Thursday, December 20, 2007

Connie Matthews - International Coordinator of the Black Panther Party

In 1968, an articulate young Jamaican woman named Connie Matthews, who was employed to UNESCO in Copenhagen, Denmark, helped to sponsor Bobby Seals visit to Scandinavia. Afterwards, she became active in the Danish Committee for Solidarity with the Black Panther Party. Energetic and dedicated to the Black liberation movement, Connie Matthews became the International Coordinator of the Black Panther Party in 1969. She spent several months visiting the Black Panther Headquarters in the United States, coordinating activities between the European solidarity committees and the Black Panther Party, writing for the Panther newspaper, and speaking at conferences. She briefly joined the Black Panther delegation to the Pan African Cultural Festival, and the following November Matthews returned to Algiers to collaborate with Cleaver on the international activities of the Black Panther Party in Europe.

Taken, in part from, The Black Panther Party Reconsidered, by Charles Earl Jones.

Information on Connie Matthews is very scarce. If anyone has any additional information on her, please email us with it at

Feedback from someone who met Connie Matthews

This email was sent to us on May 30, 2008

At the internet I looked for Connie Matthews, and since you are asking for further information about her I can tell as follows - it is not very much, I am sorry to say!

I am a danish woman, 75 years old, who 1970 divorced my husband to marry a highly idealistic medical doctor who became the love of my life & vice versa. He suddenly died at the age of 56 after 6 years of happy marriage.

We were living in a large house north of Copenhagen, and on March 1970 Kathleen Cleaver came from Algiers with her infant baby to recover from intense stress & fatigue. At this time I had never heard about The Black Panther Party and Eldridge Cleaver. She stayed in the house until March 10th 1970, and on her departure she signed my husband´s danish translation of Soul on Ice with these words: For the good doctor & revolutionary, Dr. Erik Jørgensen, who has done us a wonderful favour. Many thanks Kathleen Cleaver.

I saw Kathleen only once (before I moved in) but I have never talked with her, I was bashfull and insecure. She seemed quite remote, and I did not know what to say to her.

Not long after her departure arrived Connie Matthews. She was very beautifull and kind, I never forgot her. She and my husband spent hours talking together, discussing political things I did not have any assumptions at all to understand.

Connie had a boyfriend (vaguely I remember that his name was Jan) he was a very nice, danish man, taking good care of her, loving her at nights, if I may say so)
But generally the start of my living in Vedbæk, Denmark, was quite stressful. The telephone rang all the time (from Algiers I guess) mostly by night, and Connie herself telephoned a lot long distance, probably to Black Panther Party members.
In the mornings when my husband had gone to the Copenhagen hospital (he was a chief doctor) Connie came into the dining room to have breakfast and coffee with me, she was such a tender and warmhearted woman! By the way - I did not know she was a Jamaican, in fact I did at that time not know anything at all, except being a housewife!

Now for many years I have been an author, right now I am writing memoirs of my life with "the revolutionary doctor" 1969-1976. I have made a lot of research, and doing so I read about Eldridge Cleaver, and to-day I know all the things I did not show any interest in when I was in my thirties. I think he was a really fantastic person!!
During research I was awfully sad internetwise to learn about the death of Connie Matthews in Jamaica as a victim of cointelpro.

Sorry I did not contribute with very much concerning Connie. Take care of yourself, whoever you are reading this mail.

Kindly regards
Inge Krog Holt

Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Opal Palmer Adisa - Literary Critic, Prose Writer, and Storyteller

Jamaican born, Opal Palmer Adisa is a literary critic, poet, prose writer, and storyteller. Her published works are: Caribbean Passion, poetry (Peepaltree Press, 2004); Leaf-of-Life, poetry (Jukebox Press, 2002); The Tongue is a Drum, CD of poetry and jazz with devorah major (Irresistible Recordings, 2003); It Begins With Tears, (Heinemann, 1997); Tamarind and Mango Women, winner of the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award (1992); traveling women (1989); Bake-Face and Other Guava Stories (1986); and Pina, the Many-Eyed Fruit (1985); and the recording Fierce/Love with devorah major (1992).

Read more about Opal Palmer Adisa here: Creative Work Fund

Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

First Jamaica Restaurant Opens in China

By Jason Walker
Atlanta GA

The official opening to the Cho-Cho Jamaican restaurant in Hangzhou China was held during the summer of 2007. According to owner Glendon Thompson this is the first Jamaican restaurant to be opened in the country of 1 Billion people. Amazingly Thompson who is from Jamaica, lives in Atlanta and then opened the restaurant in Asia, this is truly a global business.

Such a global trotting business activity came about from a "desire to introduce the culture of Jamaica to Chinese friends in a personal way. They knew we were track stars but not much else. The Chinese love to eat and socialize. While they eat they hear Jamaican and Caribbean music", Thompson. Thompson also goes on to say that he chose to go into China because of a "real love for Chinese people".

To help make a good first impression, Thompson opened the restaurant with one of the top caterers in Georgia, Carmen Allen of the award winning Carmen Catering. Ms Allen was delighted for the opportunity and according to her the restaurant was big news in China and it was received positively in the city of 6 million people. When asked about keeping the authenticity of the food, Thompson said that "we do our best to keep it authentic, however the taste of the Chinese is different than ours. As the Chinese adjust to our taste when they bring their restaurants here I had to adjust to their taste. So it will be a little different taste. The important thing is that now they know our music and a taste of our food. Most of the ingredients are local, again a business decision. We will improve as time goes on."

In terms of how the residents responded to the food Thompson explained that "we had a month of taste testing and found out that the hottest of our food did not go over well in this part of China, we had to adjust to stay in business." Culturally though Thompson demonstrated that "we (Jamaicans and Chinese) have many things in common, especially the old time Jamaica where people looked after each other. Friendships are extremely important and I am fortunate enough to have many close Chinese friends."

On the status of the business he said that, "so far we are doing better than the other restaurants around in our area, but it will take some time to build up the clientele." He illustrates his ambitions as he expresses "I have learned a lot and hope to open more in other cities. You really have to have a deep love for the Chinese to succeed here. They see through phonies very quickly."

The opening was attended by The Ambassador from Jamaica, Wayne McCook, officials from the city of Hang Zhou, owner Glendon Thompson, Chef Carmen Allen and partners Zhang Bingyang and Qiao Jing. The Red Army's military band provided the fanfare music. Reggae was played by violins.

Glen Thompson lives in Atlanta and is married to Claire McLeveighn, director of external affairs and international relations for the City of Atlanta and two sons. Carmen Allen, in addition to running her own catering firm, has events every Sunday at a Jamaican venue called Kozy Cove. Carmen is also a member of the Kingston Technical Alumni Association and a hard working community activist.

Story taken in part from Caribbean Life Central

Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Jamaica Dominates 2007 World Tourism Awards

And the Oscar goes to JamaicaJamaicaJamaica. Big up all the players in Jamaica’s tourism industry. Congratulations to you all and keep up the excellent work. Bim!

At the prestigious 2007 World Travel Awards (‘the tourism Oscars’), Jamaica ruled.

Jamaica, on the heels of recording exceptional stopover visitor numbers for 2007, dominated this year's awards, which were held on December 12, 2007 at the Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort and Spa in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.

Jamaica was judged the leading Caribbean destination and leading cruise destination. In addition, Air Jamaica was judged the region's leading airline, and also garnered the best business class and best airline Web site awards.

Not surprisingly, the Jamaica Tourist Board took home the leading tourist and conventions bureau title. In addition, the Sandals Resorts all-inclusive resort chain alone won a mammoth 16 trophies, including, The Bahamas' leading resort, and leading spa resort awards (won by Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort). It also won the world's best all-inclusive award, and the Caribbean's leading hotel brand award (for the 14th year in a row). Jamaican companies Chukka Caribbean Adventures and Trafalgar Travel were named the Caribbean's leading nature adventure excursion and leading travel agency respectively. Winners of the awards were decided by 167,000 travel professionals in over 2,000 countries.

Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said Jamaica is expecting a record 1.8 million visitors for the 2007/2008 winter season.

See you in Jamaica.

Story taken in part from The Nassau Guardian

Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.

Friday, December 07, 2007

US Library of Congress Selects 'Burnin'

Published on Friday December 7, 2007 in the Jamaica Gleaner
Story by Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer

'Burnin' smokes in US Library of Congress

Burnin', the 1973 Island Records album which was the swansong for the core Wailers unit of Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh, has been chosen for perpetual preservation in the United States Library of Congress.

A release from Tuff Gong International Ltd. said "Each year the United States Library of Congress selects a small number of audio recordings to preserve for all time in the National Recording Registry, based on their historical, artistic or cultural importance … "

In an interview with Ben Manilla, recorded at Tuff Gong Recording Studio for the National Public Radio programme 'All Things Considered' that will itself be preserved by the Library of Congress, Mrs. Rita Marley said that "The album Burnin' was the work of prophets."

Shared lead vocals

Burnin' begins with Get Up, Stand Up, Marley and Tosh sharing lead vocals, and ends with the arrangement by all three of the traditional Rastaman Chant. In between are lead vocal cuts from Bunny Wailer - Halleluijah Time, and Tosh - One Foundation, with Marley singing lead on all the other songs, which include I Shot The Sheriff, Burnin' and Lootin' and Small Axe.

Burnin' went to a high of number 151 on the Billboard Pop Albums charts and 41 on the Black Albums listing.

The National Recording Registry was created by the National Recording Preservation Act in 2000 "to maintain and preserve sound recordings and collections of sound recordings that are culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Recordings nominated

A recording has to be over 10 years old to be considered for inclusion and the public can nominate recordings for consideration.

Among the songs already in the registry are Fats Domino's Blueberry Hill, Nat 'King' Cole's Straighten Up and Fly Right, One o'clock Jump by Count Bassie and his orchestra, What's Going On by Marvin Gaye, and The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Speeches include Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream'.

Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.

Friday, November 09, 2007

A Gift From Alison Hinds

Dear Jamaica and Jamaicans worldwide,

Soca Queen, Alison Hinds, wanted you to have this autographed photograph. Her first album, entitled Soca Queen, was released on Tuesday November 6, 2007. Please continue to give her your love and support. She is not Jamaican but the world must know that Jamaica and every Jamaican live well with our neighbors. Big up Barbados.


Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sergeant Jacob Thompson is the Recipient of the International Rugby Board Development Award (2007)

Congratulations Sergeant Jacob Thompson. Please keep up the great work you are doing. Bim!

Local Rugby Boss Cops International Award (Source - The Jamaica Observer)

Jacob Thompson wins this year's IRB Development Award on October 21 in Paris, France.

Chairman of the Jamaica Rugby Union (JRU), Sgt Jacob Thompson, is this year's recipient of the International Rugby Board (IRB) Development Award due to the steady growth of the sport on the island.

The ex-army veteran was given the prestigious award during the presentation ceremony after South Africa dethroned England for the world title at the recent Rugby World Cup Finals in France.

In front of a packed gala, Thompson was 'speechless' upon seeing a clip outlining his achievement in the sport on the island of 2.7 million inhabitants, as he was announced as the 2007 winner.

Thompson, who came home to Jamaica from England in 1969 and started a mission to bring rugby to the island, arrived home on Monday after the IRB invited him as a special guest for the semi-finals and finals.

"I didn't have the slightest idea that I was going to be given this award, Thompson told the Sunday Observer.
"I was speechless. I just couldn't believe it because over the years my contribution to rugby... is because I loved it. And I accept this award on behalf of all the rugby players of Jamaica and the Caribbean."

The recognition is a huge "shot in the arm" for the sport regionally, particularly here in Jamaica, where the popularity of the game is gathering steady momentum, but is still some distance behind several sporting disciplines nonetheless.

But thanks to Thompson, Jamaica now at least, counts the sport in its social calendar. Rugby has been adopted and is presently played by 40 schools in Jamaica. That number is expected to be surpassed soon, as every year, based on recent trends, a new school joins the "growing" list.
It is something that Thompson, who has been the chairman of Jamaica Rugby Union (JRU) since 1999, believes has "put Jamaica on the global map".

"Getting this International Rugby Board award, they (the IRB) know that rugby is moving in Jamaica," he added.

For his outstanding effort in developing the game in his native country, the IRB has decided to increase its annual grant to Jamaica, according to Thompson, who played for Jamaica, coached a number of local teams and has been the chief organiser for schoolboy rugby to this present date.
The IRB's current grant to Jamaica stands at £37,000.
In the midst of global recognition, Thompson continues to pilot the JRU with limited resources and assistance from the government and corporate Jamaica. And that's a challenge that he needs to ultimately overcome.

This year, the country's Under-19 team created history, becoming the first country from the English-speaking Caribbean to qualify for next year's IRB Under-19 World Championships during April in Chile, but this has failed to grab the attention of the nation.

The JRU used the success of their youth team as a drawingcard, wooing sponsors to support the team. However, corporate entities have been motionless towards their plea, despite a large portion of the team's expenses already covered by the world governing body.

In addition, the JRU is in need of J$500,000 to send both its male and female teams to the North America West Indies Rugby Association (NAWIRA) Sevens Tournament from November 17-18 in Nassau, Bahamas.

But Thompson, who was selected as an executive committee member of the West Indies Rugby Union (WIRU), is soldiering ahead with the hope of turning the sport into a successful business, despite being booted off their once home ground and their financial crisis.

In making one of his perennial appeals for assistance Thompson said: "We're just appealing to the private sector to come and help us."

After all, Jamaica currently holds three of four Caribbean titles and for a country that is ranked at 77 on the latest IRB world ranking list, the chairman and his group of mostly inner-city youth, are obviously doing something right.

Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Patrick Ewing - Basketball Player

Patrick Ewing was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1962. His father, Carl, was a mechanic at the time, and his mother, Dorothy, was a homemaker. Dorothy conceived of a better life for her children in the United States, and she moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1971 to pave the way for a family move there. She took a job as a kitchen worker in a hospital, and brought her family over one by one. In 1975, at twelve years of age, Patrick Ewing joined his mother and four of his siblings who had immigrated before him. His father eventually found work in a rubber hose factory.

Ewing had never even seen a basketball before his arrival in the United States, much less played the game that was later to make him famous. Soccer is the sport most played in Jamaica, and that was the game he played as a youngster. But he became fascinated by basketball only weeks into his new life as an American. Walking past a playground where other children played basketball, he would often stop and watch. One day, he was asked by the other kids if he wanted to join a game, and he began what was to become a career. Playing basketball did not come easily for the future superstar. "I knew that it was something I'd have to work at," he later told Roy S. Johnson in the New York Times.

More on Patrick Ewing: Here & Here

Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.

Joel Augustus Rogers - Humanist

Joel Augustus Rogers (September 6, 1880 (some sources say 1883) — March 26, 1966) author, journalist, historian was born in Negril, Jamaica. Although Rogers was the son of a minister and a school teacher, his parents were not able to afford to give Rogers, or his ten siblings, more than a rudimentary education. Rogers immigrated to the United States in 1906. Rogers lived most of his life in Harlem, but also lived in Chicago for some time. While Rogers was in Chicago he worked as a Pullman porter. The job of Pullman Porter allowed Rogers to travel and observe people. Through this travel Rogers was able to increase his appetite for knowledge, utilizing various libraries in the cities that he visited. This appetite for knowledge would eventually be expressed in Rogers' numerous self-published writings.

Rogers' first book, From "Superman" to Man, self-published in (1917), attacked notions of African inferiority. From Superman to Man is a polemic against the ignorance that fuels racism. Its very title is an ironic twist on both George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman and Nietzsche’s idea of the “Superman.” The central plot revolves around a debate between a Pullman porter and a white racist, Southern politician. In essence, the porter is Roger’s (who worked as a Pullman porter while he lived in Chicago) alter ego. Rogers used this debate to air many of his personal philosophies and to debunk the heinous stereotypes about black people and white racial superiority. The porter’s arguments and theories are pulled from a plethora of sources, classical and contemporary, and run the gamut from history, anthropology to biology. Like the novel’s protagonist, Rogers would devote his professional life to such interdisciplinary research. Many of the ideas that permeated Rogers’ later work can be seen germinating in From Superman to Man. Rogers addresses issues such as: the lack of scientific support for the idea of race, black historical vindicationism, and the proliferation of miscegenation throughout history. All of these ideas became focal points for his later writing.

In the 1920's he worked as a journalist on the Pittsburgh Courier, the Chicago Enterprise and was a sub-editor of Marcus Garvey's short-lived Daily Negro Times. He was a newspaper correspondent covering such notable events as the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia (for the New York Amsterdam News); he wrote for various black newspapers (Crisis, American Mercury, The Messenger, the Negro World and Survey Graphic) and served as the only black war correspondent during World War II. Thus, the diversity of his positions proved advantageous for him as he sought to highlight African participation in a global context.

Rogers was a meticulous researcher, astute scholar and very concise writer. He traveled tirelessly on his quest for knowledge which often took him directly to the source for information for his books. While traveling in Europe he frequented libraries, museums, castles and many places of interest that would help to prove Africans had an ancestry and history that the world could and should be proud of. He challenged the biased viewpoint of Eurocentric historians and anthropologists. Rogers spent a lifetime gathering what he called “the bran of history”. The bran of history was the uncollected, unexamined history of the world and for him it was the history of black people. Rogers intended that these neglected parts of history would one day be added to the mainstream body of Western history. He saw black inclusion in white historical discourses as helping to bridge racial divides. The scholarship that Rogers produced was meant to shed light on hitherto unexamined areas of Africana history. This historical goal made Rogers a vindicationist scholar. Vindicationist history attempted to combat the stereotypes of inferiority that often surround black people in history.

Rogers proved that color of skin is not what determines intellectual genius and that Africans have contributed much more to the world than what was previously stated. As a scholar, Rogers was a proponent of the fact that great, black civilizations had flourished in Africa during antiquity. He devoted his scholarship to vindicating historically a place for Africana people within Western history. According to Rogers, many ancient African civilizations had been primal molders of Western civilization and culture. Rogers’ work was also concerned with "the Great Black Man" theory of history. The “Great Black Man” theory shows history, specifically black history, as a mural of achievements by prominent black people throughout history. Rogers devoted a significant amount of his professional life to unearthing facts about people of African ancestry. He intended these facts to be a refutation of contemporary racist beliefs about the inferiority of blacks. Books such as 100 Amazing Facts about the Negro, Sex and Race, and The World’s Great Men of Color all describe remarkable black people throughout the ages and cite significant achievements of the black genius.

Rogers’ theories about race, sex and color can be found in the books Nature Knows No Color-Line, World’s Great Men of Color and the pamphlet Five Negro Presidents all of which deal with the ideas of race, sex and color. Within these works, Rogers questions the concept of race, the origins of racial differentiation and the root of the “color problem.” Rogers felt that the “color problem” was that color [race] was used as social, political and economic determining factors. Rogers astutely surmised that a large percentage of ethnic differences were the result of sociological factors. However, in Rogers’ opinion, often the differences between groups were attributed primarily to physical differences, i.e. color [race]. Rogers deals with the themes of race and sex in the eponymous Race and Sex and also in Nature Knows No Color-Line. Rogers’ research in these tomes is dedicated to examining miscegenation and how that has left a black “strain” in Europe and the Americas since the dawn of time. In Nature Knows No Color-Line, Rogers examines the origins of racial hierarchy and the color problem. Rogers states that the origins of the race problem had never been adequately examined or discussed. Rogers believed that color prejudice generally evolved from issues of domination and power between two physiologically different groups. According to Rogers, color prejudice was a rationale for domination, subjugation and warfare. Societies evolved these mythologies and prejudices in order to pursue their own interests at the expense of other groups. Rogers was trying to show that there is nothing innate about color prejudice. There is no natural distaste for darker skin by lighter-skinned people. Likewise, there is no natural aversion for lighter skin by darker-skinned people.

With these assertions, Rogers was attempting to point out the absurdity of racial divisions. Rogers' belief in one race, humanity, precluded the idea of several different ethnic races. In this, Rogers was a humanist. Rogers used vindicationist history as a tool to bolster his ideas about humanism. Rogers used his scholarship to prove his underlying humanistic thesis: that people were one large family without racial boundaries.

Rogers was self-financed, self educated, self-published. While it is easy to look at Rogers' lack of a formal education as a hindrance to producing scholarly work, it is also quite probable that Rogers' self-taught knowledge freed him from many academic and methodological restrictions thereby allowing him to tackle the difficult racial issues with which he dealt. Rogers’ autodidactism allowed his research to branch organically into various disciplines that other more formally educated scholars might have been loath to attempt. Thus, Rogers’ scholarship incorporates elements of history, anthropology, art history, sociology and archaeology. His works are complete with detailed references. He documenting of his work to encourage scrutiny of his facts are a testament to his due diligence, work ethic and commitment to not only African people, but the world, its history and culture.

Rogers was responsible for bringing many facets of contributionist black history to light, such as the black heritage of figures like Aleksandr Pushkin or the three generations of Dumas (Alexandre Dumas, Père, Alexandre Dumas, Fils and Thomas-Alexandre Dumas) . More importantly, Rogers clearly articulated his ideas about race that were informed by anthropology and biology, rather than social convention. However, Rogers’ most important contribution to black history was not in his vindicationism. Rogers’ most important contribution to black history was his use of vindicationism as a tool to underscore his overlying humanist beliefs. Rogers used the One-drop theory and vindicationism to illustrate the unity of humanity as a people. He discarded the non-scientific definition of race and pursued his own ideas about humanity’s interconnectedness. Although Rogers' work has often been relegated to the ranks of Afrocentric history, his true contributions to Africana scholarship were his nuanced analysis of race and the humanism that permeated his writings.

Rogers was one of the first to detail the lineage of the Queen of England linking her to the Queen Charlotte Sophia Consort of King George III.

Rogers interviewed Marcus Garvey in prison (New York Amsterdam News, 17 November 1926).

Joel Augustus Rogers died on March 26, 1966 in New York City.

Source: Wikipedia

More on Rogers: Here

Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Congratulations Dr. Zeromeh Campbell

Story from The Jamaica Gleaner

Dr. Zeromeh Campbell is now doing a paediatric residency programme at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.
Zeromeh Campbell's happiness and joy at realising her dream is infectious and heart-warming. After several years of hard work and sacrifice, the young Jamaican woman graduated as a medical doctor in May 2007 from Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C. She is now doing a paediatric residency programme at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.

"The happiest moment in my entire life was on graduation day. I was first in my class and I was really bawling when I realised I was finally graduating. I was so happy! I was overwhelmed!" she said.

What was really awesome was the fact that she won not one, not two, but 10 awards on graduation day. Among the awards were:

The Bertran F. Cooper M.D. Class of 1978 Memorial Award, for students who have outstanding achievement in paediatrics;

The Merck Manual Award '07, to students who have achieved the highest scholastic records during their years of medical study;

The Grafton Rayner and Edna Spriggs Browne Award, given to the student with the highest cumulative average in her class;

The HUMAA (Howard University Medical Alumni Association) award, to the student who has attained the highest scholastic average in her class.

Wanted to be a doctor

She is one of those people who knew early on in life exactly what they want to do with their life. She always wanted to be a doctor. So throughout the years at Holy Childhood Preparatory School and Immaculate Conception High School, she kept the dream alive. Moreover, she "loved her own paediatrician in Jamaica, Dr. Heather White," and that helped her to focus on what her life's work would be.

Zeromeh was so focused on becoming a doctor and specialising as a paediatrician that even while at school she did some volunteering at the Bustamante Children's Basic School in 1995. "I would spend time playing with the children and feeding some of those who could not feed themselves," she said.

Her deep interest was in studying the sciences and it paid off in her results at high school. After overcoming that first hurdle, she moved up to the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida, where she studied for the B.Sc. in pre-professional biology.

At Florida Tech, she was a member and then vice-president of the Caribbean Students Association (CSA) and a member of the Phi Eta Sigma Honour Society there.

She graduated with highest honours in 2002, and then she took one year off to work.

In 2003 Zeromeh entered Howard University in Washington, D.C. to study medicine. Howard University College of Medicine (HUCM) opened as a medical department in 1868, just three years after the end of the Civil War in the United States.

What was it like for the young Jamaican to study at the historically black Howard University College of Medicine?

"I loved it," she responded enthusiastically to my question.

After many years spent in training there she looked back in 2007 and said, "I needed to be at Howard University. There were many people there who I could emulate."

Zeromeh lived in nearby Alexandria in Virginia with two friends who had also gone to Immaculate Conception High School while she studied at Howard University. She either drove or took the train to school.

Between 2004 and 2005, Zeromeh, was a MedStars tutor at Howard. She supported and tutored freshmen in medical school, held weekly sessions with them to go over challenging topics in the curriculum and shared useful study strategies.

She also became a member of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA); the Student National Medical Association (SNMA); Alpha Omega Alpha National Medical Honour Society Gamma Chapter at Howard University College of Medicine (HUMC); and treasurer for Physicians for Human Rights. In her capacity as treasurer she helped to co-ordinate the first Annual Health Disparities Conference of the HUMC.

Zeromeh has also given volunteer service. Most recently she assisted with the Good Shepherd After-School care programme and from April 2006 to May 2007 attended group therapy with the Paediatric AIDS/HIV Care programme that offers basic interaction and support for 13 to 15 year-old boys and girls affected directly or indirectly by the disease.

In 2006 "we (medical students) had to decide what we wanted to do," she said. Most of the hospitals where she wanted to continue her training to become a paediatrician were located either in the southern United States or on the West Coast.

"I was so glad when I found out in March that I got my second choice - to go to Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas."

She is now doing a three-year paediatric residency programme at Baylor College, with training done mainly at the Texas Children's Hospital. That hospital is affiliated with Baylor. Texas Children's Hospital is the largest children's hospital in the United States and an internationally recognised paediatric hospital. It is located in the Texas Medical Centre in Houston.

"I 'm comfortable in Houston," she said when I asked her how she likes her new surroundings.

It will be another long period of training before she becomes a Paediatrician but having come thus far she is determined to reach her goal. "I am happy how everything has worked out. My mother is very proud of the fact that I was one of the students who scored the highest possible marks in the National Board Exams.

"I made a lot of sacrifices and had many sleepless nights, but I believe when you have a dream you should go for it and always seek after learning," she said.

Another dream she has yet to fulfil is to return to Jamaica to what she considers "her dream job - working at the Bustamante Hospital for Children."

Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jamaican Heads NASA Team On Space Station Expansion Project

When the “Discovery” space shuttle heads into space this month it will carry a special package ‘gift-wrapped’ by a Jamaican-born engineer and his team at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States.

Glenn Chin is NASA mission manager charged with delivering a Node 2 module called “Harmony” that will expand the docking area at the International Space Station to accommodate other space programs. Chin heads a multi-disciplined team of 30 to 40 engineers and technicians at NASA which is involved in the testing, integration and assembly processes that will make “Harmony” ready for launch inside “Discovery’s” cargo bay on the morning of Oct. 23. Once installed at the space station, “Harmony” will serve as a port for space programs from China and a combined 13 European countries.

“Harmony is a module with six docking ports where modules can dock to make the station bigger,” explained the 43-year-old Chin, who attended high schools in Jamaica and the U.S. and college at the University of Miami, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering.

“It’s like a six entrance hallway that you can add rooms to…It’s actually the gateway to the international partners.”

That “hallway” or central building block is 24 feet long and 15 feet wide. It weighs 31,500 pounds.

SIMPLE TASK It was built in Italy, with fine-tuning at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where Chin and his team are based. He was involved in the early design and construction of “Harmony” as part of a special team, which offered NASA insight into the project’s progress. That required him to travel to Torino between 1998 and 2000. Other work assignments temporarily took Chin away from the “Harmony” project, but he would later return as mission manager. His task is simple: get “Harmony” ready for launch and make sure it works once it gets into space.

But Chin is confident it will. Discovery’s transportation of “Harmony” this month, also called “STS-120”, is not the only mission Chin has been involved with at NASA. He has been in charge of 16, four of which he has seen through to their launch. However, despite acknowledging a familiarity with the procedures required for the task, Chin said the different types of “payload” he is required to deliver in proper working order keeps the challenge interesting.

“It’s pretty routine,” he said. “The processes are pretty much the same. But the differences in hardware for each mission is unique. Each hardware is unique.”

So is his background. Chin is one of a handful of Caribbean nationals working at the Kennedy Space Center, which employs some 18,000 workers. He is proud of his heritage and credits his background for much of his success in the U.S.

“That’s huge for me,” he said. “As a Jamaican I’ve always been a hard worker, persistent. When I came to the States I realized the opportunities here and went after it. “I have enough savvy to know you can reach for your dreams in this country.” For the married father of a son, his dreams extend to outer space.

Glenn Chin's Bio

Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Alia Wedderburn Wins At the International Bronner Brothers Hair Show and Convention (Georgia, USA)

Congratulations Alia Wedderburn and HEART/NTA. Please keep up the great work.

September 04, 2007

Another Jamaican has brought home gold, this time from Georgia (USA). Alia Wedderburn won the Student Competition at the international Bronner Brothers Hair Show and Convention at the Georgia World Congress Centre August 20. Wedderburn is one of two WorldSkills Jamaica competitors vying for the opportunity to represent their country in the WorldSkills International competition in ladies and men’s hairdressing.

Wedderburn beat six competitors and was the only non-American participant. Competitors were required to prepare an Elegant Evening Wear style. Eight judges picked Wedderburn’s two-color, upsweep “do” that was molded with swirls at the centre and back of the head and accessorized with silver ornaments. The hair was complimented with make-up and dress in keeping with elegant eveningwear.

She won an impressive trophy, a gold medallion, cash, and US$400 worth of Bronner Brothers products.

The trophy is expected to improve her chances of selection to represent Jamaica at the WorldSkills International competition in Shizuoka, Japan in November 2007. Jamaica’s involvement in WorldSkills through HEART/NTA is intended to raise standards to world-class levels in the industrial trades and service sectors.

Wedderburn is also in the final phase of study as a cosmetology instructor at the HEART/NTA Vocational Training and Development Institute.

The small contingent of Jamaicans who went to Georgia to support Alia, included her WorldSkills training expert Claudette Jennings, Career Development Officer of the HEART School of Cosmetology. Coach Jennings said she always expected Wedderburn to win.

Read it for yourself here: Click

Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.

Prime Minister of Jamaica Wins IOC World Women and Sport Trophy

Congratulations Portia Simpson-Miller - Former Prime Minister of Jamaica.
08 March 2007 - Lausanne, Switzerland

Today, joining in the world’s celebration of International Women’s Day, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded its World Women and Sport Trophy for 2007 to the first female Jamaican Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller.

At an official ceremony held at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Portia Simpson Miller was honoured for her outstanding dedication to promoting women’s activities in Jamaican sport – both as athletes and as administrators. As well as the World Trophy, five continental trophies were presented, to Fridah Bilha Shiroya (Kenya / Africa), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (USA / Americas), Naila Shatara-Kharroub (Palestine / Asia), Ilse Bechthold (Germany / Europe) and Veitu Apana Diro (Papua New Guinea / Oceania). During the official announcement, IOC President Jacques Rogge emphasised that “the IOC, through its Women and Sport Commission, has been working untiringly to implement programmes to enable women and girls the world over to feel fully involved in the universal movement to promote women in and through sport”.

Since 2000 the IOC has annually recognised a person, organisation or institution for their remarkable contribution to the promotion of women in the sports world. The winners are selected by the IOC Women and Sport Commission, chaired by IOC member Anita L. DeFrantz. This year the Commission received 65 applications from National Olympic Committees (NOC) and International Olympic Sports Federations (IFs) from all over the world.

A political voice for the good of women and sport

Portia Simpson Miller, winner of the world trophy in 2007, is the first female Prime Minister of Jamaica, elected in March 2006. Her exceptional political career started in 1970. In 1989 she was appointed Minister for Sport, and in this function was also responsible for Women’s Affairs. Shortly after her election as Prime Minister she became one of the first world leaders to sign the World Anti-Doping Code. Throughout these years, her personal leadership, based on a “bottom-up” philosophy, has clearly supported the development of women’s sporting activities in Jamaica. As a result, more and more women are being elected to the decision-making bodies of the National Sport Federations.

A life devoted to serving society

Fridah Bilha Shiroya, Treasurer of the NOC of Kenya, is the winner of the trophy for Africa. One of her outstanding merits is the strengthening of women’s role in Kenyan sport: as the first female to hold an executive office in the Kenyan NOC, she founded the “Association of Kenya Women in Sports (TAKWIS)” in 1996. This initiative became a driving force to increase women’s participation in Kenyan sports as well as female representation in the national administrative sports structures. Furthermore, Fridah Bilha Shiroya has proved her innovative spirit by founding the Kenya Women’s Football Association and bringing the sports of softball and baseball to her country.

Conveying values to the youth

One of the world’s greatest Olympians, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, wins this year’s trophy for Americas. With the creation of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Youth Foundation in 1988, the six-time Olympic medallist has helped young people to prepare for their role in society – driven by guiding principles such as character and leadership, teamwork and dignity. The Foundation raised USD 12 million to build the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in her hometown East St Louis, Illinois, which offers more than 30 programmes in education, culture, arts, sports and fitness, health and life skills for young people aged 6 to 18 with a major focus on young girls. About her tireless work with the Foundation, Joyner-Kersee says: “Once I leave this earth, I know I have done something that will continue to help others”.

Opening up the sports world for girls in Palestine

The Women and Sport Commission’s choice for the trophy for Asia was Palestinian Naila Shatara-Kharroub, a pioneer in establishing and developing physical education for girls in her country since 1979. Shatara-Kharroub has served the Ministry of Education for several years, and is today the Principal of the Dar Al-Kailma School in Bethlehem. Despite the political, social, economic and security-related challenges, and having started from zero, Naila Shatara-Kharroub has managed to introduce physical education in the 50 girls’ schools of Bethlehem and Jericho Districts, establish playgrounds, organise sports equipment and conduct various training courses for female physical education teachers.

Role model for young female sport leaders

Ilse Bechthold, Chairperson of the IAAF’s Women’s Committee since 1981 and member of the IOC Women and Sport Commission, is the 2007 winner of the trophy for Europe. She has dedicated her competence and will to opening the door for women to nearly every discipline that is practised in athletics. In 1998 she initiated the “Year of Women in Athletics” within the IAAF, as well as several worldwide clinics and courses. Having been successful in the discus, shot put and pentathlon herself, her passion for sport has also influenced her professional life. She has taught physical education to thousands of future teachers at the University of Frankfurt and served as a spokesperson for female students.

Getting all generations moving
Veitu Apana Diro
, Vice-President of the NOC of Papua New Guinea, is the winner for Oceania. She is one of the longest-serving women in sport in her country. As a founder of the national netball federation in 1965, she has always encouraged women and girls to discover this sport. In 2000, she became Chairperson of the then newly founded Papua New Guinean Women in Sport (WIS) Committee. Her efforts towards increasing female participation in sport were and are addressed to all generations: she has coached numerous young girls in various sports, but has also established a masters association for older women. Her recent initiative is a mentoring programme in which elite female athletes go into schools to motivate young girls to practise sport.

Read it for yourself here: Click

Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.

UNICEF Jamaica Project Officer Wins Young Investigator Prize for AIDS Research

Congratulations Penelope. Please keep up the great work.

Penelope Campbell, Project Officer in the UNICEF office in Jamaica is the first winner of the Young Investigator Prize in the area of Women, Girls and AIDS which has been awarded by the International AIDS Society.

The award was presented to Miss Campbell on Monday, August 14, 2006 at the plenary session of the International AIDS Conference being held in Toronto, Canada. The Young Investigator Prize: Women, Girls and HIV/AIDS highlights the challenges faced by women and girls by encouraging women investigators from resource-limited settings to pursue HIV/AIDS research.

Geeta Rao Gupta, President of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, which co-founded the award, , stated that Miss Campbell epitomizes the hard work and skills that thousands of women researchers demonstrate each and every day.

The UNICEF Project Officer who manages the programme for Adolescent Development and Participation and HIV/AIDS in the Jamaica office, won as a result of a baseline study on the establishment of a mobile unit providing HIV/AIDS/STI information, skills and services to vulnerable adolescents in Jamaica. The research was undertaken in August 2005 after Children First, an NGO in Spanish Town approached UNICEF for support in establishing a mobile service to reach 5,000 vulnerable adolescents along major transport and HIV/STI prevalent locations. Interviews were conducted among 451 young people ranging from 10-19 years and the results showed that although 48% of the respondents were sexually active, only 19% accessed sexual reproductive health services.

The UNICEF Representative in Jamaica Bertrand Bainvel in congratulating Miss Campbell on the award said that he was extremely proud that one of its most talented staff had received such a high recognition.

"Prevention among adolescents is absolutely key if we want to see a reverse in the spread of the epidemic in the world and especially in Jamaica. Every adolescent must be given the right to know how to protect themselves from HIV, and this includes the right to know their status – this is the message carried out by the Bashy Bus. The Bus proves that it is necessary, feasible and effective. Primary prevention among adolescents is one of the four pillars of the Global Campaign on Children and AIDS along with reduction of mother to child transmission, access to paediatric treatment and support to children made orphans or affected by HIV. The Bashy Bus is an illustration of the creativity and commitment of Jamaica – a champion country in the Global Campaign on Children and AIDS", he added.

Read it for yourself here: Click

Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jeanine McIntosh - 1st Black Female Aviator in the US Coast Guard

Source: Jamaica Observer
Reported: Thursday June 30, 2005

JAMAICAN-BORN Jeanine McIntosh, 26, last Friday became the first black female aviator in the 215-year history of the United States Coast Guard.

As a junior grade lieutenant, McIntosh received her wings last Friday at an awards ceremony at Corpus Christi Naval Air Station in Texas.

She began her training at the base in January of this year, where she learned the instruments, flight patterns and went on missions.

McIntosh is currently doing further training in Little Rock, Arkansas, until September before taking up her assignment in Hawaii.

A graduate of Florida International University (FIU), she studied International Business. She also attended Miami Killian High School.

McIntosh attended Vaz Preparatory School in Kingston before migrating with her family to Canada where they settled before relocating to South Florida.

In an interview with JIS News, McIntosh spoke of her passion for aviation from an early age when she resided in the Portmore community, watching the airplanes soaring overhead.

After graduating from FIU in 2001, she decided to pursue her dream of flying. She occasionally visited the North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines before she began flying lessons there.

As a flight instructor at Opa-Locka Airport in North Miami, McIntosh said that she observed the US Coast Guard carriers there regularly "and I felt a deeper fascination to fly one of those planes".

McIntosh said she was honoured to have earned this achievement after a challenging schedule.

Jeanine McIntosh Photo Gallery

Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The 2nd or 3rd Longest Running Film in US Cinema History is from Jamaica

The movie, The Harder they Come, is the 2nd or 3rd longest running film in the history of American Cinema. This film was directed by Perry Henzel, who died at age 70 in December 2006. (RIP Perry). The movie ran for seven years straight at the Orson Welles Theater, in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Jeremy Sigler, of Index Magazine, interviewed Perry Henzell at his home in Jamaica in 2001. Here is the full interview from Index Magazine. We found this interview to be both refreshing and inspirational. Make sure you read it all. Big up Jimmy Cliff and Index Magazine:

Perry Henzell, 2001, by Jeremy Sigler, of Index Magazine

After directing The Harder They Come in 1973, Perry Henzell spent the next six years single-handedly distributing his "little action film" all over the world. Starring Jimmy Cliff as an aspiring musician just arrived in the slums of Trenchtown and willing to succeed by any means necessary, the movie brought the energy and strife of the Jamaican music scene to life for audiences everywhere. The best-selling soundtrack was an immediate reggae classic: it featured Cliff, Toots and the Maytals, and Desmond Dekker. As American college kids lined up in droves to see the movie, Perry remained in Jamaica, where he was born and raised, eventually taking up residence in a long-abandoned eighteenth-century stone villa, set deep in the bush on the northern coast.

Perry comes from an old Carribbean family. Yet he has always gone out of his way to break tradition: as a young man he hitch-hiked his way through Europe while he was supposed to be at an English boarding school; on returning to Jamaica he filmed the first-ever commercials to feature black actors; and later he took on prison reform, speaking out against the brutal whippings that were still practiced there. When we arrived at his home one tropical winter evening, the doors and shutters were swung wide open, candles were burning (due to a power outage), and our conversation was backed by the steady rhythms of cicadas, crickets, and tree frogs.

JEREMY: Wow, we're pretty far out here.
PERRY: Yeah, most of my neighbors are small farmers. You know, rastas.
JEREMY: Do you get many visitors?
PERRY: People drop by. But usually it's just my wife Sally and me.
JEREMY: I've heard you calling each other Rudy. Is that as in "rude boy?"
PERRY: Yes, well there was a song out when we were making The Harder They Come called "Rudy Don't Fear." She began to call me Rudy because of that; I call her Rudy.
JEREMY: Jamaicans have a thing for nicknames.
PERRY: Very often people have two or three names. It's very much a living language. It changes every week.
JEREMY: Neville Livingston became Bunny Wailer, and was sometimes referred to as "the Rabbit" …
PERRY: And a guy with a limp, they'll call him "Up-down."
JEREMY: So how did you come to be a filmmaker?
PERRY: I started right at the bottom, shifting scenery at the BBC — it was live television in those days, the '50s. In '59 I heard that Jamaica was going to get television, and I went home to get in on the ground floor. But it was delayed until about 1965, so instead I made cinema commercials, which run before the movies. I set up a little studio.
JEREMY: That's how you got connected to the music scene?
PERRY: Yeah, well there was only one recording studio when I first started out, Federal Records. It was two-track. I'd spend hours there doing the soundtracks for the commercials, listening to the music and meeting the musicians. Coxsone Dodd, all those people were there.
JEREMY: That must have been incredible.
PERRY: Then when Jamaican independence was declared in 1962, the local newspaper set up a closed-circuit television system. I did the first shows, including a variety show at night. I used a lot of musicians, and gave them their first exposure to cameras and television production.
JEREMY: And that led to The Harder They Come.
PERRY: Well, by the time I'd made 200 commercials, I realized that I was using them to experiment with filmmaking. It was a great way to start out, because if I made a mistake it was only 30 seconds long, and it was anonymous. But at a certain point I'd learned as much as I was going to learn — every time I had to make a commercial I got sick, you know? So I set out to make a little action movie. That's how I thought of The Harder They Come — a little crime movie set in Jamaica.

JEREMY: I always thought of it as a ninja-gangster-western-documentary. [laughter]

PERRY: Well, I always had a kind of obsession with realism, people like Ken Loach or John Cassavetes. But I felt most realism was boring, in that it was about people who were very serious. I wanted to make realism lighter.
JEREMY: Were you influenced by cinema verité?
PERRY: I don't think I could ever have made a feature unless I did it with lightweight cameras and a small crew. I also realized I couldn't possibly write dialogue that was as good as what I heard people saying all around me. I was interested in capturing that poetry. That's sort of a cinema verité technique.
JEREMY: I read somewhere that you made the film without a script.
PERRY: No, I worked on the script for quite a long time. But I ran out of script and had to write some more. I kept running out of script and running out of money. By the end of the film I was shooting by myself — you know, a crew of one. As a matter of fact, the knife fight scene was shot in three different locations, 18 months apart, and half with a double for Jimmy.
JEREMY: I can't imagine a more perfect casting for your hero than Jimmy Cliff.
PERRY: Well, I wanted a singer, of course. And Jimmy seemed like the most receptive person to direction. He had an album at that time where, on the front, he faced the camera and looked very stylish and handsome. And on the back there was a profile shot, and he looked like a rasta. I thought, "If two angles of his face can produce that much difference …" That was the starting point.
JEREMY: He'd never acted before.
PERRY: No. And I wasn't looking for actors, I was looking for people who carried a particular spirit. I wanted to cast somebody who knew more about the role than I did. Jimmy had come to Kingston as a youngster to make a career in music and had gone through the process.
JEREMY: But he wasn't considered a rude boy himself.
PERRY: He wasn't the rudy type, but he certainly knew that life.
JEREMY: He's perfectly convincing as a country boy who comes to the city full of naive hope — his desperation is heartbreaking. I always think of the strange scene in which he's been shot, he's hiding from the police, and he tries to escape by swimming out to the big ship, missing it by the tiniest fraction.
PERRY: That was very brave of Jimmy. We were in a hurry because we didn't have the ship for very long — it was leaving port and could only slow down for half an hour. And where the ships leave the harbor, that's also where they throw out garbage, and there are sharks. And you know, Jimmy was not a particularly good swimmer.
JEREMY: Wow. Where did you find the other actors?
PERRY: Well, the guy who played Preacher, Basil Keane was his name, he was a dentist. He was a friend of Martin Luther King's and so on. He had this explosive personality, particularly when he was drinking. How he operated was, he'd have three dentist chairs set up. And he'd have music pounding away. He'd get all excited and go from one chair to the other and inject here and pull a tooth there and run up and down.
JEREMY: I can't imagine …
PERRY: I was supposed to shoot with him the first day, but he didn't turn up. I sent for him, and they said, "He's asleep." So I said, "Well, wake him up." An hour later he still hadn't appeared, so I sent for him again: "He's in the bath." I said, "Well, why didn't someone get him out of the bath?" They said, "He's asleep in the bath!" [laughter] So at two in the morning, I'm fast asleep and I hear this horn honking outside. I go out on the veranda, and there's Basil, drunk, arms wide open, spinning around and saying, "You ready baby? I'm ready, I'm ready." [laughter]
JEREMY: You also cast Toots and the Maytals. Toots was one of the biggest stars in Jamaica at the time.
PERRY: He's always had amazing energy, Toots. He doesn't seem to age. Years ago, I did a musical about Marcus Garvey, and Toots worked with me on it. He did one song called "Education, Education, Education, What Did You Learn Today?" He had so much creative energy that you'd have to finish a recording in one session, because during the break he'd move on to something totally new. I still have the tapes.
JEREMY: I'd love to hear those. Wasn't Garvey Jamaican?
PERRY: Yeah, but he had global influence — all the people who were at the head of the American Black Power movement had their origins in Garvey. He came up with the Black Zionism idea. He was a theatrical guy — a small, squat, black man with a great sense of humor. By 1922 he had five million followers. He even had his own army, and a marching band. And of course he had his top hat, and he dressed up as president of all black people everywhere, and rode around in a sort of topless carriage, saluting.
JEREMY: "Back to Africa."
PERRY: Paradoxically enough, the people that were most supportive of his idea were the white racists, who said: "Of course. Go back to Africa right away. Go right on." [laughter]
JEREMY: The Harder They Come must be one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time.
PERRY: Oh yes. Jimmy was always supposed to choose the music for the soundtrack, and we were coming up to the deadline. I was in London and so was he, so I said to him, "This is it. Will you put together the soundtrack?" And he said, "No." I went back to where I was staying and just went to bed for the entire weekend. I ran the film back and forth in my mind and wrote down every song that I thought would fit. So I ended up doing the whole mix that weekend.
JEREMY: How was Harder They Come first received?
PERRY: In America it settled into a very long run. I think it had the second or third longest run in American cinema history, in Boston at the Orson Welles Theater. It played in this one theater for seven years straight.
JEREMY: And outside the U.S.?
PERRY: It was incredibly difficult to distribute. I went to 43 countries, most of them two or three times. It took me six years to get it out.
JEREMY: So it was always a cult film.
It's two movies really. It's a movie for people who are well-educated and who want a glimpse into another side of life. And then in the Caribbean and Africa and Brazil and so on, it would be for the poor, for people living in slums. The impact of Harder They Come on Jamaica was enormous.

JEREMY: They responded to the film's anthem, "You Can Get It If You Really Want."

PERRY: Well one of the themes of Harder They Come was that the transistor radio had reached out into the countryside with a promise of riches in the city. And all over the world millions of youngsters came into the city for that dream. It was an illusion, of course. But Jimmy Cliff's character, he'd rather die than give up the dream. And they could relate.
JEREMY: The Kingston premiere must have been incredible.
PERRY: There's no excitement in a theater like people who are seeing themselves for the first time. And Harder They Come was the first time that West Indians had ever seen themselves or their story on screen. The first night was like an explosion. There were thousands of people. You couldn't see the end of the crowd surrounding this huge theater in the middle of Kingston. They beat the doors in, and when there were three people in every seat, we ran the film. [laughter]
JEREMY: You had no idea how far the film would go.
PERRY: Nobody could have predicted that Jamaican culture and music would resonate around the world in the way that it has. I think the scene with Pedro flicking back his hair from the water was the first image of rasta seen outside Jamaica, and it became a worldwide image. A year and a half after The Harder They Come started running in Boston, Bob Marley and the Wailers came there to do their first concert outside of the Carribbean. And that show was like an explosion again. It drew on the film audience, and the whole reggae thing got carried into another dimension. The film and Bob's music fed off each other all around the world.
JEREMY: Jimmy Cliff was never quite as big as Marley in the United States.
PERRY: Well, Jimmy made a big miscalculation, I think. He didn't pursue his Harder They Come image. It was really Bob who picked up on that and carried it. Jimmy has tried a lot of things, and right after the movie he got into a black Muslim thing. In fact, on the album that he released after Harder They Come, he was wearing a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase, and he had sort of close-cropped hair.
JEREMY: I guess he didn't style himself in the film then.
PERRY: The credit for that has to go to my wife, Sally. She was the art director on most of the commercials I made, and on Harder They Come.
JEREMY: Jimmy's star of David shirt stands out.
PERRY: The whole business of Jewish slavery really resonates with the black man in the West. The Old Testament has a huge influence. "By the Rivers of Babylon" was one of the big songs on the soundtrack, for instance. For rastas, Babylon is anything that's urban or manmade. Anything that's not ital.
PERRY: Ital is a rasta expression, meaning natural. Ital food is food that isn't contaminated. When my son Jason was a little boy, after Sally and I had moved from Kingston out to the bush, I bought him a trail bike, and he became a fantastic bike rider. One day a rasta came up to him and said, "This bike don't have no lights." So Jason said, "No, it can't go on the road. It's strictly for the hill, man." The rasta said, "So it don't have no license?" Jason said, "No, it can't go on the road." And the rasta said, "Oh, ital bike." [laughter]
JEREMY: Are dreadlocks and pot part of an ital life?
PERRY: Well, I would say ganja and rasta go together. Rasta has spread through a group of people who say, "Ganja is good, ganja brings you wisdom." I don't think it's spread because of Haile Selassie!
JEREMY: Right.
PERRY: But the Caribbean really is a melting pot. This is where you have black, white, Chinese, Jewish, Indian, everything in one area, all living really as one. The term "third world" has come to mean third rate, but it was meant to signify a non-aligned movement. It originated at the Bandung Conference in Indonesia as an expression meaning "third force" — capitalism, communism, and now we are the third force.
JEREMY: Does Hollywood see you as a third world filmmaker?
PERRY: Hollywood actors and directors have always, from the very beginning, realized that they were looking at something. "Okay, you made this funky little film and you obviously have talent. Now you're going to get serious, aren't you, and join the club?"
JEREMY: What do you think of Hollywood pictures?
PERRY: Well, for instance, I think Apocalypse Now is a great film up until the moment they turn the corner in the river and come up against Brando. I think Brando completely and totally misconceived the scene. The whole thing went too far into this Heart of Darkness stuff.
JEREMY: Do you have a better idea?
PERRY: Obviously Brando's character should have been a good guy, not a bad guy. He should have been someone who was attracting the good guys from both sides, from the Americans who said, "This is bullshit. What are we doing in Vietnam?," and from the Vietcong who said, "I hate this ideology nonsense." He would have been building a third force. So both sides would have wanted to take him out. Now that would have been a very interesting concept. But if there was ever a film that changed at the last moment, it's Apocalypse Now.
JEREMY: Because of Brando, who was embarrassed about his weight gain, and just being difficult.
PERRY: And the Shangri-La aesthetic. It was fantasy, and it should have been the ultimate reality.
JEREMY: What did you do after The Harder They Come?
PERRY: I made a big mistake. After Harder They Come, I wanted to press further into realism. I had my own studio, and like Satyajit Ray, I didn't want to leave my own culture in order to make films. So I started another movie. Well, what should have taken six weeks took six years — it was incredibly difficult to finance. While I worked on the final rounds of fundraising, I put the negative in storage with Optical House in Manhattan. Well, Optical House went bust, and they sent the material to New Jersey, and that storage facility lost all 80,000 feet of negatives.
JEREMY: No! So you never completed a second movie.
PERRY: Well, I'm talking with some people about a sequel to The Harder They Come.
JEREMY: Who will star in it?
PERRY: Jimmy will. This time I want to do a film about Jamaicans who have been poor, but who now have some money, and cell phones, and internet access … I want to show another side of Jamaica.
JEREMY: Your novel, The Power Game, covers some of that terrain — it examines privilege and political power in Jamaica. What about your second novel, which is due out this spring?
PERRY: The new one is an historical novel about the start of the Industrial Revolution and of capitalism — and about slavery and sugar. In those days sugar was like cocaine is today. If you had sugar, you were rich. I'm going to call it Cane in the U.S. and Sweet Stuff everywhere else. Americans seem to hate the title Sweet Stuff.
JEREMY: I bet you get a lot of writing done out here.
PERRY: Yes. I've gone eight months without really talking to anybody. Solitude does bring you a level of concentration that is sublime. We only got electricity at Itopia about five years ago.
JEREMY: You call your house Itopia …
PERRY: Yeah, man. That's because in rasta they put "I" in front of everything. So Utopia would become Itopia.

Bonita Jamaica
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.

See you in Jamaica.