OUR track darling Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce brought off a spectacular marketing coup on the track in Moscow earlier this week. Its significance hasn't really come through to us yet. It's that cloud of pink hair affixed to the back of her head, flying defiantly like a new flag, giving her opponents something to focus on as she speeds past them.
We're so used to our Pocket Rocket's extensions that it didn't seem unusual to us. After all, hair pieces have become the uniform for most black women in athletics these days. When Serena Williams hits the stuffing out of a ball on any of the world-famous tennis courts, cast your mind back to the image of a tornado of synthetic hair flying in every direction. When the cameras go off, you can't say you didn't see Serena. I've often wondered why she does it. Pocket Rocket Shelly-Ann provided me with the answer from Moscow this week.... Women athletes have to make their presence known. Everybody sees the men, especially the sponsors. The women need a bigger share of the attention and the rewards too.
When our sprint queen stepped out on the track in Moscow on Tuesday, she was prepared to ensure maximum notice. It must be hard to achieve full attention when you're physically small in so large an arena. Then there are all those big, tall guys hogging the limelight. Who wants to look at a petite woman when there's a giant of a man on the scene? Imagine Shelly-Ann and Usain running in the same race. Attention for him is already guaranteed. We don't need to go there. If the media were to get only one shot that day, we know who it would be of, don't we? So, until I get another explanation for the pink hair, I will continue to believe that is why a cunning Jamaican woman planned her fashion statement at Moscow. It's called marketing. "Watch my pink hair," she might well have said, and in all probability, the sponsor was on board for those little pink track shoes. Who could resist a track star in sparkling shoes, pretty enough for a teenage dance party? Mrs Fraser-Pryce hit them with the pink and the photographers gathered round.
I don't believe it was just because she won her race which drew the cameras. I believe it was that special edge, that head-turning hint of glamour which world media cannot resist. It certainly didn't escape the comment of a BBC reporter who spotted it and let the whole wide world know about the pink extensions. He was smarter than me -- for a while at least. My first impression of the pink trail was that it was a scarf of some sort. It never occurred to me that it was pink hair. By the time it sank in, another message had also registered.
Don't be fooled by the little lady's cuteness. Mrs Fraser-Pryce has invested her earnings into a shop here in Ja which sells hair she imports. She is never without a chunk of it on or off the track. The worldwide exposure for her pink extension may well be the start of a new fashion trend. She is a smart woman. She knows that athletics is still a man's world. No matter how well the women do, sponsors open their bank vaults to the men. It is full time to bring women athletes to centre stage. Hey sponsors, look over here. It's full time they share the wealth with the women too. Visibility makes sponsorship and sponsorship makes for pension when the muscles no longer obey the starter's call. If it turns out that the pink hair in Moscow was a clever marketing strategy, then the Pocket Rocket really played it smart on Tuesday. Oh... and don't forget the little pink shoes. They could well have a future too.
This can be more than a cute little story for us to consider. In our desperation to find a way out of our present national dilemma, we might "tek lesson" and really settle down to some productive marketing strategies to move us forward. We talk endlessly about "marketing Brand Jamaica", but what exactly are we selling? For a start, nobody wants to buy our gloomy vision of ourselves. We're not even bothering to take care of what we have.
We boast about our Reggae, but how much do we get from it? For the second year, Japanese have come from Japan to win the World Reggae Dance Competition, pushing us off the stage. We took it for granted that we would win, but we lost. From what I saw, we weren't so hot. So a dance contest is no big thing, but wouldn't it have been great if we showed the world what we can do with what we make? A reggae/dance contest won't pay down the national debt, but if we really showed proficiency in what is supposed to be ours, it could stir us to greater endeavour, don't it?
The Job Fear
Some teachers who went to the Ministry of Education Job Fair earlier this week really expected that they would just go in and come out with a job? When you go to a health fair, do you come out healed same time? If some of the responses of persons who attended and left disappointed is par for the course, then we're in serious trouble.
What was evident from the interviews broadcast on radio is some of the persons who went job-hunting could not communicate effectively. What was also disturbing was the entitlement attitude that some job seekers portrayed. It was obvious that they were not interested in the long haul which comes with the challenge in a time of scarcity.
We are still not over the experience of the experiment to get jobs for teachers in the New York area in 2011 or thereabouts. Jamaican-born, now former US Congresswoman, Una Clarke put a lot of her time and talent into the programme. Up to now, we haven't heard the last word on how it all turned out.
It is a shock to our system at the moment to discover that there are so many jobless among teachers here. It challenges the public to try and understand the extent of the changes in the education system and what we will have to do if we are to move forward. The current response to the attempts by the minister of education to assist our out-of-work teachers via a job fair demonstrates how great the challenges are. Of the two days, one was ruled as a waste of time by applicants who didn't seem to know what to expect. The second day, we have learned, brought more sense and sensibility to the issue and, according to reports, more persons left feeling that the experience was not without value. September morning looms, and we really have to go back to school. Children, teachers, parents, prepare to face the fact that this is a new time and we sink or swim together.
PS: Could anyone have believed that a day would come when Barbados would ask its citizens to assume responsibility for paying university fees?