Being a Jamaican national, but growing up in the United States, I always felt out of place. Whenever we went back home to Jamaica, my family members would say that I chat like a Yankee (spoke like an American) and was a fake Yaude… In America, especially the West Side of Las Vegas (the hood), where back in the 80’s there were very few West Indian people. My friends and their parents, would shun almost everything about my heritage. From the food we ate, the way that we spoke, to the way I could wind my hips when I danced. The constant ridicule made me embarrassed of my roots, my upbringings. It made me hate it whenever my Mother would blast the Calypso music from the floor model stereo in our living room and my step father would stand in the door way dancing for our neighbors. I began hating who I was and practiced to speak American and tried to become someone that I was not. I felt like no one understood me except my best friend Steeve Washington. He embraced my culture with open arms, and would come over and dance and learned how to chat Jamaican Patois, a dialect that is also known as Jamaican Creole by linguists. (It is an English-based creole language with West African and Spanish influences.)
It wasn’t until the movie How Stella Got Her Groove Back in the 90’s, which was depicted from the book by Terry McMillian that being from Jamaica finally became cool. This is when dancehall singers like Patra, Shabba, and Spragga Benz became popular. Now all my friends and American born cousins, were asking me to teach them how to dance like that.
Then in 1997, when my all-time favorite independent Jamaican film Dancehall Queen came out, my love and respect for my country grew even more. This movie told a story of a struggling single mother, who worked as a street vendor while trying to raise her two daughters. She had a man that offered her household money, in exchange he wanted her teenage daughter, a neighborhood thug that was after her brother, and the most important issue, her lack of money.
This is when she decided to take matters into her own hands and create this dancing celebrity that competed for cash prizes and became the dance hall queen. This movie made me become fascinated with the story of real dance hall queens, and I began researching them. I never knew that 15 years later, I would be writing a story inspired by them and their everyday struggles and journeys.
So in 2013 I began writing my story of the dance hall queen, but kept getting stuck. It didn’t seem authentic to me. Yes I was born on this island, but I was raised in America. So I changed the story up some. I decided to write the story from the perception of my oldest daughter Destani’s biggest fear. That one day immigration was going to snatch me up, and deport me back to Jamaica. Even adding that element to the story, it still felt like it was missing something, so I again, I put the book to the side.
It wasn’t until July of 2013 when I heard the story of Dwayne Jones, a homeless transgender 16 year old boy that was murdered on the streets of Montego Bay during an Anti-LGBT attack. Not only was this child murdered, for wearing female clothing, but he beaten, stabbed, shot, and run over by a car. When I heard of this story, I was not only horrified, because this baby was the same age as my child, but it baffled me that no one was charged for his arrest because Jamaica is one of the 70 out of 195 countries in the world that still honors the buggery law. This law, also known as the sodomy law which outlaws “unnatural” and immoral sex which includes: anal, oral, and bestiality.
So I added this component in the book as well. Now that I told you where I came up with the concept of this book, I want you to understand one thing. Yes there are many social issues in this book from deportation, LGBT, and being a dancehall queen, but I the main objective that I want you as the reader to get from this book is to not judge. You may not agree with one’s lifestyle, their background, their belief system, or who they want to be intimate with, but it is not for you to agree. If we all agreed on everything, we would not be human species that God put us on this earth to be. So with that being said, I hope that you enjoy this book. After all the time that I have spent on it, I can honestly say, it has grown to be one of the best books that I have written. Sit back and enjoy!
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4 Days of international music, food, sports, shopping & more Chicago Marriott @Medical District/UIC Official Festival Hotel
CHICAGO (June 12, 2014) – Live international music on three stages, a 3v3 Soccer competition, a food court with an international flavor and a marketplace filled with cultural items are some of what you can expect at the 2014 International Festival of Life. Returning to Union Park for the July 4th weekend, the 4-day festival will showcase the cultures of Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Mexico.
You’ll need a passport for this musical journey. Headlining opening day Thursday, July 3rd, is Latin Mambo king Tito Puente, Jr., the Brazilian carnival sounds of Chicago Samba and the Mexican band, Forever Musical. R&B legends The Manhattans and Reggae Ambassadors Third World featuring A.J. Brown rock it out on the 4th of July. Also on Independence Day, a procession of the independent nations of the Caribbean, Africa, Central and South America, and Mexico promenade in their colors in order of independence. World music reigns on Saturday, July 5th with St. Vincent’s own Calypso star Kevin Lyttle, Haitian artist T-Mickey, Belize puntarama from Supa-G, Israel’s leading World-Reggae band, Zvuloon Dub System, and the music of Ethiopia and Brazil. Closing it out on Sunday, July 6 are Reggae superstars Luciano and Romain Virgo and R&B crooner Glenn Jones. For a complete schedule of performers, go to http://www.festivaloflife.biz.
For the first time, sports will be a part of the family-focused event. There will be a four day 3v3 Soccer tournament with teams competing for the Festival of Life Cup, and a cash prize. Congo drumming, cultural dances, domino games, a hot El Salvadorian swimwear fashion show, talent contests for all ages and more will be featured.
The Festival of Life takes place from 4 to 10 pm Thursday, July 3 and from 12 pm – 10 pm Friday thru Sunday, July 4 -6 in Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph St. in Chicago’s trendy West Loop. Get tickets now at
http://www. martinsinterculture.com/ifol/ifol-tickets.html, or go to http://www.eventbrite.com. Advance tickets are $15/$20 at the gate. $5 children 6-11; free to children under 6. Weekend passes are $55.00. For more information, call 312-427-0266.
Participating sponsors are NBC5 Chicago, The Chicago Park District, American Family Insurance, Bellaforma Wine, A.I.K. Solar, Rogers Park Fruit Market, LaFruteria, Inc, Rasta Love Punch, Republic of Haiti, Bronzecomm.com and CCHHS County Care, African Spectrum, Urban Grind TV, WSRB FM/Soul 106.3 FM, WVON AM and Breezy Radio. The Chicago Marriott @Medical District/UIC is the official hotel of the Festival of Life.
The International Festival of Life is committed to “Bringing Nations Together” and “Living Together as One.” It is dedicated to Health Awareness.
Kensey & Kensey Communications, 773-288-8776, 773-556-3250 (cell), email@example.com