Monday, March 30, 2009


Ronnie Nasralla’s book “Lessons to Learn” could have also been titled “A Brief History of Entertainment and Marketing in Jamaica”. I remember the wonderful photographs of Ronnie with local and foreign stars, lining the walls of his office at West Kings House Road where the Canadian High Commission now stands. He and the late creative genius Celli Mahwingkee ran the dynamic NCM advertising agency.

The book is written in true Ronnie style – warm and honest. He had a stint at teaching at Campion Hall, the predecessor to Campion College and among his charges were Gordon “Butch” Stewart and jazz pianist Monty Alexander. Ronnie reminds us of the importance of strong friendships and the power of the human spirit. Ronnie recounts the beginnings of “Byron Lee and the Dragonnaires” comprising a group of St George’s old boys. He managed and promoted the band for 35 years, taking its name far and wide. Ronnie speaks admiringly of founder Byron Lee: “a professional …a strong disciplinarian, with band rules that all had to follow or else out!”

By 1965, Ronnie had over 50 musicians under his management, including the Blues Busters, Toots and the Maytals, Pluto Shervington and Ernie Smith. Recalling his early years working in clubs where “bands played for as long as eight hours in dimly lit bandstands (receiving) little or nothing to eat or drink”, Ronnie had promised himself that he would do something to change all that. They advanced on the Annual General Meeting of the Musicians’ Union, brought in a new regime, the new Jamaica Federation of Musicians with Sonny Bradshaw as President and Byron Lee as VP. Our musicians should know that it was through Ronnie’s initiative that, to this day, “bands play for only 5 hours maximum, get 3 breaks, a hot meal and at least 2 rounds of drinks for each engagement.”

He was refused entry at Liguanea Club in the late 60’s, “because I was Lebanese. I found out afterwards that (they were also against) Jews, Chinese, Indians and Blacks.” Ronnie worked to gain membership and by 1982, was elected president of the Club. He collaborated with Arthur ‘Turo’ Ziadie to open its doors “to every Jamaican, no matter what race or colour”, recruiting the impeccable James Samuels as the Club’s new manager.

Ronnie now lives in Atlanta with his dear Rosemary, enjoying the accomplishments of their seven wonderful children. There are many other great stories in this book, but no more – get “Lessons to Learn” at the Dougalls, Ardenne Road!

Etmour Williams: "I dare you to dream big"

Etmour Williams as he addressed the Stella Maris Foundation-HEART/NTA Graduates on March 22

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | from Jamaica Observer column | Monday, March 30, 2009

Neither the JLP MP nor the PNP caretaker showed up for the graduation of 130 students of Information Technology and Early Childhood education at the Stella Maris Church Hall - all roads led to Portland on March 22. The loss was theirs, for they, like those of us present, would have hung on to every word of guest speaker Etmour Williams.

Etmour who? Williams is a 22-year-old Grant's Pen resident who, despite hunger and hardship, is now well employed at All Wrapped Up and halfway through studies for a degree in accounting. "Success is not luck," he told the graduates, "but rather a guarantee if you have a dream, a plan, determination and if you work hard."

He recalls how he used a friend's address on his job applications, "but I decided to stop - I wanted to be true to myself. so at the next interview, I came up with a strategy of how to sell myself and I succeeded." Etmour, a beneficiary of the PROComm Scholarship Fund which supported him at Calabar High, declared, "I am a product of Grant's Pen. Many would say "ghetto", but ghetto for me is a state of mind. I used the negative influences around me to motivate me positively. I dared myself to stand out and be different."
WILLIAMS... I dare you to dream big

Etmour said he chose Calabar because it was "the school that produced the then prime minister (PJ Patterson). I saw it as an inspiration. He succeeded and I knew I could." Do our leaders understand the impact their lives can have on that of a young, struggling child?

"I am a determined young man and I believe that life in the inner city could account for that," confided Etmour, "because after seeing the options available - living or dying - I chose to live, and to live my life to the fullest." To the hearty applause of his colleagues and neighbours, Etmour challenged them: "I dare you to dream big, work toward realising your goal and living your life with a purpose. I dare you."

This brings to over 700 the number of graduates from the Stella Maris Foundation HEART/NTA programme. Eighty-six per cent of them either have been employed or have collaborated to start their own businesses.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Denis O'Brien - featured on Forbes Billionaire List

The World's Billionaires (edited - from Forbes)

#305 Denis O'Brien
Net Worth:$2.2 bil

Fortune:self made

Source:telecom - Founder, Chairman of Digicel Group

Country Of Citizenship:Ireland
Education:Bachelor of Arts / Science, Boston College, Master of Business Administration

Marital Status:married, 4 children

Colourful, cussing cell phone mogul, already operating in dozens of Caribbean islands, is quickly expanding in the South Pacific in such places as Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea, despite coups, riots and government threats to nationalize.

He endears his firm to masses by lowering prices and upping philanthropy. Angry mobs in Haiti's food riots last year spared his phone stores from burning and looting out of respect for the "Company of the People."

Spent $700 million buying up shares in Irish newspaper company, Independent News & Media, in effort to oust former billionaire investor, Anthony O'Reilly; stake now worth $50 million. Also has interests in radio stations, online recruiting sites in China, and Portuguese resort.

Son of human rights activist, started nonprofit Front Line to fly activists in danger out of hot spots.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Towards a happy 're-birth-day'

Active octogenarians Cynthia Wilmot (left) and Bishop Carmen Stewart... if they are not weary, how can we be?

Observer Column by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Monday, March 09, 2009

Though our optimism got some serious blows last week, each day still brought new hope. After all, it was the week leading up to International Women's Day and there were events that reminded us how blessed we are in the women we call heroine, guardian, teacher.

To answer why it is important to assert the equality of women, let's paraphrase the words of former US President Jimmy Carter: if we ensure that 50 per cent of the world has a better life, then surely the entire world must be better for it.

Last Monday Professor Errol Miller delivered the Rose Leon Memorial Lecture, in honour of the only individual in Jamaica's history that was a minister of government under both the JLP and the PNP. His topic was "Campaign Financing from a Gender Perspective". The professor exercised the minds of his predominantly female audience invited by the Women's Political Caucus, taking us through centuries and continents.

He acknowledged gender bias in politics, quoting studies showing that women were acculturated to stay out of the power circle. Prof Miller felt that women would have equal opportunities in politics when there is "transparency, a level playing field, and greater regulation".

That still bumpy playing field can be quite hazardous to the health of women. UWI lecturer Fae Ellington revealed in her column in the Sunday Herald, and was able to substantiate in a follow-up interview on Nationwide, that there have been incidents of sexual harassment in Parliament. It was said that a former female member of parliament was made uncomfortable during actual sittings of the House, when a male colleague across from her trained his eyes on her and kept licking his lips. When she appealed to male colleagues on either side of her to speak to the non-gentleman, they remarked that she should ignore him because "that's just how he is". The lady said she held her head down most of the time to avoid the lascivious looks. Now how on earth can a legislator function in such disgraceful circumstances?

Well Miss Fae, thank you for speaking out - the boil has been lanced. The discussions and responses are telling us that many of our men have no idea what sexual harassment is. I remember this well-educated Caribbean man who scored a top job at a US-based international organisation; he seemed to have honed his harassing ways in the Caribbean and decided to export them to his new workplace, filled with women who were well versed in their rights. He was eventually unceremoniously booted out of his cushy office.

A Women's Media Watch (WMW) brochure explains that "sexual harassment is behaviour of a sexual nature that is unwelcome. It may be physical, verbal or non-verbal." It offers a test for whether behaviour is sexual harassment: "Ask yourself how you feel about the behaviour. If it offends you, makes you feel angry, upset, humiliated or frightened, it is."

On Tuesday evening, WMW launched their 21st anniversary celebrations by honouring 14 women who had been trailblazers in their fields. They included such stalwarts as Custos Bishop Carmen Stewart, media legend Cynthia Wilmot, nurse educator and former Head of the Senate Syringa Marshall Burnett. We congratulated Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewelyn who recently completed a busy first year in office, and we basked in the company of such stars as fellow columnist and playwright Barbara Gloudon, Lana Finikin of Sistren Theatre Collective and Linette Vassell of Women's Resource Centre (WROC).

The other awardees who were represented were Leader of the Opposition Portia Simpson Miller, Chief Justice Zaila McCalla, Professor Barbara Bailey, trade unionist Dr Helene Davis-Whyte, Evelyn Smart of the Women's Political Caucus and community activist Ionie Whorms.

Barbara Gloudon, who replied on our behalf, commented on the increasing violence against women: "A nation that destroys its women is a failed state. a nation that destroys its women is destroying itself." She urged women in the media "to keep up your standards. women have to be told they are worth more".

Womens Media Watch has a unique organisational structure. There is an active board of directors, but no head. Committee leadership is rotated and it is heartening to see volunteers running towards, and not away from difficult tasks. There are breakfast meetings in homes, constant rounds of islandwide workshops, snappy newsletters and low-budget brochures. In their 21 years WMW have generated great light rather than heat on gender issues.

Wednesday saw a group of columnists and commentators at a roundtable of opinion-makers and media practitioners, part of the National Integrity Action Forum launched earlier this year by the UWI Centre for Leadership and Governance. Project Leader/Academic Director Professor Trevor Munroe told us, "I need hardly stress the critical importance and extraordinary urgency of more meaningful combat of corruption - which, particularly at this time of crisis, is seriously undermining the rule of law, further weakening the moral fibre of our society, and significantly depleting scarce resources." No doubt, the ascendance of women in the private and public sectors will help us conquer this national disease.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: Errol Miller, Barbara Gloudon, Trevor Munroe all singing in the same key about transparency, standards, the moral fibre of our society. If they still have hope for this country and are asking us to join them, why should we hesitate? If octogenarians like Bishop Carmen Stewart still running her dynamic ministry and Cynthia Wilmot still making "Videos for Change", are not weary, how can we be?

The week ended with the International Women's Day Peace March and a quiet toast to Lady Bustamante on her 97th birthday. Happy Birthday, Lady B - we continue your work towards a happy re-birth-day for Jamaica.

One Love, One Heart

Please link to this international rendition of Bob Marley's 'One Love'.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Girl's Cries For Help 'Fell on Deaf Ears'

Neighbors say they reported finding Alexis "Lexie" Agyepong-Glover hungry, injured and afraid of her mother in the weeks before she was found dead Jan. 9 in an icy creek. (Courtesy Of Prince William County Police)

(Look at the pain in this child's eyes! May we never fail to follow through on suspicions of abuse - Jean Anita)

Pr. William Officials Were Told of Abuse

By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 9, 2009; A01

Prince William County police, social services and school officials received numerous reports from people who saw firsthand that 13-year-old Alexis "Lexie" Agyepong-Glover was being abused and neglected by her adoptive mother in the two years before the woman allegedly killed her.

But Lexie was not removed from the home.

Lexie's school bus driver said she made several reports, the first when she saw marks on Lexie's wrists and forearms that looked as if she'd been tied up. She also told authorities that Lexie had a large welt on her head and tried to board the bus in her underwear. Another bus driver and her attendant told police that they saw Lexie's mother driving off with her in the trunk of her car.

In the weeks before Lexie was found dead Jan. 9 in an icy creek, neighbors said they reported finding Lexie hungry, wandering the streets wearing only a barbecue grill cover, physically injured and, above all, terrified of her mother, Alfreedia Gregg-Glover.

"We thought by making a police report, the police would get her out" of the home, said Marlene Williams, the school bus driver who, along with her attendant, Brenda Taylor, told police and Lexie's principal that they saw Lexie's mother drive off with her in the trunk.

"We don't know how much that little girl suffered," Taylor said. "Her cries fell on deaf ears."

Prince William police Maj. Ray Colgan said police would have taken action if they had found Lexie to be in danger. He said that when police were called about the trunk incident and the injuries seen by the neighbor, Social Services was notified and the incidents were investigated. He said the pending criminal case and privacy laws prevented him from giving too many details.

"As far as I know, I think we've done everything properly we could have done," Colgan said. "We will continue to review it, and if we need to make some changes, we will."

Jack Ledden, director of Prince William's Department of Social Services, and a school system spokesman declined to comment, citing confidentiality rules and the ongoing investigation. Gregg-Glover's court appointed attorney, John V. Notarianni, did not return calls for comment.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors announced Friday that it has requested that the Virginia Department of Social Services review the county's response. The review will include all child welfare programs, including child protective services, prevention and treatment, foster care and adoption. Such a review is required by state law, but the board requested that the state accelerate the process. It is expected to take three months.

Gregg-Glover, 44, was indicted last week on charges of murdering her daughter and lying to police. She told police Jan. 7 that Lexie had run away, which sparked a massive search. Police say they later learned that she had dumped Lexie in the shallow creek in the Woodbridge area, still alive. Lexie was found dead two days later from drowning and exposure to the cold. Gregg-Glover was also charged with child abuse, the county's chief prosecutor said.

Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert said the medical examiner's report "showed there were recent injuries and old injuries" to Lexie's body. "The recent injuries, coupled with the cause of death, certainly indicated it was a horrible death," he said.

When Gregg-Glover appealed to the media for help in finding her daughter, she said Lexie was mentally disabled, suffered from autism and other ailments, and acted much younger than her age. But several of Lexie's former counselors have disputed that characterization, saying Lexie was a smart, affectionate girl who had reactive attachment disorder, a condition that makes it hard to form emotional bonds and is sometimes found among abused and adopted children.

Those who sought help for Lexie in the years and weeks before her death are angry that no one helped the girl, who tried to tell people what was happening to her when she was out of earshot of her mother.

One afternoon in September 2007, Williams and Taylor were dropping off students at the Robert Day Child Care Center in Manassas when they noticed a frightened girl being marched out of the building by a stern woman. They took their eyes off the pair for a few moments, then saw the woman drive off alone.

"I think she put her in the trunk," Taylor recalled telling Williams. But, uncertain, they said nothing.

Two weeks later, they pulled into the day-care center and saw the same white Toyota parked outside with the trunk cracked open. Minutes later, they saw Lexie emerge from the building with Gregg-Glover behind her, fists clenched. She and Lexie walked to the back of the car, where the mother looked around and then opened the trunk, Williams and Taylor said.

"Lexie walks right over, climbs in that trunk," Taylor said. "She did not hesitate, like she had been doing it every day."

Horrified, the pair watched the car drive off and called their dispatcher. They went to a Prince William police station later that evening and gave written statements of what they had seen. They drew a diagram of the position of the cars in the lot, gave the tag number of Gregg-Glover's car and later told Lexie's principal, they said.

Police told them that they went to Gregg-Glover's house to investigate and that she denied the incident. Lexie did not speak up for herself, they said.

"Are you going to get her out of the home?" Williams said she asked police.

They told her that they had to "get their ducks in a row," she said, and when she left a message days later to follow up, police didn't call her back.

It was not the first time authorities were alerted.

In March 2007, Lexie's regular school bus driver, Nancy Frederick, said Lexie was getting off the bus when Frederick noticed marks on her wrists and forearms that appeared as if she had been tied up. Lexie told Frederick's attendant, Lissette Romero, that her mother had taken her on a trip to North Carolina and had bound her hands during the ride and made her lie on the floor the whole way, Romero said.

The following spring, Frederick said, Lexie boarded her bus with a large welt on her head.

Lexie told her, "I hit myself." Frederick asked her why, and she replied, "If I don't, my mom is going to hit me," Frederick recalled.

Lexie told Romero that her mother would order her to hit herself and that she would videotape it, Romero said.

Frederick and Romero said they notified Lexie's school, PACE West, about the welt on her head, and Frederick told officials at Prince William's Department of Social Services about the welt and the marks on her wrists. Officials told her that they would look into it.

"It didn't do any good," Frederick said.

In October, Lexie came to the bus on two occasions in her underwear, Frederick said. The first time, Frederick and Romero gave her a coat and blanket and called their dispatcher. Police went to the house but returned her to her mother after Lexie remained quiet.

"I said, 'Can't you do anything?' " Frederick said. "They said, 'Ma'am, we can't charge her with anything.' "

The next school day, Lexie came to the bus in the same condition, this time with Gregg-Glover close behind, videotaping the incident and ranting that she could not tolerate the girl any longer before taking the girl back inside, Frederick said.

"She said, 'I don't know what I'm going to do. She's ruining my life, and I want her out,' " Frederick said.

Shortly after that, Lexie was pulled out of PACE West, and Frederick never saw her again.

Troubling reports persisted into the weeks before her death, when Lexie ran away at least three times in December, only to be returned to Gregg-Glover, according to neighbors and officials. On March 11, because of her habit of running off, she was fitted with a locator bracelet, used to track endangered people, by sheriff's deputies, officials said.

On Dec. 2, about five weeks before her death, Lexie showed up outside neighbor Wes Byers's house early in the morning, as temperatures hovered near freezing. She told Byers and his wife that she had run away after her mother opened a quarter-size gash on her head with a stick, and she was wearing a tarp used to cover a grill, Byers said. She pleaded with him not to be sent home.

After clothing and feeding Lexie, who was famished, Byers called authorities. Police came to his house and took Lexie to a hospital, and Byers followed. Gregg-Glover arrived there, as did a county social worker. Lexie's mother told police that her daughter had a habit of hitting herself and she had the video to prove it, Byers said he was told by police. Lexie left with Gregg-Glover that day, he said.

In late December, sheriff's deputies tracking Lexie with the bracelet found her inside the house of her next-door neighbor, Jonah Seaman. Seaman said deputies found Lexie in red pajamas, hiding behind a Christmas tree in his living room, devouring a bowl of cereal she had taken from his kitchen.

"She looked terrified," Seaman said. "She looked really scared."

After reporting her missing one last time, Gregg-Glover positioned the tracking bracelet near a Manassas library to make police think Lexie had run off the day she disappeared in January, police said.

Two days later, a man out for an afternoon walk discovered Lexie's body.

Staff writer Josh White and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Can we save ourselves?

CVM People's Choice Award Recipients - Usain Bolt and Veronica Campbell-Brown


Jamaica Observer | Monday, March 02, 2009

It was stirring to be part of the packed church last Ash Wednesday, to have an ashy cross traced on our foreheads, a reminder of our brief sojourn on planet earth. US Vice President Joe Biden also had a smudge on his forehead as he stood beside President Obama for a White House briefing later that day. So here we are, the humble and the powerful trying to connect to our Maker, trying to bridge the gap between the material and the spiritual, trying to stay strong in faith even as our economy weakens.

People of faith are seeing magnificent metaphors from their Maker, the messages of today harking back to the parables of Jesus. And so I have no doubt that the miraculous landing of US Airways Flight 1549 was a divine message, delivered on January 15, 2009, the actual birthday of hero-saint Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Some of us went as far as saying, "MLK held that plane together - he was not going to allow anything to rain on Obama's parade." But to explain it away like that would be to deprive the hero of the day, Captain Chesley B Sullenberger III, of his due honour.

The story had biblical undertones: the passengers appearing to walk on water, standing gingerly on the airplane wings washed by the Hudson River. The bravery of their saviour who insisted on checking the craft row by row to ensure that everyone was out, even after it began taking in water. The symphonic rescue when all boats and personnel converged in quick succession to give America a prelude to its hope-filled Inauguration Day. In commenting on the masterful handling of the pilot, crew and other rescuers, Time magazine said this demonstrated that "we have the power to save ourselves".

Our new governor general, Dr Patrick Allen, said it well at his installation on Thursday: "There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica. every Jamaican must know, think, internalise, personalise and actualise the theme 'I believe'."

We continue to swoon at every speech made by President Obama, but we should not blind ourselves to the excellence of our own fellow Jamaicans. We have certainly not been short of heroic figures, brave thinkers, educated strategists who have taken us from one milestone to the next and kept us current with an audacity that belies our size. St Elizabethans do not tire of reminding us that Black River had electricity before New York, and last year the bigwigs of the Ford Motor Company, converged on Jamaica to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their oldest dealership outside of North America, Kingston Industrial Garage.

The fastest growing telecoms company in the world was launched right here in Jamaica and Denis O'Brien never fails to remind that "Digicel is a Jamaican multinational". Naturally, they signed up the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, to be their spokesperson. Our visits in the past two months to our busy resort areas remind us how much others appreciate our great tourism product; the beaches were beautiful, the sea sparkling. I remember Bolt's response to HBO's Bryant Gumbel when he asked why the track star did not opt to go to the US like many other local athletes. "Why would I want to leave this? Look!" answered Bolt, his hand sweeping the curve of the Trelawny beach where they sat.Indeed, there is indescribable beauty in our people and our environment.

We also read in this paper that Sandals Negril became the very first hotel in the WORLD to be awarded the Green Globe's inaugural Platinum Award. Sandals CEO Adam Stewart described such innovations as "a biodiesel refinery at Sandals St Lucia, which converts fats and oils from the resort's kitchen into fuel for its diesel engine vehicles, and its wind turbine and solar generation power plant at Fowl Cay in The Bahamas".

The report said that the company had launched an "Earth Guard" programme that has two full-time engineers "who ensure that all of Sandals' development plans, from inception, go through a multi-organisational process, which vets them for environmental sustainability". Stewart is moving to abolish the use of plastic drink bottles at the resorts.

Consider the courage and resourcefulness with which our leaders are approaching our national challenges, and the inspiring words of our new governor general who urges us to "immediately develop and implement a survival package. that will call on the creative genius of all well-thinking Jamaicans in defence of the nation". This Lenten season is a good time to refocus on our own productivity and the empowerment of even one other individual.