Friday, May 01, 2015

From Baltimore To Grays Farm: Fight for Economic Empowerment

The attention of many people around the world is glued to what is happening in Baltimore. Not only are people focused on what's happening in Baltimore, they are paying attention to what happened in Ferguson and tens of other cities across America. So what are they fixated on?

On the surface it is obvious that criminal police brutality on young Black males is the focus of attention. Maybe I should have said 'criminal White police brutality on young black males...' But, we should make no mistake about the fact that racist White police officers are joined at the hip by other White police offers and their Black colleagues in perpetrating violence on young Black males. That is a phenomenon on which I must write in another article.

The questions I want to raise in this article are as follows: Why do so many Black males find themselves 'in trouble' with the law? Why are so many Black males in jail? Why is there an uprising and revolt among young Black students... not college students... high school students? Why are younger Black students leading these uprisings?

One must realize that many, if not most, of these high school students are not familiar with - or have no conscious connection to the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's. Yet, today, they are experiencing their own Civil Rights Movement! Why?

They are disenchanted. They see no hope for their economic future. One young man told Congressman Elijah Cummings (D - Baltimore) that everyday he felt like if he was in a coffin trying to claw his way out! Imagine that! Hopeless... helpless... can't see the blue sky of economic opportunity... won't be able to feed his family... can't take care of his parents or grandparents... can't take care of himself financially!

Why Black males are in trouble with the law? Because they are angry, discontented, disoriented, and disconnected from an America that promises 'equal opportunity' and 'equal rights' and 'economic freedom' for all! Here is a frightening statistic: 67% of America's prison population are Black males in a country where Black people make up 15% of the overall population!

One teenager said that her high school textbook was written in 1973! 1973!!! Is there any wonder that they don't do well in high school? Economically disempowered neighborhoods... disempowered schools... old schools... old text books... overworked and overburdened ineffective teachers... poor parents... poverty stricken communities... all set in the midst of the richest country on Earth.  Set in an environment where when you watch TV you see only riches... They live in cities where rents have sky rocked. For example, 15 years ago one could get a one bedroom apartment in Washington DC for about $700 per month.

Today, new apartments are being built all over the city - even in traditionally 'Black' neighborhoods. The rent in many places is over $2000 per month - for an efficiency which is smaller than a one bedroom apartment! Who are the new renters? Young White people just out of college who grew up in Wisconsin, Missouri, North Dakota, etc. (If you are not familiar with the US then check the map...) Powerful, economically successful cities where the underclass is economically disempowered young black people. Yes... many of them work: at McDonalds, CVS, Burger King, Costco, Safeway, Target... Doing what? Minimum wage clerical or cleaning jobs!

From Baltimore to Grays Farm... No we don't have young Black people protesting in Grays Farm or Point or Villa or Old Road. But they should be. Why? Because we have some of the same conditions. Poor neighborhoods... poor schools... old schools... old textbooks... overburdened ineffective teachers... poor parents... poverty stricken communities...

No, all of that is not set in a rich Antigua... but it is set in an Antigua where our  leaders purportedly only look to line their pockets with the next best deal. It is set in an Antigua where successive political administrations have turned their backs on the young people - young black males in particular. It is set in an Antigua where you can see officials are transformed into financial success stories as soon as they are elected and/or appointed while leaving behind the people who either voted for them or supported their political appointments.

Our young people live in environments where everyday they see yesterday's "Meego Man" become today's Market Street business man and who they can predict will be tomorrow's financial wheeler and dealer.

Today's young people understand that they are going to school to learn to work in the kitchen, to be 'waiters' to tourists, 'construction workers', to serve customers in 'Meego Man' stores. Yes... of course they are some who will become accountants, doctors, lawyers, and administrators. The problem is that there are too little of those and too many who will work for the minimum of minimum wages.

Frankly, several years ago, I lost many friends who could not understand why I would criticize the former Prime Minister in an article I wrote on CaribArena entitled "My Tears". I wrote that article because I understood what they did not... The principle job of a political leader is to uplift the young people so that they can become the economic leaders of tomorrow. Instead, what Spencer and others have done is uplift others and pave their way for their children to control the economics in Antigua while leaving our children... his children... the children of his constituents...  with the crumbs off the table of the rich "Meego Man" merchants.

From Baltimore to Antigua... No we don't have any uprising in Antigua. But we have recently had demonstrations about the racism projected on Antiguans by "Meego Man" merchants. The courageous actions of Baltimore's high school students were preceded by the courageous actions of people in Antigua who were indignant over the racist actions and statements of a "Meego Man" merchant. Those demonstrations showed what I have always known... that simmering beneath the surface of the Antigua psyche is a realization that the foreign merchant class in Antigua see Black Antiguans in ways that harken back to how plantation owners saw slaves.

My concern today, however, is not with the racist "Meego Men" of Antigua. Today's focus is about the realization that many young people of Antigua - like the young Black people of Baltimore - are disenchanted with their future prospects. Young people have looked at St. Johns and noticed that very few of the businesses there are owned by Black Antiguans. And, they understand that with their current trajectory they will never have a store on Market Street or High Street alongside the "Meego Man". They probably won't even get a chance to work in the store (most of those jobs go to young women - some of whom are not even Antiguan - but that's another story).

Our young Antiguan males from Grays Farm, Green Bay, Hatton, Point, Old Road, Bendals - from all over the country - are born hopeful. But by the time they get to their upper teens - many of their grand hopes begin to dissolve and they begin to settle for lesser dreams... and then those become even smaller by the time they try to find work. Go sit with them on the corner - or on the side of the football field... look into their eyes... listen to them as they trudge home from school...

To be clear... the failings in Baltimore are the same as the failings in Antigua: Poor leadership... inattentive leadership... incompetent leaders! Leaders who focus their attention on the 'Meego Man' business men... who focus on the rich so-called investors... who see foreign people with money as the saviors of the national economy... who give away our land resources for '30 pieces' of worthless paper in return for fleeting feel-good economic band-aids (plus really nice under-the-table personal bank-aids).

In America - I feel the pain of young Black people; In Antigua I see the reality of young Antiguans (males and females) who really don't stand a chance because they cannot find a way to 'claw their way' out of the economic desert we find ourselves in... and to which incompetent leaders have not only led us but in which we are now held captive!

To the youth everywhere - I celebrate your right to demonstrate, to agitate and to fight for your right not only for social justice and political freedom... but for economic empowerment.

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Pope, The President & The Prime Minister

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.


For the last ten years I have been seriously disenchanted with the Catholic Church. Well… to tell the truth, I have always been disenchanted with the Church for its role in slavery and its sordid history on tens of other matters affecting people around the globe.

But these last ten years or so have been painful as case after case after case sexual abuse of children by priests in every corner of the globe have been brought from the pits of hell into the light of day.

And one thing that has turned the screws into my pain has been the Catholic Church’s response: Denials; Moving priests around (giving them access to more children to abuse); Paying off parents to keep quiet; Blaming reporters for reporting these vile acts; In reality… protecting those who violate the vulnerable and unprotected… The list of the Church’s poor responses goes on.

And now… the Pope… even he is now reportedly implicated in improperly handling a case (or cases) of these vile priests when he was bishop or archbishop or whatever…

Today, April 2nd, Good Friday, two days before Easter Sunday, the response of the Vatican is to target and object to reporters who report on these criminal priests and those who protect them.

Internationally, the general public has been outraged… people continue to be aghast at the depths of depravity wrought on the innocent by these so-called ‘holy men’!

For awhile, it seemed as though all of the cases of abuse by priests had been reported… But now… everyday… almost everywhere, more victims are finding the courage to speak up. And the outrage around the world is growing…

And ordinary Catholics have been silent… I guess that they are afraid of being excommunicated. The Catholics I know don’t talk about this subject. They avoid the issue.

The Vatican, the political center of the Catholic world, has wanted to be silent, to be above the fray, too holy to respond… But because of the fact that the pope himself has been touched, they have recently come out with a wimpish attempt at responding…

It is too little – too late. This issue could well balloon to such a degree that it might well place the papacy in a constitutional crisis. And it might well place the pope in a position where his leadership is undermined and put in question!

Constitutional crisis? Leadership threatened? Yep!

And it didn’t have to happen.

The leadership (of the Church) should have addressed the issues (years ago) by forthrightly denouncing these criminal priests. The leadership (of the Church) should have searched for, exposed and rooted out these wolves who preyed on the lambs in its flock. The leadership (of the Church) should have been at the forefront rather than at the backend of this issue.

Leadership is about stepping out in front of issues. Leadership is about responding to the concerns of the people. Leadership is about working for and on behalf of the members or followers.

A good example of this type of leadership is being shown by President Obama. He has stepped out in front of the issue of healthcare. The buck stops with him. He is the primary spokes person. He has taken full responsibility for its success or failure.

And yes… there is a lot of opposition. In the face of such opposition, he didn’t run and hide behind pundits and surrogates. He stepped out in front and took the poll and political hits that were thrown at him.

Leaders cannot choose to speak only when the stuff has hit the fan!

Leaders who choose to be silent amidst the crescendo of popular discourse and disharmony, are leaders who stand the risk of being swept away by the upheavals of discord.

Leaders who choose to be silent, who choose to be non-responsive, who choose to let others talk for them, are leaders who risk being former leaders!

This is the case whether the leader is a pope, a president or … a prime minister!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Can You Feel It?

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.

I was recently on a Southwest Airlines flight from Houston to Baltimore. We left Houston about forty minutes late and the pilot promised to make up some time on the normally three hours long flight. When he said that I knew that he meant that he intended to go faster than the speed limit! On Southwest Airlines, that is typical... their mentality is the reverse of well... LIAT. They strive to be always on time!

When we left Houston it was cold and rainy. About an hour into the flight... the seat belt light came on... and the pilot advised us that there was turbulence ahead. He was right!

Turbulence... that is not descriptive enough! It was rough. Up... down... sideways... Going up... going up... drop! Twist to the right... drop... twist to the left - bounce up! It was awful...

I looked around. People had the reading lights above their seats on. A couple of people were on their computers... Of course every now and then the computers would levitate and then slap back down to the seat-back tables while their fingers remained suspended in the air. Some people were reading... while others appeared to be sleeping!

That bumpy ride continued on and off for about an hour. When we thought that we had patched through to calmer skies... the bucking would start again.

But I couldn't understand the calmness of the people! Then it hit me... This was Texas... Cowboys and rodeo riders! They were accustomed to wild rides on bucking horse and snorting bulls!

Of course that was not it. You see... I left out one detail. Every ten minutes or so... the captain would announce how much longer he thought we would be enduring this ride... and of course he got it wrong several times... and each time he would come back on and give us an update. "There are several planes ahead of us... and they are reporting that the turbulence will continue for just a little longer!"

The flight attendants did their part. The captain had instructed them to remain seated and buckled in! Yet, every now and then they would get up... hold  on to the seats... and go down the aisle to rub a shoulder... make an encouraging remark to a crying toddler... the kinds of stuff that you don't see on American Airlines... But then this is Southwest Airlines well known for singing, dancing, comedic flight attendants and pilots!

On this night, we could feel the pilot's presence. We felt his efforts to keep the plane stable. He kept connected to us. He gave us regular updates. He made a few light-hearted remarks. He updated us on the weather in Baltimore. He told us that although we were having a rough ride - that we would eventually reach Baltimore only fifteen minutes later than scheduled (Meaning that he was still breaking the speed limit!). He told us what the weather in Baltimore was.. and even commented on a major basketball game that was currently being played (people applauded when they heard the score!).

Eventually, the ride smoothed out... and we did land in Baltimore at the time he had indicated.

The ride was bumpy... turbulent... but it wasn't frightening. Why? Because of the leadership of the pilot. We felt his presence. We felt the presence of his team. He kept us informed about current events. He kept us connected to our destination... He stayed connected to us!

I felt him... I felt his control over the situation... I wasn't overly concerned... This guy and his team were in full control over the situation!

Here are my questions to you, as we think of Antigua and Barbuda - can you feel it?

Things are bumpy now. High levels of crime and a depressing economic situation are only two of the many deep problems we have! But, can you feel the Captain and his team? What's the plan? Do you know where we are going?  Do you know how we are going to get there?  Do you think we are given timely updates?  Do you have a sense of how things are going? Do you feel safe and secure? Are we in good hands? Are you worried?

Can you feel it?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Noticeably Pregnant!


By Mshaka


As most people know, there is an ongoing, heated debate about the proposed amendment to the Education Act which seeks to prohibit “noticeably pregnant” “students” from attending school.

While it is true that there is need for programs to prevent girls from becoming pregnant during their school years, this “Bill” does not seek to do that.

What it does is that it seeks to first remove the “noticeably pregnant” “girl” from her school, and second to punish her for becoming pregnant.

This Bill has nothing to with any concern for education. It has to do with adults concerns for some kind of effervescent morality… not morality having to do with teenage sex… but of teenage pregnancy.

If it was about teenage sex then the other party to the pregnancy… the boys or men… would also be targeted. But as far as I am aware, the Bill is silent about the males in the equation.

No – it is not about sexual behavior.

And, the system only punishes the girl if and when she becomes “noticeably pregnant”. If no one notices… then, hey, everything is OK. This is like the US Military’s rule about homosexuality in the US Armed Forces…. “Don’t see, don’t tell.” Keep it your homosexual orientation (or preferences) and certainly your activities… hidden!

So a young girl must hide her pregnancy! Tell them that you are just gaining weight. Wear overly large clothing. Whatever happens, don’t become “noticeably pregnant”. If you do become “noticeably pregnant” you will have to take off your uniform… and you will be banished from your school – denied of education – at least for a year… and after that – well… who knows!

Now what happens if no one notices and she never becomes “noticeably pregnant?” And let’s say she then has the baby. What then? She was never noticeably pregnant… so according to the law she should be able to stay in school after her delivery - (she was out sick…).

In the meantime, the male – the equal partner to the pregnancy - does not ever become “noticeably pregnant” and is not required to be “noticeably involved”.

Let’s say he is a fellow school mate… what then? Well, he is OK. He is not “noticeably pregnant”. He never will be… even if this is his second, third, fourth… Never mind all that… He is not “noticeably pregnant”.

And, remember that this is not about sexual activity by school aged children… this is about having a pregnant girl going to school.

One supporter of this odiferous Bill told me that “The young woman (after she becomes “noticeably pregnant”) will be a poor role model, will be a bad influence, and will send the wrong message to the other girls in the school!

Huh? What? What is the wrong message that she is sending?

Since the concern is not about sex… it has to be about not becoming “noticeably pregnant”. So her classmates, her friends… and the other girls around them… can be sexually active… as many of her friends probably are.

All they have to do is to just make sure that they don’t become pregnant. And if they do get pregnant… make sure that they are never “noticeably pregnant”.

Now… in the meantime the boys can go on having sex and fathering babies…! And the if they are older… and the girl is younger… then everyone turns a blind eye to that Gargantuan issue… Does the Bill address repercussions for them?

What is the answer to this situation?

  • There are only four issues to be addressed:Address the issue of teenage sexuality by developing prevention and intervention programs. There are tons of blue ribbon, research driven, proven, best-practices programs available worldwide. We even had one in Antigua years ago when the Youth Project (on Factory Road) was initiated.
  • If a girl becomes pregnant there should be a program that triggers a plethora of health, social and educational services to wrap around her. She should not lose out on educational services because she is 15 and pregnant. If anything… that should trigger greater concern for than for her peers because of her pending responsibility for another life. If the government opts for an alternative education program – it should be robust, well funded and seamlessly integrated with health and social services. And – every effort should be made to reduce any stigmatization that could come with such programs. In other words – there should be a strong focus on conscious-raising public awareness campaigns that highlight the importance of public support for these two children… mother and child.
  • Intensive wrap-around social and health services should be developed for the mother and baby once she has given birth. Such services would include parenting classes. Her education should be continued until she completes her secondary education. I would also submit that career guidance counseling should also be provided.
  • Finally, the issue of the males involved should be addressed. Steps taken should include legal, social, educational or psychological interventions. The legal issues are clear. However, school-age fathers… (who are going to school) should be involved in parenting classes along with the teenage mother!

I find the idea of putting “noticeably pregnant” in a Bill repulsive.

I find the idea of leaving the decision up to the School’s principal similarly obnoxious. Why? Well… I cannot imagine any of today’s bible-toting, bible-quoting principals making a decision to keep a “noticeably pregnant” young girl in their sight! So let’s not leave it up to them!

I suggest that a lot more thought must go into any decisions that are being made on these issues. There are many important things to consider. But the most important has to do with the young mother to be and her unborn baby – whether she is “noticeably pregnant” or not.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Direct Result of Immigration Policy


By Mshaka


Every day when I listen to the radio and television news… it feels as though I am listening to accounts from Jamaica.

I remember about ten years ago, a friend of mine was contemplating a potential contract that would have had him doing significant work in Jamaica. He would have had to interface with residents in some of Jamaica’s poorest neighborhoods. He was seriously considering it because of the “nice pay per day” that he was going to receive for a six month contract.

He asked his wife. She objected. He asked his kids… they objected. He asked his mom and dad. They objected. He still persevered and was about to go… a man has to do what a man has to do. Well… he almost had a family mutiny on his hands.

He finally decided that he would not go. Since then he has been to Iraq and Somalia. Recently, he had another opportunity to go to Jamaica to do similar work for an international agency. He again decided not to go!

Where is this guy from? His wife is Jamaican. His parents are Jamaican. His oldest son is Jamaican. He…. is Jamaican – from Negril! Has he been back to Jamaica… Yes… he did the tourist thing – he went to the North Coast where all the hotels are… with a brief… hurried trip to his home town.

He talks about the high levels of senseless crimes in his country… where apparently no one feels safe. He talks about the criminals who have no respect for law and order. He talks about the fact that people who live there everyday feel a sense of being bombarded and imprisoned in “dem own yard”.

He talks about the fact that ordinary citizens of good conscience are now carrying various types of weapons… to defend themselves.

He talks about the fact that many women don’t feel safe. He says that, according to family members who are still there, neighborhoods seem like war zones…

He says that children are growing up with this sense of being traumatized on a daily basis… rapes, gunfire, stabbings, armed robberies, political violence, murders…

As he talks and I listen… I begin to get goose bumps… This sounds like Antigua (not yet Barbuda).

My mind begins to drift… How did Antigua get like Jamaica? I remember growing up in Perry Bay… Tinning Village to be exact… We had our doors and windows open and only closed them for rain – or the mosquitoes… or the awful smell from Tom’s ‘night soil’ carts!

Now… it doesn’t matter where you live… you close your windows and doors, and not only lock them… but put on padlocks and turn on the alarm.

Probably the fastest growing business in Antigua is the security business.

How did we get this way?

There is only one answer… All those things were imported from Jamaica and elsewhere.

All of this is a direct result of the myopic, treacherous and criminal policy of the former ALP government who were tricked by the Guyanese idea to import voters into Antigua to boost their diminishing support among Antiguans.

This is also a direct result of the weak kneed, snail-paced, and indecisive policy of the current UPP Government who for political reasons are afraid – have been afraid to develop a firm policy towards immigration.

It is a mistake that the UPP Government will pay dearly for.

Both Governments… the former and the current are responsible for the wave of endemic violence that we are now seeing and the fear that has embraced our beautiful island – where supposedly - “the beach is just the beginning…“  (Of what? But that’s another story!)

Now the violence has reached our beaches and impacting our one-industry economy!

I know that some will make the argument that some of the perpetrators of these criminal acts are our own Antiguan people. I agree.


Just like many of our Antiguan brothers and sisters have adopted the nefarious, ghetto, ‘xyznklitzvt’ behaviors, songs, mindset, attitudes, dress and other sub-cultural artifacts from Jamaica (and Guyana)… A small set  of Antiguans have also adopted the criminal sub-culture and criminal psychological mindsets from these countries.

I also know that some of you will make the argument that some Antiguans have brought back their criminal lifestyles from the United States. The trouble with that argument is that we don’t have any statistics on how many of those people have been deported by to Antigua.

What we do know… is that with the massive tidal wave of Jamaicans and Guyanese (and others) who have come to Antigua… have come Tom, Dick & Dirty Harry – and many of them from the criminal underbelly of those countries.

What do we do now?

Our immigration policy needs to be fixed right now. Every crime… every robbery… every rape… every murder… I lay squarely on the doorstep of the politicians… past and present.

Every delay in fixing the immigration policy… every delay in ensuring that every person in Antigua is properly documented (nationals and foreigners)… every hesitation to do the right thing… for whatever reason… every delay adds to the number of crimes… the number of rapes…

UPP – do the right thing! Fix the immigration policy now. Re-election or not! Antiguans are living in fear. Our women live in fear. Many don’t sleep well. Our children are hurting… the violence and the negative foreign live styles are impacting them too!

UPP – Fix immigration now. Stop being afraid of the foreign vote! Good people – nationals and foreigners will not only understand – they will agree. The foreigners among us are subjected to the same violence and crimes and rapes as Antiguans are. They are suffering too!

Mr. Spencer – leadership is about courage. It is about doing the right thing! Close those immigration loopholes now! Then set about documenting every breathing person in Antigua!

I am placing this crime spree, violence debacle, and the waves of rapes right on the doorstep of both leaders… both parties…

Who else can we hold accountable?

Who else can fix this problem?