Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dear Fellow Jamaicans, Not Everything Is A Conspiracy

Kin Cheung—AP photo
Jamaicans have a persecution complex, I swear. And we're professional conspiracy theorists. Cases in point:
1) Cameraman on Segway accidentally runs into Bolt: is a setup. Dem wan tek out di don! 
1a) Cameraman apologises to Bolt and gives him a friendship bracelet as a conciliatory gesture: Nuh wear dat innuh Bolt! Mind it poison/have een PEDs.
2) Cindy Roleder fails to acknowledge Shermaine's congratulatory gesture and appears to slap her hand away: a wah do dis BBC dutty racist gyal?! Afta she nuh more dan we?

Regarding Bolt and the cameraman, Song Tao: the poor man was obviously just trying to get the best possible shot of the icon and got too close to the railing. He probably shat himself thinking he had been responsible for maiming track and field's great saviour. He probably feared for his job and maybe even his life. I'm sure if he had a social media page that we could have accessed, he would have gone into hiding.

Regarding Cindy, I ask you, when did we or our athletes become perfect? People cyaan mek mistake? I'm not saying we can't comment and make light of situations, but some of us have crossed the line into paranoia and cyberbullying. I believe both situations were accidents. The cameraman lost control of the Segway. Cindy was in the heights of excitement that she and her friend had both medalled (in a race where they weren't even supposed to feature) and the fact that her hand caught Shermaine's in that way was not malicious. Why can't we give her the benefit of the doubt? Why would she choose to diss the runner who finished several places behind her? Come on now!

Had the shoe been on the other foot, and Shermaine was celebrating with her sister Danielle who won (also against great odds) and Cindy was the one who reached out and had her hand "slapped away," our conversation would have been different, something like this: Mi seh she jus do so an lick weh di white gyal han! Brush har weh yes! Nuh mek she touch yu cause yu nuh know wa inna har lotion." We would have cackled, spun a few more tales and then we'd have moved on. A few of us might have deemed it rude, but I'm sure that would've been the overwhelming minority. screengrab
How many times have you been so caught up in a moment or preoccupied that you've walked right past someone you know and not realised until the next time you saw them and they asked what they had done to you for you to ignore them like that? How many times have you been preoccupied and someone was calling out to you, sometimes over and over, and you didn't realise until they touched you or came right into your face? Is it so hard to imagine that something similar transpired here? Is Cindy not human? And we love to talk about our strong belief in God, but where is our forgiveness?

I urge us to get over ourselves a little bit. The world doesn't revolve around us. The world is not out to get us. The world also does not owe us jack, just because we're Jamaican. All the abuse and suspicion directed at Cindy and the cameraman are completely uncalled for and show off the bhutto side of our national personality. Going on the attack for every real or perceived slight just feeds into one of the stereotypes about us - that we are aggressive and violent, and I have to ask, how does that benefit us in any way?

UPDATE: Cindy seems to have followed up her Facebook apology with a voicemail or voice note, which Shermaine shared on her own FB wall. But, of course, people are still in the mood to tell Cindy about her parts. I wish we would let this go, already! 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Tales From My Writing Workshop

I'm currently taking a writing workshop with Dr Erna Brodber, renowned Jamaican author, historian and social scientist. We had our second session this past Wednesday and the exercise was to listen to a piece of music and write something based on how it moved us. She played us two different instrumental pieces - one was a jazz number and the other a version of I Surrender All. We had about 15 minutes to write for each piece.

I must say my colleagues in the course are some seriously talented people. There were some lovely, poignant short stories or descriptive scenes coming from both parts of the exercise. 

In the interest of learning to share my work, I'm going to reveal what I wrote for each piece. I decided to do this because it's Good Friday and one of the pieces immediately took me to church. Not the one Hozier wants to be taken to, thankfully. That song disturbs me a little, to be honest. Anyway, bear in mind that these are spur-of-the-moment pieces and I've not made any changes to them.

Music - Jazz

This is not my particular cup of tea. Generally, I prefer the sound of silence. 'Sound of silence?' Surely, that's an oxymoron. 

No, it isn't. There's a certain point you get to after a protracted period of silence that you can almost hear a hum. Or more of a thrum. Maybe it's just the sound of the blood pumping through the veins in my ears. Whatever it is, it's the only sound I like to hear when I'm trying to write. It's kind of there, but not there. Vital, but unobtrusive.

Music in the background makes it hard for me to fully immerse myself into the moment. It's already a bit of a struggle, this business of writing. The music is like an external conversation begging for my attention, calling for me to join in.

Anyway, this jazz. I don't really 'get' it. I certainly can't write with it around, causing utter confusion. I can't even think! All these instruments just trying to shout over each other: the drums bop-bop-bopping away; the piano tinkling along listen-to-me-me-me-me-me-me-me. There goes a horn screeching now: my TUUUUUUUURRRNNN! The bass is the only part of it I can really take. It's just there, keeping itself in the background. Kind of vital, but unobtrusive. Like my blood.

Look, that's the same cacophony going on in my head when I sit down to write. All these ideas rushing about trying to make their cases to me. And my head really doesn't need the competition.

Music - I Surrender All

She didn't know what force compelled her, but she found her feet taking her out of her seat at the back of the crowded church and leading her to the altar at the front of the building. She wasn't even fully conscious of what she was doing, just gave herself up to the leading of the Lord. It had to be Jesus Himself, because only He could understand all she had been through these past few months.

Reaching their destination, her feet stopped. She had her head bowed and she opened her mouth to start begging for the Lord's forgiveness, the way the other sinners around her were doing. Amidst the weeping, wailing and teeth-gnashing, she opened her mouth and was vaguely surprised when no sound came out. She squeezed her eyes tight and tried again. Again, her throat didn't respond.

Instead, it was her feet that began to move. She swayed from side to side in a slow two-step. Her hands joined the movement as they too began to wave from side to side. Her body was into it now, rocking and swaying softly. There were tears streaming down her face, too. Copious amounts of eye water, washing away the years of pain.

She didn't know how long she was up there, dancing with the Lord. But when her feet took her back to her seat, she just knew that she felt light. Free. Washed clean. Tears are a language God understands.

Some observations

I was completely unable to think of any kind of story idea with the jazz music clattering away, so I decided to write about how it made me feel instead. Turns out there were a couple other colleagues who felt the same way (even though they were able to come up with story ideas related to confusion. Kudos to them!)

The second piece made me think not only of the act of going to the altar to give it all to the Lord, but profound loss. I think I'll explore this piece some more, to get at what my unnamed character was feeling as she danced and wept at the altar. Additionally, when Dr Brodber stopped the music, I immediately switched to another song in my head - Cece Winans' Alabaster Box. I kept 'singing' it to myself as I finished up the piece. I found this rather interesting, since I had just ranted about how I couldn't write with music in the background. Maybe it was just the jazz? Lol!

Dr Brodber asked me if I liked jazz any at all and I started waxing poetic about my boo Esperanza Spalding. I said maybe the reason I dig her is because she plays the bass. I thought about it for a while as the class moved on and I suppose that really is the reason I'm into her music, because I'm really not here for jazz, generally speaking. I do find it confusing, but with Espe (that's her nickname because we're BFFs in my head), I think I do hone in on her bass and also her lyrics. When she sings in Spanish or Portuguese, I don't even pretend to know what the heck is going on, but I like it anyway. Interesting, no?

Anyway, tell me what you think about either or both of these pieces. But don't be mean!