New Beginnings celebrates five-year anniversary with gala

Students at New Beginnings Performing Arts Studio (NBPAS).

Students at New Beginnings Performing Arts Studio (NBPAS) show their talents.

8/31, New Rochelle, NY: Minority and woman-owned New Beginnings Performing Arts Studio (NBPAS) will host its fifth anniversary gala on September 6, 2014 at 3: 00 p.m. The event will take place at the studio, located at 457 Main Street,New Rochelle, New York 10801.

A student at New Beginnings Performing Arts Studio shows some moves.

A student at New Beginnings Performing Arts Studio shows dexterity and physical skill.

The purpose of the anniversary gala is tri-fold: to celebrate five years of operation, to honor those who have contributed to the school, and to raise funds to expand programming. While currently offering a variety of dance, theatre and health opportunities for children as young as four years old to adult, Kyra Johnson, founder and executive director, plans to incorporate other educational and career support opportunities at the site.

Students practice their routine at New Beginnings.

Students practice their routine at the dance studio where various dance techniques are taught.

The mission at NBPAS is to expose children and young adults to life through the arts. This is accomplished by employing artistic educators who have a passion for their gifts, children, and assisting young people gain self-confidence. Members of staff at the facility trained at Alvin Ailey Dance School, the University of California and SUNY Purchase College Conservatory of Dance. They have performed nationally and internationally with artists such as Lazuko Hirayabiyashi (Ballet) and Mary J. Blige. Academic credentials include Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia; Adelphi University in Garden City, New York; Saint John’s University in Queens, New York and Fordham University in the Bronx, New York.

Kyra Johnson, founder and executive director of New Beginnings Performing Arts Studio.

Kyra Johnson, founder and executive director of New Beginnings Performing Arts Studio.

NBPAS offers Tap, African, Afro-Caribbean, Ballet, Modern, Salsa, Zumba, Praise, Tiny Steps, Jazz, Dancing in Pumps, Cuban Fusion, Dance Circuit, Total Body Fitness, and Body-Conditioning classes. Classes are offered Monday through Friday during the evenings and all day on Saturday.

A group of students in various poses at the dance studio.

A group of students in various poses at the dance studio while displaying a range of engaging emotions.

Johnson, who is affectionately called Ms.J, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, with an emphasis on secondary education and Mathematics . After six years of teaching, she pursued a career in acting and dancing. Johnson performed in the film “Step Up 3D” and has toured the USA, Mexico, Canada, Barbados and Trinidad. She is currently a member of Harambee and Seewee Dance Companies. For more information visit

Happy Birthday Michael Jackson!

Michael Jackson would have turned 56 today.

Michael Jackson would have turned 56 today.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Today, August 29, would have been the 56th birthday for the ‘King of Pop’ Michael Joseph Jackson. Jackson died in his bed in his mansion in Los Angeles on June 25, 2009. Some regard Jackson as the greatest entertainer to have ever lived, and his influence continues to be felt in entertainment today. Jackson’s ‘Love Never Felt So Good’ has been a summer anthem this year as a single on the posthumously released album “Xscape”, that features some of Jackson’s previously unreleased recordings with contemporary artists and producers.

Jackson is still on the music charts with his current single Love Never Felt So good.

Jackson is still on the music charts with his current single Love Never Felt So good.

Many also recognize that Jackson’s impact extended beyond the entertainment industry. Jackson earned honors from President Reagan in 1984 for his humanitarian efforts and continued those efforts throughout his life. Millions of fans will forever view Jackson as the best and will continue to celebrate his life. Spike Lee holds an annual celebration of Jackson’s life in Brooklyn that was held on August 26 this year with thousands of fans attending. Today there is a tribute festival in Gary, Indiana, where Jackson and his family grew up. Today we join millions of fans in saying Happy Birthday Michael Jackson.–

NFL’s Roger Goodell makes drastic changes to the personal conduct policy

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell responded to critics of the punishment of Ray Rice by making sweeping changes to the NFL personal conduct policy.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell responded to critics of the punishment of Ray Rice by making sweeping changes to the NFL personal conduct policy.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

On Thursday August 28, Roger Goodell issued a letter to all the teams in the NFL notifying them of sweeping changes to the personal conduct policy. Sharing the mindset that led to the change, Goodell stated, “At times, however, and despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals. We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. … My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right”

An excerpt from the letter, reproduced below states the particulars of the changes:


“Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances.

Our Personal Conduct Policy has long made clear that domestic violence and sexual assault are unacceptable. We clearly must do a better job of addressing these incidents in the NFL. And we will. Earlier today, I sent NFL owners a letter that identified specific actions we will take to improve our response to domestic violence and sexual assault.

Goodell's (r) changes  are a clear indication that the public outcry from the punishment levied against Ray Rice (l) have changed the way he wants to punish players in the future.

Goodell’s (r) changes are a clear indication that the public outcry from the punishment levied against Ray Rice (l) have changed the way he wants to punish players in the future.

Those actions include the following:

• All NFL Personnel will participate in new and enhanced educational programs on domestic violence and sexual assault. We will also increase our outreach to college and youth football programs.

• Families will receive detailed information about available services and resources, both through the club and independent of the club. These resources and services will be available to employees and their families on a confidential basis.

• Violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence and sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to enhanced discipline. A first offense will be subject to a suspension of six weeks without pay. Mitigating circumstances will be considered, and more severe discipline will be imposed if there are aggravating circumstances such as the presence or use of a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child. A second offense will result in banishment from the league; an offender may petition for reinstatement after one year but there is no assurance that the petition will be granted. These disciplinary consequences apply to all NFL personnel.”

Goodell did not hold a press conference to address some potential questions stemming from the drastic changes. The NFL Players Association declined to comment at this time, choosing to reserve judgement until a later date. Some questions that stand out about the policy changes are:

What will be the penalty for NFL personnel who do not play games under this policy change?

Would Ray Rice have received a different penalty under this policy change or will his punishment be amended retroactively to incorporate the new policy?

If the second offense is worthy of a lifetime ban, then why is the first offense 6 games? Why not longer?

These questions and others will likely be posed to commissioner Goodell in the near future.––

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on

USC’s Josh Shaw admits he lied; suspended indefinitely

USC defensive back Josh Shaw is suspended indefinitely after admitting he lied about the cause of his ankle injuries.

USC corner back Josh Shaw is suspended indefinitely after admitting he lied about the cause of his ankle injuries.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Breaking News: University of Southern California (USC) corner back Josh Shaw has been suspended indefinitely from all team activities after admitting that he lied about a story he told the team about injuring his ankles this past weekend. Shaw initially told coaches at USC that he suffered two sprained ankles after jumping over a balcony into pool to save his 7-year old cousin from drowning. Now, Shaw admits he made up the entire story.

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian spoke to reporters Tuesday and said that the school had received several calls questioning the authenticity of Shaw’s story and had been investigating the matter. On Wednesday, Sarkisian issued a statement on the matter:

USC Head Coach Steve Sarkisian issued statements of dismay and encouragement after it became clear that Shaw's initial story about his injuries were untrue.

USC Head Coach Steve Sarkisian issued statements of dismay and encouragement after it became clear that Shaw’s initial story about his injuries were untrue.

“I appreciate that Josh has now admitted that he lied and has apologized. Although this type of behavior is out of character for Josh, it is unacceptable. Honesty and integrity must be at the center of our program. I believe Josh will learn from this. I hope that he will not be defined by this incident, and that the Trojan Family will accept his apology and support him.”

Shortly after USC issued its statement, Shaw’s attorney released his own statement in which Shaw said he injured himself “in a fall.”

“I made up a story about this fall that was untrue,” Shaw said. “I was wrong not to tell the truth. I apologize to USC for this action on my part. My USC coaches, The USC Athletic Department, and especially coach Sarkisian have all been supportive of me during my college career and for that, I am very grateful.” More details of the story will emerge in the near future surrounding the actual details that actually caused Shaw’s injuries.––

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant.

Chicago Sky upset Atlanta Dream; WNBA semifinal matchups set

Elena Della Donne leads the Chicago Sky to the Eastern Conference Finals  with 34 points in game 3.

Elena Della Donne leads the Chicago Sky to the Eastern Conference Finals with 34 points in game 3 on Tuesday, August 26.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

The Chicago Sky overcame a 20-plus point deficit to stun the Eastern Conference favorite Atlanta Dream and eliminate them with an 81 – 80 victory Tuesday night. The Sky will advance to the second round of the playoffs, winning the series 2 – 1, both victories occurring in Atlanta.

Elena Della Donne (l) and Angel McCoughtry (r) both had fantastic performances throughout the 3 game series.

Elena Della Donne (l) and Angel McCoughtry (r) both had fantastic performances throughout the 3 game series.

The star of the game was the Sky’s Elena Della Donne who went off for a playoff career high 34 points, 17 in the fourth quarter, including the game winning shot with 8.2 seconds left in the game. The Sky outscored the Dream 30 – 13 in the final quarter to seal the upset victory. Della Donne shared the credit after the thrilling win stating, “When we were in huddles and I was looking at my teammates, everyone had that look in their eyes like we’re not ready to leave, we’re not ready to go home.”

McCoughtry was able to lead her Dream past the Sky in game 2 but fell just short in game 3.

McCoughtry was able to lead her Dream past the Sky in game 2 but fell just short in game 3.

The Dream’s Angel McCoughtry, who led her team to a game 2 win with 39 points, was only able to muster 17 points in the series finale. McCoughtry’s game winning attempt bounced several times on the rim before eventually clanking off in the end. Dream head coach Michael Cooper characterized game 3 like boxing saying the game was Like a Muhammed Ali – Joe Frazier fight…sometimes your great players can will you to win. Just like in game 2 where Angel [McCoughtry] brought [the victory] to us, Della Donne came in tonight and brought [the victory] to them.”

The loss brings to a close what was a promising beginning for a Dream team that has been close to winning a championship the past few seasons. The emergence of rookie Shoni Schimmel in the WNBA All-Star game seemed to be the peak for the team this season as they look to regroup and build on this season’s progress.

WNBA superstar Tamika Catchings is hoping to lead the Indiana Fever back to the WNBA Finals.

WNBA superstar Tamika Catchings is hoping to lead the Indiana Fever back to the WNBA Finals.

Meanwhile, the Sky advance to the Eastern Conference Finals to take on the Indiana Fever, led by former league MVP Tamika Catchings. The Fever dealt with injuries all season long but finally seem to be healthy. While the Della Donne versus Catchings matchup will be key in the series, the impact the Sky’s Sylvia Fowles on the interior and the Fever’s Briann January on the perimeter will play pivotal roles in the outcome of this best of 3 series.

Diana Taurasi (l) and Brittany Griner (r) hope to lead the Mercury to an upset over the defending champion Minnesota Lynx.

Diana Taurasi (l) and Brittany Griner (r) hope to lead the Mercury to an upset over the defending champion Minnesota Lynx.

The Western conference finals will feature the defending champion Minnesota Lynx and the star-studded Phoenix Mercury. Brittany Griner and Diana Taurasi look to lead the Mercury into Minnesota and upset Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, and company as their best of 3 series begins Friday night.

Maya Moore (l) and Siemone Augustus aim to defend their championship and make a 4th consecutive WNBA Finals.

Maya Moore (l) and Siemone Augustus aim to defend their championship and make a 4th consecutive WNBA Finals.

Of the four teams remaining, the Sky is the only team that has not yet played in the WNBA Finals. The Fever are looking to capture their franchise’s 2nd title (’12). The Mercury are seeking their franchise’s 3rd title (07′ and ’09). The Lynx are also looking to add a 3rd franchise title (’11 and ’13) and make their fourth consecutive Finals appearance. Any WNBA Finals matchup should make for more exciting playoff action.––

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on

New York hosted superb celebration of Jamaica’s 52nd Independence


state ministrer

State Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Arnaldo Brown, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Former Prime Minister Hon. P.J. Patterson and Paulette Willoughby, JICFI chair share a moment at the Jamaica Independence Gala in New York on August 16, 2014.

New York/CMM/August 27, 2014: Jamaicans and friends of Jamaica turned out in huge numbers to the New York Marriot Marquis on Saturday, August 16, to celebrate another year of independence, and 52 never looked so good. It was an evening of elegance, sophistication and sheer class, all bound by the simple yet profound theme: “Honoring Greatness.”

Greatness was plentiful at the event with honorees including the he Skatalites, represented by the band’s only surviving member, Lester Sterling; accomplished actress, singer and humanitarian, Sheryl Lee Ralph; Karl and Faye Rodney of the New York Carib News and by no means least, special guest presenter for the evening, former prime minister, the Honorable Percival J Patterson. In his short but distinct remarks, Former Prime Minister Patterson lauded the Diaspora for its continued civic engagement, making special mention of the newly launched ‘mapping project’ which seeks to identify individuals and document the skill sets spread throughout the Diaspora. He spoke of his belief that it is a Jamaica for all, whether within or outside of her borders.


JICFI chair Paulette Willoughby poses with  honorees Jerome Haynes, son of Jah Jerry Haynes, Karl and Faye Rodney, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Lester Sterling.

Wearing his `special presenter’ hat Mr. Patterson, who managed the Skatalites before his transition from lawyer to politician, had the privilege of presenting Lester Sterling with his award and posthumously to former original members: Don Drummond, (trombone); Lloyd Knibb, (drums); Jerome, “Jah Jerry” Haynes, (guitar); Jackee Mitto, (pianio); Lloyd Brevett, (bass and drum); Tommy McCook, (tenor saxophone); Roland Alfonso, (tenor saxophone) and John ‘Dizzy Moore, (trumpet).

Sterling went on to wow the room with powerful renditions of Freedom Sound the Skatalites’ theme song, Take 5 and Puppa Lick. Backed by Fab 5 and accompanied by Leroy Graham Jr, on tenor sax, it was Ska resplendent and awesome to the ears–a true moment in time. Master of Ceremonies for the evening, Jeff Barnes kept the room buzzing with quips that elicited plenty laughter, enhancing the already pleasant and lively atmosphere in the room.

Other notables in attendance at the gala included Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, NY State Assemblyman N. Nick Perry, State Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, with special responsibility for the Diaspora, Arnaldo Brown; Consul General of Jamaica to New York Mr. Herman G. LaMont, and former NY Council Member, Dr. Una Clarke.

It was an evening of which all Jamaicans would be proud. Patriotism, pride and Jamaican verve waxed a-plenty. The ballroom, bathed fully in the unmistakable colors of the national flag-black, green and gold, shone with energy. Reggae songbird Etana graced the stage, belting out her familiar hits, which turned things up a notch. Fab 5 band, with their usual sparkling set, followed before a short but electric set by DJ Roy and Road International, who kept patrons on their dancing feet into the early morning hours. The Alpha boys Home will benefit from part proceeds of the ball. For more information about this annual event, contact Ms. Andrea Daley at–

Reggae legend Desi Jones dazzles with Skool after success with Chalice

By Carmen Glover


Desi Jones smiles with satisfaction as he plays the drums with an expertise that has earned him industry respect and clout.

The rich, pulsating, vibes emitted by drums fascinated legendary musician Desi Jones from his early childhood years growing up on the beautiful island of Jamaica so his progression from student, to inspiration, to teacher, has been a natural development. Along the way, Jones has toured the globe, treating fans to his flawless command of the drums.

“They used to call me boom boom when I was a child,” Jones recalled, laughing as he described how he energetically demonstrated his interest in the instrument during his formative years. “At age 9, I started playing the drums at the Institute of Jamaica. I used to play the conga drums that you play with your hands but after playing for a while I played with sticks at age 10 or 11.”


Desi Jones

As he was approaching his teenaged years, Jones played with the Salvation Army and other groups, honing his skills. By the time he turned 13 he was playing with Time Dimension, a group that was composed of teenagers ranging in age from 13 to 16. All the time, Jones was perfecting his craft while waiting for his one big moment, which came as unexpectedly as spot shower on a steaming hot day.
“In 1976, I played Carifesta. When the drummer for the Sonny Bradshaw band crashed, Dean Frasier, who was 19 and played the saxophone for the band, told Sonny about me. They hired me and that was my first professional job,” he said. After gaining a wealth of experience, Jones left Sonny Bradshaw in 1980 to join forces with other musicians, forming the group Chalice. The experience, from his recollection, was pivotal in propelling him to new musical heights.

late sonny bradshaw
Late bandleader Sonny Bradshaw gave Desi Jones his first professional gig.

“The group lived on the North coast for three to six months and we practised and practised,” he said. The dedication and discipline paid off in ways that the group members could not have envisioned. Chalice released its first album “Blasted” in 1982 and it was a resounding success, boasting three hits, “Good to be there,” which dominated the charts and was on the lips of the young and old alike, “I Still Love You,” and “I’m Trying.”

The group rode the wave of success brought on by their phenomenal debut album and soon they were the band of choice to back international acts. “Whenever they brought overseas acts like the Manhattans to Jamaica, we opened for them,” Jones said.
Paul Kastick of Groove Galore Records who co-produced The Voice’s Tessaane Chin’s hit “Hideaway” and has been the longtime drummer for Maxi Priest recalled being so impressed by Jones’ stellar skills on “Blasted” that it had him mesmerized with the possibilities that Jones’ skills caused him to contemplate. “Desi Jones revolutionized the music,” he said of Jones’ drumming talents on “Good to be There.”

dean frasier
Exceptional saxophonist Dean Frasier, at age 19, brought Des Jones to the attention of bandleader Sonny Bradshaw, who hired Jones for his first professional appearance.

Jones credits Bradshaw, arranger and producer Peter Ashbourne who enjoyed a long career creating jingles for commercials and Cedrick Brooks of United Africa as his three main teachers regarding the nuances of playing in bands. On the other hand, he lauds Tony Smith of The Mighty Titans, Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, star of the iconic movie “Rockers” and Calvin Mckenzie of Inner Circle as his influences with mastering the drums. Inner Circle is a reggae band that was formed in Jamaica in 1968 with lead singer Jacob Miller. The band broke up when Miller dies but re-formed in 1986 and had the monster hit “Bad Boys” the long-standing theme song for the television show “Cops.”

These days, Jones plays with Chalice “on and off” because the group has scaled back its touring schedule.

“I stopped playing with Chalice in 1988 and formed Skool, a backing band,” Jones explained, of his scaled back interactions with the famous group, which lost its lead singer, Kevin Roper, to cancer in January 2013. But even as his musical repertoire has evolved, Jones has clung to the belief that it is important for experienced talents to pave the way for a new generation in every way possible and provide a template for them.

Desi Jones with Chalice
Desi Jones (second from left), with Chalice, the group with which he had his first taste of success.

“What I try to do is hire a lot of young players for my shows that,’ he said. In an effort to give back to the upcoming musicians, Jones make an effort to share his talents in other venues as well. “At the Edna Manley School of Music I judge contests,” he said. Most significantly, Jones has been a barometer for his son, Joshua Jones, who also attended the Edna Manley School of Music and plays bass for reggae sensation Chronixx, with whom Joshua is currently on tour. Jones has also formed an alliance with Jazz extraordinaire Monty Alexander and base player Glenn Bunning as he expands his musical scope.

“I came back from tour last week in the Netherlands with Luciana and Mutabaruka,” he said, explaining that the tour, Reggae Sundance, featured Alexander and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, because of his preference to “back up the veterans.”
Jones reflected on the last 15 years when the “drum computer thing was the craze until after a while they realized that the live drum is the best thing so now we are getting back to the acoustic sound.”


As his musical journey has come full circle, Jones has seen the transformation across the entertainment landscape.

“When I was on tour recently all of the musicians were students or graduates of the Jamaica School of Music. Everything is live again and it’s only in some genres like hip hop that they use computerized drums,” he said. “Every other genre has gone back to the old style of music. Bob Marley and Peter Tosh music doesn’t get old because of that, the live, acoustic sound that you hear in the songs.”

While Jones feels good that music has come full circle with a greater reliance on live music, he is savvy enough to realize that he has to adapt to a new way of earning as a musician in the new age of free downloads that sabotage musicians’ desire to earn from their craft.

Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace drummer extraordinaire and star of the movie "Rockers."

Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace drumming phenomenon and star of the movie “Rockers,” is one of the entertainers who taught Desi Jones the finer points of mastering the drums.

“The main way to earn money nowadays is from real skills so your talent as a live player is crucial. When you make a record you don’t make money from it. Your record is just to promote you but the money is made from touring so your talent has to be there,” he said. As he examines the changing trends on the musical landscape, Jones offers a few words of advice to fledgling musicians:

“Prepare yourself for your big moment and know your instrument,” he said is the first lesson to learn. It is also important, he said to “play every show you get and do free shows to get exposure.”

Jones is comfortable with the trajectory of his career and splits his time between touring, producing and other projects. “It’s hard to quantify,” he said of the degree to which he does each, but he has worked in various genres including gospel. “I’ve produced quite a few CDs for Carlene Davis, Myrna Hague and others.” As Jones continues to do what he loves, his passion for the music is as unmistakable as his commitment to producing superior music that thrills, entertains and has the power to last a lifetime.–

Club Enlightenment, a beacon of hope for Jamaican students (Part I)

L-R: M Club Enlightenment members Malik Vernon, Christopher Menzies, KayAnn Harrison, Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens, Samara Brown, Social Media Marketing Coordinator of and Kimani Veron.

L-R: Club Enlightenment members Malik Vernon, Christopher Menzies, KayAnn Harrison, Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens, Samara Brown, Social Media Marketing Coordinator for and Kimani Vernon.-Charles Glover Photo.

By Carmen Glover

During the period when he attended the prestigious high school Kingston College, in Kingston, Jamaica, Hector Stevens developed the gift of gab. As he progressed to the University of Technology, known in the 1980s as the College of Arts, Science and Technology, he majored in mechanical engineering while continuing to eagerly discuss ways to improve the circumstances faced by students across the island. It is therefore unsurprising that Stevens has harnessed his diverse interests and corralled them under one broad umbrella with the establishment of Club Enlightenment, an organization designed to provide students with the opportunity to develop a plan of action for their lives.

“The idea for Club Enlightenment ‎was conceived on November 23, 2013 because of my observations at the time that that the youth didn’t know how to think,” Stevens said, musing over the club’s genesis. “The objective for the club was to discover my life purpose in terms of mind, health, body and wealth then share that with students so that they could improve their lives.”  For Stevens, the journey to self-discovery stemmed from past turmoil in his life.


Christopher Menzies received rousing applause after singing two songs for the guests.

“After 19 years working for a company I was fired because different management took over and they wanted to micro-manage me‎. They changed the whole culture and I wasn’t in alignment ” he explained. “After my dismissal I did some soul-searching for two years.” In retrospect, Stevens ‎realized that his period of introspection centered squarely on five specific areas of his life: mind and body, which he addressed through rigorous participation at the gym; reading a lot to develop new tools; Learning to relax because, as he described it, “Over the years I was working 14-hour-days so I decided to get more rest so that I could think clearer;” developing a new way to support his family and establishing a spiritual base.

The two-year hiatus stretched into four years, while friends and family eyed Stevens with mild to intense curiosity and some measure of skepticism as they wondered: What is going on with Hector? But Stevens continued to march to the beat of his own drum, convinced that God was leading him to fulfill his intrinsic purpose in life.

Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens is committed to steering students to a path of discipline and success.

Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens is committed to steering students to a path of discipline and success.

“After four years of self-discovery and self-expression I wanted to impart a new way of thinking on teenagers that I met in a social setting, particularly playing football” said‎ the former college soccer player. But the transition to his role as executive director of Club Enlightenment was not entirely smooth and the students that Stevens wanted to mentor were shrewd. They double-checked what he said and conducted surreptitious stake-out exercises to ensure that his actions matched his words. Once be passed their investigations, a process about which he was blissfully unaware, the students, who fondly refer to Stevens as “Uncle Hector,” approached him to have a series of conversations, from which the framework for Club Enlightenment emerged.

“Most of us are seeking more than the shallowness of life,” said Christopher Menzies, 19, a versatile singer, producer and writer who treated the staff and other guests to stirring musical renditions as a prelude to this interview on Sunday, August 17 in St, Catherine, Jamaica. Kimani Vernon, 20, a chemical engineering major at the University of Technology (UTECH) in Kingston, agreed.”We were searching for something new,” he said. For Kimani’s 17-year-old brother Malik, a computer science major also at UTECH the pull of Club Enlightenment was fueled by a desire to escape a cloud of darkness that had enveloped his psyche. “I wanted a solution. I wanted to wake up and smile,” he said, “Uncle Hector told me to think positive and after a while I became happier.” Kay Ann Harrison, 24, who is interested in writing a book about her life, found Club Enlightenment and clung to it like a weary desert traveler who gets a sip of water to quench her parched lips.

Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens, KayAnn Harrison and Christopher Menzies share their thoughts about the club with staff.

Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens, KayAnn Harrison and Christopher Menzies share their thoughts about the club with staff.

“When I left high school I was isolated. I would stay home alone, no interaction. In my family, I could not speak my mind. I was shut down,” she recalled. And then she discovered the power of the pen. “I began to write poems. With Club Enlightenment, instead of being fearful I came to assess things differently. I’ve learned that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear,” she said, explaining that her defining moment came when she got a job in sales and had to speak persuasively. “I decided to face my fear,” said the former reserved young lady. “These days I wake up and visualize the day that I want to have that day.”

Malik, who experienced clashes with his father in the past, said Club Enlightenment has changed his outlook and impulses. “I thought I was treated unfairly because I questioned everything and I wanted to be accepted.,” Club Enlightenment changed all of that, he said, “Uncle Hector told me to tell my dad that I loved him and listen to him. I have a friend who was in the exact situation but he didn’t want to listen.” Through his involvement with Club Enlightenment, Malik has developed the capacity to communicate his thoughts respectfully and listen to his parents and other adults, even when he disagrees with their perspectives. His older brother Kimani, said he was “on the other side of the spectrum,” from his sibling. “I was a perfectionist and people used to tell me I looked sad. Meeting Uncle Hector helped me smile more,” he said, an intense expression creasing his face. “I realize that my father is going to be himself and that I get most of my personality traits from my mother who is more laid back.”

Musician Christpher Menzies entertained with songs.

Musician Christopher Menzies entertained with songs.

Upon reflection, Menzies realizes that he has come into his own due to his involvement with Club Enlightenment. “My household was dysfunctional and I was trying to get out of that environment. I used to talk to Kimani, who is my neighbor and schoolmate,” he said. “I used to always hear him talk about Uncle Hector and the group. I talked to Uncle Hector and he gave me words of wisdom.” Menzies said that his involvement with Club Enlightenment came “when things took a big turn in my life. I got kicked out of my home but I was determined not to let that deter me from succeeding.” With the help of Club Enlightenment and Kimani, Menzies said things are getting better. “I’m on a journey to become a more positive person,” he said, and his music helps to keep him grounded. “I sing, write and produce,” he said. “I try to record myself to see if I’m getting better. If I get a chance to sing for people, I do it.”

Stevens said that the camaraderie provided by Club Enlightenment’s participants lead to a strong, supportive community that bolsters students’ self-esteem and highlights their innate talents. As the club approaches its first anniversary, Stevens is exploring ideas to expand the programs and services he offers so that current and future students can develop a broader range of skills and expertise. “My aim for Club Enlightenment is to expand in other venues, such as high schools,” he said. Judging from his track record of listening to his heart and depending on it to guide him, Stevens will undoubtedly achieve all his future goals for the club, and

New York’s anti-police brutality march highlights national plight

Marchers voice anger against police brutality.
Marchers voice anger against police brutality.

According to estimates, more than 4,000 demonstrators marched peacefully on Staten Island in New York on Saturday, August 23 to seek justice for victims of police brutality across the nation. The marchers gathered early, many arriving via buses, eager to voice their displeasure against the national scourge of police brutality that disproportionately targets African-American and Latino males, many of whom are unarmed.

Protesters march in Staten Island while police provide security.
Protesters march in Staten Island while police provide security.

Shouting various slogans to honor the memories of specific victims, the marchers expressed themselves in an orderly manner, with the full support of police officers and honorary marshals who kept the crowd controlled. “I can’t breathe,” some yelled, shouting the last words heard being uttered by Eric Garner, the Staten Islander who was killed when police officers subjected him to an illegal chokehold.

Marchers share their anti-police brutality messages in New York on Saturday, August 23.
Marchers share their anti-police brutality messages in New York on Saturday, August 23.

“Hands up, Don’t shoot,” others shouted, in honor of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, whose murder at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri, has roiled the nation for two weeks with Ferguson only returning to a period of calm after the visit and public support from U.S Attorney General Eric Holder, who shared his “humiliation” at being targeted by police in the past due to his skin color.

March against police brutality.
March against police brutality.

The New York march was an important reminder that a united response is required in order to consistently attack police brutality. The date for the march was symbolic as well. Organized by Garner’s family and the Reverend Al. Sharpton, the march occurred exactly 25 years after African-American teenager Yusuf Hawkins was brutally beaten with bats and murdered by a mob of white young adults in Bensonhurst. Despite the time that has elapsed since Hawkins’ murder, black men and boys continue to be unjustly targeted by police officers and other segments of society for harsh treatment, often leading to death. Marching, organizing and coordinating efforts for change are vital tools that must be utilized consistently to address this attack on black life.–

Trinidadian soca artist Bunji Garlin heats up the music scene

Bunji Garlin has been making waves with his new album.

Bunji Garlin has been making waves with his new album.-Photo by Jonathan Mannion.

By Tiffany Mea

Soca artist Bunji Garlin broke ground when his new album, “Differentology” was live streamed on NPR recently. The unwavering, distinctive quality of Bunji Garlin’s soca brand has brought the artist consistent success at carnival in his Trinidad and Tobago birthplace for the past 15 years. With the release of his “Differentology” album on August 12th, a joint venture between RCA Records and the world’s largest Caribbean music label VP Records, Garlin is poised to take soca worldwide. NPR described Garlin’s music in positive terms, stating that it featured “exceedingly danceable beats that fuse the island’s irresistible calypso with EDM and hip-hop, as well as the traditional East Indian bhangra.”

Born Ian Alvarez, Bunji Garlin, also known as the “Viking of Soca” is known for his high-energy stage shows, lyrical confidence and eloquence. The Trinidadian artist and international soca royalty is both a composer and performer of soca and ragga soca. The latter is a blend of soca with dancehall music that he made his own during the start of his career in the late ’90s. He has won the “Ragga Soca Monarch” competition in both 2000 and 2001, the Young King title in 2001, the coveted title of International Soca Monarch in 2002 and then reclaimed this title for three more years. Throughout his career, Garlin has released eight albums independently and two additional albums on VP Records, including Revelation (2002) and Global (2007).


The album’s title track is a testament to Garlin’s universal appeal. Produced by Sheriff Mumbles in 2012, “Differentology” transcended the Caribbean carnival circuit almost a year after it was released in 2012. The song received critical praise across the board such as 2013 Soul Train Award and MTV Iggy Song of the Year. It also got heavy rotation on Urban and Top 40 radio, exposure on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy show and airplay at NBA arenas including Barclays Center and Air Canada Centre as well as NYC’s Golden Gloves Boxing tournament. The Major Lazer remix of the track (also featured on new album) was a catalyst that put the EDM-fused track in front of a new audience.

Many of the album’s hits are imbued with dancehall and hip-hop influences, as celebrated on “Touchless” and “Gi Dem Dey,” both of which are produced by Trinidad’s Klase Gonzales of 1st Klase Productions. Garlin delivers his inimitable Trini-accented flow over the hip-hop track “West Indian Jungle,” produced by Jason Farmer, whose credits include hits with Keyshia Cole, Estelle and Rihanna. He teams up with A$AP Ferg on the Doc & Jes trap remix of his carnival 2014 smash “Truck On D Road.”

“I think a lot of great opportunities for soca to conquer new territories are going to come from this album, so I couldn’t ask for a better situation to be in,” he said of the album. Garlin will perform in New York city on August 29 @ JBL Live at Pier 97 (HOT 97 On Da Reggae Tip), August  31 @ Webster Hall (Five Alarm Blaze) in New York City, NY and September 1 @ Eastern Parkway West Indian Day Parade (Power 105 Truck) in Brooklyn,