Caroline Cooper | Positive vibes from talawa Jamaica | Remark
There are so many things that are good in Jamaica. But we don’t always recognize how many truly exceptional people this country has nurtured. We continue to focus on all the negativity that weighs us down. I certainly won’t repeat our long list of tribulations here. If you want to get your daily dose of bad vibes, read the best stories in the newspapers and listen to the evening news.
I’m only talking about two of the amazing Jamaicans who put us on the map. My scripture text is from Bob Marley’s Sermon on the Rock, positive vibes:
“If you break down and argue every day
You sing prayers to the demons, I say
Why not help each other along the way?
It’s much easier”
Georgia Crawford-Williams, a consulting sociologist and talk show host, is one of the most remarkable Jamaicans who make life so much easier. She had the brilliant idea of LifeSavers Wipes, an instant glucometer. To develop the product, she collaborated with Dr. Peter Nelson, lecturer in chemistry at the University of the West Indies, Mona, and Shannon DaCosta, chemical engineer. The team’s brilliant wipes just won the IDEA Short-Life Product Achievement Award for the nonwovens and technical fabrics industry, from a global field of over 150 entrants, including giants like Johnson & Johnson!
In a heartwarming video, Georgia thanks those who have supported her, including the most valuable player, her husband, Emil Williams. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PuR9G9sJko&t=74s
She also expresses her concern about the succession: “I am afraid that when young people hear wi seh wi lickle but wi talawa, they do not understand what we mean. All of my product was developed in Jamaica. My scientists were trained, born and raised in Jamaica and they are simply brilliant.
“As far as funding goes, the funding came from my family and friends. And I tell you, scientific research is never cheap. But my grandmother, she had 11 children and we were poor people. Dirt road, no water, no light! And I call everyone and I beg. Yeah? I remember when it was that I started; it was in the middle of COVID-19 and my brother, who sells to hotels, im deh pon im face. An im seh, ‘Georgia, mi a go sell two goat.’ My mother is a retired teacher. Outa his pension, shi gi mi a ting. Every sister I have, Kerry, Sheryl, Evelyn, gives me pleasure. My nephew [Rushaud]who is a university student, apart from part time money im gi wi a ting.
Georgia easily transitioned from English to Jamaican speaking from her heart about her roots, the help she received from family and friends, and what it means to be a Talawa Jamaican. I asked her what language she designed the LifeSavers wipes in. Without hesitation, she said it was the language of the alley. She told me that she remembered vividly that we had to help each other along the way.
Georgia’s mother, Lena Braham-Crawford, took one of her neighbors who was going blind from diabetes to the FISH medical clinic. This is another good news. The Foundation For International Self Help Development Limited is a non-profit organization established in 1985 by Professor Louis Grant, a microbiologist and pathologist at the University of the West Indies, Mona. He wanted to provide affordable medical, dental and optical care. Approximately 18,000 patients from across the island are treated at the clinic each year.
When the FISH doctor examined his patient, she screamed with white water in her eyes. Blindness could have been so easily avoided if early testing for diabetes had been done. When Georgia heard the diagnosis, her immediate response was, “No, man, it’s true!” She wanted to fix things and she certainly did. Enjoying her success, Georgia says: “Ah, I feel like Usain Bolt. Just without the money. The next step is to commercialize the product in global markets. Georgia knows the money will definitely come.
SMALL BUT DANGEROUS
The other Jamaican talawa is Ian Gooding who just won the Best Animated Feature Oscar for the film Encanto. He and Lorelay Bové also won the Art Directors Guild Animated Feature Award for Encanto . Jeffrey Cobham, former managing director of National Commercial Bank Jamaica Ltd, told me a familiar story about Ian’s father:
“Ken worked for the National Commercial Bank, and he often sat in my office telling me how worried he was because Ian spent all his time drawing. Ken was worried that Ian would have to depend on his brother, a mathematician , to survive! Ken had nothing to fear, as his son’s successful career proved. Many Jamaican parents still don’t understand that working in the creative industries is a viable option. They are hooked on conventional professions like law, medicine and engineering.
Ian claims his destiny, despite his father’s reluctance. After Campion College, he earned a degree in Motion Graphics and Character Animation at the California Institute of the Arts. In 1990, while still a student, he began working with Walt Disney Animation Studios. He had co-directed and produced a short film, Governess, who opened the door. He didn’t look back.
Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy defines the word talawa in his book talk about jamaica, first published in 1961. It “seems to have the basic meaning of strong, hard but goes beyond the physical to mean dangerous, even bad, or if applied to a woman, immoral”. I guess it’s the fear of female power that makes female wickedness unacceptable. But this is another story.
Cassidy notes that “’Me lickle but me talawa’ can mean any of these things: Don’t underestimate me; I may be small but I am dangerous! The powerful creative energy of many Jamaicans can so easily become a destructive force. Instead of chanting prayers to demons, Talawa Jamaicans must affirm the positive vibrations of our dominant presence on the world stage.