Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Year of Madoff


By Eugene Robinson
Washington Post
Tuesday, December 30, 2008; A15

For anyone taking stock of 2008, Barack Obama is the inevitable choice as Person of the Year. But he's not the only American whose story suggests that this thrilling, dramatic, unforgettable year will be seen as a demarcation of grand historical eras, a bright line between yesterday and tomorrow. My choice for runner-up is Bernard Madoff.

In a sense, we're all Bernie Madoff. We've been running our economy in accordance with his accounting principles for a generation -- and now we face a most unpleasant reckoning.

As everyone knows by now, Madoff -- once one of the most respected financiers on Wall Street -- stands accused of being perhaps the biggest swindler in history. Before his arrest this month, he reportedly told his sons that he had defrauded investors of up to $50 billion. He allegedly followed the playbook written more than eight decades ago by the elegant grifter Charles Ponzi, who used money from new investors to pay juicy returns to old investors. That works fine for a while, but every Ponzi scheme eventually collapses in ruin.

Wall Street veterans recall how investors once begged to be allowed to invest their money with Madoff. Unlike Ponzi, he didn't promise to deliver flashy double-digit returns overnight. He "earned" his investors 1 percent or 2 percent a month, bull market or bear, rain or shine. Because he didn't overpromise, and because he limited his clientele, he was able to keep the scheme going for decades.

Such steady gains, unsullied by the occasional bad year or disastrous quarter, are patently impossible. Some potential investors took one look at Madoff's operation and took a pass. Some of the millionaires, billionaires and professional money managers who unwisely gave their money to Madoff were guilty of allowing greed to overwhelm their powers of observation and reason.

But not all of Madoff's investors could have been in the dark. Some must have realized how unlikely it was that he had found some sort of magical strategy or technique that would always make money, no matter what the financial markets were doing. Some investors, I would wager, must have calculated that they could get in, get their return and get out before the whole thing fell apart.

Which makes me wonder how many of us had our eyes open when housing prices were soaring in Ponzi-like leaps -- by 10 percent or more a year, in some parts of the country -- while middle-class incomes were largely stagnant. How many of us stopped to ask just who was supposed to be able to pay $1 million for a standard suburban split-level, even if it had an upgraded kitchen with a Sub-Zero fridge?

The whole subprime mortgage industry was based on the idea that housing prices would always rise. Given that assumption, it was perfectly rational for first-time homebuyers to sign up for adjustable-rate mortgages that they couldn't really afford. From the moment they signed the loan papers, they would be building equity -- through appreciation -- that soon would make it easy, and lucrative, to refinance or sell.

In other words: Get in, get their return and get out before the whole thing fell apart.

I'm not saying that average Americans were as culpable as Wall Street in creating this financial and economic crisis; our sins were venial, whereas theirs were mortal. Madoff's alleged fraud was at least straightforward. Much worse was the creation of exotic "derivative" investment products -- whose true value turned out to be impossible to ascertain -- that were bought and sold with enormous leverage.

As long as real estate values kept rising, it didn't matter what these chimerical investments were worth. What mattered to Wall Street was the ability to collect enormous fees from real people, in real dollars, for trading unicorns and dragons.

After the bursting of the Internet and housing bubbles, I think we're done with bubbles for a while. Obama's first challenge -- and it may take much of his first term -- is to get the economy back into a pattern of tangible, sustainable growth. He will be able to thank Madoff for giving us the simplest possible explanation of what we knew all along but chose to ignore: that there's still no such thing as a free lunch.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

Monday, December 29, 2008

'Your burdens are my burdens'

Barbara Gilbert with a grateful young resident of 'Barbara's Village'

Robin Mahfood chats with a group of beautiful Haitian children

Jamaica Observer
Monday, December 29, 2008

They say a prophet is usually without honour in his own country. It's probably as bad for a Jamaican-born philanthropic organisation which was recently rated the number one charity organisation in the United States. That's right. Food for the Poor (FFP), a key resource for churches, schools, hospitals and government ministries, was acclaimed by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as the top international charity organisation in the US.

The figures for the 25-year-old organisation operating in 16 countries in the region, are impressive. "We have shipped more than 43,900 trailers of goods, fed millions, built over 50,000 houses, cared for orphans, supplied water wells and development projects, and much more," says FFP Chairman Robin Mahfood. In 2007, Food for the Poor's efficiency ratio was 3.22 per cent. That means that more than 96 per cent of all donations go directly to its programmes, an efficiency ratio lauded by Forbes magazine, which puts out an annual list of America's biggest charities. In Port-au-Prince alone, 15,000 people are fed each day by the organisation.

"I'm always deeply humbled by the generosity of our donors, especially those who give from their need rather than their surplus," says Robin. "The story of the widow's mite takes place each day at Food for the Poor." One such donor is Barbara Gilbert, a single mother and waitress who doesn't own a house, but who was so moved by a radio broadcast in Florida that she raised funds to build 14 houses in Bernard Lodge, St Catherine. The housing cluster is fondly called "Barbara's Village".

CNN was in Jamaica in June 2006 to cover the opening and reported Barbara's greeting to the new homeowners: "My name is Barbara and you are all my family. Your burdens are my burdens and you give me so much more than I could ever be able to give you. I don't own a house... and I probably never will because my money's going to go to keep building houses in Jamaica for the rest of my life."

One of the recipients responded: "Your gift of love is not being taken for granted. Thank you." Barbara had placed a collection box next to the cash register where she worked in Jacksonville, and as word of her mission spread, her generosity of spirit inspired others. "One man gave her a $1,000 cheque as a tip. A woman gave her $2,000," CNN reported.

FFP has fully equipped 18 fishing villages in Jamaica. What a proud day it was in September 2006 when six fishermen at Seven Miles, St Thomas, received not only brand new fishing boats, motors and storage facilities for their catch, but also certificates after intensive training to manage their boats and their business. "Today the fishermen work hard, earn a good wage and share their profits with the community," comments Robin.

A lesser known activity of Food for the Poor is its Prison Ministry led by Sandra Ramsay. With the help of FFP, 20 non-violent Jamaican prisoners were released and reunited with their families in time for Christmas. Over 300 prisoners have been released at Easter and Christmas, and have received training and tools to help them reintegrate in society. Some of their stories are positively heartbreaking: a good husband and father with no previous record, in debtor's jail, hard-put to come up with the small fine owing.

One of FFP's most massive programmes is REAP - The Rural Economic Agricultural Programme, established in August 2004 to assist with the development of small farmers in Jamaica. This programme is a partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture, the Rural Agricultural Development Agency, the Jamaica Agricultural Society and the College of Science and Education. Last year, FFP distributed over $199.7 million worth of agricultural supplies to small farmers including farming tools, basic food items and seeds.

FFP Jamaica Chairman Father Burchell McPherson urged his Jamaican Board to motivate local donors to show the same level of commitment as generous overseas donors. In collaboration with the Jamaica National Building Society Foundation, WISYNCO, Tankweld and other corporate donors, Food for the Poor officially launched the Islandwide School Sanitation Project on December 22, 2006.

Under this project, basic and primary schools across the island which are using pit latrines are having them replaced with modern sanitary facilities in an effort to promote proper hygiene in schools. Under the leadership of dynamic construction engineer Beth Carroll, FFP has since replaced pit latrines in 33 schools, improving the lives of over 6,500 children.

One of the most heartwarming projects this year was energetic fund-raising by a group of children at Hillel Academy Prep, who were able to present a brand new two-bedroom house, furniture, and school supplies valued at $369,200 to the Planter family in Hayes, Clarendon, in June of this year. "I can't thank Hillel and Food for the Poor enough for helping my family," said 13-year-old Kadian Planter, a student at Hayes Primary and Junior High. Ever since Hurricane Dean, the Planter family had been living in a small leaky shack. "It was really fun to help," said 11-year-old Raquelle Cross, one of Hillel Academy's sixth graders who had journeyed to Clarendon with parents and teachers.

"I believe God's divine providence teaches us day by day. I see His hand in my life and in our organisation," says Robin. "God teaches us, but it's up to us to recognise His teachings. Every day, I thank God for the tremendous work we are able to accomplish in His name."

As we gear for a financially challenging year, we can remember that what Ferdie Mahfood started in 1982 with a few thousand dollars and a mission to help the impoverished and the poor in spirit, has since provided US$4 billion in aid. It should be a year in which we share the little or much we have, remembering that "we make a living from what we get, but a life from what we give".


Monday, December 22, 2008

Gifts to others ... and yourself

Excerpt from Observer column | Monday, December 22, 2008

Gift giving

Since money will be short this Christmas, let us look at gifts that will make us more productive and knowledgeable. It's fine to get that multi-featured cellphone as long as you're going to make good use of its features, like alarms to get to work on time and calendars to organise yourself better.

There are non-money gifts that are well appreciated: a spring clean of an elderly parent's home, baby-sitting for stressed-out friends, home-made items. We could support some Jamaican titles. These are the books I plan to give: Beverley Manley's The Manley Memoirs; Marguerite Gauron's and Cynthia Wilmot's Falling in Love after Fifty...the Best is Yet to Come; Easton Lee's Run Big 'Fraid; Joan Andrea Hutchinson's books and CDs; Melville Cooke's 11/9; Valerie Facey's and Jackie Ranston's Belisario, Sketches of Character, A Historical Biography of a Jamaican Artist; Marguerite Orane's Free and Laughing and Robert Lalah's Roving with Lalah.

We could give tickets to the theatre or a great show. This year's pantomime Runner Boy should be a good treat which helps to support our artistes and production personnel. By attending Shaggy's show on January 3, you will be helping the Bustamante Hospital for Children. Anything for charity is a good bet, so I won't be shy to mention that all author's proceeds for first-quarter sales of my book Souldance will go to Food for the Poor and Stella Maris Foundation.

And here is the most important gift of all: the one to ourselves, resolving to live our best life ever. This means staying connected to our God through prayer, cultivating an attitude of gratitude, laughing more and remembering that the healthier we are, the more we'll have to offer to the ones we love best. Have a safe and peaceful Christmas!


Monday, December 15, 2008

Oh the Glory! Congrats Reggae Boyz - Digicel Caribbean Champions!

Jubilant Jamaica Captain Tyrone Marshall holds the Trophy aloft. Second place: Grenada, third,Guadeloupe,fourth Cuba.

Monday, December 15 - Kingston, Jamaica: After an exciting 6 months, the wait is finally over, Jamaica have proven their dominance in Caribbean Football and have been awarded the title of 2008 Digicel Caribbean Champions. Jamaica receives the DCC Trophy and US$120,000 while rivals Grenada receive the 2nd place prize of US$70,000. After a penalty shoot-out, Guadeloupe secured 3rd place prize of US$50,000 and Cuba go home with the 4th place prize of US$30,000.

In a statement at the closing press conference at the National Stadium in Kingston last night, CFU Vice President and JFF President, Capt. Horace Burrell, congratulated the DCC Finalists: “The Reggae Boyz have proven that they are indeed Champions. Grenada demonstrated what will and determination can achieve. I congratulate Grenada on a sturdy performance.”

Winning team Head Coach, John Barnes, also congratulated Grenada: “Grenada was a worthy opponent. They didn’t make it easy for us.”

Barnes also expressed his feelings about the Reggae Boyz’ victory: “I am happy for the players and the country. Thanks to the players and the coaching staff for enabling me to help them win the Digicel Caribbean Championships.”

Grenada Captain and Coach, Anthony Modeste, graciously accepted 2nd place: “We don’t feel like losers, we feel like winners. We did ourselves and our country proud. No one thought that Grenada would have made it so far. This little team has shown that in the Caribbean, anything is possible.

“Congratulations to the Reggae Boyz, they are the deserving Champions. If we couldn’t have that trophy there is no one else we would want to have it.”

As the proud sponsors of the Digicel Caribbean Championships, Digicel are happy with the success of the tournament. Digicel's Head of Group Sponsorship, Kieran Foley, expressed his excitement: “Our company slogan is Bigger and Better and we feel that this year’s DCC was just that. This year, 21 teams competed which is the largest number to date. We are really happy with the success of the tournament.

"Grenada making it to 2nd place is a testament to just how Football in this region has developed and Digicel is committed to further developing the sport in the Caribbean and to showcasing the talent worldwide. The Final matches of the 2008 DCC was broadcast live in Asia, USA, South America and the Caribbean.

“Congratulations to Jamaica, Grenada, Guadeloupe and Cuba and we wish them luck in the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup.”

CFU President, Jack Warner, in one sentence, summarized the 2008 Digicel Caribbean Championships: “This tournament has proven that the standard of football in the Caribbean has risen to great heights.”

For match pictures and further information visit www.digicelfootball.com


Since its launch in 2001, Digicel has become the largest wireless telecommunications operator in the Caribbean with more than six million customers. After seven years, Digicel is renowned for competitive rates, unbeatable coverage, superior customer care, a wide variety of products and services and state-of-the-art handsets. By offering innovative wireless services and community support, Digicel has become a leading brand in the Caribbean and has placed the region at the cutting-edge of wireless communications – the company is also a new entrant to the Central American market.

Digicel is incorporated in Bermuda and now has operations in 31 markets world-wide. Its Caribbean and Central American markets comprise Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, El Salvador, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Panama, St Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago and Turks & Caicos. The Caribbean company also has coverage in St. Martin and St. Barths. Digicel Pacific comprises Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu.

Digicel is the lead sponsor of Caribbean and Central American sports teams, including the West Indies Cricket Team and Special Olympics teams throughout the region. Digicel is also title sponsor of the Digicel Caribbean Championships and the Copa de Naciones Digicel, which are the Caribbean and Central American qualifiers to the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Visit www.digicelgroup.com for more information on Digicel

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tribute to Hartley Neita by Ian Martin

Dear Jean : I too would like to join you and the many who have offered tributes to the late Hartley Neita. In so doing, I include excerpt from a letter that I forwarded to the editor of the Jamaica Observer relative to your column that appeared in the October 13, 2008 edition of the Jamaica Observer and titled "Hartley Neita's JC Thriller"
"Veteran journalists like Hartley Neita, Ken Chaplin, C Roy Reynolds and the late Geof Brown, to name a few, are guys that brought a stroke of objectivity, fairness and independence to the profession. They pulled no punches and wrote and reported as they saw it."

However, the above comments do not and cannot even begin to tell of the many virtues of Mr. Neita. Mr. Neita's expertise was not limited to journalism. He was a diplomat in his own right very versed in protocol and an advocate of folk history. Beside his down-to-earth demeanor, he was a class act and an embracer of social graces.

Not so long ago, a former chief-of-staff of the Jamaica Defence Force and I shared a conversation where Mr. Neita's name came up. The former army official told me when he had any questions relative to protocol and certain ceremonial rites, Mr Neita had the answers and was only a phone call away.

Mr. Neita was truly an ambassador and son of Jamaica. Deepest sympathy to family, friends relatives and colleagues. May his soul rest in peace.

Ian Martin
Brooklyn, New York

Friday, December 12, 2008

Remembering Hartley Neita

Hartley Neita at a reading of 'The Search'

I had the privilege of interviewing Hartley in October about his life and his book 'The Search'. Please read below about this patriot's amazing journey. Hartley Neita, trailblazer, mentor, family man and communicator par excellence. May his soul rest in peace. - jlc

Jamaica Observer column - Monday, October 13, 2008
Jean Lowrie-Chin

Thank goodness Hartley Neita does not know how to retire. His fingers have not been still since he taught himself touch-typing on his Dad's Hermes portable at their Four Paths home in the 1940s. This communications trailblazer recently launched The Search, a thrilling page-turner, the true story of five Jamaica College boys lost in the Blue Mountains. The book will benefit his alma mater's foundation.

Although he was a small boy of 10, and miles away from the action, the writer remembers the suspense of those two weeks, when all the folks in his district gathered every evening at his home to hear accounts of the search for the five JC students, read aloud from the Gleaner and Standard newspapers. It was Hartley's task to collect the papers from the police station and he became immersed in the story of the lost boys.

Hartley's father, GS Neita, was the headmaster of the Four Paths Elementary School and a correspondent for the Gleaner and the Standard. He encouraged his children to read and little Hartley became a voracious reader at an early age. So absorbed was he with the JC adventure that when he won one of the few precious scholarships to any of the island's top boys' schools, he unhesitatingly chose Jamaica College.

The Search is a compelling book, but for more reasons than the narrative. Well known for his evocative short stories and columns, Hartley paints an era in our past when Jamaicans of all walks of life showed keen concern for each other and particularly for our children. When the long-awaited boys arrived in Fruitful Vale, Portland: "People lined the road, shouting and cheering, clapping their hands and hailing happily to the boys."

As they travelled back to Kingston, "the roads and towns were crowded with people eager to welcome the boys. Men cried and several persons fainted on hearing the good news". The euphoria was very much like last week's homecoming celebrations for our Olympians. The leader of the five young climbers, Douglas Hall, was first and in the top three in the 100 yards, 220 yards and 440 yards events in the Inter-Secondary School Championships ("Champs" has a proud, long history).

Another brilliant journalist, the late Evon Blake, is quoted on the courage of the students: "When the history of Jamaica's brave sons is written, five names will stand out. as a glorious monument, challenging Jamaican youths to rise, to dare, to be beckoning them to forsake the beaten path. and like the great sons of other nations rise like conquerers, heads and shoulders above the crowd."

The account by Douglas Hall shows the intelligence and bravery of the five teenagers (the others were John Ennevor, Eric Gray, Teddy Hastings and Donald Soutar, the only living member of the group), reminding us that our country has never been short of heroes. Such a book, replete with reports and first-hand accounts, should be on the reading list of every Jamaican child. The Ministry of Education would do well to include it on our school booklists.

Hartley Neita is a man who has read "everything", and (unlike Palin) readily names his favourites: the Bible, John Steinbeck and Vic Reid. He speaks animatedly about his creation of the "Discover Jamaica" campaign at the Jamaica Tourist Board in the '70s. It was from this popular promotion that we learnt little-known facts about the country.

The patriot also served as press secretary for several political leaders and told fascinating stories about their style. Norman Manley, he recalls, was a stickler for time, looking grimly at his pocket watch if the 25-year-old press attaché was even five minutes late for a meeting. He remembers NW writing out speeches in longhand, to be then transcribed by his secretary and finally rehearsed in front of a mirror, his phenomenal memory retaining the words verbatim.

Hartley also worked for Sir Alexander and says he was impressed by our first prime minister's sharp mind. "A lot of people didn't realise how smart he was," says Hartley. "He would fire off good, strong letters and addresses in no time at all." Hugh Shearer, who later became a close friend, was one of the most diligent people Hartley had ever worked with - he would call him at 6 am to plan the day's work, and was a thorough, analytical reader.

His next book entitled The Forgotten Prime Minister, is about Sir Donald Sangster and will include details of his illness and death, with excerpts from the autopsy, which he believes will finally address some unanswered questions about the shortest serving PM's sudden passing. Hartley travelled overseas with Michael Manley when he became ill, handling sensitive media communiqués.

The Search also tells us the state of communication in the Jamaica of the 30s. Although we were sophisticated enough to have the telephone, well ahead of 95 per cent of the rest of the world, there was yet no radio station. People depended heavily on the newspapers and the post office. Therefore, after arrival safely out of the mountains, the lost boys asked for the nearest post office where they could telegraph their headmaster.

Hartley has deeply lived the evolution of communication in Jamaica, remembering how he had to adjust his hands from the heavy clicking of manual typewriter keys to the silent keyboard of the computer, and now enjoying international publications and emailing on the Internet.

As we reflect on the gentler time of his childhood, Hartley declares, "This is not the Jamaica I worked for." He remembers how values were drilled into him at an early age: "We had cards on the wall in our classroom reading 'Be kind', "Be honest', 'Be thoughtful', 'Be punctual'."

He can congratulate himself on raising fine children with these qualities - Gary (CPTC), Gregory (BMW), Karen (Atrium, MoBay), Michele (JMMB) and Toni-Ann (NCB). He is devoted to his grandchildren and encourages them to learn about our history. One grandson who read The Search remarked that he had no idea that Jamaica had suffered a major earthquake in 1907.

Hartley Neita recounts many occasions of prayer in The Search. He rightly believes that more focus on prayer could help Jamaica to become peaceful once again, as in those golden days of his Clarendon boyhood.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008


In response to reader's request for ISBN Number - ISBN 978-976-637-386-3

Sunday Gleaner - 7 December 2008
A dance through real life with power and beauty

Title: Souldance
Author: Jean Lowrie-Chin
Publisher: Ian Randle Publishers
No. of Pages: 170
Reviewer: Huntley Medley

Communications guru Jean Lowrie-Chin has launched her maiden collection of writings – Souldance, highlighting in the process, a side of her that is not as well known as her 30-odd years in pr and advertising.

is a work of literary art that presents a celebration of life so vividly captured even before your begin to turn the pages. For the cover, well known Jamaican artist Viv Logan has provided an awe-inspiring rendition of life in its most innocent depiction yet laced serious social, cultural and religious symbolism. Her work, Cherubs Gone Rasta depicts two dreadlocked children at play sharing ripe berries picked, no doubt, from their lush garden backdrop. These children are perfect icons of the free spirit that produced Souldance and their growing pains, loss of innocence and concern for their changing world are etched in the ensuing dance of words with varying movement and tempo over the work’s 170 pages.

Section one of Souldance bears the name of the work and opens with the title poem. This piece fittingly sets the stage for the theme of freedom both explored and reflected throughout the work:
“How wondrous is the truth I found
The Soul is not by body bound”
Lowrie-Chin then dances through the circumstances of her birth in Jonkunnu Baby, “When jonkunnu wheel into the yard
Beating all kinda contraption
Till she start feel contraction”
to memories of her mother’s love and the useful lessons her life provided for her children (My Mother’s Road).

Family is a recurring theme in this first section of the book with works dedicated to her father and to her children, Anita and Noel, to whom Souldance is also dedicated. Pick-Up Time, dedicated to her children, like none other, underscores family. Soaring profits, gourmet lunch, important clients and incoming contracts are not enough to interfere with a caring mother’s daily preoccupation with picking up her children. For that and their sublime laughter time freezes.

While the author’s immediate family is brought into focus, there is no doubt that she views her Jamaican society and the big wide world around her as her extended family. For Susan Campbell, Tess Thomas, Madam Rose Leon and Vilma Mais – woman whose lives were cruelly snuffed out at the hands of murderers – there is For Our Sisters Rise as, “The goodness of our sisters dead will keep us strong in heart and head.” Mi Sister is the universal familial extension of emotional support:
“Love, mi sister, don’t stress yuself
I going stand up for you
So don’t depress yuself”

Meanwhile, Angel’s Message and Hugh’s Reply (for the late Hugh Croskill) underscore the author’s underlying philosophy that the temporal body cannot contain the human spirit, which soars beyond circumstances and transcends suffering, pain, disappointment and other human conditions.

Jean Lowrie-Chin achieves much in Souldance. She philosophizes, dreams, empathizes make social comments, enters the skin and minds of her subjects and urges humanity to take another look at itself through the mirror of time and one’s own actions. In Souldance, Jean Lowrie-Chin has a lot to say and does so beautifully and with power.

In Your Son Too (for Lee Boyd Malvo) she speaks in the voice of the young sniper’s mother relating the unspeakable anguish a mother inevitably feels, and the spiritual fortitude she must summon in such circumstances.

Then there is Land of the Free, written to release the spine chilling emotions following the news of 9-11 reflects on and mourns the catastrophe wrought in her, mine and many other Jamaicans’ “just-in-case-place”.

In Part II of the work which is subtitled Growing Pains, Jean Lowrie-Chin steps boldly into the realm of the reality of personal social experiences. In this section the Cherubs have come of age and whether it is Loving Free, Goodbye, Separate, Wedding Vows Revisited, or I Want You Back, she delves into the emotions and takes us on the journey that is her life and that of her loved one, husband Hubie.

Many of the Jean Lowrie-Chin’s pieces are quite well known. My Chinaman Jump to the Riddim of Jah was first published in the Daily News in the 1970s (yes, she has been writing poetry for some time now) and has been read to an audience in the United Kingdom by professor of English literature, Mervyn Morris. Pick-up Time has been published in the school textbook, Buried Treasures.

Much of Souldance is incisive social commentary. The piece Yu See Mi dramatically sums up the class divisions and economic disparities that drive much of the crime and violence in the Jamaican society. But it does more than that. It also explores the psychological dimensions of the problem and urges the show of respect and tangible expression of concern that must be the starting point and main engine of any sustainable solution to the problem.

In keeping with theme of social responsibility that recurs throughout the work, and is summed up in God’s Unblinking Eye, all the author’s proceeds from first quarter sales of the publication (including the Christmas period) will be donated to the Stella Maris Foundation and Food for the Poor. Driven by a belief that in the absence of sharing none of us, rich or poor, will be able to survive, Jean Lowrie-Chin reminds us that “Our deeds are our unending story.”

If the measures of poetry are the quality of the beauty it evokes and its emotional power, then Souldance fits the bill as being both beautiful and powerful. True to its promise, the poems of Souldance are written mainly in the free verse that is like oxygen to a work of this texture. Yet Jean Lowrie-Chin at the same time manages to reflect the metrical disciple that reflects her formal training in literatures of English and which, no doubt, does justice to the tutelage of literary greats Edward Baugh and Mervyn Morris.

The book brings together more than 30 years of writings – poetry as well as comments and thoughts about the society in which we live and the events, issues and ideas that impact our lives everyday. Lowrie-Chin explores these issues with ease and simplicity that demonstrate superb clarity of thought and profound grasp of the issues of her time.

Inspired by the work of Claude McKay and the encouragement of professors of English Literature as well as friends Christine Craig and Lorna Goodison, Lowrie-Chin’s writing is anchored in the experience of writing for the Daily News in the 70s, Gleaner in the 80s and the Jamaica Observer since the 90s.

The third section of the Souldance – titled The Power of Words – is a collection of her more recent articles and prose writings that continues the dance through (not around) the issues of the day with thoughtful reflection, sharp analysis, relevant commentary and useful recommendations. Of note is the piece, “The Rendezvous of Conquest,” about the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt and President-elect of the USA, Barack Obama, remarkably, written in June 2008 – months before their stunning triumphs and Jamaica’s Beijing experience.

In the words of the author, who writes because she must, “from a breathless messenger in love with her family, her Jamaica and her world,” comes Souldance.

is available at Sangster's Bookstores, Kingston Bookshop, all branches of Fontana Pharmacy and Monarch Pharmacy, Liguanea Drug & Garden, Chronicles, Manor Park Pharmacy, Bookophilia, Stella Maris Church Office, Ian Randle Publishers, PROComm, at www.positivetourism.com and in January on Amazon.com. It was launched at the Terra Nova hotel in St. Andrew on Friday, November 28 by Mrs Beverley Manley. Hon Prime Minister Bruce Golding kindly participated in the unveiling of the cover.

Ian Martin reflects on Barack and Byron

Email from my friend in New York Ian Martin

Originally mailed on November 5

Ms. Chin: Good morning! In anticipation of the victory, I took the day off from work today. Ms. Chin, you cannot even begin to imagine how I feel about this piece of history. If somebody had told me a year or so ago that I would live to see this day, I would probably tell him/her that there is a pill on the market for such utterances.

The victory has been a tear evoking one for me. Yet, my delight has no bounds. I am so glad to be a part of the history. Despite the name calling, the labels and slurs hurled at Barack Obama, he did not reply in like kind. He simply kept focused by sticking to the issues.

In governing, like King Solomon of old, hopefully president elect Obama will ask God for wisdom to lead. I also hope that the media will display a great degree of decency as it relates to Obama's two daughters. There can be no denying that Obama and his wife at their own choosing have embarked upon territory that provides fodder for the media. However, their children are innocent.

Once again, I am proud to be a part of this history.


On the death of the Honourable Byron Lee, one can’t help but concluding that the last month or so has been somewhat unkind (for the want of a better word or lack thereof) to the music entertainment world. Within the past thirty days, we have lost Alton Ellis, Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops, Dee Dee Warwick, Dionne's younger sister, and now Byron Lee.

Byron has certainly been a legend and a pioneer in the Jamaican music culture. The longevity of his band speaks volume. The longevity of his band does not only speak of Byron's steadfastness; it serves to remind those of us who have been around from the sixties of the other bands that played a part in shaping the Jamaican music culture.

There were bands like, the Skatalites, Count Ossie and the Mystic Revelations, Carlos Malcolm and the Afro Rhythm, Lyn Tait and the Jets, Babba Brooks and the Band, Prince Buster All-stars, Beverly's All-star, Ingrid Chin and the Carnations, Granville Williams Orchestra, Kes Chin an His Band, Bongo Herman and the Legendary Sonny Bradshaw Orchestra, to name a few.

Based on the style of the music played by the more contemporary bands like Inner Circles, Tomorrow's Children and Zapow and Third World, Byron Lee's Dragonaires must have had some influence on those bands.

Then there's the talent that Byron brought to the forefront in some of the lead singers who had made there navigation through his band. There was Keith Lyn singing "Empty Chair"; Ken Lazarus singing the Lyrics to the Dragonaires hit song "Jamaica Ska", Vic Taylor crooning "Think Twice My Love" and "My Way". Among others that sang with the Dragonaires include, Barry Biggs and Lloyd Williams. And off course, one cannot forget Byron teaming up with the birdman, Mighty Sparrow, in composing the album titled "Sparrow meet the Dragon".

Byron has played an excellent and a captain's inning, an inning filled with class and shots. May his legacy live on and his soul rest in peace. Deepest sympathy to his family friends and relatives.

That's all for now Ms. Chin.

Staying tuned,


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fae Ellington on Dr Lucien Jones

Dr Lucien Jones, Convenor and Vice Chairman of the National Road Safety Council – one of his many hats, with Melaine Walker and David Summerbell Jr.

By Fae Ellington – Sunday Herald – 30 Nov 08

Dr. Lucien Washington Jones is a medical doctor who for the past 30 years, has made the daily trek from Kingston to May Pen and back. That is where, as a young doctor, he was led to establish his practice. With the exception of Sundays and some Thursdays, May Pen is ‘home’. He credits his cousin, Dr. Errol Williamson, with influencing his decision to offer his skills as a doctor to the people of Clarendon.
Those of us who know Lucien Jones, know that he is a passionate Christian and devout Anglican. Although he describes himself as a ‘Pentecostal’ Anglican, it was the Adventists — led by Lucille Christian, who now lives in Mandeville — who got his practice going in May Pen. She saw him as a patient, then went out and told the Adventists about him. A man of God is just a man of God. Denomination should never be a barrier or hindrance.
Dr. Jones has helped or caused so many of us to straighten out our lives spiritually. He has an Internet ministry, a text ministry and a blog ministry. Here is a sample of one of his text messages; ‘Brick by brick, community by community, school by school, church by church, acts of faith by acts of faith, one day at a time trusting God. That’s how Jamaica will be rescued; by you and me. Let’s starts today.’ If only we all were seized with that understanding and used our special gifts and time, what ‘miracles’ could be wrought for this country.

On Thursday evening, November 27, some of us gathered at the Halse Hall Great House to give thanks for and say thanks to ‘a doctor who for 30 years served the community of May Pen SELFLESSLY, in a CHRISTIAN manner, at great sacrifice to himself and his family’. It was indeed a surprise. His wife Vivienne was tasked with the responsibility for getting him there. And that she did without ‘letting di puss outa di bag’. Mrs. Jones is a picture of grace and charm. Sister Sonia and brother Wayne were on hand to share in the occasion.

Mrs. Jones, like Michelle Obama, is his reality check. He told the gathering that once years ago, during a period when he was working until late in May Pen, and driving home to Kingston even later, then sitting at his desk to work late into the night or into the morning hours, Vivienne once asked him, “You think you are Marcus Garvey?” That set him straight. You see, life is about balance, and it was now clear that the scales were tipped in one direction. He had to make time for his wife and two children.
Dr. Jones told Winsome Singh that his guiding philosophy is to listen to the Lord and obey HIM. He dislikes bad manners. To the question, ‘Who do you admire most and why?’, he answered: “My father (Winston Jones, the late politician) because he was a good man: and also my mother because she was a gentle soul (she too, is deceased).
Dr. Jones’ head is not in the sky, he has no airs, but lots of ears for those he treats, counsels, guides, assists, motivates and inspires. Mrs. Dahlia Henry, who has been a patient of his from childhood, and who serenaded him, said she named one of her sons, Lucien, for obvious reasons. The very talented keyboardist and vocalist, Joel Edwards, said: “They don’t make them like you anymore. Not because you haven’t seen me in a while, I wouldn’t go to any other doctor, because that would be like changing my religion.” Wow!
In the citation that was read by former principal of Denbigh High School, Mrs. Joan Wint, Dr. Jones was described as “young, debonair and dashing” when he descended on May Pen. He was said to have later become “cool, competent, compassionate and the consummate professional”.
The church was well represented. At the start of the ‘thanksgiving’, Archdeacon Winston Thomas (Anglican) prayed, Reverend Morna Christmas Fraser blessed dinner and the cake, and Sister Alvarine Roberts offered the closing prayer.
Mr. Patrick Lawrence of Vere Agencies lauded Dr. Jones for his contribution to the town, its environs, but most of all, the people.
Dr. Peter Wellington travelled from Mandeville to celebrate with his colleague and friend, someone he clearly admires.

Like a bolt
Many times during the evening, Dr. Jones looked on in disbelief, wearing the, ‘Is this really happening’ expression.
Thanks to all for the event, especially the chief cook and bottle washer, Carol Dacres.
There were several highpoints during the evening. This one took the cake for me. A legitimate firearm holder was once taken to him: The purpose was to get the gun away. Later he would be told that the man was quite mad. You’ll appreciate I’ll have to edit the story. Well, after some coercion, Dr. Jones got the man into the examination room, talked him into getting on the bed, and then asked him if he would like to give up the gun, to which the man promptly said ‘Yes’. Relief! So you think.
While all that was happening, a colleague had strategically placed himself near the door to secure the weapon. Seeing that the ‘patient’ had so willingly agreed, Dr. Jones stepped to the door to indicate to the colleague that the time was right. As the colleague entered the room with Dr. Jones in tow, they were faced with a gun trained directly at them. Well, if you think Donald Quarrie or Usain Bolt could catch Lucien Jones! He took off like a bolt of lightning or a Lightning Bolt as it is called these days, ending up at some woman’s place down the road, cowering and cuddled in her arms. Someone should write a play titled ‘A day in a doctor’s office’.
He reminds me that I shared this proverb with him: ‘Dawg ah money, ‘im buy cheese an’ set puss fi guard it’.
My column is published every other week, so back with you on December 14. DV. Walk good!

Fae Ellington is a broadcast journalist, lecturer in radio and a communication consultant. Your views and comments are welcome. Send them to fae@mail.infochan.com

Monday, December 1, 2008

Help JA: support Ja Netball Assn

The impeccable Sunshine Girls with Coach Connie Francis (left), Vice Captain Nadine Bryan (centre), Team Doctor, Prem Singh (front) and JNA President Marva Bernard (right).

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Call it columnist’s crossroads: so many burning topics to choose from – terrorism in Mumbai and heated local issues. So there I was, torn between a planned piece on Marva Bernard’s passion for the Jamaica Netball Association (JNA), the week’s headlines and the myriad topics on Prime Minister Golding’s ‘Jamaica House Live’ call-in programme.

We heard the PM commiserating with President-elect Obama over the tattered US economy, but I felt even sorrier for him as I listened to the range of concerns raised by callers. After nearly one continuous year of rain, his Government has $12 billion worth of damage to our roads and bridges, while losing US$35 million in October in the alumina trade, resulting from what he felt was a poor deal negotiated by the previous government with Alcoa Minerals.

A mother of three children by three different fathers called in to say she was about to be turned out of her house by her landlord as only one of the fathers was helping. Another mother with two children and no father in sight was now jobless. One was a dressmaker and the other a practical nurse. A sympathetic PM Golding promised them assistance, obviously moved by their plight.

Those calls made up my mind. We have to promote any effort that builds self-esteem and self reliance in our people – if only these distressed ladies had been beneficiaries of the JNA’s comprehensive programmes. Our Sunshine girls and players in the four sponsored leagues operated by the 49-year-old association, are examples of what every Jamaican girl can achieve with the right support.

“We have a holistic programme that focuses on the total person,” explains JNA President Marva. “Each of our four national squads has two managers assigned that act as mother, friend, teacher, nurse you name it. We teach them how to speak, to dress, (no chewing gum in their uniforms) we inculcate values that we are not sure are taught at home. Some of us hug them each time we meet … I don't shake young people’s hands. I give them lots of love and hugs.”

This nurturing of mind, body and spirit has paid off: “Almost all of my Sunshine girls are either at university, finishing high school in sixth form or graduates of a college. We even have a professional netball player.”

Marva is referring to 20-year-old Romelda Aiken, the First Sunshine Girl to be offered a lucrative contract to play professional netball in the inaugural ANZ pro netball Championships played between eight teams from Australia and New Zealand. She was voted the MVP of the series by the eight coaches in the competition. She is 6 ft 4'' and will be returning to Australia in March 2009 to play for her franchise The Queensland Firebirds. Who knew that this Jamaican girl, idolized by the Aussies, is one of the top goal shooters in the world?

Marva Bernard, though grateful to her existing sponsors for their support, continues to struggle to stay abreast of expenses. “The top teams come here at their own expense to practise with the agile Sunshine Girls,” she remarks. “But we still have to pick up the huge costs for the use of the National Indoor Sports Centre.” Marva, who is Finance Director of Finance at JIS, is the first Jamaican to be named Finance Director to the International Body (IFNA) in 1999. She is grateful for the unstinting support of the JNA Council, Secretariat, volunteers and friends.

As I thought of Romelda and her legendary netball predecessors, our track queens, Veronica, Melaine, Shelley-Ann, Grace, Deon, Juliet, Bridgette and Merlene, I realised that the sponsorship and adulation we shower on our male athletes are not equally enjoyed by our women. The glass ceiling may have been cracked, but not yet shattered in the world of sport, business and politics.

Indeed, during the recent US presidential election, I received a report from their local Embassy headlined ‘Parties Recruit More Women to Vote Than to Run’ by Lea Terhune at America.gov. The JNA could pick up a few pointers from the US women’s political action committees (PACs). Terhune quotes Barbara Palmer, from American University’s Women in Politics Institute: “For the past few election cycles, if you do the math, female congressional candidates, at least, actually raise more money, on average, than their male counterparts, so we have definitely closed the gender gap there. And that is due to the activism of women PACs.”

I am recording here some of the heroic struggles of our Sunshine Girls as I appeal to existing sponsors to increase their contribution, and encourage others, especially those with women in charge, to join them. Consider 18-year-old Malysha Kelly who attends high school in Ewarton. “After school she takes a robot taxi to Spanish Town,” says Marva, “ then one from there to Half-Way-Tree, then one to Cross Roads and then one to the Stadium. And she does this three times per week for training! Of course we pick up the cost but if that is not dedication then what is?”

Marva describes the unthinkable sacrifice of former captain Elaine Davis, 2007 winner of the Courtney Walsh Award for Excellence in Sport, who has played in four championships through the pain of several knee surgeries to bring glory to Jamaica.

Sunshine Girls captain Simone Forbes is the winner of the first Professor Kenneth Hall scholarship at the Mona School of Business. Hailing from August Town, Simone got a volleyball scholarship to Mercy College in New York and returned home to serve her country through sport. “She was also one of the 2005 winners of the Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Excellence in Sport,” says Marva. “Simone gave up one semester of her Masters programme to prepare for our participation in the World Netball Championship in New Zealand last year November.”

“I am proud of all my girls and maybe that's why I don't have children as God has blessed me with them,” says Marva, to whom Coach Connie Francis dedicated the team’s hard fought Bronze Medal in last year’s World Championships held in New Zealand.

Despite their quest for funding, the JNA continues to bring us fame, and to produce generations of patriots who serve their country with distinction. People have been telling Marva that she may not achieve her sponsorship goals if she does not get a man on board to influence the right people. Let’s prove them wrong. lowriechin@aim.com, www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com