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{The above video shows how one Vincentian news reader reacted when one of the earthquakes struck as the newscast was being recorded.}

 

 

Six earthquakes were reported in the (Eastern) Caribbean on Thursday.

According to a statement from the UWI Seismic Research Centre, the earthquakes occurred North East of Barbados at 07:01am, 7:52am, 11:16am, 11:29am, 11:36am and 12:23pm local time.

“The events were located between latitudes of 13.83°N to 13.99°N and longitudes of 58.51°W to 58.70°W. The Magnitudes ranged from 3.4 to 6.4 and depths from 61km to 111km. These earthquakes were reported felt throughout in Barbados, St. Vincent, Grenada, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.”

No damage or injuries were reported to the Seismic Research Centre.

Seismologist Dr. Joan Latchman said the faults in the earth are now ready to release the strained energy, causing earthquakes to occur more frequently.

She urged citizens to be prepared for earthquakes of greater Magnitudes as she said people tend to forget that the region is seismically alive.

“We have not seen our largest earthquake for more than a hundred years and we keep saying that we need to be prepared. We need to be prepared at all levels – from the individual to the community, to the region, to the national, to the Eastern Caribbean.”

via Caribbean region struck by 6 earthquakes.

 

Below is my opinion based on the above news release

Actually, during the latter part of last year (2014) over 2o different tremors or earthquakes were recorded in the Eastern Caribbean. The data always show the epicenter to be somewhere NE of Barbados or St Lucia, or within an approximate range of the Windward Islands. It is my opinion that the pressure within the earth’s tectonic plate, just NE of the Eastern Caribbean is reaching a pressure pot release point. Also troubling is the presence of many sleeping volcanoes within the Windward Islands as well.

Here in St Vincent & the Grenadines we last felt a relatively intense earthquake back on Thursday November 29, 2007, at approximately 3 PM. As God’s favour would have had it, although things were thoroughly shaken, there was no human injuries or loss of life. That particular quake registered 7.3 on the Richter scale.

As we are particularly vulnerable to earth movements, we must do the wisely astute thing and put in place community and village-level earthquakes and/or volcanic event responses so as to minimize panic and ensure the greatest possible safety of our ordinary citizens should the Eastern Caribbean suffer an unwanted catastrophic earthquake. Let’s make sure every citizen group knows what to do before, during and after such an event.

 

 

 

Our teachers are dying.

This past school year has recorded an unprecedented number of deaths among teachers in the teaching fraternity here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It is quite shocking and frightening actually when I think of this unusually historic occurrence as regards the deaths of so many of my colleagues, some of whom I knew personally, all within the space of several short months. I pray that this trend ends with the ending of the school year.

When I awoke this morning in the lazy comfort of the summer holidays, I checked my phone and saw yet another obituary notification from the St Vincent & the Grenadines Teachers Union that another teacher had died. I quickly looked at the picture and was immediately stunned. The latest deceased teacher was Ray LaBorde. I thought it sadly ironic that news of Ray LaBorde’s death broke on the very morning the annual two weeks summer Teachers Workshop was starting. Ray had helped organize many of these very same workshops in the past.

I knew Ray LaBorde not just as a professional but foremost as a local young man who grew up in the same community I did and who actually taught at the primary school I went to. He didn’t teach me when I was a pupil at the Evesham Methodist School but I believe he was assigned to the teaching staff just about the time I left after passing the Common Entrance examination in the late 1980s.

Ray was more than a teacher of academics and classroom lessons. He was even more a teacher of life’s integral lessons in his home village of Evesham. In fact, one of my last recollections of Ray LaBorde’s activism was a short time before his sudden illness last year when he was a leading organizer in a march and rally designed to help residents take a stand against the deadly gun violence and gang activities which had shown its ugly head in Evesham. The very last time I would see Ray LaBorde alive was at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital earlier this year.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.

Another teacher who died this past school year–a couple weeks ago in fact–was Dorette John, a teacher of the Belair Government school, a primary school in the same village where she lived. Fundraising activities were still being planned and executed to assist Dorette John when she died. No doubt, she left us all in shock as was evident from the turnout at her funeral several weeks ago now.

For years Eustace “Slums” Maloney taught children to acquire and appreciate their musical talent in addition to their traditional academic skills. Hailing from the Marriaqua constituency, Eustace “Slums” Maloney taught at schools such as Evesham Methodist School, where undoubtedly he and Ray LaBorde would have worked together over the years.

The sudden deaths of our Vincentian teachers within the past school year has also been particularly unsettling because we got news of the deaths of active school principals as well.

The most recent principal who died was principal of the Dorsetshire Hill Government School, Olive Allen. Now anyone who knows the Dosetshire Hill Government School knows it is a close knit school community. Although its population has been relatively small over the years, families in the Dorsetshire Hill community have persevered, supported and loved Ms Allen and her staff as their own. According to a well placed source close to the school family, even when the Ministry of Education had covertly tried to close or relocate the school population to join another primary school, the parents quickly got wind of this and made it clear to the officials that they would have none of it and so the officials were forced to perish that thought.

The Dorsetshire Hill Government School has also found a place in the heart of Vincentians because it had been adopted by the sole local TV station and so received tangible help and national publicity to assist in its operations. The school is located just adjacent from the SVG TV studios. Even when some teenagers had carried out a bold daylight robbery, depriving a teacher of the school of her vehicle and monies, the TV station made no delay in carrying the incident in its prime time news cast that very night.

The robbers were caught not too long after that.

Ms. Natana McLean is another Vincentian teacher we lost this school year. This young lady taught at the JP Eustace Memorial Secondary School, locally known as the Emmanuel High School in Kingstown. She really died in the prime of her life, possibly carrying many unfulfilled dreams and aspirations with her to eternity.

The teacher I am about to reflect on now was someone I knew very well. Rodney Moore AKA Rodney Sayers. Rodney Sayers began his teaching career at the Petersville Primary School in Kingstown Park. Later he taught at the Stubbs Government School and the Fair Hall Government School. He went to the same secondary school as I did. Even as teenagers I could tell Rodney Sayers was someone who would never allow boredom to invade any social gathering. Rodney Sayers kept us laughing. But he also had a great academic mind, especially in the area of mathematics and numeracy.

I got to know Rodney Sayers even better when both of us attended the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers College back in 2001. We were in the same group and shared many wonderful occasions learning pedagogical, social, spiritual and psychological matters pertaining to life and to our profession. I remember returning to the college after a holiday weekend and it was Rodney Sayers who turned to me and said, “Ashford you know Nicholas Pompey drowned yesterday?”

Nicholas Pompey had also attended secondary school with Rodney Sayers and myself. Nicholas Pompey had led his church’s youth group to the Rawacou picnic site the holiday Monday where he and several other young people drowned. Today, I still think of Rawacou as the drowning capital of St Vincent.

My final reflection on Rodney Sayers happened several months after we had left college. After work one evening Rodney Sayers came by as lively as ever. “Ashford, you know Teachers College results come out!” I knew he had meant well but given the nature of the news, I wished he had called me aside and whispered it to me; nonetheless, all my colleagues had heard and were now eagerly demanding that I go and collect my results immediately. Rodney Sayers and I were successful at the teachers college. I last saw Rodney Sayers at one of our local supermarkets about a month before he died. We were both shopping and chatted briefly. Never in the world did I realize that that was the last time we were talking on this side of life.

Another teacher who died this past school year was a principal from one of the schools on the leeward side of mainland St Vincent. Grocina Walters-Richards was the person in charge of the Troumaca Government School. I never knew her in person but her biological brother and I are good friends and we were actually teaching at the same school when his sister died.

The final teacher being mentioned is Ezekiel “Scatter” Butcher. “Scatter” was really a living legend. He actually taught Rodney Sayers and myself when we were in secondary school. Interestingly, “Scatter” and Rodney had very similar jovial temperaments and, coincidentally enough, they both died exactly one month apart from each other.

Read an earlier post where I paid sterling tribute to Ezekiel “Scatter” Butcher.

I believe this post is warranted. However, there are still quite a few Vincentian teachers alive today who are confirmed seriously ill. They are suffering in particular  with cancer and kidney disease. Given the number of teacher deaths this past school year, it is probably a good idea for a national analysis of teacher lifestyles as far as they relate to healthy living or the lack thereof. Could it also be that our Vincentian teachers are unknowingly exposed to some hazardously life-threatening environmental conditions in their respective workplace? Each of us as teachers as  well must begin to value our health, learn how to manage stress factors and to eat natural foods. Let’s support, pray, empathize and help our teachers avoid another deadly school year for Vincentian teachers.

Recently, I read an opinion piece in our local online newspaper which vehemently suggested that the modern day church had been defeated in its attempts to resist or squash the seemingly growing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)movement around the world. The author of that moot felt that the church over the years had shown some willingness to adapt to the changing times by its changing interpretation of the Holy Bible. Furthermore, the author opined that if the church is to have any future in our 21st century world then it must once again show its ability to compromise, and in this case, formally accept and partner with the LGBT community.

Opinions are subjective positions and one must readily understand that any opinion which is being heard, read or other wise communicated will most likely seem to be true and factual. But an opinion, no matter how well reasoned or researched is just that–an opinion.

There is a labyrinth of positions and  arguments on this highly contemporary issue that it is hard to decide where to start explaining one’s own views and ultimate belief principles on this hot-seat topic. But since the opinion piece which piqued this blog post addressed the question of whether or not the church should accept defeat and homosexual lifestyles, perhaps it is justified for me to start there.

I don’t think the writer of that article would have understood or grasped the Christian concept of the church as established by Jesus. The Church which Jesus died to birth on earth is actually His body and so it has His power, His will, His purpose, His passion, His determination and His final victory.

So, to put it simply, no the church cannot accept defeat or the LGBT community’s way of life.

Although Jesus established the Church which is powered by a live and direct spiritual feed to His Father, the Church is also the embodiment of sinfully flawed human beings who so easily step out of living by the Spirit to accommodate the benefits of the flesh. And therein is the problem which I believe has blurred the vision of that myopic writer.

People’s understanding and conceptualization of the church is very different from what Jesus’ definition is. Christians go to church but going to church does not make the church goer a Christian.

LGBT flag

LGBT flag

Homosexuality and all the passions of same sex promoters are the smoke from people’s burning sexual desires which stem from the concept of sexual identity. And sexual identity was created by God and, like sex, our sexual identity is perfectly established in our beings. The problem is that we no longer want to depend on God and His Son  Jesus Christ to help us strengthen and define our God given sexual identity.

What am I saying? I am saying that homosexuality and the LGBT magnetism is an erotic bandwagon which every human being has the inner resolve, responsibility and right to say no to. Just as we discipline ourselves to denounce dietary sweetness of sugar, salt, fatty and oily foods, it is the same way we need to observe a proper sexual diet. We must master our desires and depend on God to transform and strengthen our sexual identity into what His original plan was–and still is.

One man married to one woman for as long as they both shall live.

God is fully aware of each man’s freedom of choice; however, He knows what He has put in  each of us and we have what it takes to do the right thing–if we really want to. Sin’s fallen nature is a really terrible curse. God has revealed that our sexual desires  are meant to serve as opportunities by which we control our bodies. To feel you want to be sexually involved with someone of the same sex is not a sin. In fact the Bible teaches that no temptation is sin. It is acting on the temptation that is the sin.

And the world of the LGBT community has been acting on a most tantalizing temptation. In heaven’s eyes they are sinning. But they don’t see it as sinning. They see it as a basic human right which no one has the right to discourage. D’Angelo Antoine, a young Dominican computer programmer and promising scholar puts it nicely when he says that “lesbians, gay, bi-sexual, transgender people are suffering from moral hallucination.”

Listen carefully. This is why my argument is to be accepted. The God of the Holy Bible, who gave us our heterosexual desires and who instituted marriage as being between a man and a woman, does condemn the actions of homosexuality and LGBT lifestyles but…but….He does not ever condemn the person who has been tempted or has lived, or is living,  that lifestyle.

Jesus is documented in the gospels as time and time again forgiving and accepting sexual sinners. In fact, He told the lady they wanted to stone to death because she had illegal and socially unacceptable sex to GO YOUR WAY AND SIN NO MORE.

God does not want the Church to accept the LGBT way of life. He certainly does not want our pastors to be marrying Adam and Steve or Yvette and Eve, but God certainly wants the Church to accept the people who have sinned in this way. They are the ones who need His loving forgiveness and deliverance possibly more than other people.

And herein lies another stumbling block because you see human beings in themselves do not have the capacity to forgive and help sexual sinners. So unless the people in the Church allow God to work from within their own hearts, firmly appreciating that they too have been freely forgiven of their own different sins, they will in no way be able to help homosexuals, lesbians, transgender or queer sinners come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

But that is exactly what Jesus left the Church to do–to minister to sinners…to the sexually sick and confused who need the sexual identity Maker to operate in their hearts and minds.

FITTING DIAGNOSIS: LGBT people have “moral hallucination” says Dominican computer programmer, D’Angelo Antoine

Recovering smokers, alcoholics, domestic abusers and people with other socially disturbing addictions all have some structured support group which serves as a useful network to stand with them as they overcome their addictions. Lesbians, homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender and every person who is sexually confused or living in the proverbial closet need their configured support group to help them beat their sexual addictions. That is the only way to resolve this sexual warfare.

Remember, the closing verses of the Holy Bible tells us clearly that all sexually immoral people are going to hell. That is non-negotiable, no matter what any promoter, prime minister, privy council or president says.

Legalizing LGBT in every nook and cranny on earth will never solve the problem. Hating, discriminating, fighting, injuring or killing members of the LGBT community will not solve the problem either. At heart is really the survival of the human race via the family unit. Same sex unions cannot reproduce. However, do you know that there are heterosexual unions which also are dealing with the reproductive problem the same way that same sex unions deal with it?

Think about it. In the 21st century, “independent” men and women are now donating their sperms and eggs to scientific labs where conception and growth of human babies are happening outside the woman’s womb.

And the battle to clone human body parts is not making the situation any easier. So the LGBT and same sex marriages are just aspects of a bigger global threat to the human family and its future extinction. I think this post warrants a part 2, but let me stop here for now.

I was one of the more than seven million persons who was touched by the above video of convict Arthur Booth crying uncontrollably in a courtroom when he realized that his judge, Mindy Glazer, was his childhood classmate when both of them were innocent and had their full lives ahead of them. It was thirty five odd years before this emotionally unplanned or unwanted reunion but back in school, like any human being, they  had the possibility of becoming anything they wanted.

One of the sad truths about life that came home to me as I read the background story of Arthur Booth and Mindy Glazer is that life does move on, whether or not one is prepared for the future. The schoolboy  Arthur Booth was shown to be exceptionally gifted in Science and Mathematics. His family and friends recall that Arthur Booth wanted to grow up and become a neurosurgeon. Mindy Glazer’s ambition was to become a lawyer.

But only one of these two beautifully intelligent children was able to fulfil their life’s dreams.

What went wrong for Arthur Booth?

His personal love and desire for the thrill of gambling subtly led him to petty theft which ultimately coerced him into an addicted user of crack cocaine. Arthur Booth dropped out of school at age seventeen. He was in  grade 11 or Form 4 as it is known in my part of the world.

The second life lesson I mournfully  grasped from Arthur Booth’s life story is that success itself is not final just because you have had a good life which has positioned you to be a success. By that same token, the opposite is equally true. Because a person’s life began with poverty, “bad luck” or fewer opportunities than normal people, it does not mean that such persons are doomed to a life of failure.

People with good plans or dreams for their future must quickly recognize, identify and eliminate their specific life distractors which are meant to  sabotage, derail and destroy  their best laid plans and their very future.

Now at age 49, Arthur Booth has spent more than half his life in prison. In fact, though the judge was his friend in school, and sympathized with him, she had to follow the law and impose a $43 000 bond on “the best kid” she remembers from their days in school. Unfortunately, Arthur Booth’s family cannot afford to pay the bond and so, even as this post is being composed, Arthur Booth is still behind bars.

Saddd…

A third life lesson that Arthur Booth’s life story has brought home to me is the recollection of our spiritual heritage and truths. That is,  God has created us with all good things necessary for our best successful life. From a wonderful planet to personal skills, we are all positioned by God to achieve a very good purpose. That purpose is made even more realistic and attainable when we accept the forgiveness, eternal life and empowerment found in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, our Saviour, Lord and soon-to-be Judge.

However, God’s archenemy, Satan, contrives to present every life with seemingly tasty, harmless and innocent distractions. These are the agents of our demise and anti-future manipulators. It really is true that there is a way which seems right to a man but the end thereof are the ways of death. None of us will ever achieve our goals if we do not abandon our own desires for immediate fun and pleasure satisfaction.

The future is there for those who value it more than the present.

People who become failures often sacrifice their future so that they can enjoy themselves  in the present. But successful people do the opposite. They sacrifice their present for their future. In other words, successful people accept present day inconvenience, hard work, even boredom and loneliness, so that their future will be filled with enjoyment because their dreams have come true.

A  primary reason I started this blog was to establish a forerunner to the dream of being a published author. It’s now as I reflect that, by focusing on some pettifogging present day “needs”, I have been distracted in the pursuit of that particular dream. I thank Arthur Booth for serving as a timely wake up and re-evaluation for my own aspirations. So on the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death, I shall be launching my first published literary work.

People around the world have been wishing Arthur Booth well. They really hope he can turn his life around. One of the few good things about his imprisonment so far has been that he has been able to kick his addiction to cocaine. He now needs to rid his life of his gambling addictions. With God on the inside and good friends and family on the outside, Arthur Booth can still change.

We all can change.

Let’s all start today by recognizing simple actions and sacrifices we can and must make to make our inevitable future the one where the dreams in our hearts and minds can finally live in our days and nights. I hope you, too, will take away some inspirationally life-changing lessons from Arthur Booth’s life story.

Not too long ago, news broke here in St Vincent and the Grenadines of the historically shocking hacking of our government’s website by the Islamic State of Iraqi and Syria (I.S.I.S.) military group. Anyone with access or interest in world affairs over the last  year will definitely have heard of the proliferation of horrendous and wantonly inhumane geographical conquests of ISIS in the Middle East. They started as a  little known, barely visible group of militants who were taking away towns and cities from the shaky democratic government in Iraqi. When they began to increase their borders and inch ever closer to Iraqi’s capital city of Baghdad, the international media and stake holders in peace in the Middle East began to take note.

global ISIS

Perhaps if ISIS was just capturing cities and governing them in some semblance of reasonable human control things would not be so bad; however, here is a group that not only overthrows democratically elected governments but also tortures, enslaves, dismembers and kills multitudes of ordinary citizens in the process. They especially terrorize and literally destroy minority groups such as Christians living among the populations which they now govern. Many villages and neighbourhoods in ISIS strongholds have become prime examples of ghost towns brandishing public signs of ISIS ownership and quarantine.

While ISIS has been wielding its deadly fist in the MIddle East, its next of kin, Boko Haram, has turned many villages in Nigeria, Africa,  into the citizens worst nightmares. Maybe the one act of  Boko Haram which is most renown is  its nocturnal kidnapping of approximately two hundred teenage girls from a boarding school. That happened well over a year ago now. In the months that followed this tragedy, several of the girls managed to escape from the forested areas where they were being held captives. It must also be pointed out that all the girls were students at a Christian school. So they were specifically targeted.

Boko Haram’s leader public bragged in subsequent speeches how the girls were converted to Islam and married off to their soldiers. While the world was up in arms over the girls’ capture, the Nigerian government admitted that they had located the girls but lacked the military man power to rescue them. In a sad twist of development, several Nigerian soldiers had to be cour marshalled for their refusal to follow orders and fight against Boko Haram on the grounds that the Boko Haram soldiers were of the same tribe as they were.

Eventually about half of the girls were rescued and the media reported that almost all of them were either pregnant of were expectant mothers.

Through all of this, Boko Haram continues to blow up building and people while kidnapping more women and children across regions of Africa.

But let’s return now to the Caribbean. One may wonder what any of these developments across the Atlantic has to do with us here in the Caribbean. But after the alleged hacking of our government’s website by ISIS I began to wonder the what ifs. It’s almost certain that groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram are always looking for new territories and populations where they can  spread their violent fingers of death, deprivation, incarceration and destruction. Does ISIS or Boko Haram have covert plans to unexpectedly invade one or more of the Caribbean islands.

Maybe terrorists, too, are looking for the perfect getaway destination to set up a new camp. Hmmm.

The Caribbean History shows that in times past an innocent people who occupied these quietly serene lands, were violently ousted and killed by another set of visitors in the form of the war-like Caribs. Yes, we have all the technological tracking and warning systems but how tangible a support will that be in the event of a dead-of-night crossing o the ocean and visit by ISIS or Boko Haram?

Indeed, for years we in the Caribbean have enjoyed the peaceful exemption from the international troubles of many parts of the world. But this does not mean that we should still hold a reactionary policy. I think this is one case in point when we will do well to take heed and see how we can help protect our islands’ security. And Boko Haram’s visit need not be a sudden one-time event. Are our government’s immigration resources keeping astute checks of who may be entering our islands, their past travel history or connections to terrorist groups and terrorist safe-zones?

In the 21st century the onus is on us to actively defend and protect our rights and freedoms as individuals and as a people.

Originally posted on wefmnews:

Thursday August 14, 2014 — WEFM — Four schools in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have recorded percentage pass rates of 80% or more in this year’s CSEC exams.

 

These schools are Girls’ High School (96.96%); St. Joseph Convent Kingstown (93.68%); St. Vincent Grammar School (93.03%) and Thomas Saunders Secondary (85.27%).

 

Ten Schools obtained creditable pass rates between 60 and 80%.

 

These are St. Martin’s Secondary School (78.20%); St. Joseph Convent Marriaqua (78.16%); Adelphi Secondary School (75.88%); Mountain View Adventist Academy (73.66%); Union Island Secondary School (70.62%); West St. George Secondary (67.27%); Intermediate High School (65.93%); Central Leeward Secondary (64.56%); North Union Secondary (63.99%) and Bishop’s College Kingstown (63.14%).

 

The school which recorded the most significant improvement is the St. Martin’s Secondary whose pass rate increased from 54.95% in 2013 to 78.20% in 2014, an increase of 23.25%.

 

 

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The vast majority of Vincentians alive today remember the events leading up to the Grand Beach Accord that paved the way for general elections in 2001, ending an historic reign as government for the New Democratic Party (N.D.P.) which began in 1984.

Whether or not you are a person intrigued by politics, or you are an independent observer you have to give Jack his jacket and admit that the NDP’s seventeen year run as a governing party ushered in a new era in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

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Newly sworn in Prime Minister James Mitchell in 1984

It was during this time in our history that the transition occurred which brought our country in step with the majority of other developing nations in the region and around the globe.

Led by its founder, James Mitchell, the NDP took the office of government a mere five years after we achieved political independence from Britain. In fact, it was the St Vincent Labour Party (SVLP) led by incumbent Prime Minister Robert Milton Cato, that the New Democratic Party overwhelmingly deprived of another term in office.

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From Prime Minister to Opposition Leader: Milton Cato makes his way to Parliament after his defeat in the 1984 elections

It stands to reason, therefore, that the then Milton Cato government must have been deficient in the provision of certain key political and economic indicators for the citizens of SVG. James Mitchell, back then a relatively youthful man with a vision for national development, courageously took the oath of Prime Minister for this young multi-island state.

The NDP’s tenure will certainly be remembered for the many widespread capital projects and infrastructural changes which they pioneered. Every nook and cranny on the mainland and in the Grenadines benefited from one of the many hundreds of rural concrete roads which they cut and/or paved.

In 1984 the NDP won 9 of the 13 parliamentary seats up for grabs. When the electorate went back to the polls in 1989, Vincentians gave the James Mitchell government an overall grade of A+. All  fifteen constituencies went to the New Democratic Party. The NDP had split two constituencies on the grounds that the geographical area was too wide for the respective individual representatives to adequately represent in parliament and for timely executed projects.

Take a look at the candidates who contested the July 25, 1984, general elections on the NDP ticket, as they appeared back in 1984.

 

IMG_20140804_133115    IMG_20140804_133121   IMG_20140804_133130

IMG_20140804_133154      IMG_20140804_133252   IMG_20140804_133327

IMG_20140804_133346         IMG_20140804_133402     IMG_20140804_133434

IMG_20140804_133444           IMG_20140804_133501       IMG_20140804_135557

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Images courtesy the Vincentian newspaper at SVG National Archives

MH17 as captured by a passenger who died when it was shot down just 3 hours after this picture was taken

MH17 as captured by a passenger who died when it was shot down just 3 hours after this picture was taken

 

This summer is not yet  over but the world has witnessed the loss of hundreds of lives from plane tragedies within a short space of time. Malaysia Airlines has been particularly unlucky in this regard since two of its fifteen large airplanes have been involved. On March 8th, Malasia flight MH370 just vanished into thin air and has not been heard or seen since, despite the massively expensive international search that was done for it. Then, just as passengers thought it was safe to continue flying with Malaysia Airlines, their MH17 flight was allegedly blown out of the sky by a BUK surface-to-air missile over Ukraine on Thursday July 17, 2014.

Both of these flights were carrying more than 200 persons. In fact, MH17 is said to have a confirmed passenger list of 298 persons. Although it is widely accepted that flying is the safest means of  traveling, such incidents make you stop and wonder.

Apart from these two instances involving Malaysia Airlines, there were two other plane crashes. In fact they happened on two consecutive days. So, all in all, there were three plane crashes in one week. Each of them being quite deadly. A plane crashed while trying to land on a small island after leaving Taiwan. Of the fifty four or so persons on board, approximately forty six of them died.

The very next day, a plane carrying one hundred and six passengers crashed after leaving Ouagadougou Bakina Faso in West Africa.  It had tried to fly around some bad weather, possibly sand storms as it was crossing the Sahara desert. From the scene of the crash site officials concluded that no one lived through that.

Flying is a luxury that is worth the money invested in each ticket, but it is also a situation where each passenger volunteers to board a potential coffin. For as soon as flight attendants close that door from the inside, it is not going to open again until the plane lands. And all things must go smoothly for a plane to land and come to a  complete stop.

All of these incidents are plane tragedies and have affected many families. But the alleged shooting down of MH17 is particularly hard to accept simply because it is a tragedy that humans could have prevented. One mournful mother told about how one of her two sons who died aboard MH17 had ran back from the immigration to tell her that he loved her. He then asked a puzzling question. “What happens when the plane crash and I die?”

That mother would give anything to turn back the hands of time.

But what’s done is done.That plane with just under three hundred persons on board was flying at 33 000 feet. Because missiles can explode near their targets, it is relatively safe to assume that some passengers were alive after the plane broke up due to the explosion. Some passengers might also have been asleep, which is customary on long flights. This plane crashed three hours into an eleven hour flight.

Talk about your worst nightmare! Can you imagine what it feels like to see and feel your plane suddenly and noisily break apart? The wind suddenly knocks out your breath even as you try to scream. And while you are coming to terms with that horror you realize you have a worse situation because now you start to fall to the ground.

Persons who visited the large crash area spoke of seeing some passengers still in their seats with the seat-belts buckled. Others saw passengers who had no clothes on because as they were falling the air would have been such unrelenting force that it blew their holiday clothing right off. One report spoke of how sixteen passengers had broken into eighty seven pieces and their body parts were scattered all over the crash site.

There were babies falling from the sky. There were teenagers and young adults who became like Superman, only that gravity was their deadly kryptonite. There were elderly persons who fell from the clouds and hit the ground with such deadly force that their skeletons disintegrated.

Certainly, those who were asleep were the lucky ones. And those whose weak hearts gave out before they hit the unwelcoming ground were perhaps lucky as well. While the sufferings of the passengers and crew may have ended, it was just the first installment in a horror saga for their relatives and friends.

Dead bodies stayed in the sun for three days. Luggage and personal items, especially valuables, were stolen from the dead passengers. Bodies started to rot and to stink in the hot July sun. No country felt it as much as the Netherlands of whom 154 passengers were its citizens.

Planes continue to fly every hour but every time that door closes before take-off it is almost certain that every passenger would be wondering if they will see when it opens next.

 

Not too long ago Vincentian politics was a harmless process filled with virtuously fun- filled activities for the whole family, but today it is literally lynching or killing the very humanity that it seeks to govern.

A decade or so ago we used to have some pleasant motorcades. Both parties used to tour our small island in peace. Until one incident when a lady got hit in her eye from a stone thrown by a supporter of the other party.

Two things happened on that day. The lady never saw from that eye again, and St Vincent never had another political motorcade.

We probably need another political party in the mix here in St Vincent and the Grenadines because it seems this two-party system is driving a clear line of malice, hatred and damning injury left, right and centre.

The last two or three general elections have been splitting our usually friendly and happy citizens further and further apart. Put simply, our two-parrty politics is teaching Vincentians to see only colours; we are technically colour blind now.

I have had the actual experience of driving a red vehicle and slowly becoming conscious that people at the side of the road are actually “throwing words” (cursing) at me because they automatically think I am a supporter of the Unity Labour Party which is the governing party at this time.

On the other hand, during a general elections in recent history a gentleman was driving his yellow passenger van and attempted to drive through an intersection where the Unity Labour Party was having a street meeting. According to the driver, a supporter from the Unity Labour Party threw a stone and smashed his front windscreen to pieces.

For those of you who don’t know, yellow is the colour of the New Democratic Party which is currently the Opposition in parliament.

The most serious charge against our modern Vincentian politics happened last Saturday at the funeral of a political activist within the New Democratic Party, but who was a one-time political colleague of the Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves.

Elwardo “EG” Lynch was a member of the Ralph Gonsalves Movement for National Unity (MNU) before he crossed the political divide and took up arms with the New Democratic Party (NDP). He was the Opposition’s voice in that he was moderator of the NDP’s daily radio call-in programme.

According to the Prime Minister, he was invited by the family of the deceased to not only attend but to make some remarks in so far as paying a tribute to his long time friend and colleague in politics.

No sooner had the Prime Minister been invited to the podium than there was immediate heckling—long, loud and livid. One woman, who must have been a magician,  seemed to have pulled out of nowhere a yellow bell. She rang it for all its worth.

To “ring the bell” is a political jargon which means that the Prime Minister announces the date for the next general elections. So these “mourners” were challenging the democratically elected leader to call elections. What a way to respect the dead and the bereaved family—not to mention the presence of God.

bell

And as if that was not enough, she passed it on to another who continued in the fiasco. The daughter of the deceased tried to no avail to put out the fiery political fire.

A funeral was transformed into a political town hall meeting for the Opposition.

A sacred place of worship was dishonored in a most unapologetic manner.

Everyone has been airing their views on the matter. Like with other national issues involving politics, those on the opposition support the action while those supporting the governing party has condemned the assault on our leader and on a holy institution.

And I think this is the problem slowly eating out the inner societal organs of our political and human identity. As soon as a Vincentian has formed a political opinion and supports a particular party it seems to be a vote of no return. Apparently our politics has no escape clause. No one is allowed to retain an independent mind and vote for a different party than the one they supported in the last elections.

As a people we are learning to hate and destroy our own family, neighbours, friends, colleagues and associates. It is no secret that the fierce campaigns we witness in these times drive an intolerantly cruel rift between persons who at other times were getting along as the best of friends.

Members of the same household stop sharing rooms or amenities; patrons stop riding with certain vans or stop buying at certain shops; worshipers stop sitting next to other “brothers and sisters” in the House of the Lord because of a difference in opinion on politics.

So critical has become the Vincentian political warfare of the twenty first century that I am pretty sure if the volcano were to erupt during the next political campaign, many Vincentians would prefer to stay in their homes and die than to go to a shelter and share residence with people who support “the other political party”.

Even without the fuel of politics the Vincentian society is falling headlong into a new abyss of moral and social decay. There is a very visible increase in gun violence and homicides by gun; some bold and daring robberies and drive-by shootings are becoming the order of the day.

Just a fortnight ago a prominent businessman was held at gun point, forced into the trunk of his own vehicle, driven to a remote location, beaten, stripped naked, robbed and tied up. He was left for dead. Police later found his vehicle with some damage.

Fortunately, that businessman lived to tell the tales.

It is clear to me that St Vincent and the Grenadines has a disaster in the making which is far more destructive and costly than the flash floods of Christmas 2013, than a hurricane, earthquake or volcanic eruption. With the steady rise of the temperature in our political thermostat, we will soon be our own worst enemy and reason for extinction as a civilization worthy to inhabit this part of the peaceful world.

Will Vincentians ever rise to the political independence and maturity to stop politics from lynching our identity and the little dignity we have left?

 

 

(picture courtesy Searchlight newspaper)

St Martin's Secondary School

St Martin’s Secondary School

With the death and burial recently of one of my high school teachers, Ezekiel “Scatter” Butcher, I started to purposefully reflect on my times at St Martin’s Secondary School in Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines. It was the best a boy could get in terms of a quality education at a conducive and learner friendly environment.

I entered St Martin’s in September 1987 and I can honestly say that the next five years were among the very best years of my entire life. They were really golden years. This is a sentiment being echoed by many of my classmates and schoolmates who were privileged to be enrolled at the institution in that golden era.  Prior to 1987 I had never known or heard about St Martin’s; however, it was after I was only one of two boys from Evesham Methodist School lucky enough to pass the 1987 Common Entrance exam that my teachers told me about St Martin’s.

I was immediately excited and thrilled about the prospects of attending a “town school” because it would mean that I would be riding vans every day. Vehicles and rides were scarce luxuries in the Evesham of 1987. I can still vividly remember jumping up and down when I got the confirmation slip from the Ministry of Education that said I would be going to St Martin’s Secondary School.

One of the first challenges was having to be in “town” on my own. So far, the only place I went to on my own was the village next door. So my brother and mother accompanied me to the school on registration day. That event happened in the library. It was my first time meeting the Christian Brothers—Br. Alfred Marshall was the principal and conducted the exercise himself. Up to that point I had only seen “white people” on TV and so it dawned on me that my world was really expanding.

That summer we were invited to attend Math classes being taught by Mr Bradley Brooker. I shall always remember walking out the gate after the first session and realizing I was lost because I had not memorized the immediate street. Panic gripped me but then a voice said to me just follow the other students and see where they go. That idea got me back on the right track.

I would never lose my way again.

The rest of the summer was a new adventure everyday. As I began meeting the other boys I realized that I was meeting children from all over St Vincent and the Grenadines. We shared our respective memories of our various primary schools at every chance we got.

Then the 1987 school year began. During the summer there was just a handful of us new students—about twenty or so—but on the first day of school I felt totally lost at the awesome sight of literally hundreds of boys in blue and white. It was like I walked into an ants nest of blue and white. I had no idea what to do, where to go, who to talk to. So guess what I did?

I followed the students who were in front of me when I entered the gate. So I stayed in that bright blue and white traffic. I kept climbing the steps. On the second flight of stairs, a friend I made at the summer lessons, Clinty Joseph, was on his way down. He said to me, “Is you I coming to look for you know. Come see where our class is.”

If there ever was a Godsend, that was Clinty right there!

He told me to check on the door to see which of the two form ones I was in. Back then the class lists were placed on the doors. I scanned the first list and found my name. Clinty could not be happier because he, too, was on that list.

Even though I had been at summer school, the classrooms looked quite different. They were cleaner and shone just as brightly as the uniforms and book bags of the new students occupying them. As the years went by I would later learn and see that it was Mr Butcher who used his summer to lead a school painting taskforce every year.

One of the first things that struck me about my new class was that it was so roomy and clean. It had louvers on both sides and so very well ventilated. I smiled to myself. I already loved my new school. When I later heard a man speaking over a speaker I was astonished. The school had a PA system. I automatically gave the school two thumbs up and all five stars!

St Martin’s Secondary School (SMSS) was a family. I saw that in operation every day. There was a real sense of caring and sharing. Looking back, nobody seemed vexed with you or having “bad mind” as the youths say of themselves these days. There were 38 students in my Form 1 Set 2 and I honestly can say there were no “haters” in that large group.

St Martin’s taught me a lot about friendships from day 1. I had met Marlon Roberts who lived in Questelles and had attended the Petersville Primary School. I tried sneaking up behind him one break time to cover his eyes with my hands. It was a game we played. But somehow Marlon must have known I was there because he turned around just as I was about to clamp my hands over his eyes.

What happened next I would never forget. The plan backfired in that my finger got in his eye and he was immediately upset. He said: “Alyo man always a do stupidness you know!”

I felt so guilty and embarrassed that I ran away and tried my best to avoid him from then on. Then a day or two afterwards it was Marlon who sneaked up on me and actually apologized to me. That showed me who a real friend was. It was the first time in my life another person was apologizing to me.

Marlon did one other thing that year to make me understand friends are really people who care about your best interests. It happened when our Algebra teacher, Mr Best, had given us the option of attending either algebra or camera lessons after school. I went in the camera group, which had upper form students.

After a while Marlon came over to me and he said, “Ashford, you can always learn to use a camera you know, but you can’t always learn how to do algebra.”

That struck me to the core.

Never before had anyone analysed my actions and given me advice for my benefit. Additionally, because it came from somebody my own age, I was totally impressed and realized I had a real friend. Without saying a word, I left the camera group and joined my friend in the algebra lessons.

In those days we used to have what we call a “Special Schedule” on Fridays. Classes lasted only 35 minutes. There was no break; however, lunch was from 10:40 to 11:15. School used to over at 1:25 PM every Friday.

Our Form Master, Mr Kelly, used to stay back with us and do fun activities. Often, we would join with the students from Form 1 Set 1 and their Form Master. That is how I learned to make and fly a kite.

Other notable experiences that first year included getting licks for doing home work in class. Mr Sarkar was the Dean of discipline. Homework was to be done at home. The first time Mr Sarkar came to teach us Geography, he wrote four Ss on the board. The first S meant “stand up”. The second S meant “shut up”; the third S meant “Sarkar”,  and the fourth S was for “Sir”.

It was not that he just wrote and told us about these Ss. He bellowed them to us new terrified students. I could have sworn I was in the military! I won’t be surprised if some boys with bladder problems did wet their pants that morning.

But Mr Sarkar also wrote four other letters on the board. H.A.R.P. That would prove to be his motto for teaching. The letters stood for Honesty, Ambition, Respect and Pride.

We enjoyed Geography class after that unforgettable introduction.

St Martin’s Secondary School gave us local boys a chance to meet people from around the world. Mr Kelly, for example, was a young American who was volunteering a year teaching us English. There were different volunteers each year. We also met other boys who were in St Vincent but citizens from overseas—from Caribbean islands to America and Canada.

As we did our work we soon realized that our teachers wanted us to also have fun. There were times when all we did was just tell jokes and old talk.

And we did not just learn about the academic syllabus. I remember the first time I experienced a sex education lesson was from Mr Butcher in his form four Social Studies class. Up until then I didn’t think teachers ever talked about sex or relationships in class with students. But it helped us. It was a real life lesson.

In a Form 3 Religion class, Br Robert made us all sit up with mouths open and eyes popping out of our heads. He began his lesson: “What does somebody really mean when they say fuck you?”

No body slept in that class.

St Martin’s Secondary School made a name for itself in sports as well. Apart from the usual inter-House and Inter-School athletics events, we were a force to be reckoned with on the football and cricket field as well. In 1smss football news story990 the St Martin’s football team won the finals of the secondary schools football competition after beating the Bethel High School. I still can see students like Curtis Greaves (now principal of the Emmanuel High School in Mesopotamia) stamping the wooden stands at the Victoria Park so passionately that I really was expecting the stands to collapse.

In 1991, the St Martin’s football team was back in the finals of the secondary schools football tournament. We faced off against the Barrouallie Secondary School. The match went into overtime and the boys had to have penalty shootouts. Christmas came early at St Martin’s that year because we won the game and were football champions for two years in a row! We all left the Victoria Park pretty hoarse that day.

That same year, in 1991, Mr Brooker led the St Martin’s cricket team to the finals of the secondary schools cricket competition. NBC Radio, back then known as 705 Radio, broadcasted the match live. I remember clearly, sportscaster Mike Findlay asking student Grant Connell (yes, he is the lawyer of today) who he believes will win the match. And Grant simply told him that St Martin’s already has it wrapped up. Mike was just impressed by the smarts of the St Martin’s student.

St Martin’s secondary School did win the 1991 secondary schools cricket championship. So in that year we were both football and cricket champions of all the secondary schools in St Vincent and the Grenadines!

But it didn’t end there. In 1992, guess who was back in the finals of the secondary schools football competition? Yes, St Martin’s. And guess which school we came up against? None other than the St Vincent Boys Grammar School. Now this was poised to be an interesting and historic match indeed. You see, there was always this unspoken competition between the Grammar School and St Martin’s to see which of these two all-boys schools was really number one. Because the match was played at the end of the calendar year, my group had already graduated from St Martin’s. In fact we were now in 6th Form (what is now called Community College).

The sole Sixth Form on the island was attached to the Grammar School. Nonetheless my classmates, St Clair “Herbie” Stapleton, Ronnie Daniel, Harold Lewis, Sheldon Venner, and I, all came to support St Martin’s that afternoon. Now our Sixth Form teacher came and sat among us in the section with St Martin’s students. As if that was not odd enough, she had the Grammar School flag. I just felt she was “in enemy territory”. She made the mistake of waving the flag when Grammar School had made a goal and all I saw was the Grammar School flag flying in mid air to the ground at the front of the stand. Almost immediately someone ran and tossed it into a green garbage bin nearby.

The entire stand erupted in an uproar that would have drowned out any Carnival Monday jam.

By the end of the game St Martin’s Secondary School had created history by winning the secondary schools football championship for three years in a row! And we did it by beating the St Vincent Grammar School. Coach Gary Thomas had really worked very hard. Players such as Rohan Keizer, Dominique Stowe, Terry Anderson, Jimi Jack and Maxion Richardson, among others on the team, really were top football players in the country, even though they were teenagers.

smss football champs

This is the football team that won the 3rd title

Now, just before we had graduated in June of 1992, our graduating class also did something that I don’t believe any other graduating class has done. We re-enacted the finals of the football championship between the the champs, St Martin’s, and the opponents in the finals, the Barrouallie Secondary School in a floodlight football match at Victoria Park. The moon was out in all its glory. We had students picking up ticket monies. We had students in charge of Bar be que. We had students manning the bar. It was an unforgettable night. Oh yes, I was responsible for getting the event advertised and so Chester Connell, a past student of St Martin’s who was a top radio announcer at 705 Radio at the time, did the ad for us.

There are so very many other precious memories from St Martin’s. It struck me during times when school was closed that other students who were not from my class would actually say hello to me whenever and wherever we met. That comforted me so much. I knew I was not just a student in a school. I was a brother in a large family.

Up to this day those of us who grew up at the school in that era, refer to each other as “Brother”.

And we saw it even as the news spread of the death of Mr Butcher. Old boys came to the funeral dressed in their St Martin’s uniform. I was one of them.  Seeing all the other people associated with the golden era of St Martin’s made tears come to my eyes.

butchercoffin

Mr Butcher’s body leaving the Anglican Church in Kingstown

We were mightily blessed to have been at St Martin’s in those times. A lot has changed over the years. The Christian Brothers are no longer in St Vincent. That wonderful cadre of men and women that comprised the teaching staff has long since disbanded to various other endeavours in life.

I know many of us past students wish that our St Martin’s was still engulfed in that magical atmosphere of love, hope and excellent academic pursuits and results.  We may not be able to wave a magic wand and reverse the hand of time but what we can do is let the spirit of SMSS live in all of us.

St Martin’s role was to prepare us for life. That is what Mr Butcher was eagerly doing over all those years of his life. So it is up to us to live out the life lessons we learned within it’s happy walls. It was encouraging this year that the child who came first in the CPEA—the exam that replaced the Common Entrance exam, is the son of a past student of St Martin’s Secondary School.

Let us all use whatever talents we have and make our mark. We can still change the world. I believe in doing so, the present crop of students and teachers at St Martin’s will see the rich legacy of the school powerfully at work and that will keep inspiring them to up their game as well.

Mr. Butcher

Our teacher Ezekiel “Scatter” Butcher at school

I end this lengthy but necessary post with the very words Ezekiel “Scatter” Butcher wrote in my graduation souvenir book when I graduated in 1992:

“Go placidly amidst the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. All the best. May your inspiration come from the Lord at all times.”

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