NYC Transit Workers Strike

  • Hi all, you haven't heard from me that much because I am unable to access Blogger from home in the evening which is when I have time to post.
  • I thought I'd say hi and tell all of those who have contacted me that I am, like all New Yorkers, surviving the strike. We are now on Day 3 and I have devised all sorts of strategies to get to work.
  • The morning is usually easy because there is a rule that cars need 4 passengers to cross bridges into the city. So I get offered rides in in the morning but usually it is much more of a hardship to get home because the rule does not apply in the evening. (Go figure.) So it usually takes me 3 hours to get home.
  • Anyway, I am trying to get to the bottom of the problem with accessing Blogger from home and hopefully I can post about the Journal of Haitian Studies' latest issue as I have wanted to since Sunday.
  • Of course, I'm so tired at night from the strike commuting that that has been a hindrance too.
  • But it looks like the strike is coming to an end today. Ciao.


Other People's Blogs

I've spent more time posting on OPB's (Other People's Blogs) in the past week than here. How about I share some of my recent blogcapades with you?

Political Murder, Homophobia and Jamaica

  • One running debate is the recent murder of Steve Harvey, a Jamaican AIDS worker who was also it seems a gay rights activist of sorts. I found out about the news last night on Wayne&Wax. For those who need cultural references, this is akin to the murder of Jean Dominique or more recently Jacques Roche in my view.
  • I am having trouble grappling with the homophobia "crisis" in Jamaica. So I've been asking around on Wayne&Wax but also at The Former Jamaican, what exactly is behind Jamaica's reputation as a homophobic society? Why Jamaica and not Trinidad, Barbados or even god forbid Haiti? (Yes, yes, I know that label is the last thing Haitians need right now.) Really. I understand about colonial and post-colonial causes, a tendency to interpret the Bible too strictly (or make up stuff the Bible never said) and of course tourism (one source Haitians often cite as a source of AIDS) but aren't all of these ingredients present in other Caribbean societies? Again, why Jamaica? Are there really more instances of anti-gay violence there or is anti-gay violence under-reported in other Caribbean countries?

African-American, Right, Left and Center

  • I also discovered Craig Bardo's website. Craig manages to poke ridicule at the left, the right and the center while also calling himself a "black conservative." Is that possible? Yes, quite so and his blog is living proof. I don't endorse anything political these days but I think it's good to dot all i's and cross all t's from time to time, especially when you're of african descent and an American. (Particulary hilarious btw was his post titled Pimp My Community, dated Dec. 3.)
  • Craig reminds me a little of Debra Dickerson, author of The End of Blackness in his vivid expression of the disorienting frustration with politics and politicians --left, right and center -- many feel. Except she calls herself a centrist if I remember correctly. (I know she qualifies that with a directional suffix further pulling her one way at the detriment of the other but I can't remember which. I don't think it matters either.) Oh and Craig is a little less angry-sounding than Debra to be fair since he does not on top of everything else have to contend with what many call the "angry black woman syndrome." What is even more interesting is that some self-proclaimed socialists and other stereotypical liberals are avid posters to Craig's site and yet you don't sense an ounce of tension between them and Craig. Just polite disagreement here and there. Very evolved. (Sadly, all comments to Craig's blog have been erased since he subscribed to Haloscan so you will miss out on some of that.)

The Last Gong

  • More to come soon on why my scholarly interest in Junior Gong may be dissipating at last. Or is it that although I still think the music is great --it is, really-- I am no longer all that sure that Junior Gong himself as a social phenomenon is all that interesting. I am prone to phases. I reserve the right however to later disagree with myself on this new state of semi-warmth. And OPB's do have something to do with it, as you'll find out soon.

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Blogging Blues

Over at Global Voices Online, the debate is still alive as to why certain countries/regions are not blogging or if they are, not blogging about politics. For example, despite a couple of exceptions Caribbeans are apparently not blogging about politics all that much. Instead, they seem to be using the blogging medium as more of a personal diary. The same is true of the Chilean blogosphere apparently. Another problem is that reported by Owen: the 20-something Jamaican techie has been complaining that Jamaican readers are not posting comments to his self-designed made-from-scratch blog.

I have some thoughts:

  1. Right here in America, lots of pretty tech savvy politically minded people who know how to navigate the internet are not reading blogs. Just the other day, an American friend of mine who is white, male, 50-something and a journalist told me when I invited him to visit my blog that he was not a fan of blogs and that he rarely read them. Last week, a 30-something journalism student who works as a copy editor told me essentially the same.
  2. There may also be a perception out there that blogs are the latest internet fad and that they will soon vanish into oblivion. People may not necessarily see the difference between a blog and a regular website.
  3. Certain blog templates may not be all that user-friendly. Case in point, someone emailed a very lengthy and well thought-out response to my last post. When I asked why he did not post it directly to the blog, he claimed that he had tried but that the process proved way too complicated. Another frequent problem with blogs is that after all the search engine and feed syndicator tags and the google ads are added to the template, visual overload kicks in and people have a hard time finding the actual blog text.
  4. Lastly, beyond all the potential technical hurdles, it really may be that the press in the US may be reporting the news in a less acceptable way than the press in other countries and hence there is more of a need for political blogging in the States than there is elsewhere.

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Admiral T, the Multicultural Frenchman

  • According to the Jamaica Observer, Guadeloupean dancehall deejay Admiral T was in Jamaica last weekend promoting french and francophone culture, his film Neg Maron [Maroon in Creole] and of course his creole-language dancehall. Sounds a bit strange that one could purport to promote all of the above in the same breath, doesn't it? Well, then you know what it's like to be Admiral T. Or any young, identity conscious Guadeloupean or Martiniquan, for that matter.

  • Some Haitians love to claim that our francophone cousins from Martinique and Guadeloupe (M&G for short) "have no culture." That's because while we were busy kicking Napoleon out around 1804, they remained colonies throughout the 19th century (much like the bulk of the Caribbean) and when the wave of African and Caribbean independences finally hit in the 60s they chose instead to become French Overseas Departments, embracing French Republicanism overnight. (It's also because M&G-ans listened to and produced nothing but konpa in the 60s and 70s but that's another story.)

  • Well, sorry to say but Admiral T is a good incarnation of how younger M&G-ans are managing the seeming contradictions these days. On the whole, they are embracing a kind of diet afro-centrism a good 10-15 years after the heyday of the ideology in America. (Let's face it, the once controversial Len Jeffries is kind of a has-been in the NY scene these days .) They are also hell bent on popping out soca and dancehall tunes in the most Jamaican and Trini-sounding Guadeloupean Creole they can pronounce. Topics, attitudes and values that were once quasi-taboo like Creole itself or Haitian vodou or god forbid blackness are now being discussed openly and quite intelligently on www.sol2zouk.com message boards. (I also sniffed the new status quo firsthand when I went to Guadeloupe in 2002, exactly ten years after my first trip there.)

  • Post-colonial repercussions long accounted for so many of those cultural taboos but french republicanism itself (the idea that being french meant you checked ideologies and identities that did not fit into the french mainstream a the door) was also a culprit. Guess what? It sounds like M&G-ans have kind of achieved what many would have thought impossible 20 years ago: they have somehow breached French republicanism a little --not to be confused by the way with American republican party ideology-- and carved out a space for American-style multiculturalism. (The kind that allows Americans to be both American and whatever else they're hyphenated with, a notion the French are painfully grappling with these days, as evidenced by last month's riots.) So people like Admiral T--and increasingly the French themselves-- no longer see a contradiction between the Alliance Francaise sponsoring Admiral's tour of Jamaica on the one hand, and his celebration of his African roots, his demand that more Gwoka be played on the airwaves or his constant denunciation of racism in M&G on the other.

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