Jean Lowrie-Chin presents a copy of her book Souldance - Poems and Writings to Mrs. Karen Barton, Senior Director, Jamaica Library Service earlier this year. A total of 100 books were handed over - Jean said that she owed a debt of gratitude to the libraries in Savanna-la-mar and Kingston for being oases of knowledge during her childhood.
I am floating in the sea with my eyes closed. I am six years old again, on a school outing. I picture the tiny huts, no hotels, as we pick our way through the bushes to arrive at the pristine beach. Ah, Negril. Nor winding road, nor exhaust snorting truck will keep me from her beaches. Negril is another country without the interminable airport security checks.
I lose myself in nostalgia on my way through Savanna-la-mar. As we drive past Hendon Circle, I am always startled to see the petrol station where our church used to be. Glancing down Great George's Street, I remember the beloved library, the fountain where we posed for many childhood photos, and the little grocery shop where our newly widowed mother had eked out a living. We head to Negril via Lewis Street, looking wistfully at the few tall palms, remnants of the beautiful tree-lined driveway that led to our schoolhouse.
Then it's past Llandilo, Big Bridge and Little London. Big Bridge is where the memories really come flooding back. Still bravely standing, is my grandmother's red-roofed house where we "spent time" during the summer holidays. The land stretched back to the swampy fields near the Cabarita River where my grandparents had farmed rice for nearly 40 years. Their fish pots yielded the best seafood; nothing has ever compared to my grandmother's curried crayfish.
The road grows wider and smoother as we approach the Negril Golf Club, then to the busy town square and onto my favourite road - the Norman Manley Boulevard. Here rustic guest houses sit cheek by jowl with sophisticated hotels and Ossie's Jerk Centre is just a stone's throw from the Gate of Heaven Catholic Church.
We find our favourite spot on the beach, shaded by an almond tree, and gaze at what must be the most magnificent sunset in the world. We talk to a tourist who is ecstatic to be finally in Negril. "This place is so beautiful!" he exults. We have to agree. As I float in the warm sea, the years collapse and I am content to be "a tick of time on God's eternal clock".
As seasoned south coast travelers, we know the best stops on the trip back to Kingston. We buy fresh fish at Belmont, bammies at Whitehouse and pepper shrimps at Middle Quarters. Depending on our appetite, it's either Paradise Patties in Santa Cruz, or curry goat on Spur Tree Hill. No return from the country would be complete without stopping in Porus for fruit to last the week: oranges, bananas, jackfruit, and we pray for starapples and naseberries to be in season.
Holland bamboos bow us through to the open arms of Mandeville's panorama, and Caymanas' sugar cane waves us into Kingston. No wonder Jamaicans seem so self-assured. Like royalty, we are ushered, guarded, fed and protected by those magnificent sentinels of nature; our mountains are our palace walls. No matter where we go, we take our regal landscape with us. It is reflected in Garvey's eloquent leadership, Belafonte's charming defiance, and Marley's liberating lyrics.
Now that I must hand over my footwear in airports and wait for my luggage to be picked through, Negril beckons even more boldly. I am happy to shed my shoes for soft warm sand, rather than the indifferent stares of security officers. We need no visa for the trip to the world of our young lives, no passport for a rite of passage from which we emerge refreshed and re-energised.
Article Published in Pure Class, Sunday Herald Sunday, August 9th, 2009
Timing is everything, and wasn’t I happy to know that I would be in Jamaica by the July 24. What was happening on July 24? The birth of a new book and of course, I had to be there to share the joy.
I am able to keep abreast of all events globally from the advancement of technology and the new phase of Facebook. There it was posted under the events page, “An invitation to join the author Jean Lowrie-Chin for a signing of Souldance. The date was set in stone in my diary.
I arrived the day before wiped out from a long flight and then a series of meetings during the day on Friday - the 90-degree heat wasn’t helping me to move any quicker. But at 6 p.m. I jumped in a cab and headed for 62 Shortwood Road, Kingston 8.
The driver looked at me a little confused. “62 Shortwood … What’s it near?” he asked. “It’s the Stella Maris,” … he interrupts me and his face lit up. “Oh, Stella Maris , why you never say dat before? I used to take the nuns back and forth,” he said with pride and our conversation continues until I arrive there.
The evening was filled with introductions, music, readings and a grand finale with a couple of songs from the balladeer, the great Boris Gardiner. The refreshments were a combination of easy cook fritters and simple ready made rice dishes, juices and other goodies provided by Jean Lowrie-Chin’s clients.
Seduction of Souldance
Timing is everything but when I came home with my precious copy I wanted to read it then and there, but I couldn’t. Over the weekend, I had to prepare myself for a fraud court case. But like a disobedient child I kept peeking into my book and reading some of the poems and the articles.
And although I consider myself a very disciplined person I just had to stop what I was doing, and relax, find a comfortable chair by the window where I could feel the breeze on my face and exhale and absorb the seduction of Souldance.
The book is filled with many poems and a patchwork of articles, which express the fullness of Jean Lowrie-Chin’s life. Both the articles and poems give you a guided tour, step by step like a dance of her life from being one of four growing up with a doting stepfather, to parenthood, to the pride of watching our Jamaican athletics magic in Beijing.
Reading Souldance was sheer bliss. It stirred my soul, and my emotions danced and slipped to the cadence of her poems, which I equally loved - especially Pick-Up Time, which reminded me of when my son was so young and although many of the articles touched my soul the pride of living in Jamaica is expressed with such pride through No Visa Required and The Best of Times in Beijing.
Lowrie-Chin chats with Angela Patterson at the Launch of Souldance last December
Communications guru Jean Lowrie-Chin has launched her maiden collection of writings – Souldance, highlighting in the process, a side of her that is not as well known as her 30-odd years in public relations.
Souldance is a work of literary art that presents a celebration of life so vividly captured even before your begin to turn the pages. For the cover, well known Jamaican artist Viv Logan has provided an awe-inspiring rendition of life in its most innocent depiction yet laced serious social, cultural and religious symbolism. Her work, Cherubs Gone Rasta depicts two dreadlocked children at play sharing ripe berries picked, no doubt, from their lush garden backdrop. These children are perfect icons of the free spirit that produced Souldance and their growing pains, loss of innocence and concern for their changing world are etched in the ensuing dance of words with varying movement and tempo over the work’s 170 pages.
Family is a recurring theme in this first section of the book with works dedicated to her father and to her children, Anita and Noel, to whom Souldance is also dedicated. 'Pick-Up Time', dedicated to her children, like none other, underscores family. Soaring profits, gourmet lunch, important clients and incoming contracts are not enough to interfere with a caring mother’s daily preoccupation with picking up her children. For that and their sublime laughter time freezes.
While the author’s immediate family is brought into focus, there is no doubt that she views her Jamaican society and the big wide world around her as her extended family.
Jean Lowrie-Chin achieves much in Souldance. She philosophizes, dreams, empathizes make social comments, enters the skin and minds of her subjects and urges humanity to take another look at itself through the mirror of time and one’s own actions. In Souldance, Jean Lowrie-Chin has a lot to say and does so beautifully and with power.
In Part II of the work which is subtitled 'Growing Pains', Jean Lowrie-Chin steps boldly into the realm of the reality of personal social experiences. In this section the Cherubs have come of age and whether it is 'Loving Free', 'Goodbye', 'Separate', 'Wedding Vows Revisited', or 'I Want You Back', she delves into the emotions and takes us on the journey that is her life and that of her loved one, husband Hubie.
Much of Souldance is incisive social commentary. The piece 'Yu See Mi' dramatically sums up the class divisions and economic disparities that drive much of the crime and violence in the Jamaican society. But it does more than that. It also explores the psychological dimensions of the problem and urges the show of respect and tangible expression of concern that must be the starting point and main engine of any sustainable solution to the problem.
In keeping with theme of social responsibility that recurs throughout the work, and is summed up in 'God’s Unblinking Eye', all the author’s proceeds from first quarter sales of the publication was donated to the Stella Maris Foundation and Food for the Poor. Driven by a belief that in the absence of sharing none of us, rich or poor, will be able to survive, Jean Lowrie-Chin reminds us that “Our deeds are our unending story.”
If the measures of poetry are the quality of the beauty it evokes and its emotional power, then Souldance fits the bill as being both beautiful and powerful. True to its promise, the poems of Souldance are written mainly in the free verse that is like oxygen to a work of this texture.
The third section of the Souldance – titled 'The Power of Words' – is a collection of her more recent articles and prose writings that continues the dance through (not around) the issues of the day with thoughtful reflection, sharp analysis, relevant commentary and useful recommendations. Of note is the piece, “The Rendezvous of Conquest,” about the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt and President-elect of the USA, Barack Obama, remarkably, written in June 2008 – months before their stunning triumphs and Jamaica’s Beijing experience. (Excerpts from review by Huntley Medley published in the Sunday Gleaner)
Graced by the presence of the renowned philanthropist Hon Sue Cobb, former US Ambassador to Jamaica and retired Secretary of State for Florida, and Hon Sandra Grant-Griffiths, Jamaica's Consul General South Florida, the launch of 'Souldance' went swimmingly!
Big thanks to Senior executives at the South Regional-Broward College Library, Nancy Ansley and Valrie Simpson for their support, Susan James for sepaking so movingly on Food for the Poor's work in the Caribbean, and Christine Craig for publicity.
Huge appreciation to the Florida-Caribbean media reps, colleagues, friends and relatives including my daughter Anita for her management of the books.
Review of Souldance by Tyrone Reid from www.blogcritics.org
The endearing photo of two youthful angels on the cover of Souldance: Poems & Writings (Ian Randle Publishers, 2009), Jean Lowrie-Chin’s astonishing debut collection of her columns, prose and verse, is an excellent indicator of the nature of the book’s content. Touching, sensitive and captivating, Souldance is brimming with universal themes of love, family, community and struggle. The care and quality with which Lowrie-Chin crafts her pieces equally appeals to readers. Souldance captures the work that has flowed from the pen of one of Jamaica’s recognizable public relations professionals and newspaper columnists for nearly 30 years. Lowrie-Chin’s affection and concern for her homeland, the inimitable bond she shares with relatives and her thoughts on life and humanity are showcased through sterling prose and poetry.
Among the standouts that gripped me is “A Dad for All Seasons,” a moving account of the life and legacy of J.E. Lowrie, the author’s accountant father who we are told took his last breath (he died of an arthritic condition) in 1977 while whispering prayers in the company of his darling wife.
While shedding light on a rich family history, the piece also powerfully captured a striking father-daughter bond. “Dad threw himself into the role of father with a gusto that I have rarely seen in biological fathers. Every Saturday was library day, and after we carefully selected our books, we would be taken to the old Oxford Pharmacy for ice-cream. No wonder we all went into communications – he made the written word sweet for us,” Lowrie-Chin writes. Her ‘daddy tribute’ is a perfect companion piece for “My Mother’s Working Love,” a salute to her mother, Maisie Lowrie, now in her eighties.
Meanwhile, selections like “Jamaica: Treasure Island,” “Best of Times in Beijing,” and “A Vision of our Men at Risk” illuminate Lowrie-Chin’s devotion for her island home and her tirelessness in championing our people. Her poetry, written mostly in free verse, is peppered with truisms and her reflections on an existence too many of us take for granted. In “Let’s Fly,” for example, she observes, “One day it hits you/You know the bitter truth/That nothing lasts forever/Especially your youth.”
She’s also not afraid to take a proper look at the woman staring back from the mirror: “Thirty grabbed me round the waist…in thirty’s twirl I found no time for bitterness or regret.” (from “Thirty”) or feel like a girl again, enveloped in the love of her beloved husband, Hubie: “Now the poinciana through the window/ Is beautiful again/And Neil Diamond sounds sexy again/And I can understand a sentence/Without reading it again/I can smile in the dark/You love me…/Again.” (from “Again”).
At a modest 170 pages and split into three sections, Souldance is a valuable and breezy read. My only quibble? The poems could have been interspersed throughout the book instead of packed to the front to make for a more balanced arrangement. But that takes away nothing major from the overall enjoyment of Lowrie-Chin’s writing. As it is, Souldance chronicles the experiences and ideology of a woman, a “breathless messenger” intensely in love with God, family and country.
Father Burchell and Msgr Mike try out the sturdy desk-chair units being offered by Food for the Poor. Jean Lowrie-Chin, fellow Board Member, donated proceeds from the sale of her book 'Souldance' towards purchasing some of the units.
FFTP Chairman Fr Burchell McPherson, Board members Msgr Michael Lewis and Jean Lowrie-Chin, with participants in the readings (l-r) Dwight Richards, Hubie Chin, Etmour Williams, Ruth HoShing, Boris Gardiner and Molly Brown, head of the Stella Maris St. Vincent de Paul Society and Chris McDonald
Boris Gardiner sings for support of 'Save Me A Seat Campaign'
Presenting copies of 'Souldance' to the Alpha Academy Library in the presence of the legendary Sister Mary Bernadette who is lauded in two chapters of the book: 'Alpha: The Power of One' and 'Growing up as Royalty'
http://barbarablakehannah.blogspot.com/ Souldance, Poems and Writings by journalist and PR guru Jean Lowrie Chin (Publisher Ian Randle Publishers) attracted me primarily because of the lovely cover illustration of two dreadlocksed black cherubs draped in Red,Gold and Green banners. Jean is not shy to bare her life and her soul in her poems. Two of my favourites are her amusing “My Chinaman Jumped to the Riddim of Jah” that speaks of her Chinese-race husband enjoying his total Jamaican-ness, while ‘Pick Up Time” tells of the joys of collecting her children from school, children adopted from “… those nameless ladies, through whom the good Lord sent my babies.”
Half the book contains poems in both English and Jamaican, while the other half contains selected essays from her years as a newspaper columnist. Jean’s writings began as an Alpha schoolgirl and continue even as she steers the media campaigns of Jamaica’s biggest corporations. This is one of those books worth adding to the collection of Jamaican literature.
Click here to order Souldance at Amazon - also available at leading pharmacies and bookstores in Jamaica. Please call PROComm at 926-6740 if you would like to have an autographed copy.
Souldance for Ambassador Bridgewater
Ambassador Audrey Marks, former Jamaican Ambassador to the US, presents a copy of 'Souldance' to former US Ambassador to Jamaica Hon Pamela Bridgewater. Occasion was a briefing at the Jamaican Embassy in Washington DC, as Ambassador Bridgewater prepared to take up office in Jamaica.