Posts from — November 2010
“Africans in the United States must remember that the slave ships brought no West Indians, no Caribbeans, no Jamaicans or Trinidadians or Barbadians to this hemisphere. The slave ships brought only African people and most of us took the semblance of nationality from the places where slave ships dropped us off.”
Dr. John Henrik Clarke
The recent brouhaha caused by the comments of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar of Trinidad regarding assistance to other Caribbean nations brought to mind the arguments for and against a Caribbean Union.
Let’s acknowledge that there is a global movement brewing. Ad hoc alliances of the past, territorial boundaries drawn on a map to represent colonial claims are now being layered over by more structured, formal, regional associations. These alliances, while usually geographically based, unite sovereign nations economically and politically. This type of association is nothing new; The USA, League of Nations, NATO, CARICOM and OAS all came into existence due in part to the scenarios laid out above. And now the European Union is upon us.
Marcus Garvey was one of the earliest proponents of a Caribbean Union-under the umbrella of Pan Africanism. He envisioned a coalition of African, Afro-Caribbean and African-American individuals working together creating a common, international black agenda. Many others have voiced support for that ideal over the decades since Garvey first declared “self-determination for all peoples” in 1920. The practicality of it however has been a non-starter.
CARICOM has tried to rein in the various agendas of the Caribbean countries into a unified regional force with mixed success. The recent Trinidadian declaration that ‘any help to its neighbors comes with a price’ highlights the internal conflicts preventing CARICOM from being the power it could be. The Trinidadian government also recently indicated it was re-evaluating its continued role in the Caribbean Judiciary.
But is a Caribbean Union a good move? In a lot of ways yes; economically the benefits to the smaller countries with limited national resources presents a huge upside. The benefits to the larger economies like Trinidad and Jamaica are also significant. The economic advantages of a single currency, ease of travel for employment, capitalizing on the initiatives some countries have already made in the global financial sectors (e.g., Bermuda and Barbados with their successful captive insurance markets) and coordination of tourism initiatives among the countries would benefit all.
If CARICOM fails, the need for a union of Caribbean countries doesn’t go away. What probably should happen however is a newer group that more fully incorporates the Dominican Republic and Cuba come into being. The traditional arguments against such assimilation can be countered by again looking at the European Union and the steps they have taken to incorporate the different cultures and economic standards of several nations into their organization. It may not be a perfect system, but the upside to such a development represents a win-win for everyone.
November 30, 2010 2 Comments
November 29, 2010 Comments Off
I am a big music fan, and while I love (and listen to a lot of) reggae and dancehall, my favorite genre of music over the last twenty years has been without a doubt jazz. The Independent newspaper out of England this week printed an interview with one of my favorite jazz musicians and a great artist OJD (of Jamaican descent) Courtney Pine. The entire interview can be read here.
In reading this however, I started musing on how our people have transcended the humble beginnings we all came from and stamped our heritage on the world stage. I also ruminated on the different areas of music where Jamaicans have individually made a name for themselves. Courtney Pine is widely considered the greatest jazz artist in the UK, and his album ‘MODERN DAY JAZZ STORIES’ received worldwide critical acclaim and remains one of my all time favorites.
So my question now is this: Leaving the indigenous forms of Jamaican music out of the equation, who is the most noteworthy artist of Jamaican descent in other musical genres?
The number of people who could be considered is tremendous; the aforementioned Courtney Pine, the man considered the Godfather of hip hop DJ Kool Herc, Gil Scott Heron, Leo Williams (Big Audio Dynamite), Dizzy Reece, Heavy D, Grace Jones, Carmen McCrae, Goldie…that’s a lot of talent being exported out of our little island in the sun.
Feel free to suggest who you think i’m overlooking.
There’s always a lot of talk, oftentimes a lot of negative talk, about Jamaica and Jamaicans. We tend to collectively bring a lot of this on ourselves for the most part, but consider this: no other country of our size (specifically referring to geographical size and population) has made an imprint on the world comparable to what Jamaica has. Our people have impacted the world in the arts, politics and sports and continue to do so. It probably has something to do with our spirit, or to paraphrase the recently bailed out Buju Banton “We nuh come fi bow, we come fi conquer.” Yes indeed.
November 15, 2010 1 Comment
The mayor of New York, Mayor Mike Bloomberg had a decision to make this week. The Chancellor of the New York City school system, Joel Klein, resigned. Bloomberg, who knew in advance of the resignation did a search-unbeknownst to most-and decided to hire Cathie Black as Mr. Klein’s replacement.
Who is Cathie Black? Well, she is the chairperson of Hearst Magazine Corporation, a major publishing conglomerate. She has two daughters and is married to an attorney. She has never been involved in the education field, never dealt with a union, never even stepped inside a NYC public school before this week’s appointment and sent her own to children to private school. With this in mind, what makes Ms. Black qualified to run the largest city school system in the US? Well, she socializes with the Mayor. Apparently that’s all that’s needed.
The biggest urban school system in the country is facing a lot of problems right now. Several schools that were described as underperforming have been shut down over the past few years. While test scores overall have gone up, the overcrowded classes and underperforming students still represent major problems, and as such while Klein has done a decent job, there is still a lot of work to be done. The singular question then is this: Is Cathie Black the best person to keep the school system heading in the right direction?
Now, personally, I have no idea if Ms. Black will be a good chancellor. I do know that by any standard you choose to utilize, she is unqualified for this job. She is replacing the longest serving Chancellor in Joel Klein, and the man who is credited with ‘raising’ the levels of NYC public schools. That last part is debatable, but what isn’t debatable is that on the surface this is a political appointment and Ms. Black, with no relevant experience to her credit, is already in over her head.
Mike Bloomberg has done some good things for New York City. He has also let his own agenda and ego run amok at times, such as his move to reverse term limits for elected officials. The people of New York City voted on two occasions in favor of term limits, but the billionaire Bloomberg, who apparently feels no one else can do the job that he is doing, made a back room deal and got it removed in time for the last mayoral election.
The movement to institute term limits is based on making sure our elected officials don’t think of their office as a throne and a perpetual right. The mayor didn’t see it that way, clearly didn’t think the rules applied to him and circumvented them because; in his words ‘it was in the best interest of the city.’
The term limits issue came up for vote again in the last election. It was reaffirmed by a 3-1 margin. The people of New York spoke again.
I hope this time when Mayor Mike see’s the next stop is his, he gets off the train. And maybe take his buddy Ms. Black with him.
November 15, 2010 No Comments
The University of Southern California made millions from Bush’s exploits on the field in his time there. They sold jerseys, sold out games, earned TV revenue, attracted student-athletes and students they normally may not have gotten because of their new buzz. The coach got paid bonuses and renewed contracts based on wins, losses and glitz. Millions of dollars in the pockets of everyone involved, but when the NCAA comes asking questions they treat Bush, his name and achievements like a common thief. Would they have done the same to an alumni convicted of high crimes? Very, very doubtful.
Here is what I propose. Pay student-athletes a stipend akin to their sport, rating on their team (a standard determined by outsiders; NFL/NBA scouts maybe?) and revenue generated for the school. Any athlete who violates the rules of the NCAA loses a scholarship and has to repay the stipend. Any coach who is in charge of a school that has demonstrated a lack of institutional control cannot coach on the collegiate level for ten years. Any agent who compromises a student-athlete loses his license for five years. Any agent who employs, directs or otherwise associates with runners and street agents loses his license for five years.
Its about time that the real villains, the ones who profit from the machine, pay the price.
November 6, 2010 1 Comment
What is wrong with the black athlete?
Anyone who follows sports or the news can bear witness to it. Daily, monthly, yearly; prominent athletes, prominent black athletes, cannot seem to stay on the straight and narrow. The list is extensive, expansive and far from distinguished. High school, college, professionals the black athletes who have run afoul of the law covers like a blanket both in the scope of the crimes to the names involved. Michael Vick, Kobe Bryant, Rae Carruth, Jayson Williams, OJ Simpson, Richie Parker, Maurice Clarett, Marion Jones and now Lawrence Taylor (again) the list is long and ignominious.
Let me say this first of all-please don’t blame it all on their upbringing. Many athletes come from underprivileged homes, single parent households and terrible surroundings and rise above the circumstances of their youth while toeing the lines required by the society in which we live. This is usually a testament to both their iron will and the iron will of those around them-mothers, family, friends, teachers, coaches and occasionally, only occasionally, fathers.
It’s not where you begin the journey, but where you take it and where you end up.
It’s the media’s fault, right? They want to make the brothers look bad. They want it instill/reinforce the image of the black man as just some type of Neanderthal prone to violence and incapable of following the rule of law. Keeping the black man down.
That being said, the constant reports of young, famous, financially well off black men running afoul of the law leaves one puzzled at the disproportionate disparity of their criminal activity to white or Hispanic athletes.
I think a lot of it has to do with the kill or be killed environment a lot of athletes were raised in, fawning attention from adults looking for their own ticket out of the same surroundings, coupled with an inability to separate trustworthy people from those just hanging around for a handout.
It’s a vicious circle, and while the media does look at these athletes as ‘disposable heroes’ to be built up and torn down, they also aren’t forcing anyone to get behind the wheel after drinking too much. Or to beat your wife. Unfortunately a lot of young black men are learning too late in life that the rules of society do apply to them, years after being relentlessly barraged with the type of attention that make them think these rules don’t. But that’s just my opinion.
The next time you see an athlete in handcuffs being hauled off to jail, you tell me what you think the reasons are. It’ll probably be something I have heard before though.
November 6, 2010 1 Comment
2010 US ELECTIONS-THE MORNING AFTER (SO TO SPEAK)
The dust has settled and the votes have been counted. The bi-partisan system has reset and now the Reds and the Blues, the Right and the Left, the Republicans and the Democrats begin the next chapter. No one’s happy, no party did as well as they thought they should have and everyone is now looking to 2012.
My only question, which I have posed to friends on several occasions over the last couple of years, is this: What are the differences, if any, between the so-called ‘Tea Party’ and the Republicans?
No one has been able to explain any ideological differences between the two, and the argument that the movement is founded and based on independent voters doesn’t add up. Ideologically, the positions of the candidates wrapping themselves in the tenets of the Tea Party are the same positions that conservative Republicans have been mouthing as far back as I can remember. So a rose is a rose is a rose, no?
There are two basic themes that have been a part of American politics in my lifetime, and they are these:
(1) The Republicans set the tone politically and the Democrats are reactive and usually on the defensive, and
(2) The Democratic Party, which over the last two generations has been more representative of the diversity of Americans, has never fully embraced that diversity. To their detriment.
The reality of the recent election however is that the Republicans have established their foundation for making a 2012 Presidential and Senate run. Their victories in Congress however didn’t bleed over into the Senate, and that means we will be looking at gridlock over the next couple of years. The Republicans will try to establish their agenda, the Senate (still in Democratic hands) invariably doesn’t agree, and if they do, President Obama vetoes it. Everyone pointing fingers at the next person and no one gets anything done.
As the US, and by extension, the world economy tries to tread water in this economic downturn, the President will have to move his agenda into high gear, do a much better job of laying out his initiatives to the public, and right size the ship, because anything less will make him less like the new FDR and more like the next Jimmy Carter. And that could be very bad news for all of us.
As Obama himself said in the days leading up to the election “We would be giving the keys for the car to the same people who drove it into the ditch.” Right now they’re riding shotgun and looking for more.
FOR COLORED GIRLS IN 2010
Being born and raised in Jamaica, the African-American experience was a very foreign concept to me. In school, American history was something I learned tangentially; the deeper aspects of the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights movement were not on the curriculum, neither academically nor societally.
I make that point because when I did move the US to attend college, I became more tuned into what it meant to be black in America. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which I was given a copy of by an uncle when I was a teenager, made a profound impact on me. Not too far from that book in terms of impact was Ntozake Shange’s ‘For Colored Girls Who Have Contemplated Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuff.’
Let me be clear-I am not one who supports books and/or writers that make a point of demeaning black men in particular or men in general. Shange’s book at first look may come across as that type of story, but in actuality is a lot more than that.
Simply put, the book “For Colored Girls” is a masterpiece; unlike anything before it and anything that have come since.
The focus is on the women, but the stories provide a look into the lives of people trying to get ahead, regardless of color, location or circumstances. The prose is brutally frank, but not dumbed down, and the portrayal of life in that time for ordinary folk is authentic. That’s why the play has persevered and flourished over the last thirty plus years, and why this is probably the most important movie that Tyler Perry has ever made.
The thing to keep in mind about this story however is when it was originally created. ‘For Colored Girls’ pre-dates the Color Purple, Oprah’s Empire and Waiting to Exhale. It stands apart from them in the way in which it looks into the black female/male dynamic in a stripped down, no makeup way that had never been seen up to that point. Yes, there are plenty of men who are cast as ‘no good’ in the story, but we all know that these men exist, and not just in black households. In ‘post-racial America’ (a phrase that I loathe, but that’s a story for another time) the overall themes are still quite relevant.
The reviews to date have been mixed. Some people hate it, some don’t get it, and some love it. I haven’t seen it yet, but I plan to. I have not been the biggest fan of Tyler Perry over the years, but I applaud him for making this movie if only to introduce a new generation to what I consider one of the defining stories of the 20th century African-American experience. And if you dont see the movie, at least check out the book or one of the many theatrical versions. You will not come away from it unmoved.
Now if only someone will write the story ‘for colored men…” Where’s my typewriter?
November 6, 2010 1 Comment