New Jamaican Airline Set to Launch

FlyJamaica Airlines, a new Jamaican airline, is set to launch as soon as next month. According to a report in the local news on March 21st, the new airline’s principals are Guyanese but the majority owners are Jamaicans.

FlyJamaica will operate between Kingston, Georgetown, the Guyanese capital, New York’s JFK and Toronto.

FlyJamaica Airlines, image from the Internet
FlyJamaica Airlines, image from the Internet

The announcement of this new airline comes days after REDjet, the Caribbean’s first budget airline, signaled that it was halting service on all routes. FlyJamaica Airlines is expected to compete with Caribbean Airlines on its Jamaican and Guyanese routes.

Only time will tell whether FlyJamaica Airlines will achieve profitability and fill the void left by the loss of the national carrier, Air Jamaica.

REDjet’s in the Red; Ends Service

REDjet, the Caribbean’s first budget airline, ended all flights last Friday, March 17th. The company announced that it would offer refunds to its passengers. It cited budget problems as the reason for shutting down.


Ian Burns, REDjet’s CEO, said he hoped the airline would be able to receive subsidies from Caribbean governments and resume service. The budget airline, which began operating in May, was based in Barbados. It offer flights as low as served Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Guyana, and Antigua.

Prince Harry in Jamaica; Beats Track Star Usain Bolt

Prince Henry of Wales, popularly known as Prince Harry, arrived in Jamaica yesterday for a four-day visit, part of the international celebrations marking Queen Elizabeth II, his grandmother’s Diamond Jubilee.

Prince Harry in Jamaica, image from the Jamaica Observer
Prince Harry in Jamaica, inspecting JDF soldiers, photo from the Jamaica Observer

Queen Elizabeth II was crowned queen on June 2, 1953. She is the queen regnant of Jamaica and several other Commonwealth countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia and Malta.

This year is also significant for Jamaica as she celebrates 50 years of independence from Britain.

When I heard about Prince Harry’s, I couldn’t help thinking about the statements made by our new Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller. At her inauguration in January, the prime minister is quoted as saying that her administration would be moving to replace the Queen as Jamaica’s head of state in order to “take full charge of our destiny.” The prime minister’s follow-up comment sounded hollow and downright condescending.

“It is not about getting rid of the Queen. Who can get rid of the Queen? I admire the Queen. I am fond of her, she is a wonderful lady, a beautiful lady. I had the pleasure on one of her visits to Jamaica to be sitting there. She was such a warm beautiful person. But, in terms of our history, we have some things to do.”

Yeah, like fixing our roads, attracting investors, create jobs, control crime, corruption, mismanagement, put our schools back on track, etc., etc., etc. The list of things we have to do is as long as my arm. Removing the Queen as head of state doesn’t merit a footnote. That does not affect our quality of life.

As some of you who’ve been reading my blog know, I’m not a fan of the monarchy. But really, Sista P?

Our politicians just don’t get it and they don’t seem to want to. As far as I’m concerned, they all need to be put on a leaky boat without food and water. They are a pox on the country.

To be fair, the visit was more than likely planned well in advance by the previous administration and the current one wouldn’t have had time to change it. Nevertheless, I’m still scratching my head over the PM’s comments.

The $3 million visit will take Prince Harry to Falmouth (Trelawny) and Montego Bay as well as the customary visits to hospitals – the Bustamante Hospital for Children and the Victoria Jubilee Hospital. Also included in his itinerary is a visit to the Usain Bolt Track at the University of the West Indies where it was reported this morning that he beat the track star in a 20m dash.

Prince Harry, who also visited Belize and the Bahamas, leaves Jamaica on March 8th, his last stop on his tour of Caribbean Commonwealth countries. This was also his first visit to the Caribbean.



Soulful Sundays: RIP Whitney

Last night, I heard the shocking news: Whitney Houston had died. I sat in total disbelief, glued to the television set, watching as the news scrolled across the ticker. Even after I saw the word was, as in Whitney Houston was….it didn’t feel real. No, Whitney Houston can’t be dead. But she was.

Whitney Houston, photo from the Internet
Whitney Houston, photo from the Internet

In the footage that played over and over, she looked vibrant, alive. Nothing in these images predicted this end. I thought she’d gotten it together. She looked so good the last time I saw a photo of her, much better than in that other photo – you know the one, when she looked emaciated and fragile.

We’ll never know what hurt she tried so unsuccessfully, so tragically to salve — not that we really need to know. Her loss will, no doubt, leave a gaping hole in many hearts, especially that of her mother, Grammy Award winning gospel singer, Cissy Houston, her cousin, Dionne Warwick, and her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, who also reportedly has her own substance abuse issues.

Whitney Houston, a mezzo-soprano, was born in Newark, NJ on August 9, 1963. She was a model, singer, actor and producer. With 415 awards, Whitney has been recognized more times than any other female artist. Her awards include two Emmys, six Grammys, 30 Billboard Music, and 22 American Music Awards. She has sold more than 200 million albums and singles.

Whitney holds an honorary doctorate from Grambling State University in Louisiana. She has seven albums and four movies to her credit including the hugely successful, The Bodyguard, that was the second highest-grossing film worldwide in 1992, Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife. Her fourth and final film, Sparkle, now in post production, is scheduled to be released in August. Whitney has also appeared in television shows and in several commercials.

Singers like Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Toni Braxton, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Hudson and many others acknowledge Whitney as an influence.

Here’s Whitney singing Saving All My Love For You and I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

Rest in Peace, Whitney!


Remembering Bob Marley

Reggae icon, Bob Marley would have been 67 years old today. It’s interesting to see how many people Bob touched with the message of his music.

When I was planning my trip to South Africa, I happened upon a link to an Earth Festival that was being put on by the Knysna Rasta Village. I called the village right away and made arrangements to visit. I looked forward to the tour and to meet these South African Rastas. When we got to Cape Town, however, we had so many things scheduled, we had to postpone the trip which was about a day’s drive away.

Bob Marley, photo from the Jamaica Gleaner
Bob Marley, photo from the Jamaica Gleaner

If Bob’s music had reached this community in South Africa, imagine my surprise when I saw the documentary, He Koha Ma Bob Marley. It followed the Maori musician, Ruia Aperahama, as he traveled to Bob Marley’s former home in Trench Town, Jamaica and presented a gift to the Marley family. According to Aperahama, Bob came along “when it wasn’t cool to be Maori, it wasn’t cool to speak our language, it wasn’t cool to be ourselves.” His music gave them hope and helped them see themselves. Talk about reach and impact.

Here in Jamaica, a week of activities are planned to mark the singer’s birthday. Meanwhile, more voices here have been added to the list of people calling for the Jamaican government to make the Rastaman a national hero and to designate his birthplace and final resting place in Nine Mile, St. Ann, an official tourist attraction.

Listen here to Natural Mystic, one of my favorites.

A new biopic, Marley, which was created in collaboration with the family, will hold its World Premiere this month at the 62nd Berlin Film Festival. It will have its North American premiere at South by Southwest film festival in March and open in theaters on April 20th.

Without a doubt, Bob Marley is more popular now than when he was alive. From the Jamaica Observer, here are a list of awards and honors he has received:

* March, 1994 — Bob Marley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In his tribute, British singer Robert Palmer said, “No one in rock and roll has left a musical legacy that matters more or one that matters in such fundamental ways.”

* Exodus, the ninth studio album for Bob Marley and the Wailers, was recognised as Time magazine’s Album of the Century in 1999. The album contains the tracks Waiting In Vain, Three Little Birds and One Love.

* On February 6, 2001, Bob Marley was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It would have been his 56th birthday.

* February 2001, Marley received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Rebel Music, the documentary on his life, was also nominated for Best Long Form Music Video at the Grammys.

* In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Marley number 11 on its list of 100 Greatest Artistes of All Time. In the Rolling Stone article, rapper Wyclef Jean said, “Marley brought the idea that through music, empowerment and words, you can really come up with world peace”.

* One Love, the song Marley and the Wailers first recorded at Studio One in the 1960s, was named Song of the Millennium by the British Broadcasting Corporation.

* Marley was voted one of the greatest lyricists of all time by a BBC poll in 2004.

* 2006: A blue plaque was unveiled at his first British residence in Ridgemount Gardens, London. It was dedicated by the Nubian Jack Community Trust and supported by Her Majesty’s Foreign Office.

* In 2008, a statue of Marley was unveiled in Serbia during a rock festival as a token of peace. Musicians from Croatia and Serbia were joined by fans for the midnight ceremony

* In 2010, the classic 1973 album, Catch a Fire, was among 25 inductees into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Other Marley productions previously inducted include Get Up, Stand Up, No Woman No Cry, Exodus and One Love.

What’s your favorite Bob Marley song?


New Ferry Service for the Eastern Caribbean

I used to feel a little envious when my aunt would talk about the island hopping she and her friends did when they were at the University of the West Indies. Back then, the best way to travel among the islands was by boat. The trip she talks about often took place the year she graduated. She and some of her class mates decided to accompany those from different islands who were returning home. Whenever they reached the island home of a member of their group, they disembarked and did that until they arrived at their last stop, Port of Spain in Trinidad & Tobago.

My aunt never revealed what they did while they were on board or after they disembarked, but from the smile on her face when she tells the story now, I know they had a blast.

Unfortunately, that service ceased operating in the 70s.

Now, a new service, announced by Trinidad & Tobago’s Transport Minister Devant Maharaj is set to launch later this year and will be based in Port of Spain. It will be operated by a Barbadian consortium, Fast Ferry Ltd.

The  first phase would connect the islands of Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados. Ferries would leave Port of Spain, at 6:00 a.m. and arrive in Bridgetown, Barbados, its last stop, at 6:00 p.m.

The proposed average price of tickets for Trinidadian citizens would be between US$25 and US$35, however, 100,000 seats, priced at $10, would be available annually.

The company has announced that additional routes will be added when they achieve commercial viability.
Photo from the Internet

The service will join already established ferry services that make travel within the US and British Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas possible. There is no ferry service connecting the larger islands – Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.



On December 29th, Jamaicans Elected a New Prime Minister

Yesterday, December 29th, Jamaicans went to the polls to elect a new prime minister. Former PM and Leader of the Opposition, Portia Simpson-Miller and the People’s National Party won handily – 41 seats to 22.

Jamaica's new PM designate, Portia Simpson Miller, photo via the Internet
Jamaica's new PM designate, Portia Simpson Miller, photo via the Internet

Only time will tell if the PNP will be any different than the outgoing Jamaica Labor Party (JLP). No better herring, no better barrel, is the Jamaican expression that comes to mind. There have been allegations of corruption on both sides. It’s an open secret who’s involved in what, who’s doing what illegal thing. No one’s clean. I hope and pray the new administration will try to put the country first or at least above party or their own personal agendas.

What I hope the new government will do:

  • Continue to bring crime down – business will not thrive in an environment where crime and corruption are common and where ordinary people have no faith in the justice system.
  • Fix the roads – most of the roads, especially those just beyond the “tourist areas” are in deplorable condition. They need to be fixed.
  • Fix the tax system – the only way to get rid of the 17.5% GCT is for the administration to be able to collect income taxes from all working  Jamaicans, and corporations that do business here. A fair and equitable tax system is needed.
  • Fix the educational system – an educated population is one of the lynchpins of development. People must be able not just to read, but to think critically, reason and analyze.
  • Create an environment where business can thrive, one which will be attractive to businesses that want to invest.
  • Be open and transparent. No scandals – financial or other.

This list is by no means comprehensive…..


New York’s 50 Millionth Visitor

Scores of people visit New York City everyday. Last Friday, one British couple, Craig and Lucy Johnson, got the surprise of their lives when they found out that the city had named them its 50 millionth visitor.

According to the New York Times, the city’s tourism officials selected the couple because the U.K. is the largest source of visitors to New York and because of the Johnsons’ connection to the city — they met in the Big Apple 10 years ago.  The newlyweds were married at Rockefeller Center.

Craig & Lucy Johnson being feted as NYC's 50 millionth visitor, photo Earl Wilson, NYT
Craig & Lucy Johnson being feted as NYC's 50 millionth visitor, photo Earl Wilson, NYT

They were presented with a symbolic gold card and saluted by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The Johnsons also received a $10,000 gift card for this trip and a $10,000 package of gift cards to visit and spend money in famous stores and at Broadway shows again in 2012. NYC & Company, the city’s tourism office, will even pick up the tab for any taxes they incur on their purchases.

Of the 48.8 million people who visited New York City last year, 10.7 million of them were foreigners. By the end of the year, 50.2 million visitors will be recorded.


Soulful Sundays: Cesaria Evora – RIP

Cape Verdian singer, Cesária Évora, died on Saturday, December 17th in Baptista de Sousa Hospital in Mindelo, on her native island of Sao Vicente. She was 70 years old.

Cesaria Evora, photo from the Internet
Cesaria Evora, photo from the Internet

Évora was featured on Soulful Sundays in April. Take a listen to Petit Pays.

Sears Roebuck & Company Building

A few months ago, this Sears Roebuck Company building in Hackensack, NJ caught my eye. It looked like it would have done way back when. I was curious to know what year it was built and how it had missed being demolished for another more modern structure.

Sears Roebuck Building, Hackensack NJ
Sears Roebuck Building, Hackensack NJ

I found the following reference to the building in the New York Times of November 17, 1931. “Sears, Roebuck & Co. buy Hackensack Site: Department Store to Cost About $500,000 Planned for Plot in Main Street.”

The Sears Roebuck Company was founded in Chicago in 1886 by Richard W. Sears and Alvah C. Roebuck. Sears, a railroad agent, received an impressive box of watches and began selling them and other jewelry by mail order. Roebuck was a watch repairman who Sears hired as his business grew. Eventually, they founded Sears, Roebuck & Co.

The first catalog was produced in 1888. Eventually, the catalog carried sewing machines, bicycles, sporting goods and automobiles. Over the years, the company became the largest retailer in the U.S., a position it held up to the mid-1980s. Though it is no longer the largest retailer, the company has evolved into a major online retailer and a trusted source for tools, appliances, affordable clothing and other goods.