Monday, December 9, 2013

Why I'm #TeamTessanne

When I first heard that vocal powerhouse Tessanne Chin would be competing on season 5 of the Emmy-winning American singing competition, The Voice, I was ecstatic. I thought to myself, 'Tessanne buss now! This is her moment.' I have been a fan of her work since I first heard her voice, when she performed on the small stage at the 2006 Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival. I wasn't in attendance, but she was all I heard about on the radio and television (in addition to the show's headliners, of course.) Naturally, I love 'Hideaway' and her other original songs, but my favourite Tessanne jam remains 'Taken,' which she said is one of the first songs she wrote on the guitar. Yes, I pay attention (aka, I'm slightly obsessed.)

The other day, following her stunning blind audition for The Voice, I revisited the song on Youtube, only to be greeted with a comment I had made four years ago - "This is my favourite song of hers. Gosh, I hope she releases it commercially. And when is she gonna release an album? This level of talent needs NEEDS to buss all over di world man!" This was prior to the release of In Between Words, of course.

I meant it then, and I mean it even more now. Her voice so enthralled me back in 2006 and I have been a willing captive since then. That is why I have become one of her ambassadors on Facebook and Twitter, where I routinely annoy everyone by posting her videos, begging them to vote, talking about her performances on The Voice, etc etc etc. And I will continue to do so for as long as she is in the competition, because I believe this is her time and she truly deserves it. 

Not only is Tessanne super talented, she comes across as a genuinely nice person, a wonderful embodiment of the true Jamaican spirit that I see around me each day, even amidst the 'crawses' we bear. I love the way she represents herself and our country, the way she 'mannersable,' speaks in the true Jamaican accent, the way she has pulled everybody, from Adam and the other coaches, to the hosts of popular US morning shows, with her charm, just by being herself. Does she not deserve to own this moment in the spotlight?

I, like her mother, hope Tessanne will win, becoming the latest Jamaican to take the world by storm. I hope she wins for herself too, and gets to live her dreams. I admire the fact that she took this chance, even amidst concerns by some of us Jamaicans that she didn't need the competition. Tessanne demonstrated the importance of going outside your comfort zone in order to achieve something you want with all your heart. So many of us sit on our dreams, afraid to reach for them because of what people might say or fear that we simply aren't enough. We lose nothing by taking a chance, and even if we do not gain the main prize, or our risk backfires, we would have gained so much courage and learned such valuable lessons that we are still victors. 

I have a feeling that whatever the outcome, Tessanne has already won. I tell my Facebook friends, only half-jokingly, that she will be touring with Maroon 5 shortly, that she will be featured on their next album, that she will be a force to be reckoned with as she steps off this launch pad. However, we do want her to win the main prize, so let us continue to offer our support. Let us encourage our friends in the US to vote and buy her performance singles on iTunes; purchase the songs for ourselves; spread the word in any way we can. 

Most importantly, after The Voice is over, let us continue to support Tessanne by purchasing her music and going out to shows when she performs here. Let us also do the same for our other talented local artistes, especially those who toil without commercial success, despite incredible talent. And for ourselves, let us take down and dust off those dreams we have packed away out of fear or discouragement and pursue them wholeheartedly.

Here's how to vote for Tessanne on The Voice:


If you're in the US or Puerto Rico, you can call her assigned toll-free number up to 10 times per phone.


Sprint customers can vote by texting her assigned short code up to 10 times per phone. The short code and key word numbers for the current vote are announced in the show each week.


You can vote up to 10 times per email address during each vote period for free online at, or via the NBC Live app, the NBC app, or via Facebook.


This is the ONLY guaranteed way those of us in Jamaica or outside of the US can vote: buy and download her current song during the voting period - 10:01pm Monday til 11:00am on Tuesday morning.

Friday, May 31, 2013

My Heart Is Heavy This Week

The Secret Gardens, erected at the intersection of Church and Tower streets in downtown Kingston last year in memory of slain children
This has been a hard week for me. Not because of any personal issues, but because of the series of gruesome tragedies reported in the news over the last few days. On Tuesday, we woke up to the news that a four year old, Natasha Brown from Trelawny, was missing. I think most Jamaicans automatically, immediately feared the worst, even while we hoped somewhere deep in our hearts that we were wrong. Well, we weren't. Her body was removed from a sinkhole on Wednesday morning, as the alleged killer, her father's pissed-off ex-lover, led authorities to where the little girl was dumped.

So many emotions are still coursing through my body regarding this tragic situation. I'm sad and heartbroken at the loss of this innocent little life. I'm confused by this murderous Jezebel's logic. And I'm angry.

How can a mother, of not one, not two, but four children, look at a four-year-old BABY and chop her up, severing her head? What possesses someone to kill a child - a CHILD? What kind of psychosis makes you believe it is not only permissible but right to exact revenge on the man who broke your heart by eliminating the 'pig' he fathered with another woman? This woman had five whole months of anger and jealousy stewing inside her that she mercilessly unleashed on that little girl who had no control over the circumstances of her existence. What a painful, unnecessary tragedy.

What is also confusing to me is that, based on the detached way Natasha's father speaks about her, their relationship seems to have been brief. Also, it doesn't sound like he's the father of any of her children, so WHY ON GOD'S GREEN EARTH did she feel she had any claim on this man and was so incensed that she was moved to commit murder?

I'm also wondering if the woman made any previous threats against either Natasha or her mother and, if so, why nothing was done about it. I don't think anyone just ups and butchers a child. She must have said something, even while cursing him out, that should have given Natasha's family or the wider Duanvale community cause for concern, right? I don't think it's ever wise to dismiss threats, even if they seem idle or made in the heat of the moment.

In the midst of my private mourning for the innocent life so wickedly snuffed out, the pieces of my heart were further shattered by the beheading of an 84-year-old vendor in the middle of downtown Kingston. Like, what the living hell? What is happening in this country? And to make matters worse, the decomposing body of a missing eight-year-old was found in a pit latrine in St Catherine, plus a newborn found dead elsewhere in Trelawny.

These are just the latest instances of violence against the most vulnerable members of our society and I'm sure there are more horrific crimes to come. The question is, what are we going to do about it? Are we, as a nation, going to just sit on our hands? I'm not talking about pointless marches with placards and chants. I'm not even going to ask what the government is going to 'do for us,' as is often the outcry. Yes, the government needs to place some importance on mental health issues amongst Jamaicans and provide the necessary counselling facilities. I'm pleased that Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna has called for the expansion of community mental health and counselling services to help people learn to deal with domestic conflicts, interpersonal disagreements and psychological issues. I sincerely hope this isn't just a knee-jerk reaction to a series of national tragedies, but that the necessary resources will be allocated to implement these desperately needed services.

We also need to become more observant and caring as a society. We have got to the point where people are quicker to whip out their camera phones and record or photograph someone being murdered and then post the pictures online, than they are to intervene to help prevent the crime. (Sidenote: ANYBODY - man or woman, boy or girl, friend or family - who sends me any such images on any platform will be instantly deleted not only from said platform, but my LIFE.)

If you see a person in danger or in need, see if you can lend a hand. You might just be able to talk that person out of killing someone or himself just by lending a listening ear. As a nation, we need to guard our children better. It's difficult to do these days, since the 'village' that raised our parents (and those of us closer to 30 than 20) has disappeared. One hardly dares to even gently correct an errant child these days, for fear that that same child or his irate parent will tell you how many strings have been lovingly knit together by the Creator to form your being, but sometimes, it's a chance we have to take. Sometimes, all it takes is one person to make a change. It might not be a national change, but it can alter the course of someone else's life and cause a chain reaction.

And as for the murderers of these children and the little old lady? May God have mercy on their lost souls, because right now, all I want is for them to suffer 100 times the horror of what they meted out to their victims. But "vengeance is mine," saith the Lord, so in the next breath, I ask Him to forgive me for my evil thoughts, as well as the times when I could have been an agent of positive change in someone's life but I turned and walked away. Please, let us do better.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Let's just get over this 'offensive' Volkswagen ad, shall we?

Honestly, people just need to shut up about the Volkswagen ad being racist. Stereotypical? Yes. But it's not a negative stereotype. If Dave had been smoking a spliff, wearing one of those nasty fake Rasta hats and hanging off a coconut tree that suddenly materialised in the middle of the office floor, THAT would have been 'taking it too far.' We hanker for positive images of our country in the international media and this is a SUPERBOWL AD, meaning BAJILLIONS of eyes will see it, yet some of us choose to nit-pick because no-black-person-is-in-it-and-Jamaica-is-a-black-country. Really? Did you even do primary school social studies? Others argue that it makes us look too carefree. If people have an issue with that, they should also take the tourism marketers in hand, because this is the same image of us they sell to bring foreigners here. And are people really going to argue that Jamaicans aren't funny and lighthearted and positive? Whatever happened to 'tek kin teet kibba heartbun,' where even in the worst of situations, we crack a smile or a joke to get through?

My advice is GET OVER IT. One of our most talented national sons, Jimmy Cliff, is singing the song in the background. Jimmy Cliff is black, since that seems to matter so much (and yes, I passed social studies, so I know Jamaica is a PREDOMINANTLY black country. But a nuh black people alone bawn yah an awn yah.) This is a POSITIVE image of our country in the international media. No one is shooting anyone, no one is being scammed or harassed, so let's just be happy that when they thought of 'sunny disposition,' Jamaica was the first place that popped into their minds. Dave is just a guy who happens to be white, from Minnesota, spreading some positive vibes. Last I checked, that wasn't something to block roads and raise placards about.

Volkswagen America marketing officer Tim Mahoney has explained that VW did their homework: "We did some research to make sure that we weren't going into a direction we didn't want to go." Mahoney also stated that VW had consulted with "about a hundred" Jamaicans and included a speech coach on the commercial's set. That's "about a hundred Jamaicans" who GOT PAID, plus a Jamaican speech coach who GOT PAID, to help create a multi-million US dollar ad showcasing a German-made car, yes, but also a positive side of our country. In my opinion, we couldn't pay for this kind of publicity. In fact, in our current financial straits, we can't pay for a good goddamn, so let's just see the thing for what it is - an ad. Now, let's turn our attention to our tourism minister who should probably try to use this publicity/momentum to shore up some dollars. That would be a better use of time, I believe.