I am just absolutely thrilled to announce that marijuana has been decriminalized in (one of) my namesake counties!
By Brittany Somerset, Intrepid Repoter
Multi-platinum-selling, Grammy-winning, dancehall reggae artist, Sean Paul Henriques, his brother, Jason “Jigzagula” Henriques, and back up singer / hype man, Farenheit, performed at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, at Lehman College, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, in the Boogie Down Bronx, on Saturday, November 8th, 2008.
Even though this particular venue featured theatre seating, once Sean Paul took the stage, everyone jumped up out of their seats and rushed towards the stage, to be as close to the superstar as possible.
The Lehman Center was filled with people of all ages and ethnicities. Children as young as 6 years old attended this show with their parents and grandparents, proving that Sean Paul has massive, universal appeal and can’t be pigeonholed into a specific demographic.
Despite the Jamaican national motto, “Out of Many, One People,” Sean Paul has drawn criticism in the past by certain detractors who feel his multicultural background (Jamaican, Indian, Portuguese, etc), rather than his megawatt talent, is the reason for his mass appeal. Like Obama, Sean Paul belongs to everyone, and everyone relates to Sean Paul.
Sean Paul performed a slew of songs from his catalogue of hits such as “Like Glue,” from the 2003 album Dutty Rock, and “We Be Burnin” from his 2005 album Trinity. He also performed “Break It Off” (which features Rihanna). He closed with “Temperature,” and opted not to perform an encore.
Exclusive photos of this concert can be viewed at www.yardedge.net
By: Brittany Somerset, Intrepid Reporter, Manhattan
The job of a reporter is to investigate the source and accuracy of a statement, to establish its authenticity, before reporting on it. A press release currently being circulated by Changez Media, on behalf of Bruno Gaston, the International Editor of the Redding News Review, with a headline stating, “American TV Host calls Jamaican Women the B word” gives pause for concern. Who is this TV host, and how could he possibly slander the wonderful women of Jamaica, by calling them such a nasty word, and still remain on the air? Surely this was wrong, no true? Well not so fast…
Bruno Gaston, the International Editor of Redding News Review (ReddingNewsReview.com), which is an interesting and informative, albeit poorly formatted, website concerning, “Black News Exclusive Reports & Daily Research of National & World News Events 24-7,” first reported this story. His short article, which ran with the headline, “DANCEHALL REGGAE VETERAN HITS INDUSTRY OVER TRAVEL CHANNEL PROFANITY,” was forwarded to my email inbox by Changez Media, as a much longer article, in which Jason Walker of Changez Media quotes himself, with the additional embellished headline, “AMERICAN TV HOST CALLS JAMAICAN WOMEN THE ‘B’ WORD.”
While Mr. Bruno Gaston is to be applauded for his tireless passion for reporting the news, it is unfortunate and dismaying that his much more successful, fellow journalistic colleague Anthony’s Bourdain’s words were taken completely out of context, possibly for the purpose of stirring up discord.
Anthony Bourdain is the host of the Emmy-nominated series “No Reservations,” on the Travel Channel. He is the quintessential adventurer. He is renowned for being something of a tough guy, and frequently shows his audience the rougher side of the towns he visits. He rode a motorcycle through Mexico during a previous episode.
According to Changez Media, Bourdain referred to women as “bitches” when describing dancehall music in the Jamaican-themed episode of the show. As he and his crew head to a passa passa street performance in Kingston, Bourdain narrates:
“There’s no rootsy, laid back Rasta vibe. This ain’t about standing up for your rights or praising Jah or anything like that. Like Reggaetón, its mutant cousin, dancehall is the hardcore beat behind lyrics concerning, for the most part: acquiring possessions, getting respect on the street, beating down perceived enemies and enjoying the physical charms of varied, if not multitudinous, bitches.”
Clearly, if you are capable of understanding English, nowhere in that episode of his television program did Bourdain call Jamaican women, or even female dance hall fans, “bitches.” He clearly states, to paraphrase, while explaining dancehall music, presumably to people who may be unfamiliar with it, that the lyrics describe, “acquiring money & bitches.” Pardon me, but some of it absolutely does! The ‘B’ word and its more commonly used Patois synonym, “sketel,” are uttered often in dancehall lyrics. Perhaps Sasha’s track, “Kill The Bitch,” was played at the particular party Anthony Bourdain attended. The worst Mr. Bourdain can be accused of is generalizing.
The intention of Anthony Bourdain’s program, as an American, is to travel to foreign places and report on them, presumably for viewers who live vicariously through his exploits, because they may or may not have a chance to travel to the places he does. His program is entertaining as well as informative.
In the maligned episode in question, Anthony Bourdain visited Jamaica, and described to people who might not know what dancehall is, what it is all about. Anthony simply pointed out the obvious. Don’t shoot the messenger, or alter his message, simply because he is Caucasian and/or foreign. He certainly did not call Jamaican women, “bitches”. That is a falsehood, and misleading reporting. If Mr. Bourdain had stated in his narration, “…beating down perceived enemies and enjoying the physical charms of varied, if not multitudinous, sketels,” this entire controversy would be without merit; however, the American audience most likely wouldn’t comprehend what he was talking about.
Veteran reggae artist, Nadine Sutherland states in Bruno Gaston’s article,
“I’m not going to have any self-righteous outrage at this man because that is what has been perpetuated. Why is it that a foreigner can’t do it? I don’t know if this is a moment that will change that, or even initiate dialogue, but this is indeed a moment a lot of us can look at ourselves and see some sense of shame.”
While his synopsis of dancehall music leaves room for debate amongst its participants and fans, his intentions while describing it, should not. As a seasoned travel reporter he has the utmost respect for the people and places he visits. It is provocative that his remarks are being used as a catalyst to spark discussion about raunchy dancehall lyrics; however, it is unfair to make him a scapegoat for describing what he heard.
Furthermore, if we as a dancehall culture do not want our music to be perceived in a negative light by outsiders, perhaps its time that we alter the vernacular in the lyrics, and omit words like “Bitch,” “Ho,” and “Sketel” from the songs altogether. Apparently Red Stripe’s corporate executives agree with this perspective, citing the “increasingly offensive lyrical content in dancehall music” as their primary reason for pulling their annual sponsorship from Reggae Sumfest, the notoriously popular dancehall festival in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
By Brittany Somerset, Intrepid Reporter, Manhattan NY
Due to a combination of poor ticket sales and inclement weather, Carifest C.A.R.E.S, which was scheduled for tomorrow, July 6th, has been cancelled. In the past Carifest has drawn criticism from gay activist groups who vehemently protested certain dancehall artists who used Carifest as a platform to wax philosophical about burning gays. Anti-gay sentiments that receive massive forwards from audiences at festivals in Jamaica, where homophobia is socially acceptable and even encouraged, do not go over well in New York City.
In an effort to make a positive change this year, Carifest C.A.R.E.S (Compassionate Artists Recognizing Entertainment Solutions) was meant to be a charitable event to sponsor Keep A Child Alive (KACA) an organization which provides medicine and relief to African children orphaned due to the AIDS pandemic, which has claimed millions of lives. Some critics felt however, that taking a community renowned for its homophobia, and preaching AIDS awareness to them, was an insurmountable task and alienated its core audience.
While it is ridiculously ignorant in this day and age to think that AIDS is a disease that primarily effects homosexuals, a popular, promiscuous reggae singer who asked that his name be withheld stated while he hardly ever uses prophylactic protection, he believes as long as he thinks positively, he wouldn’t get AIDS because Jah would protect him. It was this type of detrimental and potentially deadly attitude that Carifest CARES wanted to enlighten people about.
Carifest CARES has not been without controversy. Earlier in the month, artist Eek-A-Mouse was kicked off the bill, due to the racist remarks he made during a press conference for the event, verbally attacking white Jewish reggae artist Matisyahu, among others. His tirade was posted on YouTube.com for the world to see, drawing derision from even the most loyal of his fans. He posted a rebuttal on YouTube.com, further explaining his position, to no avail.
Various artists with a much more positive vibration were considered as a replacement for Eek-A-Mouse, from Spanner Banner to the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars, however the promoter was not able to secure the necessary additional time from the Parks Department, in order to accommodate additional band changes.
While removing Eek-A-Mouse from the bill did not do any damage to the integrity of the festival itself, fans speculate that the overall line-up itself simply wasn’t strong enough to draw the amount of people required to make the event a success. Whereas past Carifests have included heavy hitters with crossover appeal like Collie Buddz, and Ninjaman, who had been previously barred from entering the country for over a decade, and who is heralded as the best Jamaican-born MC, as well as typically top drawing festival artists like Beenieman, the Carifest CARES line-up featured repeat artists like Matisyahu, and newcomers like Meta and the Cornerstones, causing people to speculate that the caliber of artists necessary to make this event a commercial success did not want to participate or be associated with a benefit for AIDS awareness. Others would speculate that it is difficult to get Jamaican artists to reduce their performance fees for a charitable event of any kind.
Fourth of July weekend itself, normally a notorious party weekend in New York, has been washed out, due to fog and rain. At many hotspots all over the city where people had assembled to watch the fireworks, from the rooftop of the Gansevoort hotel to South Street Seaport, myriad complaints could be heard about not being able to see the fireworks clearly. It stands to reason that people who are not going to want to stand out in the rain to see the annual fireworks display, are not going to want to stand out in the rain to see an annual concert event.
While Carifest Cares promoters Team Legendary and Alphonso D’Niscio Brooks in particular are to be commended for their efforts to enlighten their community about the AIDS crisis, it is unfortunate that this event had to be cancelled partially due to lack of support from their community. Carifest CARES publicist Erika Tooker stated, “Moving forward with the concert under these circumstances will in no way benefit the cause. Reggae-Carifest N.Y., Inc. apologizes to all patrons who purchased tickets and assures such patrons that full refunds will be made. All ticket holders can return to point of purchase to receive a full refund.” At this time, no plans have been made to reschedule Carifest CARES.
By: Brittany Somerset, Intrepid Reporter, Manhattan
Elvis may be the King, and Beenieman may be the self-proclaimed, “King ofthe dance hall,” but Capleton is the Emperor, as well as the emissary of BoboShanti enlightenment. His performance in the heart of Babylon, at BB King’s in Times Square, New York City, on Sunday, June 15th, was positively electrifying. Capleton and the David House Crew burned a fire so hot BoBo Kings almost spontaneously combusted. Capleton was supported by special guest artists Jah Thunder and Culture Knoxx. All three artists were backed by the five-piece ensemble, The Prophecy.
BB King’s was dank and stank with the smell of sticky icky, wrapped in the cloying scents of strawberry, blueberry, vanilla and honey blunts, that thankfully cloaked the rancid smell of bidis.
Capleton’s radioactive, neon orange outfit was brighter than the neon lights of Times Square and perfectly accessorized his high-octane, off the Richter scale activity on stage. The consummate performer, he mesmerized the crowd, moved with the dexterity of a mountain lion, and shined like a solar flare. He practically did jumping jacks throughout his radiant, 1000watt set. The fire was burnin’ red hot underneath Times Square. Not even the rattling of the subway trains running underground nearby could eclipse the energy Capleton exuded as the audience roared with approval. It was a very fortunate crowd who were able to experience the euphoria of dancing in the dark with the dancehall diaspora.
Capleton elicited a huge forward from the audience when he said he didn’tlike it when he came to “foreign” (lands), and heard people calling each other “dog.” He said, “Dogs piss up yuh yard inna Jamaica, so mi nah wah hear peoplecall each udda dat.” He said he’s not a dog, but rather he’s a lion.(Maybe that’s why Snatcha Dogg changed his name to “Snatcha Lion”!) He said, “Call im ‘Snoop,’ leave out di ‘dog’. Call im ‘Daddy,’ leave out di ‘Puff’!” These hilarious remarks were greeted with screaming cheers of approval.
In between tracks, he took time out to extol the virtues of vegetarianism and racial unity. He also expressed his controversial views against “chi chi men”, child molestation, and oral sex, all considered equal acts of perversion within the boundaries of Bobo Shanti society.
Capleton performed his entire catalogue of hits like “Slew Dem,” “Tour,” “Jah Jah City,” “Love Potion,” “Good in Har Clothes,” as well as his new tracks “Toppa Tings,” and “Gimmie Di Ting,” released on the Truck Back label. The enthusiastic crowd chanted along with every single word, with their lighters and hands aloft high above their heads. He gave a stellar, two-hour performance worthy of Sumfest in the intimate underground venue. He did an unprecedented 5 encores. The crowd just would not let him leave.
Capleton’s manager, Queen Claudette Kemp, looked as regal as ever. Shawne Lee, AKA Miss Black Empress, and Lady Saw’s DJ Missy represented the lovely ladies in attendance. All three beauties proved that wearing alluring yet humble attire is always more attractive than wearing batty riders.
For those of you who missed Capleton’s amazing performance last night, he is playing again on the 29th of June at Hammerstein Ballroom.
By Brittany Somerset, Intrepid Reporter, New York City Carifest C.A.R.E.S. But Eek-A-Mouse Doesn’t. When asked at last week’s Carifest CARES (Compassionate Artists Recognizing Entertainment Solutions) press conference what Carifest meant to him, Eek-A-Mouse replied. “It doesn’t mean (expletive) to me” He then changed the subject entirely and went off on a tirade, dissing all the “white people who control reggae, like Ace Of Base, Matisyahu, (whose name he repeatedly mispronounced and called Matissaweh), Sean Paul and Shaggy; bitterly blaming them for his inability to get signed by a major label. He even he included the late, great, reggae founder Bob Marley in his racist rant, citing that he had a white father. “They nah wan no black people to run reggae music. They wan Sean Paul and Shaggy; A true. Matissaweh jump inna di business and starts selling all dem records deh, and now mi cyan sell none, and mi cant sign me, so mi wonder wagwann. Bloodclot! All dem white boys get money from reggae music and me cyan get none. Toots and the Maytalls, Dennis Brown, get nuttin and here comes Massassahoo, here comes UB40…” he angrily repeated himself, getting visibly more amplified by the second, as shown in this video of his spiteful speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gz2-SHGlYs Music transcends race. If Eek-A-Mouse can’t get signed or earn money, perhaps its his attitude, not his skin color, that’s holding him back. Perhaps that and his paranoid dementia. Ace of Base aren’t even reggae. Team Legendary Promoter, Alfonso D’Niscio Brooks told Eek-A-Mouse’s management and agent that, “Unless he issues a public apology to Carifest, it’s affiliates and it’s supporters, his performing at Carifest will not be allowed and I will expect a complete refund.” Mr. Brooks further emphatically stated, “I can’t condone or promote his negative behavior. Carifest C.A.R.E.S is about Love. Racism and/or prejudices will in no way be accepted. Carifest has a very diverse audience and will not alienate anyone. I mean it when I say we will represent only good vibes! Carifest is not the platform for negativity.” Stay tuned to find out if Eek-A-Mouse recants his racist remarks or if the show will go on with out him.
By Brittany Somerset, Intrepid Reporter, New York City Saturday, June 14th, New York, NY. It was a slammin’ Saturday night in the state of New York with so many parties to attend to and so little time. The 11th Annual Jamrock Reggae Festival, the Sean Bell tribute concert, and the Richie Spice concert were all in full effect well into the wee hours of Father’s Day Sunday morning.The 11th Annual Jamrock Reggae Festival, dubbed “Jammin’ In The City,” took place in monsoon-like Manhattan. The event was scheduled to start at 10pm, however it was almost washed up, due to the raging thunderstorm that racked the city. Most Caribbean folk do not like to get their hair wet; however, despite the pouring rain, the die-hard reggae massive was not to be deterred as they arrived soaking wet, but with their spirits up, ready to hear the likes of Etana the Strong One, Assassin, Ky-mani Marley, Beenieman, Mr. Vegas, and Demarco. Surprise last minute additions to the line-up included world famous, critically-acclaimed singers, Wayne Wonder, and Da’Ville, who replaced Sanchez, who unfortunately had to cancel his appearance due to a scheduling conflict.Held at the multi-tiered venue, Hammerstein Ballroom, in Midtown Manhattan, the floor seats were half empty; however, the balconies were full. Da’Ville’s performance was divine, Etana’s was effervescent, Vegas’s was vivacious, Ky-Mani’s was cool, Assassin’s was awesome, Wayne’s was wonderful, but Beenie was bored.Beenie, who almost always closes the show at festival events, due to his power to keep audiences lying in wait for him, was cradling a broken arm in a sling. Always a master of showmanship, he gave a spirited performance; however, he asked the crowd and the promoter, “Can I go home now?” after almost every song, to which the crowd enthusiastically shouted, “No!” After asking the crowd at least three times if he could go home, he addressed the promoter and stated, “You have to do this show earlier next time, I want to go home.” Within five minutes of Beenie’s completed performance, you could practically hear crickets chirping in the empty theater as everyone cleared out in record time, and tromped back into the drizzling rain. Meanwhile in the outer borough of Brooklyn, Sen I Sennon was performing at a Sean Bell tribute concert that appropriately took place in nightclub 1080 on Fulton Street. Sean Bell, the martyred poster child for police ineptness, second only Amadou Diallo, was tragically gunned down while leaving a nightclub after his bachelor party. Sen I Sennon, modeling Color Heritage clothing, performed with Jahspa and Teyazawan.After the Sean Bell tribute, the reggae music fans flocked over to Flatbush, to catch roots reggae artist Richie Spice’s 4AM performance at Caribbean City on Empire Blvd. Spice naturally sang all of his hits from his VP album, “In The Streets to Africa,” to a jam-packed audience, who boisterously sang along, word for word.While the damp, bedraggled vibe at Jammin’ in the City was more like yawning and stretching in the city, the Flatbush party popped off by comparison. It was sardines-in-a-can-crowded at the crack of dawn. Hundreds of people broke night while singing, “Na na na na na na na…”Let’s hope all those pro-active partygoers, who were up bright and early, remembered to call their Fathers and wish them happy Father’s Day.
By Brittany Somerset, Intrepid Reporter, Manhattan, New York Forget Carrie from Sex In the City. On Wednesday, June 4th, there was a Cari-Fest in the City, at the Carifest CARES: Keep A Child Alive launch party and benefit at 40/40 on 25th Street, and the Sumfest launch party at Negril on West 3rd Street.The launch for Carifest CARES was attended by scheduled performing artists Matisyahu, Caution, Kayla Bliss, Meta & The Cornerstones, Uriel Hamilton and Midnight. Joseph Israel greeted the crowd via a pre-recorded message played on 40/40’s many flat screens. He offered his regrets at not being able to attend the event because he is currently on tour; however, he will also be performing at this year’s Carifest. Lee Scratch Perry did not attend; however, his new album’s producer, Andrew WK, did.Carifest, an annual, New York-based, Caribbean diaspora celebration that combines food, crafts, and a concert, will also include a charitable theme this year: “Carifest CARES: Keep a Child Alive (KACA)”. Keep a Child Alive is a non-profit organization founded by Leigh Blake, in response to the desperate cry for much-needed AIDS-combating medicines in Africa.Marie Davis, a woman living with HIV, gave a powerfully poignant speech to the evening’s attendees about the need for HIV and AIDS testing within the community. She stated, “The African and African- American community is the largest community living with HIV and AIDS, yet we are the least frequently tested voluntarily. Too often, I hear people, especially parents, say they don’t want to get tested because they are afraid to know if they are infected, or not. If you are a parent, you have a moral obligation to find out of you are living with either HIV or AIDS, so you can protect your children.” Her speech was met with thunderous applause from the rapt audience. She also stressed the importance of the use of condoms, and explained the difference between HIV and AIDS, emphatically stating that they were not the same thing.People living with HIV and AIDS can prevent or delay some of the more serious symptoms and complications, if given anti-retroviral treatment (ARV) medication. These medicines are easily accessible in the United States, but are virtually non-existent in Africa, where the AIDS pandemic has reached its peak, killing tens of millions of people. That is where Keep A Child Alive comes in. According to KACA, ARV medicines can miraculously prolong the lives of those dying from AIDS. KACA forwards 100% of their donations to this cause, and supports 14 clinical and orphan care sites in 7 countries. According to KACA, there are over 15 million children worldwide who have lost one, or both, parents to the AIDS pandemic.To learn more about what you can do to help this cause, contact , or attend Carifest CARES on Sunday, July 6th, at the USTA National Tennis Center, in Flushing, Queens, from 5pm until 11pm.Meanwhile, across town, at Negril, media, friends and Jamaican government officials came together to support the launch for Sumfest, an annual concert event which takes place in Montego Bay, Jamaica on July 13th-19th.Sumfest organizers, Johnny Gourzong, Executive Director, Robert Russell, Chairman, Sydney Reid, Director of Sites & Services, and Marcia McDonnough, Promotions Director, were at Negril to answer questions from the media about this year’s upcoming event. The organizers were joined by Jamaican political bigwigs such as Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism, Carole Guntley, Director General in the Ministry of Tourism, Basil Smith, Director of Tourism, David Shields, Deputy Director of Marketing, and Donnie Dawson, Deputy Director of Tourism. The Jamaican politicians attended alongside their New York-based counterparts like Guillermo Linares, Commissioner of Immigration Affairs, and Genieve Brown Metzer, Jamaican Counsel General to New York.Despite the withdrawal of former Sumfest sponsors, Red Stripe, due to what they expressed as a disdain for the increasingly violent and inflammatory lyrics in dancehall music, the show must, and will indeed, go on. If the love and support that was apparent at the jam-packed launch was any indication of the support for the actual event, this year’s Sumfest will be just as successful as before, without sponsorship from Red Stripe.If you were unable to attend the launch parties, there is still plenty of time to get tickets to either, or both, of the events. Between Carifest CARES and Sumfest, it will certainly be a memorable Summer-fest of Cari-fun.
By Brittany Somerset, Intrepid Reporter, Portmore, Jamaica.During a previous trip to Jamaica in July of 2007, I was told by a customs agent in Montego Bay airport that Jamaica was a malaria-free island. After perusing my passport, and noticing that I had been to Peru, I was subsequently ordered to the Minister of Health’s office, to be examined for malaria. I explained to the customs agent that I was on the anti-malarial medicine Malarone the entire time I was in Peru, and did not pose a health threat to the citizens of Jamaica. I further explained that malaria is not spread by airborne proximity. Unless I had managed to carry a malaria-infected mosquito back from Peru as a pet, kept it in New York, and then brought it to Jamaica with me two months later, I was probably safe to enter the country.Unfortunately while the customs agent impressed upon me that Jamaica was a malaria-free country, she completely failed to inform me that Jamaica wasn’t a dengue-free country. I didn’t pose a health risk to the island, however the island, unbeknownst at the time, certainly posed a serious health risk to me. I definitely should have periodically checked the Internet for health risk factors associated with visiting Jamaica. I usually do that when traveling to any other destination, however since I’d lived on and off the island since the year 2000, I thought I was aware of all the specific Jamaican health risks. I was completely unaware, however, of the 2007 outbreak of dengue in Portmore and Kingston. On a more recent trip to Jamaica in April of 2008, I fell deathly ill. At first, I assumed I had the flu, and took over-the-counter acetaminophen accordingly. My naive attempts to self-medicate with aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprophin, were completely detrimental to my health, and in this particular case, could have been fatal. This is terribly unfortunate, as in most situations, aspirin may be the first readily available drug of choice to treat a broad spectrum of painful ailments.According to the New York Times “Aspirin and aspirin-like drugs must be avoided at all costs when treating Dengue, because they can lead to bleeding and complicate matters. Children with Dengue who take aspirin could develop Reye Syndrome.”After a few days of pure agony, when I could no longer stand the pain and was too sick to fly home, I went to a clinic in Portmore. I was diagnosed with dengue fever on the spot. Dengue is often referred to colloquially as “breakbone fever” because of severe muscular pains. I certainly felt like my bones were breaking. Never in my life had I previously experienced that magnitude of pain. I was immediately referred to a hospital in Jamaica. I was told the government would be notified and I would be placed under quarantine.It was Friday evening, and my heart sank as I realized the US State Department or Embassy wouldn’t be open until Monday morning. As the hospital nurse drew blood from me, for testing purposes, and asked me to wait two hours for the results, I contemplated activating my Medivac insurance. I imagined being airlifted by helicopter to St. Vincent’s hospital in New York. Unfortunately the Medivac pin # was programmed in my Sidekick PDA, which I didn’t bring with me to the hospital. General germaphobia and loathing of hospitals prompted me to give the nurse my local mobile phone number and beg her to call me in two hours with the blood test results. I became increasingly irritable and cranky, and was unable to think clearly.It’s a good thing I decided not to wait the estimated two hours for the blood test results. In typically Jamaican style, the doctors periodically called me over the weekend to inform me that the blood results would “soon come,” and reminded me that I was under quarantine and couldn’t leave the island. I returned to my friend’s house, exhausted, where I slept on and off for two or three more days.My symptoms included severe body pain; my muscles, joints, bones, toenails and hair hurt, accompanied with delirium, hallucinations, irritability, mental confusion, paranoia, (like an absinth binge gone horribly wrong), and severe sweating. I soaked the bed sheets through my pajamas and my hair was wet with sweat. I urinated in a bedpan, because I was too weak to make it to the bathroom. At one point, I couldn’t tell if I wet the bed with urine, or with sweat. I also had fever, chills, and other flu-like symptoms. I was so hot and slicked with sweat I wanted to strip naked and lie under the fan at one moment, and then I was shivering while wearing two sweaters over my pajamas, the next. I also developed deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in my left leg.I would have a day or so of activity and lucidity and then relapse into a dark abyss of pain. I later learned that the feeling of being cured and then relapsing is common, as the fever may be biphasic (i.e. two separate episodes or waves of fever).At one point, I was so incredibly weak, I couldn’t carry or even open a bottle of orange juice. Nothing quenched my thirst or swollen lymph nodes. In my sleep, I feverishly cried out, “Maman” repeatedly (French for “Mommy”). I had developed bleeding of the gums, and was vomiting. I dumped out my medical kit and searched for anything besides aspirin that would help alleviate my symptoms. Antibiotics were useless, as dengue is a viral, not a bacterial, infection. Luckily, I had 18 Vicodin painkillers remaining from a dentist’s prescription, following the removal of a wisdom tooth, weeks earlier. The last time I took two Vicodin for pain, I overdosed, passed out and slept like the dead. Perfect. The Vicodin was much more effective (and less deadly!) than aspirin and was the only thing that dulled the pain. I took the maximum dosage of 500mg every four hours and slept fitfully, sweating and thrashing, for three days, but mostly, I literally couldn’t move.After the fever broke, my body temperature was low and I had abdominal cramps. Having gone untreated properly for nearly a week, the disease had progressed to its more dangerous form, Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF).After a few anxious conversations with my doctor in New York, I learned that dengue is not an airborne virus (like the flu) and, therefore, I didn’t need to be quarantined, although the Portmore area probably did, because the infected mosquito might still be at large. I didn’t need to sit around waiting for blood test results that would probably never come, while my health was rapidly deteriorating. On his advice, I fled the country, and returned home.The entire time I was at the airport, I was nervously waiting for government officials in Mylar bio-suits to snatch me up and carry me away. Scenes from the movie “ET,” where Drew Barrymore’s house in quarantined, flashed through my mind. I hid from the imaginary quarantine police in the Air Jamaica business class lounge. My mind was still muddled, however, so I repeatedly shook out the contents of my purse, to make sure there were no hitchhiking mosquitoes hiding in it. I didn’t want to evolve from my current social standing of intrepid reporter, to Manhattan’s answer to Typhoid Mary. I thought if I arrived home and a mosquito in New York bit me, and then bit someone else, I could cause an outbreak. Remaining in Jamaica, however, without a private medical practitioner, was not the best option for me.Considering most types of mosquitoes breed in water, any quantity of water, from a swamp to a puddle, it makes sense that Portmore, Jamaica, which is built on land that was excavated from a swamp, and is divided by a canal, would be endemic and thriving with mosquitoes, some dengue-infected. Despite taking every precaution while in Portmore and in Kingston, such as using a mosquito zapper, sleeping under a mosquito net, burning citronella candles, wearing Avon Skin So Soft mosquito repellant, and wearing long pants and sleeves at night, I was still bitten hundreds of times. My morning and evening ritual consisted of slathering myself in Gold Bond medicated anti-itch lotion, as the itching of the non-dengue infected mosquito bites became increasingly unbearable. Being itchy, however, ultimately proved to be the least of my concerns.I took similar mosquito-bite precautions in Africa and Peru to what I did in Jamaica; however, in Africa I had the essential malaria-preventative measure of Malarone. Although malaria is more deadly than dengue, malaria can be prevented and is curable with doses of Quinine or Artesunate. There are no specific preventives, vaccines, or cures for dengue. Microsoft millionaires Bill and Melinda Gates have contributed over 50 million dollars towards the development of a dengue vaccine, and for treatment of those afflicted with the virus. As far as dealing with dengue, you just have to patiently ride it out, drink plenty of fluids, and hope it goes away, rather than develop into Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF). There is nothing else you can do.Clinically speaking, the Dengue virus is a flavivirus, (like West Nile, Yellow Fever, etc), of which there are four serotypes (variations). Dengue fever is transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which bites during daylight hours, not at dusk, as other mosquitoes do. The infected mosquito transmits the disease by biting someone and then biting someone else. There is no direct person-to-person transmission, which is why no one else in close proximity to me caught my “flu”.On one hand, one exposure to one of the variants of infection usually grants the afflicted with a lifetime of immunity to the disease. On the other hand, you are still at risk for catching the other three types of dengue. Studies indicate that it is the second infection that can lead to the more advanced form of Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever. DHF causes the capillaries (tiny blood vessels between the endings of the arteries and the beginnings of the veins) to leak fluid. If this isn’t treated in an expedient manner, DHF causes life-threatening loss of blood volume and death from Dengue Shock Syndrome.According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Dengue Shock Syndrome supervenes in a small proportion of cases. Severe hypotension (low blood pressure) develops, requiring urgent medical treatment to correct hypovolaemia (a blood disorder consisting of a decrease in the volume of circulating blood). Without appropriate treatment, 40-50% of cases are fatal. With timely treatment, however, the mortality rate is 1% or less.”Many cases of dengue produce only mild flu like symptoms that last for 3-5 days, or no symptoms at all. Even if a first infection goes by undiagnosed and undetected, the second infection will increase the risk of the more severe DHF. The average incubation period of the virus is 3 to 14 days. In my case, it is highly probable I was infected during one of my frequent trips to Jamaica, left the island during the incubation period, and returned to Jamaica a week or two later to experience the onset of the virus on the night I arrived, without ever having known I was previously infected. Or perhaps I was infected once before, albeit mildly, passed it off as a cold or the flu and was re-infected, much worse the second time around. Considering how many mosquito bites I unavoidably sustained in Jamaica, it seems like it was only a matter of time before I caught dengue.After a lengthy recovery that is currently still in progress, I can only hope my experience can prevent others from experiencing this virulent virus. As I gear up for Sumfest in July, 2008, don’t be surprised if instead of seeing me in my normal attire of shorts, a tank top and flip flops, I am sporting a new fashion – an entire body camouflage mosquito net. Having been once bitten, I’m now twice shy.For more information about Dengue Fever please view:http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20070928/news/news3.html http://sped2work.tripod.com/dengue.html http://www.wordtravels.com/Travelguide/Countries/Jamaica/HealthAdditional Sources:The New York Times, Personal Health by Jane E. Brody, Tuesday May 13th, 2008World Health Organization website
By Brittany Somerset, Intrepid Reporter, Manhattan, New York.There are a growing number of marijuana activist organizations and they have all had their hands full this month. On Wednesday, May 14th, the most corporate-looking conscientious objectors came together in support of The Marijuana Policy Project’s (MPP) Medical Marijuana Benefit. Even though they gathered at -no pun intended – the Highline Ballroom, this wasn’t the Stony Awards. A mostly white-collar collective of pro-cannabis constituents consorted and caroused with one another, while donating $250-$300 to a noble cause.“It is barbaric that seriously or terminally ill patients should be classified as criminals and incarcerated for using a plant, prescribed by their doctor to alleviate their suffering,” stated party attendee Dr. Thomas H. Haines, a Neuroscience professor at Rockefeller University.After the benefit began, MC Steve Marshall took the stage and told some self-deprecating Jewish Jokes. Then the Marijuana Policy Project’s Executive Director, Rob Kampia, welcomed everyone. John Stossell of American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and MTV News pioneer Kurt Loder addressed the party. Joel Peacock was presented with an Outstanding Patient Advocate award. His epiphany, that pot was more effective than pills for chronic pain, spurred him to appear in MPP’s ad campaign as the poster child for medical marijuana legislation.Senator / Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno was also honored for his tireless efforts to pass a medical marijuana bill. Three years ago, Mr. Bruno announced his support for enacting a medical marijuana law.Additional activists who attended the benefit included Montel Williams, Michelle Phillips (from the band The Mamas and the Papas), Steve Bloom, editor of CelebStoner.com, and Tony award winning choreographer, Savion Glover.When MPP was founded in 1995, as a lobby organization for legalization legislation, pot was prohibited in the United States. Period. At a median rate of 1 state per year, medical marijuana is now legal in 12 states, however At the rate the MPP is going, it won’t take another 38 years to legalize the entire United States.Similar efforts to support decriminalization legislation are simultaneously spearheaded by the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws (NORML), founded in 1971. Incidentally. NORML’s founder, Keith Stroup, a lawyer, was found guilty in a Boston courtroom just yesterday of the crime of possession. Naturally, he plans to appeal. Mr. Stroup was arrested on Sept 15th, just prior to delivering a keynote speech at the Boston Freedom Rally, an annual event which supports legalization of marijuana. Approximately 15,835 people are arrested weekly for weed. Nearly one million people are in jail in the United States for pot possession.Other organizations that believe the reefer madness needs to end, because cannabis is not a crime, are nojailforpot.org and Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER). While MPP wants marijuana to be legal with a prescription for the terminally ill, NORML wants marijuana to be legal for everyone. SAFER believes pot is a better, less risky recreational and social lubricant than alcohol and should be used more frequently. On May 3rd SAFER organized a rally of over 10,000 people for a “smoke-in” in Boulder, Colorado. All of the aforementioned organizations propose to repeal pot prohibition by classifying it in same league as alcohol and taxing it.