Moving Back to Jamaica

A blog about my Move Back to Jamaica after 20+ years of living in the US. Most of the articles focus on the period from 2005-2009 when the transition was new, and at it's most challenging.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The #1 US Export to the Caribbean

US representative denies link between deportees and escalating crime

United States Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Mary Kramer, says there is no factual basis on which to suggest that criminal deportees from the United States are contributing to the escalating crime situation in the Caribbean.

(Click on the headline above to see the full article.)

Also in the news, from the Santa Maria Times, today:

California prison officials seem a little surprised that the recidivism rate has been inching downward for the past few years. In 2003, just more than 38 percent of inmates released were back in prison by the following year, the lowest percentage since 1979.

That statistic seems encouraging - until you look at the two-year recidivism rate. Of those inmates paroled in 2003, nearly 52 percent were back in prison by the end of 2005. The national average for a two-year period is about 41 percent.


Basically this is saying that 41% of the average US parolees end up back in prison at the end of two years.

Now we have the US ambassador claiming that there is no evidence that criminal deportees who are sent back to the Caribbean after completing their sentences are contributing to crimes here.

Maybe they should ALL their prisoners to the Caribbean, because it looks as if we are doing a superb job in rehabilitating US ex-convicts, without any programs of any kind, or even a parole system.

(I'm looking for an even more sarcastic comment.)

I read someplace that the best way to tell a lie is to tell a BIG lie.

I wonder how many of these "rehabbed" ex-cons living in the Caribbean are able to get visas to re-enter the U.S.? Why so hard? Is it because US Homeland Security has some inside info... that these rehabbed ex-cons are only skillful at committing crimes in the U.S., but not in the Caribbean, where they become productive citizens?

Maybe we should be thanking them.... LOL


I think that these criminal deportees are are fast becoming the #1 US export to the Caribbean.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Defensiveness and Protests

I imagine that the declaration that Jamaica is the most homophobic spot on earth is going to generate a strong response.

The strong response I expect will not be reflective, however. It won't be one of regret, either.

Instead, I think that the response we'll see is one of the feelings I felt when I read the report, which is one of defensiveness.

We Jamaicans are proud of the places in the world in which we excel, and quick to remind the world about our strength in sports, music and world leadership. Our credentials in supporting the oppressed around the world are impeccable -- we are loud, vociferous and energetic in standing up for justice in places like the U.S., South Africa, Zimbabwe, Cuba and others. We like to use the saying "we likkle but we talawah" in describing ourselves, which means "we are small, but we are powerful!"

However, we sound like any of the oppressors around the world when the world community points its finger in our direction, and accuses us of human rights violations with respect to our gays.

We sound like some Chinese or Cubans when we argue that human rights issues are an internal matter, and that any outside comments are just "interference in our internal matters."

We sound like some Iranians, Israelis, or Irish when we use scripture to justify prejudice, bigotry and hatred in the name of religion, and use fundamentalist beliefs to write laws that oppress minorities.

We sound like some of the white South Africans of old when we complain that most of the gays being beaten and killed are victims of gay on gay violence, rather than anything else. After all, they argued that most of the violence in their country under Apartheid was Black on Black.

We sound like some white Americans who refuse to take responsibility for their history, and the murder and rape that was used to make Native Americans hostage in their own country. We refuse to look at how we continue to create an environment that forces gay Jamaicans to live abroad to save their lives.

We sound like the "downpressors" and colonialists that Bob Marley sang about -- and we must amaze the world at how ready we are to accuse others of injustice, while promoting and protecting injustice by our own system and citizens.

In our rush to defend ourselves, which I predict will start in the press with Tuesday's newspapers, we will sound to the rest of the world as if we are too willing to protect the mess that we have created within our own borders. The truth is, I think that we are hoping that the issue will just blow away and that the world will just forget.

I doubt it.

Not this time.

I don't know if the article will catch on, but I imagine that if it doesn't, something will. I happened to be a college student in the U.S. when the protests in the mid-eighties were underway to convince colleges to divest themselves of companies that continued to do business in white-dominated South Africa. I saw the energy of student protests, as students (and friends of mine) marched, were arrested and even went on hunger strikes. To my mind at the time, it seemed like quite a distant connection between stock investments and apartheid -- too distant to get me involved back in 1985. For the average college student in the US in 2006, however, Jamaica is where they get a good amount of their music, it is a place they visit on Spring Break and they probably have friends on campus who are Jamaican.

If we don't take positive steps to examine this issue in our midst, we can expect:
-- to be the subject of economic and tourist boycotts
-- to have Amnesty International, and other Human Rights Organizations protesting to world bodies
-- to see activists start to target Jamaica with protests, petitions, letters, websites etc.
-- economic aid to be tied real progress being made in this whole area
-- our college students studying abroad to come under real pressure

In other words, there will be more (not less) pressure on us to change our minds, attitudes and laws.

The way out of this possible future is not to try to build more vigorous defenses. Instead, we need to take the world community seriously, and start from the premise that although we might be talawah, real power has to do with a willingness to reflect deeply on behaviour that is not working, rather than stubbornness that only deepens conflict and confrontation.

One thing I know for sure: in a face-off between us and the world, with a Jamaican economy dependent on tourism and remittances... we lose.

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The Most Homophobic Place on Earth?

Here is a link to an article entitled: The Most Homophobic Place on Earth from

I had a range of emotions upon reading it, from anger to embarassment to defensiveness.

But, to come up with another country that displays more hatred towards gays I had to go to some pretty sad places.

What the hell are we, Jamaica, doing in their company?

(This article is, at the moment, the second most emailed article on the site, incidentally.)

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Friday, April 14, 2006

A Home for the Creative Class

Back in the early 1990's I was living in New Jersey, and happened to take a trip down to Asbury Park.

I remember being amazed. The city had all the infrastructure I had seen in other East Coast coastal cities -- wide roads with lots of parking, movie theaters, shops, a beautiful boardwalk, recreation areas, a convention center, amusement rides.

Only one thing was missing -- people.

Back then, Asbury Park was a ghost town, courtesy of the white flight that took placee after race riots that lasted several days back in 1970. As a newcomer, I could not understand what could have happened to turn what was obviously a thriving community ubto a shell. I remember saying to myself -- imagine if Ocho Rios had half of this infrastructure...

Well, the good news is that Asbury Park is on the rise again -- which is a scene that has replayed itself in many major cities across the US, including Hoboken, Brooklyn Heights and New Brunswick. Cities that looked like a bomb hit them are being renovated and re-gentrified into upscale neighborhoods with closed off streets to facilitate pedestrian traffic, cute storefronts, outdoor cafes, etc.

These are prime locations for the creative class in the U.S., for whom concentration of talent turns out to be very important. The reasons are simple: members of the Creative Class like to live near lots of other members of the Creative Class. They tend to congregate in cities away from the traffic, sprawl and malls of suburbia.

I can imagine a new home for the Creative Class of Kingston -- Downtown.

Our downtown must be one of the few cities in which no-one will pay a premium to live on the water-front (although I hear that there are a hardy few.) The view of Kingston Harbour from the waterfront is exceptional, and the cool breeze that comes off the harbour is wonderful.

If the creative class were ever to move into our downtown in numbers, the place would be transformed from a place that looks like a bomb hit it, to a creative epicenter, the likes of which does not exist in the island (although I did read about an artist's colony in St. Mary.) It has all the right elements -- walking access to art, theater and other cultural atractions. It has the best meeting space in Kingston, in the form of the Jamaica Conference Centre. Also, it is a mere 20 minutes away from the airport via a major, new road.

And, of course, it has crime. (I should say CRIME.)

And that trumps everything else.

For the creative class to flourish, one of the requirements is that life be relatively stress-free,and that people have the freedom to move about without fear. Also, the environment must be a tolerant one, as the creative class tends to include a higher percentage of "bohemians" (like a Mutabaruka) and gays.

We are a long way from all that.

Yet, if there is a way to spur to growth of our economy, this would be it -- through the encouragement of creatives who spur the innvations that generate new business.

In either case, I predict that there is some developer somewhere who is eyeing downtown with the idea of somehow creativing a safe enough enclave that would be commercially viable. Will it take five years, or ten years?

Who knows? But when it happens, I am sure that our fledgling creative class will view this development with some hope.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Peace Corps in Jamaica

I recently ran across some interesting blogs of Peace Corps volunteers who are working in Jamaica.

The one I have read have authors who are:
-- young
-- white
-- great writers
-- frank about their experience

They have my admiration for being here -- making a difference -- and fulfilling John F Kennedy's mandate.

At the same time I can imagine that their parents and friends are reading and wondering what kind of madness they have gotten themselves into... some of the stories are hilarious and some of the comments back are even funnier. Most of the accounts are bittersweet -- just like life in Jamaica.

To see on that has some good links to several others, click here: Shane and Kae in Jamaica.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Sep 2005 Gleaner Reference

There was a reference to this blog in the Jamaican Weekly Gleaner from Sep, 2005, which is not noo long after I actually returned: Click here

I wonder how they came across it?

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Thursday, April 06, 2006


There have been a couple of editorials in today's newspapers related to the gang violence at UWI.

The Jamaica Observer: The Mindless UWI Rabble

The Jamaica Gleaner: Barbarous Bloodlust at UWI

I'd love to hear what UWI bloggers have to say about the matter, if anything. I noticed that "b" added a comment of her own to the article on this blog.

At the moment, there is an opportunity before things return to business as usual to make a difference. What would it be like if either the Prime Minister or the Governor General were to make good on some of the fine words they spoke at Portia's swearing in? After all, the Govnernor General was Principal up until a few short weeks ago. Where is the current administration of UWI in all this, and where do its leader's stand?

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

We Are the Best

Last weekend I took my wife to Boys and Girls Champs, and she is still in awe of the whole event.

Even though Wolmers slipped from third to fourth place, I was quite proud of what we Jamaicans have created in the form of Champs. In fact, I think it's time that we created a new form of tourism -- Sports Tourism -- that not only covers the World Cup, but also encompasses Boys and Girls Champs as the premier event of its kind in the world.

There are lots of reasons why I was proud -- the organization, the full stadium, the talent, the hard work.

I watched the high jumpers in particular, and wondered how many hours had been put into their preparation to do just 20 or so jumps and then call it quits for the year?

What struck me this time around was the love of school, which I felt as I walked in with my Wolmers polo-shirt and Wolmers cricket floppy. I could not even come close to the average KC supporter, however, who seemed to be willing to not only wear clothes for the cause but lose their voice, get a stroke and rub up with any and everyone in purple and white garb.

Mark you, there were other schools in their garb, and they had their drums and chants, but it was nothing compared to the numbers and cohesion of the KC contingent.

When one migrates from Jamaica, it is SO very easy to forget... what Champs is all about, and how much we Jamaicans love our high schools. I recall vividly sitting at a meal once, with other Cornell students, while each of us shared how much we absolutely hated high school.

Until it came to me -- I loved it, and I think most Jamaican alumni would agree that those were some of the very best days of our lives.

This is so very easy to forget, and to take for granted, and to overstep when we are driving down I-95 to an appointment, or complaining that the IRS is taking too much of our money, or fighting the racism that sometimes feels like it is subtly choking the very daylights out of us.

This simple love of school was the fuel for Don Quarrie, Herb McKinley, Merlene Ottey, Asafa Powell, Veronica Campbell and others. It makes Champs impossible to replicate for the world-class results that it produces, and turns our event into the envy of the athletic world.

It is just one of the experiences that makes it worthwhile to Move Back to Jamaica.

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Tolerance and Talent

Generally, university campuses around the world are seen as leaders in bringing enlightened thinking to the forefront of a country or community's consciousness. They are seen as sources of new ideas, energy and ideals that lead nations to new levels of prosperity.

If Richard Florida's research on the Creative Class and today's Jamaica Observer and Gleaner are to be believed, then our Jamaica will have to overcome some major hurdles in order to reach the economic heights that we desire.

The headlines read as follows: Cops rescue alleged homo from UWI students and Alleged homosexual attacked at UWI.

Apparently, the police had to fire shots to stop the beating that a student was receiving from his peers after he allegedly propositioned another student on UWI's Mona campus. The details can be found at the two links listed above.

The thoughts that went through my head were first off, a mix of condemnation and blame. I immediately started to curse the perpetrators of the gang violence, and hoped that _very_ bad things would happen to them while they served their respective prison sentences.

After that, I felt sorry for the student who was beaten, and scared for his future at UWI. Can he ever return? Will this be a turning point for him (whether he is truly gay or not) that will forever limit his freedom and self-expression?

Then I felt ashamed, and hoped that I would not be reading about this incident in the LA Times, New York Times and Washington Post, as further examples of the violence that we Jamaicans are capable of, even in our institutions of "higher learning."

Then, after I sat with it for a while, I felt a deep kind of sadness, because I recalled my own reaction to what I thought might have been a proposition (as shared in an earlier entry in this blog entitled "An Ugly Reaction.") It is clear to me, that I could have found myself in that mob at an earlier age.


Because I still carry around the capacity to hate homosexuals at the level that those UWI students do. It was evident in my response to that phone call that prompted the blog. Even though I am committed to not harbouring or expressing or acting on this hate, I have blogged publicly that it is there.

I mean... would I have called for a good beating if I had been the one approached?

Would I have stood by while they chased him down? Would I have asked the security guards and policemen to hand him over so that I, and others, could finish him off? Would I have had to courage to stop the incident, as one fellow tried and failed to do?

The fact is, I can see myself in that mob, to some degree. The fear, anger, hatred and deep self-righteousness.

Thankfully, it doesn't end there. One the other side of the fear (which seems the deepest of all these dark emotions) I actually see hope.


I have no idea.

But it is there -- just beyond the darkest part of the fear. Maybe I'll be able to clearly answer the "Why?" at some point.

At the moment, however, I'm just working on showing some tolerance for those students who attacked that fellow. After all, they are our most talented.

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We're #1 -- The Murder Capital of the World (LA Times)

From the LA Times: Rise in Bloodshed beclouds Caribbean Paradise -- Click here

It is sobering to realize that in coming back to Jamaica, I chose to move to the country ranked #1 in annual homicides (for countries that are not in a state of war.) Also, Trinidad and St. Lucia are not all that far behind.

On the flip-side, when we do emerge from this dark period, I wonder what things will be like? Already there is evidence that our murders have dropped by 20% over last year.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A blog entry that was linked

One of my blog entries was linked to a magazine in the U.K.

Click here: The New Black Magazine

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Hope No-One Reads These

Now and then I write something that I hope no-one bothers to read:

Doing What Is Loved


Beating Our Backs to Stop the New Plague

Enjoy (or just forget that I said any of it!)

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