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February 27 2014

Caribbean: How the Media Shapes Perception

Both Venezuela and Haiti have been facing anti-government protests. However, the international media’s escalation of the Venezuelan crisis and their complete silence when it comes to Haiti, raises some important questions about the United States’ inconsistency in upholding the values of human rights and democracy.

Kevin Edmonds calls out the mainstream media.

Reposted byepimetheus epimetheus

February 26 2014

Jamaican Dancehall Deported from Dominica

“You're not welcome here”. That's the message the Dominican government is sending to Jamaican dancehall artiste Tommy Lee (real name Leroy Russell), who has been prevented from entering the island, where he was scheduled to host a concert. Lee is known for his Gothic Dancehall style, which bases itself on dark subject matter. The move is the latest of several high profile immigration controversies in the Caribbean, several of which have involved Jamaican citizens. In this instance, the issues of censorship and free speech were also being widely debated on social media.

According to the Dominican authorities, Tommy Lee was considered a security threat:

‘Pursuant to advice received, government had concerns for public safety. The decision to deny entry was intended as a preemptive action and also to provide an opportunity to exhaust all efforts to clarify information received,’ the statement said.

Many religious leaders were opposed to Lee's performance, citing what they considered to be dangerous lyrics:

The Dominica Association of Evangelical Churches (DAEC) had been calling for a boycott of the concert here, featuring Sparta, whom it claims glorifies Satan during his performances.

A spokesman for the group, Bishop Michael Daniel, speaking on the state-owned DBS radio Monday, said he was pleased that the concert did not occur as had been planned.

He said while the churches played no role in the detention of Sparta, their prayers had been answered. 

On Instagram, Lee himself posted video of his supporters in Dominica outside the police station:

Some Dominicans tweeted to show that they did not support their government's actions:

Tyrone Christopher argued that Tommy Lee's rights must be protected, whether you like his music or not:

Some Twitter users referred to the controversial Shanique Myrie case and the Caribbean Court of Justice's involvement:

On the other hand, some netizens seemed glad that Tommy Lee was denied entry:

This Twitter user was amazed – and a tad amused – that the Dominican government was getting criticized for banning Tommy Lee…

…while these were bemused by the government's justification for their action:

Some argued that Tommy Lee was ultimately to blame for his deportation:

Others were confused as to how Tommy Lee was allowed to leave Jamaica in the first place – and why he would want to go to Dominica knowing that protests against his concert were already happening:

Trinidad & Tobago: Concerns About the What'sApp Purchase

In reaction to Facebook's recent purchase of What'sApp for US$19 billion, ICT Pulse shares some points about which “tech and app developer communities worldwide should be mindful.”

February 25 2014

Jamaicans Make Do with Fake Verdict in Vybz Kartel Trial

The satirical website FakeJamaica shares fictitious breaking news about the Vybz Kartel murder trial:

The Jury returned a verdict of not guilty. The…defendant’s lawyer Tom Tavares-Finson…based a significant portion of the defense’s case on the idea that Adijah Palmer cannot be held responsible for anything that his musical persona does.

Reposted bydarksideofthemoon darksideofthemoon

Bahamas: The Cerasee Cold Cure

Forget the cold relief, time for the cure.

Blogworld's Nicolette Bethel turns to “bush medicine” for healing.

Trinidad & Tobago: The Truth of J'ouvert

In anticipation of her J'ouvert experience at this year's Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, Tillah Willah explores why the opening of the festival holds so many truths for her.

February 24 2014

Celebrating Puerto Rican Poet Julia de Burgos on the 100th Anniversary of Her Birth

Julia de Burgos

Julia de Burgos. Screencap from video.

Poem titles given in English correspond with dual-language collection Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos.

February 17th marked 100 years since the birth of Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos (1914-1953), considered by many be the country's national poet. Although her body of work was relatively small, consisting of some 200 poems, the poetry of Julia de Burgos has succeeded in capturing readers’ imaginations and touching their hearts ever since her first book of poems, Poemas exactos a mí misma, was published in print in 1937.

De Burgos only published three books of poems during her life: the aforementioned Poemas exactos a mí misma [Exact Poems to Myself], Poemas en veinte surcos [Poems in Twenty Furrows, 1938], and Canción de la verdad sencilla [Song of the Simple Truth, 1939]. A fourth book, Mar y tú y otros poemas [The Sea and You and Other Poems], was published in 1954, after her death at age 39. The high quality of de Burgos’ poetry has earned her work a permanent place among the best Latin American poetry of the 20th century.

Julia de Burgos was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, and was the only one of 13 siblings to attend university. Although she did not graduate, she succeeded in obtaining a teaching certificate at the University of Puerto Rico. In 1936 she joined the women's branch of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, The Daughters of Liberty, who advocated for Puerto Rican independence under the leadership of Pedro Albizu Campos. She spent time living in Cuba and in New York, where she died of pneumonia in 1953. Because she carried no identification at the time of her death, she was buried in an anonymous grave in New York. Her remains were later transferred to a burial site in Carolina thanks to friends who were able to find the grave and claim her body.

De Burgos has become deeply imbedded in the collective imagination of Puerto Ricans living on the Island, as well as those of the diaspora. In the following video, Puerto Ricans of New York read excerpts from one of de Burgos’ most famous poems, “Yo misma fui mi ruta” (I was my own route).

According to José Gómez Biamón in his article for the online publication El Post Antillano [es], most of the activities commemorating de Burgos’ centennial took place outside of Puerto Rico:

[...] En el ámbito del Caribe Hispano, ha habido actividades, que demuestran un gran interés por el centenario, según se ha visto en la prensa recientemente. Específicamente, en la República Dominicana han develado un busto en honor a Julia de Burgos, en una plaza de la capital dominicana. Además, en Cuba la editorial Casa de las Américas ha expresado comunicados de júbilo, por la celebración del centenario. Igualmente, en los Estados Unidos ha habido varias actividades culturales, específicamente recuerdo ver en la prensa las fotos de un vistoso mosaico en una Calle del “Barrio” en Harlem, New York. Cabe mencionar, que en España, durante los últimos meses, también ha habido actividades y varias publicaciones relacionadas con Julia de Burgos.

[...] Judging by what has appeared recently in the media, there have been activities in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean that demonstrate a great interest in the centennial. Specifically, in the Dominican Republic, a bust in honor of Julia de Burgos was unveiled in a plaza in the Dominican capital. Furthermore, in Cuba, cultural organization Casa de las Américas has shared messages of celebration of the centennial. Likewise, there have been various cultural activities in the United States; in particular, I remember seeing photos of a remarkable mural on a street in “El Barrio,” in Harlem, New York. It should also be mentioned that in recent months, there were various activities and publications related to Julia de Burgos in Spain.

However, it should be noted that a large number of commemorative and celebratory events [es], like lectures and concerts, have taken place in Puerto Rico as well.

In an article on 80 Grados [es], Puerto Rican singer and composer Zoraida Santiago remembers Julia, who has been one of her great inspirations:

Este año hay mucha celebración de centenario. Sinceramente, me alegro. Pero espero que nos sirva para algo.

Que la celebración del centenario de Julia de Burgos nos sirva para rescatar la poesía. La suya y la de todos y todas las poetas.

This year the centennial is being widely celebrated. I'm sincerely happy. But I hope that it will serve a purpose.
I hope the hundredth anniversary of Julia de Burgos’ birth will serve to rescue poetry. Her poetry, and that of all poets.

Juan Camacho, in his blog post about Julia de Burgos, warns about the danger of her memory being reduced to the stereotype of the bohemian poet who lived a tragically short life:

Como cualquier ser humano de su época y de la nuestra, Julia enfrentó problemas e inconvenientes en el transcurso de su vida. Unos los pudo vencer, otros no. No obstante, entendemos que es injusto que se le recuerde, más allá del consenso de su calidad como poetisa, como la mujer fracasada, alcohólica, excesivamente romántica y pasional, enajenada de la realidad.

Julia fue más que un poema romántico; fue más que una relación amorosa; fue más que una mujer que enfrentó problemas.

Es hora de rescatar, sin que tengamos que reescribir la historia, a la otra Julia. A la otra Julia que también reclama la joven escritora Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro cuando escribe:

“Quiero conocer a la Julia revoltosa y desobediente; a la Julia de la rebelión, la que se codeó con Don Pedro Albizu Campos; que escribió cartas a favor de la excarcelación de Juan Antonio Corretjer; aquella que sostenía reuniones con grandes pensadores y libertarios como Juan Bosch…”

Like any human being of her time, or ours, Julia faced problems and obstacles over the course of her life. Some, she could overcome; others, she could not. Regardless, beyond the consensus about her excellence as a poet, it's unfair to remember her as a struggling alcoholic, excessively romantic and passionate, estranged from reality.

Julia was more than a romantic poem; she was more than a love affair; she was more than a woman who faced problems.
Without rewriting history, it's time to rescue the other Julia. The Julia sought by the young writer Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro when she writes:
“I want to know the unruly and disobedient Julia; the Julia of the rebellion, the one who rubbed shoulders with Don Pedro Albizu Campos; the one who wrote letters advocating for the release of Juan Antonio Corretjer from prison; the one who met with great thinkers and libertarians like Juan Bosch…”

Puerto Rican writer Luis Rafael Sánchez [es] has perhaps best articulated the reasons why we remember Julia de Burgos and, furthermore, how we should remember her:

Alargada en el espíritu de cuantos admiramos su hembría insurgente, enroscado su nombre en los labios de a quienes nos deslumbra su universo hecho de verso, a Julia de Burgos la llamaremos Poeta ahora, después y siempre. Y no porque la recordemos. Y sí porque la sentimos. Que como un grito integral, suave y profundo, estalló de sus labios la palabra.

Embedded in the spirit of all those who admire her rebellious femininity, her name entwined on the lips of those stunned by her universe of verse, we call Julia de Burgos a Poet, now, later, and always. Not because we remember her, but because we feel her. Like a primal cry, smooth and profound, her words burst from her lips.

You can find more information on Julia de Burgos here [es].

February 21 2014

PHOTOS: Humans of the Caribbean

Following in the footsteps of photographer Brandon Stanton's blog Humans of New York series, professional and amateur photographers alike have been creating their own versions of the project across the world. Via blogs and Facebook pages, they are collecting images and stories of people from all walks of life. Here is a glimpse into some of the pages that make up the Caribbean's contribution, featuring the work of regional photographers who want to showcase their country or city through portraits of its diverse people.

Humans of Aruba, by Vanessa Paulina, was one of the first regional projects:

“As I was approaching the ladies got intimidated by my camera and fled the scene. He greeted me nicely so I stopped and asked if I could take his picture and explained to him what the purpose was.
He was okay with it so I asked ‘Fransisco Bennet’ what he was up to and if he could tell me what according to him the secret of a good life was. “
Photo by Vanessa Paulina. Used With Permission.

 

Humans of New York inspired Corrie Scott to start Humans of Barbados in Sept 2013. According to her, these types of projects are “…a wonderful way for us all to get to know us humans around the world.”

“How long does it take you to make these hand crafted palm brooms?”
“About 10 minutes not counting the collecting of the palm leaves, shredding them, gathering the wood for handles and more.”
“How long have you been making them? For me they are an art form in their beauty and the best broom I have ever used.”
“40 years.”
“Make lots of sales?”
” Some, but only to older people as the young generation always asking me what they are for.”
Photo by Corrie Scott, Used with Permission.

 

Humans of St. Croix was started in October 2013 by Charlene Springer:

“The Almighty Creator create all of us and then he give us a way of life. He guides the human beings with prophets to teach these human beings how they should live, how you should worship. This is why I color my beard because of our holy prophet, (peace be upon him, and peace be upon all of the holy prophets), he used to color his beard so I just do that to follow him. It is not for style or beauty, just to follow him. My prophet is Mohammed born in Saudi Arabia and his teaching are spread all over the world. His teachings does not deny any teachings of the previous prophets and actually all the previous prophets teach the same thing, it is the people that keep messing with the prophet's teachings. This is why the Almighty keeps sending different prophets to remind them that this is my way don't go astray.”
Photo by Charlene Springer. Used with Permission.

 

John Manderson started the Humans of Bermuda page back in November:

1397911_567566716646232_479817562_o

Johnny Barnes (born John James Randolf Adolphus Mills, June 23, 1923) is a Bermuda native found waving to passing traffic at the Foot of the Lane roundabout in Hamilton, Bermuda, from roughly 3:45 am to 10 am, every workday, rain or shine. A Bermuda institution mentioned in several guidebooks and profiled in a documentary film, he is known for waving and saying ‘I love you, God loves you,’ to passing commuters during the morning rush hour into Hamilton.” Photo by John Manderson, Used with permission.

 

Nathalie Tancrede also created Humans of Haiti last November. This month, she is launching the page and hopes to “bring attention to the beauty and resilience of the Haitian people.”

“My parents could not afford to send me to school. I now live in the streets with a few other guys.”
He acts tough with the others but told me privately that all he wants is to go to school and learn like the other kids
Photo by Nathalie Tancrede. Used With Permission

 

Edward Russell III started Humans of the Bahamas when he discovered the Humans of New York project, soon after he left his job at a local newspaper, where he'd been a photojournalist for five years.

I looked at this man smiling.

I looked at this man smiling.
“You want to take a picture ey?”
I nodded.
“Go ahead then.”
Took the shot.
“That will be two dollars please!”
Photo by Edward Russell III. Used With Permission.

 

Bobby Ramroop runs the page Humans of Georgetown (Guyana):

1377982_437442436359741_2091216032_n

“If you own a chiney resstrawnt, sell actual chicken for once. And if you and somebody fall out, forgive them and wish them the best. Don't send them christmas cards threatening to stick a corncob around the first 2 corners of their large intestine. If you follow that we’d have a better society.”
Photo by Bobby Ramroop. Used with Permission.

The thumbnail image used in this post is by Corrie Scott, used with permission.

Jamaicans Waiting to See if #WorldBoss is Found Innocent or Guilty

Jamaicans – and dancehall music fans – have been anticipating the long-awaited verdict in the Vybz Kartel murder trial. Two days ago, blogger Annie Paul posted this Facebook status update:

Massive roadblocks, crowds milling round downtown Kingston in anticipation of ‪#‎KartelMurderTrial‬ verdict (which may not even be delivered today)

Journalist Emily Crooks, who blogs here, wrote a first-hand account that supported Paul's update:

Its (sic) February 19, 2014.

There is animation and anxiety in the 200 metre space around the Supreme Court on King Street in downtown Kingston. In courtroom number 2, Vybz Kartel sits in the dock with his co-accused as prosecutor Jeremy Taylor prepares to rubbish the closing argument of defence attorney, Tom Tavares Finson who acts for Kartel. The case has been going on since November 20, 2013 – we are nearing the end. The stakes are high. Security is tight as I have never seen it before.

Downtown is on edge. The precise reason is not known to many.

There are whispers that the police had intelligence overnight.

Her post went on to give an account of the day's court proceedings:

Court is about to resume its morning session. The eleven member panel of jurors takes seat in the box. The judge arrives. Jury is again asked to leave. Christian Tavares Finson [the lead attorney's son] wishes to address the court in the absence of the jury. Something weighs heavily on him. In the normal course of a trial, I do not report matters that transpire in the absence of the jury but these matters are later repeated in their presence hence my reporting of Christian’s burden that weighed him down.

He stands and says to the judge – I am very distressed to see the approach the police have taken this morning – extra police personnel who have descend on the building.

Judge – are you privy to intel the police has – is the judge’s almost impatient reply.

Christian – I am not My Lord but this scenario that bothers me – media representatives have identification, lawyers have identification, workers have to provide identification cards but jurors have to disclose that they are jurors to get unto the Supreme Court complex and that is very irregular and dangerous. Additionally, the family of the accused have been prevented from entering the building. There is no indication as to the reason this is so. I do no know that there is any order from this court.

Soon after that, Crooks reported, the members of the jury were called back inside and Kartel's lead attorney, Tom Tavares Finson, again rasied the matter – this time in the presence of the jury:

At the end of the session, the judge calls the superintendent and says ‘I have been made to understand that members of public some related to the family of accused have been denied entry. I don’t know the reason if any. What I will say is that every Jamaican citizen has a right to the court unless security forces have some reason that could interfere with the rule of court. I wish for you to bear that in mind. I can’t give any instructions as I don’t know what your intelligence is. But I ask you to consider the rights of the citizens regarding access to court. I wish for you to bear that in mind’.

Mr Tavares Finson is later to announce to the court that during lunch he had discussions two police personnel – Superintendent Pinnock and Ellis who reported there was ‘a breakdown in communication and I accept what they have said’.

Judge – do you believe if you had gone to them before the matter would have been dealt with

Tom – No My Lord because it was because of what transpired in court why they came to me.

On Twitter, @Pseud_O_Nym said:

As it turned out, the verdict was not delivered on February 19; the nation is still in limbo, but tweeting while they wait. Late yesterday, @Lacey_World noted:

Emily Crooks later updated the legal timeline:

There were tweets that shared links to Vybz Kartel's full statement to the court

…and tweets that focused on the strategy of the prosecution:

Emily Crooks, who has been religiously using social media to inform netizens about trial developments, tweeted the following updates about a half hour ago:

About ten minutes later, she posted the first closing speech of the trial on her blog, explaining:

These are my verbatim notes, as I able to capture, of the closing speech of Kartel’s attorney, Tom Tavares Finson. Kartel having called witnesses to give evidence on his behalf is the first to make a closing address to the jury. The address of the legal team for Kartel is followed by the address of the prosecutor, Jeremy Taylor.

Closing arguments will continue on Monday and if the judge is right, by mid-week Jamaicans will know whether or not their self-appointed #WorldBoss has been declared innocent or guilty.

February 20 2014

Jamaica: Breakespeare & Bob Marley

Inspired by Cindy Breakspeare's recent lecture on Bob Marley, Annie Paul republishes a 2007 interview she did with her, in which Breakspeare discusses her youth, her Jamaican-ness and of course, meeting Bob.

February 19 2014

Independent Music from Puerto Rico That Will Define 2014

Imagen

Image “Mapa Glitch” courtesy of Puerto Rico Indie

[All links lead to Spanish language pages.]

They say that when times get rough, the music gets better, so today we're bringing you good news for your ears, hips, and feet. While 2014 may well be a year of great challenges for Puerto Ricans, the country's independent music scene shines with an energy and excitement that are not only tangible, but contagious.

In the same week that one of our most beloved veteran musicians succeeded in raising thousands of dollars via crowdfunding for the production of his new album, another is hanging out with the Shakiras and Enrique Iglesiases of the world on the iTunes Store best-seller lists. But that's not all: La Macha Colón will travel to Sweden to play with Los Okapi; vinyls of Macabeo‘s albums are being released in Spain and Germany; and the lineup for Austin Psych Fest includes Fantasmes among the best groups in the genre. The good news just keeps coming, and Moody's doesn't suspect a thing.

Years of growth – slow but continuous, against wind and sea – have resulted in this fertile period for the indie music scene, marked by constant record releases and weekends packed with events. The truth is that in the five years that I've been writing about our artists, it hadn't occurred to me to write an article like this before, if it even would have been possible. But the volume and quality of work you'll hear in 2014 deserve it. The world is already listening to us. It's time to spread the word in Puerto Rico.


AJ DávilaTerror Amor
February 18th

AJ Dávila, bassist and main composer of Dávila 666, is back with a masterpiece of pop sucio, full of attitude, energy, and catchy choruses. His album features an impressive list of guest artists, from Fofe Abreu (Circo, Fofe y Los Fetiches) to Alex Anwandter of Chile and our favorite Cadillac, Sergio Rotman (Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, El Siempreterno).

Terror Amor will be released on February 18th by Nacional Records, one of the most influential Latin music labels in the United States. Judging by the critical response to the album, AJ can expect a year full of success – and increased attention to the independent music coming out of our country.


Campo-FormioHere comes… Campo-Formio!
March 15th

After releasing four EPs on their own label, Dead Mofongo Records, this impressive trio of musicians polishes their sound to perfection with their eagerly anticipated debut album. On Here comes… Campo-Formio!, the group shows off their encyclopediac knowledge of the history of rock, expertly blending an infinite spectrum of musical influences from Puerto Rican punk to surf, prog, and post-punk in the same song.

Campo-Formio also stands out by virtue of the attention to detail that goes into their releases, this time producing a colored double vinyl limited edition. One might call it overkill for Puerto Rico to offer another new jewel of Ibero-American rock, less than a month after Terror Amor – but I would call us all very lucky.


Alegría Rampante
Summer 2014

Charasmatic singer-songwriter and performer Eduardo Alegria threw himself into the challenge of creating a new musical identity after the breakup of his former group, Superaquello, one of the most influential and important bands in the history of Puerto Rican rock. The result, Alegría Rampante, debuted in 2011 and took form before our eyes on the stage of La Respuesta via the ambitious and magical conceptual concert series “desde el Hotel Puercoespín.”

The group has been releasing various singles online in past years, but only now are they preparing to complete their debut album, produced with Nicolás Linares at Little Big Audio. To help achieve their goals, Los Rampantes launched a crowdfunding campaign that will serve as a pre-sale for the album.


Check out the rest of the year's most-anticipated releases at Puerto Rico Indie.

Empty Office Buildings in Trinidad's Capital

The huge potential supply of State-built, unfinished office buildings in our capital is the ‘Elephant in the Room‘.

Afra Raymond confronts it in an effort to address “the viability of the long-term and large-scale investments which have been made in Port-of-Spain by private and public capital.”

Photographers Snap Over Online Accreditation for Trinidad Carnival

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is a spectacle, heavily marketed as “the greatest show on earth” – and nowhere is it more of a spectacle than on social media.

Facebook and Twitter have taken every aspect of the Carnival scene online. You have easy access to fete schedules and flyers to help you decide where is the best place to party on any given night. While said fete is in progress, you can scan through scores of photographs to see who's there and what they're wearing. Missed Panorama semi-finals? YouTube is sure to have videos of the best steel pan performances. From soca tunes to costumes, social media has significantly expanded the reach of the festival – there are even entire businesses dedicated to documenting the social aspects of the season – but this year, the National Carnival Commission (NCC), the body charged with coordinating the organisational, promotional and commercial aspects of all things Carnival, finds itself in the midst of managing a controversy over accreditation rights and the use of Carnival imagery on social media.

Contention of this sort is unfortunately nothing new to the NCC, but the origin of the directive concerning online copyright is unclear. The National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) has said that did not come from them (one unnamed company, according to reports, has allegedly secured the online publishing rights for the entire festival) while the NCC maintains that their attitude towards Carnival coverage is that it should be as far reaching and accessible as possible.

Two photographers who have spent much of their careers documenting Trinidad and Tobago Carnival have expressed their opinions about the whole affair. Abigail Hadeed posted a detailed status update on Facebook, the first part of which questioned where her accreditation fees were going:

As a photographer who has dedicated all of my working life to the documentation and archiving of Carnival and Traditional Mas, I have since 1985 paid for press passes. For all of these decades the people from whom I purchased the passes have never been able to adequately give me a break down of what I am paying for, or how they arrived at the cost. I have experienced everything form the hostile response ‘If you don’t like it you have a choice!’ to ‘it’s for the copyright — the designers get this money.’ Well I have spoken to many of the people I have photographed over these two decades and none have ever received a cent of the money collected.

She was “really disheartened” upon hearing reports of the selling of all the social media rights to one company, saying:

It seems that ignorance, greed and a lack of accountability is (sic) yet again the order of the day.

Hadeed went on to lament the unprofessionalism of the accreditation process as well as the lack of proper facilities for media:

Until 2 or 3 years ago [the process] provided neither a place to sit, nor a media area for photographers, far less access to toilets, parking, or a safe place to be when waiting on bands. At no time in the decades of my photographing carnival has anyone suggested to those constructing the stages that thought should be given to where the media needs to be, to adequately do their job. That said, if you attend any major event such as the Olympics, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, large concerts, etc…there are areas dedicated to media only — centers for the media to recharge batteries, upload images and so on…Here in Trinidad we behave like carnival is something new and every year treat it with a level of surprise and disorganization, so the same old arguments arise with no solutions found and this cycle continues year in and year out.

So disillusioned is Hadeed about the entire process that she decided not to pay for accreditation this Carnival:

I am now considering my further involvement in the photographing and documenting of our cultural heritage. Why should I continue to spend thousands of dollars for accreditation that is not justified and does not serve my needs as a photographer? The way things are now structured the cost of photographing carnival does not make financial sense. If we as a people do not care about being the keepers of our cultural heritage to the extent that we essentially obstruct rather than support the documentation and dissemination of our heritage, I am left wondering what will be there for future generations. It seems as though institutions outside of Trinidad have more of an appreciation for our culture than we do.

Fellow photography veteran Mark Lyndersay, who blogs here, republished a statement from the photographer who questioned the NCC accreditation process late last week and was told that whatever fee he paid would not include online rights:

For at least the last six years Zorce Publications Ltd. has successfully sought accreditation to shoot still photos for archive use on the internet. Prior to this we were not aware of the accreditation process.

On February 11th, around 2pm, we came to the NCC office to meet the usual pleasant and familiar people to apply once more for our accreditation.

Since the NCBA representative was present, a lady that we are accustomed to seeing each year for our interview, we proceeded with reading through this year's NCBA application form. The NCBA lady recalled that Zorce was on a list of companies that were to be told this year that no internet-related permissions would be allowed. She clarified that this meant no social media (e.g. Facebook), no websites or no web-streaming of any photos or video. She conveyed that she was told to let everyone on the list, which was presumably every entity that was internet accredited last year was to be told the same except one company that bought the exclusive rights this year from the NCBA. She then called the NCBA office and verified that this was in fact so.

The statement described, in further detail, why it was important for his company to be allowed online publishing rights – the fees for the remaining options of print and private archives were too expensive:

I reminded her that being a car-related publication and website, we fundamentally thought that it would be a good idea to promote T&T by inviting our web users to view our online archives and subsequently our social media albums; with the hope of attracting a different sector of tourists along with our regular readers.

She indicated that while she understood our position clearly, and she knows us from processing our permissions each year, she could only abide by the instructions she was given and suggested that anyone who wished to take the issue further could speak with the CEO of the NCBA.

The statement noted the highlights of the conversation and the pressing questions arising out of them:

• Who is the mystery person or organisation who was the exclusive right to internet related Carnival 2014 Mas content through the NCBA?
• What exactly is being paid for with respect to copyright fees with NCBA?
• Exactly who [does] the NCBA now represent/protect?
• What do the NCBA-protected gain?
• Can the NCBA assume control over an independently owned portal such as Facebook or the entire internet?
• What about tourists or simple amateur public photographers seeking to enjoy the event in their own non-commercial way?
• If a photographer or media producer has the direct permission of (a) band/bands via a signed, stamped letter from their bandleader(s) to put their content in an approved location inclusive of any specified print medium, website or social media outlet…where does the NCC stand on granting accreditation passes that indicate permission to shoot Mas?

Narend Sooknarine, the photographer, summed up his experience by saying:

Indirectly, it seems the NCC accreditation badge does not fully cover all permissions for all venues at this time since the NCBA does not represent many of the large and popular bands that form the bulk of our Carnival content.

Quite frankly for most photographers who are seeking to ‘do the correct thing’ this is proving to be unreasonable.

Mark Lyndersay, in a follow-up post, asked a perfectly legitimate question:

The first thing that’s worth considering here is why there is accreditation at all.
The only sensible answer is that there is a limited amount of space available with good access to the performances of Carnival.
If that’s the reason, then there are several aspects of that which need to be interrogated.

His analysis supported Abigail Hadeed's testimony of poor facilities and constrained access:

First, why is the physical space so limited? In fact, after all this time, the access area for most Carnival events is growing smaller and more hostile to photographers and videographers, which is somewhat strange, since it ensures that our coverage of Carnival is becoming less interesting and more constrained.

It also pushes people keen to make better pictures into defying stage rules and authority.
Given the nature of the festival, there has always been more people who want to capture images of events than there will be space to accommodate them comfortably.

Since this will always be a small group who should be in it?
It stands to reason that working media should be first on the list. These are the people who are responsible for the public record of Carnival, and their efforts ensure that there is archival testimony of the work that Carnival’s creators invest every year.

Lyndersay also acknowledged the power of social media, saying:

There is now more to effective communication of the festival’s virtues than just traditional media. There are bloggers, social media attractors and documentarians working aggressively on commenting on and recording the festival in a way that goes well beyond what we see in the coverage done by local media.

If someone is extending the public understanding of Carnival with good results and an impressive audience online, they are likely to be doing it on their own dime. Should they be punished for that by having daunting fees levied on them or rewarded for their educated engagement with the event?

He continued:

The simple truth is that these fees have ruined the coverage of Carnival. Imposing hefty fees on people producing documents recording Carnival may seem to be a good idea for the people receiving the cash (no doubt a pittance to the bandleaders who have pressed for it), but it has created a lowest common denominator ethos among those who do produce such publications and broadcasts.

There is no room for careful thought, intellectual analysis or adventurous image creation in such documents. They must ensure a return on their investment, who we now have Carnival “magazines” with cover to cover images of half-naked women and little else. These documents must make their money back, inclusive of the fees harvested in the dubious name of copyright early in the dance, and the results have been putrid for more than a decade now.

Even if the fees were removed this year, it will take decades to get back to the pinnacle of such Carnival records.

Both photographers tempered their criticism with tangible suggestions for improvement. Hadeed felt that “an open dialogue between the stakeholders and the photographers is absolutely necessary”:

Unfortunately, unless there are clearly defined standards as to what should be provided for media accreditation, along with some training for those members who police judging points, photographers will always be open to the hostility of the people working for NCBA, Pan Trinbago etc. Regardless if you have a pass or not, the video teams get preference, and the photographers are constantly pushed, shoved and beaten at will by the misplaced anger of officials who take their position as if they were the guardians of the mas!

I ask that the organizations responsible for accreditation take responsibility for their decision making by simply inviting all of the stakeholders to meet and seek responsible solutions that address the breadth and depth of the issues at hand.

Lyndersay suggested several ways to revamp the process:

Loosen the restrictions of official access to Carnival in the interests of getting more of the record into the public domain. It can only improve the festival and bring more paying visitors to T&T.

Acknowledge the importance of documentarians and new media practitioners in bringing more attention to the festival, particularly those aspects of it which are dying through a lack of attention.

Improve the actual accommodations. Better line of sight angles and preplanning of the actual visual coverage of the event would satisfy more image makers and lead to better images emerging from Carnival 2014.

Ensure that accredited image makers actually have a chance to do the work they have come to do. This isn’t a party for us. Control your stages with clear rules or let madness reign.

Remove the fees for documentary publication in print and video for local producers. What’s happened since they were imposed has been far more costly than any money that’s been earned.

Will any of these improvements happen, though? According to Lyndersay, the powers that be have been moving in the wrong direction for decades:

As everything about Carnival becomes shorter and more pointed, it begins to resemble nothing less than a gladius on which we are relentlessly impaling our creative future.

An effective copyright regime for Carnival will call for work to earn the real rewards that are due, but everyone’s too busy lining up at the trough to lap up much easier money, even if it's only a thin gruel.

February 18 2014

Bermuda: Political Shenanigans

Bermuda deserves better. Our country is in deep trouble, and you are fiddling away with self-absorption.

Vexed Bermoothes has some advice for the country's politicians.

February 17 2014

Trinidad Lecture Ignites Fiery Discussion on Gay Rights & Religious Freedom

The Faculty of Law at the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies recently hosted a public lecture on the topic “Lesbian and gay human rights in the Caribbean: Would decriminalization restrict religious freedom?”

The lecture was coincidentally held a few days after Roman Catholic priest Fr. Stephen Geofroy made a controversial contribution to the national debate on constitutional reform, by suggesting that LGBT rights should be included in the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution. The statement generated discussion throughout the country, including social media:

On the Trinidad Express Facebook page, a bevy of comments were posted on the issue.

Dale Orsoco registered his opinion about the lack of morality in the society: 

All these things would come to pass, Just as in the days of Noah and the days of Lot immorality will reign and mankind will reap the results of such practice those who are proud of this despicable practice of Homosexuality continue on defending that abomination you will be rewarded for your support of it just as those of us will be rewarded for our stance against it, you can brag on how backward we are but the Old way is the Moral way….

Ria Ragoonanan quoted scripture in her comments on the issue:

All this does not surprise me. It is the times, read the book of Revelation. Jesus spoke everything in that book for the CHURCHES and how people will be blinded by the unholy trinity (the Devil, the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet). He warns us of what is to come and asks us to repent. Do some research into who today is the Dragon, the Beast and the False Prophet in Revelation 16:13. I am not surprised at all. All I will say is God loves each and everyone of us but not the sin. Repent before it is too late. God bless you all.

Others supported Fr. Geofroy's statements. Gerard Pinard had this to say:

Equal rights ought to be afforded to ALL citizens of our country, full stop. And, for all those quoting the Bible, remember that it also says ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged'.

Meanwhile, Dwane Salandy was more forceful in his comments:

I am appalled however not remotely surprised by the insanely ignorant, closeminded and uneducated comments on here. All of you preaching and quoting the bible… what about all the other ‘teachings’ in there? If one were to live by the literal example of the bible none of us would have tongues, hands or feet (and that's just one example). So many hypocrites on here. Smh

With a high level of public interest in the issue of LGBT rights and its impact on the society, the lecture at the Faculty of Law attracted a full house. Dean of the Faculty, Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine spoke of the role of the law as a tool to shape society, and the commitment of international law to protect against discrimination in all societies:

The feature address was delivered by Professor Robert Wintemute of King's College. The lecture focused on the human, legal and religious aspects of the debate on LGBT rights and religious freedom:

Attendees to the lecture were given an opportunity to ask questions and ventilate their concerns on the topic. The comments were fiery, with both sides of the debate well represented:

Professor Wintemute earlier presented the same topic at the Cave Hill (Barbados) and Mona (Jamaica) campuses of the University of the West Indies. Some netizens who attended the lecture posted their thoughts on Twitter:

Others posted their views on Facebook. Mike Eskada pointed out:

Religious freedom? They mean oppression ? Discrimination ..funny how these godly people act more like the devil.

The debate on equality and discrimination will no doubt continue to engage the attention of the region.

Race as a Political Weapon in the Caribbean

Of all the offensive – and unintelligent – statements made in the politics of the post-independence Caribbean, an assertion, that Dr Keith Rowley, the leader of the Opposition in Trinidad and Tobago, is ‘too black’ to be Prime Minister, has to rate as the worst.

Bajan Reporter explains why such a notion “highlights the continuing insecurities in persons and groups in the Caribbean.”

Could Barbados’ Economic Crisis Spread to Other Islands?

Abeng News Magazine's Mark Lee says that the latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) Country Report “reads like a good cop bad cop interrogation of the Barbados economy”. Read the details, here.

February 14 2014

Trinidad and Tobago: The Soca Kings Play Songs of Anti-Love

According to the advertisements, the headliner at this evening's “Ladies Night Out” Valentine's Day concert in Port of Spain, Trinidad, is soca music star Bunji Garlin, but that may be more a marketing ploy than anything else. Garlin is the current golden boy of Trinidad and Tobago's music scene, in the wake of winning Soul Train and MTV Iggy awards for his 2013 hit song, “Differentology“. The concert's actual moral centre, if you will, is the American R&B crooner Peabo Bryson, who made a name for himself in the 1980s with ballads like “If Ever You're In My Arms Again”, “Tonight I Celebrate My Love”, and the theme song from Disney's “Beauty and the Beast”. Unlike Bryson, the other performers in the lineup—all soca artists—will have to dig deep into their repertoires to find a song extolling the kind of values Valentine's Day represents. The performer needing to make the least effort might well be Mr. Killa, a singer from Grenada whose song this year is a tribute to plus-size women called “Rolly Polly Girls“.

It could be argued that this is all Valentine's Day's own fault, for falling in the middle of the festival nearest and dearest to the Trinidadian heart. Trinidad and Tobago's Carnival, arguably the world's pre-eminent pre-Lenten festival after the one in Brazil, is a season when conventional morality takes a back seat to spontaneous expressions of the kind of behaviour frowned upon by clerics and other supposed gatekeepers of the human soul.

In the last century, there were only 23 years in which Valentine's Day did not fall within the Carnival season. This year, the two days of Carnival proper are March 3rd and 4th, but since the week after Christmas the country has been swept up in the euphoria of the festival. Against the backdrop of an spiralling crime rate (in this nation of 1.4 million there've been over 60 homicides since the beginning of 2014), people are partying like it’s business as usual. Except for world wars (the festival was put on hold between 1942-45) and epidemics (polio, back in 1972), nothing stops the Carnival.

This evening, many Trinidadians will observe Valentine's Day the way others do throughout the world: flowers will be sent and received and restaurants will likely be filled this evening with dining couples. But come February 15, the rules of Carnival will prevail once more. And Carnival rules and Valentine's Day values are about as incompatible as an Aries and a Capricorn.

During the first two or three months of any year, in addition to partying hard and drinking more than is good for them, Trinidadians will often find themselves dancing in suggestive fashion—or “wining”, as that style of dance is known—with women and men to whom they have no particular, or long-standing, romantic attachment. Or sometimes no attachment at all: as Farmer Nappy sang last year, “Nothing [ain't] wrong with…wining on a stranger.” Not all of these interactions are innocent, but contrary to appearances, and as hard as this is for my close friend's European boyfriend to understand, much of the time it's really just about dancing. 

The music form driving these dancefloor antics is soca, the modern-day successor to calypso. During the Carnival season, soca is the soundtrack to the lives of large swaths of the population, blaring from radios and car sound systems and towering stacks of speaker boxes at a never-ending series of parties and spreading the gospel of slackness.

“I come out to live my life/ drink a rum and live my life/I'm the happiest man alive,” sings Machel Montano on “Happiest Man Alive“, an anthem which neatly sums up one aspect of the Carnival ethos. At parties, deejays will often mix Montano's song with Skinny Fabulous’ “Behaving The Worst“, with which it shares a rhythm track. In one of the hits of 2012, singer KI gave voice to an important male fantasy in the ultimate anti-love song, “Single Forever“, which enumerated the virtues of being unattached. 

With lyrics like the above, it's obvious that soca and Carnival have the potential to wreak havoc on intimate relationships, especially among those inexperienced in the workings of the culture. During the Carnival season, cling tightly to the notion—or appearance— of monogamy at your peril. Some savvy couples negotiate a set of ground rules stating roughly that during the carnival season (almost) anything goes, provided life reverts to normal on Ash Wednesday. 

For, as everyone knows, the perpetrator of Carnival-induced behaviours isn't him or herself to blame: in the world according to soca human beings are powerless in the face of infectious rhythms, gyrating bodies and rum. 

This year there's any number of songs placing the blame on the oppressive power of the bassline, or a woman's gyrating buttocks (known in current soca parlance as a “bumper”), the sight of which instantly drains the average male of free will. “When de riddim hit you you does get on wassy for true,” sings Machel Montano (“wassy” being a catch-all for a range of slack behaviours) on “Shameless”. “That bumper is too real,” cries a helpless Kerwin du Bois on “Too Real”. “I wanna wine but it lookin’ dangerous/And I just want to grind on you.” 

Soca's closest approximation to a love song this year may well be Cassi's “Man in Yuh House“, in which the persona expresses a desire to be elevated from the status of “horner man” to official lover: “I want to be the man in your house, and not the horner man/I want to take you out/Just like a normal man/Tonight I not hiding/I out in the open/For your man to see.” A lovely sentiment, but it's still not likely to make anyone's Valentine's Day playlist. 

Georgia Popplewell (@georgiap) (is a writer and media producer from Trinidad and Tobago, and Managing Director of Global Voices.

Carnival Love Songs From the Caribbean

The celebration of Valentine's Day in many Caribbean territories is usually overshadowed by Carnival, so the Global Voices Caribbean team thought it might be fun to marry the two concepts – pun intended. A few of us have chosen our favourite soca love songs, along with a few lines as to why we think they're appropriate for V-Day…

Our new author Jason Nathu‘s pick is “Flirt” by Farmer Nappy:

The lyrics perfectly capture the unspoken Carnival rule that it's okay to “‘tief a wine” – parlance that means all dancing in the spirit of the festival is fair game…because it's only for a moment and all in good fun:

There's no reason to take off the wedding ring
This is the season for the wining
The only thing you could make me take off tonight is meh shirt
‘Cause all I wanna do is flirt…with no strings attached
When ah hold on, ah go wine like dat
That sweet wok nah bother me
It doh make me guilty…

Jason explains:

In Trinidad and Tobago, there is a popular song that says ‘A little wine (dance) never hurt nobody'. To me that's something that's uniquely Trinidadian, that we can enjoy each other's company and flirt good-naturedly.

Author Matthew Hunte, who hails from St. Lucia and is known for his dry wit, says:

I think Valentine's Day is treacly and saccharine so this is the obvious choice…

Baron‘s This Soca is for You epitomizes the poetic Valentine's Day sentiment, which is made even richer – or more predictable, depending on where you stand on the sentimentality tolerance scale – by the singer's melodic vocals, which slip off his tongue as slowly and as sweetly as molasses:

From the moment I saw you I know we were meant to be
From then on to this day there's no regrets
There's no-one else in this world to spend this life with me
So to you, I pay all my respects
God bless the day that I found you, baby
With you by my side and your love to guide me
Honey, baby, doux doux…this soca is for you

Of course, I had to put in my two cents’ worth – and because Jason already covered flirtation and Matt made his case for romantic love – I thought I'd go for love of Carnival – and nothing says that for me like David Rudder's ode to Calypso music:

Can you hear a distant drum bouncing on the laughter of a melody?
And does the rhythm tell you ‘come, come, come, come'?
Does your spirit do a dance to this symphony?
Does it tell you that your heart is afire?
And does it tell you that your pain is a liar?
Does it wash away all your unlovely?
Well, are you ready for a brand new discovery?
Calypso, calypso, calypso music…

Isn't that what love – at least the highest form of it – is supposed to do? It's meant to be transformative, to make you better, more joyous, to bring you closer to who you really are. In the Caribbean, our love of Carnival gets us pretty close. Happy St. Valentine's Day!

St. Lucian Chef Nina Compton Still the People's Champ

Saint Lucian chef Nina Compton, daughter of the late Prime Minister John Compton, was recently the runner-up for the 11th season of the cooking reality show Top Chef. Nicholas Elmi eventually won, but Compton's participation on the show was a major topic of discussion on social media, particularly in the online group Saint Lucians Aiming for Progress.

The group organized a public screening of the Top Chef finale at the Derek Walcott Square in the middle of the island's capital. Many observers were surprised that Compton was not named the winner, but she did manage to clinch the “Fan Favorite” award and the US $10,000 prize that went along with it – an indication of the high level of online support she received. After the show, Compton was named a “culinary ambassador” by Saint Lucia's Minister of Tourism, Lorne Theophilus.

Compton received massive support over Twitter via the hashtags #TeamNina, #TeamGreenFigAndSaltFish, #Team758 and #NinaNation. Some users of the microblogging service voiced their displeasure with her second place finish, but most were more concerned about congratulating her on her success:

One Twitter user sardonically suggested that Compton could have won she had used his suggestion:

Trinidadian fashion designer Anya Ayoung-Chee, who won the fashion competition Project Runway in 2011, also tweeted her support for Compton:

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