Friday, December 15, 2017

Joan Williams, former local host, looks back to go forward

(This is a reproduction of the article appearing on the front cover of the hard copy of "Bookends" on Sunday 18th November 2017. Bookends which is the book review section of the Jamaica Observer, is edited by Sharon Leach.)

Jamaica had its share of activists during the 1970s. Several of them have written about their experiences in that heady period of political tribalism.

Add Joan Williams to the mix.

On October 21, Williams launched her memoir, Looking Back.. ...the Struggle to Preserve Our Freedoms, in Pembroke Pines, Florida.

She told the Jamaica Obsever that she was influenced to revisit her firebrand years of the 1970s, after years of observing "apologists" for the Michael Manley government revising history.

"Reading so many versions written by those who were behind the Socialist thrust and seeing how they try to sanitise what really took place, I had to record my own experiences for I have never found anything that told the other side of the story," she said.

 'Looking Back' focuses mainly on the Seventies, a divisive decade that saw then prime minister Manley experimenting with democratic socialism. He was fiercely opposed by the right-leaning Edward Seaga, head of then main Opposition Jamaica Labour Party.

Williams, her husband and infant son returned to Jamaica from Canada shortly after Manley was elected prime minister in 1972. They were drawn to his passionate campaign of change for working-class Jamaicans and were members of the PNP at one stage. 

They switched allegiance to the JLP in 1974 when Manley declared democratic socialism as his government's mantra. Williams, like many Manley critics, details some of the period's tragic incidents such as the 1976 State of Emergency and Green Bay affair of 1978.

She lays blame for these and other atrocities at Manley’s feet.

The JLP also comes in for criticism, particularly Seaga whom she blames for alienating some of the party's most talented members because of his autocratic leadership.

"I am driven by a 'Jamaica first' attitude, so if I see a party acting contrary to what I consider to be the best interest of the country, I take immediate exception" said Williams. She notes that the PNP and JLP "have failed Jamaica miserably".

The book, her fourth, is not all politics. A chapter revisits the death of her son Thor in 1995. He was visiting Jamaica from the United States when he was shot and killed in St Andrew.

Twenty-two years later, Williams is still affected by the incident, especially as initial media reports about the incident said Thor was shot after attempting to rob someone.

"It was very tough to write about my son's murder. He was the first of my two children and my only son, and after 22 years the pain and bitterness remain as severe as it did in 1995," she said.

Separate chapters are dedicated to persons Williams respected; talk show hosts Anthony Abrahams and Wilmot 'Motty' Perkins.

She recalls the early days of groundbreaking radio show, The Breakfast Club, which she started with Abrahams, who died in 2011.

There is a revealing recollection of the fiery Perkins' battle with cancer, to which he succumbed one year after Abrahams's death.

'Motty Perkins was number one; he was never intimidated by anyone. Tony Abrahams was another. He was absolutely brilliant and I salute him most for revolutionising morning radio," she said.

Williams believes that, had Manley retained power for a third term in 1980, Jamaica today would resemble two of its regional neighbours.

"l used to look back and regret my days of activism and the sacrifices I had to make, but after I travelled to Cuba in 2014 to meet relatives, and saw how browbeaten and disillusioned the people there were, I regret nothing for I could never have survived in the type of society the socialists were trying to impose on us during the Seventies," she said. "Every day, I hear the news coming out of Venezuela which mirrors the madness we went through in the Seventies. I thank God we escaped what would have been a fate worse than death."

— Howard Campbell

Nb. Looking Back is available in paperback and ebook format at;

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Essay 5; The greatest inventions

Recently, as I once again searched in frustration for my misplaced reading glasses, it occurred to me that this tiny, innocuous object has got to be among the top five inventions of all times for I just have not been able to read anything but the largest prints without it for decades. And most people I know who have passed  age forty, have a similar difficulty.

Ok,  maybe not reading glasses specifically I argued to myself, but at least the magnifying glass has to be one of the greatest inventions for it must have been from that that reading glasses eventually evolved. After all, if older inventors couldn't magnify anything, would there have been such wonderful, useful and earth shattering inventions over the years?

So as soon as I found the illusive object and was able to read again, I decided to immediately research the top ten inventions to confirm my suspicions, using good old google of course.

But the results of my research were a bit disappointing to say the least for the first answer to pop up when I googled top ten inventions, was from an organization called "Thought Company."  They listed ; wheel, nail, compass, printing press, internal combustion engine, phone, light bulb, penicillin, contraceptive, internet.  I wasn't overly impressed with their list, because for example,  is the nail really more important than the magnifying glass? Anyway wouldn't the television a spill off from the camera anyway?

Disappointed I quickly checked the next site,  this time  "Stuff of Genius." They listed what they said were the 10 Inventions  that changed the world as; internet, computer, light bulb, automobile, steam engine, communications, refrigeration, printing press, wheel, plow.

Dissatisfied, I checked a few other pages and was absolutely astounded that despite them all listing necessary and revolutionary products, and a site called  "IB Times out of the UK"  even  listing the paper, none listed the magnifying glass among the top ten. This caused me to wonder how effective printing and paper would  have been if only mainly people under 40 years old would have been able to read what was being printed?.

For I had always heard that one's eyesight generally starts to deteriorate at around age 40 although a baby can be born with poor eyesight. So I decided to check if this was really an old wives tale for maybe that was why everyone was overlooking the importance of magnifying glasses. So turned to the American Academy of  Ophthalmology for guidance. But they confirmed the popular lore for this quote in bold letters jumped right out. "Around age 40 many people start to notice changes in their eyesight that increase as they get older."

OK,  so when was the magnifying glass invented I wondered, or to put it simply, when did people start to enjoy a respite from this over 40 tribulation? For remember it is said the Sumerians invented writing from some 5000 years ago?

The more I thought about the issue, the more fascinated I became and determined to prove that those making lists of top ten greatest inventions, were shortsighted as they were overlooking a critical element in human development. This time turned to good old reliable Wikipedia.

The findings were very interesting as they revealed that the Assyrians, Egyptians and Babylonians used gems, polished crystal to be specific magnify objects from as far back as 700 bc. This practice seemed to have lasted for some time and was adopted elsewhere as Roman Emperor Nero who ruled from  54 - 68 AD, even had an improvement done for it is recorded that he was seen using a monocle made from a polished emerald.

However, it appears people like the Roman author and philosopher, Pliny the Elder, (who lived between AD 23-79) was not as privileged  for Seneca, an attorney, statesman, humorist, teacher wrote of Pliny that he used a globe filled with water, which he said;  "... could be used to read letters no matter how small or dim."

Curious about this, although I didn't have a globe, I tried it with an ordinary drinking glass filled with water and ta da, it did indeed magnify the print I used. But that must have been clumsy to use I surmised so continued to look for information about the development of the magnify glass as we know it today for I was convinced it must  have been the fore runner to eye glasses.

I finally got somewhere for I did eventually read that it was indeed invented in 1250 by Roger Bacon, who was a lecturer an Oxford University in England. After that, things started to move as circa 1290  the Italians were credited with inventing the actual eyeglass. and according to Wikipedia, in a sermon in 1306, a Dominican friar wrote "It is not yet twenty years since there was found the art of making eyeglasses, which make for good vision. And it is so short a time that this new art, never before extant, was discovered. ... I saw the one who first discovered and practiced it, and I talked to him." 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

That Vegas experience

As a Jamaican, I am not accustomed to celebrating thanksgiving as we believe in giving thanks every

However, even when I lived  in Jamaica, I enjoyed going to Vegas to celebrate the occasion with my grandson's maternal relatives, and this year they did not disappoint at all.

There is something I noticed at the airport this time which I don't remember experiencing on any other visit and that was their having a separate floor for passengers waiting for private transportation and those taking shuttles and taxis.

I have never seen a similar arrangement at any of the other numerous airports I have traveled to over the years and while I have no problem with this, system,  I just found it unusual.

Of course I only noticed it because I was on the wrong floor when my ride arrived!

This time we were joined by relatives from Canada and really had a great time touring the Strip as usual and consuming great Jamaican food without turkey as we are curry goat, pork, ham, fish, rice and green gungo people!

We started one  tour at the Mandalay Bay where on October 2nd 2017 that vicious white killer who was staying at that hotel, massacred 59 people and injured 520, on October 2nd 2017, when he fired from his hotel room at a crowd of music lovers at a concert across the street.

He had been armed with over 30 weapons and unlimited ammunition and had tried to blow up the fuel storage tanks nearby to kill even more people. Fortunately, while he did hit the tanks, the force of the bullets was not enough to penetrate them, so lives were saved.

The hotel itself is quite luxurious and I was impressed with their huge statue of Michael Jackson, the late king of rock, which graces the lobby.

Pity their security was so terrible that the murderer was able to take so many weapons into his room undetected. I bet if someone was trying to cheat in their casino, their cameras would have picked it up. SMH.

Despite my many previous trips to that city, I really had not explored downtown before.

This time we did and it is really interesting down there and we saw the notorious heart attack grill where people weighting more than 350 lbs can eat free. In other words, they get greedy and foolish people to eat themselves to death with the highest calories available for each meal. Sick.

We also did two excellent treks, one to Red Rock and one to Mountain Edge.

Red Rock is a  huge canyon some twenty miles out of Vegas where families flock to see the wonderful rock formations and climb a few challenging ones.

It can be dangerous to climb though as the rocks can be slippery and there is nothing to hold on to.

We heard that the day before we went there a twenty year old young man slipped and fell to his death.

Mountain Edge is nearer to the city and a wonderful place to picnic. To get to the top it is approximately a 1.7 miles but no one has any difficulty to get there as it is not so steep.
The sun peeks from behind a huge rock at one of the peaks at Red Rock
Once there you have the most comprehensive view of the city and the famous Vegas strip. Unfortunately we went there in the day but the night view must be unforgettable as Vegas is known for its bright lights.

On the way to the top of Mountain Edge

The night before we left we went to the Chris Angel show and although I have been fascinated with him for years based on his many appearances on TV, on his live show, he had so much light effects, that one could not tell what his actual illusions were versus tricks caused by the manipulation of the lighting.

I was very impressed with his "heart" though as after his performance, he made a moving appeal for the public to support cancer research and said he had been on that subject long before his own two year old son was born with leukemia. Bringing his little son on stage to take a bow was a real tear jerker.

One thing I just cannot get accustomed to in Vegas is the weather for whereas in the summer it is unbearable at triple digit temperatures, in the winter it can jump from a low of 40 to 80 in one day. Weather guaranteed to make you sick.

At the Chris Angel theater
I met a very interesting lady on this trip too. I am  convinced she is the only true genius I have ever met in my life. She is in her early 40's with a PhD in engineering and there seems to be nothing she cannot fix.

While she is by profession and environmental engineer, her hobby is fixing cars and everyone in the neighborhood uses her skills but she doesn't mind at all. She also buys cars people sell cheap when they can't figure what's wrong with them, fixes them and resells. Great hobby.

She advised me she is autistic but said she told the doctors she loves it and wants no medication to deal with it. She also seems to have some medial issues with her body, like having only two inches of intestines left but that does not seem to affect what she eats! She should be studied and recorded in the scientific journals but she says the doctors in Vegas are afraid to even treat her as they are scared she will die on their tables as she has so many complications and has been at death's door many times!

She plans to go back east were scientists are serious about medical research unlike in Vegas where everything is show biz, she revealed.

Incidentally she also speaks five languages including Mandarin and Arabic. If I was closer, I would certainly do some serious interviews and research and write her biography!

After an eventful and exciting week, I returned on Spirit airlines and saw something I had  never beheld in my life before, strange looking flight attendants.

One was a man with a beard and shaved head who was about six feet five inches tall with a huge paunch. I wondered if he was an air marshal in disguise as he looked more like a wrestler than  a flight attendant.

The other was a man who looked to be over 70 years old and the only times I saw him, he was leaning against something as if he could not stand on his own. Thankfully, there were a third attendant who fit the bill as the other two looked really out of place and clumsy.

Only in Vegas!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Essay 4; Jamaicans are "world builders"

I do not think there is a place on earth you can travel to and not find a Jamaican! And sometimes we turn up in the most unusual places. In fact, my own brother even took his family on a tour of the pyramids of Egypt only to end up with an Arabic-speaking tour guide from Montego Bay, Jamaica!

For years politicians of all stripes have complained that a problem the country faces is that when taxpayers subsidize the tertiary education of many Jamaican professions, the country ends up losing as those professional immediately migrate and do not give anything back to their country. Yes that is a real problem but could the penchant for Jamaicans to migrate be in our DNA? I am no scientist but ask the question due to the conditions under which the migratory habit of generations of Jamaicans seem to have arisen.

As far as I can discern, the necessity to migrate came with the  abolition of slavery in 1834. For the freed slaves had no money, no jobs, no land, no food and in many instances, not even family in the country to which they had been forcefully transported. Things were so bad for the freed slaves that in order to avoid starving to death some had to even return to their wicked slave masters and request that they employ them just to get  food to eat.

It was the lucky ones  therefore who could find a little boat or some means of migrating to anywhere where they as free people they could earn a living.

In the late 1800's to the turn of the century, Cuba was recognized as the powerhouse of the region due to the industries that were flourishing based on "king sugar." News  of their need for labour spread rapidly throughout Jamaica and indeed other Caribbean islands which also faced a similar dilemma as we did, and migration to Cuba started in droves. So today when you go to the southern provinces like Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo and Holguin, the descends of Jamaican and other former West Indian people are everywhere.

Fortunately too, in 1903 the construction of the Panama Canal begun and despite the fact that the project was extremely dangerous and many people lost their lives (including my maternal grandfather), Panama became a major drawing card for Jamaicans in need of employment. When  the project was completed and opened in 1914, there was still a need for workers there as the economy was booming, so instead of returning home, thousands of Jamaicans remained there, most settling in the city of Colon.

However others decided to go north in search of economic opportunities, as the Jamaican economy was still struggling and blacks had very little means of survival. Many went to Honduras, and even more went to Nicaragua, settling on the Caribbean coast and naming their new home Bluefields after a seaside village on south western side of  Jamaica.

Still others moved to the province of Limon on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and today the descendants  of Jamaicans play an important role in that country, even producing  the very first black congresswoman in Costa Rica , a lady who was always proud to boast about her Jamaican roots.

During the 30's and 40's because of the massive toll the two major  European wars took on British men, the then colonial master England, was forced to open its doors to workers from their colonies to do their menial and labour intensive jobs. Jamaicans therefore  migrated to Britain in hordes up to the  late 1960's when the USA and Canada also opened their doors and the trek to those countries there took off in earnest.

Before the 70's, the majority of  Jamaican who left home, were in search of economic opportunities and their remittances to assist their family left back at home became critical to the economy.

The great migration that took place between 1972-1980 harmed the Jamaican economy unlike the net effect of previous migrations. This was because it was widely perceived that the then government was introducing communism and taking Jamaica into the USSR/Cuban sphere of influence. So the  better off Jamaicans and professionals voted with their feet. They went mainly to the USA and Canada and it set the Jamaican economy back for decades, as not only did they take their capital with them but also their skills. The Jamaican economy is still struggling to recover from that outflow!

While there have been periods when Jamaican migrated in droves, individual Jamaicans have always on their own steam, found other places to go, even as far as cold Alaska in search of opportunities. However the overall picture is that by being a migratory people,  we have contributed a great deal to the building of just about every nation in the world including our own and migration remains strong in our DNA.

Esay 2; American/ Russian interefernce in elections

Even if the Americans have themselves had a record of sometimes “interfering” in elections in other countries, they have every right to be upset that Russia interfered in their presidential elections, as all the intelligence agencies have agreed happened. Interestingly, president Trump has time and time again, chosen to believe Putin's word, although he is ex and probably still KGB, while dismissing the evidence provided by 17 of his own intelligence agencies, but that's another issue.

Anyway, the difference between what the Russians did to the USA in their democratic elections and normal "interference , "  is that the US and Russia are currently the two most powerful superpowers in the world and if one can gain unchallenged influence throughout the world because it has its surrogate in power as the head of the other superpower, it would be terrible for the rest of us. Especially if the one that ends up with total power is Russia!

For Russia is by no means a liberal democracy and thus their holding sway over what happens in smaller and weaker states would be tragic for people in the free world, who could see the freedoms to which they had become accustomed, being gradually diminished.

I have been there and speak from personal experience on the front lines.

This was during the cold war era in my small island of Jamaica which lies only 90 miles away from Cuba. We were forced to go through four years of turmoil because the democratically elected government of the day decided it preferred the Cuban system of government and the socialist philosophy to the Westminster system of government under which it had gained power. And the Cubans were only too happy to assist them in every way possible to  take away our freedoms. For after all, Jamaica being the largest and most influential island in the English speaking Caribbean, would give them great leverage in their quest to have the then USSR dominate the entire region.

So we saw our island being flooded by thousands of Cubans supposedly coming in to assist in agricultural development and the health service. They however were under the command of a general named Ulysses Estrada who was allegedly the head of their intelligence agency, the DGI. Also assisting the Cubans but covertly, was the Russian KGB and I know that as a fact as I did have an encounter with one.

On the other side was the American CIA which had allegedly heeded the opposition party’s cry for help, but they apparently operated very covertly, for although I was often on the frontlines, I never encountered a CIA agent on the ground.

However, I say without apology THANKS TO THE AMERICAN CIA FOR ASSISTING US, FOR IF THEY HADN’T, JAMAICA TODAY WOULD PROBABLY BE LIKE VENEZUELA  where food shortages, hyper-inflation, no press freedom, government sponsored aggression and the silencing of the opposition are the order of the day.

Worse yet, we could be like Cuba itself. I have visited that country four times since 1980, because of its physical beauty and the fact that I have close family there. Their life is one of absolute misery and the younger ones who were born after the revolution, do not even know that there is an alternative world in which people can criticize their government, read and write what they want or even better, get a passport and travel to any place they wish, as long as they have the money. Sad.

I therefore thank the Americans for “interfering” and assisting us in defeating the Cuban DGI and Russian KGB in the elections that followed our four year period of turmoil…1976-1980.

For reducing the world to a position where one of the two super powers dominates totally because it succeeded in putting its surrogate in power, is extremely dangerous for the entire world. For what Lord Acton said in the 1800’s is still relevant today. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Essay; 1 The Vezuelan experience

Every time I see the news coming out of Venezuela, it sends a chill down my spine. For events there today bring back the terrible memories of our own trials and struggles in the island of Jamaica during the cold war period, when the government of the day tried to impose socialism on the country. With that socialist thrust, came the threat of the loss of our sacred freedoms including freedom of the press, religion and association.

Our dangerous period begun with the imposition of a state of emergency under which, like in Venezuela today, opposition politicians and activists were arbitrarily detained without charge and attempts were made to prevent the independent press from functioning without governmental interference.

On another level, the experiment with socialism led to massive foods shortages, loss of tourism revenue, hyper-inflation, government-sponsored violence and general oppression. Eventually these rapidly deteriorating conditions led to an undeclared civil war in Jamaica which lasted some four years, causing the deaths of thousands of people.

In the wake of the decline in the economy and pervasive violence, came the self-exile of many of our most valuable people including professionals, both small and large entrepreneurs and many members of the middle class. Up to today, some 30 years later, the Jamaican economy still struggles because of the departure of such valuable persons.

During that period (from 1976-1980), the Michael Manley government was overtly propped up by the Russian KGB and Cuban DGI. The American CIA was also alleged to have been involved in assisting the opposition. If they did, I have nothing but praise and gratitude for them, especially today when I see how rapidly conditions are deteriorating in Venezuela .

At the time the disruptions were taking place in Jamaica, I had only recently become the mother of two young children but when I saw the threat to our freedoms which begun with the locking up of elected opposition politicians and activists, the threats to press freedom and other freedoms plus  how my family had to suffer because of the shortage of basic foods, I put my own safety on hold to get involved.

While the violent battles were being fought in the streets with weapons allegedly supplied by the covert agencies, I hit the ground taking part in the regular peaceful demonstrations while using both radio and the print media to not only spread the opposition’s position to the wider public but also to keep up the pressure on the government.

I have visited Cuba four times since 1980, (the last time being in 2014 when I went there to meet family that I had subsequently learnt lived there) when we held an election that ousted the socialist government from power, and every time I visited or see the news coming out of Venezuela today, I say a silent prayer of thanks that we were able to avoid their fate.

I continue to pray that the Venezuelan people will keep up the pressure and be as successful as we were in ousting the socialists and restoring democracy. And I hope that those who are in the position to assist them, will do so.

Monday, November 6, 2017

An excellent book review

The overall coverage of the launch was good but this book review  y Dawn A. Davis was great.

‘Looking Back’, love for Jamaica shines through.

Author:  Dawn A. Davis
Joan Williams’s “Looking Back” is not a memoir. It’s a story of Jamaica coming of age - the way it was, is and has become.
Looking BackIt’s the story of pain, tragedy and rebirth.
Yes, it’s partly Williams’s personal story, but the events of an era that shaped Jamaican politics and its collective psyche gives this book its edge. The turbulent period of the 1970s is highlighted as Williams charts her path from activism to would-be politician to popular radio commentator.
She claims to write the truth for those who were not there; those still in the dark. Her telling of the sometimes “toxic” environment that bred troubled communities in Jamaica post-Independence is palpable.
“The ‘garrisonisation’ of the country had reached the point where even a separate ‘independent state’ was established within one constituency, with a President to boot,” Williams stated.
The quote describes the West Kingston community that was headed by the infamous Christopher Coke, also known as “Presi” and “Dudus” who, according to Williams, was protected by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) although he was a known criminal and wanted by the United States. The author chronicles the happenings in garrison communities like Tivoli Gardens, run by Dudus’s father Lester Lloyd “Jim Brown” Coke for decades. She also addresses the overflow of criminality that reached the U.S. via the notoriously violent “Shower Posse” gang, which adds to the macabre picture Williams paints.
The author’s distrust of the Michael Manley-led People’s National Party (PNP) of the time is evident in her comments about the PNP’s “dance” with socialism that she and others thought would lead Jamaica down the wrong road. So, Williams changing party alliances was no surprise.
It is well known, based on World Bank statistics, that Jamaica is among the top five murder capitals of the world. Williams tells the readers why, based on her own experiences. She names politicians and other “upstanding” Jamaicans involved in what she calls “civil war”, especially during the run-up to Jamaica’s 1980 general elections.
“As the undeclared civil war raged at the local level, almost every constituency in Jamaica saw some form of violence coming from either the JLP, the PNP or the Trevor Munroe led WPJ, which supported the PNP. By the end of 1980, murders had doubled to almost 900 from 440 the previous year for there was no shortage of weapons or ammunition on either side,” Williams wrote.
The author records the plight of the poor, especially those who lived in garrisons - “in the line of fire”. She compares their daily lives to those of the political rulers who were amassing wealth and status at their constituents’ expense. It is these types of juxtapositions that makes this work a worthy read.
Williams’s personal journey as a businesswoman, farmer, activist, wife and mother brings Jamaica’s reality closer to the reader. The loss of her son in 1995 to a gunman is not just heart-wrenching, it is a sad metaphor for what Jamaica had become.
In spite of all the violence and personal loss, Williams’s story leaves one with a sense of hope. For no matter what her beloved Jamaica is going through or is labeled her ‘umbilical’ connection and unconditional love for her country shines through.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

My first Haloween

Being a Jamaican, I have never celebrated Halloween, for as far as I am concerned, that is something American children do to be able to get as much sweets as they can, once per year.

Yes over the past decade or so,  I have heard that some rich kids in Jamaica have adopted this festival and some stores have even tried to promote it to boost sales. After all, who can blame them when it is revealed that in the USA only Christmas sales exceed the take from this event? Anyway, it still hasn't taken off in my island.

Sure my granddaughter who is American and grew up in the tradition, is always excited by the event. Her mother always sends me photos of her all dressed up and the costumes are always cute. This year she dressed as a dragon with the face of a cat. And she looked absolutely beautiful.  Her mom also takes her to many Halloween parties but she only attends security, never dressing up.

Toastmaster Wagner proudly models his innovative costume.
I was recently disabused of the impression that Halloween was for kids,  on joining a Toastmaster club in Florida and heard some adults there talking excitedly about what they were going to be doing for Halloween. Even our meeting which falls a day after the event, would be converted from its regular format to one where costumes would be worn and an exciting agenda presented, we were informed.

So I got very interested in  learning something new about the country to which I had recently moved. I was actually very curious to see the types of costumes the adults would come up with, but unfortunately only one member, Toastmaster Wagner, actually dressed up for the event and his costume was very creative.

However the agenda was quite appropriate as members were invited to act out a murder mystery instead of following the regular format.

Yup,  Toastmaster Tamara, (4th from left) did kinda look like a postmistress!
And they all played their parts well with one participant, the librarian, even dressed for the part.

It was a well thought-out murder plot which found even those of us who weren't participating directly, paying rapt attention to the clues throughout and even examining some of the actors to try and ascertain who the murderer was.

So if this is an example of an adult Halloween party, I think its a great idea. If on the other hand adult Halloween parties are people dressing up like witches and ghosts and going around shouting boo, I can't say I will ever consider it a worthwhile experience!

Incidentally,  I live in a very large apartment complex and deliberately walked around on Halloween night to see the kids in action, I did not see one child on the compound in costume. I wonder why? 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Caribbean National News Weekly's take on "Looking Back...:" launch.

The Caribbean National News Weekly carried an excellent report on the Florida launch of my memoir, "Looking Back......."

See the report at;

Monday, October 23, 2017

Florida launch of "Looking back...."

Front; Mrs Shagoury (l) who delivered the book review sits beside Dr. Marshall who read from the publication

The Florida launch of my major publication  "Looking Back.....the struggle to preserve our freedoms" which was organized in conjunction with the South Regional Library at Broward Community College on the 21st October was an overwhelming success as the turnout and enthusiasm of the audience certainly exceeded my expectations, especially as I have only been in Florida for less than a year.
This was no doubt due in part to the wide publicity it garnered when I spent time on "Hot Topic" moderated by  Duke of Earle" on am radio WAVS 1170. This program has has an extremely wide Jamaican listenership and I spent a full hour and half the week before on air with him, discussing the book and

Mr. Colin Smith and a few members of his Tallawah Mento Band entertain

answering questions posed by his radio audience.

Further publicity was also  received on "Taking care of business" on the same station moderated by Winston Barnes who is also Vice Mayor of Miramar city. Barnes who started his journalism career in Jamaica, spoke at the launching and was effusive in his praise of Williams for writing a book which will add to the documentation of the political history of our country, giving people a greater understanding of  who we are as Jamaicans.
Mrs. Marcia Ward

Consulting with Vice Mayor Barnes
The function had  kicked off on a happy note with the early attendees being entertained by Tallawah Mento Band under the leadership of well known Jamaican artist/musician/ cultural activist /businessman Colin Smith who also emceed the function.

The  feature address was delivered by Mr. Wayne  Golding Sr. well known immigration lawyer and the Jamaica Diaspora Board  Representative in charge of the Southern USA.

Mr. Golding, was introduced by Ms. Marcia Ward, Asst. Regional Manager of the Broward Library, who also welcomed the guests on behalf of her institution.

In his wide ranging address, Mr Golding
outlined the remarkable achievements of the 13 year old Diaspora Association and the important role it continues to play in the development of Jamaica, not only in financial terms but also by helping the Jamaican government with expertise and assisting Jamaicans overseas understand and  negotiate through the bureaucracy in Jamaica. He urged the Jamaicans in the audience to become involved with the Association so we can all contribute to making the country the dynamo of the region.
Wayne Golding Esq. Addresses the receptive audience

A comprehensive  and interesting review of "Looking Back....." was delivered by Mrs. Yvonne Shagoury, a retired Jamaican businesswoman now resident in Florida and a reading from the chapter entitled "Perception versus Reality,  was read by Dr. Bernard Marshall, foundation member of the Greensboro/ Jamaica friendship Association in North Carolina.
This was followed by me taking only a few questions from the audience before, due to the limited time, moving the vote of thanks and signing books for the appreciative audience.

Autographing a copy of the book for a happy attendee
Mrs. Sheryl Wynter, Information Officer, represented the Jamaica High Commission. 

The Florida launch was a valuable plug for the publication which already receives excellent reviews on at;

Friday, October 6, 2017

Green Cay, Boyton Beach

The main building in the background, has an interesting display of the animals in the area. 
I love to go hiking with my Meetup group under the experienced leadership of Jennifer Weis, for as a Florida native, she knows her state extremely well.
This week we retuned to the attractive sand serene Green Cay Nature Center and Wetlands in Boynton Beach, and I didn't mind at all, as at that venue you are guaranteed never to see the same thing each time.

When we returned this week, I noticed that there were none of the animals that I had seen the last time like rabbits and iguanas or even the huge alligator we saw then, beating the water and screaming on top of  his lungs to attract a mate.
A hawk taking  bird's eye view of his surroundings

Instead, we were greeted by a far greater variety of birds preening themselves apparently to attract the humans knocking around with the huge impressive cameras designed to catch every movement their models made.

  For these birds have apparently become quite accustomed to seeing non- threatening humans wondering around with the  huge contraptions which they point at them but they realize they are not dangerous.

I could never recommend a better place to enjoy the wonders of nature.
This woodpecker stops working for a minute to pose

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Dotard

Many persons were puzzled when the president of N. Korea referred to the president of the USA as a "dotard." But he is perfectly correct as a dotard is simply a retard in his dotage.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Flamingo Gardens

Some trees are over 200 years old
Today I went on our first Meet Up trek with the Boca Raton nature group since hurricane Irma hit Florida causing much damage all around.

One place that apparently had a lot of tree and plant damage was Flamingo Gardens in Davie and today ( 23rd September) was the first day they were reopening  section of the gardens to the public.

These gardens are an important section of the Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary and are home to a myriad of birds, butterflies and flora.

The aviary is the most impressive I have ever seen with a large variety of owls, eagles, pelicans, storks, birds of prey and of course huge spectacular flamingos.

The great thing I like about Flamingo, is that these gardens are also a refuge for Florida's small, native wildlife that have been hurt. They rescue, nurse, heal them and if they are able, return them to the wild or else they remain at this sanctuary.

At this time they have panthers a black bear, otters, alligators , possums, otters, bobcats, turtles etc.

I love that aspect of the gardens but it is really mainly a botanical garden which was established in 1927 and once had over 3000 species of rare and exotic, tropical, subtropical, and native plants and trees. Some of the magnificent oak trees which thankfully are still standing are in excess of 200 years old.
An iguana basks in the sun beside the flamingo pool

Not all the trees are native to Florida however as over the years, to diversify, they have brought trees and plants from all over the world. However a number of them were damaged and are being carefully pruned and rehabilitated where possible. 

So while only about two thirds of the garden was open to the public today, it is still extremely impressive.
A bobcat sleeps in his cage in a tree

There is also a museum which had been a weekend retreat of the Wray's who used it in the 1930's and later donated the property to the state.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

TV networks failing viewers

According to recent reports, twenty four people were killed on the USA mainland during the onslaught of hurricane Irma from Friday 9th-10th September 2017. However if there was a way of testing it accurately, I would be prepared to bet that more people died from stress-related illnesses like heart attack and strokes, as a result of how the major television networks reported  the progress of that hurricane.

Because for almost a week before hurricane Irma was even due to descend on Florida, the major networks went of a feeding frenzy implying almost ad infinitum, that the annihilation of the state was eminent.  The unnecessary scare tactics and language used by the leaders in electronic media had a toll not only on Florida residents but also on their family members in other states and abroad.

Yes, it is true that Hurricane Irma with winds registering at times as much as 195 miles per hour,  was the largest and most dangerous to develop in the Atlantic and threaten the Caribbean region, but did the media need to start spreading panic about the “certain doom” Floridians faced, long before the path of the hurricane could be determined?

Yes they could have started informing and warning residents about the possibilities but did they need to compete so fiercely to see who could use the most inflammatory language to create irrational fear among their viewers? I don’t know if they realize it, but millions of Floridians have relatives in other states and all over the world from and as far back as Monday 4th September, the type of sensational seeking reporting that prevailed, almost totally convinced viewers that their family would be wiped off the face of the earth, if they did not leave the state.

The sad part, was the fact that while the press was creating this false impression and paying attention to remote possibilities concerning  Florida, Irma was venting its anger thousands of miles away, on small vulnerable island like Barbuda, St. Martin, St. Thomas, St. Johns, British virgin islands,Turks and Caicos island, the very beleaguered Haiti, Bahamas, and Cuba, killing 36 people as it raged. However, initially, there was nary a word from the major US television networks about what was happing  in the tiny, vulnerable islands, far from the US mainland, before or while Irma struck them, only, almost grudgingly, after the fact, while they kept playing up the hype about Florida.

While ignoring the rest of the region too in their “international news” segments, they even displayed only passing interest to what was happening to people at their southern border, where a terrible 8.3 magnitude earthquake hit their most important neighbor, Mexico killing almost 100 people.

What “international/world news” can these networks be delivering?

Further those of us who have experienced many hurricanes and “real” weather forecasters know that most hurricanes do not normally follow predicted paths  until around 24 or 48 hours before they land, and Irma operated true to form.  So reporting designed to cause fear and panic, instead of information, is counter-productive. They could easily have been more effective, had they delivered adequate, timely information to the public, only adding the necessary urgency when the outcome was more certain, instead of deluging Floridians and other viewers for hours on end, up to a week before the hurricane was due to land on their shores.
Their fear mongering type of reporting, created unnecessary panic, even causing thousands of people to move north into areas where the hurricane eventually headed, putting the “refugees” more into harm’s way than if they had not over-sold the possible dangers long before they were apparent.
 Will the media have any credibility the next time a hurricane appears to be heading towards Florida? You tell me.
I don’t know if the performance of most of the journalists at the major television networks stemmed from the fact that many are too young to have experienced a hurricane,  their feeling of failure because people in Houston were not adequately warned about the possible dangers that Harvey posed or just from for hunger for ratings.
Whatever the reason, their performance this week as the purveyors of “international/world news” has done nothing to enhance the waning credibility of the US media. Nor in reality have they demonstrated that are they any different from their president, whose nationalist worldview and rhetoric about withdrawing from world affairs, many of those same journalists at the major networks correctly criticize.  

Good radio coverage

The radio journalists at WLRN and 93.1 in Ft. Lauderdale did an excellent job on Sunday September 10th 2017, covering hurricane Irma and keeping listeners totally informed as it passed through Florida. I normally keep my dial set on WLRN radio, but it failed after a while and that is how I ended up with listening to 93.1.

It took a lot of courage for the reporters to be out there in the midst of the storm keeping us informed while we remained comfortable and safe in our homes and I thank them.

A little criticism though, I live in Tamarac  and  being a Caribbean person, am more or less accustomed to hurricanes, so was a bit startled at times when I looked through my window and saw the trees swaying no more vigorously than in a normal storm, while hearing words like “catastrophic” and “ferocious” coming over the radio as some reporters described  what was happening in my town.  I really don’t think reporters need to exaggerate so much or use irrelevant inflammatory words to scare listeners during periods like that!
Very little tree damage

We survived well with only a very few trees losing branches or falling down totally and must congratulate FPL as we had power throughout.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


I had this writer's conference to attend in New York in mid -August but went early as I  have always wanted to visit Philly and had convinced my daughter in law to let us use her car to go there and tour.

So off we headed but stopped first just over the George Washington bridge to visit my new born grand niece in New Jersey. Their home has the most fabulous view of the Hudson river and bridge so the trip was off to a good start.

Whenever I am doing road trips in the USA I have always stayed with the Comfort Inn group and made a reservation with them to stay at their Rodeway Inn in Gloucester City, new Jersey, (just outside of Camden,) the plan being to commute to Philly daily for sightseeing.

But that place was a mess as they were doing major construction there and instead of closing it to the public, they put visitors in rooms which were musty and had dangerous walkways as building material was scattered everywhere  and cement dust was literally covering everything.

We stayed there less than an hour then moved to the home of a friend a couple miles out of Philly.  Naturally I subsequently complained to the head office but only got a partial refund. 

Will never deal with the Comfort Inn group again.

A scene in Betsy Ross' home
Our friend's house was fabulous as are the gardens and they made us feel most welcome. Besides we walked into a party as our friend was having  birthday and her husband had planned a surprise for her.

Despite them having  young children, everyone kept it  secret and she was really surprised. We had to hurry back from Philly to be there when she returned but we didn’t mind at all.

During the day, we visited the Constitution hall, Betsy Ross' home and the liberty bell. The Constitution hall tour is a must for anyone visiting Philly as it is most educational.

he next day we finished up our touring by going to the art museum which has 72 steps. It was on those steps that  Silvester Stallone stood triumphantly in one of his Rocky movies.
We learnt that all 6 of those movies were made in 

Philly. Naturally, as it is so high there, you get a great view of certain sections of the city.

We then visited the African American museum and that was really an eye opener. Glad we returned for we certainly learnt a lot about the prominent role African Americans played in the civil war as well as standing up for their rights in every possible forum. As you know, in the history books in America, they tend to exclude the role of the African Americans, so if you do not go to that museum you can come away with  distorted view of American history.

This museum is therefore a most important institution and no visit to Philly should exclude a trip there.

Out of curiosity, we visited the nearby Dutch market where some Amish sell their products and I was shocked to see how they are now embracing modern technology like credit cards and air condition.
A traditional Amish transport outside the market

A few decades ago I visited one of their settlements in Belize and if anyone had told me they would reject their lifestyle and embrace these modern things I would have laughed.

I really don't like new York, never did.....could never figure out why so many people buy souvenirs saying "I love New York." Of course, most being tourists, they probably never venture further than Times Square! That would account for it.

Many years ago I had gone there to settle and stayed only six months as I could not stand the drab appearance of the place especially those monstrous red brick apartment buildings, the huge buildings blocking out the sun downtown, the lack of trees and greenery in general plus the terrible rusting subways.

Of course Times Square is a different scene and I always enjoy going there to see what weird happenings are taking place and to take in a Broadway show. This time it was  the Book of Mormon and it was really hilarious.

As I had a few days to spare before the conference, I took a quick trip over to the statue of Liberty from Battery park and really enjoyed the vista. I had not been there since I was 14 years old and that was a long long time!

I got another pleasant surprise too as less than half hour out of the miserable city is Bear mountain. It has the most beautiful hiking trails, both difficult and moderate.

My hosts went off on the difficult section but I stayed with the moderate trails and it was really charming and peaceful, with Hessian lake right in the at the center.

There is also a quaint looking hotel there and I hear it is a popular spot in winter. When  we were there, dozens of families were all around , barbecuing or exercising.

It is a beautiful place with the most trees you will probably ever see in new York state I guess.

When the time came for work, I had to head downtown from Mt. Vernon early each day to catch the subway to the Hilton in Manhattan where the Writer's Digest annual conference was being held. The trip was as tedious and unpleasant as I remembered it to be when I spent my 6 months there many years ago.

However the conference was excellent with great, knowledgeable presenters and participants from just about every continent. I made a number of contacts and learnt a whole heap about the writing industry in the USA.

Great value for money.

I will be back next year even if it is held in miserable New York!