My Colonial Edcation Distorted History and Lied

The colonial education I received was primarily rote and students often got into trouble for raising questions that went against the grain of what we were taught. This goes against the very concept of an educated person as someone who can read, write, think critically, and is able to interrogate information, and seek answers.

As I review the content and context of my colonial education, I now know that it blatantly distorted history, outright lied about certain facts, and was designed to make me love, honour, and obey colonial edicts. As an educated woman in my sixties, who attended prep school then one of the leading high schools for girls in Jamaica, I wanted to glean if people from other decades were similarly subjected to a colonial education that distorted history.

I was educated to revere the Queen and Britain and there was never even a hint that the British kingdom plundered Africa and stole its natural wealth and resources, nor a mention that the British government kidnapped or trafficked more than 60 million Africans, and deposited them randomly; that they sold us, raped us, and sodomised us; that they worked us without pay, beat and brutalised us; that they fashioned over 100 different devices to restrict our bodies if we attempted to escape their barbarism, forbid us to speak our African languages, told us our Gods were demonic, told us we were inferior and that the meek would inherit the earth.

After all this, why wasn’t the horror and savagery of the African holocaust taught to us in schools? I sought to find out from Yvonne Sobers, now her 80s what she was taught.

“In school, I learned to pledge allegiance to the Queen and Britain,” said Sobers.

“Queen Victoria was presented as the saviour (and) the British were heroes along with Christopher Columbus. Every year we celebrated the Queen’s birthday and sang the British anthem and got little red flags of the Union Jack (British Flag) to wave while we sang.  At high school, I got to carry the Union Jack as a leader, being a deputy Head girl,” reports Judith Wedderburn, now in her 70s.

 Above, you have my point of view which represents those in their  60s and now we hear from RE, in his 50s, who declares “Up until third form I learned European history, then I moved to Jamaica College and I learned Caribbean history. The queen was always portrayed in a very positive light; her family’s connection to slavery was never mentioned. The British were portrayed as the ones who brought freedom through the actions of men like William Wilberforce and the local church.”

A similar sentiment was expressed by SAP,  in her 40s, who said, “I was told at Prep School that even though Jamaica was granted independence in 1962, Queen Elizabeth is still considered the sovereign leader of Jamaica. It was not only the schools that valourised the Queen and the British Emprise, but the society, as well. One was measured by how British one spoke and act, and English standards were always the model.”

Representing the 30s age group Ruth Howard recalls “I was told that the queen is the head of state and our representative is the Governor General; this against the backdrop of the orphan island being discovered by Christopher Columbus and later adopted by the British Empire. Emphasis was never placed on the horrors of slavery.”

Oshane Grant, another person in his 30s has a very different view: “As a student of history I learned that Queen Elizabeth was a wicked lady and that her family hates black people and were primarily responsible for slavery.”

This would suggest that there have some changes in the education curriculum and the colonial propaganda. TC, who is in her 20s says she learned that we were colonized by the British…rooted in aspects of genocide and oppression.

“However, the British Empire embodied ideals that were to be lauded,” she said.

Current students appear to be given more information. “What we have learnt about the queen and the British Empire is their connection to the Caribbean or Jamaican History through colonialism, and they granted us Independence; we learned that this dominant Empire negatively affected the welfare of enslaved Africans and indigenous people.” Say Adiel a current 6th form student. OE, who has just entered 4th form says thus far she hasn’t learned anything about the queen or the British empire that she remembers, and this was seconded by MD, a 5th form male student.

Although this is only a selective sampling, through discussions I have had with teachers, there is evidence that now there is a more accurate portrayal of the British Empire. The question remains, however, is our children are being taught enough about their history to feel empowered, proud, and equipped to make decisions about their futures.

A revamping or realignment of the curriculum must be in alignment with our developmental goals that must be Jamaican-focused and advances our relationship to the global world.

Condolences to Queen Elizabeth’s family who has benefited luxuriously from the colonial exploitation of our ancestors. However, I hope that through education that teaches truth, and authentically explains our history, we can rise above this damaging legacy and be propelled to excellence and hopefully become a Republic so we can finally be truly independent.

Published her first:

Celebrating 50 Years of The Harder They Come


The Harder They Come,  the
classic, cult movie turns 50 this year. Thus far no other movie about Jamaica
has had such acclaim.  The soundtrack
put reggae on the international map. I was a teenager, and like all Jamaicans,
were thrilled and proud of its debut. Many of us girls also developed crushes
on Jimmy Cliff, and maybe even on  Ivan,
the character that he portrayed.

The Harder They Come resonated with me on so many levels, from the sighting
of the country bus to Pedro at the beach with his sick son, to Elisa torn
between her love for Ivan and her sympathy for the community. For the first
time, I was seeing my home on the screen, whereas before all the images were foreign,
and given to us, now we were giving ourselves to the world, to say to the world,
look at me –I’m somebody too,  worthy of
attention – in short, my life and struggles matter. That was a pivotal identify
shift moment for me and for many. Something happens to you, to how you see
yourself, how you feel, when your life is now enlarged and being shown for all
to see, to bear witness.

The character Ivan was living out and livng through the lives of the cowboy
movies he watched, and now his fellow sufferers, fellow Jamaicans, were living their
lives through him, seeing themselves objecting to and defying the system that has
been crushing them. What a moment!  What
a revolution!  What an awakening Perry
Henzel and Trevor Rhone, co-writers, allowed for.

 As I viewed the movie again I
see that it is still relevant and applicable to today’s reality, and very little
has changed for the masses in the inner-city and rural areas.

However, speaking with several musicians, they suggest that the industry has
changed. There are more opportunities and less exploitation, although many
local musicians who haven’t crossed over or had major success still feel there
is still a lot of exploitation in the industry. But what is undisputable is
that Reggae music is a global phenomenon.

So when Justin Henzel, Perry’s daughter asked me to write a poem for the 50th
celebration, I was honored, and honored too to be included in the exhibition of poems and art, curated to commemorate the 50th anniversary. Below
is the poem I wrote, focusing on Ivan’s portrayal, not as the hero as he was depicted,
but as an anti-hero.

Ivan –An Anti-Hero

Opal Palmer Adisa



he was walking towards a dream

from a landless past

and a stolen mango

entered a space

where almost every man

was for himself

dictated by sufferation

and no mirror in which

to see themselves

and seh is we dis


a place where

if yu black and uneducated

and beg a brown man fah

a chance fi play music yu salt

was a place where the privileged

joyfully exploited de likkle man

where the desire to be known

is worse than mosquitoes

buzzing in your ear and

biting your legs

and where foreign images

warp yu brain so yu tek

on another man’s identity like

a jacket


but it can’t really wuk fah yu

cause de preacher collide wid de gun men

who kill yu blood claat dream

just like dem piss in de gully


yes yu can get it

but can yu keep it?

yes yu can try

but will yu live long enough

fi enjoy it?

will yu oman ovastand

and stick by yu?

will yu brethren with

empty pockets and not

even a can mackerel

keep ifendin yu?

or will the system

like newspapers piled high

chop yu down?


oh ivan

what is a dream recycled

rather than nurtured

from the soil and trench town

of your life?

how can your dream grow

you wings to rise above

the shoot-out death scene

where nothing changes?


what is it you get

what is it you leave us with

more than a song plaited

with platitudes


we’ve been praying

we’ve been toiling

and we really try…

to keep the dream

riding the waves

You can hear me read the poem here:





*Two Heroes/Two Significant Contributions

The debate about whether or not Bob Marley or Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett-Coverley should be National Heroes seems pointless.  It’s like comparing a coconut with a mango; both have important nutritional value and both are good for you.  The fact is both Miss Lou  and Bob Marley have made profound contributions to Jamaica, both deserve being made national heroes, and we have space to honor both.

While some might disagree with me,  it was Louise Bennett championing the Jamaican Nation language and elevating it that gave a young, conscious Bob Marley, coming after, permission to take up this mantle of our nation language and infuse it with revolutionary songs. The very people who are now lauding Marley because of the recognition and income he has generated for our music are the same people who were decrying and trying to block him before his success, and they are the same small group that keep insisting that our language is not worthy even though they have not done an iota of research on language formation and development.

Although Miss Lou is not the first to write in the Jamaican nation language, credit has to be given to Una Marson and Claude McKay, but neither championed and pushed its usage as consistently as Miss Lou.  Not only did she wield her pen in its defense, but she ,more than anyone else, made us feel proud to speak in our mother tongue as Jamaicans. Despite the naysayers who keep valorising the colonial language –English is a broken and borrowed construct from many languages.  The Jamaican nation language is a proud symbol of our  rebellion and resistance against domination and erasure of our African culture by a vicious and brutal Colonial system that tried ardently to eradicate who we are  as a people and our basic cosmology – how we see and respond to the world.  Jamaica has a language, it is our Nation language and we need to stop referring to it as Patwa from “Patois which has French origin, meaning “rough speech” 

 The great poet, educator and former UWI Professor, Kamau Brathwaite termed the phrase Nation language, and scholars such as Hubert Devonish, et al,  have been advancing the work of Miss Lou.  Miss Lou took our nation language and found its creativity, ingenuity and subterfuge in the effective way in which we blended the Twi language of Ghana, (which is the dominant group of African people who were enslaved here) with English, a sprinkle of Spanish and Taino words  into a modern language not unlike our reggae, born and grown Jamaican music, loved and respected globally as is our language, which has being accepted in at least two different universities in the USA that I’m aware of, to fulfil a second language requirement.

 When I travel the world, it is indisputable that Bob Marley and reggae music are my goodwill passport. The moment I say Jamaica, people say Bob Marley with a smile on their face, they start to dance and often say how our music and culture have saved their lives. But before and paving the way for Marley was Louise Bennett, a fierce Warrior wielding her weapon,  the pen, with skill and dexterity,  an ethnographer, folklorist, poet and actor, who contributed to the Jamaican Dictionary  by Cassidy, nationalized the Pantomime and moved us away from  mimicking a European form and developing our own theatrical medium.

We must not forget the shoulders on which we have climbed. Louise Bennett and Bob Marley have contributed  much to the local and global love and respect of  Jamaican culture and music  and there is space for two Heroes. Let’s not pit them against each other and  use a passe European paradigm  as the measuring stick.  I am sure if both were alive they would hug up as big people and step forward together. How fortunate we are to have two amazing persons in Louise Bennett-Coverley and Bob Marley to honor and install as our national heroes.  Both loved and championed Jamaica and its culture, both are more than worthy.

I endorse and vote for Louise Bennett-Coverley and Bob Augustus Marley being made National Heroes of Jamaica for 2022 to show that we are Big People who fly our Gold, Black and Green wid nuff pride.

KINGSTON, JAMAICA – JULY 9: Bob Marley relaxes with friends in front of his house at 56 Hope Road on July 9, 1979 in Kingston, Jamaica. (Photo by Charlie Steiner – Hwy 67 Revisited/Getty Images)

This article was published in The Jamaican Observer…/two-heroes-two…/

We Must Disavow Violence & Move Towards Peace

Like a spilled perfume that dissipates in the exhausted city air, their anger and cry for revenge vaporize into the immediate demands of life: money to send children to school, buy clothes, keep a roof over their heads, and food. Not much has changed for the poor black people who are most Jamaicans, many of whom will be waving flags and taking pride in the 60-year Independence celebration.

For many under 30, violence is all they have known. Each year the numbers climb, and more measures are put into place, but like a yeasted bread, femicide, murder, and the slaughter of our children rise, daily, and after each outrageous crime we wag our tongues, descend to barbarianism, free ourselves of blame, and point the finger. But every crime that happens and we merely build more gated communities, increase the number of security guards, and install alarms makes us each complicit in the escalating insecurity of our island.

Crime and violence in the Caribbean must be contextualized. It was the violence of plunder, kidnapping, rape, and military and religious terror, that formed the Caribbean. The Caribbean as we know it today was a brutal space for the  Taino people who were almost wiped out by the Spaniards, and for enslaved Africans whose free labor was maintained by floggings, amputations, and psychological degradation. The Caribbean, in reality, is less violent now than under the terror of European exploitation which our ancestors lived.

The recent femicide of Kemesha Wright and her four children has left me numb yet again. I send  condolence and healing blessing to Gwendolyn Knight whose daughter, and four grandchildren, 15, Sharalee Smith, 12, Rafaella Smith, 5, and 23-month-old Kishawn Henry Jr, were discovered inside their home with their throats slashed. As a mother, I cannot comprehend Knight’s grief; such a loss is  unfathomable.  I send healing blessings too to New Road Community in Chapelton, where this gruesome crime occurred. I cannot imagine the state of despair, terror, and fright of the children living there. I hope there has been and will be ongoing community healing and cleansing.

When the dons demand our 13-and 14-year-old daughters for their plaything and we kiss our teeth and band out bellies we are complicit. When the don hauls out our sons of 14 and 15 and puts guns into their hands and sends them to sell dope, we are all complicit. When university professors do research and can identify the number of gangs, their leaders, and their locations, but they continue to operate we are all complicit. When soldiers are sent into those troubled communities without training to build trust and sit all day and impregnate the young women of the community, we are all complicit. When mothers and the community turn a blind eye when the rapist pays them $300,000 for the daughter and is allowed to drive a taxi in the community and rape other daughters, we are all complicit. When elected leaders focus on removing the guns but say nothing about stopping whoever is bringing the guns into the country we are all complicit.

We have had 400-plus years to learn and internalize this violence, that we must now unlearn; we were taught that violence was the only way to resolve issues, and now we have to unlearn such erroneous indoctrination.

Twenty-three-year-old Rushane Barnett has been charged with murdering Kemesha Wright and her four children, and many believe he should be put to death.  I don’t know if he did it.  What I know is the person who committed such a crime must be deeply sick.  What I know is that often before crimes occur in our neighborhoods we know the perpetrator and turn a blind eye. What I know is that many of us have become afraid and don’t want to get involved.  What I know is without a compassionate, loving village we are all vulnerable. What I know is that if we do not decide to work together to make a difference, things will not change so we can enjoy the freedom of safety. What I know is that the death penalty is not a solution.

Allow me to remind us of a few of the horrendous crimes that have occurred in the last five years. In everyone one of these cases the community was outraged, but who among us pledged, never again in my community; never again will a child, or a mother or a son be so victimized. Never again.  Enough is enough. 

Three-year-old Nevalesia Campbell raped and dismembered in Orange Hill, Brown’s Town,  St Ann in 2017; 13-year-old Shanoya Wray raped and murdered by her teacher in 2018. 23-year-old Kandice Jackson assaulted and murdered in Portmore in 2021.  15-year-old Kevin McKenzie on Jones Avenue in Spanish Town, St Catherine, Auust 2021. In all of the above instances, the community was incensed and came out in droves, then shortly thereafter returned to “normal.” Has there been justice for Nevalesia, Shanoya, Kadice, Kevin?

Are the respective communities keeping their memory alive and saying never again?

Let us come together and talk about the changes that need to take place, how to implement them, how to mobilize our communities, and demand cooperation from the police force not just after but before a crime.  Let us be proactive and live by the motto, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”

Let us unite as loving and just people.  Learn to embrace one another and build each other up rather than tearing each other down. Let us acknowledge mental illness and get support to identify and treat them; let us practice general goodwill; let us teach our children in a soft, gentle manner and eliminate all types of violence from our homes. Let us learn to say I am sorry, I misjudged you, I disagree with your opinion, but I do not  malice or plot vengeance against you.  Let us reaffirm that we have the right to feel and live safely.

This is a mantra for Kemesha and her four children. We pledge to remember you and we pledge to work to build a more inclusive and safe society for all Jamaicans.  We pledge to throw off the pain and memory of violence that was perpetrated against us and learn to love and value all ourselves, every sister,  brother and child.

We pledge One Love, and so it is, Asé

This article was published in The Observer, July 15, 2022

Providing Creative Outlets for Our Children*

On April 20,  the National Child Month Committee launched its theme and program for May, Child’s month.  The theme this year is: “Listen Up ! Children’s Voice Matter. Given a common maxim in Jamaica, “children must be seen and not heard,” that some parents,  teachers and other adults use to measure a child’s behaviour, this theme is relevant and timely.

Some adults still do not understand the potential danger of silencing a child. All too often a silent child is deemed to be well-behaved. However, this is a very dangerous precedent as it implies that a child has nothing to say, certainly nothing worth hearing.  If a child is not allowed to speak and express herself or himself, the emotional and psychological implications are far and wide. It could result in the child being afraid or reluctant to tell their parents if they are abused or harassed or bullied. While a few children are just naturally quiet, most children are expressive as that is how they learn and engage with their environment.

Hence the theme, Listen Up ! Children’s Voice Matter is a warning to all of us, parents and non-parent or guardians alike, to listen to the children and know what their hopes, fear, and aspirations are.  Adults need to take a backseat sometimes and just listen. To our children and learn what their views are about development and what Jamaica should look like in the next 20 or 50 years, after all they will be the ones to live in it. The theme is also a warning for us to re-examine the implicit and explicit message we send our children that  “adults are always right and children are liars.” This prevalent belief further shuts down children and makes them even more vulnerable to negative and predatory adults.  While parents are expected to know what is best for their child, it is still important that the child’s feelings and sensibilities are taken into account. I invite all parents to grant their children the opportunity to share their feelings and ideas, and one way that educators and psychologists will agree is to use the creative arts as expression, poetry, drama, drawing, and any other medium.

We are better informed and are better able to help our children cope with whatever situations they encounter if they know they are being listened to and you the parent is interested in hearing what they have to say.  It is vitally important that Children are Seen and Heard, which is why, when COVID and the lock-in began I immediately send around a call, asking parents to encourage their children to write and draw about how they were feeling and share. Even though most schools have resumed face-to-face, the threat of COIVD still lingers, and just like us adults children are trying to make sense of the major interruption of their lives in the last two years.

Parents and caregivers should not believe that if they take care of a child’s basic needs, then the child will not be stressed or need a space to communicate their feelings. Wrong.  No matter how effective we try to hide and shelter our children, they know and are impacted when we are stressed and with whatever else is going on in the world. They hear and are often impacted more than we think.

Heaven, Age 8

In 2004 and  2015, a study done by Hyson and Kostelnik revealed that “Children’s social and emotional health affects their overall development and learning. Children who are mentally healthy tend to be happier, show greater motivation to learn, have a more positive attitude toward school, more eagerly participate in-class activities, and demonstrate higher academic performance…(Hyson 2004; Kostelnik et al. 2015).” If this is not your child, then you need to pause and learn what your child is thinking and feeling.

The more opportunities we give our children to express themselves, and tune into what they are saying without telling them to be quiet or shut up, the more informed we are and better able to help them cope with these times and process what is happening around them

For younger children under 10 years old, Justina Goh, a parenting writer, recommends 5 Ways  parents can “Help Children Identify and Express their Emotions:”

1.Name the feeling 2. Talk about how feelings can be expressed 3. Offer a deep nurturing connection 4. Resist the urge to punish 5. Praise and practice – often!

 While Listening and communicating with young children can be challenging given the numerous questions and whys why is the moon round? why is covid a pandemic? why am I a girl? Why is it a constant, and a vital part of their learning process? But we must be mindful too that communicating with our teens and providing non-judgemental space for them to talk about their Feelings really begin with us and requires practice and patience.


Covid 19 Pandemic provided parents and children with the unprecedented opportunity to be under the same roof 24/7 for almost 2 years. For some, it resulted in more spent quality time, especially if space and resources were not a factor, but for others, this shut-in period has been very challenging in numerous ways as both parent and child have been forced into an excessive situation of being home together and no outlet for many parents were working from home and no outlet for many children were going to school online and parents having to juggle being teachers while also maintaining their working life.

What has this unprecedented time meant for our children?  What sense are they making of covid-19? How is it altering how they will relate to others in the future? What fears and anxieties has it awakened? What is their sense of a future? We really won’t know the full impact until another five or ten years, but what we do know is that it has changed relationships and what we consider normal. As we move back into a new normal way of being, it is still imperative that we listen to our children. Having worked with children at every level of their educational process and taught poetry, creative dramatic and story-telling as vehicles of expression,  I know from first-hand experience, as well as from research, that these mediums allow for the greatest creative expression and honest sharing so that parents/guardians can discern what’s going on with their children.


As parents, caregivers, and mindful adults we need not fear if we allow our children too many opportunities to express their feelings that it will come back to bite us, so to speak.  Evidence suggests the converse; when adults treat children with respect and dignity and demonstrate that their feelings and ideas matter, children reciprocate with mutual respect and love.  Allow our Children to be Seen and Heard and Reap the Rewards by helping to create a safe and healthy environment for all our children. These images and drawings below are expressions of our children and offer a glimpse of the impact of the pandemic on our children. Listen Up ! Children’s Voice Matter


by Courtney Greaves, Age 11

Crisis, Crisis!

Education inna crisis!

Children a bawl,

a who fah fault?

Teacha’s a bawl,

a who fah fault?

Money gone missin’,

What a cocka-fault! Who really at fault?

Crisis, Crisis!

Everything in a crisis.

Legacy gone, 

Inspiration gone.

School a lockdung

A nuh Covid fault.

Crisis, Crisis!

Police inna crisis!

Crisis, Crisis!

Hospital inna crisis!

Crisis, Crisis!

The worl’ inna crisis!



What a cocka-fault~

My Life in the COVID Crisis

Oren, 14 years old

Life is meant to be enjoyed wisely

And as humans we take care of each

other proudly 

COVID has impacted our lives

in the bad and good times

But we as a people put our effort

into making a change for a nation

We have suffered our own types

of pain during this challenge

God has had a plan for us to seek for answers

 and when we work together as a nation

we can fix the problem.

How I feel about COVID19

Zaira, Age 10

I feel bad because we can’t go out or see family members often

 and I can’t socialize with friends a lot. Corona makes me feel

 terrible. Even worst – it’s hard to breathe in a face mask. 

Corona is also a stress to me because going online is hard to do.

Corona affects me in many ways like I can’t go to face-to-face school. 

We have to do many things like wear a mask, and social distance to 6 feet apart. 

Avoid sharing, wash hands regularly.  It is hard to not share when you are kind.  Corona makes me feel scared especially when my Family has to go

to Face to Face work.

This is how I feel about COVID-19

Zamoya, Age 8

Unhappy and scared.  It’s hard for me to breathe in the mask. 

COVID-19 is a very bad virus.  It is so bad I cannot play with my friends. 

 I am sad because I cannot go to face-face class. 

We have to wear face mask, social distance, avoid sharing. 

We must follow the protocols. I am scared because my mother

has to work at the office.  I wish COVID would go away.

Covid-19 is a Bad Thing 

Mehki, Age 8 

Covid-19 is a bad thing!

If you get sick and can pay the expenses

you can live for a longer time.

I don’t feel like Covid-19 is a good thing to get

because you will get sick and maybe even die.

That’s why I put on my mask and wash my hands 

I use the hand sanitiser when I am going out. 

When I got Covid-19 I didn’t feel anything. 

I thought I had a cold 

One night I got too hot and then I had to take a shower

but it couldn’t be hot water because

that will make me more hotter and

I may could have died.

I use cold water instead to cool me down.

I feel fine now!


Shawn Paul, 18

Covid  is a virus

that is dangerous for you.

You might catch a flu

and you might get a tummy ache

but the severity of this virus

could put you in a hole.

So always wear your mask

and keep sanitized

because the safety of your health

is the safety of all.

pictures by Zahra, Safayah, Mora, Skye, all Age 9

I encourage all parents to provide space and time for their children to express their feelings and ideas through the use of a creative medium, and look out for the launch of Breadfruit & Ackee and journal for Caribbean Children.

*A partial version of this article was published in The Daily Observer, Monday, May 30, 2020

Always Knowing I would Be Mother

They say all little girls dream of being mothers. I don’t know how true that statement is, but I remember consciously planning my motherhood when I was about ten years old.

I was going to marry a cricket fast bowler and we were going to have four children. I was going to play outside barefoot with my children. I was going to plait my daughters’ hair in three, triangle-parted just like my mother did mine. We were going to go to the beach every Sunday and eat mango ice cream. Our life would be perfect.

I didn’t marry a cricket player and I didn’t have four children. Three seemed plenty. We did play and eat ice cream and I did plait my daughters’ hair and I loved being a mother as much as I love being a writer, and I miss mothering young children.

As I think about being a mother this year, this is my offering.

100+ Voices for Miss Lou

100+ Voices for Miss Lou is an anthology of  poetry, tributes, interviews and essays by  107 contributors that took me two years to put it together. The anthology is a homage to The Honourable Louise Bennett-Coverley whose work and life have been sources of inspiration, and have helped me to develop as a poet and a social/cultural activist. While many Jamaicans want to trap Miss Lou in a bandana and smiling , I know her as a warrior who had to fight numerous battles to stand in her own shoe, and this collection is to help shatter the very narrow box into which we have imprisoned Miss Lou.

Putting an anthology together is perhaps harder than writing a single collection of poems or stories or even a novel because so many people are involved with personalities and a different sense of deadline, and also their own agenda, which might not dovetail with yours the editor. While I cannot say that when the idea of the anthology came to me that I knew what I wanted it to be or even knew the different sections, no I did not. What  I knew was, it was intended to fulfil a promise I made to Miss Lou when I first interviewed her in 1987. In 1987 when I entered the doctoral programme at the University of California, Berkeley, I initially thought about writing a biography of Louise Bennett, but after the first of two interviews, the project seemed overwhelming so I abandoned it. An excerpt of the interview is included in the anthology.

Readers will enjoy contributions by the obvious suspects such as Mervyn Morris and Carolyn Cooper, both of whom have done extensive work on Louise Bennett as well as poetry and essays by Joan Andrea Hutchinson,  Mutabaruka, Amina Blackwood Meeks, Linton Kwesi Johnson, then some wonderful surprises by Kei Miller, the essay on her war poems by Dalea Bean and the marvellous sharings and  tributes by Lorna Goodison, the former Poet Laureate, and the former Prime Minister, PJ Patterson and the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Oliva Grange. While most of the pieces are first time publication, there are a number of pieces that have appeared elsewhere. Also, in order to get the diversity of voices and include a number of persons who worked with Miss  Lou, but who aren’t writers, I ended up doing eleven interviews…the work was enormous and demanding making this anthology come alive.

I have gotten a lot of queries about the cover image which is by Tommy Ricketts, and my first and only consideration for the cover.  Tommy Ricketts has six other images in the collection and this work came about as a request from me to him, when I were organizing Miss Lou’s centennial, and hosted an exhibition of Tommy Ricketts unorthodox images in the foyer gallery at the Regional Headquarters of The University of the West Indies, Mona. This image, like the others, debunks all the popular and loved images of Miss Lou dressed in her folk costume, regale with a bandana.  Instead, in an attempt to have readers and lovers of Miss Lou see the fierce strategic side of her, she is armed with a nib pen, her weapon of choice, her sword strapped on her back and behind her are two male elders, also armed with pens, who have allowed her into the valley of liberation. This image shatters any box into which others might want to confine Miss Lou, who is more than a comic, more than a smiling sweet woman who promoted the Jamaican language and legitimize our nation language.

The importance of 100 + Voices for Miss Lou is not just s tribute to her, but more importantly, a place where lovers of Louise Bennett-Coverley’s work and the work of those who were touched and moved by her generosity of spirit can find in one single collection, a rich, diverse body of work that reveals the range of Louise Bennett’s contribution to Jamaican culture.  It is a teaching tool as well as a full read for those who love literature.

 My goal as a writer is to publish at least 50 books before I transition from this life and to have them all made into movie and translated into 200 languages. I am affirming 3 Netflix Series: Love’s Promise; Until Judgment Comes and Bake-Face and Other Guava Stories…

I am also working on a children’s picture book of Miss Lou, which I plan to have out next year.

I welcome your help and sponsorship to make these dreams a reality.

Please note, 100+ Voices for Miss Lou is available at the following locations locally and internationally:

§  The University Bookshop, The UWI, Mona Campus

§  Kingston Bookshop Limited

§  Fontana Pharmacy

§  Books & CD’s (located at the Norman Manley International Airport)

    Sangster’s Book Stores Limited

Buy a copy for yourself, and buy a copy for a local library or school. I thank you for your support.

The eBook is available at:

Amazon (Kindle and Paperback) click here

BookFusion click here


For orders and customer service in the United States, Caribbean and Latin America contact Longleaf Services, Inc.

Customer inquiries to:

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For orders and customer service in Jamaica contact Kingston Bookshop Limited

Kingston Bookshop Limited

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Kingston, Jamaica

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Tel: (876) 948-6928, (876) 948-7198

Fax: (876) 967-3231


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Shayma Kamel: An Activist Egyptian Visual Artist

I have been an artist since I first held a pencil and started to scratch on my grandmother’s wall, drawing from my imagination all types of shapes and forms.

Everything inspires me, big or small scale, starting from my feet to the street animals that I encounter every day. The continuous changes in the world, political and cultural, and the different perspectives inspire me also. I take in lots of the images and news and then translate them into my language of art and paintings.


Mainly the themes I focus on are the contradictions in our life –that attract me a lot, those right and left, ups and downs, and how the stereotypes about different lifestyles are playing an important role on our world nowadays.


My grandmother remains the main influence in my work. I still use my grandmother’s fabrics that are full of bright colors and that make my work nostalgic, especially when I work with collage. The image is almost always  a black woman figure, like me or any of my family.

    Artists, in general, are supporting themselves; it is still a long road to put  

    the artists (not the actor in cinema) as a primary interest to people.

Due to lack of education, fine art is still seen as decoration that should be cheap and not as important as any new vase or any new electronic; it comes at the last of choice. However, within the last 5 years there is a movement to incorporate art more, and some rich people are investing in art. Still, there is not a lot of information/knowledge about art in Egypt, and its cultural and historical value.

There are some avenues for you to show my work in galleries in Cairo, and Beirut where I can show my work, but there are not enough venues.

Like any artists in her 40 who is looking forward to live from her Art, that is still a big challenge.  Who is spending on what?!!

Yet, Art will always be the language that translates life from a true human perspective, and it is the healing that gives meaning to this fast life that we are living, without a break to understand what happened the last second before.

 COVID actually allowed me to connect better with other artists around the world, to talk and discuss more about how we can share our studios together through the internet, and at the same time work. I think for us it was blessing to be forced to sit and do the job without being distracted by going out a lot and social responsibilities.

Screaming Faith

I am in contact with women artists in many countries like Lebanon, Jordon, JAMIAKA, Holland, Sudan and many other places.

I just finished up my solo Exhibition in Cairo that was part of my last journey in Lebanon that ended up unfortunately, with the big port blast August 2020, and that pushed me out of the country and replaced me back to Egypt.  This exhibition it experimenting and documenting part of those years I lived in Lebanon, which were very difficult and I was subjected to racism as a Black Egyptian woman. 

I would love to show my work at MOMA IN THE US and other Arab countries like Dubai, and African countries like Senegal, Europe, Germany, France, all over the world…

I love collaborating with other artists and for sure always seeking the right space in which to work. I also dream to get the chance to work in a big museum and fill it with my works. I would love to make an exhibition about my last 40 years of being an artist in one of the museums in the world.

Freedom 1

 Art is activism –when we try to make a statement that mirrors what is happening in our society, positive or negative, that’s a activism. And yes, I am an activist artist because through my art I also seek to help my society and try to fix the world around me.

 You can see and learn more about Shayma Kamel below:  Contact Email:

NO to Commonwealth/Yes to Independence

I can’t imagine why Jamaica would consider remaining with the Commonwealth. I truly do not understand why the Government is investing money in hosting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at this time when in Jamaica, every day, so many people go hungry, some literally starving as a result of COVID-19, when thousands of children have not gotten an education because they don’t have Internet access and now need remedial support, when so many roads are in need of repair, when violence, terror, and fear of illegally smuggled guns are rampant, when our beaches are eroding, and most citizens do not access to them anyway.

Why should Jamaicans be subjected to the rhetoric of the Duke and the Duchess about staying in the Commonwealth? What has the Commonwealth done for us except extracted our natural resources, brutalised us with colonial institutions, and exploited and overworked our African ancestors for more than 300 years?

Unless the Duke and Duchess are coming with an Official apology from Queen Elizabeth II and Britain, unless they are prepared to offer viable reparations in the form of at least four new state-of-the-art hospitals, providing every rural school with Internet and indoor sanitation, solar power, and a laptop for each child, repair all our roads, provide irrigation and machinery for all our farmers, provide mental health care for the many still dazed from the trauma of slavery, provide free tertiary education for every Jamaican child wanting to pursue such course of study, and other skills training for those who opt for other choices, building at least two museums and returning stolen artifacts, and augment the salaries of teachers, nurses and police , then I am afraid I can’t welcome them, nor sanction our government expending our money to host them.

But even with these overdue concessions, I am completely against staying with the Commonwealth. We were robbed of our African names, our religion, which was maligned, our language, and repeatedly lied to that we came from the ‘Dark Continent’, instead of being told of Africa’s vast natural wealth, gold, diamond, oil, natural gas, uranium, platinum, copper, cobalt, iron, bauxite and cocoa, that were and  continue to be extracted to enrich Europe and the Americas. We were not told about Africa’s diverse civilizations, the Kingdom of Kush, Land of Punt, Carthage in Tunisia, Mali and Songhai Empires, the Great Zimbabwe so many others. We were deliberately miseducated and Christianity used to oppress us and deny us an education and destroying our family structure.

I hail Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and I hope our own government and the rest of this region will take the brave step she did and stand up as a true independent nation, not simple changing the Union Jack for the Black, Green and Gold. It is time to right history and once and for all throw off the colonial legacy that has unchained and dragging us down. Why should much needed resources go to pay a Governor General who represents the Queen?

The Commonwealth was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949 to maintain its power and control over its former territories. When has the Queen really represented, cared for or protected us?  What are the tangible and evident benefits of remaining under the Commonwealth? None!

Although many want to sweep slavery into the sea and say we must get over ourselves, we endured 179 years of severe brutality and terror, rape and mutilation, worked to death without pay, and at the end, our British oppressor were compensated handsomely for the loss of our labour and we were tossed aside with no land, no food, no home.

Jamaican scholar Orlando Patterson recently said that under British enslavement an estimated five  million Jamaicans were lost to us. We have endured 400 years of colonialism and neo-colonialism that has made Britain one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and still to date we have not received an apology or any compensation. Shame, I say to the queen and Britain!  Shame I say to the Duke and Duchess for coming here with such a bold-faced request! Shame I say to us for welcoming them and acting like beggars!

We must not allow our children or our people to stand in the sun and wave flags. We must be resolute and stand as a proud people in honour of Nanny, Tacky, Paul Bogle, and all the nameless heroes who risked their lives for us. If we are serious about development, liberation and the sovereignty of our people, if we understand what true Independence means, let us not dishonour ourselves, not subject our people to insult, not throw away needed money and resources on those who have continuously exploited and abused us.

Let Jamaica stand as a proud Independent nation. Let us get from under the Queen’s frock.

60 Reasons for Reparations

As a member of the Advocates Network I endorse and am happy to be a part of the movement.




After 60 years of Independence we have not forgotten and we demand an APOLOGY and REPARATIONS…


  1. For continuing after the 1655 conquest of Jamaica from Spain, the exploitation of the indigenous people of Jamaica, capturing their land, and forcing them to continue escaping to the hills to live a precarious (though freer) life because of their inhumane treatment.
  2. For establishing in 1661 the Jamaica seal and coat of arms using the indigenous persons as supporters in symbolic heraldic representation of animals, handing over the fruits of the island to the monarchy; noting that by 1672 some the fruits from Jamaica included approximately 89,000-100,000 enslaved persons shipped from Africa into the royal port of Jamaica, named “Port Royal” as the crown’s principal trans-shipment hub.
  3. For setting up as the Crown (1672-1731) the ‘Royal African Company’ modelling its coat of arms on Jamaica’s by replacing the supporters with African people, and giving knighthood and leadership to business partners of the crown – buccaneers, privateers, pirates, merchants & planters – who were rewarded with Jamaican property, including governorship for their involvement in enslavement as a lucrative business for the Crown.
  4. For enabling Port Royal within only 37 years to become the “richest and wickedest city in the world” at the time of its 1692 earthquake, through atrocities of deception, collusion, corruption and murder on land and sea; controlled from Jamaica as the hub for the gathering and accumulation of wealth for the monarchy, centred on African human cargo stored inside the forts at Port Royal, many of whom perished in the 1692 earthquake when 4 of the 5 forts subsided into the sea, bemoaned as loss of property instead of loss of human lives.
  5. For human trafficking across the atlantic ocean in the transatlantic trade in enslaved peoples, dislocating them from their communities, leaving many grieving families to wonder what had happened to their loved ones, and refusing to acknowledge the historic trade in Africans as a crime against humanity.
  6. For the demographic disaster and genocide between 1655 and 1834, with just over 300,000 of the estimated 1.5 million trafficked still alive at emancipation.
  7. For causing the high mortality on the floating dungeons that you called “slave ships” because of the inhumane conditions on board (and creating a path for the sharks to follow, because they knew they would feed off the dead bodies of our ancestors along) in what is known as the Middle Passage route.
  8. For the “Zong Massacre” in 1781, when British crew threw 132 live Africans overboard just for financial gains from insurance and 10 of them forced to jump overboard.
  9. For keeping our records of the Transatlantic trade in your archives and not making available to Jamaican archives copies of all of them; instead of destroying some of them, based on reports.


  1. For establishing a plantation system as the main economic enterprise that changed the geography and landscape of Jamaica, destroying the natural environment.
  2. For the dehumanizing violence toward the enslaved body, soul and spirit, both male and female, including excessively long hours work days, especially during the harvest months, without a rest day.
  3. For extracting the material and human resources of the Caribbean and Africa to develop your country while under-developing ours.  You made Jamaica and the Caribbean primary producers of goods while ensuring that “not a nail was manufactured in the region” even after independence.
  4. For attempting to corrupt the Maroons through divide and conquer strategies; for failing to respect the 1739 treaty arrangements with the ‘Trelawney’ Maroons; for crafting, even as you lost the war, the treaty, mostly to your benefit in the first place.
  5. For the brutality inflicted during the period of chattel enslavement. We are aware that in 1789, Thomas Clarkson, the anti-slavery campaigner wrote: “the wharfs of Kingston are crowded every Monday morning with poor slaves who are brought here to be whipped for the offences of the preceding week. They are generally tied up by the wrists and stretched out [as] punishment”.
  6. For encouraging monsters like Thomas Thistlewood, who repeatedly raped enslaved women; and who also administered punishments called the “derby dose”, sealing faeces from one enslaved person in the mouth of another, until the enslaver decided to free the victims mouth from such depravity.
  7. For deporting our ancestors who were deemed revolutionary leaders, for example in July 1796, between 550 and 600 Maroon men, women, and children were exiled from Trelawny, Jamaica and shipped to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada eventually deployed by Prince Edward Augustus (later Duke of Kent) to build fortifications there.
  8. For the cruel and inhumane punishment of our ancestors for their heroic resistance to the institution of slavery, including for their insistence on maintaining African cultural practices including birthing practices and even claiming ownership of their own children.
  9. For the shooting excursion on the mountains near Dromilly Estate in Trelawny in the month of October 1824 where runaways were brutally shot like animals.
  10. For decapitating runaways and rebels, for progressive mutilation, slow burnings, breaking on the wheel depicted inside “a Jamaica house of correction” published 1843 by James Phillipo (where bones were dislocated and the body pulled apart) and other forms of inhumane killing and for institutionalizing violence as a way of life in our society through the sheer brutality and wickedness of slavery and the practice of a brutal brand of colonialism on Jamaica and the continent of Africa.
  11. For criminalizing our revolutionary heroes and taking the life of Chief Takyi, Sam Sharpe and many others and for the severe, inhumane punishment of many more of our ancestors in the 1831/32 pre-emancipation war.
  12. For taking Jamaican parliamentarian George William Gordon outside the martial law zone, trying him by court martial and executing him in 1865  when he was not a rebel/not a part of the Morant Bay war.
  13. For the directive that Governor Edward John Eyre gave the British colonial forces to hang and shoot George William Gordon and over 400 Jamaicans, among them the men and women murdered on October 25, 1865, and for refusing to indict Governor Eyre for these atrocities and crimes against humanity in Morant Bay and Spanish Town in 1865.


  • For the raping and force breeding of enslaved African woman, and the wicked treatment during pregnancy when they were unable to maintain the pace of work required by slave drivers, including enslaved women like Ann Smith from the Friendship Estate in Trelawny who asserted that she was “entitled to sit down” because she was pregnant; for depriving mothers adequate recovery time after childbirth and for punishing them when they took time to look after their children to ensure that they were fed, cleaned, loved, and integrated spiritually and socially into the human community.
  •  For the psychological traumas of slavery that enslaved men, women, and children endured due to not only being in a system of racial bondage but also in a system of sexual bondage; and for treating enslaved men, women and children as property to be raped and sexually abused by the planter class.
  • For the horrific experience of pregnancy, birth and motherhood of enslaved women ‘rooted in loss’ – marked by ill-health and death, pain and grief – as described by Jennifer Morgan in her 2004 book labouring women; the high rates of miscarriage and infant death, even after slavery, due to the extremely strenuous physical exertion of work, inadequate nutrition among other conditions during slavery and colonialism.
  • For emotional and psychological damage and trauma to parents who saw their children being sold and making them work in the fields from age 6; and the loss of about 1/3 of the children born in slavery who died before they reached 7 years of age.
  • For the harsh and severe treatment of enslaved men as beasts of burden and sperm donors under enslavement and humiliating and emasculating our fathers and brothers under enslavement, including forcing men to watch their partners taken away for white male entertainment.
  • For selling and separating parents from children, wives from husband, thereby disrespecting and destroying family bonds, including through sale to settle debts under the system of enslavement, insisting that the enslaved had no rights over their progeny or their bodies, discouraging marriage among Africans during enslavement and the ongoing efforts to devalue and destroy the African family and family values. By deeming our ancestors “property” your citizens claimed “property rights in pleasure.”
  • For creating the stereotype “Jezebel” – an objectified enslaved woman who was treated as a “sexual object” – widely used justification by white men and enslavers (even also some free and enslaved African men) to rape women; also the stereotype “Mammy” – an inferior, surrogate mistress and a woman completely dedicated to the white family, especially to the children of that family, often neglecting her own children, if she had any.


  • For imposing slave laws that: a) provided financial and other rewards for enslaved Africans that killed or captured other enslaved Africans during wars of protests; thereby fostering the divisiveness among our people that still exist today; b) suppressed all forms of gatherings, especially at nights; c) prohibited enslaved Africans from keeping any horse, mare, or mule and if caught stealing was put to death; thereby stifling opportunities of the enslaved Africans to own or control property for the development of business; and d) limited the Sunday market to 11am; thereby limiting the opportunity for enslaved Africans to earn income.
  • For mis-use of power, imposing martial law for a whole month in the county of Surrey in 1865 in order to give you a free hand in murdering the activists in the Morant Bay war.
  • For making it difficult up to 1962 for Jamaicans to govern ourselves, even abolishing the old representative form of government in favour of direct Crown Rule in 1866.
  •  For using legislation to enforce Anti-Black laws to make it difficult for our ancestors to achieve upward social mobility.
  • For laws which denied women and men the right to vote until the 20thcentury.
  • For the looted and stolen personal possessions belonging to black Jamaicans during the Morant Bay war and for other lands stolen or confiscated and kept legally as either Crown lands or private ownership.
  • For instituting laws that prevented and restricted land titling to free Africans thereby forcing them and their descendants to become labelled as squatters today.
  • For instituting laws after emancipation, such as the 1834-1838 apprenticeship which institutionalized discrimination against black and coloured people and confining them to labouring on sugar plantations where few earned enough to purchase land and develop business.
  • For the criminalization of Obeah, and for imposing laws that punished the practice of Obeah by floggings.
  • For taking away our African names and imposing English names on us, thereby denying us an authentic identity and making it hard for us to trace our lineage back to Africa by not recording our origins.
  • For the slave compensation act 1837 which compensated the planter class for losing their enslaved labour while ignoring legitimate claims for compensation, including the June 1865 petition labelled by the colonial government as presented by “certain poor people of St. Ann’s parish, Jamaica” sent to the Crown requesting lands and other means of relief from distress. In the Crown’s callous response, petitioners were advised to provide against adversity by “industry and prudence,” thus blaming our ancestors for their condition, whilst compensating the enslavers.   


  • For denying us an indigenous/African-centred education but forcing on us eurocentric education/mis-education, the legacies of which are still with us today.
  • For referring to Africa as the “dark continent” and for teaching us that that our African ancestors were simple and could not think, that Africans in Africa were uncivilized and could not read or write; and for classifying our African ancestors as 4/5th human.
  • For devaluing our African religions, calling our traditional priests and doctors “witch doctors” and “ju ju priests” and taking away our African iconography and replacing them with a white religious iconography.
  • For lying about African history and keeping important historical facts from us, including that the oldest university in the world is Africa’s university of Al-Qarawinyyin, founded in 859 and located in Fez, Morocco, and that the Sankore mosque and university in Timbuktu, Mali is the oldest continuously-operating institution of higher education in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is believed that the mosque and university were erected in the 1100s c.e. (Twelfth Century) by Berbers who settled in the Timbuktu region.
  • For destroying our indigenous languages and replacing them with your English as formal then judging our intellect by our achievement of proficiency in it.
  • For using the English language to instil colour prejudice by using black as negative, and making everything prefaced by or called black, bad and legitimizing it by putting it in your dictionaries, while equating white with purity & goodness.
  • For the legacy of structural and direct discrimination in the educational system that persist and is at the root of an apartheid system of education in Jamaica today.
  • For appropriating all of our agricultural, engineering, and artistic skills/inventions calling them English/“Georgian”/“Victorian”, and brainwashing us to believe we created nothing, contributed nothing and therefore uncivilized.
  • For the distortion of our history, especially that relating to emancipation, pretending that the British led the abolition movement, when our ancestors worked, prayed, and fought hard for this.
  • For feeding us a “slave diet” of sugar and salt from which we suffered daily and which contributed to our current health problems; today, we have the highest rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes in the world.
  • For recording the health practices of our ancestors and exporting natural herbs and medicinal plants they used traditionally to set up medical practice in 17th century England through Hans Sloane recording, and taking them to establish the British museum, also others; yet making traditional African-Jamaican medicinal practices illegal thereby exposing us to increased ill health and for encouraging us to view our traditional medicinal practices as backward and “Witch-Craft.”
  • For identifying and recording our African ancestors as chattel with the horses, donkeys etc.
  • For the promotion of mimicry images and stereotypes of Africans and Africa that persist today and which have contributed to African hair discrimination, skin bleaching, self-hate, lack of self confidence, self doubt and fearfulness.
  • For creating a skin-colour scale (the pigmentocracy) that put whiteness at the top (hierarchised whiteness), causing the “one drop of black blood system to apply, with octoroons, quintroons and mustee and mustiphini categories of skin shades that privileged “white blood.”
  • For the continued policy of discrimination that keeps African Jamaicans in a subservient class and is against people of African descent especially those of a darker complexion which still continues today as part of the legacy of underdevelopment.
  • For the psychological & mental health implications of slavery & colonialism that still affects the descendants of Africans in Jamaica today.


  • For genocide in the parish of St. Thomas which has not recovered to this day from the 1865 massacre, and for refusing to discuss reparation for this.
  • For failing to provide a repatriation and resettlement package for Rastafari and others those who wish to return to their original home but who are trapped in “Babylon” even though they have the right to return.
  • For maintaining policies (eg., imposition of expensive visas for us to travel to the UK) and practices, including discriminatory attitudes to Diasporic Jamaicans, especially the Windrush generation and their descendants, thereby demonstrating continued racism and inequalities towards Jamaica persist today!
  • For refusing to engage in a conversation about reparatory justice for slavery and colonialism as set out in the motion in the Jamaican parliament and the 10 Point Action Plan of CARICOM, and failing to recognise that reparation is a route to peace, healing and reconciliation. On the contrary, official representatives and your former Prime Minister Cameron, who addressed our parliament in 2015, have told us to forget about slavery and the past, “get over it and move on!”, without an apology nor reparations.

#Jamaica60   #WeNaaEaseUp  #AdvocatesNetwork

CONTACT:  The Advocates Network at

March 20, 2022