Saturday, May 27, 2017

Futurist Edie Weiner in Jamaica - 'Take the power’

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Futurist Edie Weiner had us in rapt attention as she explained to her audience in Kingston, Jamaica earlier this year, the impact that galloping technology will have on every aspect of our lives.  

Her company "Future Hunters" has been in the business for over forty years using well researched data to advise Fortune 500 companies on significant trends and how they should adjust their strategy to prepare for the future.

Ten years ago, she says her clients were so impressed with guidance that wondered how her predictions were so accurate.  She said that they used 30 different thought processes to arrive at their theses. Most important of all, she says, is to recognize your "educated incapacity" - knowing so much about what you already know that you are not looking outside. She said it was human nature that educated people having acquired so much knowledge, held on to it like an expensive piece of luggage but noted that while we were hanging on to that, someone is racing past us with their futuristic "backpacks".

Edie Weiner said that scientific research has shown that "there is no solid matter, everything is energy".  She explained that if there were a certain type of tiling in the Grand Central Station, it would capture the energy of commuters, enough to power the Station.  

She says that currency is undergoing radical changes.  The Economist magazine has noted now that the second most circulated currency is reward points – second only to the US dollar!  She observed that even organized crime is now using virtual currency and that more and more people are practicing barter economics.  

She turned to the hot topic of education, reminding us that the brain grows fastest before the age of three and that it is ridiculous that after being exposed to Ipads and handsets, children are then taken to schools that are still using the same system that was designed for their grandparents.  This was actually quoted at the finale of the Education Enrichment Programme which, with the support of the Ministry of Education, Youth & Information, USAID and the Digicel Foundation, covered 104 schools improving the literacy and numeracy of 43,000 primary school students.  The Enrichment Centres in 43 schools are heavy on information technology and bright visuals which are particularly attractive to boys, have turned unenthusiastic students into high achievers.  This was reinforced by Weiner as she demonstrated the difference between the way that male and female brains develop and what stimulates this development.

Edie is predicting a dramatic transformation in the delivery of education. Information technology will make education available to millions in experiential forms.  Therefore she says "critical thinking is the most important thing we can teach our young people". 

She says that this theory of repetitive practice will be overturned because of what she describes as "cranial stimulation" whereby what used to take 10,000-20,000 hours to learn may now only take a couple of hours.  She warned however that the real consequence of this is boredom – "we are giving birth to kids who are more bored than ever before".

She says that all of this new technology is creating disruption.  What was described as a recession in the early 90s was actually a result of the new disruptive technology. "This was not a recession", she said, "it was a global fundamental revolution".  

She says when asked "what should children be studying now to be ensured of employment", her answer is they should become plumbers, electricians and stonemasons.  I would add 'chef' to that! 

"In future," she says, "no one will be paying for 'smart', only 'intelligent'.  This is the kind of intelligence that will enable you to figure out things that you have never seen before."  

She suggested that university students should not major in any one thing but take multi-disciplinary courses and challenge themselves to see the connection.  

She noted the presumption of making employees happy  and said there was no study that linked happiness to productivity.  She recommended three responsibilities of leaders:
1)    Make sure that everyone is treated with respect
2)    Ensure that persons are treated in a equitable manner and paid according to their skill sets and responsibilities
3)    Ensure that you remove all obstacles to their being able to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

She left us breathless with her description of what could become "4D", whereby an item could be manufactured and then after its arrival to its destination be transformed into something a thousand times larger by adding, say water.

For those of us who have been limiting the time that our children spend playing video games, Weiner noted that there is a brand new category of sports called "e-sports".  These same video games are evolving into competitive events, one of which has been held in California, attracting 35 million online viewers.  She says that universities will shortly be recruiting students who excel at e-sports for their teams.

Turning to Jamaica, Edie is optimistic. She noted that economies in many countries are being challenged by a high proportion of senior citizens while here in Jamaica, half of the population is still under 25.  She urged us to focus on two things:

1)    Focus on education
2)    Build pride and respect in your people for their country.

She says if we don't want people to litter, we should be enhancing our landscape with sculpture and murals, thereby giving our people a sense of ownership.  She says you can determine the culture by asking two questions:
1)    What are the carrots?
2)    What are the sticks?
Even as you incentivize there must be consequences for those who endanger our society.

She surprised us by indentifying two strong leaders – the revered Mother Teresa and the face of evil, Adolf Hitler and said that they had three things in common:
1)    Vision and passion
2)    The ability to articulate in words and deeds with passion
3)    Lack of embarrassment in the articulation.

Here are six suggestions that Edie left with us to make the best of our successes:
1)    Within your organization, on a regular basis, challenge your own assumptions using "figuregram" to identify more quickly your market e.g. Toys R Us discovered that appealing to grandparents was a great way to market their products.
2)    Subscribe to publications on topics in which you have no interest.  If you read about different topics on a regular basis, it will be develop the 'neuro-plasticity' of your brain
3)    Hire interns and use them wisely.  Have them shadow you and debrief them to use their 'alien eyes'.
4)    Stay current with music. (This is why I love 'Onstage','Digicel Rising Stars', 'Altogether Sing' and 'Saturday Night Live')
5)    Hire a 15-year old mentor who is not a family member and spend three hours a week with them
6)    We need to know she said, that everything is moving off the grid that we are used to – it is the end of a  particular civilization.

"Power is something you take for yourself", she advised. "Don't wait for permission – take the power and do it!"

Edie's visit to Jamaica was made possible by the Jamaica Chapter of the International Women's Forum. Top organisers were President Camille Facey, Past President Pat Ramsay, Members Lisa Soares-Lewis, Sharon Lake, Marcia Forbes and Patsy Kelly. 

© Jean Lowrie-Chin

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Zoleka Mandela’s impassioned plea

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

#SlowDown!! After signing #slowdown pledge for Jamaica, Prime Minister Andrew Holness with Zoleka Mandela, granddaughter of former South African leader, Nelson Mandela and Ambassador for the Global Initiative for Child Health & Mobility.  They are flanked by (from left Saul Billingsley, FIA Foundation Executive Director; Earl Jarrett, Managing Director, Jamaica National Group; Paula Fletcher, Executive Director, National Road Safety Council (NRSC); Yohan Blake, Olympian; Dr Lucien Jones, Vice-Chairman, NRSC; Jean Todt, United Nations Special Envoy for road safety and Mark Connolly, UNICEF Jamaica representative.

As we heard the crack in Zoleka Mandela’s voice, describing her pain and the pain of other parents who have lost their children in road crashes, we pondered on the ‘why’ around the dangerous, careless behaviour on our roads.  We were gathered at the Office of the Prime Minister on May 10 for the observation of the UN Global Road Safety Week (GRSW), as Jamaica’s Chair for the National Road Safety Council (NRSC) is always the sitting Prime Minister. 

The NRSC was formed 24 years ago, when the late Orthopedic Surgeon Professor John Golding, became so distressed with the mounting deaths and serious injuries from road crashes that he appealed to then Prime Minister Michael Manley to start the organisation, comprised of stakeholders in road traffic oversight.  The NRSC formed an alliance with the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile – translated International Federation for Motor Vehicles) currently led by racing superstar Jean Todt.

 

The national convener Dr Lucien Jones has brought the passion of his Christian ministry to bear on his work with the NRSC; this combined with the business wizardry of Earl Jarrett resulted in the arrival on our shores of Ms Mandela and Mr Todt. They joined with Prime Minister Andrew Holness, UNICEF Jamaica Country Representative Mark Connolly and Road Safety Ambassador Yohan Blake in a special appeal to stop the madness on Jamaica’s roads, resulting in 115 deaths and many more seriously injured.

 

 “Worldwide, more young people are killed on the roads than from any other cause of death. Each day, 3000 children are killed or injured on the world’s roads,” said the regal Ms Mandela.
Zoleka Mandela with South Africa
 Charge d’Affaires for Jamaica, Philip Riley
“The scale of this crisis is bad enough. But what is perhaps even more shocking is how little is being done to prevent it. We have the solutions, but too often they are not being put in place.  The measures we need to save lives are simple: safe crossings for kids going to school; sidewalks to separate pedestrians and the vulnerable from vehicles; enforcement against drink driving; and action on speeding.

“Action on speed is the focus of this Fourth UN Global Road Safety Week and it is a great example of exactly what needs to be done. With effective policing and measures such as road humps and traffic calming we could save hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide each year.

“We’re facing a man-made epidemic and we have the vaccine – we’re just not using it. Can you imagine having a vaccine for a killer disease and not using it? Imagine leaving children to face illness or death and not acting. Yet this is really, what we are doing. In failing to use the low-speed vaccine around our schools, we are failing our children. It is their lives at stake.

“I’ve seen it in my own country. In my work with the Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility we launched a project in one of South Africa’s poorest communities – Khayelitsha in Western Cape.”
Her words are familiar to our local situation: “In Khayelitsha you see the kids by the road each morning. Little ones, five and six year olds, with their brothers and sisters. Terrified to cross the road as the traffic bears down on them at 80 km/h.

“Early in the morning, you see them, trying to cross in the dark, taking their lives into their own hands. You don’t need to search too hard for what needs to be done. The answer is quite simple. Our children, our little ones, hundreds of them walking to school each day, should not face traffic at more than 30 km/h.”

“Faster than 30 is a death sentence,” she emphasised. “For the sake of our children, low speeds are non-negotiable. It’s not just my own country, the story I witnessed in Khayelitsha is one repeated each day around the world. Millions of children are facing this horror every single day and we are failing to protect them.”

Ms Mandela’s beautiful 13-year-old daughter Zenani Mandela was killed by a drunk driver in June 2010, and so she commented, “When the policies are not in place, it’s our families and our children that suffer.”

She evoked the courage of her grandfather: “I take inspiration in the life of my grandfather, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. We would all do well to listen to his words. We must not despair. We must not accept defeat. We must not forget that it is in our power to change the world”


In response, our Prime Minister Andrew Holness noted, “There is no amount of enforcement that is going to be as effective as behaviour change,” and urged the more frequent use of the Agent Sasco and Tessanne Chin road safety music video. He pledged, “We are committed to using all the utilities at our disposal to reduce road crashes by 50 percent by 2020.” He has been an engaged Chairman, and so we are optimistic.  Let’s do it – everyone can take the pledge to #slowdown and #savelives.  

Excerpt from Observer column published 15 May 2017 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

PAJ REGRETS PASSING OF FORMER HEAD OF JIS RADIO AND TV DOREEN BROWN

From Left to Right- Leroy and Doreen Brown, Education Grant Recipient Chester Jones of CARIMAC, PAJ President Dionne Jackson Miller

May 21, 2017: The Press Association of Jamaica expresses sincere regret at the sudden death of media veteran Doreen Brown.

"The PAJ honoured Doreen during our 2016 Journalism Week activities," says PAJ President Dionne Jackson Miller.

"We are so happy now that we were able to do so while she was still with us."

Doreen began her career at the Gleaner, from where she moved on to the Jamaica Information Service, where she worked, first as a press officer, and  then as a  Senior Information Officer in charge of the Press Department, before being promoted to to lead the Radio Department.

She was responsible for producing the popular radio dramas, Life in Hopeful Village, Way of the World, and the historical documentary Journeys. Doreen also wrote and produced other dramatic presentations, such as On The Right Track and Ma B's Family.

She worked at the Jamaican Consulate in New York as an Information Attaché, following which she returned to Jamaica to head up the JIS Television Department.

Doreen's work was recognized with a Seprod Award in 1977, in the category, Public Service (Radio) for her documentary on emancipation and apartheid,  and again in 1979, for her work on another documentary titled The Life and Times of Willie Henry, a   well-known figure in agriculture in Jamaica.

Doreen and her husband, Leroy, generously donated an Education Grant to a deserving university student, as part of a programme initiated by the PAJ during National Journalism Week 2016.

 "We remember with gratitude her work in media, and recall with fondness her generosity of spirit and unflagging interest in the affairs of the nation. We commiserate with her husband and constant companion Leroy, and the rest of Doreen's family and friends," says Jackson Miller.

-30-

Dionne Jackson-Miller, President, PAJ


"A Free Press, Oxygen of Democracy"

Monday, May 15, 2017

Thank you Poet Laureate Mervyn Morris

Poet Laureate Professor Mervyn Morris presents a copy
of the Jamaican Anthology 'In This Breadfruit Kingdom'
which he edited in collaboration with National Library Jamaica, to
Hon Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender,
Entertainment & Sport
Contributors to the Anthology line up at the Launch
Professor Mervyn Morris brought new energy for creative writing during his term as Poet Laureate of Jamaica.  This came to a grand finale with the launch of The Jamaica Anthology of Poems, "In This Breadfruit Kingdom" last Thursday.  His fellow UWI Professor Edward Baugh moved the audience with his stately readings. Dr Michael Bucknor's introduction of the publication and readings by Tanya Shirley and Alwyn Scott flagged its rich content.
Kudos National Library Jamaica CEO Winsome Hudson, co-publisher Tanya Batson-Savage of Blouse & Skirt Books.  Gratitude to Minister Olivia Grange for endorsing and Paulette Mitchell of CHASE Fund for supporting. 
I am honoured that one of my earliest poems "My Chinaman Jump to Di Riddim of Jah" is included in the anthology. 

Jean Lowrie-Chin 

Monday, May 8, 2017

The magic of Kingston

by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Observer column published Monday 8 May 2017


posted by Aundre James on Facebook
There is a new energy around Kingston & St. Andrew and this was evident at the launch of the Kingston & St. Andrew Development Foundation last Wednesday.  How can one resist the magic of Kingston – cool Devon House ice-cream, breezy lunches in Port Royal, inspiring concerts, lazy afternoons at Hope Gardens, the laughter and drama of Jamaican theatre. Kingston is the cradle of Ska and Reggae, and the honing ground of the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt. 

There is a unique Kingston buzz that makes it like no other city in the world.  What is particularly great about Kingston is that clearly, we are practically colour blind.  We have heard criticisms of contrasting attitudes to dancehall and carnival.  Yes, it exists, but remember that passa passa and Rae Town have been favourite events of uptowners.  Indeed, Spanish Chargé d'Affaires, Carmen Rives Ruiz-Tapiador brought Rae Town uptown with the Alpha Boys Band to give us a most memorable night last year.  As Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett noted after the recent deluge of tourists in the capital city for Carnival: “Airbnb is here to stay”.  We have been told that one of the most popular places for Airbnb bookings is Trench Town close to Bob Marley’s Culture Yard. 
Devon House Ice Cream

Clearly, this column could go into raptures of Saturday shopping at Cross Roads Market, Bruce’s patties and the ‘fudgie’ honking his horn while we scoured every pocket to make up the cost of a chocomo. But you get my gist:  Kingston tastes great!

Beyond that, with one of the leading natural harbours in the world, with high-calibre professionals and companies that continue to grow and thrive, Kingston captured the imagination of business trailblazers John Wray and his nephew Charles Ward, Abe Issa, the Matalons, Kennedys, Faceys, Hendricksons.  Kingston inspired a humble man named Glen Christian to dream big dreams, and today he is a business and real estate mogul, having founded the Carimed Group and Kirk Industries. Kingston’s charm spread to the shores of Ireland where Digicel Founder Denis O’Brien decided to build one of the most environmentally friendly office buildings in the Caribbean on the city’s picturesque waterfront.  

Kingston Mayor Delroy Williams being briefed by
KSA Development Fdn Chairman
Custos Hon Steadman Fuller
and Board Member KSAC Town Clerk Robert Hill

Therefore, it was an honour to have been invited to join the Board of the Kingston & St. Andrew Development & Homecoming Foundation, the brainchild of Custos Steadman Fuller and former Custos, Donna Parchment Brown.  In fact, Custos Fuller through his business Kingston Bookshop Ltd with his wife and business partner Mrs. Sonia Fuller, have given support to the tune of J$10M for the setting up and staffing of this Foundation.  Gratitude also to Jamaica National who have contributed a well-equipped office in downtown Kingston.  It is a dynamic Board: other members are St. Andrew Custos Dr. Patricia Dunwell; Morin Seymour, former Head of the Kingston Restoration Company; KSAC Town Clerk Robert Hill; Joylene Griffiths-Irving, Executive Director of the Scotiabank Foundation; and Executive Director Mr. George Watson who was a prime mover of the St. Elizabeth Homecoming Association.

The Foundation has stated its ambitious mission. This is “to mobilize and encourage all Kingston & St. Andrew citizens and their friends – resident and those living overseas, to come together and use the human and financial resources of the two parishes for the development of the economic, educational, cultural and social capacity of its people to improve their quality of life”.

Local Govt Minister Hon Desmond McKenzie
The mission of the Foundation was well received at pre-launch briefings by the Governor General, the Prime Minister, former Leader of the Opposition, Portia Simpson-Miller, and Kingston Mayor Delroy Williams.  At the launch, Local Government Minister, Desmond McKenzie waxed poetic about his place of birth, Kingston. “We have the largest Medical facilities and we have the largest market in the Caribbean in downtown Kingston …I am proud of my allegiance to my place of birth”. 

Minister McKenzie noted the initiative will increase a sense of national pride, meaningful social and economic development and advance and renew the spirit of Kingston. 

The Minister, who had led the municipality for over ten years, acknowledged the work of former Mayor Dr. Angela Brown-Burke to promote international recognition of the city.   He said the city had great tourism potential, citing airport and port expansion and the arrival of the first cruise ship. “Kingston is a great city and we are a great people,” he declared.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Alpha Founder's Day - 137 Years

Today marks 137 years since the brave Jamaican Jessie Ripoll took in the first orphan at Alpha Cottage on South Camp Road on May 1, 1880. This morning, students of my alma mater, Convent of Mercy "Alpha" Academy will walk on "Jessie's path" throughout the Alpha property, learning more about this remarkable and prayerful woman and her two friends who pooled their funds to answer God's call to serve his suffering people.
In 1890, the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Jamaica to assist Ripoll, who subsequently joined the religious order and became Mother Claver. This shows her awareness of her church's history, as it was Father Peter Claver who ministered to the suffering slaves when the ships made their stop in Cartagena, Colombia. The year 1880 was a mere four decades since Emancipation and there was dreadful suffering among the ex-slaves, who died leaving many orphans.
It was in uncovering the talent of these orphans that in 1890, the Alpha Boys' Band was formed — a cradle for the extraordinary musicians who emerged to participate in the creation of ska, rocksteady and reggae. Alpha Boys' 'graduates' have been the mainstay of major bands, including the Jamaica Military Band. Lennie Hibbert, Tommy McCook, Sparrow Martin, "Dizzy" Moore, Don Drummond, Yellow Man, Leroy Smart, and Dwight Richards are all greats who had beginnings in Alpha.
The institution's impact has spread islandwide and includes the largest high school in the Caribbean, St Catherine High, alma mater of our prime minister and Roman Catholic archbishop of Kingston. It also includes the St John Bosco Boys' Home, which promotes self-reliance and teaches farming, food processing and the culinary arts. I am proud that the chefs at my daughter's café are both graduates of St John Bosco — they constantly refer to the values taught them by the indomitable Sister Susan Frazer.
Thank you, Jessie Ripoll, for your life-saving vision. Happy founder's day, fellow Alpharians.

- Excerpt from Jean Lowrie-Chin's column published in the Jamaica Observer May 1, 2017

- Photos from Kali McMorris, Principal, Convent of Mercy 'Alpha' Academy of students and awardees.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

WELCOME TO AMERICA - A CARIBBEAN MUSICAL, HELD OVER BY POPULAR DEMAND!

Message from my awesome friend David Heron:


The new Caribbean musical Welcome to America is a TRIUMPH, and is held over in its limited run for TWO SHOWS ONLY this weekend  in Jamaica Queens!


-Saturday April 29 at 8pm 

-Sunday April 30 at 6pm


Can we ask for your  support by coming out or by spreading the word?


Hope to see you there and one love!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Launch of Kingston 145 Celebrations

Excerpt from Observer Column - 17 April 2017
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Kington Mayor Senator Delroy Williams hosted a colourful launch of the 145th Anniversary celebration as Kingston as the Capital City of Jamaica. The launch which took place at South Parade, featured the talented Lannaman’s and Tivoli Dance Troupes, the Mico University Choir and a smart march-past by the Jamaica Constabulary Force. JIS reporter Chad Bryan noted, “It included the reading of the history of Kingston by Executive Director of the Institute of Jamaica, Vivian Crawford, and the symbolic lowering of the Spanish Town flag and the breaking of the Kingston flag, signifying the change in the seat of power as Jamaica’s capital on April 4, 1872.”

In an interview with blogger Emma Lewis, Mayor Williams spoke passionately about his plans for Kingston. “I want to make Kingston the number one city in the Caribbean – the capital city of the Caribbean – and a truly global city,” her told her.

Digicel Chairman Denis O’Brien shares this vision, establishing his impressive Digicel Regional Headquarters on the Kingston waterfront and funding the extensive renovation of the Coronation Market. GraceKennedy’s new headquarters now under construction, is testimony to that 95-year-old company’s faith in the city.


When questioned about his plans to tackle solid waste and create more green spaces, the Mayor gave Emma a refreshing response: “It’s not just a question of funds. It’s a question of using the funds efficiently and without waste.” 

Congratulations to the Mayor, Town Clerk Robert Hill and the KSAC Team on their bold steps. 

‘Won’t you help to sing … Redemption Song!’

Observer column published MON 17 April 2017
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Her last Facebook post was of an animated cat, wishing everyone a friendly “‘Goog’ Morning!”  However, Dawn Nugent did not live to see last Wednesday morning.  She had driven to her home in Golden Spring, St. Andrew after a church meeting last Tuesday evening, and was murdered.  Members of the Immaculate Conception Church in Stony Hill and the Tom’s River Mission are grieving her loss. They posted: “Dawn was a woman of prayer …We have been blessed by her ministry and passion for the faith.”

And so this Holy Week, as I pondered the tragic death of a giving, Christian woman and too many others, I had to turn to the words of Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr: “Undeserved suffering is redemptive.”  During our Good Friday meditation on the agony and death of Christ, I wondered if Jamaica was getting the strongest of messages: this undeserved suffering of Jamaica’s innocents could indeed be redemptive, but only if we become agents of that redemption.

We must discern the illogic of one set of headlines preening about big plans, while another is screaming crime.  Redemption will come when the two political parties, whose members eat and drink together, release from their bosoms the thugs who prevent poor people in garrisons from crossing a street to visit a relative. As we contemplate the triumph of the resurrection, no doubt celebrated by our leaders and their family at various church services, we appeal to them to raise  their standard of leadership. 

Vision 2030 will only be a facile slogan if they cannot protect their people. Political brinkmanship has brought us to this sorry pass, and only political will can take us out of it. Newcomers to politics have a great opportunity to make a stand for justice.  It is more difficult for those who have been long in the system to drop the tribalist baggage, but what a great day it would be if they decide to do so.  Jamaica, blessed with great people, great climate, great natural resources could rise to dizzying heights, if only she could get the chance. With every corrupt act, every bureaucratic obstacle, every crime, we are driving away Jamaica’s promising young professionals. 

You would think that our political representatives would see this situation as a national emergency and be arriving early at the House of Parliament to set to work on sound governance.  Not so, testified a photograph posted on social media by a journalist at the starting time for Parliament last Tuesday. Only two MPs were present.


Civil society must strengthen itself.  We can help motivate representatives of both political parties to protect the citizens they have pledged to serve. They must now have the moral fibre to step up to the responsibility of power – the power to give their country a legacy of enlightened leadership.  Be of good courage, sisters and brothers of Gordon House. Please take up the challenge of Bob Marley: “Won’t you help to sing – Redemption Song!”  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

World Premiere - Welcome to America!

Welcome to America - A Caribbean Musical, will have its World Premiere performance in New York on Thursday, April 20, at the Milton G. Bassin Performing Arts Center at York College, Jamaica Queens.



The performance will begin at 8pm and will kick off a limited run of the new Caribbean musical which ends on Sunday April 23.
The show is produced by Braata Productions and features an award winning creative team with book by Karl O'Brian Williams, music by Andrew Clarke, Karl O'Brian Williams and Joel Edwards, and Lyrics by Andrew Clarke and Williams. It is directed by Dominican born Yudelka Heyer.
Described by its creators as a universal story of hope and aspiration, Welcome To America explores the assimilation of a newly arrived undocumented Caribbean immigrant in the United States, and the complex pursuit of the American dream.
It tells the story of Sabrina Barnes, a talented and ambitious ingénue from the Caribbean, who leaves her home behind with big dreams and her determination to become a star. She soon learns however, that her island naiveté and the harsh realities of her newly adopted country may put both her goals and her future in great jeopardy.
The production employs both original songs as well as established selections from throughout the Caribbean Diaspora, enhanced with contemporary musical theater styling.
Award winning Jamaican playwright Karl O'Brian Williams, who began crafting the story several years ago with collaborative input from Braata Productions' Executive Director Andrew Clarke, says that the timing of the new production could not be more appropriate.
"We had been discussing the idea for a new musical that would tackle these issues of immigration, isolation and the pursuit of the American dream from a Caribbean perspective for some years now," he says, "And then, just when we were putting the finishing touches on the script, the election happened. And the world and America as we knew it were now living in a totally different reality. So I think the production, while very entertaining, also has a hugely important message in very challenging timhe production's short run at the Milton Bassin Center will precede a longer run to be announced in due course.
Welcome To America will play for five performances only, with a special Preview on Thursday April 20 at 12 noon followed by the World Premiere performance later that day at 8pm. It continues on Friday and Saturday at 8pm with the final performance on Sunday April 23 at 6pm. The Milton Bassin Performing Arts Center is located at York College, 94-95 Guy R Brewer Blvd in Jamaica Queens, New York, 11451. See also www.yorkpac.com.


Friday, April 14, 2017

William Mahfood and Jamaica’s promise

Observer column published 10 April 2017

by Jean Lowrie-Chin
PHOTOS FROM AFJ FACEBOOK PAGE

William Mahfood receives his award from
AFJ President Wendy Hart

Former US Ambassador to Jamaica Hon Brenda LaGrange-Johnson
US Ambassador Hon Luis Moreno  and Mrs Moreno
show respect to their National Anthem
 The large audience at the Four Seasons in Miami rose to its feet on the announcement of the recipient of the American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) International Humanitarian Award – William Mahfood.  As the citation noted, “Generosity comes so naturally to William Mahfood that when he is thanked he seems almost unaware of his many kindnesses that have uplifted countless Jamaicans.”

 The tribute video featured Sister Mary Benedict Chung, who noted that as Chairman of the Laws Street Trade Training Centre, William Mahfood is never too busy to assist her in the service of Jamaica’s poor in Kingston’s inner city. The legendary Shaggy explained that it was when William sat with him and his wife Rebecca to create a structured approach, that the Shaggy Foundation really took off, earning millions for the Bustamante Hospital for Children. 
Philanthropy runs in the Mahfood family.  They are founders of Food for the Poor, now serving millions in 17 Caribbean and Latin American Countries. Their company WISYNCO has grown into a multi-billion group of companies, but as a staff member commented, their Chairman still makes the time for the humblest of his employees. During his recent presidency of the PSOJ, William was known for his energetic advocacy of good governance and the promotion on inclusivity for national partnership. 

The Mahfood Family with Orville 'Shaggy' Burrell
William Mahfood and friend Shaggy
Beverley Levy and Tourism Minister
Hon Edmund Bartlett

Shaggy and wife Rebecca enjoy the vibe
The elegant Hon Audrey Marks, Jamaican Ambaasador
to the US, and friends 
When the young politician Damion Crawford described his 1-2-3 plan for education in his community, William took the time to call me and bring Damion to my office, so I could write about this unique approach.  William Mahfood has a passion for education and has quietly supported and mentored many young Jamaicans.  William and his wife Frances are a philanthropic power couple – Frances (nee Feanny) is a giver in her own right and a caring nutritionist with the Heart Foundation of Jamaica. We are proud to know them.

 Other AFJ awardees were Mrs. Sheryl Gillian M. Wynter, a team member of the Consulate General of Jamaica in South Florida and Dr. Kevin Coy, a highly skilled cardiologist who has saved many lives in his capacity as a Senior Physician at the Aventura Hospital and Medical Centre of Mercy Hospital in South Florida. 

Former US Ambassador to Jamaica,
the inspiring Hon. Pamela Bridgewater presents
an award to Mrs. Sheryl Gillian M. Wynter
The pledges came in thick and fast at the Charity Gala, bolstering the US$310,000 presented to various Jamaican organisations last Monday by the AFJ. The Board of the American Friends of Jamaica comprise former US Ambassadors to Jamaica and their colleagues.  The AFJ Board is led by President Wendy Hart, Presidents Emeriti retired Ambassadors Glen Holden, Sue Cobb, and Brenda Johnson, Treasurer Barron Channer, Secretary James A. Coda, and other Directors, retired Ambassadors Pamela Bridgewater and J. Gary Cooper; other philanthropists Patricia Falkenberg, Monica Ladd, Paula Campbell Roberts, Michele Rollins, Dr. Laura Tanna, Glenn Creamer and Sydney Engel.
Dr Kevin Coy with his Award


To date, the American Friends of Jamaica have contributed over J$60M (US$470,000).  Recipients include The Alpha Institute, The Good Shepherd Foundation, Fight for Peace, The Pocket Rocket Foundation, Cornwall Regional Hospital and SOS Children’s Village. This outpouring of support shows how convinced our international friends are of our potential.  Now we need to match strides with them to show our appreciation for their faith in our country.  


JAMAICA'S RESPONSIBILITY

Why is it that so many Jamaicans are not moved to do for our own country what others do for us? Perhaps our people are disheartened about the garbage, joblessness and are immobilized out of frustration. However, it becomes very embarrassing when those outside of our country continue to give so willingly while we become closed to the neediest among us.  While our people should be getting closer attention from our Members of Parliament and Councillors, it is still our duty as citizens to reach out to others. No innocent child or helpless elderly should be allowed to suffer because “is Govament business”.

The horrendous murder of a 14-year-old by an 11-year-old in Trelawny led to the discovery by the Child Development Agency of a five-year-old in the same district being mercilessly abused.  This co-incidental discovery leads one to wonder how much child abuse is going unnoticed throughout our country.

Without early intervention, traumatized children will manifest their anger in the anti-social behaviour that is rife in the country. Again, this column repeats the call for an incentive programme to train more social workers to promote harmony in families and in communities.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Water Crisis in Negril

Expansion Of Resort Town Leaves NWC Floundering

The National Water Commission (NWC) has admitted that it is losing the battle to supply the resort town of Negril with potable water.
Regional water supply and distribution manager at the NWC Dr Richard Meggoe last week warned that the expansion of its water supply system was not keeping apace with the massive housing and hotel developments taking place in the town.
According to Meggoe, Negril is going to have a carrying-capacity issue where water supply is concerned as the water source in Logwood, Hanover, which supplies the resort town, is severely stressed.
He said that there has been a significant reduction of rainfall in Hanover, which has resulted in meteorologists characterising the parish as being in a state of severe drought.
"As it is now, Negril is supplied from the Logwood Water Treatment System, which has a capacity of about five million gallons per day ... with the expansion of the tourism product in Negril, it has placed some stress on the system.
"I remember two years ago, there was a crisis situation where there had to be trucks on the Boulevard in and out, and the simple reason for this is that Logwood is served by a blue hole, and it is seasonal," added Meggoe during a Negril Chamber of Commerce meeting in the town last Thursday.
"The unique situation of Negril is that Jamaica's dry season coincides with the tourist season. We know that tourism utilises anywhere between four to 10 times the water that the locals would use, so it is really a water-intensive industry.
"As it is right now, the Logwood blue hole, the inflows to it have fallen by 80 per cent. That have translated into a reduction of output by about two million gallons per day. So you really see that it is a crisis situation. We are having expansion and we are having a reduction in supply," added Meggoe.
- Report courtesy of Little Bay Country Club


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Jamaica Education Enrichment Kudos


State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Floyd Green (right), in discussion with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director, Maura Barry-Boyle (left) and Chairman of the Digicel Foundation, Jean Lowrie-Chin, during the handing over of the Enrichment Initiative to the Education Ministry on March 22 at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston. The programme seeks to improve literacy in all primary schools.
- JIS photo by Melroy Sterling
Excerpt from Jamaica Observer column - 3 April 2017
The recent finale of the four-year Education Enrichment in 104 primary schools throughout Jamaica, demonstrates the power of partnership.  The Ministry of Education, Digicel Foundation and the USAID came together to create enrichment rooms in these schools, targeting the slower learners with the use of information technology and colourful visuals. 

As USAID Mission Director Maura Barry Boyle noted, “The programme has impacted over 43,000 students, 6,000 parents and more than 200 teachers and principals combined.  We are proud of this achievement.  Due to our collective effort, Jamaica’s literacy rate at the Grade 4 level now exceeds the Ministry’s national target of 85%.”

State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Information and Youth Floyd Green, remarked on the 99 Parent Places where parents are trained to assist their children’s learning.  “The Parent Places fulfil a dual role by providing a space for parents … allowing them to have a physical presence in the school.” 


At the event, we were impressed with the various learning aids on display, including the innovative BookFusion which gives free access to children’s books online.  Technology is opening new paths for our children, and it is significant that slow-learning boys have responded positively to the new methods in the enrichment centres. 

- Jean Lowrie-Chin (honoured to be Chairman of the Digicel Jamaica Foundation)

The Alan Magnus Effect

by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Excerpt from Observer column - 3rd April 2017

Alan with his dear Kerry and friends at
farewell event

RJR Group CEO Gary Allen presents a cheque
to the phenomenal Alan Magnus
We waxed nostalgic at a farewell event last Friday for Jamaica’s undisputed King of Morning Radio, Alan “Teddy” Magnus.  Doraine Samuels recalled their antics on air and Paula Anne Porter registered her respect for this incomparable radio man.  RJR Group CEO Gary Allen noted the discipline of the man, a dependable early bird, and his brilliance, being the first announcer to start playing music digitally, even before his younger colleagues. 
Dorraine Samuels had fond
and funny memories of their
morning radio escapades!
Marie Garth flew in
looking as chic as ever!
We can relate to Minister Ruel Reid’s recollection that ‘Calypso Corner’ was his signal to have all in place to set out by 7am as a student, and the cheerful voice that gave him an upbeat start to each day.  It takes a generous heart to know that whatever the environment, people need to know that life does indeed have a bright side to strengthen their coping skills.  We are all in Alan Magnus’ debt for his gentle humour, a comfort zone in which we could prepare for whatever the day would bring. 

It was wonderful to get together with other radio legends Marie Garth, Radcliffe Butler, Don Topping, Norma Brown-Bell and Ralston Smith to honour Alan.  His voice remains ever young, and will still be heard.  We hope his daughter author Kellie Magnus will write his rich history.  Thank you for your over four decades of service Alan Magnus – have a wonderful retirement with your beloved wife Kerry and family!

Our people deserve better

Jamaica Observer column by Jean Lowrie-Chin
published  3 April 2017

The countries dubbed the happiest in the world are those which provide solid social services for their citizens.  This does not come at an easy cost but as one of my friends from Norway told me, “I pay my taxes with a smile!'  Svein says he is assured that his children will be able to grow up in a nurturing environment and that as he and his wife age, there will be health and other services to support them.  

Unfortunately, those of us in Jamaica who are called upon to pay dramatically increased property and other taxes, cannot look forward to such benefits from the State. Having made such an inspiring Budget presentation, this is a time for our Prime Minister to lead the charge for a new political will.  This would reassure the Jamaican people that their taxes are being used to run an efficient public service. It is Jamaica’s obese public service which homeowners are now being asked to finance to the detriment of the country’s financial well-being.  Most of these homeowners have mortgages to pay, and many are elderly pensioners who can barely find the funds for the upkeep of their homes.  
  
Last week this column quoted some encouraging sections from the Prime Minister’s Budget presentation in which he outlined plans for creating employment and making more young people employable. However, the Prime Minister and his colleagues in Cabinet cannot be deaf to the outcry of their people who have financial, security, health and environmental challenges. Honest, hardworking citizens have become prisoners in their own homes.  Even if wealthier folks can afford the many safety devices on the market, how will businesses continue to operate if they now resort to online shopping for fear of being robbed in public places.

From whence did these criminals spring? The decades-long alliances of both JLP and PNP politicians with unsavoury individuals developed into gangs they could no longer control. What a great day it would be if MPs and Parish Councillors took a visible, active role in being agents of peace and justice. They are a sizeable team for 2.7 million citizens – 63 Members of Parliament and 224 Parish Councillors.  What a great boost it would be for our Jamaica Constabulary Force if they knew that they could rely on every single politician in this country to help preserve the peace though fostering neighbourhood watch programmes.  The cynical “safe seat formula” continues to put fear in the hearts of residents of certain areas who still cannot safely cross a street dividing communities along party lines. 

If these leaders had to operate without personal security detail, they would probably be more sensitive to the terror that is being visited on our communities, deeply affecting our elderly. 
In the meanwhile, I have to thank the security companies who have offered our members of our Senior’s organization CCRP discounts on security systems.  They are: Guardsman, Hawkeye and King Alarm.  I am appealing to those who have elderly relatives to sit with them, examine their environment and work out a safety plan for them.  Ensure that emergency numbers are posted at strategic points and that they are entered in their mobile phones for quick response.  We have to also try to be the eyes and ears for our neighbours, as it seems that no community, rich or poor, is immune.


There are so many good citizens who have given and are still giving of their all for their country. Let them not be discouraged by so many obstacles, many of which can be removed by a new resolve for good governance in sphere of public life.