Book by John Maxwell
How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalist and Journalists
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A Nation in Disgrace
National Security Minister, Peter Phillips, and his
police chief, Francis Forbes, went to Flankers yesterday
to tell the community sorry for last Saturday’s incident
when two elderly residents ere shot dead by police. —Jamaica
Observer, Wednesday, October 29, 2003
am sorry as Jamaican …I am sorry as the minister
responsible that this incident could have occurred”—Peter
will not beat around the bush…I am sorry … I am sorry
for the pain, the grief and loss you are feeling.—Francis
men, according to the Observer, were applauded for their
acts of contrition.
same community which applauded them told the Observer that
they were afraid of the police. “We are very concerned about
personal safety because we have seen what has happened … We have
the gunmen on the one hand and now we have the police on the other
young reporter I grew up with the police. I played billiards at
the Waterpolice Station, drank rum at police canteens and
knew dozens, if not hundreds of policemen by name.
have friends in the police force but most of those I knew so long
ago are dead or retired. They weren’t dead or retired in
1963 when I was assaulted, beaten up and arrested at a roadblock
early one morning in Constant Spring. Many were still around
when I had an M-16 jammed into my throat one night in 1980 as I
was going home from the JBC with my wife and two small children.
This was another roadblock and I was suspected of nothing. But I
had to bear that gun in my throat for nearly ten minutes,
wondering when the sweating, trembling policeman holding it would
lose his nerve and blow my brains all over my family.
Phillips and Mr. Forbes are sorry. Very, very sorry.
Jamaica is a sorry mess.
whom the bell tolls
men, both younger than I, were shot dead. One of them was
reportedly shot more than 60 times. An old woman was shot and
injured. They had done nothing wrong; they were suspected of
nothing. They were going about their lawful business. No guns
were found on them. No young men were in their car. There was no
excuse, no reason. But they are dead and their relatives and
friends and neighbours mourn.
are told, do Dr Phillips and Mr Forbes.
might they mourn.
we are all complicit. We are all part of this obscene problem.
known for years that the police force – the Jamaica Constabulary
– is out of control. We foster and promote crime by
our lack of compassion, by our refusal to act, by our total
disrespect for the human rights of poor people, We have sneered
and jeered at Jamaicans for Justice and anyone else who attempts
to defend the rule of law and to seek respect for the rights
of poor people.
we have known
known for years that the police force is undisciplined. There are
official reports to prove it. Policemen do not wear uniforms
unless it suits them so we don’t know gunmen from law officers.
not insist on inquests into violent deaths caused by the police;
our governments in fact have explicitly given the police the right
to decide whether there should be inquests so licensing
them to kill. We have known for years that a great many young men
killed in “shootouts” with the police were unarmed and guilty
of nothing except their poverty and friendlessness.
known for years that many of the so-called “crimefighters” are
murderous psychopaths who literally notch up their kills and
compete with each other in compiling the biggest “bag.”
1970s when the rate of police killings was far lower than today, I
suggested that we needed to control the use of deadly force, not
least because the police were killing more people than the
official hangman. One policeman, in the Police Mirror
newspaper, suggested that it was I who deserved hanging.
known that many policemen live way above their police earnings. My
cousin, Karl Cork, who was a barrister, told me of policemen
paying for the defence of people charged with drug trafficking.
police force has resisted every effort to raise the general level
of policing whether by graduate entry schemes or by other means.
The police force has obstructed justice, perverted justice and
denied justice to aggrieved people by all sorts of devices. They
do not turn up in court and are excused by compliant judges; they
lie transparently and their evidence is accepted because it
“won’t do” to diminish confidence in the police.
news for all of you. Nobody to whom I have spoken recently, of
high status or low, has any confidence in the police force. Two
decades back, in 1984 Carl Stone found that 66% – two thirds of
Jamaicans – did not believe that the police respected
in the world
policemen walked the beat and knew their constituents, the rate of
crimes “cleared up” was much higher than today. And today’s
‘cleared up’ rates have included at least one case where a
murder, committed by one man, was cleared up by shooting three
different ‘wanted’ men on three different occasions.
Free Press in May 2000, deplored the fact that the Detroit
Police force was the “deadliest in the United States,” with a
kill rate more than twice as high as New York’s and 50% greater
than Los Angeles, where the police were under severe pressure to
stop killing so many people. The Jamaican police make these guys
look like amateurs.
years ago I wrote: “Press releases from the Police Information
Centre make it clear that those who provide the information to the
PIC don’t really care whether their stories are believed. The
report on the police murder in Kitson Town is a classic. The
police saw men scrapping a car. The men ran when challenged. Some
time later, the police shot up a taxi killing the driver and
wounding his passengers.
are the bare outlines of a story which even the story-tellers must
have considered ridiculous. It is not only that they don’t care
if they are believed; clearly, there are elements of the police
force who know that they can do whatever they want and get away
with it.” (Common Sense, June 18,1999)
that the police force is unreliable. It is unreliable not because
the majority are bad people, but because the toxic minority are
able to depend on an institutional loyalty which coerces good
people into protecting the bad. The result is a kind of
Gresham’s Law of policing. Bad police drive out the good.
suspect, is exact what happened in 1997 when in their ineffable
wisdom, the Prime Minister and the then Minister of National
Security, K.D. Knight, decided to get rid of Commissioner Trevor
Macmillan. MacMillan had been trying to clean up the force
His enemies are still where they want to be, in possession
of unlimited power to murder whoever they want and to get away
with it. When MacMillan was Commissioner of Police it was a
known fact that there were several contracts out on his life, paid
for by policemen.
delinquent police force is not the major security problem.
The most important problem we have is the almost total
incompetence and cowardice of our political leadership. Because
they are afraid to discipline the constabulary, they cannot bring
themselves to bring aid and comfort to those the constabulary
considers its enemies.
World Bank 1999 conference on Development Economics, a World Bank
staffer, Mr. François Bourguignon examined all the relevant
evidence and came to the conclusion that:
increase in the degree of relative poverty or
income inequality in a country generally leads to a rise
in criminality. … through crime and
violence, the social cost of inequality, poverty and
macroeconomic volatility may be large.
Bourguignon quoted a Latin American survey which strongly
. . a 1 percentage point increase in the poor population
will produce an instantaneous 2.5% increase in the
number of homicides.
Jamaican Cabinet has many lawyers with experience in the criminal
courts, among them the Prime Minister himself. The Minister of
National Security has a doctoral degree in sociology and once
edited a UWI Department of Government publication entitled
“Crime & Violence, causes and solutions.” He chaired a
1984 conference on these issues. One contributor was Dr Carl
Stone, whose researches had persuaded him that crime and violence
were basically linked to certain social parameters : increased
urbanisation; increased inequality; increased migration and family
disorganisation; increased unemployment, declining living
standards; the ideology of the ‘sufferer’ and an increased
inflow of guns from the US.
years ago sociologists at the UWI published the results of
surveys in urban slums. The study – Urban Poverty and
Violence in Jamaica – was carried out by the Centre
for Population, Community and Social Change in the UWI's
Department of Sociology. It was written by Horace Levy. I spent a
great deal of time in recommending that we should all try to read
the little monograph. It is still on sale for about $200. The
report is in effect, a self-analysis of the ‘ghetto’ by the
of all, the people want the rest of us to know about their
situation. They want us to know that they are imprisoned
by fear – their movements and their human development
restricted by terror. They are surviving in a state
bordering on civil war, locked behind party lines or
community boundaries, unemployed, unable to raise their
children as they would prefer, at the mercy of cruel men
and powerful forces.
Framed by violence, ordinary social life is impossible.
Unemployment is the norm, children often cannot go to
school. Those who do are often harassed. Baby-fathers are
shot or chased away, so real fathers are rare. Women
depend on men for protection and food, and girls are
thrown on the street by their mothers who compete
with them for the available men. Grandmothers 25 years old
are not unknown. Parenting is a rare skill, beating is the
main teaching method. Boys and girls are penned up in
yards for fear that they will get raped, shot or will join
gangs. The people are angry at the unfairness of it all,
of their presumed guilt by association.
climate of fear is crippling. People are given no warning
– “there is no reasoning” – they are
simply found dead in corners and empty lots.” —Common
our rulers have known for years what is wrong. We know that if the
police could catch one quarter of the murderers there would be
five murder trials going on in every week of the year. We know
that the fear of being caught is the greatest deterrent.
that poverty promotes criminal behaviour. We know that police
indiscipline promotes violent responses from the endangered youth.
We know that we are siphoning our lifeblood away in debt repayment
while our children grow up wild, our families disintegrate.
speaks: “We are very concerned about personal safety because we
have seen what has happened … We have the gunmen on the one hand
and now we have the police on the other hand.”
all that. And yet, we are satisfied when the Minister of National
Security and the Commissioner of Police declare that they are
sorry that a gang of policemen murdered two innocent old men last
struggle is our struggle, for if they come for you in the
morning they will be coming for us at night. —James
Baldwin (in a letter to Angela Davis)
Mrs. Glynn Manley waits to have her books autographed by John
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Life on Mars
By Tracy K. Smith
Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection's "lyric brilliance" and "political impulses [that] never falter." A New York Times review stated, "Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we're alone in the universe; it's to accept—or at least endure—the universe's mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith's pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the book’s first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant." Life on Mars follows Smith's 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet's second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans. The Body’s Question (2003) was her first published collection. Smith said Life on Mars, published by small Minnesota press Graywolf, was inspired in part by her father, who was an engineer on the Hubble space telescope and died in 2008.
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The Last Holiday: A Memoir
By Gil Scott Heron
Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio) / Gil Scott-Heron
& His Music Gil Scott
Heron Blue Collar
Remember Gil Scott- Heron
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The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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Negro Digest /
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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update 21 April 2012