Right Steps & Poui Trees


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The Eventide Fire: 40 Years Ago

Forty years ago, on May 20, 1980, a fire at the Eventide Home in Kingston, Jamaica, resulted in the deaths of 167 women, aged 19 to 102. This week Wednesday, May 20, 2020, there will be an online event to learn and remember what happened forty years ago, and to remember the names of the women who lived at the Myers Ward.

Eventide Event flyer 2

Contributors at the event include:

Barbara Nelson
Horace Levy
Natalie Bennett
One of the organizers of the event, Alexis Goffe, says that there will be time for public comments from anyone who wants to contribute. To receive the link to attend the virtual event, click here: tinyurl.com/Eventide40
Also there is a call for memories about the Eventide Fire. If you are interested in contributing stories and memories, please submit them here by June 30, 2020: bit.ly/3buURsl
If you have any questions about this call, you can send them to learneventide@gmail.com

Eventide Call for Memories poster


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An Act of Remembering…

Walking through the gardens of St Paul’s Cathedral in London recently, I noticed this bench…IMG_20191031_183412_resized_20191031_063444178 (1) bench st Pauls Cathedral

…and the plaque on it. I don’t know who Sandra Archer was or who arranged for this act of remembering… family, friends or colleagues…IMG_20191031_183247_resized_20191031_063318411 (3) plaque on bench St Pauls Cathedral

Our family did this recently, after my husband died. A plaque on a bench, under a tree at Hope Gardens…IMG_20191031_182517_resized_20191031_062634120 (1) tree and bench at Hope Gardens

An act of remembering…IMG_20191031_182736_resized_20191031_062817858 (1) plaque Hope Gardens

 


Ten Years Later, #RememberArmadale

Ten years ago, on the night of May 22, 2009, there was a fire at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St Ann, Jamaica. Seven girls died as a result of the fire and many others were injured. A Commission of Enquiry into the fire and its subsequent report revealed the horrific sequence of events that led to the fire and death of the girls and showed that the deaths were entirely preventable. Today, as we remember Armadale, I am posting an article by Alexis Goffe (my son), which also appeared in today`s Gleaner.

For most of my life, I was a loyal carnivore. I hated all vegetables except broccoli, which only interested me because I had it ingrained in my head from childhood that they were trees and I, the big bad hurricane. I despised peas and so I had to spend extra time at the dining table, after Sunday lunch, unable to leave until I finished the pile of red peas I had picked out of the rice. If you know my mother, you know she doesn’t mess around.

But then things changed when the fire happened at Armadale. A year later, I decided to give up eating meat, so every day, every time I think of what to eat, I remember Armadale. I wanted to ensure the nine-day wonder didn’t happen and I wanted to raise awareness of the incident.

If anyone asked me how come I didn’t eat meat anymore, I would tell them why:
On May 22, 2009, there was a fire at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St Ann, Jamaica, that resulted in the deaths of seven girls. There were 23 girls in a room which was meant for five people. The girls were given seven bunk beds and 14 mattresses in the room to sleep on. They had been on lockdown for two weeks prior to the fire, which meant they did not have access to education, recreation or the bathroom.

The police were called to the premises that night because the staff reported that the girls were being unruly. A tear gas canister was thrown into the room, which landed on a mattress and reportedly started the fire. The door to the room was locked. To date, no one has been held accountable.

Following a commission of enquiry, it was found that the fire was caused by a tear gas canister thrown by Constable Lawrence Burrell. However, he was freed of the charges after the Crown conceded that it did not have sufficient evidence against him.

During the first year after my decision, I told over 700 people about Armadale. At the time I was living in the United States and I started to recognise a stark difference between the reactions of Jamaicans and non-Jamaicans. The non-Jamaicans generally had a sense of shock. The Jamaicans – not so much.

I will never forget the first time I heard someone say that they, the girls, deserved it. It was through this experience I realised how traumatised we are as a people, how normalised violence is and how we cope with it in order to get on with our days as humans at all stages – children in school, employees at work, families at home.

Then almost a year to the day of the Armadale fire was the Tivoli massacre, where over 70 people died at the hands of the State. Jamaica’s soul took a beating in the space of a year.

In truth, with our history of intense violence and gross violations of our rights and dignity, Jamaica’s soul has been taking a beating for several decades. Perhaps this was the straw that broke the mule’s back and placed us further along in our collective trauma, feeling helpless at the question – what can I do to stop this?

Even though it’s been hard to witness, I understand why year after year, as sure as day follows night, when I say the memorial of the Armadale fire is coming, I’ll get responses that can best be summed up in a sound – yawn. Yet still, it must be done.

So let me take a moment to interrupt your morning, afternoon or evening, your breakfast, lunch or dinner, in your home, at your office, or on the bus, wherever you are reading this, to remind you that today is the 10-year memorial of the fire at Armadale that claimed the lives of seven girls and caused lifelong injuries to many more. Let us remember the seven we lost, their families and friends and the survivors.

And to those who do not know about the fire at Armadale, you have a decision to make: to learn or remain uninformed. To those who know about Armadale, we also have a decision – to forget or to remember. We all have a choice to either be complicit in our silence and inaction or to act and unapologetically call for justice.

To anyone who believes that every child deserves love, respect and dignity, I ask you to pay attention. Because in the midst of the 10-year memorial of Armadale we must remember that the story continues and the first line of the next scene is already written, “Then there was the fire at Walker’s Place of Safety on January 16, 2018.”

– Alexis Goffe

ARMADALE Newspaper Ad - white big 3 (1)

This is the link to the short video on YouTube that is mentioned in the picture above: Armadale: 10 Year Memorial Video

#REMEMBERARMADALE


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Remembrance Day 2018: Jamaica

Things come to your notice in a variety of ways, some of them unexpected. I was reminded of the Remembrance Day ceremony at National Heroes Park by a Ministry of National Security tweet on Friday.MNS tweet re JDF Remembrance Day rehersal - 9-11-18

Today being the hundredth anniversary of Armistice Day and never having been before, I decided to go to the memorial ceremony. There was adequate parking at National Heroes Park, and as I walked inside the entrance, I was encouraged to make a donation to the Annual Poppy Appeal, which I did.IMG_20181111_194635_resized_20181111_074759473 - Remembrance Day 2018 poppies

While I was waiting for the ceremony to begin, I saw a gentleman walking around with poppies and heard him telling someone at the end of the row I was sitting in that he was 85 and that people called him the Poppy Man. I intended to speak with him at the end of the ceremony to ask his name, but unfortunately I didn’t see him later.Remembrance Day 2018 ceremony

The National Memorial Service was scheduled to start at 10:55am, with the official arrivals beginning earlier.

 

(This is a link to a copy of the full programme for the Remembrance Day 2018 service.)

Arrivals

 

Time, like an ever rolling stream,

Bears all its sons away

– O God, our help in ages past – Opening Hymn

Period of Silence & The Last Post

 

(The period of silence commences and ends with a one-gun Salute. The Last Post is sounded by the JDF buglers.)

The Exhortation was read by Mr Gerald Manhertz, who I was told after the ceremony is 90-years-old and is one of the few living Jamaicans to have served in World War II.Remembrance Day 2018 f

Remembrance Day 2018 - The Exhortation

The National Anthem was sung before the Wreath Laying Ceremony.Remembrance Day 2018 - Jamaican flag

Justice, Truth be ours forever,

Jamaica, Land we love.

– National Anthem

Wreath Laying Ceremony

His Excellency The Governor General Greets the War Veterans on Parade

Once the ceremony ended, there were the official departures…

Remembrance Day 2018 o

…after which people milled around, talking and taking photographs….Remembrance Day 2018 p

I am glad that I attended the Memorial Service today. Acts of remembering are important to a society. P1340943 Remembrance Day 2018

 

 


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Uh Oh!…Christmas Tree!

In 2015 I joked that I wouldn’t be having the usual Christmas tree, but would be using an innovative substitute instead. When I posted a picture on my Facebook page, I got instant feedback, including messages from my children saying that I must be joking.rake-christmas-tree It reminded me of the time many years ago when I potted a sapling from the Forestry Department and used it instead of the traditional six footer. (I had visions of re-using the sapling each year, as it grew bigger and bigger in the garden.) When I got home later that day, I was met by my younger daughter, my niece and nephews with placards in a picket line at the front door, chanting “No tree! No Christmas! No tree! No Christmas!”christmas-tree-in-a-pot

christmas-tree-in-a-pot-with-decorationsThe potted tree was used that year and did make it to a second Christmas, but I gave up after that. My family was happy with the decision…

I have for some time thought that  I’d be able to give up the Christmas tree tradition; as much as I love it, it does take more effort than I feel like expending these days. Surely a little two or three foot tree on a side table would suffice? But no. It seems that the love of a Christmas tree – the lights, the smell, the idea – remains strong in my family.

So, last December we repeated the ritual again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We – my younger daughter Kimberley and I – set off to the plazas on Constant Spring Road, where we bought the second tree Miss Barbara suggested. Her able assistant loaded it into the back of our car and we headed for home, enjoying the wonderful smell of Christmas tree!

On the way, we made a quick stop at Devon House for patties and ice cream and encountered a jonkonnu troupe performing in the courtyard.Jonkonnu - Devon House

At home, we put the tree in a bucket of water on the veranda overnight, but an hour or two later the tree fell over, taking the bucket with it and flooding the veranda. See what I mean about the effort involved in this production?

The next day, we put the tree in place, checked the lights to make sure they were in working order and then began to decorate the tree.

Eventually, over a number of hours, bolstered by glasses of sorrel, we put on all the lights, the star, the balls and other decorations, tinsel and lametta. The tree was finished!

decorated tree

 

And so, here it is…December 2017…Christmas is fast approaching. And the question is: will there be a tree this year or will some innovative substitute take its place?

question mark


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The Old Sangster’s Book Store Building: A Liguanea Landmark Comes Down

Driving past the old Sangster’s Book Store building in Liguanea last week, I noticed how derelict it was looking and thought briefly about the fact that it had been a Liguanea landmark since my childhood. Then yesterday I saw this tweet:old-sangsters-tweet-11-12-16I sent a quick replyold-sangsters-tweet-reply-11-12-16and then grabbed my camera and headed for the location to see if I could capture something of the demolition of this old building.

The Sangster’s Bookstores website  has a brief history of the business, which indicates that the Liguanea branch was established in 1951.sangsters-history-re-liguanea-branch

It was located at one end of the island that sits at the intersection of Old Hope Road and Mona Road, sandwiched between the Standpipe community and what is now the US Embassy, which used to be the Bamboo Pen property.google-map-location-of-old-sangsters-bookstore-buildingThis was the first bookstore that I actually remember spending time at and over the years I spent many happy hours browsing there. It was also a convenient place to buy school books or supplies. During the 1970s, the supply of books became rather sparse, with the difficulties in importing things during those years. Later on I bought my first art book ever at Sangster’s, the most expensive book I’d bought till that point. A beautiful book about René Magritte, the surrealist painter whose work I loved. It cost J$61.65, which was an extremely extravagant purchase for a young teacher whose monthly take home pay at the time was less than J$400.

I still remember the closing down sale held before the store  was relocated to Sovereign Centre in the early 1990s; all of the Penguin paperbacks were on sale at sharply discounted prices and I bought a lot of them, some of which I still have.

When I got to the location , the excavator was busy at work, with a couple of trucks being filled with debris.p1050480

Much of the building was already gone.p1050428The intersection will certainly look very different when it’s all cleared.P1050441.JPGA young woman there asked me if I liked what I saw; I said I had known the building for a long time, but that it had been in a bad condition. She said yes, it had been condemned and it was time it was torn down. One of the workmen asked me if I was the client, as he had seen me taking a lot of photos. I explained that I was just taking pictures because I remembered the building from childhood. He said they had asked an old man from the community how old the building was. The man was in his seventies and said he had known it since he was a little boy. The workman then wondered what would be built in its place and we agreed that we hoped it would be something that would be a good development in the area.

I’ve spent a little time trying online to find a photo of the building in its heyday, but with no luck. If anyone has one, I hope they might share it. An old building, a Liguanea landmark. I wonder what its full history was.

 

 

 

 

 


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350 Words or Less: Hurricane Gilbert, September 12, 1988

It’s 28 years since Hurricane Gilbert made its way from east to west across Jamaica, a direct hit if there ever was one.

noaa-map-of-gilbert-track

I remember it well. As a child, I longed to experience a “proper” hurricane. Gilbert fulfilled that childhood wish and though I retain a fascination with weather phenomena, I have no desire to experience anything like it ever again.

Each year on September 12, there is some acknowledgement of Hurricane Gilbert’s landfall in Jamaica. This morning I heard Lloyd Lovindeer’s hit song from that time, “Wild Gilbert”, a welcome comic take on events, generating much-needed laughter at the time.wild-gilbert-lovindeer

This evening, NOAA tweeted about Gilbert, which remains one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record.noaa-hurricane-gilbert-tweet-12-9-16I have very clear memories from that time. I remember the first tree to fall in our garden, the massive guinep tree that was completely uprooted very early in the storm:gilbert-1gilbert-2

I remember letting the dogs out during the eye of the storm, and walking around in the garden, seeing the damage already done. It was quite still and the sky was blue. And then the incredible intensity of the winds when they returned, from the opposite direction. By nightfall, the sustained winds had passed, but every so often there was a strong gust and I remember lying in bed, unable to sleep, with a terrible headache, worrying about how some family members had fared.

I don’t have many pictures from that time. This one shows the house next door with much of its roof gone. The massive metal beams that held that roof had been bent back like plasticine, a mental image that forever represents for me the power of the winds during the hurricane.gilbert-3

After Hurricane Gilbert, we were without water for some time and without electricity for many weeks. We, like so many others, refined the art of cooking bully beef and savoured the pleasure of occasional cold drinks.

It’s a generation ago now and there are probably many Jamaican children wishing to experience a “proper” hurricane. And there are those of us who’ve experienced one, saying “No, thank you!”hurricane-gilbert-eye-over-jamaica-12-9-88

 

 

 


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Lighting Candles, Remembering Jason Smith

The music from the sound system  played loudly, tracking through reggae, dancehall, oldies, setting the mood. Children chased each other through the yard, darting round and about the adults’ legs. People were cooking, sharing out food, eating. And every so often, someone stopped in front of the table with pictures, remembering Jason…

IMG_2361[1]

 

Jason Smith was 15-years-old when he was shot and killed by the police in a market stall in Spanish Town on July 9, 2002. An account of the circumstances of Jason’s death and his mother’s fight for justice in the courts is documented in the 2010 Jamaicans for Justice Victims’ Voices video. (And 6 years later, Monica’s civil case continues.)

JFJ Victims' Voices - Monica Williams

Every year Monica Williams and her older son, Leonard, hold a memorial gathering in July. Family, friends and well-wishers join in marking the passing of another year, to say that Jason may be gone, but he is not forgotten. Monica says that not to do something at that time would feel like saying she has stopped remembering Jason. Lenny says it keeps Jason’s memory alive and passes it on to his young son, who never had the chance to know his uncle.

A familiar poster attached to the gate, has been updated again to show that it is now 14 years since Jason’s death.

As darkness falls, Lenny and another young man begin the task of lighting the candles, placing them up and down both sides of the road outside.

A candle under a plastic cup is such a small thing…

IMG_2422… but in the dark it shines so brightly…

IMG_2427

…and even if the rough edges of pain are still present, the beauty of the light cannot be ignored.IMG_2431

The many lights along the sidewalk burn with a fierce insistence that Jason is remembered and loved.IMG_2476Memorial Announcement, Sunday Gleaner, July 10, 2016

Jason Smith notice in Gleaner 10-7-16