Sat | Dec 7, 2019

‘Ah Suh Mi Like It’ conversation enlightening

Published:Tuesday | March 20, 2018 | 12:00 AMMarcia Rowe/Gleaner Writer
From left: Dr Donna Hope, Nichole Dennis Benn and Tanya Stephens listening to a member of the audience.

Things were organised differently for Kingston Book Festival 2018. Themes at each event differed. For the penultimate event of the eight day festival the theme was 'Conversation'.

Latoya West-Blackwood, a representative of the festival, in explaining 'Conversation', said that it was "Bringing different themes we might see in books and music that affect our lives". Nichole Dennis Benn and Tanya Stephens were the featured conversationalists.

'Conversation' recently took place at the intimate setting of House of Dancehall on Cargil Avenue.

Framed by the broader theme 'Women's Right in the Literary and Popular Culture', the interactive and, at times, risquÈ session explored poverty and identity.

Novelist Dennis Benn's book Here Comes the Sun and the lyrics of three songs from the repertoire of Tanya Stephens were used as the trajectories. Dr Hope steered the conversation.

After remarks from West-Blackwood and Hope, the Jamaica-born novelist got things going with an excerpt from her book Here Comes the Sun.




The book is centered on the lives of three women and is set in the outskirts of Montego Bay, Jamaica. The compelling excerpt ended with the perfect conversation piece: a character telling the other, "Nobody loves a black girl, not even herself."

Stephens, who almost cried, said that the excerpt resonated with her.

Yuh Nuh Ready Fi Dis Yet was a good follow-up to the excerpt. The song, a nice break from the speeches, had the audience rocking and singing along. It illustrates a stronger and defiant woman than the characters in the book.

Stephens said that although the song became an anthem for women, it was not intended to be so. She was a "troubled child", tired of being represented by weak females, and did not want to be the demure female. But the overriding factor was that she was told that she was not good.

Her songs Love Me All Day Long and the very popular It's a Pity were also used in exploring the themes.

Joining in the conversation, the predominantly female audience also had a lot to say. And Dr Christopher Charles, representing the opposite gender, suggested an open dialogue between the genders as "we need to teach each other".

However, when the evening's exchange of thoughts came to an end, the universal conclusion seemed to be that facilitating such conversation was, indeed, progress.

The Kingston Book Festival culminated with a book fair at Hope Botanical Gardens.