Friday, 30 November 2012

I Am Aware. I Live Up. Meeting a real life SHEro

I believe that at this moment in time, the changes we need as a society, as a region, will be spear-headed by women and the youth. That is not to disregard the impact that men will no doubt have. Without the men following suit, we will not be able to say that we truly evolved. As a young woman, I fit into the two demographics that are most likely to be agents of change, I am acutely aware of my responsibility and it is not something I take lightly. But if I am to be completely honest, I would have to tell you that sometimes I feel like my actions would not be as significant as I hope. In moments like these, I have to look outside of myself for stories, for people who did the little or the much that they could and who persevered to see that effort be a catalyst for the change we need on crucial issues with regard to the improvement of our well-being as a people/region- issues such as the pandemic of HIV/AIDS infections within the Caribbean.

I previously posted about my experiences in Barbados as a student, how my eyes were opened and how it spurred within me an adventurous spirit that likely would not have been present if I was not away from “yaad”. One of the new experiences was entering this bathing suit competition turned reality show- Island Queen. Stay with me here- It will all connect. The winner of Island Queen 2012 would go on to be an ambassador of HIV/AIDS awareness as the competition was, that year, produced by the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS (CBMP) and Media Support International. The theme that year was: I am Aware: Soldiers of Awareness. The CBMP’s “Live Up” campaign was integrated into the Island Queen competition as part of our workshops and challenges. I was very skeptical about these workshops- I pictured stuffy atmospheres with the usual questions and cliché role-playing scenarios that would leave us feeling no more inspired than before we came. Boy, was I wrong! A couple of our more notable challenges were: where we went to a cricket match at a stadium (cricket is big sport in Barbados- I said that in a Bajan accent, by the way J ) where we held up signs with messages about safe sex, knowing your status and putting an end to discrimination- not something for the timid, I should tell you;  and where we had to make up our own message for a commercial about condoms that were not your typical kind in look, feel and, in some cases (so I heard) taste- talk about nerves! I will be sure to elaborate more on these in future posts. On one of our workshops, we were introduced to the Chair of CBMP- Dr. Carol Jacobs. Dr. Jacobs’s accolades are too many for me to note them all here but believe me when I say she is very accomplished and well-renowned for her contributions to aid in curtailing the pandemic.
IQ cntestants with Dr. Jacobs and Rupee

Sharing our stories at the workshop with Dr. Jacobs and Rupee
Dr. Jacobs is Jamaican born and educated female who now lives in Barbados- immediate connection for me. The fact that she recognizes the importance of not just the message but the messenger made me connect with her all the more. She has had her fair share of naysayers because of her work with those who have had to live with or suffer from this disease- she was often called “the AIDS lady” by many hecklers. Dr. Jacobs remained steadfast in her quest to help stem HIV/AIDS and her efforts have been recognized throughout the region. We all shared our experiences (if we had any) with and views about persons who have HIV/AIDS. One thing I could speak on was knowing someone who, at the time of her passing, it was said that she died from pneumonia and later finding out that that was not the whole story- that she had also contracted HIV which later turned into AIDS. The stigma attached to such a disease is the reason why so many keep quiet and do not seek help or even try to protect themselves by being equipped with the knowledge of their status. Caribbean artist Rupee was also a guest and told us his story of having a mother and father die from AIDS and how this changed his approach to life and his career. Dr. Jacobs told us of her work with young people and sex workers and the practices they engaged in that put them at risk and the stigma attached to persons with HIV/AIDS and how that stigma contributed in large part to the risky practices and attitudes of the youth. It was funny how much I thought I knew as a young person myself but some of what Dr. Jacobs told me blew my mind. The lingo these children were using to describe the sexual acts they engaged in was news to my ears. But this is to be expected. The children nowadays are more exposed to sex than we were as kids and even when we were kids, we were a lot more advanced than we were given credit for. This is something that we seem to forget as soon as we make the transition from child to adult. It causes such a huge gap in communication, it’s no wonder our young people find it hard to listen to us- they don’t feel we can relate to them and truth is, we often times cannot because we have chosen to repress the truth of our past and deny the reality of their present because it makes us uncomfortable.

What I really appreciated about Dr. Jacobs was the fact that she got that even though you might have the answers, the problems won’t get solved if no one will listen. Seeing that they focus on young people, she had become aware the best people to help spread the messages needed are young people themselves. "If we are going to engage our songwriters, our artists, our entertainers, young people like you", she said, "it must be in a real kind of way. It must be in your world in real time." So they sought to educate young folks like myself and put us into action. Want to get people involved in a cause? Show them how imperative they are to its success. Calling them soldiers certainly helps to build patriotism, in my opinion J. I loved how they incorporated the Soldiers of HIV/AIDS awareness theme into our bathing suits which were designed and made by the incredible sister team of Nikita and Alyssa Goddard and into the photo-shoot (expect posts on these too- I have included two behind-the-scenes pics of the first shoot as a teaser).  It was cemented into our minds the importance of not just knowing our status but of being safe and encouraging others to be safe and the complementary task of doing everything we can do to help eliminate the prejudice against those of us living with HIV/AIDS.

This was the first set the attempted to use for the shoot. That gun was HEAVY! The lady in yellow is one of the designers of the swimsuit, Nikita. I needed her help holding it. Trust me!

They meant business. I am covered with actual motor oil and lying in a box of bullets. Themed shoots for the win! This was the second setup but it was by no means, the last or the least scary O_O.
Dr. Jacobs told us of other ambassadors that had signed on from Jamaica- Olympic champions Shelly Ann Fraser- Pryce (who is a graduate of my alma mater! FYI, Shelly and I were on the high school track team together- albeit for a brief period of time since I eventually left), Yohan Blake and Veronica Campbell-Brown- how awesome is that?! I mean, if you want a message to spread fast, who better to carry that than some of the fastest athletes in the world? To think that I am part of a cause along with these other great Jamaicans is amazing and humbling at the same time. I think I was in the perfect place at the perfect time when I went to Barbados. I was reluctant and homesick and I went begrudgingly. Little did I know how great a part this move would play in helping me to find one of my purposes. Dr. Jacobs did mention that to the young children (primary school level) did see even us 20+ year olds as “old” so it really hit home that I better get on to spreading this message while I still have their ears. Young or old, male or female, we all can play a pivotal role in getting rid of new cases of this disease. The key is to be creative and to persistent in the cause. For my part, I have sought to utilize social media and its influence to spread awareness. Not just with this blog post but with Facebook posts and Twitter updates. No one can deny the power of social media in today's world especially on young people. Here's hoping the message to eliminate this virus goes viral. Oh, look at the play on words!

Dr. Jacobs, I thank you and I salute you. You are a champion for women and Jamaicans everywhere. I hope the vision of a AIDS-free generation comes to pass in your lifetime. It was an absolute honor to have met you.

Myself and Dr. Jacobs

Much love to Rupee for coming along and sharing his story of how he was personally affected by HIV/AIDS with the loss of his mother and father due to the disease. As I said before, men are important to this movement and male entertainers are great potential messengers, in my opinion.

Me and Mr. Tempted To touch himself- Rupee

P.S. December 1 is World Aids Day. It is a chance for us to unite worldwide in the fight against AIDS. Let’s all do our part, no matter how small. Know your status. Help stop discrimination. Let’s love ourselves and each other.

Love. Protect. Respect.                                                                                                                                                                
One Love J

One more thing- I have been trying to get footage of Dr. Jacobs' and Rupee's visit but because the show has yet to air, it's been tricky. I must admit that I am now rethinking my decision to wait until the episodes air to give my side/ insider scoop on what was really "real" ;) based on what each episode airs. I thought that would be a great opportunity for us to be more interactive but the delay has been way longer than expected. What I can offer in the meantime is a trailer that is online that speaks about the competition on a whole but does drive home the major theme behind it (being soldiers of awareness). Dr. Jacobs' cameo starts at 4:47.

This post is a part of UNICEF Jamaica's #HashCon2012 whose topic this year is "Positive SHEroes: Strong women working towards an AIDS-free generation." Find out more about #Hashcon2012 here and vote for my post (if you are so inclined :) ) here. Also, tell me how you Live Up in the comments.

Again, the link to vote for me is:

Photo credit for first photo:

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Music Box: Jamaica Edition- Denyque, Cherine Anderson and Protoje

I decided I wanted to share my opinions on some videos/songs from some Jamaicans. This may become a new feature of the blog or it may just be something I do whenever I feel so inclined. I may expand to artists who are not Jamaican, I may review movies and other forms of entertainment. I don’t know what niche my blog fits into if it even fits into one and I’m ok with that, to be honest. Trying to speak on just one area or blog about one aspect of my life (being a Jamaican studying overseas) has really been too restrictive for me and that may be why I haven’t posted a post like that in a while even after I have retained a new laptop charger and now have access to the pictures. Feeling free to blog as I wish about whatever is on my mind is the key to me improving as a blogger, I think. As it pertains to the music box features or any features in which I give my opinions on something in entertainment, do not expect to see words typically used in reviews by professionals or wannabe-pros. I do not naturally use most of the language these people use and I would not feel comfortable trying to imitate it. In truth, it bores me so I’m not interested in speaking like that. Also, I won’t be reviewing evry how new song or album or video. I’m not aiming to be a music blogger. Just blogging as I see fit. Thanks in advance for understanding. Now on to the post

I stopped by my girl MszRockstar's site and saw the latest visual offering from dancehall artist Denyque called I Miss You.

This video reminds me of Chrisette Michelle’s latest offering “Charades” because of the extended series-of-glamour-shots treatment. It’s a simple video that suits the song and it helps a great deal that Denyque is a very pretty girl. I don’t get why she wiped the makeup off. I assume it was to be symbolism for stripping down since she had taken off some of her jewelry right before. Still, it changes to black and white so we don’t really get to see her barefaced. Also, why was it raining? Where are you, Denyque, that water is falling from above and wetting you? Was this all a ploy to plant the image of a wet you in our minds? Well played, mama.  As for the song, it’s a nice tune. Reminds me a lot of something Alaine would do. In fact, her voice started sounding more and more like Alaine’s with each chorus. Overall, the song and video are a decent effort. One thing I do remember each time I hear a Denyque song is when a friend of mine said that Denyque won’t truly have major success in Jamaica until she has a “walk out” song. There may be some truth to this but we’ll see. It seems likely that she’ll go the route of Alaine if she continues like this and that would be a bit sad because Alaine’s career is not at the level it should be given how talented she is. Still, Denyque is a fresher face and a risk-taker from early on, as we can see with her look, so hopefully this means she has more in store for us and is going to try her hand at different sounds and she’ll be charming enough to make us like what we typically would not openly embrace.
Rating: 3/5 high notes

I also stopped by SwadeDaVillain's site 13th Street Promotions and viewed the videos for Cherine Anderson’s “Haffi Come Back” and Protoje’s “Kingston Be Wise”

The "First Lady" is still after the last man

This is something I should have mentioned in a previous post when I was addressing my problems with dancehall artistes but it’s just as well as this is an issue that is present in other genres of music- typically urban male-dominated ones where hyper masculinity and bravado are celebrated. The topic of this post is the phenomenon of “The First Lady” in a crew or group of musicians. It’s a title that is supposedly to inspire thoughts and feelings of royalty and garner respect but I see it as a ploy to keep women out of real positions of dominance, to quell any real chances of a takeover or of there being a level playing field.

There’s the saying, if you can’t beat them, join them. Men in the music industry have remixed that and turned it to “To ensure we don’t have to beat them, include and insulate them.” Once a crew had a First Lady, that’s usually it- no more ladies are welcome unless she drops out. They make it seem like such a privilege to be deemed the first lady of their prestigious crew that the women given these titles don’t even realize the competitive and cantankerous attitudes that this practice fosters within the women themselves. Or maybe they realize and they just don’t give a damn. I get it, it’s hard to make it in dancehall and hip hop for a woman and any advantage that an aspiring female star can get, she’s likely to take especially if she has been working hard for long with no significant results. But is every helping hand offered to you THAT helpful in the long run, ladies?

Monday, 12 November 2012

Gold Digger or Independent Woman- Two sides of the same coin?

Placing this in a post so I stop tweeting about the issue and instead make my points in one place. Also, as with all things I think or feel, I reserve the right to change my mind at any point in the future.

The issue at hand is about women being too demanding, feeling entitled and not being “deserving” of things from men (monetary, materialistic things). Are women who have “high” materialistic demands gold diggers?

Let me start by saying that in every partnership, only the parties involved/affected should be making the rules. Stop focusing so much on what “looks right” or is acceptable to the outside world. They will not be helping you dry your tears and they will likely tear you down and forget about you as soon as what you do is not deemed as okay. I believe that in today’s world it is more important than ever that women be able to provide for themselves and their families. We have more opportunities to do so now and we are more aware than ever before of history showing us that there are no guarantees and that, more often than not, being able to do so will become necessary.

I also feel that women have somehow let society force them into inconvenient and uncomfortable positions all because they are afraid of negative perceptions. This had only been to their detriment. If you are in a partnership and you are giving and getting the same as if you were solo, what then is the point of said partnership? Last I checked, you can’t buy groceries just by telling the cashier “I’m a good woman to my man even when he doesn’t deserve it”.

Be able to provide for yourself at least at the basic level, yes. But don’t let society make you feel like there is something wrong with wanting to be with someone who does the same for you or even more. Many men got to where they are on the backs of women who did not ask for anything. And they left those women in the dust after they made it. Do not feel that because you cannot match his monetary contribution, you are unworthy of asking for it. So long as you are doing your part and you are truly being the best mate you can be, it should be okay to ask for what you feel you deserve. The worst that can happen is that they do not feel you deserve that much and then you two will simply figure it out from there. Compromise is not a bad thing and sometimes breaking up is the best option for two people. At the same time, keep striving to be better. Do not get so comfortable that you cannot bounce back if your partner bounces.

There are men out there who do not want their women to spend on them, to spend any money actually. There are women who are content with this. This may not be ideal for you but it does not mean that it cannot and will not be the ideal for others. It does not mean that they cannot be just as happy as you in your relationship set on different priorities. Yes, there may be other facets of the relationship that you may not be willing to put up with but if both parties are ok with it, that is their business. Money symbolizes security to a lot of people. In this capitalist world, we can see why. For many, the end goal is to be rich. This may be because they are used to this or because they have never experienced this financial status and they dream of it. Let’s not pretend that there is no value in being financial able to do a lot of whatever you want in life.

Do not assume that the women who demand a lot financially of their partner are not able to provide for themselves. In this day and age, more women (and men) are becoming smart about how they dig their gold, how they save it and how they invest it. And to say that someone is only deserving of something if they can provide it for themselves is BS. If I put in a valuable contribution to a partnership but I am not able to buy myself the world, are you telling me that neither I nor my partner can say or feel that I deserve the world (or a really expensive equivalent)?
I’d also like to point out that a practice of rich people who are deemed smart is that they never spend their own money, they spend that of others. I have met gold diggers who are very upfront about it who also have their own money whether they work to earn it or they are given it by someone. At the end of the day, the money is theirs and if the source of the money should somehow disappear, they still have enough to get by on a rainy day, month or even year. Many women get left and end up so mad because of how much they gave and how little they received. The ones who ensured they got something tangible out of it have some comfort in knowing that. Maybe there’s something of value that you can take away from a gold digger, Miss Independent.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

My Problem(s) With Dancehall Artists

This post is an attempt to help dancehall artists build a better brand and hopefully become better entertainers. I will be writing as if speaking to the entertainers themselves up until the "P.S." section

Disclaimer: I will not be calling any names and singling any artists out as I do not wish to be attacked by any crazed or idle fans. Feel free to pass this on to some of your favourite dancehall artists.


-          Physical appearance- Females: Exercise. Regardless of your body shape or size, this will help you out in the long run. More is required of women in general when it comes to entertaining and having a toned body and increased stamina can only help. Dress for your size. Stop stuffing yourself into your younger and much smaller sister’s clothes. Those “love” handles hate you for what you try to do to them. I get that we all want to look or feel sexy but if you were really honest with yourselves or had a team around you who really cared about your image, you would realize that what the camera captures most often are failed attempts at a contrived view of sexy. I get that dancehall is about extremes and expressing yourself with a lot of flare but sometimes simplicity can be a good friend to you. Practice proper grooming and get decent stylists. There are just too many fashion blogs out there for the mistakes that so many of you make. Spend some money on your look or try to look like you did.

-          Males: Exercise- women like eye candy as well. You already have a really low standard set in terms of how attractive you have to be to be able to become popular; there is no requirement to be handsome, cute or even “not frightening to small children and anyone with eyes that work”. This does not mean that you should look like you collide with a wall or blunt object every day. Honestly, too many of you look like death warmed over or like you recently had a dramatic bout with a chemical peel (Yes, this is directed at the bleachers- putting that much energy into something whose end product is reminiscent of a zombie clown makes absolutely no sense). Dress like you were not surprised that you would have to venture into a public place. At one point I had two theories: Some entity or organization was going around and dragging the men of dancehall out of their beds and forcing them to perform or some gang was robbing them of their decent wardrobe pieces- so much so that they decided to stop trying to acquire any sensible clothes altogether. The sloppiness with which most of you carry yourselves is truly disgraceful considering the fact that you are paid to be public figures and your own fans dress up to see you perform. At least try to match the efforts your fans make. Geez!

-          General Note: Stop looking like everyone else in dancehall or the latest musical pop culture “icon”. Try to present yourself in a manner that is unique and true to who you are, not who you see is “selling big” or who you think is likely to sell big;
-         Stop being so lazy. It’s part of why your fans are lazy to support your work on a larger scale.