Budding Journalist.

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After working five years as a teacher I wanted a change in my life; a change that would facilitate me doing something that I love, writing.313891_10151701306858312_982273434_n

 

I envisioned days sitting in a coffee shop or on a park bench using figurative devices to construct scenes that whisked readers away to fantastical destinations. I desired to have words and imagination at the core of my being; to write daily and  learn new words with the opportunity to share them with readers.  I craved a space that would facilitate me playing with words and writing thoughts with like-minded people. So, I enrolled into J-school. Though I have gotten excellent grades so far, the romantic expectations I had of a life in Journalism is slowly fading as I pull closer to the finish line.

I am a frustrated writer. I adore words and the power they contain to provoke thought, trigger emotions and inform. Yet, the style of writing for news reporting is stripped of the imaginative and uninhibited world of words that I adore. If it is not concise, it has to be clear, or just devoid of emotions and opinion. My creativity is yoked into being a staccato expression of thought that falls in line with all that has gone before and all that will come after.

So what do I do now? Should I throw in the towel and quit because my expectations have been slapped silly by reality?

It is not within me to quit, I instead have decided to focus on the merits of this new lane that I’m in, and continue to learn and grow.

365 days later…

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It is a year since I have been away from Jamaica and oh, what a year it has been.

I’ve made new friendships, but still support those I created in Jamaica with phone calls, BBM, Facebook, Whatsapp and Skype.  I have been assigned the role of ambassador in social settings when my accent reveals my nationality. This is a role I’ve been happy to fill, because I have been allowed to debunk some of the myths people have of Jamaicans. I have been asked questions ranging from my relationship with my family to how Bob Marley’s music affected my life. One particular question that floored me was if Jamaicans know about Canada. I simply smiled and said yes then walked away to prevent any further interaction. To my new friends I am the official litmus in determining if a smell, sound or taste labelled Jamaican is authentic.

My assimilation into the Canadian society required me to disrobe of some of the bigoted world views that I inherited from my fore-parents. I have been confronted with other lived truths and experiences that have forced me to re-evaluate things I have held as true. I started my journey on the 21st of December, 2011 at 5:10 p.m. from my parent’s house in Jamaica and I am still travelling.

Possibly the most frequent question I’ve been asked is if I miss Jamaica. I’ve often responded with a reflexive yes, but recently it hit me that I was lying.

I don’t miss Jamaica.

I miss the familiarity it affords me.

I miss my family, friends and the memories I created while growing up.

I do not miss Jamaica.

I don’t miss the need Jamaicans have to police your behaviour, dress-code and speech.

The suffocating value system that we cloak in black, green and gold and use it to suppress expression and individuality.

Since my journey began I have pierced my ears and I am contemplating a tattoo.

I have a fire-engine red pants in my closet and a jeans so tight it requires a special dance to get into them.

There are things I have done and expressed that I was afraid to consider in Jamaica.

I surprise myself at times, but it gives me a great feeling that makes my heart smile, a rush that makes me feel like I am alive and living. The thought of shelving these inhibitions I have developed over the past 365 days scares me.

I’ve said I love you more in the last 365 days than I have in my entire life. I have cried openly with members of my family and have fearlessly exposed my vulnerability in ways I dreaded. This journey I am on has taught me more about myself than I cared to know.

I have heightened my relationship with my sisters and made me realize how much I love them. My younger sister sent me a card on my birthday which made me cry. She has never expressed the words she wrote to me and just reading them forced me to realize how much I took for granted. I also realized that had I not been away from home, I may never have read those words.

My mother is my life. Yet, I would get annoyed when she told  stories that I have heard a thousand times before. Now I long for them and laugh my ass off as if I am hearing them for the first time while listening to her on the phone thousands of miles away. I picture her warm eyes, the smell of vanilla that I attach to memories of my mother and the way she smiles while reliving these memories as only a mother can. My father and I are also different. He is no longer the man who I fought on a daily basis as a teenager, but instead has morphed into daddy. A man with his own insecurities who never grew up with a father but was required to play the role without a script. Our conversations has become meaningful since I have been in Canada. I recently saw a picture of my dad and it forced me to deal with his mortality. My father has aged so much within a year. The implications of this realization were not lost on me and all his vices seemed irrelevant in that moment. I have him now and I plan to make it count.

This journey has brought people of various faiths into my life, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist, Jews and even Atheist. I have been able to sit and listen to world views and lived experiences that challenged many of the things I questioned, as well as things I held as true. I grew up in church. I taught Sunday school, worked at church camps and served two years as Youth Director, but I had major issues with the tenets of the faith I was socialized with.   Surely this will cause many conflicts with family and friends, but I am ready to live with the consequences of my actions that are decided by my perception of the world.

Just a year and already I can document changes in my life. We often tell people, “don’t change, because I love you just the way you are”, yet change is inevitable, even the dead changes.

I am changing and this fact excites me. I look forward to where this journey takes me and how much growth I will experience…and it r the truth.

Preying on prayer…

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I was taught to pray at an early age by my mother.

I remember waking up many nights and hearing her whispered prayers as she walked through the rooms of the house.

I attended three catholic schools and we prayed before classes, before lunch, after lunch, before we left for school and we prayed just because it was Friday.

My first executive position at church was prayer coordinator for the youth fellowship. Clearly prayer has been a major part of the fabric of my life…just like cotton.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the statement, “Prayer changes things…” but lately I have been asking, what is the purpose of prayer?

Christians believe God to be all knowing, all powerful, all loving, alpha and omega, holding all our future and plans in his hand. His will is described as perfect and he knows what is best for us all. After all, he knew us from we were in our mothers’ wombs. If this is the case, why do we pray? Why ask God to change things since he already knows what is good for us? To think I would have to go to my mother and father every time I have a need that they are already aware of, they have an obligation to fill that need. Isn’t it the same with God? Since he knows what we need why should I have to ask? Can my prayer change the will of God?  

I have often marveled at chaplains and athletes praying for victory, how does God even decide this? How does he pick a team to win or decide that this praying Christian’s request will be granted and the other denied? Surely we have seen people who later are revealed to be cheats win and walk off with the glorious moment of having confetti fall while they are hoisted on the shoulders of others, with the crowd chanting their names and the devout prayer warriors are left in the shadows. How about God allowing people to go on a murderous rampage, then we are urged to pray for the family left in the wake of the tragedy. Pray that “God may comfort them in this hour of need”. This bothers me. There is a school of thought that God allowed it to happen so people will draw closer to Him. seriously… Do I need to show the flaws in that ideology? 

I recognize the need for prayer, it is like a journal that allows people to get rid of some of the issues that plague their minds. It offers a release for many and offers hope in a world that may seem gloomy to some people. I am grateful when people say they will pray for me, not because I believe God may alter his plans for my life but that they care enough to try and have him alter his plans for my life. To say I have removed prayer from my life would be a lie, as there are times I ask for strength and answers to even some of these questions. Sigh, sometimes I wish I had blind-faith like so many Christians I know…oh well I guess I should pray for it….and it r the truth.

….Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land I……

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Patriotism is defined as devoted love, support and defense of one’s country; national loyalty, but what is the basis for patriotism?

I was born in a particular country, therefore I am obligated to devote my love and support to her?

Jamaica is the land of my birth, I had absolutely no control over that. I grew up pledging my undying love and support for this isle of the indies, but became critical as an adult after realizing I was relegated to being a third-class world citizen because I am Jamaican.

I contrasted what Jamaica offered to me with what I was denied and this made it more difficult to accept the idea of patriotism.

I don’t believe in obligated love, it is like a duty and thus loses its true essence.

I do not love my mother because she gave birth to me, I love her because she is a great human being who gave of herself unselfishly to me and others. I don’t think I should love Jamaica, just because…, that is simply ridiculous. I must admit that Jamaica is possible one of the most beautiful place on earth, this beauty is used well in hiding the hideous underbelly of her culture…and it is this that makes it hard for me to be patriotic.

Jamaica is my home, my family is there, happy memories of my childhood is intrinsically linked to Jamaica. I miss her because she is familiar, not because she is different from any other country; Dubai buy sand and build beach, South America has majestic mountains that helps to keep the sky above us and reggae, which originated in Jamaica, has more significance in Europe than it does in the Caribbean isle.

Lately people who claim particular personality traits as indigenous to Jamaicans annoy me. When you are not exposed to other cultures it is easy to assume that Jamaicans r the only ones who say particular things, or do things in a  specific way, but then you meet others from various cultures and realize people are people, and these traits exist all over the world….what do you do then? I think nationalist should focus on celebrating humanism and then the world would be a better place.

Yet with all this, I find it easy to sell Jamaica as a great destination to visit and I will quickly defend her honour if people speak ill of her….but I am not blindly devoted in love and support. It may be possible that I am harping on semantics, I may need another word to explain how I truly feel, but as it is right now, patriotic is not the word and it r the truth.

We are not Free….

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Recently I made a declaration on Facebook, that I do not believe people choose their sexual orientation. As is typical with my status comments, it elicited  a range of responses, from support, to indifference and of course a few disagreeing with my position. However, one comment provoked me to examine my own thoughts on free-will; ‘God gives us choice in every aspect of our lives….” Simple reasoning would prove this statement invalid, as none of us choose our parents, our date of birth, or nationality, yet these seem diminutive when juxtaposed with other aspects of our lives where we have no choice.

I’ve always believed in Predetermination, the idea that every event is caused, not simply by the immediately prior events, but by a causal chain of occurrences that goes back well before recent events. For example, one’s personal characteristics are predetermined by socialization and heredity, by a chain of events going back before one’s birth. Children born in the ghetto to a poor dysfunctional family are predetermined to live a life of crime or debauchery. One could argue that some make it out of the ghetto and lead successful lives, but even this is predetermined by factors outside of that person, factors they make no decision on; opportunity, motivation, “the drive” to make things better for themselves. This  does have seriously implications on our penal and reward system, as this reasoning suggest that criminals are not responsible for their deeds, and people are not responsible for their own successes. My personal belief is that society makes criminals then punishes them for being criminals, but that is for another blog spot.

I’ve pondered on the following disposition where I love honey roasted peanuts, they are delicious. I also love peanut cake and may say it is a confection that I was addicted to as a student at University, yet I cannot put peanut butter in my mouth, the very smell of it makes me nauseous…how come? I did not choose to dislike peanut butter, neither did I try not to like it, it was predetermined by something in my genetic coding. 

With advancements in science, we are able to see that genuine dysfunctions exist that cause students to be slow at Math and other technical subjects. For years they have been labelled as slow, dunce, or just lazy, yet we realize this exist outside of their ability to control it. The spin-off due to this dysfunction that they had no control over has led many of them down unsavoury paths. So are they free, or predetermined?

I should hasten to say I think there are some points at which persons make decisions, but even the options are based on predetermined factors, so how free is there choice? There are studies to show that human behaviour is affected by so many external factors, that coupled with those based on genetics, it is ridiculous to say we have free-will.

The idea that people are free agents making decisions based on an unlimited course of action is flawed and should be examined honestly. As it relates to sexual orientation; homosexuality is as much a choice as heterosexuality and it r the truth.

 


Advocacy….a yahso nice

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I had no previous knowledge of the artiste Potential Kidd or his hit song “Yahso Nice”, until I was asked to sign a petition protesting, Lime’s, use of his jingle in their most recent promotion. I have since listened to the song and to say I am revolted would be an understatement. The singer explicitly describes a sexual encounter with a female and goes further to assert his heterosexuality with the line, “before me turn a batty man, me prefer turn a raper” and all this is punctuated with “a yahso nice”.

Lime for a mighty long time has been relegated to the back of the line with respect to telecommunications in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. Therefore, it is no surprise that their desperate marketing department would jump on a catchy slang to attract a younger clientele, not realizing the damning effect this will inevitable have on the society. However, Lime’s ill-advised move  allowed the power of advocacy to be revealed once more.

Socially conscious Jamaicans took to social media to campaign against the message of this song and even more so, Lime for legitimizing this message by buying into it. This endeavor quickly spread across the world, with people as far as the Netherlands, Brazil, Peru, Canada, the USA and our brothers and sisters in the Eastern Caribbean  chiming in on the imprudent step on the part of the struggling telecommunications network. It is also notable that several organization such as Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), which advocates for minority and disenfranchised groups in Jamaica, also stood in solidarity with the cause and asked for Lime to do the noble thing. Within a week, Lime had reneged on their contract and Potential Kidd made a public apology, all of this due entirely to a small group of advocates.

In sixth form I had a teacher who struggled to impart worldly wisdom to my year group. One of her many little mantras was “Changing the world is as easy as speaking up”. This is basically advocacy, a refusal to remain silent even when the odds are stacked against you.  The willingness to speak out against immorality even when it has become the social norm. To stand up for the rights of those who are unable to stand for themselves. Fighting for a cause, even when you will not be an immediate beneficiary. This latest testament of advocacy has renewed my faith in the act and will find me being more aggressive in speaking out, for and against….you should too, the world can only benefit from this…it r the truth.

Stranger than fiction…o_0

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I pledged never to write about the people around me in my blogs. This is if we become friends and they stumble upon it eventually, that would be awkward. However, I have to write about my experience last night which still has me pinching myself.

Last night I had an encounter with a random girl, she might as well have been a ghost because I don’t know where she came from, neither where she went after.

I live in a shared space with five men. We all have our own rooms, but we share bathrooms and kitchen area. Now this situation lends itself to so many stories, but we will have those on another day.

This particular Saturday I sat down to dinner of curried chicken and white rice. I heard a knock on my door and there was this red-head waving to me in the doorway. This is unusual, because I have never seen a woman in this house. She introduce herself and was kind enough to apologize for the alcoholic fumes leaving her body because it is her day off and she has been drinking, so she maybe drunk. Wait, it isn’t awkward yet.

She said she smelled my dinner and it smelled so good that she was wondering if I have any more so that she may have some. Please understand that this is a common joke among Jamaicans back home. We will ask to share in a stranger’s meal as a compliment to how good it looks or smell, but will definitely not accept after the polite consent from the cook. A Jamaican friend of mine shared how he was severely beaten by his mother because she caught him accepting food from the neighbours; What made it worse was that it was a dumpling… that warrants the death penalty in Jamaica. This tacit rule is rooted deep in our culture and we all blindly obey it without thought to question its origin. Anyway, back to Miss Thing….I nervously laughed at the request and she laughed too, but I became confused because she was looking with expectancy. I said to her that I don’t have any left as I only prepared for one . Now please understand my surprise when Miss Thing takes the plate from my hand and starts eating….as God is my witness it r the truth. She shovelled too clumps of chicken into her mouth before I even registered what was happening. She handed me back the plate while informing me she graduated from George Brown with a Food Management degree and my dinner is very tasty… as if I didn’t know; I told her thanks with a smile.

She goes further to take my cup and begin drinking. At this point I started looking around for a hidden camera because clearly this was a prank, it had to be. She then steps beyond me, sits on my bed and starts shooting questions at me about where I’m from and what I am doing in Canada …looking around the room as she speaks. Then Miss Thing removes her shoes, so I say, “This feels so surreal, like I am in an updated version of Goldy Locks and the three bears.” She responds, “…but there are only two bears,” and starts to cackle…0_O She eventually left, well not before taking some more of the rice and giving me a high-five. 

Can somebody explain to me what happened? I’ve never had this experience in my life and I am too shock to be angry. Can anybody say if this has happened to them and if I should expect more encounters like this? Clearly I am not in Kansas any more Toto…and that r the truth.