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


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.


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.