Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama's election

Written by George Graham -

I have to confess that I never dreamed a person of color would become the President of the world’s most powerful nation in my lifetime. Yet it looks as if that is about to happen. When I was a boy, Jamaica was still a British colony. At Munro College, the teachers (whom we called “masters”) were all British, and they made no secret of the fact that the best we Jamaican students could hope to become was second-class Englishmen.

True, to those of us who were light-skinned (Jamaica white), our complexion was an asset. To be darker was to be even more disadvantaged. Belonging (like most Jamaicans) to a multiracial extended family, where some of us were blonde and blue-eyed and others were coffee-colored or darker, I regarded this prejudice with resentment.

My resentment grew when I immigrated to Canada during the 1950s to find that there, too, the English and their descendants were put on a pedestal.

I suppose this perception was a legacy of the colonial era when aggressive white races - with their slave ships, their merchant ships and their warships – roamed the earth and dominated the people they encountered. Whatever the reason, the presumption of European ethnic superiority has stuck in my craw all my life.

Despite all this, I won’t vote for Barack Obama just because he is African-American. I will also vote for him because he is incredibly gifted. He is poised, intelligent, humane and reasonable. A voracious reader, he has learned from many and diverse sources. His ability to listen, absorb, evaluate and select makes him an exceptional leader. And his ability to inspire presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform an increasingly ugly world.

Around the globe, people are killing each other over racial, philosophical and religious differences. The message today is, “Be like me and agree with me or I’ll blow you up!” That’s why Obama’s reasonable approach is so important. That’s why crowds of idealistic young people flock to his side, daring to hope for change.

Make no mistake; the fact that Obama is African-American is of very great importance – not just to Americans but to people around the world.

For one thing, I believe his election as President of the United States of America would enhance the credibility of all non-white people. Television commentator Dan Rather compared Obama to Tiger Woods. And I would compare him to Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in baseball, and Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world.

But this is so much more important. Golf, baseball and boxing are sports. The leadership of the free world is a matter of life or death. Elect John McCain and Americans can look forward to wars and the horror of wars, the retreat of compassion and the rule of the law of the jungle, revered by financial bandits as “the free market.” (That kind of freedom could be translated as, “The powerful are free to plunder and ravage; the weak are free to go hungry and, if they get sick, to die.”)

I cannot conceive of a Jamaican expatriate voting for a Republican. When I listen to McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, I hear the echo of hooves at midnight and see the shadows of sheet-shrouded horsemen. I recall the indignities and injustices of Apartheid and the horrors of European colonization. And I cringe at the memory of terrifying tales I was told as a child about the slave ships and the slave masters.

Could the election of a person of color as the head of a predominantly white nation sweep away the memory of such atrocities? Maybe not. But it could pave the way for other historic breakthroughs. There would be hope for a dark-skinned Prime Minister in Canada, Britain or Australia, for example.

Martin Luther King’s dream might yet be realized, not only in America, but also around the world. People might actually be judged by their character and achievements, and not by the color of their skin or the birthplace of an ancient ancestor. Bob Marley’s evocative refrain might yet prove prophetic.

“One love, one heart. Let’s get together and feel all right.”

George Graham is a Jamaican-born journalist and author who has worked as a reporter in the Caribbean and North America for more than half a century. He lives in Lakeland, Florida. For information, see his web site at

A Presidential Choosing

Written by Chirs Daley -

In choosing a presidential candidate, keen discernment, not giddy longing is
required. This is extremely difficult given the pied piper atmosphere that engulfs
us. The backdrop of war and recession just adds to the drama, tension, runaway
panic and thus limited objective thinking.

In addition, we are indeed in the super bowl season of trash talking. It is the
season of the herd mentality, where quiet, reason reflection is swept away by the
tsunami of change and hope. Remember, a dead fish can float downstream, but
it takes a live one to swim upstream. It takes more courage to express a
personal conviction that runs counter to the stream, and this is what I hope to

Here we are a mosaic of people under the stress of political polemic peak-ness.
It is not only the difference in political outlook that is causing these gale force
winds, it is also the forced homogeneity that promises to strip one of individual
choice. Permit me to inject the rule of reason in the hope of informing one’s
objective sensibilities. Discernment requires critical thinking. Critical thinking is
not afraid to be wrong. It works with fairness, and respect. It is not hooked on the
consensus idea. It is not an undisciplined emotion that will give sway to the
current popularity wave, like a teenager at a jamming concert, but it does careful
analysis and evaluation for one’s self.

We come to this significant debate with the upfront acknowledgement that we are
shaped by our upbringing and conditioning, and thus monolithic conformity
disadvantage the group’s synergistic potential. There is no doubt that the
historical nature of the race has an enormous tug on the heart. Who wants to be
on the wrong side of history? I however, write this piece with a future grandchild
in mind. Should I be so privileged, I want to share the thinking and decisions that
guided my vote at this most historical moment. I would share that I used the timetested principle of paying more attention to the “marriage rather than the
courtship and wedding”.

So, let’s deal with the issue of race. If Dr. King could return, he would smile at
the progress that has been made. Yes, indeed America has made great strides in
living up to its constitutional creed. The enormous progress this country has
made in becoming a more perfect union should be trumpeted. Statements by
congressional leaders Murtha and Lewis discount this progress and attempt to
link the present with the dark past for political gain. Yes, there has been a surge
of racial harmony whose momentum is unstoppable. The major discrimination
initiatives have been to principally address race, gender, disability, and age. This
political season have provided us with candidates emphasizing all three
attributes. Surprisingly, the race element has received a significantly favorable
and very biased treatment, while vicious comments against Palin and McCain go
on without coverage and requisite outrage. The media that give us a information
window into these candidates have been most blatantly biased in this regard.
Given what folks have been through lately, the meltdown of the market driven by
government engineered failure, there is a reactive hunger for leadership. The
mantra of change and hope resonates within many hearts. The real question
needs to be what type of change is truly needed. Great leadership is not a casual
commodity, not an element endowed by a reaction to stress and fear.

Personally, I am looking for a leader with solid intellect, sound judgments, past
experience, and personal testing. That is my description of a transformational
leader. Nelson Mandela embodied the gold standard of a transformational leader.
Reverend Desmond Tutu is a recent book; “God has a Dream” shared his
insights regarding the recent political transformation of South Africa. One key
gem was his declaration that Mandela’s time in prison provided him with the
needed chiseling to convert his anger into purposeful political power. In addition,
folks have equated political power with socioeconomic progress. A careful study
of this history shows that that political power has not been a major engine to
move folks from poverty to prosperity. I invite you to examine the contrasting
history of the Irish and the Chinese for instance.

The Saddle Brook forum was a defining moment for me in discerning these
candidates against the definition supplied above. This was the only setting where
we gained insight into the candidates’ reflective maturity, and presidential
temperament. On the core issue of life, the response of this being above my pay
grade was an astounding quote to me. This is an internal value that cannot be
outsourced to an advisor.Writing two books, being rhetorically-gifted, and having an enviable marketinggame plan make for a promising draft choice, not the next leader of the free world. We are faced with huge challenges that will take seasoned leadership to shepherd us through these tough times. Can someone inform me of another time when a major leader was elected with such a lack of requisite seasoning?

Finally, when I construct a matrix of the compelling policy issues of the day that
drives my decision; positions on the economy, taxes, security, healthcare,
entitlement, energy, and education, finds me aligned with the McCain positions. It
supports the market-oriented, entrepreneurial spirit that fosters innovation, and
manage risk, which has been the under girding that has propelled the American
dream. McCain’s bipartisan’s record on major challenges is also telling as it gives
insight in how he will embrace differences.

I do agree it is time we practice the principle of Dr. King Jr. Let’s judge all
candidates by the content of their character, not the color of their skin, even if
that pigmentation is white. Then we will truly practice our motto of out of many,
one people.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Written by Hansen –

Most Jamaicans that I have spoken with have a burning desire to go
back home. Nostalgia overtakes them sometimes to tears. Even the
hostile economic environment is no deterrent; but there is a
hesitation, and a fear caused by the rising violence in the country.
Those who migrated more than twenty years ago can't understand the
ravaging effects of criminal activities, whether they are drug
related, politically orchestrated or power driven. These times
bewilder them. These Jamaicans have stood fiercely proud of their
country. They have remained Jamaicans with culture in tact, amid new
peoples, climates, cultures and borne hardships the likes of which you
could never imagine. These give from the heart, sending approximately
US $2 billion in 2007 through the remittance pipeline to families in
need down a yard. To these stalwarts who desire a new Jamaica, I say,
"We have your ticket" in the 4th R Project. To those down a yard, I
say, "Wi have yu back!"

The 4th R is the re-introduction of Reverence into the skill-set of
Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic. Those of us older than forty remember
a time in Jamaica when people were respectful to each other; when any
adult could correct a child on the street; when you shared a
breadfruit with your neighbor and got a dish of ackees in return and
you both had dinner as a result of the mutual exchange. That silent
4th R was a part of school, church and home. Children learned to be
respectful of each other and especially of their elders because they
were taught respect by their teachers, community members and parents.
They acted out exactly what they were taught.

Now we ask, who taught these new offenders to act with such uncaring
violence? And the answer is that we did, if even by default. We have
not paid attention to the things that really matter; the things that
create successful nations. What went wrong? Many things! The
splintering of the family; the political divide; the brain drain from
the country; gangs became family to many and aggressive video games
their mentors; violent movies took away any shred of remorse they
would have had and modeled the way for destructive behavior. Many of
our popular musicians continue to cement false values into the minds
of our youths through their lyrics and the wheels of this fierce
culture keep turning.

You don't need to be a PhD to figure it out. What is important however
is that we also have the solution in our hands. It is the 4th R
model. This model offers a new paradigm shift in education, which
places the highest value on our children and our people. The 4th R
skill-set is developed through playful exercises aimed at developing
conscious, productive and caring people. If children are nurtured
they will flourish and become functional adults. If children are
abused, they become cruel and violent adults. If children grow up with
criticism, they learn to hate themselves and others. These behaviors
are learned in the early years and become the brick and mortar, which
build or breakdown character later on in life.

Phase 1 of the 4th R project will begin on August 25th, 2008. Two
schools in the Rockfort community of Kingston have been identified as
pilot projects to plant the seeds of the 4th R; Rennock Lodge All Age
and Windward Road Primary and Junior High School. Approximately
eighty teachers from these schools will be trained and certified in
the 4th R methodology to begin the new September term. Additionally
community parenting sessions will be conducted for the Rockfort

The model we speak of was introduced into the South Camp
Rehabilitation Center in 1995. The tangible result of that project
was a furlough and mentoring program, which was the final step in the
rehabilitation process. Teammates worked as highly focused groups in
the pursuit of specific activities in which they had interest. Teams
included for example – the Suns of God Gospel Choir, The
Transformational Unit, God Messengers, Righteous Reggae Vibrations,
Students Expressing Truth (SET), and the Council of Elders. Their
activities were directed at giving back to their community, and as
such they practiced within the closed community of the Center, and
most critical to their rehabilitation, returned to the outside
community to entertain, to mentor and to minister. By the third year
more than 89% of teammates at South Camp were voluntarily
participating in group programs. In addition, a formal request to the
Commissioner of Corrections was made by over three thousand inmates of
the other two maximum security correctional centers, for the program
to be implemented in their respective facilities. As a follow up, the
Reverence For Life (RFL) program, as it was then called, began an
extension of the program at both Tower Street and Spanish Town maximum
security institutions.

The Outcome - While the RFL program formed the dominant culture in
these institutions, violence in the prisons was almost non-existent.
For most teammates on the program, sentences were shortened and parole
granted at a faster rate than for prisoners not on the program.
During the period 1995 to 2000 when this program was active, the rate
of recidivism dropped from 90% to 30 %.

We are convinced that if such dramatic changes could be made in that
space of time within a community of men, many of whom were repeat
offenders, then the model can also be used to create a new Jamaica;
one that we can return to, to build our retirement homes and live in
peace or vacation with family without having to look over your

It is possible. It can happen if we all stand behind this project.
Like everything else it takes money to care. We will be initiating a
number of fund raising activities, membership drives and sponsorship
opportunities which we know will be of interest to you. One hundred
percent of the funds raised for this project will be ploughed back
into resource materials for teachers, 4th R books for children,
promotional 4th R materials, to compensate workshop and project
facilitators and to begin an island-wide marketing campaign.

In January, 2009 we begin the full island-wide roll out of the 4th R
project. Yes we can create a new Jamaica if we all pitch in to support
this project. Your support is vital! Our slogan…'Empowering Each
Child To Move Jamaica Forward.' Let us join hands, hearts and
resources, 'because Jamaica matters.'