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Nicholas Wright, top student in Economics at the UWI and Rhode Scholarship Nominee.

By Hume Johnson, PhD

Nicholas Wright is the future of Jamaica,  a future which looks hopeful and bright. With knowledge in both Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methodologies, a vast experience in Field Research, Applied Econometrics and a working knowledge of the political framework in Jamaica, this young student of Economics and Political Science at the University of the West Indies Mona and one of the 2012 Rhode Scholarship nominees, aspires to become a noted Political and Research Economist. I reckon he will be much more.

During an  intriguing interview with him on Skype. I asked him about the reasons he sought professional coaching to prepare for his Rhode Scholarship interview and about some of the issues which plague his native Jamaica. Listen to this interview by clicking on the following link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/drhumejohnson/2013/01/04/rhode-scholar-nominee-talks-economics-interview-training

I met Nicholas only a few months ago when a friend and colleague of his, Stephen Johnson, approached me to coach him for his  Rhode Scholarship interview.

No floozy becomes a nominee of this prestigious award. So I agreed to coach him for his interview. What I was to learn of him and from him was a true inspiration. Nicholas grew up in a poor community of Sandy Bay Clarendon, Jamaica. His mother migrated when he was 9 years old and his father, a struggling farmer, assumed the job of raising him and his siblings. The story of the Jamaican father is often not the kind Nicholas tells. His Dad is his inspiration and from whom he says he owes his values, his ambition and his will to succeed. And succeed he has….

Nicholas graduated from the University of the West Indies with first class honours despite having done a toilsome double major in Economics and Political Science. Even more impressive is the fact that despite the demanding nature of the double major he did, Nicholas was still able to graduate with a grade point average of 4.12, the highest in the faculty for his graduating class. As a result Nicholas received a number of departmental and course prizes, among these, the renowned Nethersole Award.

Due to his hard work and dedication to success, Nicholas has received a number of academic distinctions and awards. The most notable is his recent shortlisting for the 2012 Rhodes scholarship. He has also received the Ambassador Sue Cobb Scholarship in 2011 and currently holds the G. Author Brown Bank of Jamaica Memorial Scholarship for the duration of the current Masters programme in which he is enrolled.

Even more impressive – Nicholas has made the dean’s list for all the semesters since he has been enrolled at the University of the West Indies. He was a member of the Faculty of Social Sciences Honour Society and the University of the West Indies has recognized his outstanding academic achievements at the 2012 student awards.

He is currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Economics at the UWI. In his spare time, he provides research assistance to several lecturers at the University of the West Indies including, Dr. Lloyd Waller, Professor Ian Boxhill and Dr. Abdullahi Abdulkadri. He is an associate tutor of Research Methods in Political Science, a second year course in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies. He also tutors a course in Microeconomics in the Department of Economics. His deep rooted interest in research has led him to become a partner in a booming research oriented company called Caribbean Action Researchers, operating within the Kingston Metropolitan area.

Nicholas is also a very service oriented individual and have held numerous positions in the Leo Club of Downtown Kingston, a volunteering organization in Kingston. He was very instrumental in the development and execution of a national essay competition hosted by this organization and has received a number of awards for his sterling leadership in all the portfolios he has held in this organization.

Nicholas says he is on a mission to ensure an equitable education system and a high standard of living in Jamaica.

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Dr Hume Johnson is a Professor of Public Relations and Media/Communications Studies at Roger Williams University, Rhode Island, USA. She is also a Political Analyst, Broadcast Journalist and Author. Her latest book is entitled ‘Challenges to Civil Society: Popular Protest and Governance in Jamaica’ (Cambria Press, New York, 2011). She can be reached at humejohnson@gmail.com

kingstonJamaica was the nation of choice in the New York Time Travel’s latest installment called ’36 Hours In’. Reporter Baz Dresinger in a piece entitled ’36 Hours in Jamaica’, recounts his experience of Brand Jamaica, taking readers through Jamaica’s urban lifestyle and vast possibilities in a mere day and half.

From the best places to get Jamaican Jerk to some of the country’s cosmopolitan locales, and arts and culture scenes, Dreisinger argues that Jamaica is more than sun, sand and sea. Despite global media depictions of Kingston as a dangerous place, Dreisinger offsets this skewed narrative with fresh vistas of the country’s vibrant, rich and illustrious music and arts scene, and myriad delightful urban restaurants.

He challenges tourists to ‘take a side of city with their sand’, and come see first hand what Jamaica has to offer. Read the full article here: http://nyti.ms/1psQ8L1

 

Ackee and Saltfish, Jamaica's national dish, a favourite among Jamaicans.

Ackee and Saltfish, Jamaica’s national dish, a favourite among Jamaicans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BY: SABRINA CASERTA 

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Jamaican author and storyteller, Stacey Nembhard

Born in the small district of Little London, in the parish of Westmoreland, Jamaica, Stacey Nembhard is the author of the self-published book, ‘The Jamaican Linguist: I Remember When’. An Educator at Antelope Valley Union School District, California, and a graduate student in the MA/PhD program Human Development And Education, Stacey Nembhard is looking set to become the next great Jamaican storyteller.

Connect with Stacey Nembhard:

Twitter

Facebook

Website

Hi Stacy. Thanks for joining us on the Re:Imagine Jamaica project. I would like to start by asking you about your background and how you came to focus on a career in storytelling.

My grandfather is responsible for my great interest in history and storytelling as he would tell us, his grand children, of his roots. Having been born to a Jewish father and mixed mother he had many stories to tell. From his fathers coming to Jamaica, settling in St. Elizabeth, to him carrying on the legacy of being a sugar cane plantation owner in Westmoreland, where he settled after meeting my grand mother. He would often tell us his of his time working in rice and sugar cane fields; about being the bush doctor in the community of Bay Road in Little London, Westmoreland, in which I was raised.As a child, I was quiet and reserved, yet observant of the many human behaviors and conditions around me. From the corner of my grandparents shop, in a fishing community in Jamaica, my days were filled with life stories of their many customers. These early observations formed a lasting impression on me. Later, as a teacher working closely with individuals, families and communities, I was able to find my own voice, and to tell my story and the story of those like me through storytelling.

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A rural Jamaican district in the parish of Westmoreland. photo credit: Jamaica-web-services.com

 

What were the greatest challenges you faced growing up in Jamaica?

My life was filled with both hardships and excitement. It was like a roller coaster, sometimes you’re up, and sometimes you’re down. There were times in my life when I thought that was going to be the end of my journey. For example, while attending Mount Alvernia High, my dad lost his job and I thought I would be kicked out because he would not be able to pay my school fees. In my travels in different parts of the world, I have also experienced great hardship, and so I hardship is everywhere but it’s up to you an individual to want nothing but success and to not to give up.For me, the hard times did not control my personality. I had to discover who I was and find out what my environment had to offer. I was always a hard worker whether in school or at home. I was raised by my grand moms – Grandma Rachie and Grndma Joyce – who showed me who I should choose to be – why I should act a certain way, why I must love reading, the way to dress for different occasions.

 

How has this hardship affected your outlook, and what impact has it had on the stories you write?

I learned from the age of 15 that education was going to be my savior, in the sense of creating a better life for myself and my family. I did not like being poor and my dad losing his job was my eye opener. Can you imagine your dad being a Maitre’ D at a hotel one day and as poor as can be the next? That was my reality. We went from going to the hotel every Friday nights living like tourists to that of peasant trying to make ends meet. I was so afraid of getting kicked out of high school as I started to imagine my life on the beach road in Negril prostituting.  I cried and prayed many nights for a turn in events and he answered my prayers. My Principal and others who saw my potential as a student helped me. These life experiences are indeed the impact behind writing the stories in my book. It is the core foundation of my development and that is why it is the suited choice to encourage and inspire others to never give up on the dream.

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Cover photo, Book: ‘The Jamaican Linguist: I Remember When’.

What was the inspiration for your novel ‘The Jamaican Linguist: I Remember When’? 

I wrote “The Jamaican Linguist: I Remember When” as a reflection on my childhood experience having been raised in the country – in rural Westmoreland Jamaica. In the book I describe my days of hopping on tractors, climbing fruit trees. I talk about my high school days, getting married at 17 years old, my experiences from living in Curacao and working in Parliament, migrating to California, my experiences with illness, my American education in terms of learning to think and write the American way. I talk about finding love at a time in my life when it was truly necessary. My book is an autobiography; a cultural heritage book that focuses on the very idea of the past, the present and the future. I point at the important role my Jamaican culture played in my upbringing. I wrote the book the first time plain Patois and my friends commented that it reminded them of the great Jamaican storyteller, Miss Lou and how funny my stories were.

 

What aspect of Jamaican culture has had the most impact on your upbringing?

The Language – although we are an English speaking country, I am more fascinated by the Jamaican language, Patois. I wrote my book in both Patois and English. I am also fascinated by Jamaican food; nothing beats a good plate of curried chicken back with boil dumplings and bananas; and chicken back soup is my favorite dish. Not that I don’t like Ackee [Jamaica’s national dish and Saltfish but the chicken back menu takes first preference then oxtails, curried goat, rice and peas and some brown stew chicken. The Jamaican respect for education is next. My family places great emphasis on getting a good education and this was always drilled in me. There were consequences for not getting a good education and I wanted to be one less ending up on the streets of Negril prostituting as this was the warning my parents would give if I didn’t stay in school. They would show me where I was going to end up – in the market selling fruit and vegetables not that there is anything wrong with being a street vendor but it was the expectations that was placed upon me by my parents to let me know I am bound to be greater than being on the beach or road prostituting.

 

You mentioned Jamaican food. Describe a typical Jamaican Family Dinner. Who did the cooking and what were your favorite foods?

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Grilled Jamaican pork tenderloin salad. photo credit: theislandjournal.wordpress.com

The typical Jamaican family dinner in our home was stewed oxtails with rice and peas, shredded cabbage with carrot mixed with vinegar and sugar, cherry juice, a slice of potato pudding for dessert or grapenut ice cream. My mother did the cooking. She taught my sister and I to cook for the sake of helping ourselves but she loves cooking. She was a housewife who loved being a mother and wife. Some of the foods we enjoyed were curried chicken back,  chicken back soup, curried goat, stewed oxtails, crayfish, cackles – like mussels, roast pork and beef, fried chicken cooked in gravy among others.

 

How is Jamaica different today than it was when you were a child?

In regards to my childhood days Jamaica and comparing Jamaica to now with my son, nieces and nephew is like day and night. My friends and I did a lot of outdoor games such a Chinese skip, crab hunting, cow catching, fruit picking which was how we made our pocket money and we did our chores without complaint. We wanted to learn how to do things that we see around us for example cooking, washing and cleaning. We wanted to know ways to earn money whether going crab catching, volunteering to climb a mango, ackee, june plum tree to get these fruit and go sell them. To quote from page 39 from my book, “Getting older, I have to question whether the times have indeed progressed for an improved society; in my humble estimation, I wish for a return to the times of old. A return to the days of normality, where the chaos of today’s society were not so loose.”  My son and nieces generation seems mostly into easy work and playing video games; not interactive games with friends but by themselves and not sharing their toy. Bring back the days when the only fear to roam would be from the stories our grandparents told of the “rolling calf”.

 

Tell us about the Jamaican language and why it means so much to you.

Growing up in Jamaica, I loved speaking in mi Patwah tongue every chance I got. I had friends and family who didn’t like it when I spoke Patois as they thought it was not ladylike to do so. However, I was a born Jamaican riot and that Patwah was my morning, noon and night. I loved the language like cook food. The appreciation for Patio has changed. I adore Jamaican storyteller Louis Bennett I adore for using the vernacular in such a way to depict everyday Jamaican life.

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photo credit: Jamaican Gleaner

What is the one thing you most want your readers to know about Jamaica?

I want readers to know that there is more to Jamaica than just the food and sea. Jamaica is the rhythm and blues of the people as well. According to locals and the varying tales from our forefathers, being Jamaican is a recognition and appreciation of our heritage that is derived from the unruly slaves that were first dropped off in Jamaica. From them we inherited this gene of unique disposition, the one that shows our mental strength and fortitude, along with the inherent will that we can, and will be the best in all that we do. According to writer, Mark Cameron, “Being Jamaican is a belief in one’s self, along with having the will to succeed at any cost. Being Jamaican is a proclamation of heroism to declare who and what we want to be, without having the fear of failure. Being Jamaican is taking charge of any situation, as we believe anything is possible if we try. Being Jamaican is about taking pride in discovering our dreams, aspirations and purpose to unleash it for the greater good of humanity. Being Jamaican is about the expected applause of our audiences, our grandparents, or parents and all those who we deemed important to always see us in a positive light.” This sums up hopefully what my readers will take away from my book and reminding them also of their own Jamaica wherever it maybe located on the globe.

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Jamaican higgler woman. photo credit: dailymail.co.uk

 

What books are on you reading at the moment?

I am currently reading the following books: 

1. Men Are Not The Problem by a Caribbean Writer Luna Charles. 

2. Hell Fire Nation: Politics of Sin In American History by James A. Morone 

3. Ho For California – Women’s Overland Diaries by Sandra L Myers

 

Thank you Stacey. Best of luck to you.

“When you think of #JAMAICA, what comes to mind?” was the question we posed to college students in America recently. Here is some of what they had to say:

*This is part of the #ReImagineJamaicaProject – an initiative founded by Jamaican journalist and professor of Public Relations (USA), Dr. Hume Johnson in 2012. It seeks to use strategic communication tools, policy directed research & public diplomacy to understand and reshape Jamaica’s image and reputation in the global arena.

Follow the Re:Imagine Jamaica Project on Twitter @OneLoveRepublic

Performance Poet, Randy McClaren. Photo Credit - Jamaica Gleaner.

Performance Poet, Randy McLaren.
Photo Credit – Jamaica Gleaner.

Randy McLaren is a 20-something Jamaican creative dynamite. He is at the forefront of a vibrant resurgent modern movement that employs a genre of poetry called dub-poetry – to protest conditions in his native Jamaica and mobilise support for various causes. An award winning performing artiste; actor, youth activist and creative social entrepreneur, Randy delivers provocative spoken word performances and dub poetry. He is the 2013 recipient of the Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Excellence in Arts and Culture, and named finalist in the Commonwealth Youth Award for excellence in development work. Randy is also Jamaica’s youth ambassador for culture and vulnerable youth. We caught up with Randy to talk more about his activism work with Jamaican youth.

Connect with Randy McLaren

Twitter: https://twitter.com/1RandyMcLaren

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/randymclarenja

Watch Randy’s performance of “Jamaica World Class’ here –  – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpZtrvxqL-o

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RJ: Hi Randy. Welcome to the Re:Imagine Jamaica Project. Tell us – In a country where Reggae is the dominant creative expression, can dub poetry compete?

Randy: I think there is room for “dub poetry”.  Over the years Jamaica have not had a lot of dub poets and even the main proponents try to distance themselves at times from the tag. I don’t want people to box me in solely as a dub poet either. I am first and foremost a performing artiste. So if you see me performing with a band as I have done before, do not be surprised, Mutabaruka has done it, Linton Qwesi Johnson has done it. There is a direct market for performance poetry and the traditional humanitarian messaging that it allows for.  Some have called what they do reggae poetry as well which is basically the same thing. Our cultural expressions are so loved by Jamaicans and people overseas, I have no doubt that there is a market for this art form judging from feedback that I have been getting.  Also, sometimes people don’t know what they want until you give it to them. If one is properly organized as an entity or a brand then more people will start taking the work seriously. Our creative industries require form and structure for us to earn or others will take what is ours and benefit more than we do. Besides, culture is the way of a life of a people. Once we have life then culture will always be relevant and if culture is relevant, then the expressions thereof will also be important. Dub poetry was born out of a need to speak up on behalf of oppressed people, the masses.  People are still facing harsh socio-economic situations [in Jamaica] so in that regard poetry is necessary; it a voice for those considered voiceless.

RJ: Tell us about your background and how you came to focus on a career in the arts.

Photo Credit: Jamaicans.com

Photo Credit: Jamaicans.com

Randy: My mother gave birth to me on my grandmother’s bed in a small rural district called Garden Field in St. Thomas.  Growing up I was shy but heavily involved in school activities at primary School. I can remember being exposed to the arts from then. My real mission to become a performer started when I entered Excelsior High School and continued at Wolmer’s Boys’. The first “Dub Poem” I ever did was “Echo” by Oku Unuoro (Dub Poet). Through my performances I have been able to merge two of my passions namely leadership and culture. I realize that I had a gift that young people and others connect with and appreciate.  I also know that we [Jamaicans] are a creative people and perhaps the best chance we have of inspiring, empowering and effecting change is to do so creatively. A career in the arts, as a cultural practitioner allows me to have fun while making a positive impact and I love that. I have always tried to live an exemplary life. The arts are my way of engaging others, sharing, learning and earning; that is the ultimate aim! I am working on the earning part.

RJ: What should people understand Dub poetry to be?

Jamaican dubpoet, Mutabaruka. Photo Credit: SparksofDissent.blogspot.com

Jamaican dubpoet, Mutabaruka. Photo Credit: SparksofDissent.blogspot.com

Randy: Dub poetry is a form of poetry with an in built rhythm and is sometimes performed or recorded with musical accompaniment.  However, a great amount of attention is given to the lyrical content. Traditionally, Dub Poetry has been a form of protest art, a vehicle for social commentary but if one tracks the evolution of the art form, it is now being used to address a range of issues and is not always trying to be controversial or only focusing on political or social issues. I have watched and listened to the work of all the proponents of the genre such as Mutabaruka and Linton Kwsei Johnson and have been influenced in some way or the other by all. I stand on their shoulders.

RJ: What is it about performance poetry that is so important to you?

 Randy: I use performance poetry to engage the youth population and those underserved communities. I believe it is a good vehicle to make your voice be heard on different subjects and keeping people engaged and entertained. One must also make a living from it. I do not subscribe to the notion that art must be done for art’s sake because everything takes money. Dub poetry is important as a cultural product which many people are interested in consuming just as much as reggae. But it also has the potential to lower the unemployment rate if taken seriously and the spin of live music and poetry events also provide other income generating avenues.

RJ: You describe yourself as a Creative Activist. What are some of the issues in Jamaica that propels you into a life of activism?

Randy: Of the many things I aim to do with my art, I strive to represent different social issues and add my voice to such issues. I describe myself as a Creative Activist because I am about awakening consciousness and empowering while at the same time being entertaining and engaging. The Armadale incident has been the main trigger for me to start this mission. [7 young women wards of the State perished in a fire at the Armadale Children’s home in 2010]. The broader areas that I focus on include child rights, abuse and responsibilities, our political culture, rural neglect and gender realities.

One of the young women burnt in the fire at the Armadale Children's Home, May 2010. Photo Credit: Jamaica Gleaner

One of the young women burnt in the fire at the Armadale Children’s Home, May 2010. Photo Credit: Jamaica Gleaner

RJ: What has been the response to the causes that you push in your poetry?

 Randy: People have really connected with the Armadale issue that I have been following in a serious way from 2010. I have consistently sought to use the arts as a vehicle to empower our youth and the feedback has always been great. I have done a lot of work in the educational sector, with youth groups and so on. I have only received encouraging feedback. I will continue to do my part using my talents as a source for good. We are creative people, I think that if change is to be had then it must be a creative process especially when it comes on to engaging our youth.

RJ: You’ve recently acquired some success. One of your recent projects was endorsed by the United Nations Children’s Fund and you participated in Jamaica’s 50th Independence celebrations.

 Randy: I was very happy when UNICEF decided to fund the entire production of the piece in time for the 4th anniversary of the incident.  The video has received tremendous feedback with people calling, emailing and otherwise to find out how they can become a part of the cause, how they can make a difference. I am not about controversies but about us making a positive change. In 2012 I was a part of a touring party where I did several performances both in Birmingham and London as a part of the Jamaica 50th celebrations. It was a great experience and confirmed to me that yes, I can take on the world. The performance at the O2 Arena on the morning of August 6th will go down as one of the best and proudest moments of my life. I hope to make a positive mark not just in Jamaica but also across the world. I have been doing ok but there is much room for growth. I am learning and understanding things more and working to put together a solid team to make the dreams a reality. With a professional approach, more intervention can happen and more bookings can be secured for general events, corporate, school etc locally, in the diaspora and beyond.  [Watch Randy’s performance of Armadale: Children on Fire here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tgV6lBS5tQ%5D

RJ: Is Dub poetry catching on?

Randy: My performance approach is definitely catching on. The live music, conscious vibe is once again being celebrated and this will definitely help to propel the art form whether we call it dub poetry, reggae poetry, spoken word or performance poetry. It lends itself to dealing with the serious issues as well as lighter stuff.  Many of my pieces I do address issues pertaining to Jamaica but the diaspora would readily understand.  My focus is not on Jamaica alone as we now live in a global village where new media and communications technology make it a lot easier to get content out.  I have always tried to conduct business in a professional way, having the right persons around you to guide the career is also very important so getting that team together is one the front burner at the moment.

RJ: Words or performance – which do you spend more time perfecting?

Photo Credit - Facebook.com

Photo Credit – Facebook.com

Randy: I spend time on both but when I put on the Kriativ Aktivis (creative activist) cap the words take on added significance. Take Armadale for instance, I wanted to ensure that everything in the piece was accurate so I read the entire 158 page document that was published after the enquiry. When I write I use the same approach you would take to writing an essay, brainstorm, research, write, get reviews, edit and more edit. Rehearsal usually comes in before the performance and even in this phase adjustments are oftentimes made. The performance has to be solid to ensure that the message and the words are believable.  So if the aim is to empower and provoke thought the words and the performance energy must be in line. If it is a poem about love, a piece about food, like “mi love mi breadfruit” then a different vibe is required.  Again, it is the duty of the performer, the artiste to connect with a piece and connect with the audience.  It is hard to say categorically which I spend more time perfecting.

RJ: What pieces are you currently working on?

Randy: I have a piece called “The Kreative Aktivis” that I want to re-record and do a video for as an official introduction to Randy McLaren the “kriativ Aktivis” and “country yute”. I also want to do a video for my breadfruit piece. High up on the list is to finish writing and recording a piece called “Missing” which is about the many reported cases of missing children daily in Jamaica. “Jamaica mi heart and soul” should also be ready in time for August. I clearly have some work to do in the upcoming months but all of these will have costs attached but we have never been daunted by challenges.

See a performance of the ‘Kreative Aktivis’ here – http://www.youtube.com/user/RandyMcLarentv

RJ: What do you hope is the outcome of the work you are doing?

Randy 4Randy: My creative activism, my art is targeted at everyone who has a heart.  From our political leaders, policy makers to the general citizenry and the people of the world.  I view all the institutions as being connected in one way or the other. I deal with different topics and the different topics will be geared towards different stakeholders. It may be a call for change in policy, it may be a call on the citizens to hold our leaders accountable or for they themselves to be responsible in their individual lives. In all of this, balance is important as I am not always seeking to address any serious social issue. Sometimes it is about sharing or evoking a smile, a laugh and making people enjoy themselves. My aim is to see Jamaica as a country of empowered young people; a country of responsible leaders and citizens who can drive this country forward.  I would like to see us do the best that we can to secure a brighter future for our children…less child/sexual abuse, quality juvenile correctional facilities where rehabilitation really takes place if they absolutely have to be sent to these facilities. It is not all about politicians, each and every one of us has a tremendous role to play in making our homes, communities, country and the world a better place.

RJ: If you could change one law in Jamaica, what would it be?

Randy: I would want an adjustment to be made to the Child Care and Protection Act to remove the tag “uncontrollable child’ from document.  This has caused many young people to be placed in juvenile correctional facilities after being deemed “uncontrollable” and there is no clear cut definition of what this means.

Thank you Randy, We look forward to following your progress. We wish you the very best.

The notions of place branding and nation branding are relatively new but in a competitive global environment where goods and services are being traded across national borders and nations battle for a bigger stake in the world economic pie, places have become transformed into commodities. In this interesting interview, the notion of place branding is unpacked. We hope through it, readers will come to understand more fully the Brand Jamaica project and why at Re:Imagine Jamaica we aim to project a compelling image of Jamaica in the global arena.

Places.

by Ares Kalandides

I recently received a list of interview questions on Place Branding by a master student. I found them very interesting and decided to share the interview with you:

1.    Place Branding applies modern marketing methods that position and market consumer goods and transfers them to cities. What are in your opinion the most important differences between a geographical area and a product in relation to brands?   

There are indeed very few commonalities between places and consumer goods – except when places become commodities:

First, places do not have an ontological existence. Except for their purely physical coordinates, places are manifestations of social relations. They are the loci of interconnections and open-end trajectories. In this sense, they rather resemble processes than objects.

View original post 1,083 more words

By Dr. Hume Johnson

Boston_MaRecently, I visited the city of Boston, Massachusetts, the site of the Boston marathon bombings. Thereafter I was asked to comment on my visit from a place branding perspective by the website placesbrands.com. I jumped at the idea because Jamaica has seen tragedies – too many. The consequence of these myriad negative events? Jamaica has been branded as an unsafe place, and its capital Kingston, an unsafe city. On reflecting on how Boston dealt with this crisis may give Jamaica insights into how it may wants to communicate and project Brand Jamaica even in the face of tragedy. My interviewer was American journalist Sabrina Caserta and here is the transcript of our interview.

 SABRINA: What is the atmosphere of Boston like in the wake of this tragedy?

Sabrina Caserta - Journalist

Sabrina Caserta – Journalist

HUME: Boston has always been a vibrant, energetic city with a spirited and proud people. I was in the city recently and had a superb time sightseeing and learning about Boston on their famous tourism tours. The streets surrounding Boston city center were buzzing with activity and people – shoppers, locals, visitors – everyone cheerful and enjoying the nice spring day. It was clear that Bostonians delight in their city. Tragedy may have visited Boston but the marathon bombing has not changed the core personality of this great city. Boston has proven itself to be a robust and resilient metropolis.

SABRINA: Has this attack on Boston acted as a deterrent for those seeking to visit the city? Has this attack branded Boston as an unsafe city?

HUME: The Marathon bombing certainly didn’t deter me from visiting Boston. Boston has a great appeal. The city holds a coveted place in the history of the American nation. It is a major center of commerce. Boston hosts some of the nation’s top institutions and has built itself up as a domestic sports hub. Besides its constantly immortalization in American popular culture, Boston is pretty much a magnet due its its enormously rich history, vibrant arts and music scene, and its respected educational institutions. All of this renders Boston a place where people will always flock to – to live, work or visit. boston duck tours

The bombing, unfortunate as it was, was a one–off event. It would be a gross overstatement to now brand Boston as an unsafe city in as much as I would hesitate to brand New York an unsafe place. Before the unfortunate event, Boston has never been suffered a terrorist attack in its history and the city has never truly been under any obvious threat. Of course, it’s enormously important for Boston and every American city to stay alert to terrorist threats, but it has to be careful not to become so consumed with security threats that the personality and the positive fun brand image of the city becomes lost. I personally did not feel unsafe in the city. Neither did I feel nervous or anxious or melancholy. I simply felt happy to be there, and this is the image of itself that Boston may want to maintain.

SABRINA: How has Boston communicated its brand after the Marathon Bombing?

Outside Boston's famous Fenway Park stadium.

Outside Boston’s famous Fenway Park stadium.

Boston has a famous, strong and enduring brand built on the city’s illustrious history, vibrant culture and the spirit and grit of its residents. Post bombing, Boston articulated its brand by immediately returning the city to the myriad activities that has become core to its personality and image. Bostonians have been out and about living their lives – shopping or relaxing at cafes; working, taking their kids to schools and parks – as they normally would.

HUME: Boston also communicated that it is open for business. The city’s commercial center revved up again; its noted educational institutions opened their doors; trolley tours crowded with tourists cruised through the city’s busy thoroughfares; The Boston harbor and other city landmarks were immediately accessible. Games are being played at the stadia. Boston is carrying on with what it does best – celebrating its history and culture. It is this engagement in myriad activities and events that most communicates Brand Boston post bombing and which truly defines Boston going forward.

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Dr. Hume Johnson is a branding specialist. She is the Founder of the Re:Imagine Jamaica Project. Email her at reimaginejamaica@gmail.com. Or Follow Re:Imagine Jamaica on Twitter at https://twitter.com/OneLoveRepublic

By  Simon Anholt

The following blog post was reproduced from Simon Anholt’s Places Blog. Anholt is the leading theorist of nation brand, considered to be the father of the nation and place brand revolution now taking root around the world.  In November 9, 2007, he singled out Jamaica for mention in his blog stating that there are few countries that has a brand worth protecting. Click on the link below for the original article.

http://simonanholt.blogspot.co.uk/2007/11/jamaica-might-have-something-to-learn.html

Flag of Switzerland. Photo credit - www.flags.net

Flag of Switzerland. Photo credit – http://www.flags.net

Just got back from Interlaken, where I spoke at a conference organised by Promarca. Switzerland is one of those very few places whose identity is so powerful, so positive and so universally understood and admired, that the main task facing Swiss industry, Swiss people and the Swiss government is not how to improve or even maintain their national image, but to protect it against contamination from sub-standard products, firms from other countries claiming to be ‘Swiss-made’, companies using the Swiss flag without authority, and many other related threats.

Only a few other places have this kind of reputational power: New York (you can put “I ♥ New York” on a t-shirt and it’s immediately worth more money), Amsterdam, London, Italy, France, and that’s about it. Most other places on earth face a much harder task: how to earn that kind of profile in the first place.

Colours of Jamaica; Reggae, Rasta

Colours of Jamaica; Reggae, Rasta

There are a number of other countries out there whose natural, national identity is also well worth protecting, even if their “brand image” isn’t quite as perfect as Switzerland’s. Jamaica is a prime example: for decades, the sounds of Reggae and the colours of Rasta and all the rest of that extraordinary country’s rich national identity have been loved, admired, recognised around the world …. and then stolen.

Jamaican sprinters - Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell

Jamaican sprinters – Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell

Jamaica has scarcely ever benefited economically from its national identity: the American and Spanish-owned resorts make most of the money from its tourism, the foreign sports shoe and clothing companies that decide when Rasta is cool make the money from its colours and images, the foreign record companies make the money from its music – and the extraordinary thing is that Jamaica keeps producing the culture without ever enjoying more than a small portion of its benefits.
As Switzerland figures out how to protect and manage its natural intellectual assets around the world, a host of countries like Jamaica might find that a very interesting case to study, and perhaps to emulate.

Hotelier and Chairman of Sandals Resorts, Gordon 'Butch' Stewart. Photo credits - Nytimes.com

Hotelier and Chairman of Sandals Resorts, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart. Photo credits – Nytimes.com

‘It is impossible to get staff to work like the Jamaicans work once you train them’.

So said international hotel mogul and founder of one of the world’s top hotel chains, Sandals Resorts, Jamaican Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart in mid March 2013. Jamaica Stewart declared has the best workforce in the Caribbean region. And he should know.

Sandals is a massive employer of Caribbean workers, with 90% of workers in his Jamaica properties being Jamaicans. Stewart spoke of the ‘diligence’ of the Jamaican worker which he attributed in part to the flexibility of successive Jamaican governments  in allowing work permits for foreigners to work in Jamaica. The notion is that imported skills and expertise are of great benefit to the Jamaican workers who would learn and adapt new skills sets.

Sandals Resorts, Jamaica

Sandals Resorts, Jamaica

This is a massive compliment for the Jamaican workforce for two reasons. One – the Jamaican worker only a few weeks before was highlighted in a Superbowl commercial by German car manufacturer VW as laid back, unconcerned about work ethic and very much cavalier about the seriousness of duty.

While this ad was reflective of a general Jamaican personality of being easy, affable and fun, it did not paint a complete picture of the Jamaican workforce. The diligence, industry and commitment to task of the Jamaican worker is very often not captured in global imaginings of Jamaica. This is to be blamed in part on the over simplistic portrayal of Jamaica in the global media as a place of fun, frolic and excitement.

Click here to view the VW 2013 Superbowl ad…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7Q9i_wvd8U

Second – Butch Stewart’s evidentiary transcript on the diligence and positive attitude of the Jamaican worker is exceedingly crucial to Jamaica’s brand image. The perception of a country’s labour force is vital to its reputation capital, particularly at a time when nations must bank on their reputation in order to compete in a new global economy where there is fierce competition to attract investment and lure tourists, trade and students. In order for Jamaica to be seen as a great place to do business, it’s workforce must be seen to be have good work ethic – be professional, punctual, diligent, disciplined and offering the best customer service. Investments in training and retraining is essential if this country with a depleted economy is to achieve greater levels of prosperity.

Jamaican hotel worker

Jamaican hotel worker

It is to be noted however with great concern that despite the positive view of Jamaican workers in the regional context, skilled Jamaican workers are being denied entry into countries of the Caribbean community (CARICOM) such as Barbados. This is despite a longstanding agreement embedded in the Treat of Chaguaramus allowing the free movement of workers throughout this regional bloc. New figures released by CARICOM reveal that a total of 1,485 Jamaicans were refused entry into Barbados between 2007 and 2012. The figures have raised alarm bells of discrimination and prejudice against the Jamaican. This as Jamaica, more than any other CARICOM nation, have been discriminated against by Barbados border control in recent years.

Figures showing # of Jamaicans denied entry to Barbados since 2007.

Figures showing # of Jamaicans denied entry to Barbados since 2007.

Barbados is not alone. Powerful industrialised nations have refused entry to Jamaicans and nationals of other nations for a variety of reasons. There was a time when the UK summarily denied entry  to thousands of Jamaicans on the basis of a perception of citizens as potential ‘drug mules’.
Other nations in the Caribbean and elsewhere have denied entry or banned some of Jamaica’s artistes and musicians from performing in their countries because of varying negative perceptions of Jamaicans abroad. In addition, Caribbean countries such as St. Martin and Aruba (not members of CARICOM) have instituted visa regulations for Jamaica, premised in part on negative perceptions of our citizens.
This situation speaks volumes about the power of a nation’s brand and the extent to which perceptions of its citizens impact on economic, diplomatic, cultural and political relations with other nations and the myriad benefits to accrue from such relationships. Whereas the Jamaican worker may be perceived as industrious and diligent, if generalized behaviors of Jamaican citizens are seen to be negative, the repercussions are tremendous.
Simon Anholt – the father of nation brand theory envisioned a day when the most important aspect of foreign policy will not be trade or defense  but reputation. That day may already be here. The Jamaican authorities can no longer ignore deficits in it’s national brand, including the sector which communicates its reputation most visibly to the world – its people.
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Dr. Hume Johnson is the Founder of the Re-Imagine Jamaica Project. A former broadcast journalist and media consultant with political parties, she is currently Assistant Professor of Public Relations and Media Studies at Roger Williams University, Rhode Island, USA. Her book ‘Challenges to Civil Society: Popular Protest and Governance in Jamaica’ is published by Cambria Press. Hume can be reached at reimaginejamaica@gmail.com

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