and Jamaican Governments to ensure that our people get the best health care. Our partnership in health with Cuba over the years has been extremely beneficial and we look forward to continuing to work with the Government and people of Cuba in the future,” Dalley said.

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Sizzla leads August Town revival

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BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

SIZZLA is working to bring cultural and historical awareness within his August Town community through his Sizzla Youth Foundation.

 

The artiste is spearheading month-long celebrations for the August Town Emancipation Birthday, commemorating 177 years since the St Andrew community was officially established.

 

"It is paramount that we remind the youths of the community where they are from and the rich history and tradition which they must uphold. They must be aware of the strong links to the fight against slavery as the original settlers in these lands came from the Mona and Papine plantations... so we just need to re-education the community so they know where they are coming from so as to chart the course forward," said Sizzla.

 

The celebrations started Wednesday with a peace march through August Town.

 

Other events include the unveiling of a wall dedicated to renowned August Town spiritual leader Alexander Bedward. This takes place tomorrow.

 

A Senior Citizens Day is scheduled for August 2. August 6 is Bedward Day at the Bedward Temple in the community. The Greater August Town Violence Prevention Day is set for August 13, while the World of Reggae Concert featuring Sizzla and friends is at the UWI Bowl, Mona, on August 16.

 

The month's activities are completed by the Back-to-School Family Affair and Treat at the UWI Bowl on August 30.

 

According to Sizzla, his foundation which was founded in 2010, wants residents and persons from outside August Town to be aware of the good that has, and can come from, the area.

 

"We want to eradicate violence from August Town. This can only be achieved by instilling values which stress Africa and education. We must rejuvenate the minds and with that we can achieve much," he said.

 

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                         Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna among these school-age children in Accompong

ACCOMPONG TOWN, St Elizabeth— British High Commissioner to Jamaica David Fitton believes that the long and colourful history of this Maroon community should be marketed to boost tourism and provide viable business opportunities.

He does not, however, believe that it should be done at the expense of losing the unique culture of the area. Speaking on January 6, at the 276th celebration of the signing of the peace treaty with British colonisers — led by Maroon leader Captain Kojo (also spelled Cudjoe) — Fitton said that Maroons should focus on attracting visitors to their rugged mountain communities.

The High Commissioner observed that the theme of the Maroon festival was aimed at ending poverty, promoting education and the safeguarding of culture. As it relates to ending poverty Fitton said “… I think the secret to that is to find another way to become active and to do business.3665141754?profile=original

The business, I think, here is one of attracting people from outside — from other parts of Jamaica , from other parts of the world.” The British envoy, who was visiting Accompong for the first time, said that it was “an area of great beauty” and he looked forward to returning and taking visitors along. Accompong, located in the Cockpit Country of northern St Elizabeth, close to Trelawny’s southern border, is named after the Leeward Maroon leader Accompong, who was brother to Kojo.

The latter is credited for his role in the formalising of a peace treaty with the British which ended decades of guerilla warfare. To the east, the Windward Maroons who fought the British from bases in the Blue Mountains and its environs also subsequently agreed to peace terms. Historians identify Jamaican Maroons as descendants of slaves who were left behind by Spanish colonisers when they fled Jamaica following invasion by the British in 1655, as well as runaway slaves from British plantations.

Some historians suggest that the early Maroons interbred with remnants of the Taino people who occupied Jamaica when the Europeans arrived just over 500 years ago. Maroon communities in Jamaica are led by an elected ‘colonel’ and are said to adhere to traditional practices and are exempted from property taxes. Maroon leaders boast of very low or non-existent crime in their communities. “Outside influence need not be a bad thing providing it doesn’t interrupt what you have of your own and it adds to the learning that you already have,” said Fitton.3665141749?profile=original

He added: “Believe me, the culture of the Trelawny Town Maroons (the Accompong Maroons are so called) has much to offer and I think it’s important that we continue to remember that. If we stop to think for a moment, a society which is so close, which has no need of police and which does not suffer from the evil of crime is a rare thing anywhere in the world. I think you have all the ingredients for perfection here if you keep hold of them (the culture) tightly and you introduce them as best you can to others as you have done to me today.”

Colonel Noel Parthay of the Scott’s Hall Maroons in St Mary, used the occasion to express his dissatisfaction with the treatment of Maroons in the context of what he said were treaty commitments made by the British. He spoke of unfulfilled promises of financial contribution regarding education and the development of infrastructure.

As is usual with the January sixth celebration in Accompong, hundreds of people flocked to the community to witness centuries-old rituals, listen to speeches by Maroon leaders and visitors, and enjoy light entertainment. As usual vendors lined the narrow streets, selling food and a variety of goods ranging from trinkets to clothes.3665141818?profile=original

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The 'Taboofication' of the Number Two

The number two has become quite an aberration in local popular culture. Indeed, a very weird phenomenon and one which is both amusing as it is perplexing.  For the life of me I cannot understand how this simplistic second child of the Greek numeral has come to be so scorned and vilified.

What is most amusing are the countless euphemisms that have succeeded the number two in popular discourse. It is commonplace to hear such phrases as ‘twice’, ‘second’, ‘one plus one’ or ‘that number between one and three’. Quite ludicrous!  

Fast food establishments’ bear the onslaught of this comeuppance, where not only are they contending with the fad and hype associated with local pop culture, they also have to consider potential language barriers that could impede their sales. They must tap into the psyche of this growing trend as when a young male in particular, approaches the cashier and orders a 'number twice' or a 'number second' from the menu display board, he or she must know to what he is referring.

The number two became taboo with the upsurge in the gaming culture. Numbers are assigned specific  meanings or rakes,  and the number two unfortunately, is the number that connotes sexual depravity and homosexuality. We already know how homosexuality for one is perceived in Jamaica. And so the number two has been alienated, exiled, vilified, and slowly and agonizingly, dying from its wounds of oral assassination.

Counting, commerce and language cannot be the same without the number two in its proper context. Imagine teaching your child to count or even do simple arithmetic. Foolhardiness maybe more acceptable in popular culture hence it’s cool to say one, second, three, but try holding a formal discuss in that manner.   

Jamaicans are bi-lingual - oops, bi also means two. Let's rephrase...

Perhaps Jamaicans are more multi-lingual than was original thought. There’s Patois, the Queens English, Jamaican English and on the flip side, the language of context which is spoken in the popular domain. Within this domain, nothing is at mere face value. Words and in this case numbers, have double meanings. The shocking part is that the language of context in Jamaican popular culture evolves constantly. Am surprised the number two has not been fully exiled already, but on second thoughts, it’s already taboo.

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Jamaican-American now Lauderhill Chief of Police

3665137082?profile=originalJamaican-American and former Lauderdale Lakes Chief of Police, Andrew Smalling, was on Thursday (Sept. 15) sworn in as the Chief of Police for the City of Lauderhill – a city with a high concentration of Jamaican and Caribbean residents.

The move from being in charge of a police department of a city of some 30,000 residents to one of over 70,000, is a huge step for the new police chief. However Smalling, who spent his early years in Jones Town - an inner city community in Jamaica, sees it as a significant challenge he is prepared for and welcomes.

In an interview with National Weekly shortly after the ceremony, Smalling said he has two immediate objectives.

The first is to direct the Lauderhill Police Department to be community oriented with the goal of enhancing relationships between the department and the community. He will work to ensure that the police becomes positively involved with homeowners (including stepping up neighborhood-watch programs), general residents and the business community and wants the department to take an active role in the city's chamber of commerce.

Lauderhill youth will be a special focus in this community outreach as he definitely wants the department to have a positive influence on the youth. He said already efforts were underway through a community police project to work with youth in the city's Windermere community. Plans are also underway for the police department to be involved in a special Halloween community project, with officers handing out candy to the city's children.

The chief's second objective is to eradicate crime from Lauderhill. One immediate plan to fight crime is the implementation of a Street Narcotic Unit to rid the city of drug trading and drug-use activities. He also wants to eliminate youth criminal gang activity, and the correlation between drugs and gangs.

Though he's lived in the U.S. most of his life, Smalling has not forgotten his Jamaican roots and is a keen observer of crime fighting activities in that country. He is disappointed that Jones Town has become notorious for criminal activity.

Indicative of his interest in youth and community development, in 2004 while attending the first Jamaica Diaspora Conference in Kingston, he made a proposal to the then P.J. Patterson Administration to establish a School Resource Officers Program with the police providing a secure environment for students. The proposal was adapted and implemented by the Jamaican government under his guidance.

Inherent desire to serve and protect

Growing up in Jones Town, Smalling felt the stirrings of becoming involved in crime prevention and community organization. However, it would take 21 years for him to fulfill his childhood ambition when he joined the Broward Sheriff Office (BSO).

Smalling migrated from Jamaica with his family at age eight and settled in New York, where he attended high school. He later relocated to Florida where he pursued a bachelor's degree at the Florida Institute of Technology, and a master's degree in criminal justice administration at Lynn University in Boca Raton. After college Smalling joined the U.S. Marine Corp. While serving he made up his mind to join law enforcement and became a Broward sheriff in 1991.

During his 19 and a half years tenure with BSO, Smalling served as a school resource officer, a narcotics detective, K-9 Unit Commander, and for the past 11 years Lauderdale Lakes' police chief. He succeeds Lauderhill's Police Chief Kenneth Pachnek.

Chief Smalling's vast leadership roles, including his Marine Corps success as an intelligence officer, will surely be an asset to the Lauderhill Police Department. He is very familiar with the city, having headed the police force of Lauderhill's neighboring community for the past decade.

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