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February 13 2014

The Iconic Trinidadian Film You've Never Seen

An image from Bim the movie, courtesy SHARC Productions; used with permission.

An image from Bim the movie, courtesy SHARC Productions; used with permission.

The 1970s saw the release of two important indigenous Caribbean films: Jamaica’s iconic The Harder They Come, starring musician Jimmy Cliff, which still takes some measure of credit for introducing reggae music to the world, and Bim, which explores race, politics and working class challenges in colonial Trinidad.

If you’ve never heard of Bim, far less seen it, that’s all about to change, thanks to the power of social media.

Pat Ganase, who has had a long career in journalism, publishing and communications in Trinidad and Tobago, has started a Facebook page called “BIM the movie” in an attempt to ignite online discussion about the film and the issues it deals with.

“I decided it was time for the first all-Trinidad film to have a Facebook fan page,” Ganase says. “It was the first film that didn’t just use our environment as a location and our people as exotic natives or extras. It is a film with a story that is authentic…and ours.”

Fellow journalist and writer Raoul Pantin collaborated on the script. The actors were all local. So was the majority of the film crew. The early fusion soundtrack was composed by Andre Tanker and performed by some of the country’s most outstanding musicians, including Mungal Patasar. But most importantly, it was a Trinidadian story.

Ganase is friends with Suzanne Robertson (who co-produced the film with her late husband Hugh, an American who edited the Oscar-winning film Midnight Cowboy) and says that even back then, the couple saw a bright future for the film industry in Trinidad and Tobago.

“The first Trinidadian film company was SHARC,” she explains, “named for Suzanne, Hugh and their children (Antonio and Anna) Robertson. Bim—and SHARC—probably failed then, for the same reasons that film, as a viable industry, is not succeeding today. There is a failure to appreciate it as a productive industry that can employ many, many people and bring returns on investment through distribution.”

As Ganase notes, the challenges for young filmmakers today are the same: “Funding, institutional support, distribution and marketing. The film industry is not a solitary art, which is why it is an Industry with a Capital I.” But the sense of déjà vu does not stop there—it extends itself to societal challenges as well. While the film marked a particular time in Trinidad and Tobago's history, addressing attitudes towards issues such as racial identity, Ganase believes  its lessons are still relevant. “Maybe it can tell us something about ‘crime’ in our society,” she offers. “It certainly has something to say about young men who grow themselves up, without father or family.”

The plot follows the main character Bhim (initially pronounced Beem) Singh, whose father, a union leader for workers in the sugar cane fields, is killed on the day of his sister’s wedding. Bhim leaves the only life he knows in rural Trinidad to live with his aunt and her ne’er-do-well husband in Port of Spain, Trinidad's capital city. From the get-go he's an outcast, and is soon drawn into a life of petty crime, working for an underworld type who re-christens him Bim. Meanwhile, the winds of political change are blowing. Bim seizes the opportunity, crushes the son of the man who killed his father and gets himself elected as head of the sugar cane workers’ union. His victory is short-lived, however, and his demise comes rather quickly, as a result of alcoholism.

Upon its release, the film was not panned by critics, but it didn’t quite get rave reviews either. The New York Times critique in 1974, for instance, opened by saying, “By no conventional standards is ‘Bim’ very good, but it’s still vastly more interesting than lots of other movies you’re likely to stumble on.” ‘Interesting’ may have been an understatement; it certainly struck a note with local audiences, presumably even before anyone had even seen it. Trinidad and Tobago had an active Censors Board at the time and the film’s planned debut in December 1974 never happened thanks to a ban. A month later, after legal action was taken against the Censors Board, the film was finally screened—uncut—at the landmark Roxy cinema in St. James.

“The language is harsh; it had plenty cusswords [obscene language],” Ganase recalls, “but not unwarranted. People who have seen the film are the ones who perceive it as seminal and important. There is a ring of truth in Bim the movie.”

There's certainly a timeless quality to Bim. Ganase says that “viewers of all ages and in every decade respond [to the film] the same way…as if it is something that they were deprived of.” She thinks this is because the story is as relevant now as it was then. “It’s not that I want people to know the film,” she says. “It is that people have a hunger for it.”

In just three days, the Facebook page has received over 130 “Likes” and a substantial amount of commentary, both from people who have already seen the film and from those who would like to. Ganase says the page will develop according to the discussion it generates: “It will point us in a direction that comes from the collective.”

One idea that came out of user comments was the suggestion by Trinidadian visual artist Christopher Cozier to work towards having Bim listed in Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation, which restores and distributes films from countries that are underrepresented in global film culture. “It is a worthwhile idea that might be an avenue for new distribution,” Ganase explains. “There will be a showing in the future. But that will happen when the time is right.”

Janine Mendes-Franco is a communications consultant, media producer and writer. When she's not blogging about the Caribbean for Global Voices, you can find her blogging here and tweeting here.

The image used in this post is from Bim the movie, courtesy SHARC Productions, used with permission. A version of this article first appeared in the Sunday Guardian Arts section.

February 12 2014

Drug Bust Holds Lessons for Caribbean Distribution Chains

Of the recent drug bust originating out of Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados Underground says:

The fundamentals are clear. Supply chain security in the Caribbean is weak, and known local and regional solutions need to be applied and strengthened.

February 11 2014

A Personal Tribute to Jamaican “Interventionist” Stuart Hall

As tributes to late Jamaican cultural theorist Stuart Hall keep coming, Jamaica-based blogger Annie Paul posts a personal and stirring acknowledgement.

Titled “A Stuart Hall-shaped hole in the universe…”, she begins by saying:

When I saw Stuart at his home in London on December 14, 2013, I knew he wouldn’t last much longer. He had been ill for years and his health had deteriorated considerably since the previous year when we celebrated his 80th birthday at Rivington Place, the art centre born of his inspiration and hard work. All the same his departure comes as a blow. It’s too early for me to come to terms with this loss, for Stuart has been a close friend and mentor since 1996 when he came to the University of the West Indies to speak at the Rex Nettleford Conference.

Paul chooses to share some of her own photographs in the post, which alone makes it extraordinary – snapshots of Hall with Paul herself; with David Scott, the editor of Small Axe magazine; a few pics of him both in England and in Jamaica. These are rare glimpses into the ordinary days of an extraordinary man. Paul says:

Stuart Hall was such an extraordinary thinker that his work ranged over a broad field of interests including visual art which was the one thing we truly bonded over. It was a preoccupation that didn’t get much coverage in other interviews which tend to focus more on his activism, his Marxism, and his political interventions.

Stuart Hall at Good Hope Estate, Trelawny, Jamaica, 2004 - Photo by Annie Paul

Stuart Hall at Good Hope Estate, Trelawny, Jamaica, 2004 – Photo by Annie Paul

She links to a post she wrote in November 2013, in which she reviews The Stuart Hall Project, the John Akomfrah film about him, which she hopes will be screened in Jamaica soon. In it, she says:

One of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century, Stuart Hall, was born and brought up here, made his career in Britain, become an intellectual powerhouse there, and is virtually unknown in the land of his birth. So true what Jesus said: A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country. Ah well.

Still, she shares links about his life and work in an effort to make “young people here realize that Jamaicans excel not only in track and field and music but also in the intellectual arena…”

Another piece of memorabilia Paul shares in the post is one of her “treasures”:

…a letter Stuart wrote to the Librarian at Birmingham U so that I could gain access to their inner sanctum.

She ends with an upload of an interview she did with Hall, titled The Ironies of History:

The Ironies of History:An Interview with Stuart Hall by Annie Paul

The interview (read it, above) begins by quoting Professor Grant Farred of Duke University:

Such was Hall’s impact on the US, British, Euro pean and Australian academy via cultural studies, mainly through a range of essays he published during the 1980s, that by the 1990s he became one of the preeminent intellectuals in the world. In truth, because of the international rise of cultural studies, Hall came to be regarded as an academic star, an intellectual celebrity, and a philosophical guru: he became the incarnation of cultural studies, first in Britain and then in the United States, widely anointed as the spokes man for the politics – and the endemic politicization – of the popular, the theorist in the fore front of politicizing (all) identity.

In it, Paul discusses with Hall everything from immigration and deportation to dancehall music, black masculinity and homophobia. He talks about art, architecture and visual culture. He even talks about himself and his work:

I was an interventionist, my writing is interventionist ok? That is to say I write in order to intervene in a situation, to shift the terms in which it’s understood, to introduce a new angle, to contest how it has been understood before; it’s an embattled form of writing…a kind of intellectual interventionism.

This is a kind of politics in theory, because it’s interested in struggling thought – struggling in thought. Not interested in the production of pure truth, absolute truth, universal truth. It’s interested in the production of better ideas than the ones we used to have. So it’s a kind of struggle in thought, a struggle with thought and a struggle inside thought, struggle inside thinking to change the terms of reference with which we’re thinking. There’s also a politics of thought in the sense that it wants to make the ideas useful for some purpose; it wants to help people think more clearly about their situation or to help to advance nationalism in a more progressive direction or to help the world become a more equal and just place.

The image used in this post is by Annie Paul, used with permission.

Trinidad & Tobago: A Deeper Carnival

Mas is beauty and horror. Mas as a whole can’t and shouldn’t be a version of reality that edits out the blood and pain.

Tillah Willah explains why she is so excited about the character she is portraying in this year's Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.

February 10 2014

Remembering the Jamaican Cultural Theorist Stuart Hall

Jamaican-born cultural theorist Stuart Hall has died at the age of 82 in England; netizens and academics all over the globe were shocked by the news, though Hall had been ailing for some time. He reportedly died of complications arising from kidney failure.

The UK Guardian's obituary described Hall as an “influential cultural theorist, campaigner and founding editor of the New Left Review”. One of the founders of British Cultural Studies, he regarded popular culture as capitalist and dominated by the ruling class. He studied media and its impact on ideology, becoming a major proponent of reception theory and expanded the scope of cultural studies to deal with race and gender. His work was particularly meaningful to black West Indian immigrant communities, as he explored ideas of cultural identity, race and ethnicity, especially as they related to the diaspora experience. Rather than viewing identity to be determined by history and culture – and therefore fixed – he saw it as fluid, ongoing and subject to change.

Facebook was overflowing with status updates that reflected the respect and admiration people had for the man and his work. Upon hearing the news of Hall's death, Rhoda Bharath said:

I can't even begin to describe how bereft I feel about Hall's passing… What a loss!

Arc Magazine posted a striking portrait of Hall by Antonio Olmos, adding:

We have just learned of the passing of Stuart Hall, champion of cultural studies and one of the Caribbean's leading intellectuals.

Our condolences are extended to those whose lives he touched with his generous work.

Rest well in peace Sir.

Arc's Facebook update directed readers to its website, where it posted about Hall's life and work in greater detail.

From Jamaica, Annie Paul referred to his death as “horrible news”, and proceeded to post a series of links and photos about his life and work as part of her mourning process, including this video of Hall speaking with C.L.R. James:

In another update, Paul admonished the Jamaican media for not picking up on the significance of his death:

Have yet to hear any announcement on local media of the passing of Stuart Hall…

Stuart Hall (R) reading a copy of The Caribbean Review of Books at at Hellshire Beach, Jamaica; June 2004.  Photo by Annie Paul.

Stuart Hall (R) reading a copy of The Caribbean Review of Books at at Hellshire Beach, Jamaica; June 2004. Photo by Annie Paul.

In a blog post that was published soon after the 2012 debut of John Akomfrah‘s film about Hall, “The Unfinished Conversation”, cultural studies professor Nick Mirzoeff wrote:

It’s a remarkable piece of visualizing theory and history. Shown on three screens simultaneously, the film visualizes, in a sense, what it must have been like to be Stuart Hall in his earlier career. The three screens would be showing personal photographs, filmed interviews from various periods, archive film and photography, news footage and so on. Meanwhile the sound would blend music, often jazz, with Hall’s commentary and radio interviews and other sound, such as the sea or machinery. It was a polyphony, edited so that all the sounds and images reinforced rather than disrupted each other.

There were powerfully revelatory moments throughout. It turns out–did I somewhere know this?–that Stuart has Sephardic-Jewish in his family tree. In the film, we see his mother and that lineage is visibly apparent–it’s mine, too, so I’m allowed to say this. Was there some affinity that I had felt, having worked with Hall when I was a young activist and editor on Marxism Today, and always taking his thought to be a lodestone? Perhaps.

He commented on other revelations in the film:

It turns out that Hall was part of a group that opened a radical coffee shop in Oxford in the crisis of 1956. The Soviet invasion of Hungary changed a generation away from orthodox Marxism-Leninism and cultural studies would not have happened as it did without this break. At the same time, Britain and France invaded Egypt over the nationalization of the Suez canal, their last imperial folly.

Sitting in the coffee shop called The Partisan, with its sign designed in impeccable lower-case sans serif font, Hall was interviewed about his views. Time and again, he calmly stressed that he was angry, angry over the invasions, angry over the disregard for young people in Britain, angry that

for fifteen years at least we have been without any kind of moral or political leadership.

Out of that anger came the New Left Review.

Mirzoeff continued:

Watching it now, over fifty years later, I felt intensely that we had somehow let this young man down, that it would be entirely possible for another such young man or woman to sit down today and say exactly the same thing. And it is indeed what we have been saying this past year. The spectre that entered the room was this question: will this demand still be unmet in fifty more years from now? Or was leadership perhaps the wrong thing to ask for? Reflecting back on 1956, a moment he felt “defined” him, Hall noted in terms so familiar to us:

Another history is always possible.

The film ends with this caption

For Stuart Hall. In gratitude. And respect.

My eyes filled with tears. In the crowded screening room, I was not alone.

On Twitter, condolences streamed in from all corners of the globe:

Some Twitter users shared the aspects of Hall's work that affected them the most:

Others suggested what they felt were the most appropriate ways in which to honour his memory:

Some just admitted that the world – and its intellectual space – felt emptier without him:

Gerry Hassan acknowledged Hall's astute analytical powers:

One Twitter user, Sean Fernyhough, quoted director John Akomfah:

Akomfah's latest documentary about Hall, The Stuart Hall Project, can be viewed here. A shorter clip is here.

@cfidelmorris acknowledged the great impact of jazz music in Hall's life – specifically the music of Miles Davis:

Professor Nicholas Mirzoeff summed up the general feeling with this tweet:

The photograph of Stuart Hall used in this post was taken by Annie Paul; uploaded by Nicholas Laughlin and used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license. Visit Nicholas Laughlin's flickr photostream.

Guyana, U.S.A.: Aviation Security Threat?

Two blogs are reporting that the US has issued a security alert to its citizens about an ‘unconfirmed threat’ to flights from Guyana. Netizens are also sharing the news via Facebook.

February 08 2014

Station's Rights to Sochi Games Leaves Caribbean Viewers in the Dark

Six Caribbean teams are competing in this year's winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia: Bermudathe Cayman Islands, Dominica, Jamaica, the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands. Naturally, sports fans throughout the region want to watch – but there's a problem. SportsMax, a premium subscription-based television station, has been awarded exclusive rights to the 2014 Sochi games in the Caribbean. “Inside The Games” reported on the details:

The deal, announced between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and  International Media Content Ltd (IMC), the parent company of SportsMax, is applicable for 21 nations and territories ranging from Anguilla to Trinidad and Tobago.

It consists of exclusive English language broadcast rights on all media platforms, with live coverage to be provided on both SportsMax and SportsMax2 for the duration of the Games when they get underway in Sochi.

Columbus Communications, owners of the Flow cable network which operates in several Caribbean territories, took to its social media outlets to address the issue:

Flow Fans, please be advised that SportsMax holds the exclusive broadcast rights to the '2014 Winter Olympics’ in the Caribbean for the period February 7th to 23rd 2014. Olympic programming will be broadcast mainly on Sportsmax 1 with some content on Sportsmax 2. Consequently, we are legally required to blackout the coverage of the games on all channels including but not limited to NBC & CBC who will be carrying portions of the SOCHI games. During the blackout periods the affected channels will carry a notice to our customers advising of the blackout requirement and directing you to SportsMax. 

We understand the inconvenience that this issue poses and are aware and acknowledge that blocked content is disruptive for our viewers, however we MUST comply. Once the broadcast rights to air a program is (sic) purchased we are obligated to block out that program (when requested) as both a legal and regulatory (TATT) obligation. Failing to comply could lead to legal actions against Columbus Communications Trinidad Limited. This arrangement is not unique to Trinidad, all video service providers worldwide will be required to take similar action based on the Network which has purchased the rights in that country. 

Irate Jamaicans posted on Flow Jamaica's Facebook page about having to pay to watch their team parading in the opening ceremony and competing in the games. Diego Armando Thomas had this to say

So because i don't have the #SportsMax package on #Flow I am not allowed to watch the #Olympics? This is BULL. You block the channels am paying for? Really!!!

Another viewer, David Valentine, urged Jamaicans to take action by writing to the Jamaican Broadcast Commission:

This is a sheg up situation, taking advantage of the people who no have no options. The blasted Olympics should not be held ransom, by forcing people to pay for some purely subscriber based channel. Imagine if Showtime did have the exclusive rights to the Olympics? Something wrong with this blow wow picture man. Them really corrupted. PEOPLE WRITE TO THE BROADCAST COMMISION!!

Others expressed their disgust on Twitter:

One viewer who subscribed to the SportsMax service was dissatisfied with the coverage of the opening ceremony:

Competitor cable provider Lime has been offering viewers in some of the countries in which it operates, a free trial of SportsMax for the duration of the games:

The issue of broadcast rights for local television stations versus those of the cable company was discussed in this post:

Television programmes generate advertising revenue for broadcasters such as TV6 and CNC3. While customers pay cable providers for premium channels, it should be noted that  the programmes which occupy the schedules on these channels are governed by separate contracts.

While SportsMax is indigenous to the region, it is a pay-per-view service, and some netizens have complained about the failure of free-to-air broadcasters to obtain rights to the games. Yvon Tripper commented on an article in the Bermuda Royal Gazette:

IOC simply gives rights to the highest bidder. Nothing is stopping a Bermuda-based broadcaster from asking the IOC for Bermuda-only rights, and then just using the American and Canadian feeds. If no one in Bermuda pays for broadcast rights for the island's Olympic coverage rights, then there's no point in complaining when someone else does. The IOC would be happy to exclude Bermuda from the Caribbean region if it mean that they got more money — it's all about the Redbirds, baby.

While Trinidad and Tobago is not competing in the games, none of the terrestrial broadcasters have purchased rights to the games, forcing interested viewers to subscribe to SportsMax for live coverage. Annoyed cable subscribers vented their feelings on Twitter:

The Sochi Games run until February 23, 2014.

February 07 2014

Caribbean: Discrimination is Discrimination

Groundation Grenada has partnered with Trinidad-based artist Joshua Lu “to create a visual campaign to draw analogies between sexual orientation/gender identity discrimination and other forms of discrimination.” Check out the first few installations in the campaign, here.

Caribbean Numbers Involved in Telephone Phishing Scam

If you see a missed call originating in the Caribbean from someone you don't know, it is likely that you have been targeted by perpetrators of the ‘one-ring phone scam’. While the numbers used in these phishing activities can originate anywhere in the world, Slate reports that Caribbean numbers have been noticed with alarming frequency over the past few weeks:

The Better Business Bureau lists calls from Antigua and Barbuda (268), the Dominican Republic (809), Jamaica (876), the British Virgin Islands (284), and Grenada (473) as potential scam threats. People who do call back could be charged something like $30 for the international call, depending on the carrier, and see fraudulent service fees showing up on their phone bills. This process of ‘cramming,’ when third-party scammers sneak bogus charges onto legitimate phone bills, is ever on the rise, according to the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission.

Affected persons around the world took to Twitter to report the issue:

Occurrences of these calls have also been reported in Trinidad and Tobago on Facebook. Shelley-anne L Thompson weighed in on the discussion:

I get that like once a month and have never called. come on, people you know this scam! dont let your curiosity trap you.

Maisha Hyman had this to say:

I'm glad to see this! I've recently had hang up calls from Antigua and Grenada! Like wtf?!

Others were more concerned about the impact of the scam on the region. Michael Nahous of Trinidad and Tobago was not amused:

How can they charge you $30.00 without some contract arrangement with the telephone carrier….its only digicel, cable wireless and the local telephone companies in these islands…if they know its a scam why cant they just disconnect the number.

People affected by the scam are being urged to alert their service providers if they spot any unusual charges on their phone bills.

Puerto Rico’s Debt Downgraded to “Junk” Status

Un cuarto de dólar estadounidense, o peseta, como se le llama en Puerto Rico. La expresión

A U.S. quarter, or peseta, as it’s called in Puerto Rico. The expression “everything has gone to hell now” [in Spanish the expressions plays with the word "peseta" that means "quarter"] is commonly used to mean that the cost of living has suddenly gone up or that life has suddenly got more complicated. Image from the public domain, taken from
Wikimedia Commons.

What everybody feared finally happened: Puerto Rico’s debt was downgraded to junk or speculative level on February 4, 2014, by the rating agency Standard & Poor’s. The consequences of degradation had already been mentioned in a previous article [es] by Sergio Marxuach, the Director of Public Policy of the Puerto Rican based think tank Center for a New Economy:

… [U]na degradación del crédito de Puerto Rico a nivel “chatarra” tendría repercusiones adversas para todos los que vivimos en Puerto Rico ya que desataría una crisis financiera. Eso significa, entre otras cosas, que: el gobierno tendría poco o ningún acceso a los mercados financieros; veríamos una depreciación del valor de los bonos y obligaciones de Puerto Rico de entre 30% y 50%; la liquidez y la solvencia de las instituciones financieras y compañías de seguro en Puerto Rico podrían verse afectadas adversamente; veríamos un aumento en las tasas de interés y una contracción significativa del crédito; y aumentarían tanto las quiebras como el desempleo. Nadie en Puerto Rico estaría inmune de los efectos de esa tempestad.

Degrading Puerto Rico’s credit to ‘junk’ level would have adverse repercussions for everybody who lives in Puerto Rico because it would set off a financial crisis. That means, among other things, that the government would have little or no access to financial markets; we would see a depreciation between 30 to 50% of the value of Puerto Rican bonds and obligations; the liquidity and solvency of financial institutions and insurance companies in Puerto Rico could be adversely affected; we’d see an increase in interest rates and a significant credit crunch; and an increase in bankruptcies and unemployment. No one in Puerto Rico would be immune from the effects of this storm.

The degradation of the Puerto Rican debt comes after a series of unpleasant measures implemented by both the New Progressive Party and the Popular Democratic Party, which is currently in power. Among the measures implemented were the laying off thousands of public employees, the imposition of new taxes, and reform of the retirement systems. The Government Development Bank (BGF in Spanish) of Puerto Rico and the Department of Treasury issued a joint press release to calm the concerns of the public, but especially of investors:

Si bien estamos decepcionados con la decisión de Standard & Poor’s, seguimos comprometidos con la implantación de nuestros planes fiscales y de desarrollo económico. Creemos que la comunidad inversora reconocerá oportunamente el impacto positivo de las reformas que la Administración [del Gobernador Alejandro] García Padilla ha implantado.

Entendemos que S&P reconoce los esfuerzos significativos de Puerto Rico hasta la fecha para enfrentar problemas estructurales de mucho tiempo, según queda demostrado por nuestra significativa reforma de retiro, el incrementar la independencia de una serie de corporaciones públicas y los recientes aumentos en los recaudos.

[...]

Estamos confiados en que tenemos a mano liquidez para satisfacer todas las necesidades de liquidez hasta fines del año fiscal, incluyendo cualquier necesidad de efectivo que surja como resultado de la decisión de hoy.

While we are disappointed with Standard & Poor’s decision, we remain committed to the implementation of our fiscal and economic development plans. We believe the investment community will recognize the positive impact of the reforms that the Garcia Padilla Administration has enacted in due course.

We appreciate that S&P recognizes the Commonwealth’s significant efforts to date to tackle long- term structural issues, demonstrated by our significant pension reform, increasing the independence of a number of public corporations, and recent revenue increases.
[…]

We are confident that we have the liquidity on hand to satisfy all liquidity needs until the end of the fiscal year, including any cash needs resulting from today’s decision.

However, Cate Long, market analyst of municipal bonds for the Reuters news agency, who has closely followed Puerto Rico’s situation during the past few years indicated:

For several months, there has been a climate of pessimism in Puerto Rico with regard to the economy, if Twitter comments serve as a barometer for the national mood:

Right now we all have better credit than our government…

The ‘junk’ is here, and now the situations is verrrrrrry bad…

Things have definitely gone to hell now.

Of course, there were also humorous comments amidst the preoccupation:

We announce that for now, we will not downgrade your tweets. But the outlook remains negative.

Janizabeth Sánchez produced a Storify [es]  with more Twitter reactions.

February 06 2014

Trinidad & Tobago: Strategizing Social Media

ICT Pulse recommends 5 critical building blocks upon which organizations can develop an effective social media strategy.

February 05 2014

Caribbean Diaspora Blogger Makes Meatless Monday Meaningful

Trinidadian diaspora blogger Afrobella usually blogs about all things glamourous – fashion, beauty, fitness – but occasionally, she will wax poetic about food, which, of course, has a glamour of its own. Her culinary interests lie Caribbean food, usually, and the challenges she faces finding the right West Indian ingredients while living in a North American metropolis. She manages, though, and today she shares her recipe for a Rainbow Pizza recipe that does something extraordinary, at least in Caribbean menu terms: It offers a tasty meal – without meat – which is perhaps the most loved staple of West Indian diets.

Her post begins by acknowledging the genesis of the Meatless Monday concept:

[It] dates back to conservation efforts during World War 1, but regained popularity in the last decade as a public health awareness initiative. The idea behind it is to improve public health by going meatless once a week, to reduce risks of cancer, heart disease and diabetes while reducing your carbon footprint and improving the environment.

She continues:

I love the idea, and have been wanting to eat less meat and more veggies for a while. My husband is totally not cool with it and wants to eat meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. It makes things challenging for me. It means that I have to try that much harder to create something delicious and healthy that we’ll both enjoy.

Afrobella succeeds, though – after checking out a few recipes on Pininterest, she gives the pizza dish her own special flair by “up[ping] the ante and add[ing] some roasted veggies”:

When I shared the photo on my Instagram and Facebook pages, the response was huge! Everyone’s asking me for the recipe. And it’s SO EASY. Like, stupid easy. Let me share it with you!

Rainbow Pizza, a la Afrobella.

Rainbow Pizza, a la Afrobella.

You can check out the recipe and follow the method here. Then, add the veggie ingredients in the sequence of rainbow colours:

Decorate in rainbow stripes! Like I said, I used the following, in order from right to left – mushrooms, broccoli, yellow bell pepper, red bell pepper, roasted tomatoes, and red onion. Some of my veggies were roasted veggie leftovers…so effortless and delicious every single time!

Then you taste the rainbow (sorry, I couldn’t help it)!

There was one challenge with the pizza, though:

Because it’s in veggie based stripes, depending on how you arrange your veggies, your slices probably won’t include all of them. The next time I make this pizza, I’m making it on a circular crust so I can get all my veggies on one slice.

It was yummy, easy, and if you have kids, they’ll probably love it.

Here's hoping that meat-lovers, or as they're called in the Caribbean “meat-mouths” will agree. Enjoy!

The image used in this post is by Afrobella, used with permission.

February 04 2014

Talking with the Director of Calle 13′s Video Filmed in Palestine

The blog “Diseñando en Puerto Rico” (Designing in Puerto Rico) interviews [es] film director Kacho López Mari. Among many other musical videos, López Mari directed the most recent video of the Puerto Rican hip hop duo Calle 13, “Multi_Viral,” shot in Palestine. The lyrics are the product of a collaboration with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange.

 

Exploring Puerto Rican Music

Musician Luis Amed Irizarry [es] explores various Puerto Rican musical genres in this column [es] for the digital publication 80 Grados. 

Meet Puerto Rican Feminist Organization “Proyecto Matria”

A collaborator of Proyecto Matria [es] shot a video about the Puerto Rican feminist non governmental organization in English, as a gift and a way to spread the word about the wonderful work they do. Proyecto Matria supports the development of women by offering alternative housing and comprehensive services in areas such as education, psychosocial support, and entrepreneurship to overcome situations of violence and gender discrimination. 

Trinidad & Tobago: Put Bullying in its Place

Why not teach kids that bullies are real, that assholes exist, and the proper way to deal with them, i.e. IGNORE THEM. Rob them of their power. Or, and here’s an even better one: STAND UP FOR YOURSELF.

Rants of a Redman recommends taking the bully by the horns.

Tweeting the Vybz Kartel Trial & Telling Jamaican Stories

The Vybz Kartel murder trial continues to capture the attention of Jamaican netizens. Annie Paul of Active Voice “finally made it” to the trial last week, and provided some valuable context:

Jamaican DJ Kartel and his four co-accused are charged with the murder of Clive Williams aka Lizard, an associate who apparently borrowed two guns from the DJ and was subsequently unable to return them. It is alleged that in retaliation he was murdered by the DJ and his accomplices. In an unprecedented move Kartel and company have been held without bail for two and a half years, while rumours have swirled that the Police had incontrovertible evidence of Lizard’s murder at the hands of Kartel and his friends. The evidence was said to be in the form of text messages, voice messages and videos found on cell phones belonging to the DJ that were taken into custody by the Police when he was arrested on 29 September 2011. There was also a series of text messages sent by Lizard Williams to his girlfriend saying that he feared for his life and begging her to inform the police.

She admitted that some observers are sceptical of such evidence. On Twitter, for instance, Peter Dean Rickards suggested:

However, Paul also said:

Quite a few people have made up their minds that the entertainer is guilty of the crimes he’s accused of. So much for the accused being considered innocent until proven guilty.

Which is exactly why she wanted to attend the trial “live and direct” herself. She described her experience in compelling detail:

I thoroughly enjoyed being in court [last Wednesday] to witness Pierre Rodgers (co-accused Sean Storm’s attorney) systematically pick apart Detective Sergeant Patrick Linton’s testimony. Linton is the former head of the Cybercrimes Unit who downloaded and presented the evidence collected from Kartel’s phones. While waiting for a legal friend to arrive to take me into Courtroom 2 where the Kartel trial was scheduled, I bucked up Supreme Court Judge Bryan Sykes who assured me that I needed no such escort, having a right as a member of the public to attend the trial. That may be true in theory, but in reality entry wasn’t easy.

Had I not been escorted by a legal heavyweight the four heavy set plainclothes policemen outside the courtroom who interrogated us while barring entry would have intimidated me enough to make me leave. Having finally breached the hallowed theatre of justice I was surprised at how small the courtroom was, and intimate; i found myself seated about six feet away from Kartel and within spitting distance of the jury. The DJ wore a shocking pink shirt and orange tie and held a matching orange handkerchief that he occasionally squeezed or twisted in his hands.

I don’t know if there were any other members of the public there, the seats were mostly taken up by plain clothes policeman nattily dressed in suits with different coloured ties and lawyers in their John Crow like robes.

The rest of Paul's post compiles a selection of tweets “from the account of the person tweeting on behalf of Vybz Kartel, followed by some of @Emilynationwide and Legatus Maximus’s tweets capturing some of the action”:

Legatus A. Maximus’ tweets dealt primarily with the debate over the digital evidence:

Cucumber Juice, meanwhile, was still ruminating on the lessons inherent in the trial:

Remember Tivoli, May 2010? That story, a defining moment in Jamaican history, was and still is being told by Mattathias Schwartz. We don’t even have a barrage of songs about Tivoli. It’s like we’ve locked the events of May 2010 away in some deep dark recess of our collective consciousness, fearful of really looking at what happened and what it may say about us.

Remember the first Jamaican Bobsleigh team? That story was ultimately told by Disney. Right now there is a lot of goodwill and focus on the 2014 two-man Bobsleigh team from Jamaica and much of it is framed around Cool Runnings.

Then, only last week someone wondered out loud on Twitter whether and when there’d be a movie about Adidja Palmer’s current trial. I hope that there is! To repeat: There is so much rich detail in the charges that were brought against Mr. Palmer. The ins and outs of this trial would make any screenwriter happy, and somehow I think that Mr. Palmer would be a willing collaborator.

I raise this issue of telling our stories within the context of the Kartel trial because I expect that many Jamaicans simply want Mr. Palmer to disappear from the Jamaican news cycle. He should be banished to furtive verandah and cocktail party chatter, nothing more. They’d probably hope for less. That strikes me as hopelessly superficial (that is, of course, unless you’re the victim’s family and friends). It also raises the question I think of what or who is respectable enough to be claimed as Jamaican.

To her, the good, the bad and the ugly are inextricably interwoven into the concept of Jamaican identity:

Our history and current happenings are not always palatable but they are ours, and, together, they weave together the tapestry of our society and influence our collective consciousness. Face it, talk about it, deal with it. These things are all Jamaican and a part of Jamaica. I wonder if it is that given all the pressures of a still young independent nation whether it is that we’ve implicitly decided that we cannot afford the luxury of fully exploring our experiences and history. There is no time and no space. Life is so challenging for many and surviving is the ongoing concern. Somehow that strikes me as unhealthy at worst and a missed opportunity at best. We’re neglecting our chances to identify, define, celebrate, explore, and examine the themes that comprise Jamaican identity and what it means to be Jamaican.

Why aren’t we telling our stories?

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