People in Shame

People in Shame


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

How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalist and Journalists

*   *   *   *   *

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 they’ve 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.

Fearful Journalists?

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 Grant’s 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  Mrs. Glynn Manley  waits to have her books autographed by John Maxwell

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

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.”

*   *   *   *   *

The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

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 incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *


*   *   *   *   *





update 13 December 2011




Home Maxwell Table 

Post Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.