In which i try and capture a long, rambling, regret-soaked set of tweets by Binyavanga Wainana reflecting late Friday, May 15, on the dissembling life of gay men like himself and how sex is the least of one’s problems…
Who knew how much Jamaicans love Barack Obama? I didn’t until he arrived yesterday and the country went into full One Love mode. “So the real world boss land” commented Colin Channer referring to the local self-titled Worl’ Boss, Vybz Kartel, languishing in jail. Meanwhile “We welcome the President on this hysterical moment” a newscaster is reputed to have babbled in his excitement. People congregated at key sections of the road from the airport to New Kingston but were disappointed when Obama was transported by helicopter instead of the Beast. Nevertheless as @wayneprawl tweeted: Marine One just frigging passed over my house. The entire Port Royal just erupted in waves and screams. Others noted that POTUS’s arrival had displaced the live draw of Cashpot, a national lottery, that never yields its airtime not even for the Olympics. Obama has managed to stop Cashpot and NOTHING stops Cashpot tweeted @jomariemalcolm in awe while Alison Stuart said: What! He stopped Cashpot!!!!! He mus really be a powerful man!!!!!!!
Meanwhile my neighbour Deborah Anzinger told me her daughter Zoe, 6, had asked if her parents could take her to talk to Obama. What do you want to talk to him about? her mother asked. Her answer: she wants to ask him “why are you here?”
One thing i’ve noticed in some of the bumph attached to this event is a reference to it as “the start of a social movement”. Would love to hear more about this, was there some kind of social motive or rationale behind the hedonistic display of Diner en Blanc? Or did they mean ‘social’ as in page 2 of the Observer? Anyone know anything?
With this piece Sarah Manley has certainly declared herself a powerful voice for social reformation, perhaps following in the footsteps of her father, former Prime Minister Michael Manley. Take a read…
They say the victors record history. It is they who tell the story from their perspective, as they are often the only survivors to tell the tale. But, a narrative told only one way misses details that in hindsight are important. Small or large tidbits left out present an incomplete picture. Perspective matters.
When I posted the picture juxtaposition of the Diner En Blanc affaire beside the huge plumes of smoke from the Riverton City Dump fire blanketing the city of Kingston I did so with a clear conscience and a profound sense of irony. The elegant aerial of Jamaica’s elite decked out in fine style streaming in to our National Emancipation Park, a picture I might add widely circulated in social media, and in traditional media, presented an irresistible visual representation of the haves doing what haves do. Their choice of white clothing formed an almost cloud like film eerily similar to the white smoke billowing over the capital. While Rome Burns, a long venerated metaphor for those with excess living to excess in the midst of poverty and desperation begged to be the caption. Immediately came the backlash from attendees, many of whom I count among my friends, acquaintances, former school mates and family. I am myself a part of the elite of Jamaica. In fact I hold the dubious distinction by accident of birth, and by far more deliberate upbringing of being counted among perhaps the most reviled of the elites, the political elite.
A curious response emerged to my post from the attendees of the dinner. They seemed unaware that there was any irony attached at all and were genuinely surprised that I would put the two images together. They said they were unrelated. That the fire did not literally happen while they dined. They said in short that I was comparing apples and oranges. I was actually shocked. I expected some response, perhaps a sheepish, “well mi dear we may as well for Rome is burning anyway”. But to not see the irony at all was something that frankly astounded me. I can go on ad nauseum with examples of how Rome is figuratively burning daily, hourly, minutely in our beloved homeland. Where do I begin? I’ll begin with the dump itself which within a few short days and a few short miles away from the charming stylish dinner, began to suspiciously smoke, and as the head of the fire department said, was engulfed in flames over an unprecedented area, an area so large he has to attribute the fire to arson. This is not a new phenomena as these dump fires happen annually, and in fact it has been suggested are an accepted part of an economic structure so deformed that starting the fire is a common strategy of business development for the truck owners who are paid to haul the huge mounds of dirt needed to put it out. It is in fact business as usual. I go further. Noted environmentalists have said that strategies to improve garbage disposal in Jamaica have been repeatedly ignored by successive governments because they are either unaffordable or stand in the way of garbage for energy plans that appear to be permanently on the shelf. This is Rome burning literally and figuratively.
I can go on. The Ministry of Health, itself so cash strapped that it is frequently in the news for being short of even the most basic supplies, not to mention broken equipment it cannot repair, hospital beds it cannot supply etc, stated that it was awaiting results of air quality tests sent overseas to labs that we don’t have to determine the level of contamination in the smoke. Curiously, they later said that there will be no lasting effects from exposure. Fascinating. Are these Canadian lab results in? And what did they say? Enquiring minds want to know. These are but two of several examples of Rome in flames that are directly related to this particular fiasco.
But the merry revelers need not concern themselves with Rome as it appears they are exempt from it’s rules, it’s outcomes and it’s consequences. By example we look at the choice of the location secured for their bashment. The Emancipation Park. This park was opened in 2002 to serve as a monument to the end of the ignoble history on which our nation was built. In deference to it’s name and the freedom for which it stands its rules include that it is a public park. One of only a few carefully maintained public spaces in our city designed for all to enjoy. It costs 80 million sweat drenched dollars annually to keep it in it’s pristine state, money financed controversially from another venerable Jamaican institution the National Housing Trust. We forgive this misuse of NHT funds because this Park is for all of us. Or is it? The Diner En Blanc crowd, by virtue of its extensive political and economic connections in society appear to have circumnavigated the express rules of the park and managed to not only have a section, their special section, closed for their soiree, but to bring champagne no less, in a towering pyramid of sumptuous white, to the park which expressly prohibits the use of alcohol. Champagne, the glorious symbol of excess… the wine drunk by kings. Yet there is no irony. Yea right.
So we must ask ourselves this question. Why are these self important, over privileged, over exposed, immaculately dressed folk unable to see themselves as the fiddlers and to see Rome itself in flames around them? Why do they think they are entitled to have their story recounted by them only, from their perspective alone? Have they bought in to their own press? Over the past 20 or so years, a culture has emerged in Jamaica. In it, a society of “important” people have been created by virtue of attending social events and having those events publicized, first in the traditional press, which continues, and now in social media. It has become a thriving business where products are marketed and those in attendance are photographed and presented to the public as icons of style,fashion, and overall class and good taste. In fact, these page two moments are peddled by calculating culture vultures who hold the other side of the coin, the often vicious gossip column entries as the sword over the heads of any party thrower who dares to exclude them from participating. It’s a pretty nasty trick that has exploited the over inflated egos of the wanna bes for financial gain. It has been allowed to flourish unchallenged for over 2 decades as no one wants to be on the receiving end of the pepper potty mouth. Is it this ridiculous press that has convinced the few that their aspirations, their desires to see themselves in newsprint are actually a form of relevance? Notably absent from the Blanc proceedings were many brokers of power in our charming little village. Well known politicians were not present, well known bankers, well known businessmen were not photographed frolicking among the champagne glasses and white table settings shamelessly touted in the weeks leading up by businesses owned by other members of the elite. Do they see the irony of flaming Rome surrounding the emancipated blancs? A good question.
I have long espoused a theory I find to be one of a few core root issues we suffer from in Jamaica. I call it form over function. We Jamaicans are spectacularly good at appearances. We are good at creating the appearance of success. We seem however to have confused looking the part with being the part. It is so ingrained in our culture that to many of us we genuinely think that if we show up, in the right attire, at the right address, it doesn’t matter if we actually produce nothing, do nothing, alter nothing, because to us, the mere fact of our presence is enough. Blanc is a fine example of this. Surely our haute couture elegance taking over Emancipation Park is evidence of our general success as movers and shakers in society. Surely the fact that we could demonstrate such a sumptuous show of style is evidence of our virtue. To suggest otherwise is, well it’s just being a hater. But, form is not function. The appearance of success is not success.That you could turn up in your finery with your picnic baskets of (What was in those picnic baskets? Good cheese? Pate? Or tin mackerel?) of whatever, is evidence of nothing. Rome is a flame, despite your presence on the Boards of Associations, despite your Jimmy Choos. The desperate in ghettos ten deep to a room are plotting ever plotting to scale your wall, to pick your pocket, to carve themselves out a slice of your pie cooling just beyond their reach on your watchtower.
We have its not my fault itis. Witness our Prime Minister’s statement to the people of Jamaica regarding the Head ofthe NSWMA. She races to her defense with a most peculiar logic. She says, that since the head of the agency did not start the fire, she cannot be held accountable. Really? So what is her job then if not to take on the responsibility, and with that the concurrent accountability for happenings on the dump she collects a monthly paycheck to oversee? It’s nobody’s fault. Blame is not a thing we take easily here on the remnants of the plantation. Perhaps the sting of the cat o nine is so rooted in our ancestral memory avoiding blame is something we must do at all costs, for the whipping is hot, and the scars never fade.
Diner en Blanc is an international phenomenon. Originally it had about it an air of wanton subversion. In the past it was staged in public spaces without the permission of the authorities and the secrecy of the location was not only to surprise and delight the participants, but also to avoid authoritarian reaction. It has evolved into something else. An exclusive gathering of the crème de la crème showing the rest of us what style really looks like. When you hold such an event in a poor third world country, what you end up presenting is perhaps not what you intended, but it’s a spectacle that in our case ironically, preceded Rome literally igniting. It is the final layer of irony in an event ablaze with it that some picnickers are unable to see this perspective and it reeks of a denial so deep it is frightening.
Originally posted on National Gallery of Jamaica Blog:
Although the Jamaica Biennial 2014 has now closed, we intend to continue the dialogue. Here is a guest-post by freelance curator and art writer Nicole Smythe-Johnson, who served as project manager for the Biennial and had special responsibility for coordinating projects such as Blue Curry’s.
Bahamian artist Blue Curry flew from London, checking his contribution to the 2014 Jamaica Biennial as luggage. Almost 300 feet of wall poster, divided into sections of 8 by 10 feet were packaged in two large rolls and encased in cardboard. Even though the National Gallery had provided the artist with a letter explaining the nature of the work, and the fact that the piece would not to be returned to London after the exhibition (only because it would be destroyed by then), the customs officer was unconvinced.
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That’s right…this was Emancipation Park in Kingston Jamaica on Saturday night…
On Saturday evening some of us began to notice that something white and wondrous our way was coming. It started with an irreverend tweet from Big Black Barry:
Which part di all white dance a kip? Mi buy a white gun mout bootie mi waan buss pon naiga.
Look at the ingenuity from Sandi Spaulding as she prepares for her #DinerEnBlancKgn experience. Will she walk away with the Best Dressed Table @bestdressedja will celebrate those who have made an effort in bringing the most innovative and creative designs.
#wearwhite @dinerenblanckgn #dinerenblanc
As we examined the event’s Facebook page we realized that Kingston’s “first ever refined Epicurean pop up picnic” had been long in the making.
Picture yourself here! This was a scene from Dîner en Blanc – New York in August last year…a sea of white elegance! The waiting list for the first edition of Diner en Blanc Kingston is now open! Click the link in the About section of our Facebook and stay tuned! #savethedate #wearwhite #dinnerwithfriends
Kingston are you ready to experience the Global Phenomenon #DinerEnBlanc?
Phases 2 & 3 will be open on February 5th and persons on the waiting list will recieve their invitations. Remember the number of places are limited and will be awarded on a first come first serve basis as we have a waiting list of 1600 and growing!
Kingstonians were more than ready as this playful photo demonstrates:
White on white! Thats the dresscode for #DinerEnBlancKingston No exceptions!
The merchant community was well integrated into the dynamics of the event.
Having problems finding something to wear? Feel free to check out our clothing partners: @flirtboutiqueja @kerrymwh @ericasavvy @jasandalco @spokesapparel #Gaychel #Signatures #SoHo #Flirt #Elan #JamaicaSandal&co #StyleSavvy #Sabritru #MaxBrown #BossApparel #SpokesApparel #footcandy
For all you last minute shoppers don’t worry. We have partnered with Jamaica’s finest boutiques to ensure that the most elegant and chic attire will be available for #Dinerenblanckgn
Even bougy picnic baskets were flogged at hefty prices.
Leading up to DEB day reminders were rife:
Do you have all your tools for #DinerEnBlancKingston? Remember it’s 4 days away!
The images above were circulated on Facebook to illustrate finer distinctions of the dress code to Jamaicans along with the following advisory: We have a host of clothing partners for you to choose from therefore there will be no exceptions to the dress code.
On the day itself and the 24 hours preceding it references to the One Percent’s Occupy Kingston moment escalated:
Its T minus 17 hours to #DinerEnBlancKingston. We’re putting the finishing touches on the secret location. Are you ready? Did you pack everything? Is your decor on point? Have you picked up that last item to complete your outfit? Are you bringing good cheer and that rock star party hard lifestyle that defines Kingston? If youve done all that and more. You’re ready to unleash the magic. #wearwhite @dinerenblanckgn #dinerenblanc
The upmarket picnic had no shortage of sponsors. The imagined community of Diner en Blanc has deep pockets. Organizers of all floundering and struggling cultural ventures in Jamaica please note…money is available depending on how you incorporate your sponsors into your events and how ‘tasteful’ and simultaneously boasy you are…so get to it! See list below–
But…but…is this not a textbook case of conspicuous consumption you ask? literally eating and drinking as conspicuously as possible–or is it something else? You decide. This blog isn’t into glut-shaming. I’ve just filleted the event for you, that’s all. *Waves napkin*
I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you…. What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.”
I began to ask each time: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, “disappeared” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.
Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.
And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.
from Lorde’s THE TRANSFORMATION OF SILENCE INTO LANGUAGE AND ACTION
– Happy Birthday Audre Lorde, born 18 February 1934.
American writer, feminist, lesbian and civil rights activist born Audrey Geraldine Lorde to parents from Barbados and Carriacou. Her work gained both wide acclaim and wide criticism due to the elements of social liberalism and sexuality presented, and her emphasis on revolution and change.
All of the above taken from Wayne Chen’s facebook post this morning. For those who keep saying I’m ‘brave’ to speak out as i sometimes do (is that a veiled warning i often wonder, rather than a compliment–‘gonna be working at loop after this…yuh brave’ as @Grindacologist said), please heed Audre Lorde’s words and join in breaking the silence…
The University of the West Indies’ repeated claims that it was clueless about the level of gender-based violence (GBV), or any violence on its campus for that matter, because it “cannot admit to a phenomenon that is not supported by data collected by UWI” are damaging the institution. They are an embarrassment because they lead to the inevitable conclusion that there are fundamental problems with UWI’S methods of data collection. Either that or the methods are designed to evade collection of data that would indicate beyond any shadow of a doubt the enormity of the problem.
Because of course the University’s claims that GBV is not a major issue at the university flies in the face of the experience of students who have to live and work on its campus. On February 12 students at Mary Seacole Hall, one of the only female halls of residence at UWI, mounted a silent protest against gender-based violence on campus (See video above). Accompanying this, for the first time in a long time, students mobilized social media to make their views known using the hashtag #SpeakUpUWI. There were of course the usual disparagers.
“You guys think UWI care abt your tweets?” scoffed @Appleton_King.
“No but UWI cares about their image #SpeakUpUWI” responded @italisvital crisply.
And that is the crux of the matter. It seems there may have been careless under-reporting going on all these years in an effort to ‘protect’ the University’s reputation (see my previous post Sexual Harrassment and UWI: Can we talk? for more background). If UWI Admin think it is the reports of GBV that are ruining its image I suggest that everyone from the Vice Chancellor down to the Hall managers study these #SpeakUpUWI tweets carefully. In the meantime the administration’s stubborn insistence on a policy of denial is not one that the rest of us who work at UWI can or should support for it is bringing the university and all of us who work at it into disrepute. It is simply untenable. We have a vested interest in insisting that Senior Administration reconsider this unconscionably dishonest policy forthwith.
From all available reports around 11 pm on Tuesday, Feb 10, two Taylor Hall girls were walking between the halls of residence when some male students started throwing stones at them. When one of the girls objected and told off the boy who had stoned her in no uncertain terms it appears that he attacked her, leaving her with serious head injuries. The rest of the male students, proud Chancellorites by all reports, stood by and did nothing to intervene. A security guard was also said to be present yet this did not prevent the student from being injured.
Only the previous week the Gleaner had published an article titled UWI Halls of Horror outlining the risks faced by female students on campus. The University’s Registrar and Marketing Director strenuously objected to the article, claiming it wasn’t aware of any such problems. The tragedy is that in spite of having its prevarications thrown in its face by what happened to two female students at Chancellor Hall, just a few days after the University had loudly proclaimed that there had NEVER been a report of GBV on campus, once again the Deputy Principal finds it important to reiterate the tall claim that so-called data doesn’t support the evidence of the numerous attacks that have and continue to take place on campus. What kind of scholarship is that? You fail to collect important data and then claim a problem doesn’t exist because data doesn’t exist??
This is as absurd as a bank saying that it had noticed large chunks of money disappearing from clients’ accounts but as no one had officially made a report it didn’t think there was a major problem. Haha try that NCB!
It’s only a pity that the poor Taylorite whose forehead was bashed in by a male student wasn’t part of a building, or a car or some other piece of private property, the University would have treated the incident like a major crime and steps would immediately have been taken to prevent its recurrence. I bet if asked the University can produce a complete list of property crimes on campus, disaggregated by all sorts of components.
But hey its just another female who’s been attacked. She’ll shut up or go away eventually when she realizes she has to continue attending classes with her assailants as well as those who stood by and watched without intervening.
Take a look at some of the tweets I extracted from the #SpeakUpUWI hashtag and see if you think I’m wrong (i’ve combined consecutive individual tweets for ease of reading) in bringing these matters to your attention.
RT @DanielleaAlexa: Went to UWI for a yr and Likkle bit. Lived on post grad and I was always scared as shit. Scared scared scared. 1 of my fren frm trini who lived on PG was attacked by a guy who lived on PG as well bcaz she never want him. UWI wanted her to hush hush. My girl get her lawyer an everything. Ole demons bwoy had to move off pg. like the whole a dem ova deh a drink mad puss piss to claart. They told her they would move the guy to another building in the complex. She was NOT standing for it. they moved him to the other side of campus.
RT @jdrenee_: Girls are safe at UWI yet I need to find a male friend anytime I want to leave my faculty? #SpeakUpUWI
RT @jdrenee_: Girls are safe by UWI but I got trailed when I left the Library by myself at night with no-one around? #SpeakUpUWI
RT @ShanaCogle: If violence is the way of the educated, what say the uneducated? #SpeakUpUwi
RT @Occupy_Jamaica: The first major sign of #Campus social media Activism in the Caribbean in a longtime. Get moving on this #SpeakUpUWI
Responding to the suggestion that things like this happen at all universities and universities in the USA and other first world countries have responded evasively as well, tweeter @Rosina_v retorted “yes but don’t have the time to care about overseas. [I] Care about the university i went to and suffered gender based harassment at.” She then went on to recount her experiences when she was a student at UWI.
Haile Minogue @Rosina_v
I was stalked for months by a man who would follow me to library and laywait me and scribble disturbing notes to me #SpeakUpUWI. had to go 2 a legal aid+get a civil injunction. He ws held by police who found 3 knives on him. Still no help from student affairs #SpeakUpUWI. tried to report it, turned out he had been doing the same to several other girls but me the worst. Directed to student affairs #SpeakUpUWI. I was told by head of Student Affairs not to tell her “Hi” when speaking to her, as she has a PHD & prefers the formal “hello” #SpeakUpUWI. That man had been deregistered from UWI since 1991! Still walking around campus terrorising women w impunity for over a decade #SpeakUpUWI. I couldnt bring myself to attend UWI graduation even though i was nominated as Valedictorian of my faculty. I couldnt stand for u #SpeakUpUWI.
In answer to a follow up question Rosina told me the following:
I went to UWI between 2008-2010. Did a BA in Philosophy and minor in Political science, graduated with a 4.01 GPA and was one of 5 students nominated to be valedictorian of Humanities and Education…Gender based harassment and violence is REAL, and the whole overall culture of the campus–and I can personally attest— is subliminally and overtly abrasively sexist and is a distressing environment for girls to achieve within–if places like the library, where late studying is a must for achievers breeds this kind of unwanted attention. Even in broad daylight, as in my case, harassment was not restricted to day or night.
Then there are the apologists for the University:
RT @GodivaGolding: We can’t blame UWI or Chancellor for the actions of a few. #speakupuwi
RT @GodivaGolding: It seems lost on some that UWI is a mere microcosm of the wider society we operate in. #speakupuwi
The apologists were swiftly dealt with. As @Cuddlephonics pithily put it: Cant and wont blame uwi for the incident but I will chastise them for how they handle these situations. #SpeakUpUWI
RT @Mandi143: “@KristinaLien: Nah we blaming UWI for something they’ve seemingly been ignoring for DECADES/” #SpeakUpUWI
UWI Problems @UWI_Problems
I wonder how many more things UWI plans to sweep under the rug…& how many things it has already that we don’t know about. #UWIProblems
Gaza Slimesha @AudiNatlee
Whether it is being investigated or no, SAY SOMETHING. Let us know you are as deeply outraged as we are. But sitting silence makes it worse.
Jack Mandora @darius_roberti
Women are speaking up about instances where they HAVE attempted to report things and were rebuffed.
So yes. That’s a UWI problem.
It’s been a good while now we’ve been crying out for PROACTIVE measures.
But now, AFTER the fact meetings being held.
Jack Mandora @darius_roberti
If the ‘meetings’ aren’t about the expulsion of the responsible parties and them being charged for assault, what’s the point? #SpeakUpUWI
Campus Police are bigoted, sexist buffoons with no empathy to rassclaat. You are there to SERVE and PROTECT, not victim blame #SpeakUpUWI
If the University wants to tackle the problems women have been trying to bring to their attention for decades let them start with the male halls of residence. @brandonallwood puts his finger on the problem: I went to UWI for a semester. Hall culture is abrasively macho n OBVIOUSLY n PATENTLY distressing for women.” #SpeakUpUWI
What is Hall culture? Has anyone at UWI taken the trouble to study it? Have any of my esteemed colleagues in Social Science thought of investigating the fascinating sociological problems sitting on their doorstep? It’s a charge Verene Shepherd, head of the Regional Unit of the International Gender and Development Studies (IGDS) department has often made. The university’s researchers have been busy studying external problems instead of the ones that beset it internally.
Of course its also true that when a scholar undertakes a study as Taitu Heron did in 2013, the University is liable to reject its conclusions because it suggests there is a serious problem with GBV on campus. This is untenable. The Administration needs to lay out for us what it’s data collection methods have been all these years. Also what happens after a student reports an assault to the Police? Do the Police make weekly or monthly reports to the University about assaults on campus? If not why not? and if so why has the University said Ho, hum! and turned away?
Fortunately not all senior administration personnel at the University of the West Indies, Mona, are in denial. “Sexual harrassment is a troubling aspect of life on the Mona campus and has always been so from the time I was a student. It is not always manifested in violence but it is verbal also,” says Professor Verene Shepherd, head of IGDS at UWI.
“If Taitu found in her research that 67 cases came to the attention of campus security, one can bet it is a higher figure because it often goes unreported,” continued Dr. Shepherd. Education is vital; and I would suggest a Foundation course for all students — a kind of Gender 101 to sensitize all students to the historical roots of GBV and to the fact that the female majority on the campus is no excuse for male students to think that women are available for harrassment.”
In addition to a foundation course in Gender Studies let us at once examine the charge that the male halls of residence at UWI are little more than fraternity houses or frat houses as they’re more popularly known. At many American universities frat houses have been barred from campuses because it is widely acknowledged that such fraternities with their ultra-macho culture and investment in rowdiness, conspicuous machismo and male-oriented behaviour have contributed to the prevalence of rape culture. Yet at UWI not only are fraternity-type dorms such as Chancellor, Taylor and Irving part of the campus, some of them have also been turned into co-ed residences with female students placed in these havens of ultra-masculinity.
Add to this Hall Managers who have graduated from fraternities to become their managers (rather than the post being filled by the most highly qualified and competent candidates whether they lived on the particular Hall or not) and there is almost nothing to curb the masculinist excesses that occur, in fact are encouraged, from time to time.
It is noteworthy that in the instant case of the two female students who were attacked at Chancellor Hall around 11 pm on February 10th the University administration itself was unaware of the attack until the afternoon of the 11th. Allegations are that the Hall Managers concerned neglected to report the matter until it became obvious that the media, social and otherwise, was not going to turn a blind eye to what had happened.
It is sad also that the injured student’s parents, a working class couple from Montego Bay, were not given accommodation at the University so that they could tend to their daughter, instead of having to return to Montego Bay the same day they arrived to inquire into what had happened. Inexcusable also, if true, that the University did not escort the student back to Montego Bay after her doctor’s examination yesterday. These are simple ways the University could have started to repair its image instead of flatly denying the violence that is plaguing its campus.
I end with two tweets worth sharing. Let’s hope that everyone comes to their senses and starts doing what’s necessary to make campus safer for students, faculty and everyone who works there.
RT @_JKav: Worse thing is that some people are going to complain that it’s being made a gender thing.
But it is a gender thing.
RT @italisvital_: My prayers go out to that girl. Confrontation or not, she doesn’t deserve a cracked skull and what they did to her face #SpeakUpUWI
Everyone agrees that in order to deal with a problem you first have to acknowledge it exists. I thought of this when listening to Camille Bell-Hutchinson, University Registrar, energetically refuting the charge that gender-based violence is out of control on the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies. Today the Letter of the Day in the Daily Gleaner is from the University’s Director of Marketing, Recruitment & Communications, Carroll Edwards. Like the Registrar she denies allegations of rampant attacks on campus women made in a Sunday Gleaner article dated February 1, 2015, ‘Halls of horror: gender-based attacks haunt UWI, Mona’.
The denials come in response to a study cited in that article quoting Taitu Heron, currently National Programme Coordinator at UN Women Jamaica, who chronicled some of the reported cases of violence against women on the campus in her 2013 study Whose Business Is It? Violence Against Women at UWI, Mona. The study, conducted while Heron was a lecturer at UWI’s Institute of Gender and Development Studies, used data compiled from incident reports made to the Office of Security Services on campus. Records showed 67 reported incidents including stalking, physical assaults and domestic disputes.
Astonishingly this was categorically denied by the UWI registrar who stated in the media “…while the university cannot say sexual violence does not take place on campus, the university has never had a report of sexual harassment on any of its six halls of residence.”
Remarkable! If this is true it is a huge feather in the university’s cap. Its security arrangements are so good that not one case of sexual harrassment has been reported–EVER. I hope the University’s PR and marketing department is making lavish use of this extraordinary ‘fact’ in advertising the campus and the excellent security that obtains there to potential students.
Considering how prevalent sexual harrassment is on virtually every other University campus in the world this should also qualify UWI Mona for some sort of global award–for it has NEVER had a report of sexual harrassment on its campus if the Registrar is to be believed. I would imagine that the University’s gender specialists and social scientists have done considerable research on this amazing state of affairs so that it might lead the way in showing other universities how to manage gender-based violence on their campuses.
Returning from UWI’s alternate universe to the one described by Ms Heron, much of what she reported sounded alarmingly familiar. I still remember a women’s group on campus in the early 90s putting up posters inviting concerned individuals to a forum to discuss the many violent incidents female students were facing on campus with a view to forming some sort of strategy that would provide women with better support than was then available.
Before the meeting could be held an edict was issued by the administration. There was to be no such forum and all posters advertising it were to be taken down forthwith. Organizers were reprimanded for jeopardizing the ‘good reputation’ of the university by holding such a discussion in public and ordered never to do it again.
Very little appears to have been done by the University to upgrade the security of female students between then and 2007 when the attacks grew so flagrant that another women’s advocacy group took the matter of female security on university campuses to parliament. A Gleaner article detailed the issues:
Rape, a major problem at UWI – advocacy group
April 12, 2007
Complaining of a disturbing number of rapes and other forms of sexual offences on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), a female advocacy group on the campus is calling for special legislation and other measures to combat the problem at all universities in Jamaica.
The recommendation was made yesterday by the Society for the Upliftment and Advancement of Women Via Education (SUAWVE), a group based at the UWI’s Mary Seacole Hall, during a presentation to the joint select committee of Parliament considering legislative changes relating to sexual offences.
Lanoy Crumbie, president of SUAWVE, related three real-life incidents on the campus: In the first incident, she said a female student attending a party on campus was gang-raped by male students from her class, who videotaped the assault. Student number two was raped by her male study partner in his on-campus bedroom, after they had finished studying. The third student was raped by a classmate, whom she had invited to her bedroom; but he flatly denied that it was rape, since she had invited him to her room and, by her own admission, he did not use physical force.
Crumbie admitted, however, that none of these incidents had been reported to the university authorities or the police, citing the victims’ reluctance to undergo the “trauma” associated with rape cases.
Responding to the report, Joseph Pereira, deputy principal of the Mona campus, also made clear in an interview with The Gleaner, however, that these incidents had not been brought to the attention of the university administration.
Heron also cited SUAWVE’s 2007 initiative to Parliament in her paper. In its submission to Parliament SUAWVE noted the prevalence of ‘acquaintance rape’ as a particular problem at UWI’s Mona Campus.
“Shortly afterwards”, as Heron notes in her paper, “the Student Group was called into the Prinicipal’s Office and reprimanded for bringing the university into ill repute”. Heron concluded “The primary concern was not that the incidents of violence against women occurred but rather that speaking about it in an open forum made the University look bad.”
Nothing much seems to have changed between the early 90s and 2007 or since in the University’s strategy for dealing with problems of sexual harrassment. Suppressing information and preventing potential victims from mobilizing support for themselves or discussing the problems seem to be cornerstones of its policy towards sexual harrassment. In another incident I’m aware of two girls narrowly escaped being raped by a mob of young male students at one of UWI’s Halls of Residence at Mona. When a student newspaper tried to publish a report on this incident, in an act of blatant censorship, they were ordered to drop the article from the publication immediately. How women are to take precautions when much needed information is suppressed in this way is something an institution of higher learning such as UWI needs to explain.
In the same vein a few years ago some female students called up Ragashanti’s virally popular Newstalk 93 talk show to complain about rape and sexual harrassment threats they faced on the Mona Campus. Ragashanti was sympathetic, urging them to speak freely, only to be hauled up by the administration who ordered him to cease and desist from holding conversations on the subject of female vulnerability on campus. The virulent arguments between Ragashanti and Rodina Reid, a senior campus administrator, originated over this matter.
Recall also poet and writer Stacey Ann Chin’s vivid description of the near rape she suffered in a bathroom at UWI.
What is consistent in all of this is the University’s tactic of demanding and imposing silence on victims and potential victims of sexual harrassment on campus while at the same time doing very little to secure the safety of its female students. It was striking that in her appearance on Newstalk 93, University Registrar Bell-Hutchinson insisted there were hotlines for students to call in case of trouble though she was unable to provide the number when pressed by the host to announce the numbers for the benefit of students who might be listening.
Also striking is the emphasis placed by senior UWI management on the lack of reportage of sexual harrassment incidents as some sort of vindication of its reputation rather than recognizing it as an extraordinary situation that requires immediate investigation. Instead of claiming proudly that the university “has never had a report of sexual harassment on any of its six halls of residence” or that “these incidents had not been brought to the attention of the university administration” let’s try and find out what is preventing such reportage, let us then put systems in place to facilitate female students who are being victimized, and let us immediately stop this foolish strategy of censorship, cover-ups and bullying of advocacy groups who are legitimately attempting to solve problems the University has been more concerned to deny than address.
Finally no more of statements such as this: “The UWI, Mona, also rejects the allegation that the issue of gender-based violence has not been accorded priority by the campus.” Had this issue been prioritized as it should have been as far back as 30 years ago it wouldn’t keep returning to haunt the university today.
One of my favourite friends, Peter Dean Rickards, departed this crazy world on December 31st at 4 am. It’s heartbreaking to step into 2015 without him and I will do a longer, more considered post in due course but in the meantime here’s a compilation of some of the most compelling tributes I found on social media. A particularly touching one is from LA Lewis (Horace), someone both PD and I think/thought is a completely underrated genius…you see him here in a rare unvarnished video moment–the master of artifice with no props, unfiltered, mourning Peter’s passing. Peter’s magnificent spoof of the artworld–The Concepshional Artist–used LA Lewis as his subject, a role he played brilliantly. Check it out.
“Dem get out Bab Morley, Dem get out Bill Casby, and now they try to get out me. #kim #pete #uptown”–one of Peter’s last tweets…
bout yuh dead
AYE RED BWOY! TEK MON FI FUUL!!!!!
Hiff u eva guh ded yuself mi kill yu… LOG EEN PON FASEBUK NOUW!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Dem get out #WerlBoss dem get out #BabMorley and now dem get out #EdgyPete . God knows I have been crying all morning but we soon organize a celebration.
You know, I was shocked, then sad then angry, then all three. But then when I look at how you left, I realise that the joke was on us. The screenshot. The cover shot. The ominous tweet and FB update- Mic drop! And then the dramatic New Year’s Eve exit down-stage. “Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Goodnight light, and NSA surveillance device…” I will always love you Peter Dean..and all the spaces between. Love to Aunty D and Pops and Sue and Rache and Satori and Shaman.
Annie Paul: gr8 image, whose?
22 December 2014 at 10:08
Peter Dean Rickards: I not sure uno Hannie…i teef it .
Tomas A Palermo
Peter Dean was our go-to guy for original, artistic and downright jaw-dropping photographs of Jamaican artists, models and the grimier side of life during my tenure at XLR8R. Bark worse than bite, he was always professional and humorous when we least expected it. He will sorely be missed.
Donna P. Hope
RIP Peter Dean Rickards…your light shone brightly, burnt a few in the process and left us quite suddenly.
Edgar DE Scribe Lewis
My brother, my friend forever, Peter Dean Rickards . You made us laugh, we got each other in trouble, we ducked gunshots together. You defined creativity and rebellion for most of us. Through your eyes and your camera lens we saw what was right and wrong about Jamaica and the world, and you laughed about it. You went at it fearlessly, and that made you even more creative. People like you don’t die…. People like you lived and will continue to live.
Jacquie Juceam with Peter Dean Rickards and Leighton Paul Walsh
By @walshyfire “RIP to a great friend. One the most loved, hated, and feared people in the internet. From 1994 on dancehallminded.com to the first live in studio soundsystem dubplate recordings at downsound records in the late 90s. His artwork, photography and video captures of Jamaica and dancehall still reign supreme. Your contributions to Jamaican culture will never be forgotten Peter Dean Rickards. Rest in Peace brother.”
The 1 @afflictedyard cut cause him tired a hang out wit bhuttus, den Joe call him fi shoot #GullyBop, that was the last straw
This took all day – mainly because I hoped it was a sick joke – but here goes:
Out of respect for a life I knew and worked with,
…the profession of photography lost a brilliant visionary of style, wit, and talent. This dude Peter Dean Rickards stirred the shit up whereever he could, pissed off many, even frightened a few, and was definitely among the #zerofucksgiven SoulJahs. BUT no one could dispute his talent or resist the laughs.
He was committed to showing the world the raw side of #Jamaica that frankly few others really looked at or cared to do honest photo-essays about…and he represented this with poetry and the sexiest style. In this singularity I absolutely respected his stubborn tenacious and incomparable vision.
No doubt now in death, as in life, there are mixed feelings about this genius cat, but I will admit I will miss the funny exchanges we had from time to time. He was utterly grossed out or at least wickedly amused by lachrymose sentimentality – so with that I’ll wrap it up with this:
Trust you to have this last graphic note on your site you nut! Ha! Alas the fight is over. #FlyInPeace PDR (but as you said too William Richards – he’d just tell me to fuck off and get on with something better to do. So off I go. LOL).
“I just wanna cause enough shit to be a good bar story for a hundred years or so.” – Peter Dean Rickards
Who will take the photos now… RIP
All Hail King Peter Dean! The most Afflicted Mad Man the World has ever seen.
You dressed your Doberman in long shirt and drove him in Car front seat to intimidate pedestrians with gritting & snapping of his teeth.
Karen C. Tomlinson
Goodnight beloved. Much guilt in my heart for not staying with you Tuesday night You didn’t want to be left alone. My hope is that it was soft like cream. you battled for every breath for some time now. Now you rest. I miss you and wish you were still here. But the suffering was too much for you. See you in the afterlife. Shine your star bright. Oh my god you are amazing PDR.
So very sad and shocked to hear that the inimitable Peter Dean Rickards has died; a unique and acerbic wit, a brilliant photographer and a fantastic ambassador for Jamaica in all the right ways.
Always thinking outside of the box., always different, always …. FIRST..Genius at imaging ..Still trying to grasp some of your work, thats how advanced you were . Gonna miss our talks even though its been a while since we last chatted. now i am figuring out all the reason for all the changes in recent times.. Always loved your spirit and admired your works Rest well my friend. You have left The afflicted yard in mourning
Horace L A Lewis
THIS WAS PETER LAST FILM THAT WE WORK AN BE FOUR HE LEFT JAMAICA LIFE IS SO SAD I WAS LOOKING FOR HIM TO RETURN WE LOVE YOU PETER https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaZt1NLZRfg
2015 has been a year of great learning and friends lost. R.I.P @afflictedyard I will thoroughly miss you ‘Ruddy’. You were one of the first photographers to see the beauty in me. When I was just 18, you said “climb that rusty ship in Port Royal and come Mek we tek some pics” that’s when I knew you were crazy and I loved it! Those who knew you knew you loved controversy, you lived for it and you were a true artist to the core! Honestly one of Jamaica’s top ‘Media Terrorist”. I loved and respected your craft and loved you as a friend. Again you will be missed Peter, until my friend. Try not to piss the cosmos off lol #rip #2015 #sad #friend #Jamaica #model #artist
this is one of the most enduring memories I have with @afflictedyard was captured here. him draw me out of my yard. I ended up in Tivoli about 3 am the same night with my laptop showing Dudus the harrowing photos Pete took of Chris Royal’s death scene
@xuhulk was a complicated man and a brilliant photographer but I’ll always remember him for this: newsone.com/44922/jamaican…
Jamaican Dog Defecates on Priceless Banksy Piece
A new chapter has emerged in the struggle between legendary at-prankster, Bansky and his Jamaican photographer nemesis, Peter Dean Rickards. Rickards has allowed a dog to defecate on artwork Banksy,
￼ NewsOne @newsone
Banksy paid Pete @afflictedyard £10,000 to handover the fotos an never mention it again The fotos were taken in Jamaica mostly @ Buju studio
I think it’s also safe to say now the fucker dead that @afflictedyard is the only person known to have photographed @banksy
Big loss.The definitive jamaican film of my generation woulda been done by Peter. It woulda taken forever, but he woulda gotten around to it
Long before newspapers started mentioning the JCF death squad vimeo.com/6651793
The lizard town massacre pics. The thurs nite boxing pics. Passa Passa. Kids in tivoli. No one else got it like him
Russell Hergert @russellhergert
Saddest thing is Jamaica lost its most important artist today and they don’t even realise it. @afflictedyard #afflictedyard #timewilltell