Sunday, September 27, 2009

Appreciating the Family

At some point in time, we all wish that we could change our families. Human dynamics being what they are, I don’t believe there is ever a family where there is always perfect harmony. Can someone say “dysfunctional”. Whether it is a fact that human nature demands homo sapiens will never be able to exist in tandem with each other all the time; or, because of our own selfish altruistic means we cannot bear to share the limelight with siblings, so in an attempt to gain the love and recognition of parents, teachers and those who inspire us, we act out or try to put others down to show ourselves in a better light.

I was struck by the story coming out of Korea this morning. The divide between North and South Korea created by a war some 50 years ago, narrowed considerably this past weekend, when some families separated by abduction or the 1953 war were reunited. It’s astounding that while we in the Western hemisphere moan about petty differences and sibling rivalry, in Korea, about 127,000 South Koreans reported in 1988 that they believed missing family members were in the North. In the intervening years about 40,000 of these South Koreans have since died – lonely and devastated by the remorse of separation. Can you envisage being cut off from parents and siblings for over 50 years, never being able to communicate by phone, letter or visit! Imagine a parent waving goodbye to a child, in your heart and mind you believe you are doing the right thing sending your child to safety, but reality dictates that the next time you see that child – you are in the twilight of your years and that child is an old man!
I was deeply moved by the pictures flashing across the TV screen this morning showing the lucky few Koreans who had been able to participate in the reunion, reinstated after a two year hiatus because of continued hostilities between the two countries. Actually North and South Korea are officially still at war, since they have not signed any peace treaty! For those who were able to withstand the rigors of a hard lifestyle and the steely hand of death, they were rewarded with seeing faces - the memories of which had been distorted by time, strangers – yet united by ancestral bloodlines. The tears of joy, regret, sorrow and loss culminates in a sigh of relief for most, who were able to reunite with their loved ones once more before they die.

The lesson for me in all of this – we don’t get to choose our families, but perhaps we need to learn to play with the pack of cards we are dealt in life. I’m learning to love the family I have, learning not to sweat the small stuff. Whenever a family member says or does something that affects me in a negative way, I’ll remember the people of Korea and try to imagine the impact of a 50 year separation and isolation on my life.
Sheron Hamilton-Pearson c 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Faubourg Treme

I watched and while watching a profound sense of sadness settled on my shoulders like a familiar but unwelcome blanket. The story of Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans a film by David Ogsdon and Lolis Eric Elie could have been the story of any parish or country hamlet in Jamaica.

There were so many veins to this story; what I initially thought to be an expose on the music of New Orleans, turned into so much more. As the film unfolded, my fascination for the music of the Deep South was given expression and outlet. I’ve always said that I want a New Orleans jazz band to play at my funeral. I couldn’t help but wonder at the similarities between the John Canoe revelries in Jamaica at Christmastime and the Mardi Gras procession. The costume is similar, the ‘bruckins’ identical. Then it hits me - these same movements, musical and physical, are born in Africa, transported to the Caribbean and America’s deep south, two tranches of slaves; traded in different hemispheres, developing separate and yet similar strains of resistance, but in whose lives a common thread of connectivity can be clearly seen.

I sat fascinated to learn the history of the freed slaves in New Orleans – the oldest community of liberated slaves. Blacks in Louisiana enjoyed a freedom of movement and thought denied their North American counterparts. Those forward thinkers, who produced the first black owned and run newspaper, written in French! The editorials encouraged blacks to throw off their shackles of bondage and aspire to higher heights of education, thinking and aspiration. The newspaper, L’Union, was run by Paul Trevigne, a prominent New Orleanian. 100 years before Rosa Parks, Trevigne incited his fellow countrymen to civil disobedience by not following segregation of the trolleys and trams in an attempt to force integration of the public transportation system. Out of that insurgent movement, the famous case of Plessey v Ferguson was brought before the Supreme Court which handed down the “separate and unequal” decision.

Faubourg Treme is now known as the 6th Ward. A once integrated middle class community has become a ghetto of despair, drugs and dereliction. With pockets of hope, like the local King of the Parade, Glen David Andrews a young man who plays the trombone instead of plying drugs on the streets of New Orleans.

Faubourg Treme, as I will forever call this place (6th Ward has a ring of prison jargon and culture about it) is back in the news on the passage of Hurricane Katrina, its people displaced once more. Not ripped this time from the Motherland, instead ravages of nature uprooted them from the place they had come to call home. Their claim to generations being born and dying in homesteads raised by bare hands and loving neighbors, somehow being brought to naught as dirty, stinking water, containing the muck and filth/flotsam and jetsam of the ghetto washed away lives and landmarks they had come to know and love.

I mourn Faubourg Treme. Its demise heralds the destruction of a more genteel, Southern-community-minded way of life, where children were raised by the villagers instead of mechanical devices that speak to them in the language of blips, bleeps, abbreviated English and strobe lights.

As the children are separated from their parents in life and in death I wonder who will teach them of their rich heritage, the culture of determination to overcome adversity. Who will remind them that they ought to be proud of their French, Spanish, Portugese, German and above all African roots and how will they reconnect with their cousins across those warm Caribbean seas.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bugger Off!

Things and times are cyclical. What I mean is the Biblical adage that "there's nothing new under the sun" really is true. So when I say 'what goes around; comes back around' in this context I mean if at first you don't succeed try, try and try again.

That's what seems to be happening with the activists who are seeking to force a change in Jamaica's so-called buggery laws. I watched a very interesting documentary posted on Facebook - a Pulitzer Center-funded video project on gays in Jamaica that aired on the PBS show WorldFocus. (

The documentary was interesting, but I beg to differ with the opinion of Dr. Peter Figueroa, renown expert on aids and former chief Medical Officer for Jamaica, who states that a repeal of Jamaica's buggery laws would lead to a containment of the spread of HIV and Aids in that country. The documentary posits that the rise in aids is directly related to the fact that infected gay men are fearful of obtaining treatment because of Jamaica's alleged homophobic attitudes. While, I will not stick my head in the sand and retort "preposterous" at this remark, I will counter and say that the rise of HIV and Aids in Jamaica can be laid fairly and squarely at the feet of two facts. The first being bi-sexual men who are not revealing their sexual preference to their multiple partners. A bi-sexual man will tell his male partner that he is sleeping with a woman, but he will not tell his female partner that he is sleeping with another man! The second but by no means secondary fact is that Jamaicans need to practice safe sex, by using a condom every time they have sexual intercourse.

I believe the time is right to have open discussion without fear of reprisal, but I believe the current stand by the overseas gay and lesbian community to launch boycotts of all things Jamaican will only serve to alienate them and their cause further in the eyes of a people who see them as a privileged, elitist and mainly white group trying to dictate to what the gay community perceive as a weaker foe. I've always posed the question of why this fight has never been taken to a Muslim country like Saudi Arabia where the openly gay are routinely beheaded for their sexual preference!

I have never believed any human being should be hated because of their colour, creed or sexual orientation and would not stand by, idly watching an attack on a homosexual or lesbian, but I'm deeply perturbed by the hatred that I see from both sides of the fence.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Guy Fawkes

Penny for the Guy, Miss – can you spare a penny for the guy!

Can you imagine the incredulous look on the faces of those passing by, when accosted by a rag tag group dragging what looks like a huge stuffed doll.

On November 5, 2009, members of the Meet-Up group Black British New Yorkers will be hosting a Bonfire Party. These Anglophiles are unique in that they are almost exclusively, black, British ex pats living in New York City. The tradition they bring from England, is something they all participated in as children, when they would make an effigy, purportedly representative of that British politician in the 1600s who decided to force a shift of power from Protestant to Catholic rule in his plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Fawkes and his escapade has been so ingrained in the fabric of British culture that every child knows the story of his dastardly attempt to blow-up the seat of power. Fawkes was one of the first medieval terrorists whose plot was foiled and led to his execution together with those of his co-conspirators.
In celebration of the foiled plot, Londoners were encouraged to commemorate the king's escape from assassination by lighting bonfires in the city the tradition of which has flourished and is still active to this day. The ritual is further embellished when the effigy of Guy Fawkes is burnt on the pyre.
Many popular contemporary verses were written in condemnation of Fawkes. The most well-known verse begins:
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.”

Over the years, the traditional ditty was somewhat reworked into a more banal rendition to advertise the sale of fireworks:

“Please to remember the fifth of November
Light up the sky with Standard fireworks”

While the bonfire burns, fireworks are also lit and colorful displays can be seen across the night sky, contributing to the myth of London as a foggy city.

Of course every celebration will feature eating and drinking, a sort of fellowship and this one is no exception, bangers and mash will have pride of place on the menu together with potatoes roasted in the ash of the bonfire. As our American neighbors look on in amazement, Black British New Yorkers will be clinging to their culture and bringing that centuries old tradition of Guy Fawkes to a youthful republic called America.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blues & Shebeen

My partying started at the age two. My grandmother was a famous baker in Brixton and whenever she baked for a wedding, of course moi had to be a bridesmaid! Almost every Saturday I had a new dress and shoes. My grandparents loved music, especially my grandmother, but you’d better not be playing any reggae music on Sunday – strictly “Jim Reeves” or gospel music. Her favorite record was “I remember” by Laurel Aiken and my granddad’s favorite was “The 10 Commandments” by Prince Buster. They used to “trace” one another with music – hilarious. I guess they never realised that they were the frontrunners of today’s soundclash. They had a blue-spot gram, one side had the 45s, 38s, and LP (long playing) records and another section had the drinks. The knick-knacks stood proudly atop the ‘gram resting on a highly starched doily.

As I got older, my love of music was nurtured by a father who was a long time sound man. His friends were all sound men, I’m talking about Count Suckle, Sofrano B, Duke Vin, V-Rocket. I became steeped in music, my dad actually took me to my a blues where he was playing. That’s where I met my first “serious” boyfriend. Mum certainly wasn’t pleased when she found out about it and that put the mockers on further excursions with dad.

Growing up in South London, I remember many memorable party sessions, Railton Road in its demolition stage after the Brixton riots provided the perfect hidey hole for the transient blues parties that were held every night of the week. Thick black rubbish (garbage) bags blocked out the windows – you never knew what time it was, as we stumbled out at the end of the sessions, blinking like frightened owls at the high midday sun. As soon as one site was shut down, two or three would spring up as replacements. The blues provided income for “sufferers” and entrepreneurs alike. You could buy single cigarettes or Champagne, depending on your pocket and taste. But most of all the thing that tied us all together was the love of the music and the chance to hear some good good reggae and soul. Those truly were the days of our lives.

The music of those times took its lead from Jamaica for the main, but later the youths in England created their own sound. This was the birth of Lover’s Rock, not to be confused with anything that Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs or Beres Hammond performed, Lover’s Rock was the expression of British youth and their answer to what was coming out of Jamaica and also a reflection of their lives as second generation immigrants. There are too many names to mention for fear of missing out some of the key players in the British Lover’s Rock genre – so I’ll just give a tribute to two of the main proponents who are no longer with us – Jean Adebambo, and Bevan “Bagga” Fagan from the group Matumbi.

My Granny's Nine Night

The news of my grandmother’s death was a shock from which I’m just recovering 16 years later, but I’ll not dwell here on that sad occurrence, instead, I’ll concentrate on granny’s nine night.

My grandmother was the matriarch of the family, Miss Brenda was the one who could be relied on to take charge of and initiate any action that needed to be effected. Of course, everyone wanted to attend her send off! Funeral arrangements had to take into account that her family spread far and wide across the globe would have to make plans to gather in Jamaica, so her funeral happened almost a month after her death.

My mother, father and sister, arrived from New York, I arrived with other relatives from London and we all converged at the house in Morant Bay, the house in which my grandmother had lived for some 30 years odd years. Arriving from Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport, dusty, hot, sticky and tired, I was not in the least prepared for the happenings taking place in the yard. There were drummers, dancers, merriment and drinking. My uncle who’d flown in from Florida was in the midst of the revelries. His brother from London was livid - “stop that, stop that, this is not what Sister Brenda would have wanted you know she was a good Christian woman – oonu need fi stop dis foolishness”. (You ever notice how Jamaican people never call each other by their proper names, my uncle, was calling his mother “Sister Brenda”). Oh no, my Florida uncle retorted stoutly, you know that she loved this, she was always in the mix of things and loved to dance quadrille. My family is very refined and they would have died before having a public dispute, after all - these were ‘foreign’ folks and so – to keep the peace, the merriment continued.

Well – let me tell you – this was my first experience of Kumina, I watched in amazement at the agility of these old folks who danced, dipped, twirled and almost “got in the spirit” dancing to the beat of the African drums. The call and response of the old-time chorus reminded me of ring games I’d played as a child living for a short spell in Jamaica. The pace increased in frenzy as the participants consumed more and more copious amounts of white rum. Plates of food disappeared faster than we could bring them out, the mannish water, bubbling in drum-pan sized pots was tasty and very spicy, requiring lots of water to quench your thirst. The curry goat and rice tasted sooooo good. Of course the family joined in, for my elders, it was as if their time abroad counted for nothing, as they dropped foot with the locals, matching them move for move, coming up with their own innovative steps. Dip and fall back mi seh.

I couldn’t understand why people kept calling for more rum, it seemed as though the rum was walking through the gate on its own legs and when I caught one of the bandsmen smuggling two bottles of Ray & Nephew under his shirt, I realized that the rum was not only talking in the actions of the performers, but it was also walking.

Granny’s nine night is something that I’ll never forget and was just one aspect of a fitting tribute to a beloved mother, grandmother, friend, counselor and all-round kickster gyal. My granny, Brenda Alsina Campbell who left this plane May 9, 1993.

Growing up in London

Growing up in London

It's funny to put this thought on paper, but I didn't realize I was Black until I started attending primary school and the local bully used that awful "n" word! To put this into context - my grandparents were included in that first batch of immigrants called on to help put the Mother country back on her feet after the Second World War. Although there is no record of them travelling on the famous "Windrush", my grandparents went to England in the 1940's. Growing up in Brixton, there weren't that many black people around. Most of my friends were other immigrants. In fact, my best friend Linda was from Turkey. I think I probably spent as much time at her house as I did mine. One of our favorite pastimes was to watch South Pacific and sing along to all the wonderful songs, wearing grass skirts that we’d made ourselves.

I was born with a flair for the dramatic, as a child, all the adults around me would say that I would soon be going to Hollywood, since even at an early age, I was a character. Another of my best friends, Patricia would love to reenact scenes from Anthony & Cleopatra, the one starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. I remember using my mum’s eye-brow pencil (I guess they’d call it eyeliner today) and would outline my eyes so much that I looked like a panda-bear! We had such wonderful times embellishing the story that we’d seen on celluloid.

I remember the house we lived in, purchased with "pardner" money and rented to other Jamaicans who were flocking to Brixton, the hub of the fledgling Caribbean immigrant community, as being a hive of activity. My grandmother supplemented her income as a domestic worker in the local children's hospital by baking cakes. Wow, those were special times, every time she baked wedding cakes - I got to be a bridesmaid. Lovely - a new dress almost every Saturday.

The winters were frigid, the houses reeked of fumes from the parafin heaters in every room. Central heating wasn't in our vocabulary then. The cylindrical design of the portable heaters left many a burn scars on the inside of my legs where I tried to stay warm by standing too close to its meager warmth Back in those days, snow drifts of 8-10” was normal, one particular brutal winter, I remember being carried home on my grandfather’s shoulders, since I’d surely have been covered in snow if I’d been allowed to walk under my own steam.

I remember 'sixpenny' pony rides on Saturday mornings - followed by pictures at the local cinema. I led such a charmed live as a child that when I asked for a pony – my grandparents considered buying me one. Luckily, they must have reconsidered and got me a puppy instead. I’ll never forget Whisky, black and white and cute as could be, that dog became my constant companion and partner in crime. When he died, a piece of me was buried with him in the backyard. I remember putting flowers on the mound and shedding endless tears. I guess that dog made me realize that nothing is permanent, I never had another dog after that, I guess I was scared to emotionally invest in another animal that could be taken away at a moment’s notice.

Loving Aretha

I grew up loving Aretha Franklin, but in a way that had nothing to do with her music.

I left England for Jamaica when I was 11 years old. My grandparents raised me and I’d never lived with my mother but we had a somewhat unusual relationship. I’d always thought she was my aunt. It wasn’t until she tried to discipline me for some ‘rudeness’ and my shouted protest that she shouldn’t hit me because she wasn’t my mother – caused her to burst into tears. That’s what prompted me to pause and wonder at her reaction.

At that time, my mother was always on the periphery of my life, my earliest memories were of this knock-kneed very pretty woman wearing stiletto shoes with pointed toes, pushing the pram with my younger brother, while my baby sister tried to keep up with mum’s short choppy strides that covered distance at a fast clip. She was my wake-up call as she dropped off the kids at the baby-sitter who took care of them while she went to work in London’s West End. Passing my grandmother’s house in Brixton before the ‘colored’ invasion, “wakey, wakey, rise and shine” was the mantra she used. That was the cue to get up, get dressed and get myself off to school.

Living in Jamaica, I never had a picture of my mother, but in my childish memory, Aretha Franklin was her spitting image. I remember spending hours poring over the album cover where Aretha has a smile as she looks off camera eyes twinkling looking every inch the queen that I knew my mum to be. Those high fat cheekbones that so reminded me of my mum. It was a bit of maternalistic nostalgia, that picture of Aretha was the nearest thing to a biological mum half way across the world, whose presence I felt with the sporadic packages containing my precious ‘Bounty’, ‘Beano’ and other comic books. Those care-packages provided the tenuous link to my British childhood and eased the loneliness of this strange country, people and even stranger food.

My grandmother tempted me to no avail, I wasn’t having any of that rubbish - green bananas, plantain, cho cho, turning up my nose in disdain at such delicacies as yam, dasheen and other ground provisions. Mama had better make that trek to Coronation Market to get my ‘Irish’ potatoes so that I could have my chips, or at a pinch, boiled/mashed spuds.

Eventually, I started eating a little chicken and tried some of the other local foods, but I’m ashamed to say that I lived in Jamaica for almost two years before venturing to eat a mango! One summer, a school mate invited me to spend some time with her family in Manchester. It was mango season and the abundance of black mangoes, ripe, ripening and rotting under the trees was too much temptation for me to resist. Licking the juice as it ran down the side of my face, and arms, I couldn’t believe what I had been missing. It’s a good job Mama believed in old fashioned remedies, because I’m sure I also ate my fair share of worms.

To this day, whenever I see pictures of Aretha, that’s the memory that always rushes back to remind me of Aretha as my surrogate mother. Meeting Aretha was the pinnacle of my love affair, I remember she was promoting her autobiography and scheduled an appearance at a mid-town Manhattan bookstore.

I was amazed at how short she really is, she hadn’t ballooned in size yet, but she was still a heavy-set woman who seemed as nervous as me. Here’s the picture of me, standing coyly beside her. Can you see the similarity in the high cheek bones? She seemed very shy and even bored that she had to promote her book by meeting this curious crowd who wanted to delve into her private life.

Aretha’s music, along with an eclectic mix of other rhythms became the backdrop to my life. I cried to Ain’t no Way after break ups, preened to “Natural Woman” and was reaffirmed by her collaboration with Lauryn Hill singing a Rose is still a Rose.

Aretha Franklin has been signing for almost 60 years. She has 20 Grammy’s and numerous accolades, the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. She will always hold a special place in history because she sang at the swearing-in of America’s first black President, but to me – she’ll always be my surrogate mother.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Brooklyn Book Fest

So - I awoke to beautiful bright sunshine, an almost cloudless sky, a light breeze and a feeling of peace and gratitude that I’ve again been blessed to witness a new day.

After my stint at WBAI, I drove downtown to the Brooklyn Book Festival. The annual affair hosted by Brooklyn’s Borough President, this is such a great event to attend whether or not you’re a bookophile. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon with family or friends – what better way to spend a lazy Sunday. One of my favorite authors, Edwidge Danticat was not only reading and discussing her work, but also receiving the Brooklyn Book Festival’s Best of Brooklyn Award. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived, she’d already appeared at the ticket only event. Haitian born, Ms. Danticat, writes powerfully about the immigrant experience and her earlier stories capturing and recording her social, cultural and historical truths resonated with me in a way that made me purposefully seek out her later offerings.

Wandering in the park there were so many books. I’d previously made a pact with myself not to purchase anything, something that I found very very hard to do. Just being surrounded by so many new books was for me Nirvana. Picking up book after book, hefting it from one hand to another, feeling the weight, reading a synopsis on the fly page, looking at the artwork and finally inhaling that new book smell. Oh my, would I be able to stick to my resolve? There were so many publisher’s present, I couldn’t but help make the comparison with Harlem’s Book fair that for me has degenerated to something much less than it’s potential. Downtown Brooklyn was awash with books for every type of reader, covering a myriad of topics.

I found myself standing in front of the international stage, set up at the bottom of the steps of Borough Hall Plaza, just in time to catch the act of an unknown author reading excerpts from his book. In a completely surprise move, he then donned wig, black felt hat and (after the failure of his recording equipment) proceeded to give an acapella version of Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean. The audience was very appreciative, singing back-up and applauding his attention grabbing selling tactic. I’d love to know how many copies of his book were sold based on this fresh marketing approach to the normally stuffy world of publishers and authors.

Walking past the international stage, I see a familiar face sitting under a white tent, I can’t believe I’m looking at Dominic Carter, political pundit and host of NY1’s “Inside City Hall”. There he was, selling autographed copies of his best-seller ‘No Momma’s Boy’. I’d already heard the buzz about this book from my association with NAMI, the organization that supports and promotes support for the families of and those suffering with mental illness. I’ve been meaning to buy this book so after speaking with Mr. Carter and being swayed by his boyish charm and sincere personality, can you guess which book I purchased, despite my earlier promise to keep my money firmly in my wallet?

It was so nice bumping into fellow writer and member of my former group Black Light Collective - Layton Hollar, who was promoting copies of his book Rhyme Time, an innovative poetry and coloring book for children.

I need to compile a list of books that I need to add to my ever growing library, my next purchase will be Andrene Bonner’s Olympic Gardens – which I hope she’ll autograph for me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Best of Both Worlds

Born in London and being the only child raised by my grandparents was rather lonely but I found comfort in books. I remember reading everything I could get my hands on. Particular favorites were "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe", "The Secret Garden", "What Katy Did" and a host of other popular children's books. Looking back I lament the fact that as British children born to Caribbean parents, we didn't know very much about our literary heritage. I now know there were several prominent Caribbean writers, but we weren't introduced to them then.
It wasn't until I migrated to Jamaica with my grandparents in the 60's that I discovered the rich vein of Caribbean and African authors like Buchi Emcheta, Chinua Achebe, George Lamming (a bit highbrow), Lorna Goodison and many many others. Gosh - how could I forget the great icon, Ms. Louise Bennett-Coverly.
The first year in Jamaica , she saved my life. Coming from England with my cockney British accent, the Jamaican kids teased me mercilessly. It wasn't until I discovered Louise Bennett's "Labrish" and was able to tune my ear and learn to speak Patois that the onslaughts ceased. Enduring memories of my school days in Jamaica involve me sitting under some shady tree at the edge of the playing field with my head deep in the comic books my mother used to send from England , "Bunty", "Sparky" and "The Beano". Eating my patty and cocoa bread with a chocolate milk to quench my thirst - ah heaven, those were the days.
I remember attending Morant Bay High School and being sent home in shame by the Headmaster – Mr. Brown, simply for wearing white socks instead of brown! Discipline in schools was not an issue then, even the “rudest rudie” feared and respected their teachers. Teaching was (and I hope still is) a noble profession and teachers took such pride in training the young minds in their care. One particular English teacher whose name still escapes me after all these years, nurtured my love of English. After winning an English prize of a Caribbean writer’s anthology that diminutive Chinese woman used to make me sit in the open-aired classroom and write poems while my classmates romped in the dusty yard.
My grandparents moved to Kingston shortly after and although I received a scholarship to enter Excelsior, for some reason I ended up attending Camperdown. Donald Quarrie was a revered senior and perhaps it was he who sparked my interest in athletics. I religiously make the trek to Penn Relays every year and proudly display my British and Jamaican flags.
I believe I am a much better person because of my British heritage and Jamaican culture. Being rooted and grounded in both, interchanging dialects as only Jamaicans can is something that fascinated my British work colleagues – little did they know my lapses into patois were simply to stop them eavesdropping on my conversations! I’m adding a third dimension since I now live in New York, but longing for the day when I’ll be able to return to the land of my parent’s birth.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rants & Raves

I'm a big fan of social networking sites and one in particular - Facebook, which I call 'Farcebook', since there's a lot of drama that takes place on it. I always marvel at the fact that people seem so comfortable that they seemingly willingly share all sorts of intimate details about themselves or their family and friends. Whilst I laud the fact that Facebook is a great network building tool, I am leery about the information I put out there in cyberspace for all and sundry. My family and friends are no better - I think I would draw the line at sharing pictures of my pregnancy scan or telling people that I love birthday sex or using profane language (all of which comes from the younger generation). What amazes me is that the adults have no admonishment. I've tried telling younger relatives to be wary of the image they present - as potential employers are now trolling social network sites to build a profile of potential and current employees.

Case in point, in my own job recently, workers were fired for making inappropriate comments on Facebook when they should have been working!

Whilst I believe Facebook is a great leveller - meaning that you can have access to all kinds of people from the great and mighty to the unknown, it also opens you to the frailties of humankind. You never know when you may accept a friend who is a potential stalker, wannabee or simply as the young folks today say 'a hater'.

While I try to adhere to the etiquette governing email in my Facebook encounters, unfortunately, not every friend is aware that there are certain do's and don'ts. In my humble opinion it is not okay to slag someone off on Facebook, there is a time and place for everything and I don't believe just because you may have some command of the English language, you should try to score points at the expense of another. Similarly, just because someone disagrees with your train of thought does not mean you should unleash unwarranted and unjustified rants, throwing barbs and accusations of hypocrisy, ignorance etc. Of course, there is always the simple course of action - just delete the pest - but I think that adds fuel to the fire. For me, my solution is to maintain my position, take the higher ground and show that there's a cooler head prevailing. If you don't like my actions, my comments or my philosophy - that is your prerogative, but do me a favour, exercise some kind of self control - keep asinine comments to yourself.