Monday, November 10, 2008

The Woeful State of Our Nation

Evridie mi riid di niuuz-piepa dem mi aat bliid. Iat mi fi nuo se mi priti priti kontri an mi piipl dem a sofa aanda presha frahn di kriminal dem ahn pavati. A taim fi di yong piipl dem step op, ahn staat werk fi a beta Jumieka. Bot wi niid fi staat somwe, so mek wi taak ahn si we wi kiahn kom op wid.

Jumiekans niid sinting fi bring dem tugeda, fi mek dem rialaiz se di uola wi a wan set a piipl wid di siem uops ahn driimz. Mi fiil se wi langwij kyaahn bi de gluu de, we jraa piiple frahn aal bakgrong brait spaax gens no donsibat, no puo man gens no tapanaaris. Nobadi fi luk dong ar op pahn nobadi- bot evribadi az wan. An tu, mi kanvins se di edikieshan sistim uda beta ef pikni dida lerni Patwa langsaid Inglish. Chuu dis, mi gwaihn rait evrting ina Patwa ahn den chranslieti ina Inglish. Di vokiabileri mait shaata, bot ino miin se yo kyaahn se we yo waahn fi se. Til nou mi aalwiez wanda ou kom wen yo aax pikni kwestian, dem kyaahn aalwie gi yo ansa, ef a iivn 'nuo', alduo fi dem vokiabileri so shaat. Wan a di riizn dem mek wi fiil se di vokiabilieri tuu shaat a kaaz wi get so yuuz to hexpresin wi komplex aidiia dem ina Inglish...a taim fi go bak tu wi ruuts. Mi no si wa mek Jumiekan piipl kyaahn laan tuu langwij wan taim- fi di muos paat, no dat wi du nou?

I gwaihn tek nof enaji ahn main fi achiiv we di wola wi waahn Jumieka fi bi- wahn praaspros konchri we evribadi liv wid dehn wananeda widout waar. Mek wi staat di kanvasieshan no.


My heart bleeds each day when I read the newspapers. It hurts to see my beautiful country and fellow citizens suffer at the hands of criminals and poverty. Now is the time for Jamaica’s youth to join the fight for a better Jamaica. We need to start somewhere, so let us begin the discussions, and see what we can come up with.

Jamaicans need something to bring us together, to make us realize that we are united
through our nationality, having the same hopes and dreams. I am convinced that our language can be the glue which brings people from diverse backgrounds intelligence versus ignorance dispute, no lower class versus high class squabbles. Where there will be no one to look down upon or up at another- but a Jamaica where everyone considers themself as part of a single unit. I am confident that our educations system would be more successful if Patwa was taught alongside English. In line with this, everything will be written in Patwa and then translated into English. Our Patwa vocabulary might be shorter, but that does not necessarly limit us in expressing ourselves. Till now, I always wonder how it is that children will always elicit a response to any question asked of them- if even just 'no'- though their vocabulary is so limited. One of the reasons we assume Patwa's vocabulary to be too short is the fact that we have grown so accustomed to expressing our complex ideas in English...but it is time for us go back to our roots. I see no reason why Jamaicans cannot leanr two langaugs at once- isn't that what we do now anyway?

It will take a lot of dedication and brain-power to achieve the Jamaica we all want to see: a prosperous island nation, in which people live in harmony and peace. Let’s start this conversation.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Love For Jamaican Patwa

I have read with interest the conflicting views regarding ‘wi langgwij, Jumiekan.’ I once refused to speak it, as mastery of Standard English was an expectation of the highest achievers. In 2006 I left Jamaica to study in Canada, and now believe in giving official status to ‘Jumiekan’ alongside English. It is no longer a matter of English or ‘Jumiekan;’ I want to be literate in both.

In Canada I looked forward to speaking with my family, as only they could fully understand the seriousness of my concerns. ‘Momi mi tap iit enuh, so mi a get maaga. Mi kiaahn bada wid dem kaina fuud ya agen!’ The English translation reads: ‘Mother, I no longer eat and so am losing weight; I am tired of eating this kind of food.’ Are there actually people who speak like this in Jamaica? (I tease) My sentiments are accurately expressed with potency when I speak Jamaican; there is no ambiguity.

Jamaican is a colourful and dynamic language that is as dear to me as ‘mi Sonde dina.’ It is preposterous for one to discount another’s academic abilities based on their propensity for speaking Jamaican. ‘Uu kuda brait tel mi se mi a yuuz ‘inappropriate language’ wen mi chuuz fi beta hexpres miself iina Jumiekan? Mi av mi wan ina “CSEC English” ahn nobadi kiaahn tek dat frahn mi!’

While it is true that many who do not speak Standard English simply are not able to, I am revolted that some continue to relegate ‘Jumiekan Patwa’ to the status of a low language. ‘Wi biga dan dat man!’ The ‘Bad English’ we loathe will only disappear when we teach our people the difference between the two languages. Over the last week, I have spent countless hours perusing the website ‘,’ gaining literacy in ‘Jumiekan’ using the pre-eminent Cassidy- Le Page orthography. It is easier to learn than I ever imagined and I have fallen in love ‘wid wi langwij’ all over again. Seeing it in written form reinvigorated my waning patriotism and spoke volumes to the possibility of a fully bilingual society.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Classist Reports in Jamaican Print Media

One day, while leisurely reading through the Jamaica Observer online, I was shocked to come across this article, which seemed to me a subjective evaluation of "ghetto people", as opposed to the impartial news report it should have been.

Residents protest against detention of 53 people
Saturday, November 01, 2008- The Jamaica Observer

RESIDENTS of several communities along Spanish Town Road in Kingston yesterday staged a noisy demonstration to protest against last Friday's fatal shooting of a gang leader and Thursday's detention of 53 people.

The noisy protesters, who congregated at the entrance to the volatile (not poverty stricken or impoverished) Crescent and St Joseph roads (along Spanish Town Road, lambasted (criticize harshly) the police of unfairly targeting their communities and accused them of killing their community leader in cold blood last Friday.

The gang leader, identified as Dave Sterling, alias 'Machine Man', was shot dead when he allegedly pointed a firearm at the police along Collie Smith Drive in Trench Town. Among the 53 detained in the early morning raids by the police on Thursday was a man who the police said was earlier this week 'installed' as head of the Rat Bat gang, less than a week after the death of Machine Man.

Police did not release the name of the reputed gang leader but said he was behind a series of criminal activities in Kingston, including murder, rape and extortion.

The detainees, which include two women, were still being processed late yesterday afternoon. Yesterday, the placard-bearing demonstrators accused the police of targeting their communities, even as (what, they were brazen in their accusations? Mistaken in their approach?) a group of officers kept watch from the opposite side of the road.

"Them a terrorise we and we not warring with anybody," a lanky youngster said. "Machine Man take care of we; is him send whole heap of people pickney go school and them kill him, for what?" a bleached-out face woman asked.

"Them come lock up the people them from yesterday (Thursday) and is them same people keeping the peace in the place," said another woman, clad in a skimpy outfit as she stood at the entrance to Delacree Park.

Sections of Spanish Town Road, Crescent and St Joseph Roads and Coral Lane, where the raids were carried out on Thursday morning, have been tense since Machine Man's death last Friday. According to the police, the Rat Bat gang and men from other sections of the community located between Spanish Town and Waltham Park roads have been involved in an ongoing fight for turf. More than a dozen people have been murdered in the bloody rivalry since the start of the year, the police said.

In grade 8 at St. Mary High School, I was taught that unlike tabloids and magazines, which sensationalize headlines in reaching a target group of individuals, the Observer and the Gleaner were more objective. I trusted that view, until I was able to discern subjective blabber from that which truly serves to enhance the intelligence of Jamaicans, in lifting the illiterate and unaware from the abyss of ignorance.

An article printed in the Observer on November 1 entitled “Residents protest against detention of 53 people” is one example of the ‘subjective blabber’ I detest reading in these reputed sources of news and information. Though I am aware that it is difficult to be completely unbiased in reporting anything, it was startling to see the writer blatantly convey a bias towards one impoverished, and marginalized community in Spanish Town.

It is well known that criminal masterminds shrewdly take advantage of the destitute in their communities, by offering them money and ‘security’, which inadvertently buys their allegiance. It is therefore not surprising that community members passionately turn to the streets to protest the death of their ‘community leaders’, whatever the cause of death.

In the article, the writer labels the community members as ‘noisy protesters’ and further invalidates their claims by using descriptors such as ‘lanky youngster’, ‘bleached-out face woman’ and ‘woman, clad in a skimpy outfit’. These terms undermine both the value of their opinions, and the authority of the Observer, which has failed in its responsibility to accurately report the views of Jamaicans from all socioeconomic backgrounds. With this article, a great disservice was done to those in Jamaica who are mired in an exploitative relationship they are oblivious to and helpless to changing.

Jamaicans everywhere are under attack from societal ills we seem powerless to solving. We must fight together as a nation, against the realities that lead to the exploitation of people in our marginalized communities. How brazen of the writer to articulate such despicable prejudice in a news report. The media has the capacity to shape perceptions, and must be careful that it does not promote divisiveness. Objectivity is but an ideal, but greater effort needs to be made towards achieving it.