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SUNDAY HERALD ( JAMAICA ) : APRIL 17, 2005

 

 

First off the Block - Annie Paul

 

“Testy, querulous and given to praising the way things were when he was a boy.” Horace said that—in 65-8 B.C. Some things remain constant. How often have we not encountered the identical phenomenon today?

It’s remarkable how predictable human beings are. If there has indeed been such a steady erosion of standards since the sixties B.C. what does it mean for someone to wax nostalgic about their youth only 20 or 30 years ago while crying down what prevails today?

What we need now is a good deal more imagination, empathy and daring than the person old Horace was quoting. Fortunately there is no shortage of these qualities in today’s youth.

Take the new publication FIRST for instance. A little 7 inch square booklet bursting with provocative images and text, FIRST is freely available at select spots in the corporate area. The brainchild of Peter Dean Rickards (ably assisted by Kaysian Wilson and publisher Benjamin Bailey) this little magazine could easily win an international award for its marriage of cutting edge photography and graphics with some of the best writing to be found anywhere today. What is most innovative about FIRST is its inclusivity for unlike most magazines of this quality catering exclusively it would seem to middle and upper class youth, this one regularly features segments of the population that fall outside that net.

With its unorthodox mix of fashion, style and hardcore reporting from the streets of innercity Kingston FIRST is truly the first of its kind. Not only has it trained its high tech lenses on the logical subjects of the fashion industry--youth--but in a brilliant editorial move has also focused on what we normally consider to be inherently unfashionable--the elderly. The first issue of the magazine subtitled 'Splash' featured a photo essay titled "Classic Cars: Classic People" about senior citizens who refuse to relinquish the style and dash of their youth personified by their aging but beautifully looked after cars. As the text says, "If you take the time to notice these people, you might be transported back to a time when style mattered more than size and quality mattered more than quantity. These are the former Kingston 'hot foots' in their mature prime. Still fascinating, still stylish and still running things."

The second issue 'Dapper' zoomed in on one of these stylish senior citizens, Percy Lee, and did an entire fashion spread with him as the model. Now where have you ever seen that done? This issue also introduced a formidable new voice--that of Vuraldo Barnett, executive director of RAGE (Revolutionary Artistic Global Expressions)"which works to positively channel the energy of inner city youth through edutainment." Bright and articulate, Barnett is best described in his own words "I am an inner city youth. I went to school with no schoolbooks and what I did have I carried in a scandal bag. I drank water for lunch. I never missed a day of school."

Barnett's hard hitting words can also be found in a spread called "The Misfit: A Tale of Chance and Choice in the City of Blood" that starts thus: "How would you like to be born in a neighbourhood where an average of say one funeral per week occurs--where up to 30 of your neighbours have been murdered over a 36-month period?" In a text that describes its protagonist as a 'defective model' produced in the manufacturing plant of the ghetto ('How else do you explain the fact that so far I have been able to escape the tentacles of the gangs, prison, unemployment and illiteracy?'), Barnett recounts with muted irony the predicament of those lumped together as the PEOPLE by "politicians, entertainers, businessmen and pastors" and warns the reader not to complain "when they misrepresent your reality, for they may retort, 'What are a few broken skulls' and discarded lives in the building of a nation or their career?" Barnett ends by asking rhetorically "Now, my friend, if given the chance, would you choose to be manufactured in my plant? Would you choose to reside in my neighbourhood?"

Another article focuses on L.A. Lewis, that veritable master of self-advertisement. If I were head of a big company I would immediately hire Mr. Lewis as head of marketing and publicity for he has made himself a celebrity simply by using every available space in Kingston to promote his name despite the fact that none of his songs have ever detained anyone. A would-be DJ who got into music mainly to capture the interest of the opposite sex according to the article, the attention-grabbing Lewis who routinely inserts himself into photos with visiting celebrities such as Prince Charles and Lennox Lewis also has a website "which boasts over 50,000 hits per day, mostly from Germany and Japan.

The third issue 'Fearless' has just hit the streets; copies are available in select locations in the corporate area such as Jencare, Redbones and Viewers' Choice and SALISES at UWI. The editorial, superimposed on a shot of a foggy hillside, philosophizes about life in Jamaica, describing those who migrate from the country out of desperation and those who arrive, foreigners included, "for reasons that range from the logical to the criminal". With its world-class production values FIRST can seem deceptively slick; it is irreverent but spot-on, just what Jamaica needs more of in the twenty-first century, applying thought and style to our common predicament.

 

VISIT THE NEW FIRST WEBSITE AT :

http://www.first-magazine.net

 

ALL PHOTOS ARE COPYRIGHTED PROPERTY 2003 OF PETER DEAN RICKARDS .STEAL THEM WITHOUT MY PERMISSION AND NOT ONLY WILL YOU GET SHITTY SLICED-UP LO-RES JPEGS BUT I WILL ALSO HIRE A CRACKHEAD TO FIND YOU AND KILL YOU :: IF YOU WANT ANY OF THESE IMAGES, E-MAIL ME AT MAIL@AFFLICTEDYARD.COM AND MAYBE I WILL SELL YOU THE 300DPI VERSIONS

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