Crowd o’ people!  Spread the word widely!  Do show up at the march/vigil and then come back and tell me how it was for you.  I’ll reserve my comments for after the event. Check out Nicholas Laughlin’s post as well.

A message from Aloun Ndombet-Assamba:

A group of us have gotten together to do something about this frightening situation that we find ourselves in as a country. With the support of my Lions club, the Lions Club of New Kingston, Blossom Anglin Brown and I have joined a group of women and men to begin to take responsibility for our country.  We have a diverse group who have met, including the Kiwanis Club of New Kingston, Hear the Children Cry, the former President of the JMA and other individuals and have arranged for a MARCH on Wednesday NOV 19th,2008 which is the International Day for Prevention of Child Abuse.

We will begin our MARCH from the POLICE OFFICER’S CLUB on Hope Road at 4.00pm.
We will go down Hope Road to Half Way Tree
Turn left on to Half Way Tree Road; march to Chelsea Ave
Turn left on Chelsea Ave; march to Trafalgar Road
Turn right on Trafalgar Road; march to Knutsford Boulevard
Turn right on to Knutsford Boulevard; march to Emancipation Park.

Once in Emancipation Park we will join the CHILD DEVELOPMENT AGENCY in their Candle Light Vigil which has been planned for this special Day.

Our march is not a public relations event nor is it intended to be a feel good event.It is also not a party political event. We will have no speeches. This is a serious attempt to bring attention to the situation we are in as a country and to have citizens take personal responsibility for doing something about it. We believe this is just a start and will symbolize the forging of a social partnership where people from all walks of life can come together and take a stand.

We are not calling on the Government or the Police to do anything. We are calling on individual private citizens to stop being crippled by fear and consider it our duty to do what he or she can to make Jamaica, once again a safe place to be.

Bring pictures of children and women who have been abducted and or killed to show on the march. We are not providing any tee shirts or other paraphenalia.  Just our bodies.  If you can’t join us at the start of the march join us along the way. Allow your staff to leave work early so they can join us. Get your friend and neighbours to join us and share this email with others so they can choose to join us.

We pray fervently for God’s Spirit to be with us and to guide our footsteps in this terrible time.

Aloun

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Well, I didn’t like the answers I found in yesterday and today’s Gleaner, so I wrote the following letter:

To the Editor:

It is deeply problematic that the violence against Christopher Sukra in Westmoreland would provoke a need for Gleaner editors to call for “draw[ing] the line against sexual depravity”, despite the numbers of women’s and girls’ who have been similarly brutalized and used as fodder for newspaper and tv reportage over the past several months.

Similarly, the sexism and deep-seated and destructive hatred of homosexuality that pervades this society, and which drove many in 2006 to argue against changing the definition of rape in order to prevent the recognition of homosexual sex between men, are the same social prejudices that Orville Taylor invokes in his column, telling us to see the crime against this and other boy children as different from and more serious than rape because it was “capped by the awful act of sodomy.”  Even after that 2006 debate, we have people pandering to the notion that some kinds of sexual violence are more important than others, based on which sexual acts were deemed acceptable.  Apparently, rape is about sex after all.

I am left wonder how many dead and dismembered girls and women will it take for that symbolic line in the sand to be crossed, where what is done to them is not registered as normal and acceptable, but rather a form of violence as well?  Both Taylor’s column and the editorial tell us, albeit not in so many words.  When the crime is committed against girls and women, the problem is too “complex” to sort out.  On the other hand, the rape and murder of a boy is as an issue of “sexual propriety”, the violence being that a man was the perpetrator and a boy the victim.  Furthermore, the problem is not related to diffuse social types called “monsters” but have nameable perpetrators and actionable behaviours.  We can now focus on “big men, middle-aged and elderly” who commit sexual violence against children.  Isn’t it amazing what it takes to get beyond the emotionality, moral outrage and speechifying about “our children”, and directly to issues of public policy?

Contrary to the editors’ backhanded defense of their claim, it is absolutely true that there is carte blanche permission for men to violate women and girls in Jamaican society.  The evidence is in how girls and women move in this society. We know this violence and experience this everyday, to the extent that many of us don’t interpret what is done to us as violence; it is jus’ an everyday ting, as ordinary as buying a Mother’s patty.

And yet, for many of us, it is not entirely surprising that denial of the real motivations and consequences of violence against women and girls would rears its head in how opinion-makers choose to interpret similar victimization of boys as somehow worse and therefore cause for action.  These stances confirm what Jamaican women and girls know intuitively: that we are not [ever?] going to get justice through the courts; and that the men who violate the little-known rules know that they will almost always get away with rape and murder; and that our silence will not protect us from being victimized all over again.  Just look at the history of rape trials in this society, and even in the past few months, for amazingly powerful evidence that shows how the sexism regularly enables and endorse rape and violence against women and girls.

The deep-seated sexism and hatred of homosexuality are closely related, and we should not take comfort in one or the other; both do us a disservice, from how we make sense of these cases, to how we act to protect our children. Perhaps if our political leaders had demonstrated the moral leadership and courage necessary to draw the lines against those social prejudices,  Keturah Bennett, Nordia Campbell and many would still have their children.

Scurrilous?

November 13, 2008

I read the article. I wasn’t sure that my initial reaction (Bruce needs to learn to use a thesaurus!) was entirely correct, so I looked up the word:

Scurrilous (Adjective)

1. grossly or obscenely abusive: a scurrilous attack on the mayor.
2. characterized by or using low buffoonery; coarsely jocular or derisive: a scurrilous jest.
3 a: using or given to coarse language b: vulgar and evil
4: containing obscenities, abuse, or slander

Hm.

Then I looked up the word that provoked the response:

Nepotism (Noun)

1. patronage bestowed or favoritism shown on the basis of family relationship, as in business and politics: e.g She was accused of nepotism when she made her nephew an officer of the firm.

2. favoritism (as in appointment to a job) based on kinship

3. the showing of favoritism toward relatives and friends, based upon that relationship, rather than on an objective evaluation of ability, meritocracy or suitability. For instance, offering employment to a relative, despite the fact that there are others who are better qualified and willing to perform the job. The word nepotism is from the Latin word ‘nepos’, meaning “nephew” or “grandchild”. (Wikipedia)

I go back and read the article again.

Nope. I don’t see how the trisyllabic word even remotely applies.
Sorry Bruce, the problem is as plain to see as that garishly painted wall. I think that thou dost protest too much. Besides, doesn’t it take nepotist to know another?

Portia-Pot calling Bruce-Kettle Black

Portia-Pot calling Bruce-Kettle Black

If the PNP folks say its there, I can assure you that it’s there.

Despite the ridiculous racist attacks coming from white gay men and lesbians, don’t even think about it (I really want to see how noted sexopinionator Dan Savage is going to dig his whiny ass out of the mess he has created.)

Read this righteous rant from Ernest Hardy, and then think again.

Sometimes me really nuh know wha’ wrong wid some o’ we. I’ look like seh no new news n’e’h deh fi report, an’ like ‘ow we love fa’as i’nna people bizness an’ love i’x up weself , it n’ah go tek long fi smaddy come chat bout ‘ow dem did know Obama, an’ what not.

But, me did really ‘affi buss out inna w’an piece a big laugh when mi deh read di Gleaner a couple days back. Apparently, Kay Osborne could not wait to tell di ‘ole a Jumeyka ’bout har 1 degree of separation from the Obamas. ‘ear ‘ar nuh:

“We liked each other, always hugged and talked when we met. My family and I attended informal get-together at the Obamas, spent time just hanging out, talking, eating, arguing, laughing, just being real.”

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but she’s not some part of the hallowed circle that she’s letting on here. That was their relationship with lots of people; there were decent people after all who made everyone feel welcome. The people who waited on them at their favourite restaurant and worked on the campaign could also share this exact account.

As fi di repeated comments bout “being real”: I guess all of us are supposed to know what that means? It is yet another of those annoying faddish phrases that are steadily creeping into [some] Jamaicans’ vocabulary, thanks to our uncanny ability to latch on to whatever come from America (and from black queer culture, thank you!) in order to raise the perceptions of our social status a notch. I’m so not impressed.

But just in case we are wondering just how well she knew the Obamas, Miss Kay had to take us all the way into the kitchen and into a private moment between the Obamas:

“I got the sense that they loved each other, there was a great deal of affection and respect in their interactions. It was clear that he adored her and that he was her man. He touched her with great gentleness.[…] I recall once when I and a couple of other women were chatting with a very pregnant Michelle at a small gathering at their kitchen. Barack walked up behind Michelle and put his arm around her waist and stroked her belly. “Michelle looked up at him, their eyes locked, they kissed briefly and Michelle continued the conversation. I recall thinking at the time that this man was absolutely in love with this woman and this was totally cool.”

Now, if this doesn’t sound like white house porno fiction, I don’t what does. I mean, why didn’t she just recount how often Barack feel up Michelle? And exactly when Michelle get ‘ar period? And how many times a week dem have sex? And in what positions? She might as well have, being so eager to share and extrapolate from what she don’t really know!

As far as mi concern, yuh si people like Kay Osborne so? Don’ invite dem ki’n a smaddy a yuh ya’ad an’ inna yuh private bizness. Fa’r di minute yuh tun yuh back an’ achieve sinting, dem ready fi tell di ‘ole a yuh bizness so dem cyan raise fi dem status an’ gwa’n like seh dem more important now cau dem know bigshot smaddy. Come in like dem man whe’ n’eh mi’n dem pikney but ready fi tun daddy as soon as di pickney dem tun out to be smaddy.

But yuh tink Kay Osborne done deh so? No sah! ‘Ear har now nuh?

“[the] Obamas will bring back wonderful, joyous sex to the White House…I believe this to be true. My hope is that despite her age, Michelle will conceive in the White House[..],” says Osborne.

This is what the Obamas have to look forward to – those who are “more than an acquaintance and less than close friend” a labba labba bout dem sex life an’ a spread all kinds of gossip about them. It’s not enough for Kay Osborne to see and admire them, just like everyone else. No, she has to insert herself into the narrative and the public persona they’ve created in order to make herself seem more important. That is just truly declasse. I’m going to send the Gleaner article to the Obama transition team. I bet they will get a serious kick out of this drivel.

But even the picture accompanying the article – one that is now fairly familiar to anybody who’s been following the campaing – had to be brought in line with the pornospeculatory theme of Kay Osborne’s commentary. The caption of the photo reads” ‘I love you’ is what Barack Obama seems to whisper to his wife Michelle.”

Really now? Barack could also “seem” to be whispering “did you remember to call the office this morning?” or, “Just one more picture and then its lunch time, I promise” or [insert whatever fantasy you want to project onto them here]. Or, he could have exhaled with his mouth open.

The more important question here is who authorized the publication of this nonsense in the newspaper? I suppose that “if the world can’t seem to devour enough of this family” as the reporter claims, then I guess she or the Gleaner thinks we need to get in on the nyammings too? Sharks, hyenas and john crows are what come to mind.

Bearing witness

November 5, 2008

First it was Nelson Mandela.

Now, it’s Barack Obama’s turn.

[Note: Photos are from Huffington Post. I’m in the grove of trees encircling the outer edges of the crowd. That’s as close as I tried to get]

It was beautiful and so, so, so inspiring to see.

I don’t think I could have imagined what it would have felt like to be standing in that long, long line on Michigan Avenue on a rather balmy un-November-like evening, with the most friendly and chatty people I’ve  probably ever met, and entering with that amazingly huge and well-behaved (!) crowd into that park to hear and see him live (albeit behind bulletproof glass) as he stepped into his new role as 44th President of the United States.

What a moment. What a speech.  What a speech.  What depth of character.  What a quality person.  What a long time for the 106 year old woman from Atlanta to wait for someone of this caliber to step into the role of leader of this United States of America.  How could anyone not want this man to be the person who represents them and acts on their behalf on the world stage?  He even recognized his non-supporters and did not demonize them – what a display of grace and humility!

I was so moved by the whole thing, I could seriously even imagine myself living here in this city.  America seems almost tolerable again.  And you know what else? As I listened to him speak, I knew that he would never see it as politically expedient to declare that I, and persons who share my sexual orientation, could not have a place in his Cabinet.  That would simply be unthinkable.  He is a model of leadership that we could all learn something from.

Now, I need to go get some sleep as I have a plane to catch in a few hours.  You really had to be here.  It was worth every last minute and cent to have witnessed and participated in this moment.

The latest of the downpour of superlatives and adulation about Barack Obama comes from Dennie Quill.. In his most recent column, he laid out what he sees as the lessons that Jamaicans can learn about the election campaign. I am not going to respond to every point he made, but, suffice it to say that his commentary reflects the ways in which the “love affair” is being cultivated here, and not always to our benefit. I focus on the first three points.

Dennie claims:

1. “there can be tough, rigorous campaigning without political violence.”

True. Except, Dennie misses the point that we do not – and may not ever have – believe in “tough, rigorous campaigning.” For one thing, that would mean that there was actual discernible substance to what any of the candidates were talking about, and we were not being constantly subjected to the saccharine froth of the latest political personalities. No, even with all the manifestos and whatnot from this most recent campaign, it was still really about style and the cult of personality. In my opinion, neither Portia nor Bruce were able to successfully convey any of the substance of their campaign platforms in ways that were meaningful to the population. They spent more time talking to their own party constituents, giving nuff big chat and badmouthing the other candidate, but they never really spoke to Jamaican people as a whole. We went with how we perceived them as being, based on their history and party affiliations. We did not actually evaluate them according to how well or adequately they stood on any issue. We certainly never made it nearly impossible for them to weasel out of explaining the various scandals, votes, etc. We simply didn’t care a lick about their legislative records! Instead, we allowed them to define the issues that mattered, and then to tell us what they thought, when they clearly had not done adequate research to give substantive answers to anything. We also did not ask, nor did we have an opportunity to ask, about issues that were important to many of us.

So, maybe what Jamaicans can learn is about what it means and takes to have well-organized, principled campaigns; why it matters that people pay attention to the histories of the candidates, and what is being said; why it matters to create myriad opportunities to participate in the campaign; why it matters that candidates ought not to be able to tell bald-face lies, make up information,cuss and carry on, and to get away with such behaviour; why it matters that the media convey the core ideas of the candidates in the clearest most intelligible language possible; why it matters that the media be open to identifying and promoting public debate and discussion about the issues.

At this point in time, I really don’t think that we Jamaicans at home really know or understand the level of sophistication of the American political system, and certainly not how and why Barack is such a phenomenon when it comes to organizing this campaign for presidency. Why? For one thing, what is reported in our media is a reflection/hodgepodge of the viewpoints present in mainstream American news. If we were really as supportive and invested, I suspect that we would look beyond CNN, FOX and MSNBC to alternative media sources to find out what and how Americans of all stripes, have gone about building some amazing political alliances to make Obama’s campaign what it is.

Over the past two months, I have come to learn that there is no area of social life – I mean, NONE – that is not touched by political organizing in a season like this one. Many aspects of the Obama’s grassroots campaign have already been tried and found successful by the Republicans and the religious right; what is wonderful and simply astounding to many white liberals and totally heartening to myself, frankly, is that this time, its being done by a progressive candidate! That’s part of the subtext of Obama’s “wow” factor that is pissing off the neocons. Mind you, I already have a sense of the power of the religious right to mobilize its people so I’m not going to call the election for Obama. It’s possible, but believe you me, the things American rightwing folks can do and say to get their people to the polls will just astound you. If there is anything that we take from the mediastorm and the Obama phenomenon in the past few months, it is that what people have to say about this particular candidate can be immediately verified, supported and repudiated, because of how savvy the Obama and McCain campaigns have been about using and disseminating information. Technology has certainly helped, but that’s not the be-all and end-all. The traditional modes – talking to people, editorials in newspapers, listening to radio programs where people talk about why they feel the way they do about a candidate, as well as engage others that they often disagree with – are still important, and are a reflection of the human aspects of campaigns. Its why blatant lies about Obama being a Muslim etc. can spread so far and so fast. But its also why the facts as they exist and are established by the Obama campaign can also take root and work to reject [the implicit racism in] those false claims.

As for we in Jamaica, we have spent at least the last two generations unlearning and demonizing some critical skills for building public consensus from the ground up: the importance of pounding the pavement, connecting with people from every walk of life, listening to them, offering them concrete information, and having a framework that says that the lives of ordinary people matter and can tell us something about what our visions for change should look like.

Everytime I hear our people complaining about the “problem” and “inconvenience” of public protest, I want to cry. Those people want us to turn to our politicians as the problem-solvers, at least when they are at work or not involved in corrupt dealings. The methodology that undergirds how both McCain and Obama have worked is related to rethinking every aspect of politics in public life, and understanding the importance of making their arguments by reaching out to each person who just might be swayed by their positions; even the spectacle of people coming out in numbers to show their support or displeasure on an issue is a way of getting people to be more involved in the democratic process. When you see so many people standing for an issue, you want to know what it is that they are so passionate about, and thus you might stop and listen. Stopping to listen offers a moment for conversion. In order for Obama’s campaign to be even remotely intelligible to us, we need to know, understand and even believe in some basic tenets of democratic participation – working with each other to build consensus on an issue, approach etc. – and we are not even close to being there yet. So, Dennie, that lesson is still a way off from being learned.

2. “in electioneering, money matters”

I am not surprised that Quill would see this as a “lesson”. What is not conveyed in his column are the specific ways in which money has been, and remains, a problem in the campaign system, and what Barack’s position on this is. Instead, Quill glams onto to the raw dollar signs: Barack raised more than McCain; he raised it from likkle people rather than from the big man. Why? Well, Quill offers the explanation that is most convenient for him: “[Barack] did not look to big business because he understands that when payback time comes these donors want their pound of flesh. So donations came from small people, $20 at a time.” This is a classic example of how these media personalities in Jamaica will distort and misrepresent what happens in America in self-serving ways. What Quill says is patently false and misleading.

Obama made a choice about who he wants to pay back his “pound of flesh” to. He has chosen to side with ordinary people, not big business. He could have raised that amount of money, and possibly more, from big business. But to do so would compromise his political agenda and the basic principles that have guided his work. Every $20 from regular folks is a buy-in, a signal that the campaign is being heavily greased and driven by a populist agenda. Every $1 million from a group of regular folks who are working their networks to raise money is a buy-in. He chose to weight these kinds of buy-in over many others.

So, the lesson here is not [simply] that money matters. Its about how one’s principles matter and determine to whom you will pay allegiance, and what you are willing to do to demonstrate that. But since we don’t care too much about principles – don’t look too closely at either Bruce or Portia now – that lesson is probably lost on us for now.

3. “Racism is alive in America”
So what is the lesson exactly? Are Jamaicans going to stop thinking that African Americans are “oversensitive” about racism? Does that mean that Jamaicans, in our profound commitment to ignoring racism in our own midst, will now be more committed to the notion that racism definitely exists over there in America, but thank god, not here in Jamaica? That we elect black people all the time, and nobody ever try to kill them because they are black? So, if Obama wins, then we can all get ready fi get nuff visa fi go a farrin because now the Department of Homeland Security will see the error of their ways and won’t want to keep out all those hardworking black Jamaicans who have always believed that they are better than the American black people, and now that Obama looks like how we think everyone should see us, well then, we should be rewarded for it (just keep dem wutless black people from showing dem face and mekkin’ we look bad). I mean, what does he mean by this is a lesson?

How exactly does using the examples of the threats to kill Obama and the “a black man did it” scare tactics help Jamaicans understand American racism today? The answer is, it doesn’t. All of those drumming up the love affair have totally missed the nuanced critiques of racism that Obama has offered through his policies, as well as the responses of political journalists, bloggers et al. to all the madness that has come Barack’s way. If I may say so, the campaign’s success lies partly in how many campaign “centres” have been created. Activists and supporters are everywhere all at once, and do not waste time in pointing out the problematic arguments as they emerge.

Quill states that “Obama’s bold advocacy, his articulate plans for fixing the economy, his calm manner, intelligence and political savvy appear to be breaking down the colour barrier.” I really don’t think he finished his thought. “Bold advocacy” about what? “Breaking down the colour barrier” where? To understand, and be able to communicate the nature of American racism to Jamaicans, and how it matters in relation to Obama and racism means that Dennie and the rest of our local cheering squad needs to take a break from watching CNN and start doing some reading. Better yet, they might want to engage in real, informed conversations with more than the random Jamaicans that reporters unearth in America to show that Jamaicans here and abroad do and should support Obama. They might bother to read any of the many blogs and alternative news sources that are focused on understanding how, where and why racism is expressed in ways that are far subtler than an Aryan Nation-style execution plan. In fact, if they did so, we might learn than contemporary American racism looks a lot like what we practice here in Jamaica, where we use things like racial pedigree, facility with language, etc. to express our opinions about leadership styles. Furthermore, social scientists (not including Orville Taylor) who study US racism have been pointing to how the most common and meaningful expressions of racist sentiments are not at all like what Dennie chose to highlight in his column. It just seems to me that if we insist on caricaturing the US political landscape in these ways, we cannot even begin to understand the subtext of the policies and debates that we are drawn into. Nor can we make any sense of the experiences of Jamaicans abroad. Too busy looking for nooses, many of us in the land of Lincoln just smile and get giddy when someone tells us how ‘articulate’, ‘well-spoken’ and ‘different’ we are, and what hard workers we are, forgetting that these remarks are part of a broader cultural arsenal that we gladly deploy if it somehow protects us from American racism. And when all else fails, we run back home replete with stories of how racist America is, while perpetrating some of the same practices right here at home. Well, even without the nooses, death threats, etc., there is much else to contend with regarding racism, and Obama’s candidacy as well as likely win will not change those aspects, at home or in the U.S.

That’s it for now. I’m exhausted from writing this post.