ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
our connection with Jamaica is through our blood ties, not through some abstract notion of
national identity. We send back stuff to take care of the needs of those unfortunate ones
left back in the politicians’ den. We are not fooled by any expression of patriotic sentiment.
Mrs. Glynn Manley waits to have her books autographed by John Maxwell
Book by John Maxwell
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People in Shame
By John Maxwell
It is not unusual for newspaper columnists or people who appear on television to be confronted by perfect strangers who want to take issue with something theyve said. Sometimes, the encounter is pleasant, sometimes it is unpleasant, extremely unpleasant. In the past week I have been met by dozens of people on the street and have received email from many people who responded to my column A Nation in Disgrace.
All of my encounters were pleasant, even with those who confessedly do not generally agree with me. This had less to do with me than the fact that I articulated sentiments which appear to be shared by a very large number of people in Jamaica. They are moved and want to know what to do.
And since I think that this is as good a time as any for the rational Jamaica to be heard, I am taking the liberty of reproducing some of the email response so that our rulers may get a glimpse of what really goes on in the minds of many of their constituents.
I will start with a response from a foreigner, an American woman, who after some kind words about my columns on Bush and Iraq, went on to explained why she loved Jamaica
I am a regular traveller to Jamaica … fell in love with the country in the early 80s, and have continued to go back, usually two times a year at least; having established many friendships there over the years .. .luckily I am able to experience Jamaica for real, rather than as your average tourist. If not for the wretched conditions in Jamaica, I’d be living there … but survival seems close to impossible … especially for a foreigner (unless you have lots of money). I’ve avidly studied Jamaican politics and history for over twenty years, and just recently began to develop a more astute awareness of the culture of the news media there, thanks to some of your writings.
A Graduate student
The next writer is a graduate student in public administration. She certainly did not wish to condemn the police force
As a citizen of Jamaica, I cannot say that I am in total shock at the recent incidents of obvious brutality by the Police department.
Yes, there may be bad officers within the force, but if we search hard enough, we can find some good ones. We, as young Jamaicans, travel abroad to educate ourselves hoping that we can come back to make a difference.
I have been living in the United States since 1996, and I save my money to travel home to Jamaica on vacation every year. My money may not be much, but if I spend $2000.00 there every year, it helps the economy to an extent. We sometimes wonder where to draw the line. When should I stop coming to Jamaica, when do I quit? Try as I may, I just can’t.
I have spent countless nights in Jamaica while I am on vacation waiting for the daylight, scared to fall asleep because of fear that someone may break into my house. If they did, what’s next? Do I call a police force that is already so pressured and understaffed or do I just sit quietly and await my fate. Well strange though this may sound, just knowing that I can at least call the police department is comforting enough.
I am sorry, to hear about the recent killings, and despite the public lack of confidence in the police department, we still have some good ones.
Ties to the Police
I must confess that I often disagree with your views. I must however, congratulate you on your article in today’s Sunday Observer. I would like to share some thoughts with you on what needs to be done to rid the society of police men and women who are no better than the wicked gunmen we all despise. Before doing so let me state that I have much sympathy for the security forces. [Here he speaks of very close relatives and in-laws who have been and are members of the forces at high levels.] I say all of this as some might dismiss my views as that of a biased individual.
The Minister of National Security and the Commissioner of Police must be held accountable for the murder of the two old men in Flankers and the many other instances. The families of the victims should sue them for their responsibility. In the interim they should resign. I say this because they preside over a system that causes these murders. I am tired of hearing we are sorry and we will pick up funeral expenses, etc. There is never any meaningful action (only words to fool the uninformed) . . .
The bottom line is that there must be a rewrite of the rules for discharge of a deadly weapon, training and a system of accountability with appropriate punishment for breaches. This policy should be guided by the following.
Maximum respect for the sanctity of human life, even that of a criminal;
. . . Consider also that gunmen have law abiding family and friends who easily get into hatred, revenge mode when justice appears not to be done;
You can’t shoot someone just because he is running away;
Shoot only to defend life, and where possible seek to immobilize than to kill;
It is better to retreat or not shoot when there is uncertainty or innocent civilians are in the line of fire. Innocent lives must not be put at risk.
Consider that even a carload of gunmen might have an innocent taxi driver or abducted motorist, passenger etc. I recall an incident where the police chased and shot up a known robot taxi starting from Whitehall avenue to Cowper drive . . . . Passengers were inside, one shot and survived by the mercy of God, they know it is a taxi, no one is firing at them. All that happened is the driver refused to stop.
A taxi man doesn’t stop at the police’s instruction’s near Peppers resulting in a passenger being paralysed from a policeman’s bullet. I am using these two cases to highlight the point that the police and their superiors do not care about preventing death and injury to innocent citizens. Whenever, an innocent person dies in such a circumstance, stray bullet etc. the expressions of sorrow we hear can be rephrased as ” we are sorry that we missed our intended target and your family member happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time . . . .” It is nothing more than that. How else can one explain these things occurring over and over. I would go so far to say that even in a situation where the gunmen are firing causing risk to civilians, the police should retreat, seek back up, cordon etc. rather than put people at unnecessary risk.
All instances of police firing of a weapon must be investigated by an independent body, 100 % or sample in no fatality. Even if no one is shot.
Whoever is commissioner or minister must sign on or promote this policy for all to see, OR RESIGN.
. . . We must realize that in every one of these cases of police murder it could have been us and it might be us one day, if nothing is done. We must realize that effective investigation, use of intelligence, building of trust and confidence of the people is the only way to go.
Another writer believes that journalism or rather the lack of serious journalism, may help explain the dire situation in which we find ourselves.
I have a concern, and that is Investigative journalism. Some how I feel that we do not have much journalist investigating corruption in the govt. police force or other areas of public interest. With the exception of Mark Wignall & Desmond Richards who show some promise in their recent columns we don’t have any journalist doing this area of journalism. Do you think that ‘ Fear’ is factor why we do not have our journalist doing more investigative work?
From a Canadian couple resident in Jamaica:
Another spectacular column. VERY good, I sent it on . . . it makes me . . . wonder how that brave woman [Yvonne] Sobers is getting on .
I join them in saluting Yvonne Sobers whose unflagging determination to explore every route to justice was, in my opinion, the main reason we may yet see justice done on behalf of the Braeton Seven.
Jamaican in California
The majority of people in the diaspora left Jamaica as a direct consequence of the incompetent and corrupt stewardship of the politicians. The interest of people in the diaspora is diametrically opposed to that of the politicians. We, the overseas residents, are conscious of this fact, so when they purport to speak on our behalf we are naturally very suspicious. We have no reason to thank Delano Franklyn.
The fact that the charitable contributions of exiled Jamaicans outstrip the earnings of Jamaica’s major industries is an indictment of the local business class. It is, moreover, a clear indication that they must be divested of their political power, which is what we are gearing up to do.
For the most part our connection with Jamaica is through our blood ties, not through some abstract notion of national identity. We send back stuff to take care of the needs of those unfortunate ones left back in the politicians’ den. We are not fooled by any expression of patriotic sentiment. What exactly has Jamaica done for us? That is, aside from the police and soldiers brutalizing our relatives.
What is at stake here, is a shifting of the balance of power. We, who are in Egypt have the corn, and we are going to use it to exercise control over our collective destiny. To hell with the national interest – meaning the interest of PJ, Omar, and the 21 families they represent.
And another, from a middle-class Jamaica also resident abroad.
Your November 2, 2003, column was very good. In fact outstanding. Oh, how our political leaders have failed us. Perhaps I am crazy for this thought, but I think the whole lot of our political leaders should be charged with crimes committed against the Jamaican people, especially the poor, black Jamaicans of Jamaica. I am glad I got to read it.
People are disgusted and upset that principles which they believed they held in common with most civilised people are being so casually disregarded in Jamaica.
For various reasons which may be obvious, the next response touched me deeply:
From Grants Pen
I grew up in Grants Pen/ Shortwood area, I watched some of my friends go one way, the police got some of them, and other’s fought the odds and the obstacles gaining confidence with each small accomplishment and slowly clawed their way out of hell.
I watched a low income community co-existing peacefully beside the upper middle class communities of Allerdyce and Charlton/Shortwood. I remembered when, as boys, we would lean over a fence, fences were low then and nick an East Indian or a Julie mango from the ground inside one of those “rich” people’s yard. We didn’t see the bicycles and tricycles, footballs and toy trucks lying around usually with a half open gate, we didn’t see the milk or Cheez Trix or the Weekender sliced bread from Purity Bakery resting atop a gate column. We didn’t envy these people, we thought we would grow up and be like them.
Ask me when we began the slow decline into the current morass, maybe it was when the rivers started to become drier, or when you couldn’t find any more mangoes at Crawle,
Maybe the problem is that not too many people know what goes on behind those zinc fences, as you mentioned, the hell in which people live, not too many well-meaning people know how alienated are the youngsters in some of these communities.
We have work to do in Jamaica, and it is not police work, it is work for the parsons, and politicians and social workers. Serious work by people who are willing to work hard.
Commissioner Forbes should know by now that his men are no match for these youngster it is too easy to commit a crime and get away in Jamaica, the police will not employ the necessary forensics and patience required to solve major crimes.
The narco-terrorist, religious fundamentalist and ‘politicians’ all have guns and money. We have the youth, looking for a chance (was never taught moral, right from wrong) and we have the police, a number of whom are not averse to taking this type of money.
From a Jamaican diplomat
your last section, the Analysis, is very important. I don’t know whether you’d find it useful to seek from certain of our officials what they brought back from the high-level meeting on Margarita Island, Venezuela, in early October, on Poverty, Equity and Social Inclusion, that would speak to this particular issue of violence against especially poor and other vulnerable groups in the society, certainly as its underpinnings reside in the social phenomena you discussed in such a compelling manner.
Copyright t©2003 John Maxwell firstname.lastname@example.org Mrs. Glynn Manley waits to have her books autographed by John Maxwell
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By Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock market. True wealth has more to do with what’s in your heart than what’s in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America’s shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, “Happy can make you money, but money can’t make you happy.”
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By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarcerationbut her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.Publishers Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 13 December 2011