Protecting the future of Caribbean women from domestic violence: Chinese community policing-maybe?

By R,D, Miller

Early January, I signed up with several Caribbean island’s online news, and within days according to the reports six women were murdered across the region. From Trinidad and Tobago; Jezelle Phillips, Gabriella Dunbarry, and Pollyan Chunlesingh.

From Jamaica,  Neville Sinclair’s after she tried to escape a toxic relationship, Shantel in McMaster in a Supermarket by her lover,  Suzanne Easy, killed by defense force corporal Doran McKenzie. He later took his life. Sadly, before you complete reading this article, there will be other victims elsewhere in the region.

Given these killings, and previous ones earlier, I began to ask myself; are Caribbean women at an extinction not by shark attacks, a boat accident, or aging; but by the hands of their domestic partners.

Each year, millions of women are emotionally, physically, sexually, or economically abused or killed by someone they know and love; a husband or partner. Their stories are more than politicians arriving at a crime scene, taking a few pictures with a victim, posting it on social media with little or no resources to follow. It does not stop broken bones, third-degree burns, lacerations, disfiguring scar and ultimately death. These issues should be a galvanizing moment to change course.

This trend seems to be on a trajectory like some ethnic, cultural, and religious cleansing from geopolitical conflicts where perpetrators normally target the vulnerability of women that include rape and exploitation, and murder if they do not comply with orders.

Throughout many Caribbean islands, domestic violence remains a taboo. It has a long history of woven intolerable male chauvinistic (macho) status. From street harassment and how these women are seen, unwanted advances; few will admit that there is a problem. Victims frequently remain in the shadow from being revictimized, humiliated, feeling guilty, and little support even for the perpetrators.

Acknowledging this problem is important, such as the perpetrators taking responsibility, to be rehabilitated. The victim story sometimes is politicized, deflected or simply little condemnation to not disturb the tourist ships from docking, and keeping hotels at capacity.

Accusing the victim is minimization; that men kill from mistrust, poor judgment, and she should stop talking back, and how much they spent on her is failing to recognize that this is an epidemic intertwined in a philosophy adopted from generations who have witnessed these behaviors. Furthermore, she should run, but where is she going to hide with a system that has holes, and a light saying come get me. It is always what she must have done, and not what should have happened.

More than three million children witness domestic violence in their homes every year. Some grew up believing that it is okay because moms stayed; lack of effective responses; more accountability by law enforcement and judiciary; coupled with poor training by responders to handle these cases, and resources for victims.

This uptick in violence against women’s critical examination as to the root cause supported by policies to offer more protection for women.  Despite laws and women’s rights dated back to the 1950’s in places such as The Bahamas, and other islands out of the women’s suffrage movements led by Dr Doris Johnson. However, these laws seem only on paper.

More dialog is important and not just when one is murdered. The idea of what happened at home stays at home cannot be solved with a call to dear pastor, or few likes on social media while perpetrators seldom held accountable.

Poverty, inequality, and polarization make resources difficult to suitable comprehensive family counseling, or personal and victim services such as shelters, throughout many Latin American and Caribbean communities according to the experts. Group intervention tends to stay in the shadow, lacks proper staffing, often closed shortly afterward, and offenders often need the cooperation of law enforcement to make sure they attend treatment programs.

Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at a higher rate. This violence creates a pattern of psychological and overcoming this traumatic experience has long-term critical consequences.

One woman is killed by a spouse, ex-spouse, or some dating partner every 14 hours. And every 20 minutes an intimate partner abuse someone. Domestic violence accounted for about 19 percent of the total burden of healthcare for women age 15-44 according to experts on domestic violence.

Victims continue to use the health care system more than others do, and for several years after. On average; less than ten percent of men are killed by their female partners, while over 80 percent of females are killed by males.

Numerous leaders seem to have selective amnesia to this issue and criminal violence from robberies to ongoing missing children caught up in the complexity between policing, politics, and the community; a revolving door that seems to be doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Consequently, I began to hypothesize given the Chinese influence on these shores, should the Chinese take-over, high crime islands to save women from domestic violence killings, and other criminal cases?

Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, China stabilized over 60 million in one weakened to quarantined this virus according to reports. What if law enforcement took the same approach to protect women against violence and other risk factors that often escalated into violence?

This approach is delicate surrounding these nations’ politics and the constitution is considered. China dutifully has its own human rights issues as scholars have noted, but perhaps importing attitude and values as it seems everything else has already been imported may work fine.

These island does not have significant barriers interwove to cultural tradition, so forcing the island to learn Mandarin as it has done the Uyghurs, an ethnic minority, should not be a problem.

The social impact will be enormous where a communist totalitarian system may have to split these communities into half to justify penalization. This practice according to scholars “who are their friends, and all the enemies.”  If this were to happen, criminals will face restriction of movements, and that alone is what many victims face in these toxic relationships.

There is a struggle especially in the higher crime islands to differentiate ideology from policies to combat this malevolent that is getting worse. Maybe, this intrusion may upgrade technology and training. Even if it decreases the number of children who have gone missing and later found dead as it rises each day on these shores.

Most importantly, develop better assessments and interventions on psychosexual behavior, mental health, and substance abuse. Often social media only focus on dense areas of crimes while rural area went unnoticed.

Notwithstanding my far-fetch idea, violence against women continues to mask in the shadows in these communities. These victims need your support, and an action plan, after she finds the courage to come forward.

Violence Against Women, Caribbean,  Poverty, Awareness, Treatment, Assaults, Rape

Each year from reggae fests, Soca and Carnivals took over these nations, but beneath the costumes, and rhythms; one love vibes, someone is hurting from irrational decisions by perpetrators, and maybe these events should be placed on hold to highlight this epidemic.

The ongoing up-ward socio-economic mobility of women seems to have become a threat to some males because, she is now independent, confident, more educated, and that threatens old thinking where gender role is defined that she was better suited or relegated to the kitchen.

Speaking about domestic violence, build confidence for the next generation awareness. It can no longer be blamed on culture, where the objectification of women remains normal.

I hope more victims will receive extra support from other women, and Organizations when they come-forward without fear of the economic impact. Violence against women must stay a priority because this issue will not stop through the world as many domestic partners will continue to abuse regardless of the calendar day.

Killing the living for the dead

By R.D. Miller

It takes an extraordinary person to become a funeral director. Whether it be the preparation of the deceased, supporting friends and families to express their last respect, at a church, a funeral parlor, community center, or school during these trying times, this responsibility rests in their hands.

Thirty-nine-year-old Funeral Director Wayne Nash, a local businessman was gunned down, his weapon stolen in December 2019, in a quiet community in Manchester, Jamaica; leaving his community questioning, why people who devoted their lives to caring for the dead is being targeted.

He was gunned down for his licensed firearm, according to local reports, but irrespective of his weapon being taken, his business vehicle was scorched. They were reports of another funeral home burned down in the area while start-ups remain on high alert.

Measures to control this crime epidemic have forced leaders to an uncomfortable space issuing licensed weapons to citizens as a deterrence at an alarming rate, in which some argue that individual safety is important, but what may work for other countries might not be suitable for this region.

Decades ago, few people own a firearm on these shores. Usually, a local business owner, security, and law enforcement officers. Today,  a grocery worker, taxi driver, and food stand vendors are armed. Carrying a weapon has become the norm more than job security, economic development, career plan, or youth deterrence programs.

Recently a local grocery store manager gunned down his lover in a domestic relationship that went bad inside the store he managed. Accountability is also key to getting the community to become more engaged. Social media alone cannot replace good governance. Furthermore, authorities habitually lack the resources, especially in rural areas, where technical skills to solve challenging crimes could use an upgrade.

24-year-old Shantel Whyte (Domestic Violence-Victim)

The major concern still hangs over a history of unresolved cases, from missing children, rape, robberies, and killings, these communities have already seen many cases moved to the ‘cold file’, or the “we are working on it until it is forgotten.”

The conjugated history of misgiving between the police and its people often led to apprehension from coming forward and speaking up. But the community ought not to blame law enforcement alone if they have information and remain silent.

There is a criminogenic risk that must be addressed rather than looking for an opportunity to blame it all on illegal imports of weapons. Changing a psychological deficit where community youth programs, interlace with a comprehensive crime control strategy is critical. Despite a few community initiatives making a difference in some high crime areas, leaders talked about the lack of funding. Others are competing where titles appear to be important than delivering much-needed change.

Authorities are modernizing and engaging the community, adding better data collection, new technology, and training according to reports. However, these changes take time and it must be taken with a top-down approach, without political influence that often leads to high turnover. Not even a local fast food restaurant can be effective with such turnover at the head.

After Nash’s premature death, few maintained it is not random. But quietly, it is believed that fighting over drugs, scamming, and gang affiliation where criminal activities typically fight over turf has now expanded to the funeral home business.

Violence is not a result of who is in power as several expatriates’ concerns are justified; “if even the man who handles the dead is not safe, why come? And if the only people returning are the dead why invest?”

Jane expressed that she is going back to the UK to enjoy her retirement because people’s lives have been reduced to numbers. She felt like she is living in a jungle, kill or be killed.

Delroy Walker, 63, who was stabbed to death in Rio Nuevo Resort in May 2018, and Charlie and Gayle Anderson, 74 and 71, who were killed on June 22, 2018, in Hope Bay according to the Sun news. They were all returning residence. There have been more than 1,600 murders since 2017 in Jamaica.

Dejectedly, some local news outlets tried to compare places like New York City and Chicago death toll for that year. This creates a moral equivalence message that is diminutive to deflect from local delinquencies. In fact, English-speaking Caribbean countries are at or above 30 per 100,000 people. These rates are 6 times US levels and 15-30 times those of most European countries.

The World Bank and the UN have consistently ranked Jamaica and other countries such as Trinidad and Tobago in the top ten nations having the world’s highest homicide rate. This past decade, in Jamaica 2010 to 2019, has seen a reduction in murders to 12,698 from 13,418 in the 2000’s according to Jamaica Information Service. And when it is being celebrated that no one has died in 24 hours during the New Year, 2020, it shows liberation from simply mental anguish, where it affects the psychological and physical well-being of individuals often seen in an active war zone from hopelessness.

Regardless of these numbers, it is still a socio democratic and capitalistic society, and these entrepreneurs capitalized on an opportunity from the death rates with modern medical science that made it easier to revamp an old business model.

History told us that about 4000BC the first embalming of the deaths occurred in Egypt. Funeral business came along the way for centuries from cost to preservation. The medical specialty advancement has made the preservation of the deceased much easier. The funeral business is lucrative where an average package could cost anywhere from USD$2,000.00 to $5,000 on these shores.

Once a monopoly where only the middle and upper class could afford a decent funeral package, they must now compete with a no-name brand that can deliver the same service for much less. The older establishment is now competing with a taxi driver or a policeman who has entered this lucrative business as a side hustle where a corpse can be kept in one’s anywhere.

Today a body can be housed in one of the major funeral homes, but there is a sub-group that is responsible for preparation at another location and burial.

Even using taxis to carry the dead today is not frown upon where the tradition was a hoarse draped with flowers playing sad songs.

Even well-established churches with dedicated burial grounds where if you were baptized there and have attended once in your 75 years you may able to get a free burial spot.

Those no longer exist. Even active members now must pay for internment, but in their defense, historically church membership has declined, as the youth who should have carried on the tradition are far less into religion as most studies have shown. Furthermore, the few structures are left standing in need of considerable repairs, and the funeral has now become a business to fill those gaps.

These new undertakers operate like Amazon, as one location maybe next door to your new condominium, while a startup can deliver a casket in 24 hours, the pallbearers, mourners, live band and pastor in one package. These uncertainties setting up a death contract in these overcast businesses to honor one’s wish after death today seems unwise.

Sadly, a dream home in a prime multi-million residential community can be converted into a funeral home, and some without recourse, must leave, start yours or merged into that business. It reaches a theme where you now have two funeral homes adjacent to each other. Possibly some argue that kickbacks and corruptions by officials ignore zoning laws that resulted in funeral homes popping up like cafes.

All being well, the educational system is more critical today to teach respect for the rule of law, psychological shift and, empowerment, especially for women that will shape the future, reintroduce integrity, security and invigorate these communities plagued by violence.

Conceivably the generation will take on the mantle of the next morticians without fear of being killed, and even provide a free funeral for the one who may have been left by the roadside with a good sendoff.

Are cultural destinations becoming more difficult to reach?

by R.D. Miller

A good reason to travel: Each new year some potential travelers will receive a pre-selected vacation destination whether unsolicited or subscribed.

These global destinations are more than just great beaches, food and music. For many expatriates who have migrated from these places, some may not even be aware that their native land has these global attractions, or some could not afford to visit before migrating for better economic opportunities.

Besides the lure, travelling offers the best opportunity into different cultures that can change misconceptions from the outside. More importantly, a vacation has incredible benefits that enable people to relax, revisit one’s heritage, and re-connect with families.

Undeniable, despite the marketing temptation into these breath-taking places, the appetite to travel are sometimes lessened by means of smart electronic devices that have become a window into these destinations without leaving the comfort of one’s homes.

Although technology has brought us closer to these getaways, society still seems further apart.

The late Anthony Bourdain “Parts Unknown,” a popular television show on CNN has made a significant contribution to his viewers on different food, cultures and sometimes political structures.

Before his travel series, numerous travel-related magazines, or agencies were an avenue into the global world, but these publications and offices have diminished or moved online.

Few copies can be found at one of today’s remaining book stores, or a coffee shop located in a central station stuck between a lifestyle magazine.

Countless times, I have tabbed a travel magazines page on a highlighted destination and drifted on to a beach, mountainside, or danced in a street, but quickly realized that I was only stuck in traffic on public transportation with my head down in a story.

But those most of my tabbed pages next to-go destination list have also become more difficult to reach. It is like a first-class seat that is just a walk by concept to the cabin.

Finally, you have gotten over some fear from few media footages of some geopolitical events, you surrendered and decided on a place and ready to go after finding a reasonable lower budget deal, but suddenly one realizes that the best suitable option especially if it is an international trip is to sit in an airport that can reach upwards of 10-16 hours if you cannot afford an upgrade to a more suitable flight time slot that they suggested is more suitable.

Occasionally one must stay an extra day, get back a few days earlier, and make sure you check carefully because inbound flight may not be returning to the airport where you departed.

Now the fine prints: Sometimes if you found a good deal, you can become dejected having to navigate limited options and restrictions.

Now; let us navigate some of the lowest fare restrictions.

  • There is not enough time between the connecting flights;
  • Pay more to extend your leg for a seat that may not recline limiting the ability to stretch;
  • Seats assigned at check-in;
  • Not eligible for upgrades;
  • No flight changes or refunds;
  • Board in the last group;
  • No, carry on allowed, and one small personal must fit under the seat;
  • Baggage fee’s increase if not checked in from home;
  • Talking to someone at the ticket counter may result in an extra fee;
  • Pay an extra fee per ticket if you would like to change your ticket within 24 hours, and that may result in a (higher ticket price);
  • Price has just increased because 20 other people were watching;
  • You must now convince yourself despite a connecting flight with 1-2 hours, it is a non-stop flight.

A Disconnect: What next? standing option, check your wallet and pocketbooks if it is over five lbs, or an extra fare for being pregnant if the average age for a full-price ticket is now age two.

These destinations can fade immediately from what seems to be a disconnect by some carriers in understanding the budget-stricken customers.

For local tourist boards, it seems they have a small table to negotiate better air and hotel rates to attract more visitors in places like the Caribbean, and other poor and developing countries whose economic viability depends on tourism?

Shareholders’ wealth is important because I own a few airline stocks, but an appearance has emerged that next best-published destinations a must read-only for the wealthy.

Even a treasured trip on some railway destinations as an escape into a scenic view, booking and boarding some of today’s trips have become worse than an airport with similar prices and restrictions.

Today’s algorithm dictates all the rules surrounding one’s travel.

“What happens to grandma?” I thought. Many like her do not have a smart telephone, and still, have her old landline without a caller (Id), but likes to travel.

Ok! Let us Go: After a period of having several travel websites opened, maneuvering online, I visited Morocco from a prior featured destination.

I had a travel magazine tucked at my side making sure what the writer wrote was about to become a reality as my busy life back home was forgotten for those hours. After I landed in Casablanca, I was on a train for about 5.5 hours to Tangier simply to see the country on my blank schedule.

The train stopped in several towns and rural communities, and the people who boarded greeted me with a smile, and curiosity despite the language barrier.

Although my train car could use an upgrade, after an occasionally 30 minutes nap to be awoken by the sound from the train tracks that sounded like a tap dance, the scenery was priceless for the duration of my trip.

Seeing this landscape, and culture upfront could not have been captured on my overpriced smart telephone. After this trip was wrapping up, I realized that flying is like an Amazon economy where only the prime customer rules.

I am not against some reasonable airline fees or taxes, check bag policies. It is important to keep travelers safe, such as the government-imposed September 11 passenger security fee, that supports infrastructure, and other employment that is contributing to the economy.

And this industry is not a charity program, and should be able to make a profit.

USA Today online published 2-7-2019: Southwest Airlines takes in $642 million in other fees and up 13 percent from 2017. This is not a surprise because other reports noted that more people are flying today.

The reality: Few airlines will try to minimize the damage from customers’ feedback and will urge travelers to read all the rules in advance and that is important, but it often comes back to generate more revenues.

People are still looking forward to holiday breaks, or even from a long brutal winter, but gradually putting those images captured into reality has become only a dream for the average vacationers.

Social media platforms cannot replace the human touch. To be sure, this is my experience because what you may have seen from likes or thumb down on social media may not be the true picture.

There are legitimate public safety concerns that remain high in some of these places, but essentially only in person one can feel its true impact like a contact sport of a country’s culture.

For your trip, you must evaluate the risk and diplomatic relations, and other geopolitical issues. After you arrive at your chosen destination, equally important, those local leaders and businesses should continue to make public safety a top priority for everyone.

There are reports of sexual assaults and other violence in some gated resorts. Furthermore, make sure that the local roads are safe getting people to excursions to reduce traffic accidents and fatalities, or simply getting tourists back to their destination on time.

And occasionally; if visitors opt for a local taxi to enjoy a local meal outside these protected zones, charging a significant amount over the average price is not welcoming because these trips are tactically planned to maximize a low budget.

From your next cultural pick, do not worry about travel experts’ airline’s rating because some of the high-ranking carriers do not fly to your low budget destinations.

Simply, put, be safe, keep your mind open, explore and know the local deals in advance and keep traveling.

What Dorian has taught us about The Bahamas and the Caribbean

By D.R. Miller

After hurricane Dorian landed on Abaco Island on September 1, 2019, and a day later in Grand Bahamas as a category five hurricane with winds of up to 215 miles per hour; the damages amounted to about 3.4 billion, at least 70 deaths, and about 14,000 families displaced according to weather experts. Millions watch helplessly, but the tenacity of its people and with the help of other nations, The Bahamas is now rebuilding.

Credit: Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. PHOTO: Christy Delafield/Mercy Corps

After a catastrophic event, there will be questions. However, it leaves an opportunity to learn from mistakes encompassing poor planning to better management of the environment. But irrespective of how this paradise will be rebuilt; some intangibles cannot be fixed with donations, better wall or relocation to higher grounds.

The hidden debris that washed up with hurricane Dorian’s has brought a dark side to surface on this paradise and exposed unresolved issues in the Caribbean. The complexity of classism, racism and the social-stratification still roars like high ties reaching its banks.

Despite the proximity of these islands shared music, customs, skin tone, culture, and food. However, often if migrants arrive from a homemade boat seeking a better life, they are less likely to be welcomed such as others who arriving on a cruise ship.

Recently, a few of us with deep Caribbean roots were baffled from seeing the aftermath and have contributed through established organizations in support. However, a conversation grew on what is the best way to help the already downtrodden. Simply put, after the camera leaves, and the photo-ops are no longer staged, the real work and the reality sets in.

This discussion surrounding migrants, especially Haitians who live on the island, is an undercurrent seldom discussed. They make up about 20 percent of the population in some areas according to reports.

After Dorian, some believed that they were treated less than humans, not worthy of being counted for aid or basic support like food, water or shelter. Numerous Haitians who came ashore in The Bahamas have had their share of catastrophes, from poor governance to crime and natural disasters.

Exodus for a better standard of living carried the risk on the ocean. Some often never make it to The Bahamas, and other Caribbean islands.

Photo Credit: Cheryl Diaz Meyer for NPR

Stories like these seldom receive media attention of an unwelcome mat on the white sands for many neighbors who made it to shore. These stories are like migrants fleeing parts of North Africa to the coast of France, Italy, and Germany,

Often as it appears leaders are struggling as to who is responsible, therefore any potential immigration violation laws enforcement remains an open question.

Beneath the sunshine, broad smiles, and an inviting ocean, if you planned to stay beyond spending your tourist dollars; or not able to fill a financial void locally, it is time to go. In fact, most of these Caribbean islands’ immigration laws; even getting a work permit sometimes are more difficult than in many industrial countries.

Furthermore, being part of the CARICOM community that was built on integration and cooperation among each other, like the European Union where its members can travel, work, and live and study with access to health care. In the Caribbean, this policy appears to only be on paper.

Some migrants’ when they arrive in The Bahamas, and other places in the Caribbean, immediate exclusions have created tension and distrust. They are often relegated, marginalized; coupled with social isolation woven from cynicism and perfectionisms as leaders and many locals are still searching for the right balance.

Amalgamation can be slow where some found themselves in areas known today, as the hood; but in the Caribbean, better known as the shanty towns. This hierarchy of class systems can be just as cruel as racial segregation seen elsewhere.

Indisputable though, the rule of law must be maintained as some argued that when they arrive, there is an uptick of crime. Sure, local leaders have the responsibility to protect his or her country from additional financial burden, and overcrowding for the smaller islands.

The past colonial slave ships once docked on these waters where their ancestors were exploited, whether to produce sugar, coffee, spices, and other agricultural crops, centuries later that connection should have created more acceptance, but the struggle to see themselves as one lingers.

Before Dorian, most of the region from history, came to accept that the ongoing fog of Christopher Columbus since 1492, and later British rule in 1717, to independence in 1973. However, struggles remain to emancipate mentally from that period despite today’s diversity which makes this island and others unique.

I am not a historian on The Bahamas open economy to business investments, robust tourism, strong financial management, politics, immigration policies, competitive ranking, foreign investments, travel, crime rate, corruption index, taxation, or status of women mobility, but these social nets must be addressed.

And today with over 80 percent of blacks who made up The Bahamas island population, there is still a wide gap in the lack of business ownership as if it is the old colonial period. This is not a history paper, and like many other wealthy countries, they have challenges in drug trafficking and illegal immigration according to experts.

These islands after a century of being told what to do, are still going through modernization to find a good balance to reduce the gap between the have’s vs the have-nots. Sure, for those who sit on the sidelines looking in will get push back that it is all good here and you have your own issues.

Yes. I am aware. The Bahamas is still one of the safest places to live, invest and visit in the region, and its leaders are equipped to handle its affairs, but it can only get better when you move all its debris.

Dorian debris is beyond The Bahamas. Various experts have also seen similar patterns of marginalization in parts of Latin America even Brazil.

In Lima, Peru there is a tradition where pallbearers are black and native; some argue that it is simply employment, but others see it as racism, and only those job opportunities are for blacks.

Experts noted that since slavery was abolished in 1854, “Blacks are all but absent from Peru’s business and political elite. They are relegated to sugar cane plantations along the nation’s Pacific coast.” Less than four percent of Peru’s blacks go to college.

Photo Credit: Associated Pres

Sexism and classism is the elephant in the room when it comes to upward mobility for women in the Caribbean; because of centuries of these social issues, it is hard for people to even realize that it is happening.

During my travels further in the regions and elsewhere, I have seen marginalization against other groups, but sometimes disaster is an opportunity to change course.

What’s next: Haitians and other migrants will continue to search for stability in The Bahamas and in another place. The argument that migrants taking native jobs, husbands, wives and even contributing to the uptick in crimes.

How many husbands and wives were taken when natives hire migrants as domestic aides? Economists argued that even in industrial countries, migrants do not take away native jobs. They work jobs where natives will not, and these service jobs are vital to the local economy.

Dorian has uncovered a systematic problem throughout the region born out of social stratification that will not end with donations. Millions have been donated to rebuild The Bahamas. And while few will move to a better location and higher grounds; hate, polarization, and self-interest will remain.

Public safety is vital, and if migrants commit crimes, they ought to be held accountable swiftly.  Socioeconomic divide and isolation as studies have shown may result in a struggle to solve some crimes, if migrants only see public safety officials as part of their problems.

The next hurricane will not consider what group should be counted, but will all be prepared, and have a chance to survive since its wind will not dictate who lives where.

Despite the task ahead, The Bahamas will rise again. More tourists will arrive, but I hope that The Bahamas will use this opportunity to be more inclusive while remaining one of the safest and more attractive places in the region where people want to live and retire.

It still needs your backing and “how may I help you will be back, rather than go back to your country. Tolerance will be the key to success in this new world economy. We all cannot be the same because life would be boring. Let us kill ignorance, narrow-mindedness ubiquitously and embrace each other to grow.”

Commentary: 14-year-old raped, killed and burnt – a troubling new normal in Jamaica

By D.R. Miller

Photo Credit: Latoya Riley, the mother of 14 year-old Yetanya Francis

How do you comfort the mother of young Yetanya Francis, who was raped, murdered and her lifeless body found on August 24, 2018, after simply being out on an errand for her mother?

Her gruesome headline story is not unique to Jamaica; especially untimely deaths of young girls where other parents still search for answers.

What is different today is that social media has taken these victims’ stories globally.

In response to these barbaric atrocities, vigilante justice, which often kills innocent people, does not help, nor does the prime minister’s hug, despite good intention for comfort, or other leaders’ feel-good speeches, which cannot reverse this criminal trend.

Additionally, elected leaders who are in denial are only positioning themselves for the revolving election door in which they once failed while in power, which has only contributed to this normalcy.

What these neighbourhoods need is value, hope and tangible results. Several scholars have noted that fighting crime requires a broad range of technology, leadership, the community and management skills.

Who will be next on these sexual predators’ and mentally sick individuals’ lists?

Students must now deal with the psychological trauma of losing their classmate, while parents are scared to send their daughters to school or a local store.

Sure, some will disagree and point to other places globally. But 13-year-old Aliesha Brown, who went missing and was later found dead on October 2, 2014, is another reminder, along with several heinous crimes since her death.

Being vigilant is now part of the tour guide package as the new normal after reported warnings.

DR Photo-Flying over Jamaica

Jamaica’s ‘cool runnings’ vibes and local smiles have not washed out to the ocean despite the negative headlines. The local corner shops where you can repair a flat tire, to a restaurant pinned up against the mountain selling local authentic Jamaica dishes still welcome everyone.

Even the white sand and turquoise water, as the sun beams through trees, with a cool breeze hitting your face that can make you feel as if you are shedding your skin like a snake to take on a new identity and temporarily forgetting your troubles as if you were at a spa remain intact.

But, these natural occurrences and postcard moments can create fallacies because the danger remains in that snake’s venom despite its new beautiful skin. And psychologists have noted that what seems normal is sometimes not healthy.

How did Jamaica get to this point?

It is a struggle to separate the perception from reality.

Several murders cases are left unsolved I believe from the lack of technical skills and resources or a police force that is stretched too thin to cover these dense areas.

Headlines of murders, rapes, assaults, thefts and robberies cannot be solved by a pledge alone, and/or a few operations when criminals are tipped in advance, leave the area only to return to strike again.

An education system, which is critical to prepare the next generation of leaders and to rebuild the middle-class, has diminished.

Few argue that poverty, corruption, the widening gap between the haves and have-nots, high unemployment and crime rates have created an emotional desensitization and lack of responsiveness after repeated exposure to violence from the constant news.

Furthermore, if, as reported, some who are sworn to serve and protect now find themselves with case numbers from their own criminal activities further erodes trust.

Concern and outrage often seem to be short-lived in a few news cycles.

Even those who are empathetic and would like much-needed change are now convinced that these crime symptoms do not need a doctor because, emotionally, they have become detached.

This is a far cry from Jamaica’s relax-no-problem vibe that often-greeted visitors and returning residents.

The Jamaica Observer reported that, in 2017 alone, over 1,600 people lost their lives. Other reports noted that, since early 2000, over 200 British, American and Canadian expats were murdered, and since the start of 2018 over 500 have lost their lives.

Many believe that violent gangs and the ongoing lottery scam in major cities as reported is still a problem, where expatriates are seen by criminals as soft targets.

What is troubling is what seems to be a disturbing pattern of acceptance of crime, dishonesty and a lack of a moral compass, while several leaders remain silent.

Sure, crime control models have been implemented to eradicate this criminal cancer, but, with these criminal trends, some believe that they have done little to deter easy access to high powered weapons, gangs and other criminal activities.

Dispute are now being settled by whoever has the better weapon, and the normalcy out of fear puts good law enforcement officers at a disadvantage.

I began to wonder if religious institutions, often the beacon to inspire and calm residents in these troubled times, have now aligned themselves with politicians and criminals, and chosen sides for their own survival.

Jamaica has never lost its boisterous attitude, values, pride, vigour, and tenacity, where communities look forward to the weekend simply to get out to have a good time.

Sadly, many hangout places have become more isolated and indoors due to safety concerns, like the threat of a hurricane.

Yes! I get it; crime, poverty, inequality, and poor socio-economic issues are ubiquitous.

Even recently in The Bahamas, Carlis Blatch, an aide to the governor general, was gunned down while waiting on his son from school according to the Nassau Guardian.

Photo credit: Steve Walker, whose brother Delroy Walker was murdered in Jamaica

Delroy Walker’s death in May 2018 is another remainder of the danger few admit. He was stabbed and killed upon his return to Jamaica to enjoy his retirement from the UK.

He was a champion for the youth, giving back to the community, utilizing his skills and resources through his charitable organization.

This untimely death robbed the youth of a shot of success, those who yearn for a sunbeam that is getting cloudier on these shores.

When youth have no hope, or even lack the resources to chart a vision, crime become more attractive.

Although his killers may have been caught, the criminal enterprises silently devastating these once safe communities are a major threat to a normal life.

Delroy’s death further stymies many charitable barrels of goods slated for the island to help others now under reconsideration by eBay and Amazon, held in a basement or storage centre because of safety concerns.

When honest hard-working and successful people, those who want to help, are now seen as a threat, the region loses and remittances alone cannot solve these systemic issues.

One close friend talked about her container of goods sent home after years of hard work abroad and upon arrival half its contents went missing, with no accountability.

Public service is a noble position where honesty is key. It makes one wonder who is hiring these people, but that too has become normal.

Often it is fear, and connection to those involved, so communities refuses to come forward.

Maybe the pride Jamaica developed from the old colonial rule continues to use minimization, and deflection to balance the lack of accountability and even for survival; therefore, this behaviour has contributed to its normalcy.

Desensitization surrounding these crimes may be a way to disguise the pain.

Today, Jamaica’s main economic driver is tourism, but the youths I have met and on social media do not bet their future on visitors alone. They are tired of photo-ops and want tangible options, and educated leadership that has a vested interest in their future and knowledge of a changing world to lead.

They remain hopeful that the sun will rise again, but these communities must restore their pride, confidence and safety. Because only an individual alone can decide what is normal, or change and fix what is not.

The Chinese are coming, corals reefs are dying. What next, the mountains?

by D.R. Miller

Modernization is important; but should it reiterate a nation of its once colonial rule where only the ruling class and famous get to write the rules.

Several Caribbean islands and African nations have seen an explosion of Chinese businesses over the past decade. These investments may offer a path to better economic growth, but some communities are now skeptical that these inroads are platforms for the dumping of their cheap goods and services to maintain their economy for over a billion people.

Some of these developments offered by investors are like a hanging Pinata. They are attractive to many leaders in these poor and developing countries. And it seems some are eagerly waiting to take a whack.

However, a piñata often leaves trash for someone else to clean up. Furthermore, when poor governance struggles to balance their financial books and move people out of poverty, this frequently leads to forced marriages.

Sadly, when the honeymoon is over, what it will take to maintain this economic marriage to keep the family together?

Recently, Jamaica reported about a $180 million grant from the Chinese for border security and airport operations. Any investments that make the best use of safer communities and enhance travel security should be welcomed. But I wonder when did Jamaica, and China has border issue concerns? Moreover, the region does not have political turmoil from people fleeing their neighboring islands or parishes.

We do understand that economic agreement and technical corporation should benefit all. In fact, new technology and infrastructure have made the flow of goods and services more efficient. But who benefits when the region is now dominated with massive imports?

Is this a “debt trap” diplomacy like others have noted in different places?

This seems like a new conquest of colonization that has not lifted the poor from poverty since it started. Even locally grown products have dwindled to small corners like news racks covered with international news clips while local customs and identity get lost.

Few reports noted that China has also used its financial influence throughout the Caribbean Community through [CARICOM] to expand its influence. Several projects from medical centers to stadiums have been built in Saint Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, and Jamaica with cheap loans.

Unquestionable, these developments have some positive effects, but who are the long-term beneficiaries? This is not a new pattern; especially in Jamaica since more people are talking freely.

Reports have shown that China started its diplomatic engagements in the early 1970s, or what can be called their blueprint. For Jamaica, the voyage started under the former prime minister, P.J. Patterson on a high-level visit in 1998, when Jamaica opened an embassy in Beijing. Later, the Caribbean Economic Trade Cooperation was forged.

In 2005, Jamaica hosted the first China-Caribbean trade fair and this pattern remains, while the people who elected these decision-makers have no say in what is next.

Is this economic investment or exploitation?

Photo Credit: 2012-12-1: Reception Celebrating Establishment of Diplomatic Relations Between China and Jamaica

The lack of transparency, accountability, even corruption, and ignorance often reported has caused frustration for numerous locals. You can’t have an expansion of trade agreement, and only to find your international competitiveness reduced, and no long-term economic gains for the local people to improve their standard of living.

Some argued that when they arrived, they brought their staff, and locals are not employed in any leadership positions to earn a good salary. They may have contributed to today’s lower employment rates as reported, but poverty remains high due to underemployment, low skills job, less employee protection from low wages being offered.

Other concerns are that land areas that should have been designated as historic sites and preserved are either leased or bought by foreign investors.

Soon Mandarin will become the official language of these places. There are also reports that leaders are granting the exploration to mine famous un-touched mountains that play a pivotal role in the environment. Some argued that these new deals amount to personal financial gains, even after they leave office. But the local people must hold them accountable, demand real answers, and not a quick political response in a tweet.

If the coral reef continues to vanish, so does the island. Tropical coral reefs play an important part on our ecosystem on this planet, it contributes to not only clean air but provides a local fisherman the ability to fish and support his family to attracting tourists.

Photo Credit- R Flying over Jamaica

Few businesses on the sea line now must move further inland, due to rising seawater. After it was reported that a few years ago; Jamaica received US $166 million to begin addressing climate change. Who are tracking these projects and few solar systems alone is not the answer?

Today, these coastlines are being torn apart by development causing severe climate issues. And it seems that the failure of leadership to use economic leverage has made it easier for the public land to be sold off.

It seems someone has put out a fire under the ocean. Has anyone analyzed the impact of non-operational mining plants to see what contaminants have washed out to sea from a poor drainage system?

There are also reports of warmer temperatures on these islands. On a recent trip with a few friends and family, we took a glass-bottom boat on a brief tour. Our tour guide tried to convince us that this is the best coral in the area.

We left wondering if he has been to other parts of the Caribbean where it seems more environmentally friendly, and what a healthy coral reef should look like. Many of the coral reefs look like dying plants on land that could use some fresh water. For the 20 minutes ride, only a few small fishes emerged looking as they too want to escape.

Driving on the coastlines can be breathtaking from new developments, but for many locals on a hot day, without entry fees to prime shorelines to cool off, they now must drive for miles too much fewer desirable areas. This once treasured past-time when friends and family looked forward to the weekends to relax on the nearby beaches, several areas have now become an idea for various locals.

One person I spoke with said, “some of these now gated shorelines are local self-inflicted wounds.” He noted, “when it was free, they littered the area with trash and other questionable activities, and no one bothers to clear it”.

The delicate balance is that new development can offer an opportunity for a local artist to support his family, thereby selling hand-crafted souvenirs. While tucked away at a small stand making sales, the culture fades and weakens through erosion and gentrifications. “Imagine prohibiting citizens from a public park,” as one vendor’s legal struggle to keep one of the last free beaches from development

While social media likes may spread awareness, it takes community collaboration to stop the sand from being swept from under their feet. Jamaica is not all about reported reggae music, high crime rate per-capita, marijuana use, and a relaxed attitude.

Several viewers became aware of the hidden stratification quandary on Sunday, November 17, 2014, after CNN aired the late Anthony Bourdain’s Part Unknown.

This episode illustrated a deep tide that has been uprooting the soul of these coastlines, and that this small land with a global image, few are willing to sell its soul. With high unemployment and poverty, low production, the criminal enterprise often thrives as several youths become hopeless.

Economic stagnations that confine up-ward mobility often breeds tension and violence as they fought for equality and survival. Alone the multimillion-dollar coastline, I left wondering how a young police officer will be able to afford a home in some areas they will patrol to protect mega properties.

Analyzing the region’s plight from the outside can be difficult, but who are the investment bankers in disguise? It seems few uses the one-love vibes while quietly threatens the native culture and their environment?

Economic and environmental policies that are geared to enhance the standard of living should not only benefit few but move people in general forward while protecting their environment. As Burning Spear, one of Jamaica’s favorite reggae superstars once said, in a song, “My island don’t sell out.”

Photo credit: Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Commentary: The complexities of rape victims’ cases in the Caribbean

By. R.D. Miller

A sexual assault alarm: Stuck in traffic on a commuter bus one evening heading home from work, I came across an article published on October 2, 2018, by the Detroit Free Press about two women raped in Jamaica at an exclusive hotel by an employee hired few days earlier.

He crawled up a balcony, armed with a handgun; he entered their hotel room and raped them both. These victims fought back, and he was shot in the arm with his own weapon, he was arrested when he sought medical attention at a local hospital who alerted law enforcement.

This sexual predator was once brought in for questioning in other suspected rape cases in another parish by local law enforcement, but managed to escape on foot. This search went cold and was called off like many others before.

It was much easier to join a few on social media on the subject, where some missed the burden women often face from counter attacks by the misinformed about liability or culpability when they have been raped and seek justice.Some argued that it is not a Caribbean problem alone or an isolated incident or misunderstanding.

In fact, this is a form of minimization, shame, guilt and hopelessness to deflect from the negative press, as the Caribbean region continues to struggle to maintain a firm grip sexual violence.

In many rape cases studies have shown, some believe that she must have asked for it, flirting, dressing provocatively or being promiscuous, and was out outside the safety of their homes.

Rape is simply an unlawful sexual activity carried out forcefully against someone’s will regardless of location.

This mentality silences victims from coming forward, and further isolates the seriousness of sexual assault crimes along these beautiful shores that necessitates responsiveness while holding offenders accountable.

The focus, especially in resorts, is simply awareness, adequate services, and a safe space for victims.

Between 25 to 35 percent of women will be raped at some point and many choose not to come forward; especially the younger generation, some studies have shown.

Maybe new welcome packages for all visitors should have an insert on how to handle sexual assaults or suspicion, and unwanted behaviour.

Local managers and human resources must now re-evaluate their hiring policies and practices, although it is difficult to know these predators’ intent

The institutional barriers: This recent global case will not change the island immediately. Despite tough laws that hold offenders accountable on these islands, after sentencing could use an upgrade to reduce the chance of re-offending, and especially in relation to victims’ rights

Many rural courts lack resources even to order an assessment from experts to diagnose to further treat these dangerous offenders.

Concerns about cases held for long periods before trial while some predators are released on bail, free to move like the ocean, only to target victims and re-offend.

Reporting rape or even domestic violence incidents is sometimes not handled in the right way.

Victims often spend several hours at police stations to file an incident, and any chance to collect DNA evidence if equipped quickly diminishes.

Specialized training to handle sensitive cases is still an issue. Some victims’ interviews are conducted in the open. Poorly run and underfunded medical systems tend to lack the skills or authority to guide when one comes forward.

Furthermore, overcoming unrealistic expectation of suspicion because a victim may have had a relationship with the perpetrators.

In an earlier report, it talked about one foreign student on a study abroad program was sexually assaulted and robbed, only to be brought to the airport in her pajamas and covered in dried blood after spending nine hours at a hospital

These victims face a long-term physical and emotional trauma, confusion, anger, suspicion, anxiety, and the negative perception that often follows.

There is still a wide debate between scholars and the role that masculinity and patriarchy play in these communities. Others point to colonialism, in which rape was a common practice of enslaved women carried over.

Although the Atlantic slave trade that brought millions of African slaves to the region remains a dark period and a complicated issue, these islands today are far more educated and not delimited.

Is it an aspect of the cultural music sexualized dance?

These islands obligation: What numbers of rape cases in the region resulted in a conviction, dismissal or unsolved?

Today several women still on these islands or ones who migrated have similar stories, but decided to remain silent.

The Caribbean region and its gated resorts are now at a crossroad to manage complaints promptly and effectively. To solve these issues, requires awareness, training, and accountability.

Law enforcement cannot do it alone, they too lack resources to track and solve these criminal cases.

Sadly, this story will be lost and over half-a-million will arrive again for a vacation on these islands, but it has opened a much-needed awareness and conversation along these shores.

In 2014, another report talked about a woman who was gang raped at the Sandals Resort in The Bahamas, and others sexually assaulted.

Additional reports out of Mexico, where about 170 tourists experienced illness, and blackouts in which offenders used date rape drugs, and tainted alcohol in drinks.

Several reports have noted that over 70 Americans have been sexually assaulted in Jamaica in a seven-year period.

The US embassy also warned of sexual assaults that occurred in residence hotels rooms, casinos, and cruise ships.

The game changer: Today’s “Me-Too Movement” has given victims a platform to come forward and talk about their bad experiences of powerful men who have behaved badly.

And although few men lost their jobs and faced criminal charges; several organizations survived and the culture remains.

Since this incident unfolded in Jamaica, others began to talk about their own past experiences at some of these 5-star hotels.

These stories, for decades, were kept in the dark because they were teenagers, and were scared to ruin their parent’s vacation.

What if these hotels were to be treated like a college campus where posters, and emergency buttons for awareness where studies have shown that almost 28 percent of college students surveyed reported some form of unwanted sexual contact.

There are also other victims of rape and murders from the gay and lesbian community. These cases are up against a high tide because many still see these same sex relationships as a sin.

I am also concerned about the ones who have not come forward, a high-school student, an employee whose life depends on that income, seeing these sexual predators daily in a hostile environment, but staying silent because of fear.

Time for a discussion: Masculinity should not be targeted as rapist. People of African descent have enough burdens simply because of the variation in one’s skin colour.

On the other hand, if as reported Jamaica ranked with Egypt and Morocco as of one of the most dangerous countries for women, selective amnesia by some postings on social media does not help victims.

This issue must be given that same importance not only when it threatens the hotel industry revenue.

Researching sexual assaults is critical. The violence must be recorded and tracked in the community not only for treatment, but also the victim’s safety.

Many predators are hard to detect because they can be some of the nicest and most well-groomed people, and this behaviour cannot be cured by a trip to a few Sunday sermons.

Sexual predators come in all forms: A perverted doctor who is more interested his patients’ underwear than the basic examination or a teacher, who engages and targets a young student’s vulnerability is just as dangerous as one who broke down a window for entry.

See if you can spot the wolf-in sheep clothing.

Men’s sexual violence is a wish to exert power over women, as feminist movements noted. However, these people need treatment and close monitoring to cut the danger they pose to society.

I consider myself one of the unofficial marketing managers who have recommended others to the region for vacation and, when they asked about safety, I was able to say, you will be in a gated area, but today the threats are also within.

When will be the next law enforcement operation to round up sexual predators because they are just a dangerous with their dysfunctional brain as any other high-powered weapon?

We are all affected when other people are hurting.

More men ought to recognize pink in October

By. R.D. Miller

Mens health, Poverty, medical care, cancer awareness, Pink

Our health is more than once a year during October walk, run and wearing pink. It is supporting families who may have lost a loved one, still battling, or survived and to raise more funds for research to find a cure.

When countless gathered from across the globe from all races, cultures and economic status to educate the public through multiple awareness platforms, it is not about women power-grabbing to combat sexual deviance as one friend expressed, but to eliminate a silent killer called, “Breast Cancer, and men get it too.”

Cancer is a personal issue and not a water cooler conversation and consequently, I believe more men must begin to form a bond to educate themselves about their medical problems. And this issue does not need to wait until a famous person comes forward to take note of our bodies.

When the “Me-Too” movement against sexual harassment and assaults gained traction, numerous men lost their powerful positions, some went silent and few were convicted for bad behavior. Although some denied and minimized their actions; what this topic has done, is to create awareness.

But irrespective of the arguments made; “awareness” is key in any society to develop new road maps for a better standard of living.

Some patients even travelled abroad for treatment, but sadly, sometimes the disease has already reached its final stage. Putting the stigma to rest, just because men do not wear a bra or have breasts like women, that does not eliminate men from getting breast cancer.

It is a malignant tumor that starts from cells of the breast according to medical experts. “A malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells that may grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body.” Sadly, by simply replacing “Women” and pink with the word “Men”, especially black men along these shores, other social issues often dominate such as gender equality, unemployment rate, masculinity, tolerance, sexuality or criminal justice topics appears.

I am not a medical doctor, nor do I play one on television, or a celebrity who was diagnosed with this disease to influence a doctor’s visit in the next 24 hours. The medical profession classifies breast cancer symptoms as, “swelling of nipples, discharge, rashes around the nipple and millions of cells and hormones found in boys’ and girls’ during puberty, swelling of the chest area, or lymph nodes under the arms.”

According to the International Journal of Caring Science and other leading oncologic care studies, “males are at lower risk than women for breast cancer, but it remains high, especially for men with a history of testicular disease, and ones with a genetic predisposition, radiation, excessive alcohol use, liver disease, and obesity.”

The complexity of male health in the Caribbean region, and other poor and developing countries can be lost in the warm smile, cool and lay-back vibes that greets visitors and family, but quietly, tackling men breast cancer, and other medical issues remain a taboo woven in social stratification, illiteracy and disparities.

Even a constitutional amendment to mandate a medical check-up would not change some ideology since the colonization period on these islands. Additionally, the socialization process in these male-dominant cultures, showing weakness is far-fetched.

And that belief is a dangerous weapon against one’s health issues, as beneath that tough-guy image, he needs your support. Not many men beyond these shores would openly admit that they relied on Viagra for sexual dysfunction because of self-confidence as important as his influence

This attitude sometimes forces some from visiting even women doctors or to participate in pink or a walk to bring more awareness. Check-Up:   Scholars noted that cancer was seen and considered largely as a “women’s disease which affected their women parts, the breast, and womb”.

Although male breast cancer is very rare, reports have shown that around 350 men diagnosed each year and it is also affecting younger men and not only men between ages 60 and 70. Early detection remains the key and basic examinations can potentially save lives.

American Cancer Society list a few basic questions your doctors should be asking:

  • Do you have breast pain?
  • Do you have a lump?
  • Nipple retraction, or skin changes?

These additional questions need to be asked:

  • How equipped is your doctor?
  • How knowledgeable is your doctor?
  • Where he or she received their training?
  • The success rate of treating this disease or any other?
  • Collaboration with other practitioners?
  • Do you have an external evaluation of your labs?

The International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) has developed standards that many countries have adopted and some of these rural facilities could use closer oversights along these shores in the delivery of competence services.

Revictimization: The failure to recognize professional limitations from having the correct medical equipment to well-trained staff is important. And the idea of upfront payments before one can be admitted must be addressed.

The lack of accountability can discourage others to seek medical attention to build confidence for those who are still in the shadow.

Equally important, an attestation that the correct treatment is being administered should be more important than profit as personal ethics should not conflict with care.

How many patients’ life savings have been depleted by years of medical office visits without the correct answer?

Was its cancer, heart attack, malpractice, diabetes, high blood pressure, or the prescribed medicine that have created an addiction that may have led to the cause of death and not what is recorded on many death certificates.

Misdiagnosis or delayed treatment only creates more questions when one dies. Few people I have spoken with about medical screening argued that distrust and accountability are like the high rate of unsolved crimes from the lack of resources to getting accurate referrals.

“And if some medical emergencies can defy logic due to the long waiting period to be seen or admitted for treatment why bother to show up. ”

These patients often try alternative medicine, not only for breast cancer but other diseases. To stop these medical erosions, it starts with an accurate, and truthful analysis to make sure they have the correct answers.

Sadly, medical treatment and access to proper healthcare remain a wall between the haves vs. the have nots. The lack of social obligation by several elected leaders whose economic agenda in all political parties have failed to confer inadequacies, under-funding of critical facilities only added more burden

The Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) report that blacks have a higher rate of being affected by this disease including other cancers.

It is time that more men pause and take note of their health, form a brotherhood, schedule an appointment with a doctor knowledgeable, and embrace even if today’s check will be done by a woman doctor.

Awareness:  Men’s health, in general, will continue to have challenges navigating socio-economic divide, taboo, disparities distrust and access, and breast cancer is not the only potential medical check should be on your list this year:

Today there several men’s organizations that are supporting men’s fight against breast cancer and other diseases that can provide a platform to engage and not isolate from fear. Despite the barriers they are still few excellent physicians tucked away in these small communities that may be limited due to resources, but they still play an important role.

Let the doctor acknowledge your concerns even if it only creates a psychological intervention until the next exam. Maybe the next Father’s Day gift should be to take a loved one to the doctor.

This October and beyond, I urge people to take a stand for good health: Colon cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, mental disorder, and other illnesses.

Regardless of location, social status, the gender of the physician, we are all linked and cancer does not discriminate. 

Where is Johnny’s doctor? The medical uncertainties for being poor and sick in Jamaica

By R.D. Miller

A balancing act: Medical care is ubiquitous as studies have shown that it is often routed in disparities along racial and ethnic lines. Becoming ill can get extremely dark quickly on these shores.

Poverty remains the main cause in most Caribbean islands, but one’s status woven in ongoing social stratification since colonialism remain a barrier. This is not an indictment on the local medical system, but a light on a dark issue where others do not have a voice.

Jamaica and by extension of the Caribbean have excellent doctors. They have been pivotal in the quality of lives despite an up-hill battle to overcome the challenges in public health.

These doctors are cherished even sometimes more than police officers, local judges, pastors, or politicians. And their signature such as a referral even if their patients cannot read what have been written concerning their health, is accepted

Being a doctor gives them significant rights and responsibility. And with this enormous power, and influence, one must ensure accountability that put patients first.

After Johnny’s funeral, I looked into his mother eyes, and began to ask a few questions.

I am not a medical doctor, nor do I play one on television, but critical analysis is needed for improvement especially in poor rural areas.

It is their responsibility to not only have an up-to date office with the technology to better diagnose symptoms, also a well-trained staff such as an educated pharmacist as studies have shown will improve the safety of medication

What happened to him?

Furthermore, discuss findings with patient and family that includes treatment plan even if it may not work.

They are significant dissimilarities in these medical centers from the lack of resources, and categorically inadequate skilled staff.

And this creates more challenges concerning practice and ethical standard in medicine.

It would be a good practice that physicians, medical examiners, corners offices are all in agreement as to the real cause of one’s death.

Doctors must hold one another to high standards as best practice suggested in the medical profession.

Equally important, adapting to the cultural shift and embracing younger doctors especially females as studies have shown an increase in the number of women entering the medical field.

Now what happen to Johnny?

It is simply not what time he died on a bench waiting for over 8 hours to see a doctor, but what was the actual cause of his death?

This unexplainable death represents a common medical “guessing pattern” that have caused severe financial, emotional, and physical pains for families.

With little-known surrounding this death, the funeral had to be placed on hold because the doctor was away and the body could not be released to be prepared for burial.

The delay continued because only one pathologist serving several parishes in a country with about three million people.

An autopsy can provide critical-clinical finding that the family may use as a history to protect future health.

“Was he vomiting before he arrived?” a question asked.

“Johnny complained about his stomach each time he visited the doctor, and this was about the third time in two years”, the family replied.

There were no follow-up visits, or call to see if the last prescribed medication helped.

Today, the real cause of death still unknown, but the family had to accept what was recorded on the death certificate.

He died from “stomach cancer.”

“If he was not treated for cancer, what led to this conclusion?

Where is his doctor to ask follow-up questions, and to validate his medical records?

How do you asked for an investigation when you cannot even afford the basic prescriptions?

These final conclusions are simply “poor prognosis”

Decision fatigue cannot answer thousands of dollars spent on recommended tests, prescriptions, and more test-to-test to the result of that previous test, funded by family members abroad.

Johnny’s story is not unique, because there are other families who return to check up on loves admitted for treatment, and only to be sent to a morgue after they have been searching for hours.

Accountability

More pathologists are needed and even second opinion would have built confidence and credibility.

There are local doctors providing critical education and healthcare tucked away in a plaza, but more collaboration and oversights is needed. Even sending patients off with a letter often led to unwanted additional financial burden.

If some community doctors do not specialize in certain area of medicine, there needs to be referrals rather than ordering more test that amount to financial gains.

These failures are simply a lack of humans’ rights, patient welfare, and social responsibility as many scholars have noted for a good medical system.

What would Johnny’s file have shown: Did they only saw his mental illness and used that to dictate the level of attention.

Did anyone know that he was once a public servant, a police officer.

Was he prescribed the right pain killers, or was it based on the ability to pay?

And if prescriptions being written may have kickbacks to pharmaceutical companies, who is there to monitor inappropriate use. Often prescribed painkillers as studies have shown has led to addiction and not cure for the actual symptoms.

Many government health-centres seems to only have limited resources for vulnerable groups. After Johnny was first treated and sent home no one really knows what happen.

Without any medical insurance, certain status in life, and if society deemed one as a (mad -man) someone with a mental illness, that can create additional barriers.

The value some place on human lives; especially the poor people many sick individuals put off seeing a doctor, and do not get required test.

Failure to engender community trust

Johnny could not receive blood, until someone from the family or anyone else gave in advance. This concept is like an eye for an eye, and you are out of luck if no one stand in for your well-being

One argues that people seldom give blood as a volunteer, or become an organ donor and only for a price while others see it as a taboo routed in distrust of the medical system. I get it! that the medical practice must implement some rules to have reserves for others

Cultural belief and stigma also remain an issue for some; where an erectile dysfunction, chronic chest pain, or an unusual lump on one’s body can be cured from homemade drink, or alternative medicine.

There is still skepticism of government funded medication or contribution from international health organizations. To some it is an experimental drug even as it helps to minimize medical risks.

Medical education is critical and its starts in the school system

Where are the political leaders, and minister of health?

Many have seen promises of better overall health care during an election season, but after it appears nothing has changed.

Yes, people die in America, Canada, Cuba, and England as some argues that they have long waiting period and a better medical system.

However, the chance of a person dying on a bench waiting on a doctor for 8 hours is thin. No one also expect countries such as; Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad, Bahamas, Dominica Republic to name a few with economic struggles to operate on the same level in some key areas.

But what this death represent is access to better health care between the haves and the have nots. Doctors and nurses are still making a difference and over worked and maybe underpaid.

Many of whom studied abroad and returned, but the “Brain Drain” effect ‘including nurses continues to play a major role in the emigration of these highly-skilled professionals.

Even well-off politicians who have died in the U.S. Canada or England while seeking treatment.

If they invested and trusted their own local medical system often promoted for votes, why would they leave for care when they become sick?

Empathy

Regardless of one’s socio-economic background, mental issues, or pre-existing conditions, all should be given the same medical attention such as a local popular sporting event.

A first-class image with embryonic operation to address medical emergencies in an ever-widen economic inequality gap is problematic.

Far too often a funeral band played, food served, but after everyone leaves, families still wants closure.

It seems many communities are becoming immune to these issues.

October is designated as domestic violence awareness month, did you know?

By. DR Miller

Beyond October: It was conceived out of a day of unity led by the National Collation Against Domestic Violence in October 1981 with purple as the official color.

For several years I have participated in three miles walk/run in support of victims of domestic violence with members of the law enforcement community, advocates, treatment providers and other support groups.

During this annual walk I often think about the Caribbean migrant community.

Domestic violence tends to mask in the shadows in this community.

This walk comes at a time when some will be focusing on the raking falling leaves, or checking their windows and roofs in anticipation for winter in the northern region. And for those in the tropical climate, it is life as usual.

The fact is, inside this concentric Caribbean community and few other cultures, domestic violence remains a taboo subject and where not all victims know where to go for help even for the perpetrators.

Violence against women must stay a priority: This issue will not stop through the world as many domestic panthers will continue to abuse.

These cultural colors often emerge in the summer for celebrations, dancing to the latest soca, reggae and Latin rhythms; beneath the costumes, one love vibes, someone is hurting from irrational decisions by perpetrators.

There are plenty of definitions of domestic violence regardless of the type of relationship. It is not about a single fight. If it feels wrong, it is… It is never the victim’s fault:

  • Forced sexual activities
  • Intimation, isolation
  • Economic manipulation
  • Deprivation such as medical

Looking back at the HIV/AIDS epidemic and although medical advance made it a manageable disease, it was through awareness that reduced the stigma in this community.

I have also written that these cultural celebrations should be a place to highlight domestic violence or even homophobia

No! You do not have to be member of the LBGQ community or a victim to speak up and support these groups.

The struggle: Scholars have noted that Caribbean masculinity is tied to Europe colonization from the 17th through the 19th centuries, and where slavery’s dark period cannot be ignored and dehumanization of black women who were relegated to the kitchen.

The challenge is that some perpetrators carry that 16th century mentality that still sees women role in society as property; and their roles are in the kitchen and bearer of their children.

These scars still that linger are a correlation between a societal view of some women that often leads to inequality and inequity as research has shown.

However, it is not an excuse how some women are being treated today.

Even their upward mobility to leadership roles, inspiring the next generation, sadly, it seems for some, admitting to being a victim could cut their power and status.

Gender-stereotype, masculinity and sexuality hinder self-observation; especially for women who pathologize their community by judging herself and, this mentality creates more victims in fear of seeking legal, medical, and even psychological help.

Victims can also themselves in similar relationships with little or no support after migration.

Coupled with xenophobia some face and social stratification, these complexities along socio-economic and cultural identifiers causes more isolation.

Many in academia have noted that, even when treatment programs are available, the dropout rates remain high and victims often use cultural reasons as an excuse.

The lack of resources, choked off by poverty, sometimes can be difficult to fit comprehensive family, or personal and victim service program throughout many Latin American and Caribbean communities.

Groups intervention tends to stay in the shadow, lacks proper staffing, often closed shortly afterwards, and offenders often need the cooperation of law enforcement to make sure they attend treatment programs.

Whether the US, Canada, or the UK; or a gay person who lives under a bridge in Caribbean, being victimized should not make a difference: It hurts anywhere.

Decades after the movements, new generation movements from these once alienated migrant communities have stepped up globally, speaking out and forming support groups

The other color: Domestic violence also takes place same-sex relationships.

Men are victims of nearly three million physical assaults in the USA alone each year

Violence and death inside the LGBTQ community has increased since 2010 and the Caribbean continues today from ignorance, and taboo; even by straight perpetrators who may have their own struggles with homosexual tendencies, as studies have shown.

In Jamaica, the “buggery law” dated back to colonial rule that prohibits same sex marriage and, with few advocates, today throughout Caribbean support for same sex intimate relationships is still a high tide.

Many of these laws throughout the Caribbean and other regions are outdated, and need to be more current to protect victims.

As some groups are becoming more accepting, and paving the way for support, hostility remains in some social, religious, and political groups that still see lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender relationships as a sin and morally wrong.

This identity makes it rather difficult for a victim in this community to seek and get help in an abusive relationship.

Substantially, it is what I see as a condemnation where masculinity and femininity are defined and thus has reduced objectivity in the rule of law and, without basic rights, one becomes powerless.

No one is immune from violence.

These communities should move from only seeing the symptoms and not the cause. The church is important, but dear pastor alone cannot solve these issues

First responders are key to the survival of these victims: not acting due to the lack of a physical scar is problematic.

Few Data: According to the National Collation Against Domestic Violence, in America, one woman is killed by a spouse, ex-spouse, or some dating partner every 14 hours.

And every 20 minutes an intimate partner abuses someone.

Several academic international journals have noted that domestic violence accounted for about 19 percent of the total burden of healthcare for women age 15-44.

Youth and young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 years old are 2.41 times as likely to experience physical violence

Victim continues to use the health care system more than others do, and for several years after, the violence has stopped.

More than three million children witness domestic violence in their homes every year. Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at a higher rate.

There is a strong link to domestic violence, and child exploitation trafficking and where some are forced into marriages and the UN further reported that about 15 million young girls are victims yearly.

This violence creates a pattern of psychological and overcoming this traumatic experience has long-term critical consequences.

Has this community enough specially to highlight this issue remains an open question?

Finally, see you at the next walk or run in purple, or even standing under a banner for victims’ rights, because searching for survival, and a balance their community.