Tessanne flies our flag high

Monday, December 16, 2013    

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"IT is hard work, you know; long, long hours of practice," said Richard Chin, the father of Tessanne Chin as he spoke of her The Voice journey. Richard told us that Tessanne has been like a big sister to the competitors, not just those in Team Adam. He remembers her comforting young Jacquie Lee when she got upset about a mean comment on Twitter.

It is this beautiful soul that shines forth in Tessanne's interpretations of the songs she has performed on The Voice. It is this compassionate soul that we saw as she shed tears and hugged teammate James Wolpert when he exited the competition on Tuesday night.

In her husband Michael Cuffe Jr, she has a soulmate: When Matthew Schuler left the competition, Michael tweeted: "No one can understand this emotional roller coaster but the people here. A special one love to Matthew and his family."

Tessanne Chin's excellence has galvanised Jamaicans to vote feverishly for our Jamaican sister. From the moment we saw those chairs turning around in the 'blind audition' as she sang Pink's Try, we embarked on a joyful voyage, increasingly impressed by her ability to take a hit and re-interpret it in her own unique style. In spite of this meteoric rise, Tessanne has remained humble and close to her fellow competitors. Describing Tessanne as a "perennially humble Jamaican backup singer," People magazine quoted her: "To come this far is a true honour."

Her on-the-spot interviews reveal an intelligent, articulate young lady who shares kudos with all her supporters — family, friends, coach. The efforts of Jamaican enthusiasts, notably Deika Morrison, Marlon Hill, Dave Rodney and Anthony Turner, have resulted in scores of Jamaican restaurants and bars here and across the US hosting 'Watch & Vote Tessanne Parties' every Monday and Tuesday night. Tessanne Fever has transformed these slow nights to packed houses.

My sister Frances in Maryland is basking in Tessanne compliments from her non-Jamaican friends and assurances that, "Yes, we are voting for Jamaica's Tessanne Chin — she is simply the most talented!" I got an e-mail from my friend Horace "Natchy" Campbell in New York on a totally different matter, but he ended the message with "Go Tessanne!"

From the Tessanne experience and the triumphs of Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, we know the qualities needed to stir national pride and to get out the votes: diligence, humility, generosity, and excellence. There is no part of this formula that our leaders do not understand. The difference is that they do not face the close, regular scrutiny that can result in a quick exit. Government and Opposition MPs are voted in for five long years; depending on the depth of their character, they can either use the time to honour their oath of office, or use their power to victimise and profit from their high places. But we the people are not blameless. Clearly we have not been diligent enough in demanding better from our leaders. Clearly, we have not been generous enough to ally ourselves with MPs and caretakers in community building exercises, thereby crowding out the thugs. Just as we have explored the many ways in which we can vote for Tessanne Chin, let us keep those fingers limber to call or write our representatives, ensuring that we help them to do the right thing. Let us be inspired by the wonderful achievers that are keeping our country on the map, and remind those whose offices are funded by the public purse that their efforts should be even greater to earn respect for Jamaica.

Jamaica's Mandela memorial service

The memorial service for Nelson Mandela held at the UWI Chapel last Thursday was elegant and moving. Prof Rupert Lewis made us proud of Jamaica's history of solidarity with the people of South Africa, going as far back as the pan-African movement started by Robert Love in 1901, and the powerful activism of our National Hero Marcus Garvey as described in this column last week.

Successive administrations, of both PNP and JLP, were of one voice in condemning the racist government of South Africa. Former Prime Minister PJ Patterson said: "The people of Jamaica saw Mandela's fight as our own.

In 1957, long before our Independence, we imposed economic sanctions and prohibited travel... we were the first to do this in the Western Hemisphere, and only second to India in the world." He recalled that on assuming the leadership of South Africa, Mr Mandela "became a symbol of principle and values... insisting on reconciliation and forgiveness".

South African High Commissioner, Mathu Joyini conveyed a message from her Government expressing gratitude to our Government and people for "your tremendous support and solidarity". She said we played a significant role in the struggle, "a role we do not take lightly and will never forget...We have always known that Jamaica loves Madiba and that Jamaica is 'Mandela country'. We say, thank you Jamaica!"

Our Governor General Sir Patrick Allen saw Nelson Mandela's life as a challenge "to pattern our corporate and public governance on the values which he espoused... to achieve reconciliation within families and communities and to eradicate divisive tribalism and the corrosive impact of gangs and dons".

Jamaica's seniors promoting AIDS awareness

Members of CCRP Jamaica were able to learn more about HIV-AIDS at a Workshop last week sponsored by the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Mr Robert Piehel, acting public affairs officer of the US Embassy, reminded participants that "HIV-AIDS is not just a health issue; it is a human rights issue". He said that if we removed the stigma associated with the disease, more persons would be encouraged to get tested.

"Before now, mature adults (50-plus and retirees) were not largely considered an at-risk population infected and affected by HIV/AIDS," noted Mr Piehel.

"However, statistics reflect that greater effort must be made to highlight the risks faced by this community."

The hero of the workshop was Mrs Rosie Stone, who noted that she had no idea that she was HIV-infected until she became almost deathly ill. She said it was the support of family that pulled her through. We must add that it must have been her own courage and discipline to keep fighting, and we salute her for devoting much of her time to sharing information on the disease.

Dr Jeremy Knight and Professor Brendon Bain showed the progress that was being made in the management of the disease, emphasising the importance of awareness, while Dr Jean Small was an avid facilitator. Two additional US PEPFAR-sponsored workshops for mature adults organised by CCRP Jamaica, and open to the public, will be held in January 2014.





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