Media nostalgia, Miss Ja Universe and a royal engagementMonday, December 04, 2017
In a nostalgic event, last Wednesday, the Press Association of Jamaica, led by President Dionne Jackson-Miller, made those late nights and impossible deadlines worth it for fellow media veterans Phillip Green, Clinton McGregor, Garfield Myers, and myself. This annual Media Veterans' Lunch is hosted by Jamaica's oldest company, J Wray & Nephew Limited (established in 1825). Chairman Clement Lawrence continues this gracious, decades-long tradition, set by William McConnell and the late George Abrahams and Tony Burrowes at the Spanish Town headquarters.
We veterans all have in common great and generous mentors. Philip Green remembers professional hotel photographer Frank Mair who trained him for his job at the Beacon newspaper. When the Beacon closed, Phillip moved to the Western Mirror, where he was tutored and mentored by none other than its visionary founder/editor, Lloyd B Smith. He says Carmen Patterson, Calvin Brown, Clinton Pickering, Roy Graham, of Ventura Studios, and the late Arthur McGill gave him good guidance. He says the work of the late Junior Dowie and retired Jamaica Observer Photo Editor Michael Gordon set high standards to which he has aspired.
Phillip has been in the heart of Montego Bay's history, including its 1980 ascent to city status. It may be a tough town sometimes, but he has no fear, as he is regarded by citizens as an advocate for community development — his photographs of bad roads have brought good results.
Clinton McGregor says that his first assignment was with the now-defunct Jamaica Record. Despite his protestations, editor Virginia Turner assigned him to the Bob Marley Estate case. Clinton said, “I instinctively and desperately latched on to one of the lawyers on the case, who was Michael Hylton, and — to his credit — Hylton politely helped me to translate the jargon.”
Now Clinton pays it forward, assisting his young colleagues to demystify legal assignments. He is well known and respected in legal circles, and says that Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn reminds the portly journalist that she knew him when you were 'skinny'. Clinton says he is forever grateful to several young police investigators who have assisted him preparing his reports, and who have moved up the ranks.
While covering Parliament in the 90s, Clinton enjoyed working along with press colleagues Michael Sharpe, Leslie Thompson, Gary Spaulding, and Balfour Henry. He says that those who have mentored him over the years are Wyvolyn Gager, Milverton Wallace, Leslie Miles, Virginia Turner, Desmond Richards, Winston Witter, Jennifer Grant, and Hugh Crosskill.
Garfield Myers looks back on the day he entered The Gleaner newsroom in July 1973, and he said he could still see news editor L K Sutherland “biting down hard on his cigarette holder as he pondered what to do with this raw, unfinished youngster from deep rural Elizabeth”. Garfield notes that he is thankful to a host of people, some departed like Sutherland, Neville Toyloy and Fitzroy Nation. He says others such as Terry Smith, Carl Wint and Tony Cozier also helped to shape him.“I like to think that here and there I have had positive impact on people's lives through journalism,” says Garfield. “Of what use is it, if we are not helping?”
For my part, I remember waiting in the Daily News lobby for hours in June 1973 after being told there was no vacancy, and that Editor J C Proute was too busy to see me. I asked for one minute, just one minute — which J C eventually granted. He looked in my earnest face and called Features Editor George Graham, who asked a few questions, asked me to leave the room, and then called me back inside to tell me to start the next day.
How amazing to work with that dynamic and creative team, legends cartoonist Livingston McLaren, Carl Wint, Tony Becca, Fred Wilmot, and Marguerite Gauron, colleagues Sandy McIntosh, Michael Reckord, Canute James, Ben Brodie, young Carole James, and artist Neville Garrick. As co-creator and first editor of Flair, and one-time columnist for The Gleaner, I appreciated the keen eyes of Hector Wynter and Franklin McKnight. I started this Observer column 15 years ago and I am moved by the humble Jamaicans who tell me that they follow it. Give thanks!
Davina's sparkle & royal-to-be Markle
Last Sunday evening Jamaicans here and abroad joined 2017 Miss Universe Jamaica Davina Bennett on an emotional ascent in the Miss Universe contest held in Las Vegas, USA. Social media posts multiplied as she survived the winnowing of 92 competitors, her afro a halo of ethnic affirmation. She may be second runner-up, but her natural beauty has already attracted the attention of such top magazines as Essence, Elle and People.
A tweet from the first black woman television series producer Shonda Rhimes ( Scandal, Grey's Anatomy) highlighted our pride: “I am clearly going to need some Miss Jamaica dolls for my daughters, so they can play with a doll that shows them they are fully EVERYTHING the universe ever needed.”
Now, I have never been a fan of beauty contests because of their tendency to objectify women, but I believe that Davina Bennett made a remarkable statement for women of colour.
Just as we were catching our breath, we learned last Tuesday that Britain's Prince Harry is engaged to the beautiful mixed-race actress Meghan Markle. You will be relieved to know that Markle is no 'roast breadfruit', as we call race deniers in Jamaican parlance. In an article she wrote in Elle magazine, in 2015, she described her dilemma when, in high school, she was asked to check a box for race.
Her teacher suggested 'Caucasian', but Meghan wrote, “I put down my pen. Not as an act of defiance, but rather a symptom of my confusion. I couldn't bring myself to do that, to picture the pit-in-her-belly sadness my mother would feel if she were to find out. So, I didn't tick a box. I left my identity blank — a question mark, an absolute incomplete — much like how I felt.”
Meghan's African American mother, Doria Radlan, is a clinical psychologist and yoga instructor with a master's degree in social work. When she shared the experience with her wise dad, Thomas Markle, of Irish-Dutch roots, he advised, “If that happens again, you draw your own box.” She says this advice has been guiding her, and so we believe she, like our Davina, will inspire young women to resist threats to their authenticity.
Abilities Foundation expands
We had an uplifting morning at the Abilities Foundation in Constant Spring last Tuesday for the opening of their new beauty services unit. Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid announced the accelerated roll-out of ramps and other facilities for the disabled in schools, in collaboration with the Government of Japan, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, HEART Trust/NTA, and Digicel Foundation.
Guest speaker, the inspiring Senator Dr Floyd Morris, noted that there are over 400,000 Jamaicans with some form of disability. “Education and training are critical,” he declared. “We have to build the capacity to create a society that is inclusive and accessible, empowering persons with disabilities.” Dr Morris, Jamaica's first blind senator, called for training centres similar to the Abilities Foundation to be established in central and western Jamaica.