The Spies Coming in from The East

This is my final article for the month of April. Thank you for reading and I will see you in June!

High school History traces the reasons why the early settlers came to Jamaica and how they helped to shape our motto: Out Of Many, One People. The Spanish, The English and The Africans take up a big chunk of our history, this is why we spend so much time on Columbus and Slavery and Emancipation. However, the section of history after Slavery, the part that helps to make up what Jamaica is today culturally and economically, is indentureship and it is rarely expounded upon. The ethnic groups that cement themselves among us have done so pretty easily and nowadays these races, namely the Chinese, are extending from family owned stores to big conglomerates to impose on Jamaican livelihood.

This type of influence is dangerous especially since our law makers have a history of shortchanging brand Jamaica with poor management practices. Those from The East are eager to fill these shortcomings with a lot of their own criteria but, as a people, how aware are we of it all?

Waste, Debt, Borrow, Owe, Sell. Waste…

Jamaica is a country of sectors not industries and the main reason for this is because we are generally always in debt. Sometimes, if the debt is too high, we sell. It is for this reason that some people say that Jamaica hardly owns anything Jamaican. For example, our bauxite and sugar industries are owned primarily by the Chinese; the Spanish own a large portion of our hotels, the Japanese loosely have their hands in coffee and the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) is owned 40% by the Japanese, 40% by the Chinese and 19.9% government. We even sell parts of our public roads to foreigners; recently the Kingston & St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) sold some Chinese store owners parking spaces for $200,000 last year.

We should then be economical and strategic when it comes to administration because of our debt, right? This week I saw that Minister of Culture, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange doesn’t seem to think so. After opposition Culture Minister, Lisa Hanna accused Grange of creating a pattern of hiring personnel consultants instead of local agencies within her portfolio, Grange this week gave a confession. She stated that she was unaware of the details in a contract to hand over $15 million to a consultant for the 2016 Grand Gala. She stated:

I was not aware of the details of the contract and was not involved in any way in the engagement or contracting of Mr. Nairne (consultant). This was handled by the JCDC (local agency) management team whose prerogative it is to enter into contracts on behalf of the commission.

Sure, but why wasn’t the Minister aware of the details in a contract so large? Seemingly harmless mismanagement techniques have put us on a self destructive path as a nation. Another example was in 2011 when Air Jamaica was sold to Caribbean Airlines because of  poor decisions made while under the government and the private sector. With Ms. Grange I am irritated because if Hanna didn’t force her hand, would we have known? More importantly, what else don’t we know?

Adaptable, Dependable, Organised, Wary. Adaptable

It this kind of attitude that leaves room from slow movers, observers and opportunists– qualities that have roots in espionage if you think about it– to swoop down and offer to save us. I say ‘espionage’ because if you observe ‘Mr. Chin’s’ and even ‘Mrs. Singh’s’ families they both ‘behave’ like spies. For example, they watch our interactions and adapt in a short time to speak our patois (not our Standard English) for better communication yet they will talk about us openly in their mother tongue; they blend in to the point where people often ask, “Have you ever seen a pregnant Chinese woman?” They exist but we hardly see them because Asians are never flashy like the average Jamaican; their deep distrust of us is obvious because they only operate as a family unit, they will own a business for generations because they keep it in the family, a Jamaican will never handle the cash register without strong supervision, and they encourage marriage within their own race.

holness-chinese-signs-deal-for-parliament.jpgPrime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness signs the MOU with with China Construction of America for the commission of the new Parliament building and Government offices, March 2017 (image source).

It is these qualities of being adaptable, dependable, organised and careful that have allowed Chinese and Indian immigrants to excel in the corner stores and restaurants and electronic and furniture dealerships and also to excel in our playing field. Chinese companies are building our highways and the Logics Hub, but the most recent example of their influence in Jamaica is when it was reported that the new Chinese funded parliament building would pay Chinese workers while local contractors would be asked to “volunteer,” as well as when Chinese companies began to build local hotels over local firms.

Historically, Jamaica does not seem to see the need to critically invest in our sectors, our assets or our capabilities. We would rather undermine ourselves and our capacity to develop as a nation in the long run by out sourcing help from countries that have instilled self reliance and vision in its people instead of nourishing a strong backbone for independence and duty at home. The Spanish colonized us, The English demonized us and The Africans defined us but what about those who brought self-management and entrepreneurial skills to our shores? History class should encourage us to learn from the ones who are steadily voicing their influence in Jamaica’s Finance and Economy and maybe this would allow us to see what real life spies actually look like. –Bless.

Footnotes: so, in January of this year the government spent $800 million dollars on an island wide debushing and drain cleaning exercise. They wanted to eradicate the possibility of disease being spread by vermin like rats and mosquitos. The project was expensive; even public figures like Damion Crawford went to Twitter to express realistic expectations. Now cut to last week when heavy rains flooded Clarendon, St. Elizabeth and St Thomas. In Clarendon cars were fully covered in water, people were swimming in water to go home, people were moved through water into shelters. The damage is estimated run the government nearly half a billion dollars to fix. I wonder what happened? Was there a draining problem? The Minister of of Local Government says yes, there was a draining problem. Shocker. All those mosquitos that were worried about their future… dem jus’ a live the dream now doh? You know what they say, good things always come to those who wait.

[cover art by: Johannes Stötter]

Creative Media

1/4 | April

Today I want to share with you some of my favourites from the first quarter of the year.


Impatient” by Jeremih is the better of Late Nights’ two best singles. The album was quietly released in 2015 without much fanfare but this song is a gem. “Impatient” makes me see Jeremih in a new light, he is a true Rn’B artiste not just a pop hybrid. The song is a slow jam: Jeremih’s voice is smooth– he oftentimes drops into deep sensual whispers making you float– his voice brings back a R. Kelly’s “Your Body’s Calling” vibe from the 90’s. Ty Dolla $ign is here too with a line about lotion that is the funniest thing to me. THIS is my 2AM song.

Without You” by Lana del Rey is the song said to have inspired Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams.” Taken from her best album in my opinion, Born to Die, the song has a grand operatic, orchestral feel that swallows you and abandons you at the same time making you understand the pitfalls of love. It is synth heavy but it’s also a dreamy 1950’s love song only with lyrics like, “Though you’re so dope/ Your love is deadly.” This a fusion that Del Rey is well known for. I am not a fan of her music, all her songs sound the same to me, but sometimes, once in a while, I get caught in the hippie web and go searching for new music and it so happens that I ended up finding something worthwhile this time. Unlike some people though I don’t copy what I find (ahem, ahem).


Intro by Dexta Daps. Can I tell you how happy I am to see that Jamaican artistes are taking album releases seriously? 12 free songs, 12 hits, 2 features: 1 with Alaine and the other with Daps’ protege Blakkman. ⅓ of the album is for baby making (parental advisory, strong language), but the rest go from songs about innocent and tortured romance like in, “Love Again” and “Be Good”; to a Lovers Rock Reggae song so clean the Jamaica Tourist Board should use it for ad coverage (“Love Vacation”); to a celebration of life and blessings in,“I’m Blessed,” “Superhero” and “Toast,” and finally to a brutal dissection of ghetto life in, “Coke” and “Grow Rough.” Few talking points: “Owner” is Rn’B fire. The Gospel used in “I’m Blessed” is mad overlooked, it is straight out of Chance the Rapper’s hand manual. “Coke” with the “Stranger in Moscow” guitar notes told me that this album was going to go places. “Only U” holds me down for reasons that I can’t explain. “Toast” is now my anthem and lastly, the video graphics for the album makes the collection even more beautiful. One word for Intro: versatile. A great start for the young don.

The Night Of.

John Turturro and Riz Ahmed in a scene from season 1 of The Night Of, 2016 (photo credit: HBO).

The Night Of

An 8-part HBO miniseries that came out last year detailing the worst night of a young Pakistani’s life and the trial that followed. A college student, Naz has a hazy night with a mysterious girl, wakes up to find her dead, and is then arrested for her murder. The Night Of is as much a coming of age story as it is a mystery; in prison Naz meets Freddy (Omar from The Wire) who breaks and molds him into a man. (BTW, I just finished watching season 4 of The Wire and I tell no lies when I say that the show has my heart entirely. My soul kryptonite. Swear.) At home, the series shows the realistic and unglamorous struggles of a family of colour with a son in prison, how important money is but also how invaluable integrity can be. His lawyer, John steals the show though. He manages to be funny and pity worthy in a single shift and his season finale speech… the man needs an Emmy nod.  


The Nerdwriter and kaptainkristian

Two channels that round up interesting media in a visually appealing way. Whether it be music, artistes, comic origins, politics or culture, each channel produces content with precise details that comes from keen observations. You are educated and entertained at the same time like with Nerdwriter’s analysis of Michael Mann’s style and story execution in my favourite movie of all time, Heat as well as his explanation of how to examine art (mad helpful). There is also stuff like kaptainkristains praise of Childish Gambino’s confluence of talents and how necessary this is for his type of art while he also informs his subscribers about the comic origins of Bugs Bunny. Enlightening and fascinating. I wished I learned this much in school.

Bring the Pain and Killin’ Them Softly

So I decide to watch a stand up comedy show once per week because I think comedians are the smartest people on the planet. I go back and skim through specials I watched when I was younger until I find Dave Chappelle. He’s signed that $60mil deal with Netflix and is in the news a lot so I say let’s go back to the year 2000. Let’s go back to back to Killin’ Them Softly… then to Bring the Pain. If you watch/rewatch Killin’ you will see Chappelle’s undoubted influence by Chris Rock’s 1996 Bring the Pain which changed the game, Rock turned black anger into entertainment gold. It is probably the best comedy show I’ve seen to date; Rock is  jumpy and well-rehearsed but also observant and timeless for this (I haven’t seen Pryor yet so this may change). Both shows are poignant and sadly still accurate today. Rock’s Back People vs Niggas, “Who’s more racist: black people or white people? Black people. You know why? Because black people hate black people, too.” is something which everybody still uses today. Chappelle’s delivery is more relaxed and you are fooled into thinking he’s telling you an off hand story but his analysis of what white vs. black people can get away with, male and female relationships and America’s deep seeded racism are deeply thought out and blurs the line between fact and fiction. And, if nothing else, you will love his, “white people voice,” there is nothing else like it. Watching a special a week is the best thing I ever did for myself in recent memory.

Lily's letter.

Lily’s Letter to President Obama which The President answered (image credit: The White House).

The New York Times article, “To Obama With Love, and Hate, and Desperation.”

The article details a journalist’s interaction with The White House team which dealt with the letters that President Obama received daily. “President Obama was the first to come up with a deliberate and explicit practice of 10 letters every day.” 10. No less, no more. But more important than the number was the order, the journalist noted of the lady who did this job, ”She could set the president up with a letter from someone gushing about the Affordable Care Act and then another from someone on the margin whose life was made worse because of it [and]… “Sometimes on Friday, particularly on Friday, we’ll end with one that’s like, ‘Hey, I like the way you tie your tie.’ ” She called that a chaser.” There is also a small interview with the man himself in which you learn the process by which some of the letters are answered. The article is fascinating, you get to see a select few yourself, and you get to understand the love and the hate that the American population has for The Obamas vs. other administrations. It’s a lengthy read (took me 3 days to finish while I read it on and off) but well worth it.

The Bullsh!t Award (inspired by A Girl With Something To Say )

Bruh, I ain’t heard “shETHER” or “Another One” since “No Frauds” was released in March. YYYYYY? Couple of facts first: “shETHER” is on the top 10 diss tracks of all time list but Remy killed herself with “Another One.” Nicki disrespected the Rap culture by 1. not responding until she felt like it and then 2. by responding with sh!t. All 3 songs she released, 3 of them don’t add up to 1 when compared to “shETHER” but Hollywood just proves without fail, that fame trumps talent mo’ time. #ImAFanOfTheArtNotTheArtiste and so Nicki Minaj and her fans get The Bullsh!t Award for the quarter.

Honourable Mentions

The movie Hush. It’s the new thing in seems: creating home invasion movies with a disabled victim. A deaf woman is tormented in her home by a sadistic killer. Hush is the yin to Don’t Breathe’s yang. If this film does nothing for you, it should at least teach you the power of your own weaknesses #walkingparadox and that is a good thing.

Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” by Wet and “Focus” by H.E.R. “Focus” speaks for itself, it is a dreamy, soft Rn’B track that merges the presence and voice of Bryson Teller and Kehlani to help create the mysterious artiste’s sound. Beautiful and sultry but not new. “Don’t Wanna…” is the best single from Wet’s 2015 EP Don’t You. The song is just under 3 minutes but it feels like you move in slow motion, like this is what forever feels like. With both songs, you listen and feel textures, moods and everything else that Indie and Rn’B music ought to give you. Listen to both with headphones for the full ‘pressed effect.

Etel Williams and Hanna vs. GrangePolitics is a messy business. In the recent UWI Mona Student Guild elections one of the candidates was disqualified from the race and the dark underbelly of The Guild’s role at the university reared its head. The Guild has a responsibility to protect, inform and represent the student polution yet the response to the disqualification was lacklustre and pitiful. The Guild pretty much threw Etel under the bus as if he was the first to breach the very vague rule in the  constitution; offered a poor explanation to the students as to why he was disqualified– they instead chose to cast full blame somewhere else– and then moved on with business as usual. Once more it is proved to me that The UWI Guild is more ornamental than functional.

And then this month Lisa Hanna aired The Culture Minister, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Granges’ dirty laundry without hard, concrete evidence (rookie move) in parliament showing that even in one of the highest offices in the country women just can’t keep petty cat-fighting alone. Well done to both student and government representatives, Jamaica’s moving along nicely as a political force thanks to the both of you.

[cover art by: Thomas C. Fedro]