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Remembering Junior

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Murders happen every day, but when fifteen year old Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, better known as “Junior”, was chased into a grocery store in the Bronx, dragged out back into the street, and stabbed and hacked to death by at least five men–it was the wickedest, most heartless and coldblooded killing I had ever seen. I don’t even recall seeing such a gruesome scene in the most action-packed movie on television. By the time his mom got to the hospital, her beloved baby boy was already dead. His mom was pictured crying on her son’s dead body (see above pic).

But it is the friendly, ever happy character of Junior–along with the discovery that he was mistaken for another person–that really torments our grieving anger over the death of this young life. In the days and weeks following his brutal death, numerous videos and pictures have been surfacing online to show the sort of person Lesandro was to his family and friends.

No life should be taken in such repulsively horrendous fashion. Junior was not just killed or murdered. He was slaughtered. So frighteningly horrific was his final moments that a new category apart from “homicide” should be created for his butchering! I wail inside to think about the total fear, helplessness, pain, shock, panic and torture which Lesandro Guzman-Feliz had to endure all by himself on that night of June 20, 2018.

One of the inhumane trends which his death brought to the discussion table is how easily it has become for people to use their phones as video recording devices in times of emergency, rather than use the phone for what it was originally made for: that is, call for help.

One of the chops from the cutlass (machete) ripped through the right side of his neck, thus totally cutting the main artery that runs from the heart to the brain. In fact, there is a picture which shows Junior standing on the lonely street with his hands raised (I would like to think he had started talking to the Lord). You can clearly see his bloody neck from his deadly chop. Blood had started to gush out of his frightened body as water escaping from a busted dam.

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And that blood was not going back in.

Junior has to be praised for his emotional strength and will power. He did not stay on the ground after the violent tornado-like attack. He stood up and tried to get help from inside the same store he was dragged from just minutes before. Realizing that help was not being offered to him, Junior went back outside and ran off in the direction of the hospital.

He was already dying.

In his last moments alive, Junior is seen sitting on the steps of a security boot at the hospital’s entrance, his body and legs washed in his freely flowing blood. Passers-by tried to stop the bleeding.

But it was too little too late.

From the time he entered the grocery store, to the moment he passes away on the steps at the entrance of the hospital, every horrifically sad moment is captured on one video recording or the other. Such a private affair as one’s death was made into such a public spectacle. To be honest, Junior’s death reminded me of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I make this connection because of the sudden development and play-out of violently inhumane acts which killed such an innocent human being.

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Lesandro Guzman-Feliz must not be allowed to be forgotten. One of the things that adds insult to injury when murders have happened is that as time goes on, people stop observing or remembering the deceased. Yet the bereaved family can never regain their loved one. This is why I was happy to hear the local governing officials announce that in January, 2019, the street where Junior suffered so helplessly will be renamed in his honour.

You probably already know that twelve men from the Trinitaros gang, including its district leader, have been arrested, charged and remanded into custody for the trial of murdering Junior. While we all hope the prosecution will be able to secure  relatively smooth guilty convictions, it is unfortunate that there will still be lawyers who are going to do everything in order to defend these gang members. I understand and respect the due process of the judicial system. But that does not mean that I still do not wish that there can be an exception in this instance.

After watching the videos of Junior being hunted, cornered, and butchered, I feel it would have been suitable karma to not arrest the killers but instead, over a couple weeks or months, single each one out with an equally vicious team of avengers who would mutilate, butcher and abandon them in a lonely street…and it should all be captured on video as well.

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Furthermore, why must modern societies allow breathing spaces for gangs to exist and thrive? Even dangerous snakes are removed from human settlements once their presence is discovered. The same way the military tracks down, hunts and terminates terrorists, it is that same treatment that should be given to all who proudly acknowledge their allegiance to violent gang membership.

All of humanity needs to make sure that Junior’s literal human sacrifice was not in vain. We must take drastic policy and security measures to safeguard all human beings, no matter their ethnicity or geographical residence. No other child, teenager, young adult or elderly citizen should ever have to suffer Junior’s death in the future. Junior wanted to spend his working adult life as a police detective to help other victims of crimes; but it became a tragic irony when he himself became a victim on that summer night.

Junior’s family will forever remember June 20th each and every year. They will also feel the renewed pangs of the senseless loss and bitter loneliness on all occasions meant to bring families and people together in joy and good times. We must also feel their loss and bear their painful remembrance.

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I have prayed that on that night of June 20, 2018, the promise found in St Luke chapter twenty three and verse forty three would have come true for you, Junior.

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The winning song, and especially its shocking props and audience-involved presentation, in the recent Soca Monarch competition, made it abundantly clear to me that it is time to defend Christianity.

For about the second time in his performance career, the artiste, Delroy “Fireman” Hooper, took the title with a song that basically poked fun at the Christian faith. On the first occasion some years ago, he had fans laughing, mimicking and reveling in the belittling of the Spiritual Baptist denomination. This is a denomination that endured years of persecution through discrimination, prejudice, incarceration and physical abuse from colonial rulers in the Caribbean. It is probably the only denomination as well that has some connection to our ancestors original religious practices that they had back in Africa.

I am not saying that “Fireman” is not a talented performer, or that he is not an individual with commendable or even praiseworthy human characteristics. Just from knowing him as a man about town he does appear to be a relatively humble and respectful law-abiding citizen. However, I cannot help but think that he somehow enjoys ridiculing Christians in his songs.

My position is that at the level of  a national festival or activity such as Carnival, no one should be endorsed or allowed to pull down or mock any religion or religious denomination being practiced in the country. It is also clear to me that the fact that “Fireman” is developing a habit of winning the soca crown by mocking elements of the Christian faith, means that he is not alone in his particular opinions. Certainly, the judges, CDC officials and thousands of his fans agree wholeheartedly and see nothing wrong with using our premier cultural festival to ridicule our nation’s largest religious faith.

Why is that?

Well, based on the opening lines of his recent winning rendition, “hypocrites and haters” are the targets of his chanting mantra: “run dem out, run dem!”

One of the unfortunate realities in the Christian circle is that the issue of hypocrisy at times seems unstoppable. Nonetheless, Christians are not perfect people. Each of us has the responsibility to be honest with ourselves and face our own hypocrisy in this regard. I have realized that JESUS  says to the conscious hypocrite: “Now that you know you have been a hypocrite, stop being one. My blood was shed to also forgive you of your sin of hypocrisy.”

In essence, then, none of us have an excuse when we meet the Creator the Lord Jesus Christ after the death of our physical bodies. Jesus Christ will say to us that none of our messed up situations on Earth was stronger than the power of His blood shed upon the cross and the power of His love given to and through His Church and gospel.

In other words, at our Judgement Day court hearing, we will learn that no hypocrite (and indeed no human being) has an excuse why they should not have qualified to enter heaven.

I wanted to take the above two paragraphs to speak on the issue of hypocrisy because many people have stopped going to church because of it. Nevertheless, it must be made clear that we must learn how to go to church to experience Jesus and not just to be in a comfort zone with people.

After that purposeful detour, let’s return to the central argument in this post. It is the cross of Jesus Christ that has been the symbol of the Christian faith throughout the ages. It is this same cross that “Fireman” has used as nothing more than a mocking target, as though the cross is a clown’s hairdo in a circus.

There is an inherent danger in this whole scenario because that song and that performance night in particular might have sent a message to some sinner in need of repentance that Jesus and His cross is nothing more than a big joke or laughing-stock.

Vincentians are today becoming less and less tolerant of each other when they perceive any differences exist between them and their neighbour. The song in question also poses a threat that it can further serve as a means or reason to promote social and religious divisions. It can and may even lead to cursing and violence as certain ones attempt to do just what the song encourages them to do–run dem out!

Within recent times, matters have reached before the law courts where Vincentians had decided to take matters into their own hands because they believe that their fellow Vincentian citizens were indeed being haters, bad minded or hypocrites. We saw that in the beating of a bereaved widower as the deceased was being buried. It also played out in similar violent fashion in other communities.

We cannot try to get  an enjoyable life for ourselves by drilling into people that it is okay to punish, banish or physically hurt others just because we think they are different. That is a no-win situation as all of us have to live in this land. It is a painful lesson we continue to learn the hard way when we have political campaigning and then seek to govern a people already divided by the said campaign strategies.

Traveling the highway of facilitating demonizing and discrimination of people because they are different will never take us to a destination of peace and happiness in our land.

I am convinced that the time has come for Christians to let their voices and presence be heard and felt. Remaining silent is a luxury that the peace of this country cannot afford. Whether haters, bad mind, hypocrites, concerned, not concerned–the future of our land needs everyone to have a dialogue and talk about the changes we need to begin to take to save our nation from all the overwhelming vices and threats coming to us from all directions and places.

Amen.

The 2017 hurricane season is far from over, but already several Caribbean islands have had their future jeopardized by intense hurricanes in the space of a few days. Even the common man on the street, who is not schooled in meteorological information, will easily admit that this year has seen troubling, deadly unprecedented hurricanes.

And it continues.

We in St Vincent and the Grenadines had just held a concentrated series of response efforts to help Vincentians and other citizens in the BVI who were crippled by hurricane Irma. Physical donations were placed on an 1800 ton barge for the BVI. But before the vessel could have reached its destination, up pops hurricane Maria, forcing a speedy return to the safe waters of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Now, even though this post focuses on the Caribbean, it is important to state that hurricanes Irma and Harvey (its predecessor) also brutally assaulted Texas, Louisiana and Florida, causing billions of dollars in accumulated damages. This acknowledgment is necessary so that a balanced perspective of the overall issue is not lost or trivialized in any way.

Of course, the Caribbean people are no strangers to hurricanes and tropical storms. But any blind man can see, as they say, that the frequency and intensity of the 2017 hurricanes have been abnormally shocking. There have been some hurricane seasons in the past when there were few–or no–hurricanes. And even when there was a hurricane or two, they were usually geographically spaced out and occurred far in time from each other.

But it looks like hurricanes no longer respect the Caribbean islands.

Right now, the BVI, Barbuda, the UVI, Puerto Rico and Dominica are all reeling from the effects of category five (major) hurricanes. In my living memory, we have never had multiple islands in need of regional and international help all at once.

The barge I mentioned earlier has left for a second time to deliver relief supplies to anxious relatives and friends in the BVI. Simultaneously, we are raising other relief resources to help Dominica.

My heart aches painfully for Dominica. They have suffered a double whammy!

On August 27, 2015, tropical storm Erika left at least thirty persons dead in Dominica with communities such as Petite Savannah all but buried under massive mudslides from torrential rains.

Two years later, on Monday September 18, 2017, hurricane Maria, packing category 5 winds of over 160 mph, took direct aim at Dominica and steered its small eye from the southern end to the top of the island with  surgical precision.

As I saw the satellite imagery I could not believe it.  The eye, flanked by the brunt of its most destructive winds, literally followed the contours and shape of the island to a T. It was as if hurricane Maria was a car in some child’s video game, and Dominica was its roadway.

Early in the storm, Dominica’s prime minister alerted Facebook followers that his own house roof had gone and that he was at “the complete mercy” of hurricane Maria. Around 2 AM on the morning of September 19th he told the regional and international community that his island and people will need all the help they can get because Dominica had “lost all that money can buy or replace”.

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Hurricane Maria, just before it made landfall on Dominica with 160 mph winds

I also recognize a highly skilled friend in Dominica who tragically lost his house in 2015 when Erika brought down tons of mudslides on their house, burying his mom and dad instantly, while trapping his feet in the rocks. His dad’s body was never found.

Now an orphan, he and his surviving siblings (all young adults) have had to face the nightmare of Maria a mere two years later.  This is a tragedy that one will not even desire for one’s enemies!

Can you imagine what it must feel like to be trying to rebuild your life after one tragic storm, only to be knocked down again by another disaster in such a short space of time?

As you can imagine, hurricane Maria completely knocked out all means of communication with Dominica, so there has been no word of that family’s fate; however, I trust that they did survive, and they are not numbered in the seven or so fatalities which I have heard about so far in Dominica.

At the time of this post, hurricane Maria is pounding the Dominican Republic and other nearby territories as it barrels northwards now. Meanwhile, radar images are showing non stop tropical activity in the eastern Atlantic ocean.

It is clear that we are not out of the woods as yet.

The speed with which Maria and Irma reached category 5 status has left everyone astounded. Some have even questioned whether or not somebody somewhere has found a way to manipulate weather systems. A plot which would make for a great James Bond film, no doubt.

Nonetheless, meteorologists are citing that the increasingly hot temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean is giving hurricanes a boost. There also seems to be little shear or high pressure systems which usually make it difficult for hurricanes in the tropics to develop into monsters.

After seeing the unbelievable way in which the eye of hurricane Maria navigated the island of Dominica, it has dawned on me that another  such major category five hurricane can do another impossible thing in the Caribbean. That is, it can very well happen in the future that a hurricane, moving in a WNW direction, can pummel the Eastern Caribbean archipelago in one horrific slow-moving and deadly day.

Or night.

I also realize that most–if not all–of the times when a hurricane makes landfall, seems to be in the dark of night, as if the hurricanes know they must also generate panic, fear, and blindness to terrified citizens trapped beneath their destructive clutches of floods, wind and rain.

And even if one hurricane does not do this, it is also quite possible that several hurricanes can strike different islands in the same hurricane season. Or, each year might have one or two  islands being disrupted again and again by natural disasters. And, like Dominica and the Virgin Islands, it might very well be that the same islands will be affected year after year.

The question is, therefore, how much rebuilding can small, generally helpless Caribbean islands sustain in an intensifying hurricane zone. I actually heard a citizen on Puerto Rico asking a television reporter this very question, because Puerto Rico had been affected by hurricane Irma just days before hurricane Maria knocked out all electricity on the island.

Incidentally, hurricane Irma had earlier made the water supply on Puerto Rico a scarce, scarce commodity.

Facing future hurricanes is now a matter of individual islands and regional security. It is not just something the Caribbean can entrust to each territory’s office of disaster management. Indeed, the head of the BVI’s disaster management acknowledged that their headquarters and equipment which they took over forty years to acquire, were all destroyed by hurricane Irma.

Caribbean citizens, from child to adult, must become immediately sensitized to environmental responsibilities and acts of protection and conservation. Studies in regional climate change impact is a must. The construction industry must galvanize support for creating structures that are more resistant to high winds and flooding.  Additionally, each island (and the entire region) now needs not just a hurricane management or response plan, but general disaster coping and survival protocols.

Let me also say that we must begin to look closely at hurricane shelters. I do not think that every building that is owned or operated by government should automatically become a hurricane shelter. The same is true with churches. There are instances where existing hurricane shelters are also suffering similar damages and loss as the home from which many persons run away in the fist place.

Every local community also needs a disaster response and management group with persons trained and equipped to deal with some basic aftermath issues, such as medical and counseling. Every family should have access to hurricane shutters and knowledge of the kind of foods which can last without electricity, for about 4 days.

Let us not forget that the Caribbean is in an active earthquake zone. Many Caribbean islands have dormant and active volcanoes which each has the capacity to decimate the island it is on.

Right now Mexico is counting its dead from a major earthquake which hit even as hurricane Maria was beating up on the Caribbean. Who is to tell if in the future a hurricane and/or volcanic eruption will be affecting one or several small islands simultaneously in the Caribbean?

There has to now be a paradigm shift in leadership, education, corporate and civil collaboration, as well as a new thrust and partnership with the international community. Such a shift must go beyond individual islands’ politics. Now more than ever, Caricom and the OECS must have faith in each other and their abilities, otherwise I am afraid the fate of the Caribbean will be one of literal ruin and destruction. Presently, no human being is living on the island of Barbuda after hurricane Irma. Our human civilization in the Caribbean can be easily placed at risk of extinction by the onslaught of intensifying hurricanes in the Caribbean in future hurricane seasons.

 

 

Earlier this month I just happened to be switching channels just in time to hear the USA’s president verbalize an unprecedented defense and rationalization of the white supremacists’ actions in Virginia that left one woman dead. To be honest, I was not particularly surprised–or even shocked–by these proclamations.

I knew instantaneously that I had tuned in to history in the making. For never before had an American president come to the defense of racist Americans who wanted nothing better than to marginalize, alienate and eradicate minority ethnicity such as my own black people.

Ever since the Republican convention in the summer of 2016, it became succinctly evident that the now 45th US president had no personal appreciation for black America, and by extension, minority America. He has been an unscrupulously driven businessman who mastered the art of doing things his way. By giving him the victory on election night, those fifty eight million Americans gave this president the ultimate green light for the rest of his life.

Losing the election was the last sane mechanism by which he could have been stopped. Alas, that did not happen.

Now more than ever, president 45 does not give a damn about any opposing critique or opposing sentiments.  In this president the stage is being set for the opening of the modern day portal of cruel racial divide and prejudice in the United States of America.

But to be fair, it is not this president who is responsible for the feelings of racial hatred and renewed will for white dominance once more in American communities. It is my view that ever since the Civil War, the American society never really pursued or attained closure as regards the issues of race and slavery in particular. There have always been at least one in three white Americans who have felt a sword piercing their nationalist hearts every time the civil rights activists made breakthroughs in racial equality.

These Americans have for years allowed their displeasure and inner condemnation of minority groups to lie dormant, pretty much as a mighty volcano which has not erupted in years or decades. Instead, they have heeded the palliative of polite American education.

I feel also that having a black person occupying their highest position in the land for the last eight years have lit some serious fires in the emotional furnace of many a white American. And some black ones too, unfortunately.

Race issues in America is not over. In fact they are far from over. The truth is that president 45 is just giving voice–and face–to the pent up anger, hatred and disapproval of blacks and other minority groups by a silent majority of rural, middle class Americans. These are the ones who turned out to register their desire to make America white again, to make America’s leaders white again, in the last presidential elections.

I can’t help but think that if President Obama had known his successor was going to make it his priority to undo his legacy, Obama just might have showed a different persona and power which the oval office afforded him.

We must face the unspoken truths that America has a race problem. It has always had a race problem. But just having periodic laws passed by congress along with a few photo ops with white and black leaders have not–and will never–bring America to the finish line where race is concerned.

Leaders in congress, in the White House, as well as in the media and business establishments must open their mouths in admittance of this socially chronic non-communicable disease which is silently killing America’s future. Citizens across the fifty united states must be able to discuss all their hate, hurt, pain and gains in truth-and-reconciliation town hall meetings and forums.

An immediate solution might not be reached but tensions will mitigate because people of all colours would no longer need to pretend that America is not divided or that race is not really of consequence in America.

It is quite possible that a more racist supporter of white dominance can occupy the White House in the future, and that other such like-minded leaders could start to emerge from their various closets across the spectrum of gender and economic employment industries.

Now more than ever the state of the union matters because the race is definitely not over in America.

 

 

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First international flight lands at the Argyle International Airport (courtesy Elroy Martin’s facebook)

The Argyle International Airport opens in St Vincent and the Grenadines today, February 14, 2017, ushering in a totally new era in the socioeconomic journey of this small multi-island state. At $729, 000, 000, it is by far the largest capital project in our country’s thirty seven years’ history as an independent nation. The international airport was an accomplishment which many believed could not be successfully done, but one politician’s ambitious goal became the nation’s golden egg. As the saying goes, even a blind man can see that the realization of an international airport for St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is bigger than any one man, any one government, any one political party.

A new future is now possible. Tomorrow’s history has been changed infinitely.

Vincentians can now feel as citizens of this modern globalized world. Without a doubt, this was a dream for many generations of past Vincentians; to many, it was the kind of dream that you thought was silly because it was practically far-fetched, or was useless to pursue as it was not going to happen in your life time.

Now much has been said about the almost unlimited challenges and delays associated with the building of the Argyle International Airport. But it is the future challenges which this airport brings to our Vincentian citizens that I wish to speak to in this post.

I felt a sense of the political maturing of our island’s politics when the new leader of the oppositions commented in parliament that the international airport is too big a project to fail. He stressed the need for all Vincentians to work together in order to guarantee the success of the Argyle International Airport (AIA). I commend his wisdom. Effective leadership will periodically require a leader to bow graciously to the achievement and success of opponents. We should never allow the trees of our selfish wants to block our view of the forest of our country’s progress and well-being.

Vincentians of all walks of life are converging at Argyle today to witness the many historic landings and take-offs by regional and more so, international carriers. Some three international flights will touch down at the airport today.

But these flights have been chartered. Come tomorrow, the airport will be empty as all the supporters and party enthusiasts return to their various places of residence or occupational localities. I would hope that the relevant arms of government would have been in deep negotiations with business and tourism markets to foster a desire for people to want to travel to SVG.

However, that is one side of the coin.

The other side is that we need to begin changing the expectations and attitudes of our people here in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Having an international airport must not be allowed to be only thought of as a one day public holiday event to go watch inaugural flights, drink and be merry, and then return from whence we came.

Now is the critical time that a new educational thrust be initialized in schools, villages, liming places, community centers, places of work, social media, electronic and print media–all with the purpose of helping locals to understand and feel the new possibilities that an international airport brings. This is a life-changing development for all our people.

Beginning today, simple, varied, but new linkage industries must start to blossom on mainland St Vincent and in the 32 Grenadines islands. We must begin to cultivate and show forth opportunities, attractions and localized experiences that will make visitors, investors and people from various parts around the world want to come to SVG.

We cannot just sit back and wonder where are all the international flights. We must not allow ourselves to have to indefinitely continue to travel to  regional hubs for our connecting flights to other parts of the world.The government, in particularly the prime minister, has given us all this new international airport. Now we must give sustainable life to the airport. It’s a time when all the creative, critical thinking and entrepreneurial skills of Vincentians must be set ablaze.

This is a national day of thanksgiving to the Lord. Long live the Argyle International Airport.

 

 

 

The magic of the holidays are once again fading as another new year gets lost deeper in the 2017 calendar. Someone commented on cable television that if only the celebratory mood, goodwill, carefree hours and ample food and drinks could last all year round. That is synonymous with the writer who penned the wish that every day should be Christmas Day.

Well, the reality is that every day is not a holiday. I suppose the last week in December and the first week in January are the days when the inner urge to believe in the empowerment of self through resolutions is at its strongest. But soon after the public holiday of January 1, and the world seems to disembark from the fantasy of best wishes and peaceful co-existence that it fights so contagiously to create each year, the dreariness and  imperfections of the human culture once again nibble away at your consciousness. Who knows, maybe some people who dislike the holidays, or who don’t celebrate them, do so for this very reason: they believe in their simple wisdom of  not giving themselves an end of year “high” only to have to jump off to a crashing low on January 2nd. Prevention is always better than cure, isn’t that so?

But a fundamental challenge still exists. How do you brace yourself to face the onslaught of the upcoming twelve months? Can the good intentions of those new year’s resolutions carry their weight? Unfortunately, we all know that by the time February slips around many of us are already soiled and buffed by daily work and personal activities that we unconsciously laugh at ourselves for having been foolish enough to having adopted a “new year new you” philosophy.

Is it really a waste of time to try to change ourselves or our lifestyles at the beginning of the year? Are such yearly ambitions doomed to failure, a mere reshuffling of the chairs on the deck of the Titanic?

I suggest that the problem is we tend to put faith in the calendar time period of the holidays as well as the human camouflage of a purposefully feel-good campaign of goodwill to all men. When we do that, we miss a universal truth which whispers in our ears every day of the year. The power to change is always present in every human being. Our failure is that we marginalize and trivialize the key ingredient of our will power.

Think about it. Don’t you make decisions during the rest of the year? Don’t you follow through with these decisions which result in necessary change and betterment of your living conditions? Those decisions are impactful because we determined in ourselves not to deviate from them. We make up our minds that we will not falter.

Similarly, life changing decisions can be made at the end or the start of any year. We just have to make sure that the decisions are being made, not on the man-made high of the fairy tale holiday season, but on our own desire for really being different and wanting a better existence. If we truly look at the man in the mirror and make up our own minds about wanting to do something to make us better off then we can make such a decision in January, June or November.

The beginning of the year is as a good a time as any to ask ourselves what we really want. Reflect on your situations and decide the personal outcome which you would want to see become your reality. I was inspired last year when a  graduate student said that the best way to plan for the future is to create it. Those are powerful words. There comes a time when we must come to an awareness that it is our duty to create and own the upcoming days, weeks, months and years in our lives. But as most of us begin to grow into our own, because we are not accustomed making life changing decisions for ourselves, we somehow procrastinate and look for a green light of permission from other people around us.

That is a habit which we must stop with immediate effect. Just as persons who would have been in the arena of success have made their own decisions, you who have not before known success have that same human right and responsibility to master your destiny through your decisions. And there is no better time to start that today.

Yes, home and work responsibilities, coupled with environmental stress, will continue to permeate our lives in 2017. The headlines making news are probably not going to get any better either. The possibility of some new “mosquito-borne” disease is also likely to be named this year, too.

But nothing that is happening around you can deter or stop the decision that is made within you.

Again, the question is being asked: What do you want for yourself and your life in 2017? After you have answered that question, know to yourself that you have the ability to do what it takes to make your answer your 2017 reality. There might have to be hours of hard, non-enjoyable work, but work hard anyway. You might have to burn the midnight oil while everybody else is sleeping, but stay up late anyway.Very few months or years will pass without soe form of human conflicts, quarrels or arguments, but pick your quarrels and confrontations astutely, and battle on anyway. After all, didn’t even the Bible, through the wisest man, say that there is a time for peace and a time for war?

In fulfilling the legacy of the made up mind we must never forget that the next December will come. Now this might seem like foolish thinking in March and July, but if there is one fact that is irrefutable it is this: time does not stop moving. No matter how good or how bad right now may be, time will continue to move on. If you don’t believe me, just look at your watch. Isn’t the seconds quietly ticking away? Then surely, the time of your payoff will come.

So, if you know that time cannot stop in the present, then your fuel that drives your passion must be that when that future time comes in December, you will be in a position to enjoy the future reality which you decided you wanted for yourself in January.

Although I’m using the new year’s resolution practice as the main argument here, the same principle applies in every area of life, in every situation. If you are hoping to pass exams in June, make up your mind now to push ahead; June will come and you will pass. If it is a matter of health, of wealth, of family, of community or of longevity, make up your mind right now and don’t back down when the going gets tough. You will find it easier to carry on with your made up mind’s decision because you already expected the tough times.

But remember as they say–tough times don’t last but tough people do.

So whatever road you are on at the start of 2017, let’s raise our glasses of a made up mind and drink to the situations of the next twelve months which we would look back on at this time next year as the defining times that cemented our better future. Happy new year, everybody.

 

 

 

Another Year Comes to an End

Although the end of year reflection, celebration and new resolutions have become automatic events in modern civilizations, 2016 has packed a punch in a way that no other year in recent memory quite has done. This year has been like going to your favourite restaurant and ordering that delicious pizza, only to discover that upon eating it, it has unexpected spicy flavour which makes you immediately look for water to cool your taste buds.

Many people are this week looking to cool the effects of 2016. Somehow you feel that the vast majority of people who have been scorched by the life episodes of 2016 are looking for something more than just the ordinary end of year social gatherings. So stingy has the year 2016 been. And it was a long year. Quite possibly the number one memory which most of us will take into the new year is the unprecedented presidential election results in the United States of America. The results showed a harsh wake up call to the reality that elitism and main stream media have failed and potentially will continue to deteriorate in relevance to twenty first century lifestyles.

America has positioned itself on another pioneering path. Whether it leads to advancement or anarchy, only time will tell. But the people have spoken. Democracy has prevailed. Or was democracy aided by a former cold-war adversary?

Brexit. That’s a word that is now indelibly etched into the memories of people all around the world. And, yes, we have 2016 to thank for that. The people of Britain voted to leave the European Union in their historic referendum in June 2016. It was the second most consequential political earthquake of 2016. Again, the Brexit vote showed that the age of elitism and traditional political correctness is existing under a setting sun. So shattering was the result that Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, moved out of Number Ten Downing Street, giving way to someone who can lead the country out of the EU. Cameron accepted personal responsibility for the defeat.

The political atmosphere in many of the countries which many of us in less developed countries see as the “Promised Land” means that there is a certain degree of heightened uncertainty and anxiety about whether or not we would be able to migrate to these counties. America and Britain are classic examples. In these countries, many of their current citizens–and policy makers–are showing more and more unwillingness to accept foreigners, refugees or any non-citizens to their soil. Will 2017 be the year of marked deportation and blocked migration to America, England or even Canada?

But perhaps the one thing about 2016 which has shaken the boots off of all of us was the seemingly unusual coincidence of the deaths of many celebrities in the entertainment and literary works spheres of life.This month, December, has taken several such celebrities. It is as though Death feels it has his own deadline to meet before the year ends..

However, life’s analysis, lessons and resultant mood in 2016 must not be determined only by those internationally popular developments. Indeed, to the world most of us is a nobody, but to the one person who values us, we mean the world to them.It is equally important to value your own individual experiences, challenges and lessons in your local part of the world. One of the things that is reverberating in my own mind is the newly passed sentence on a fourteen year old girl, to twelve years in prison for the murder of another teenage girl in 2014. This happened right here in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

To me, this sentence marks a definite shift in awareness of the justice system to the growing number of young people who value cursing, fighting, drinking and sexing more than they value respect for authority and traditional values.This judge would have made history in SVG because it is the first time a defendant so young is being sent to prison. Unfortunately, one feels it is not the last time a teenager, or school age child, will be sentenced for committing a serious crime in this country.

I think all of us have been guilty of innocently assuming that at midnight on December 31st, all the unpleasant or unwanted situations of the past year are somehow magically erased and we begin the new year in a new world. That is of course the foundation of a false consciousness. Life’s circumstances do not change just because the calendar changes. I am always mindful that  the many persons whose deaths we mourn each year were most likely alive and well at the beginning of the year. They probably were also celebrating Old Year’s night and New Year’s Day. Little did they know that they were also celebrating the advent of the year in which they would die.

Sadly, I also believe that this Old Year’s night, 2016, there are persons who would be watching the fireworks, drinking the champagne, kissing loved ones and making merry, who would not be around on Old Year’s day 2017. And it can be anyone of us. So, does that mean we should not celebrate the new year? I’m not saying that, but we should be graciously humble in acknowledgement that the new year is just another period along the time line of our lives which will bring its own share of ups and downs.

The twenty-first century has seen a disturbingly regrettable trend of more and more parents of academically average children playing less and less active role in their children’s education during the school year here in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Every year, even before students can get into their summer flow, the back-to-school hype literally invades their minds via radio, television, and now the internet and telephone advertising. Parents are enthusiastically busy getting their children registered into new schools, buying books, uniforms and paying other preparatory expenses. But where do these parents disappear to after day one of the new school year?

A successful education system, such as we allege to have in SVG depends on the collaboration of the student, teacher, school, home and community. Learning is indeed a partnership. But partners in this education process are becoming woefully negligent and even uncaring. Years ago, it was the norm to find that parents would make it their business to know their children’s teachers, to keep in continuous contact with the school and to reinforce education policies and school decisions at home.

But today, the environment and world of learning that schools offer students in the classroom is tantamount to a fleeting fairy-tale feeling of bliss while at the movies, because after the school bell rings, many children are returning to homes and communities with very contrasting views on schooling and life values.

It is a reality we cannot afford to ignore much longer.

Generally speaking, the education policies, from the Ministry of Education to the individual school regulations, have been doing their fair share of keeping students on task and actively involved in their learning. But there is very little structure and support for the students outside their classrooms. As it is now, far too many children, some as young as those in primary schools, are being just left on their own to literally become young independents. They are home alone after school, they have no set bed time hour, they go wherever they want, they do whatever they want, and on mornings they are told by their parents who go to work and leave them at home, to get themselves ready for school ad go to school.

Of course, many of them don’t habitually go to school, or they go to school regularly late.

So the question is: Why is this generation of parents neglecting their most vital parenting responsibilities as regards their children’s education during the school year? Well, perhaps the following real-life incident might shed light on the causes.

When summer was ending in 2014 I was making my way through the market when some parents began talking about the reopening of school. “Let school hurry up open,” the first parent said. “Yes,” was the quick reply of a second parent. “I can’t keep any food in the fridge for this whole month of August.” A third parent then said, “My electricity bill went sky high because the children home watching TV every day.” Then a fourth parent said: “The other day I go home and meet the water hose turned on. The water run whole day because the child at home and been playing with the hose.”

The above comments suggest to me that the primary function of school for the average parent is to give them a relief from the “burden” of looking after their own children on a daily basis. Something is causing a paradigm shift in local parenting. This is evident from incidents when a parent is highly upset that she has to report to her child’s school because he or she was suspended. Long ago the anger would have been focused on the reason the child was suspended in the first place. Now it is aimed at the school for disrupting the parent’s “vacation” from life without the child around.

This parenting shift is also real when a parent can also declare in front of their child that they don’t love or care about that child; that their money, attention and love is going to the brother or sister at another school. That’s an actual development.

The time has come for parental courses, tutorials, help-a-thons or the like, to be made available for many parents. Many of them are proving unable–or unwilling–to cope with their basic responsibilities of parenting their school-going children.

No child asked to be born, so when that child is born it is the duty of the parent to start living a sacrificial life for the child; however, what is happening is that many parents wish to continue living as though they have no children. That is a recipe for the failure of the child.

Yes, parents may have to work, but they should not just accept that they leave home before the child wake up, or that they come home late at nights hours after the child reached home from school. Parents, you have an equal responsibility to make sure some mature adult is there before and after school.

Children are also  leaving home and returning from school with no adult to inspect or monitor the contents of their bags or pockets. The moral straying in this area is infinite. From not taking books to school to bringing back books, cell phone, drugs or money that does not belong to them, are all possible results because children are unsupervised at home or left unchecked.

When a child can buy their own uniform, stitch in the pants, or wear multiple pieces to school–something is wrong with the way parenting is done. When a child’s report from December is still uncollected in June–something is wrong with the way parenting is done.

Has the time come for parents of school-going children to sign a legal parenting contract which spells out specific things that they must do after registering their child, or getting the new bag, books and uniform for September?

Could it be that the twenty-first century parents are having children as a consequence of sexual activity, rather than having intercourse because they genuinely want to have children?

The answers to  those questions are critically important if schooling has to once again become the noble and proven way of giving indigent children an escape from poverty.

In too many instances, school is being reduced to a mere baby-sitting hub where children only give priority to the after-school lime with their fellow students from across the island when they gather in the capital city and stand at the bus stop for hours each and every evening.

Education is still a valuable asset, and schooling is still a fundamental necessity but we are fooling ourselves if we only make back-to-school an emotional hype of making a social statement and then abandon the children to sink in the academic seas of actual reading, studying and doing home-work. We should really not celebrate back to school without prioritizing going back to parenting.

 

 

 

 

Alton Sterling is shot dead by police during an incident captured on the mobile phone video camera of shop owner Abdullah Muflahi in Baton Rouge

 Still images from video show Alton Sterling as he is shot dead by police during an incident captured on the mobile phone camera of shop owner Abdullah Muflahi in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 5, 2016. Video taken July 5, 2016. Abdullah Muflahi/Handout via REUTERS

 

The visually shocking deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, two black men shot by white police in America this week, and the assassination of multiple police officers by Micah Xavier Johnson in Dallas last night, have brought the ugly head of the racial divide in America to the focus this weekend. America is not going to get better until the sophisticated cultural cycle of public speeches, “thoughts and prayers”, vigils and protests, along with the finality of grand juries acquittal is broken.

Something has got to give. And Micah Xavier, Johnson, the 25 year old American veteran “hero” who regrettably used his military training and guns to kill some white Dallas police may in time turn out to be the “something” that has started to give in the home of the brave and land of the free, where if you are white you can look forward to enjoying the American Dream, but if you are black you are continuously served a life-long dish of an American nightmare, especially as it relates to how the white police officers generally treats you.

President Obama in Poland quoted the troubling statistics that black people are likely to be arrested and suffer prejudicially racial profiling than their white counterparts in the USA. Even people who do not live in the states have experienced the traditional demeaning treatments from America’s generally white policemen. of course, there are good white police officers who would respect the black people they encounter in their work duties. But this does not mean that there are not those white police officers who seem to be quietly waiting for that chance to show black people who is the boss and executioner.

America is yet to openly confront and admit to the evils of slavery–evils which continue to  impact black people living in the USA in the 21st century. Incidentally, I am not subscribing to labelling of black people there as “African American” because those who created such labels have shown their desire to have their own race reign superior by not accepting their own label of “European Americans”. Indeed, as pointed out by President Obama this week, unless you are a native American, then all your ancestors at one point were immigrants and illegal aliens.

These are the subtle prejudices which continue to slowly mix ingredients in a latent racially-nuclear reactor. According to the fiancé of Philando Castille, who witnessed first hand his execution during a routine traffic stop, the police are there not to protect and serve them as black citizens, but to assassinate or kill them. The young man’s mother commented that her son’s only wrong doing was that he was “black in the wrong place”.

By now you most likely have seen the videos of the killing of Philando Castille and the immediate aftermath of the shooting death of Alton Sterling. It’s about the umpteenth time black families are going through such viciously insulting loss at the hands (or guns) of white police officers. From my own observational experience of such deaths, the pain is even more severe because even though the black community puts its tail between its legs and play “nice boy” by having peaceful protests and allowing the law to run its due process, the result is generally always the same: the police officers are never found guilty or are never disciplined or punished.

So, in other words, the families of black men gunned down by white police over the years are never realky given satisfaction. And that hurts. The whole world have looked on as time and time again the justice system, including grand juries, have said these accused white police did nothing wrong when they shot and killed blackmen who were not posing a life threat to them at the time of their deaths.

I recall how Tamir Rice, a child, playing with a toy gun was shot and killed TWO seconds after the police arrived on the scene. It hurt like hell to hear at the end of due process that the officers did the right thing.

I also remember Treyvon Martin, killed suspiciously by a bullet from self appointed neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman. After all the glamour and fan fare of the due process of law, George Zimmerman was told he is an innocent man. Not too long ago, George Zimmerman put the same gun he used to kill Treyvon Martin up for auction. I think I was told he had an offer of over one hundred thousand dollars for that killer-gun.

Just recently, too, the officers who were charged with the choking death of another black man were basically told they had done nothing wrong. This, as the courts said the accused who had the greatest evidence against him, was free to go because he had only done his duty as a police officer. If you saw this particular video you would have heard the black man coughing out the words “I can’t breathed” as he is choked to the ground and his death.

So, in a lot of ways, the American justice system has set the precedent that police officers are to be commended for doing their just duty in instances when they have suspiciously murdered black men.

Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the Congress released a statement earlier today in which he condemened the attack on the police in Dallas. Nothing is wrong with condemning the actions of Micah Xavier Johnson, but what makes me shake my hed is that Paul Ryan and the majority of the US representatives do not lift a finger, issue a statement or pass any legislation when black people are killed by police. They don’t even want to stop mass shootings in America. When the Democrats held a 224 hour sit in as a means of getting a vote on gun control bills, Speaker Ryan’s response was to dismiss it as a publicity stunt and to start investigations to see if or how the Democrats in the House can be punished. Apparently, the rights of the carriers of guns–and the rights of mass shooters–are more important to Paul Ryan and other republicans than the lives and hut of families of shooting victims.

I suspect that the black people in America have grown allergic reactions to the taste of the American Nightmare forced on them whenever they try to find their piece of the pie known as the American Dream. What Micah Xavier Johnson did was terrible but as he himself said, he did it because he is hurt and angry at the killing of black men by white police officers. That one of America’s very own beloved veterans could turn on them and murder police officers show clearly that the racial injustice meted out to black people in the USA over the years has reached a boiling point of no return.

It’s no longer acceptable to allow the courts and legal system to investigate, go to court only to get the right of way to tell accused white police officers that they didn’t do any wrong when they killed black men. Neither the police nor the black people in America should feel that they are being hunted; however, America is really overdoing a good joke with all the no convictions, no punishments for white officers who execute black people time and time again.

 

My Mother’s Last Day Up and About

Wednesday March 20, 1996, was the last day my mother was up and about on her feet before she took sick with a stroke. It’s hard to believe that today is exactly twenty years now since that sadly unforgettable day. Our lives changed from that day onwards. But through it all I experienced first hand the loving presence and kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

At that time in 1996 I was a young teacher who was preparing for the end of the second term. I was teaching a school where second term exams were administered; for some unknown reason I had decided to prepare and type my exams quite ahead of schedule. I was to find out that that was God’s way of helping me to be prepared and have my work out of the way.

I remember the lunch hour on that Wednesday very vividly. At a nearby church I had gone to a 12 o’ clock service. The preacher was a lady who spoke about preparing for God’s blessing by faith. She preached that if you want God to bless you with something–if you want to achieve a goal–don’t wait until it becomes real before you start preparing or living as though it is real. At that time I was thinking of getting my driver’s license. I made up my mind then and there that I would enroll in driving school. I wouldn’t wait for a time when I own a vehicle. I would do it now.

Because it was Wednesday, my local church was having Bible Study. And I went that night. One memory is embedded in my mind from that service. Just as we were about to close, and the final prayer was being prayed, I felt an overpowering sense of God’s presence. I felt backwayrds and landed comfortably on the pew behind of me. That was something that never happened to me unless I was up at the altar.

But God was preparing me.

I got home around 9 o’ clock and a favourite show that my mom and I enjoyed watching was just starting. But I noticed that mommy was not there. I found her in her bedroom. She was sitting on her bed reading the Bible. So I said, “Mommy, look Murder, She Wrote showing and you nar watch.” I can’t remember her exact words, but her response was that she prefers to read the Bible and spend time with God than to watch Murder, She Wrote. Because mommy was had an established routine of praying and reading the Bible at 12 midday and 6 pm daily I did not think too much of the response.

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My mother, Clorita Daniel, and her first grandchild, Kesron, in the 1990s

 

I, however, went in the living room to watch the show. Sometime after, mommy came out and stood behind of me. She said something to make a joke with me and swung her hand playfully as if to give me a clout. I playfully ducked and dodged her hand. Later on I would wish I had allowed mommy to hit me one last time. I should also interject that one of my brothers, Godwin, who was a police officer, came home that same day to spend the night–something that was not a frequent occurence.

After that playful incident mommy went to bed and so did I.

But before I continue let me take you on a flashback to two incidents that happened in the week leading up to this day, Wednesday March 20, 1996. Mommy used to go to the vegetable market in town to sell every Friday. On Friday March 15, 1996, I met her at the bus stop waiting to catch a van to come home. I was of course coming from work. She got  a van. I had to wait because I was “travelling monthly” with a particular van. But I sensed an overwhelming desire to give my mother a $3 which was the passage or bus fare to get home. So as she was getting into the van I handed her the money.

“What this for?” she asked.

“To pay your passage,” I replied.

The second incident happened the day after this. On Saturday March 16, 1996, while mommy was at home, we heard a male voice shouting “Tantie Clorita!” Mommy got up from her seat in the living room and went to se who it was. To her surprise–and mine too–it was one of her nephews from Carriere. The young man was the son of her sister, my “Tantie Dona”. He hadn’t visited in a long time. I can tell that both nephew and aunt were glad to see each other. I watched them talking happily for a long time. Then I went about doing other Saturday morning stuff.

No let’s get back to the night of Wednesday March 20, 1996.

Somewhere in the middle of my usually sweet and comfortable sleep I was awaken by my father’s voice calling me. I went to the voice, still sleepy. I saw Daddy and my police brother trying to pick mommy up from a sitting position on the ground. She had told Daddy that she was going to urinate but didn’t get very far.

The scene had me stunned and I could not quite figure out what was happening; however, we all tried and eventually got her back in bed and laid her on her back. A few minutes after that we saw mommy almost “stretching out” and her eyes rolling back in her head.

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My brother Godwin (R) and I in 1992, after coming back from church

 

If I was never frightened before in my life, I was frightened then. My brother went and opened the top half of the back door in the kitchen. I think he had tears in his eyes.

I went to my room and turned on my stereo, selecting Shirley Caesar’s “He will do it again!” I turned the volume up.

We determined it was best to get mommy to the hospital. I called a neighbour, but when he realized  that mommy couldn’t sit up he advised us to call an ambulance. That we did.

The ambulance came. We got mommy onto the strethcher and into the ambulance. Here is where some bizzare things happened. The ambulance could not start. The driver tried and tried but to no avail. In fact, no lights at all were coming on. There were no ignition lights. There were no headlamp lights. There were no siren lights.

I knew then that Satan was trying to keep my mother away from getting medical help. Then I have to say what happened next was nothing less than a miracle.

The neighbour whom I had called before and who said to get the ambulance, he suddenly showed up. He was a mechanic and was able to get the ambulance’s engine started. But there still was no light on the ambulance. So this God-sent neighbour volunteered to drive in front of the ambulance straight to the hospital. Daddy went with the ambulance.

By the time I got back into the house, I saw it was about five minutes past one in the morning. I went back to sleep.

There were some very scary, sad and lonely times in the days and weeks following. One of which was when the doctor who was looking after mommy in the hospital met me in the capital city, Kingstown, and told me right then and there that I should not expect my mother to come back out of the hospital because she only has a 5% chance of surviving. That news I heard in the middle of a crowded street in Kingstown.

Mommy baked our Christmas cakes that year. Hallelujah.

Mommy came out of the hospital on April 17, 1996. She would go on to live for another eleven years before leaving her earthly body on November 3, 2007.

That time in my life taught me that prayer works, that God is present in trouble and sickness, and that there is a power greater than doctors. I also discovered that a hospital can be a place of healing and recovery; I need not be afraid of hospitals.

During the time mommy was hospitalized I did go to driving school. I got my driver’s license that same year. I reasoned that drastic situations called for drastic measures. If something traumatically bad had happened in life, I will respond by doing something drastically good.

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