Tings an’ Times compiles observation, analysis, and opinions on current events of the Caribbean region with the aim of fostering discussion, particularly, on the dynamics of people, culture, drugs, and money that flow through the Caribbean waters. Like the great dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson (left),whose 1991 album gives this blog its name, we will attempt to uncover truth and incite discussion as a way of documenting and better understanding our world.

Madeleine Bair is a journalist and a native of Oakland, California. She has worked as a waitress, a music promoter, a public radio producer, and youth radio instructor at Chicago’s bilingual community radio station, RadioArte. She is currently finishing a masters in International Studies and Journalism at UC Berkeley.


One Response to “About”

  1. Nadine McNeil May 7, 2008 at 6:48 am #

    A Tribute for Child Month

    Lead them well and let them teach the way

    While on a recent visit to Jamaica, I stopped by Juici Patties on Red Hills Road just before lunchtime to indulge in one of my favourite childhood memories – savouring a hot, freshly baked patty filled with ‘wholesome goodness.’

    As I placed my order for a vegetable patty and a bottle of coconut water, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a very desperate looking young ‘man-child.’ Barely a teenager, his eyes told a story beyond his years – one filled with emptiness, desperation and anger, all magnified by hunger. Shortly afterwards, an older gentleman entered the premises and like me, this person caught his attention. With a mixture of compassionate yet disdained curiosity he inquired, ‘why aren’t you in school?’ In utter resignation compounded by a huge dose of agitation, the boy responded, ‘how school ah guh help me?’ Outraged by this [rhetorical] question, indignantly the gentleman launched into a myriad of [plausible] reasons and explanations as to why the boy should be in school.

    Upon receiving my order I exited the shop deeply disturbed by what I had just witnessed. I sat in my car saddened by this blatant loss of hope in such a tender soul where darkness reigned supreme crying out for even the tiniest glimmer of light and innocence.

    Lonely though this boy may have felt, even more unnerving is the fact that his story is increasingly common-place across the globe. This dire desperation rooted in poverty is the developing countries’ pandemic of the 21st century.

    In an equally desperate attempt to ‘right such abominable wrongs,’ we continue to look to our institutions to empower our children. While these bodies have their role to play in the development of children they can only be as effective as the child’s home environment is. Institutions are intended to complement what has already been instilled at home, not replace it.

    Given that humans – children especially – learn best from example, it stands to reason that we examine the benchmarks that we are setting for our children to follow. Their living environment is the starting point. If a child is repeatedly exposed to abuse and violence – directly or indirectly – it is only logical that he or she will act this out accordingly. Where do we believe street gangs emanate from, for example? It is their inability to contain the magnitude of anger and fear experienced within the confines of their volatile and emotionally charged ‘homes’ that gets poured out into the streets. In other words, victimization is directly responsible for creating these ‘menaces to society.’

    The Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) stipulates that every child has a right to life, his or her own name and identity, to be raised by his or her family in a family or cultural grouping, and to have a relationship with both parents, even if those parents are separated. The CRC further acknowledges a child’s rights to freedom of expression as well as the right to be listened to and right action to be taken when and where appropriate. And of paramount importance is their right to be protected from abuse, exploitation and violation of their privacy. Honouring these rights become the building blocks for their dignity and self-esteem.

    Innately we know this – hence our outraged reactions whenever we hear horror stories of children being subject to any sort of abuse and violence. Startling examples are child soldiers, children who are subject to incest and rape, and those sent forth to fight wars under the guise of protecting democracy and upholding peace. The magnitude of these atrocities oftentimes threatens to immobilize our abilities to respond, let alone act.

    Like the case of the boy in the patty shop, where do we begin? Images of this scared and lonely boy return to haunt me and I cannot help but wonder who betrayed him. His point is valid – how is school going to help him when what he needs more than anything else is an expression of love? Surviving a life devoid of love, how is he expected to understand the need to love himself enough to know that his right to an education is one that he ought not to forfeit?

    As parents, teachers and adult members of our communities and cultural groups, our duty is to provide guidance and empowering leadership that teaches our children – they already know their paths.

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