When will we learn?

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American Protesters in Murrieta

Illegal Immigration or a Humanitarian Crisis?
American Protesters against influx of Central American Refugees
Murrieta – California – July 2014
Photo Credit: Politicus USA

 

Our choices, our behavior, our actions have consequences. Some good. Some bad. Some consequences take more than a lifetime for manifestation. That’s why it’s important to study history. History that distorts the truth is useless and harmful for learning.

In high school, I hated studying history. I saw no connection to my life. I finally get it. Everything that’s assailing us today has its roots in the distant and recent past. Not only have America’s foreign policies supported dictatorship governments that heap hardships upon their citizens, but we also have trade policies that affect local economies and peoples’ livelihood.

Consider the current overwhelming number of unaccompanied refugee children arriving at America’s southwest borders. The majority of them are fleeing gang and state violence in their homelands in Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. These three developing countries are part of the six-nation CAFTA-DR Free Trade Agreement with the United States, fully implemented in 2006.

Inconsequential? Coincidental?

The world we live in is of our own making. We set the course decades ago. Securing our borders with more troops will not resolve the humanitarian crisis we helped to spawn. Continue reading

BRICS 2014 Brazil: The New Development Bank

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BRICS 2014 BRASILBRICS 2014 Brasil – Fortaleza – Brazil
Heads of State (left to right) of Russia, India, Brazil, China, and South Africa
Photo Credit: Marcelo Camargo, Agência Brasil

 

The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is over. Brazil did not win the coveted cup. Their humiliating loss of seven to one goals in their semi-final match against Germany is a clear indication of the need for profound changes in Brazilian football. Changing heads will make no difference. As Otto Scharmer, a senior lecturer at MIT, said in his article on the Huffington Post Sports Blog, the Brazilian team needs to shift its focus to a shared awareness of the evolving whole. As Scharmer points out, it’s a challenge that we face in all sectors of society.

The day after watching the German team take away the World Cup, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff headed northeast to Fortaleza, Ceará, for the Sixth Summit of Heads of State of the BRICS group: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Since their inaugural summit in Russia on 16 June 2009, BRICS leaders have met annually to pursue their common goals for peace, security, development, and cooperation. Working within the framework of the United Nations, they continue to push for financial stability, sustainable growth, and quality jobs – globally and nationally. Continue reading

Guyana Population Census 2012: Panoramic View of a Nation

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Guyana National Junior Squash Team - August 2012

Faces of the People of Guyana
Guyana National Junior Squash Team – August 2012
Photo Credit: Guyana Times International

 

We are a complex species, living in a complex world of our own design. Except in small rural communities and suburban enclaves where people know each other by name, our urban centers have become too large for us to know everyone. In many cases, we don’t even know or chat with our neighbors.

In order to meet the needs of a nation’s population, policymakers rely upon a critical planning tool: the national Population and Housing Census. Such a comprehensive population count is not only costly but also a colossal operation. For about 150 developing countries, home to 80 percent of the world’s population, help comes from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Undertaken every ten years and in compliance with the United Nations’ mandate for the 2010 Global Round of Censuses, Guyana held its Population and Housing Census on 15 September 2012. In June 2014, the Guyana Bureau of Statistics released its Preliminary Report of the nation’s 2012 Census. All population figures are not yet available; factors affecting changes since the 2002 Census have not been fully analyzed. Continue reading

“Circle of Horrors” – Poem by Brazilian Poet Waldo Motta

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Being Black in Brazil

At left, Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari with star Neymar
At right, Brazilian fans at a FIFA World Cup 2014 match
Photo Credit: Black Women of Brazil

 

In my Poetry Corner July 2014, I feature the poem “Círculo dos Horrores” (Circle of Horrors) by Waldo Motta: a gay, black, contemporary Brazilian poet, actor, and mystic from the Southeast State of Espírito Santo. Some literary critics consider him one of the most important Brazilian poets of the first decade of the twentieth century.

“Círculo dos Horrores” is one of his lyrical, protest poems from his poetry collection, Bunda e Outras Poemas (The Negro and Other Poems), published in 1996. (The word bunda originates from the Angolan Bantu language, meaning Angolan Negro.) In this collection, Motta explores the themes of blackness and social exclusion. Little has changed since 1996.

As shown in the captioned photos, although blacks or mixed-race players, like football star Neymar, predominate in Brazil’s World Cup 2014 team, they don’t occupy the coaching position and very few could afford to attend the World Cup matches.

Motta laments that we allow our human feelings to prevent us from taking collective action to save ourselves from self-inflicted wounds. The poet repeats the question raised in the opening lines:

How many more humanities
Will we let pass by again?

In translating Motta’s “Circle of Horrors,” I failed in preserving his beautiful lyricism. In maintaining his use of the word “humanities,” not used in this context in English, I sought to capture the essence of the poet’s lamentation of the plight of blacks in Brazil. Our failure to correct this wrong against blacks, not only in Brazil but also here in the United States and worldwide, is a task for all of humanity.

The circle of horrors facing humanity goes far beyond racism. It also speaks to the inequality we face worldwide. As Motta notes, the “stupidity of the demon in us” leads us to our ruin.

Inspired by Waldo Motta’s poem, my Haiku poem “Humanity” focuses on the effects of unfettered capitalism on humanity.

You can learn more about Waldo Motta and read his poem, “Círculo dos Horrores” (Circle of Horrors) in its original Portuguese and English versions at my Writer’s Website.

The Illusion of Independence

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Declaration of Independence - 4 July 1776 - Detail of Painting by John TrumbullDeclaration of Independence – 4 July 1776
Detail of Painting by John Trumbull in the U.S. Capitol
Photo Credit: U.S. Library of Congress

 

This Fourth of July, I joined the people of America in celebrating 238 years since the nation’s Declaration of Independence from the British Empire. In 1966, when my native land, Guyana, gained its independence from Great Britain, the British Empire was already in decline. The United States was in ascendance.

Growing to adulthood in a young independent nation, I learned that the word independence was a misnomer. We were still tied by our navel string to our former colonial masters. With a struggling economy, we endured power outages, water cutoffs, and food shortages. Help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) brought more austerity. Independence had led to new forms of dependency on international bankers and on other masters. Continue reading

FIFA 2014 World Cup Brazil: Who are the Real Winners?

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A boy walks in front of graffiti painted against infrastructure work for the 2014 World Cup at the Metro Mangueira slum in Rio de Janeiro“Destroying my Community for the World Cup”
Favela Metrô Mangueira – Rio de Janeiro – June 2012
Source: Reuters/Sergio Moraes

 

When FIFA elected Brazil to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup, I shared the elation of the Brazilian people. I saw it not only as an opportunity to showcase Brazil’s economic growth, but also the warmth and hospitality of its people.

At the time, Brazil’s then Minister of Sports of President Lula’s government promised the people: “The stadiums for the World Cup will be constructed with money from the private sector. Not a cent of public money will be used for the stadiums.” (UOL Copa do Mundo)

Almost a year later, the global economic crisis changed our world. Even though Brazil recovered faster than many other economies, the world market for its products had changed. Private funding shriveled. Of the twelve host cities for the World Cup football (US soccer) games, only three cities – São Paulo, Curitiba, and Porto Alegre – raised private funds for their construction projects. Even then, those cities depended upon financing from state banks and government fiscal incentives.

According to figures released in May 2014, Brazil’s total investment in the World Cup amounted to US$11.6 billion (R$25.6 billion). More than 83 percent came from taxpayers’ money (see details).

Thanks to corruption at all levels of the government, construction costs overshot the goal. A study done by Brazilian sports business consultants, PluriConsultoria, revealed that the medium cost per seat of Brazil’s new stadiums is 15 percent higher than the 66 stadiums constructed worldwide since 2004. In figures, that’s equivalent to US$6,720 compared to US$5,841 per seat.

Government corruption and excessive spending for the World Cup infuriated the Brazilian people. They took to the streets. Their government was squandering money needed for more schools, hospitals, housing, and transportation.

Anger grew, too, with the displacement of residents from favelas (poor, working class communities) to make way for new sports facilities, parking lots, bus routes, and improvements in tourism infrastructure. Families living in those communities for decades were devastated (see video below).

On the Way to the World Cup 2014 – Demolitions & Displacement of Families
(with English subtitles)
12 June 2014

Since falling in love with Brazilian football, I have cheered and agonized while watching my favorite teams play in the last six World Cup games. This year, the great year for Brazil football, is different for me. Football has lost its enchantment.

Guyana: Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry – Session Two

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Retired Major General Norman Mc LeanFormer Army Chief-of-Staff, Retired Major General Norman Mc Lean
Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry – Georgetown – Guyana – June 2014
Photo Credit: Carib News Desk

 

As we have seen in autocratic regimes, past and present, power corrupts. Good men and women become collaborators in and perpetrators of state violence. It takes courage and strength of character to publicly come forward and admit one’s guilt and to ask for forgiveness.

Joseph Hamilton – a former leader of the House of Israel and member of the People’s National Congress (PNC), the ruling political party at the time of Walter Rodney’s assassination – did just that.

During the second session of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry, held in Georgetown, Guyana, the first week in June 2014, Joseph Hamilton turned whistleblower. Over the last thirty-four years, his burden of guilt had become unbearable. Continue reading

“Under the Tamarind Tree” Shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize 2014

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Bestselling Author Neil GaimanBestselling author Neil Gaiman
Among judges of Dundee International Book Prize 2014
Photo Credit: BBC News

 

At last, a window has opened for my yet-to-be-published first novel, Under the Tamarind Tree. After receiving rejection letters from literary agents – of the kind that said, “While your project sounds interesting, I don’t think it is right for my list at this time” – a friend suggested that I should also consider participating in book contests.

In February 2014, I learned about the Dundee International Book Prize through Caribbean journalist and author, Tony Williams. Tony offers informative information for writers through his Caribbean Book Blog. I set to work.

  • What is the Dundee International Book Prize? Check.
  • Who qualifies for entry? Check.
  • How do I submit my novel? Check.
  • When is the deadline for submission? Check.

Continue reading

Father’s Day: Be the Wind of Change

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Wind Moving Clothing by Bannon FuUntitled Painting of Wind Moving Clothing – Watercolor by Bannon Fu
California – USA
Photo Credit: Bannon Fu

Why is it that some paintings grab our attention more than others? This was just a painting of clothes blowing in the wind, similar to the one in the above photo by the same artist. The artist chose female dress wear, of colorful and diverse shapes, as his subject. In a world of washing machines and clothes dryers, it seems a lifetime ago since I hung laundry on a line to dry.

“It’s beautiful,” I told the woman seated at the table in the booth at the Affair of the Arts 2014 held in Culver City during the weekend of June 7 & 8.

She rose to join me, standing in front of the largest painting in the collection on display. “It’s my father’s work,” she said. “It’s all about the wind.” Continue reading

Dengue Fever Threatened My Son’s Life

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Dengue Fever - Aedes Aegypti MosquitoDengue Fever – Aedes Aegypti Mosquito
Photo Credit: WHO/TDR/Stammers

 

When my older son, John, was eighteen years old, he took sick with what I thought was the flu. At the Italbras tannery, my Italian boss had arrived in Brazil for a five-day visit by our largest cut-and-sew client. The day our two visitors arrived, John was bedridden with high fever, headache, and muscle and joint pains. Our over-the-counter medicines for fever and colds only provided temporary relief.

Around ten o’clock, when John called me, I knew that something was wrong. His condition had worsened. After telling my boss that I had to take my son to the hospital, I returned to Fortaleza in a company vehicle. Continue reading

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