You know them, you love them, but did you know that these famous American actresses all have Caribbean mothers? These women gave birth to America’s biggest superstars of primetime television and the big screen. From Jamaican scandal star, Kerry Washington’s “fierce lioness” to Jada Pinkett Smith’s rocky relationship turned eternal bond, read on to learn a little more about the most inspiring celebrity mother-daughter relationships in the industry.
Kerry Washington’s love for Jamaican mom
You know her as Olivia Pope on Scandal, but mother Valerie Washington knows Kerry Washington as her only child and personal pride and joy. Although a lifelong resident of the Bronx, Valerie’s parents were born in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica but moved to New Yord long before her arrival. Valerie Washington and her husband raised their daughter Kerry in a comfortable middle class home in Bronx, New York, but they eventually sent her to a private all girls school on the Upper East Side.
Growing up, Valarie had dreamed of her daughter going off to law school and passing the bar, however she mainly wanted Kerry to succeed and choose a career she was passionate about, something not offered to Valarie in the 50s who was encouraged to become a teacher despite earning a degree in science. Although proud of her daughter, Valarie originally was scared of the thought of Kerry becoming an actress. These two might be one of the closest celebrity mother-daughter relationships that we have profiled. They are very close now, with Kerry describing her mother as the “fiercest lioness in my pride.”
Jada Pinkett Smith’s difficult road with mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris
As far as celebrity mother-daughter relationships go, Jada Pinkett Smith’s mother and fellow “Red Table Talk” host, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, have had one of the most complex. Banfield-Norris was born in Baltimore in 1953 and grew up as “black middle class” with Jamiacan roots on her mother’s side. Banfield-Norris had Jada in high school at the young age of 17, having had a short lived marriage to Robsol Pinkett Jr., Jada’s father. For most of Pinkett Smith’s early life, her mother struggled with addiction issues and was at the peak of a heroin addiction when she graduated from nursing school at Coppin State University.
The two have since mended their relationship though, becoming co-hosts of now famous talk show “Red Table Talk ” with Pinkett Smith’s own daughter, Willow Smith. “Red Table Talk” addresses multigenerational topics about sex, racism, and drugs, covering hard conversations and showing vulnerability and realness. Banfield-Norris has been in recovery for 29 years and opened up about her addiction with a powerful, tearful conversation with her daughter on the show during a 2018 episode that further emphasized how much their relationship has grown.
Zoe Saldana and “hero” Asalia Nazario
Best known for her work in the 2009 Sci/Fi blockbuster hit, Avatar, and popular Marvel movies including Guardians of the Galaxy, Zoe Saldana’s career speaks for itself. Born in New Jersey to Caribbean parents of Dominican and Puerto Rican origins, her mother, Asalia Nazario, moved her three daughters to the Dominican Republic to live with their grandparents in a safer environment after her father died in a vehicle crash. After spending her early years in the DR, her family moved back to the states, residing in New York with Nazario, who supported all of her children’s dreams.
In 2014 Saldana started a web series titled, “My Hero,” which featured stars opening up about the personal heroes in their lives. Possibly the most wholesome of our celebrity mother-daughter relationships is Saldana’s; the pilot episode was dedicated to her own mother in which she recalled childhood memories of cooking alongside her mother, and a tearful thank you for the way Nazario protected and nurtured her family despite facing adversity. Saldana and her two sisters are still extremely close to Nazario and love to treat her to spa days whenever they can.
An accomplished culinary expert and social media influencer known for Haitian-fusion cuisine and a larger-than-life personality, Cynthia Verna is adding a few new elements to her impressive curriculum vitae, including an exciting new venture into her own signature Haitian spices.
Hundreds of thousands of fans have tuned in to “Chef Thia” on her Facebook live broadcasts — from her impassioned prayers and family dinner preps to backstage award show peeks. She seems to have done it all. She’s been a restaurant owner, a host of TV show Taste the Islands, a best-selling biographical author and a women’s advocate.
Adding to her accomplishments, Verna has recently debuted a new hardcover cookbook and her own line of signature Haitian spices. The collection, branded Chef Thia’s Spice, features four dry seasoning blends for seafood, steak, poultry, meat and even rice.
“It’s been a dream of mine to just have something created from the heart,” said Verna.
A Fresh Take on Haitian Spices
Haitians are familiar with the term “epis,” a popular blend of oil, herbs and spices used in creole cooking as a base for nearly any savory dish. To get around the need for refrigeration, Verna developed the dry spice line to offer similar flavor with a much longer shelf life. And the packaging is as vibrant as she is.
Her Signature Spice Mix is a simple, all-purpose blend. Verna’s Peppercorn Spice Mix includes pink, green, black and white peppercorns and is ideal for red meats and vegetables. Her Torched Bird Spice Mix should be paired with poultry and other white meat. And her seafood seasoning, coming soon, contains “a little bit of wine, dry butter and all the goodies,” she said.
“When you come from the Caribbean,” she said, “You walk inside a Barnes and Noble and your book is right there with all the top chefs, it’s beautiful and powerful to see.”
When she’s not crafting delicious signature Haitian spices, seasonngs, and recipes, you can find Verna traveling the world as a private chef. She recently returned from catering an intimate, exclusive event in Dubai. “I focus more on bringing my country, my culture, my roots around the world. You want to eat Haitian food. You contact Chef Thia. I bring Haiti, my heart, to you.”
An avid artist and serial entrepreneur, she’s got lots more in the pipeline. Through her newly developed mobile app, her legions of fans — existing and future — can connect fully with her brand. They can purchase her signature Haitian spices or subscribe to get them delivered monthly. They can also purchase any of the three books she’s authored, explore other product offerings such as Chef Thia-designed clothing and home accessories, and, in the near future, contact her for curated cooking advice or one-on-one help in the kitchen.
After a year of dealing with a deadly pandemic which has disproportionately affected Black people, you would think we’d embrace something that promises to return us to normalcy. But that’s not the case. Even as COVID-19 vaccines become more available, Black Americans continue to have vaccine hesitancy and Caribbean folks are still disproportionately skeptical about getting the shot.
In late February, a nationwide poll by the Pew Research Center found that 69% of U.S. adults had already been vaccinated or said they wanted to be. The rate was a lower 61% among non-Hispanic Blacks, although that is up dramatically from 42% in November just before the first vaccines were authorized in the United States.
I confess that initially, I myself had vaccine hesitancy. I thought perhaps it was best for me to see how it worked on others before taking it myself. My knowledge of the vaccines was sketchy at best, and posts on social media that questioned their safety and efficacy made me even more uncertain. Many of the friends I polled on Facebook shared my worries. Some have since changed their minds.
“I do not know what is true anymore,” said Karen, of Trinidad. Her trust grew weaker as rumors and questionable information proliferated online. But she also is in a high-risk category and fears COVID-19. “So I have decided, if I have an opportunity to take the vaccine, I will get it. Growing up in Trinidad, all the vaccines were mandatory. I turned out fine.”
Aisha, who is of Jamaican, Panamanian and Senagalese ancestry, was nervous about how quickly the vaccine was created and also did not trust that adequate testing had been done. But when her mother’s care facility called to ask if she wanted her to be vaccinated, she immediately said, “Yes.”
“That made me pause and ask myself, if it is okay for her, why is it not okay for me? So I am getting it now.”
I started researching this article to answer my own questions as well as those raised by friends and family.
Now, I have a much better understanding of how the COVID-19 vaccines work and which companies were authorized to create them here in America. I learned the majority of scary social media posts I had seen were either false or did not include critical context. There are, of course, reasons to be concerned about medical racism today, but Black doctors are among those who developed the vaccines and are advocating for their use.
Nearly two decades of research. COVID-19 comes from a family of viruses that have been well studied. Scientists got a headstart on COVID-19 from their work on vaccines for the 2002 SARS coronavirus and the 2012 MERS coronavirus. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were created based on the work of a team that includes viral immunologist Dr. Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Corbett, a Black woman. Their work included developing the mRNA technology used in two COVID-19 vaccines. Corbett also was a hands-on leader in the creation of the Moderna shot.’
Quick response. Infectious disease experts and vaccine researchers had long predicted a global pandemic involving a respiratory virus. When COVID-19 appeared in China and started to spread globally, key researchers immediately began developing a new vaccine. In January 2020, the first vaccine had already been drafted by the National Institutes of Health team that included Corbett. Early studies showed promising results and the first human trials started in March, just as many states issued their first lockdown orders.
Worldwide economic impact. Because COVID-19 brought the world economy to a halt, billions of dollars were donated from private and government entities to fund the research and development of the vaccine, significantly decreasing the financial and bureaucratic barriers usually associated with medical research.
Global collaboration. Researchers worldwide collaborated to produce the vaccine quickly and safely. Volunteers lined up in the tens of thousands for the trials. Blacks were still underrepresented, but the gap was smaller than often seen in such studies: Blacks accounted for about 10% of people in the clinical trials but are 12% of the U.S. population. The group was large enough to soundly conclude vaccine safety and effectiveness was similar across racial and ethnic groups.
How the Vaccines Work
So far, two types of vaccines have been developed. To trigger the body’s defense system, one uses a fake, inactive virus, the other uses mRNA proteins.
Historically, vaccines used an inactivated virus cell to trigger an immune response. That is the strategy the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine employs. A modified version of a different, harmless virus teaches our cells how to fight COVID-19. The coronavirus spike protein is effectively no longer able to attach to our cells.
“mRNA” stands for Messenger RNA, a string of proteins that the body uses to communicate with our DNA. The dual-dose Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are the first mRNA vaccines to be approved, although the strategy has been in development for about 15 years. In short, the mRNA vaccine teaches the body’s immune system to develop antibodies that fight the coronavirus should the real thing appear. (Note: The vaccine does not alter your DNA, it just instructs it.)
Both kinds of vaccine can cause temporary side effects such as a fever, fatigue, rash and body aches, among others. These symptoms typically last less than two days. They are signs that your body has recognized the vaccine and is learning how to fight to protect you.
Allergic reactions have been rare, but speak with your doctor if you have had problems with a previous vaccine. Serious adverse reactions have been incredibly rare — only a handful — after more than 80 million people in the United States have received at least one dose.
Cuban American Olga was initially going to take the vaccine but now has concerns that it could impact her fertility (a claim that has repeatedly been debunked). Since she is younger, she also believes she would handle COVID-19 well enough should she get it.
My Jamaican nurse friend, Ana, also worried about the potential side effects, but decided to seek vaccination after doing her own research.
“The worst result of COVID is death and the worst result of the vaccines are adverse effects (which we know are rare),” she said.
On reflection, Ana recognized how vaccines, such as the BCG vaccine to prevent tuberculosis, have historically improved the lives of Caribbean people. That was first developed in 1921. Knowing that some Black Americans have vaccine hesitancy, she offered this advice, “Look how far we have come — so many significant medical developments. I feel like I should trust now more than then.”
While the new vaccines don’t promise to prevent COVID-19, clinical studies show that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are about 95% effective at preventing symptomatic illness, hospitalization and death. It is not yet clear if people who are vaccinated and become infected can still spread the virus if they do not have symptoms. That is why authorities ask people to continue wearing masks and taking other precautions even after vaccination.
Vaccine Hesitancy and How to Fix It
Black people are four times more likely to be hospitalized and three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people in the United States. Nearly 80% of Black Americans know someone who has been hospitalized by or died from COVID-19. Yet, white Americans are getting immunized at a rate three times higher than Black people in America who still have vaccine hesitancy.
Some of it has to do with barriers to access, like age limits and lists of “essential” jobs that disproportionately excluded Black people. But some of the gap also is because Black Americans have vaccine hesitancy due to uncertainty about the vaccines and mistrust of the healthcare system.
Medical atrocities against Black people in the United States, like the government-sponsored Tuskegee Experiment, and everyday health care disparities contribute to the distrust of the medical community.
Black adults who do not want to be vaccinated told the Pew Research Center that their major reasons were:
Side effects (84%)
Fear about the speed of vaccine development (74%)
Uncertainty about how the vaccines work (71%)
Prior bad experiences with medical system mistakes (about 50%)
The list included some of the concerns I had, or had heard from others, before I started research for this article. I talked to Dr. Sidney Coupet, a Haitian American, about why vaccine hesitancy runs so deep in Black communities.
“Healthcare has never treated us well,” Coupet said. “In fact, it has abused us, caused us harm, used us for their benefit.”
Coupet, who also has a master’s degree in public health, dedicated his career to addressing healthcare disparities in our community. He said America needs to take a three-pronged approach to gain the trust of the Black community and limit vaccine hesitancy: Apologize, listen and co-create.
After apologizing for past harms, Coupet believes health professionals need strategies for active, ongoing listening to the Black community about their experiences and concerns. And then they need to collaborate with us to resolve barriers to equitable care.
The Black Coalition Against COVID-19 (BCAC), which is working to provide accurate information and resources, has found that many people, like myself, have adopted what they call the “wait and see” approach. And while BCAC understands that vaccine hesitancy is understandable, the group notes that delayed vaccination jeopardizes our health.
Dr. Vanessa Cumming, who works in a sickle cell clinic in Jamaica, has seen the divide first-hand. Her patients who are immunocompromised have been anxiously waiting for their chance to be vaccinated. The general population, however, is less trusting.
“We know that for some semblance of ‘normalcy’ to return, we will need to vaccinate a high percentage of our population,” she said.
If enough people are immunized, we collectively achieve herd immunity. For the world to put this horrendous episode behind us, there are no other options. I hope others can find their way from vaccine hesitancy to optimism, the way I ultimately have on this journey.
Government, community, and faith-based leaders join forces to champion the fight against COVID-19
The new year has brought with it more daunting challenges in the African American community’s fight against COVID-19. More transmissible variants of the coronavirus have emerged and are swiftly sweeping their way across the United States. This latest trend in the year-long pandemic is especially troubling for Black people, who are 4 times more likely to be hospitalized and 3 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people. Despite these stark numbers, COVID vaccination rates for African Americans are among the lowest of all ethnicities. In fact, February data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that only 5.4% of Black people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine compared to 60% of white people.
As of March 22, all Florida residents over the age of 50 are eligible to receive the vaccine, and Governor DeSantis has approved eligibility for all individuals 18+ to receive the vaccine starting April 5. However, according to a January poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 43% of African Americans are still reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine; taking a “wait and see” approach to find out how well the vaccine works for other people.
African American communities are still brimming with mistrust following historical and contemporary experiences of medical discrimination, including the decades-long Tuskegee experiments and the Henrietta Lacks saga. These are just two of many scars that still resonate today and are at the forefront of the Black community’s view of the country’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout through a skeptical lens.
To share accurate information about COVID-19 and the vaccine rollout with African Americans, the Black Doctors Against COVID-19 (BCAC) hosted a recent Facebook Live event, “Making it Plain: What Black America Needs To Know About COVID-19 and Vaccines,” an episode in an important and informative series which features the nation’s top Black medical experts as well as faith-based and social organization leaders who are keeping Black Americans informed about what we need to know about COVID-19 and vaccines. Here we will be sharing some important insights from that conference.
Good News Ahead
For the moment, the worst wave of the current coronavirus infections seems to be behind us. According to a recent March report from the CDC, the average number of new COVID cases have declined by almost a whopping 79% compared with the highest peak on January 11.
As America mass vaccinates the population in hopes of continuing to lower infection rates and death totals, Dr. Nunez-Smith, one of the event’s guest speakers and director of the White House’s Health Equity Task Force, said that’s why the Biden Administration is taking the imperative steps to lessen the impact of social determinants which affect Black communities.
“We have to make sure that vaccinations are free,” Dr. Nunez-Smith said. “That is an important consideration. But vaccination alone is not sufficient. Specific to COVID-19, we have to make sure everyone has equal access to things like testing for COVID.”
Racial Equality in Vaccine Roll-Out
Also at the center of the issue of equity in the dissemination of COVID vaccines to African Americans is Dr. Helene Gayle, CEO of the Chicago Community Trust. She’s also co-director of the prestigious National Academies of Medicine committee which was commissioned last fall by the CDC to submit recommendations for a framework which will help to determine how the COVID-19 vaccines can be distributed equitably.
Dr. Gayle noted the framework recognizes that communities of color have been the hardest hit and are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. This concern also relates to the impact of racism. Dr. Gayle said this has made the project a landmark undertaking.“It’s the first time that equity has been front and center in title and design of a vaccine rollout,” she said.
However, here are concerns in the Black community that the process of distributing the COVID-19 vaccines needs to be improved. Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, has echoed this uneasiness about the dissemination of the COVID-19 vaccines for African Americans. He says the vaccine distribution strategy relies too heavily on hospitals and chain pharmacies, making it insufficient to get the job done.
Morial is strongly urging the Biden Administration to make fast and radical changes to the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan across the United States. He said a broader approach of having nurses, doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants administer the vaccine in community-based sites, schools and libraries would be a more effective and “common sense” solution to getting shots of the COVID-19 vaccines into African American’s arms.
Fostering Trusting Relationships
Another dilemma regarding COVID-19 is the misinformation, a lack of information and deep-seated mistrust in the Black community regarding the vaccines and the process used to develop them. Morial said this has led to the concern, for some African Americans, that the vaccine development was rushed or that the process is attached to ghosts of the Tuskegee experiments. To confront these concerns, Morial suggests that government, states, counties and cities foster broad engagement, public relations and advertising campaigns to provide Black communities with accurate information, helping to create transparency relating to the vaccines.
Morial has also noted that it’s key to have the right messengers amplify medical advice and messages about COVID-19 to our communities. “The right messengers are African American physicians, doctors and scientists,” he said. “Those medical professionals who we respect in the Black community, from the Black medical schools, from the Black professional associations, have examined, looked at, reviewed the process and have green lit it.”
As some states continue to struggle with closing the racial gap in the number of COVID-19 vaccinations for African Americans, Black pastors and other faith-based leaders are taking the reins as the respected messengers about the virus in the Black community.
One of those respected messengers is Reverend Calvin Butts, pastor of the nationally renowned Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York. He is also co-chair of the Choose Healthy Life Black Clergy Action Plan which addresses COVID-19 and other health disparities in Black communities.
“Our community has been the one that’s been the least informed, often left out and of course manipulated,” Reverend Butts said. “We’re trying to save lives.”
In late-January, Reverend Butts rolled up his left sleeve to get his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, along with his wife Patricia at their historic church, which was New York city’s first church to administer the vaccine. He is continuing to be a champion for the cause. He’s spreading the gospel, encouraging his congregation and other faith-based communities to rise above reluctancy, trust the COVID-19 vaccines and take the “leap of faith” to get vaccinated. This really gives us our best “shot” to stay healthy, combat COVID-19 and the more contagious virus variants and win the war that’s being waged against the virus.
Darryl Sellers is the Public Relations Director for Creative Marketing Resources, a strategic marketing agency in Milwaukee and a partner of the BCAC.
For more information about COVID-19, health, wellness and upcoming BCAC Facebook Live events: Black Coalition Against COVID-19, a key health resource for African Americans
Black Doctor.org, the world’s largest and most comprehensive online health resource specifically targeted to African Americans
Regardless of whether you have just started trying to lose weight or if it has been a continuous theme in your life, I would like to change how you view weight loss. As a primary care physician, most of my patients view weight loss as a two-part equation involving both food deprivation and excessive exercise.
However, there may be other secret factors of weight gain at play that reveal why your attempts to shed a few pounds might not be as successful as you had hoped. This article will highlight five areas that may be weighing you down and will share a more holistic approach to adopting a new lifestyle, increasing your chances of accomplishing your weight loss goal this year.
Several medications can cause weight gain and impact the number on your scale. These medication categories can include birth control (e.g., Depo-Provera), diabetes medications (e.g., insulin) and psychiatric medications/antidepressants (e.g., Citalopram, Escitalopram).
Steroids, also known as corticosteroids, are also on this list. They are used to treat a variety of conditions like asthma and arthritis, but the long-term use of these medications may increase appetite, leading to weight gain. It is important to review your medications with your primary care physician and discuss which medications may result in weight gain.
It is easy to overload on calories when drinking juices, specialty coffees, sodas, sports drinks and alcohol. These items have a high amount of added sugar and little to no nutritional value. Consider increasing your water intake instead. You can even add flavor to your water by adding fruits, flavored powders, herbs or trying sparkling water.
For some people, it can be difficult to remember to drink water. To help increase your water intake, keep a bottle with you, drink throughout the day and use your smartphone to set sipping reminders.
3. Medical Conditions
Underlying medical conditions can also promote weight gain, especially if they are undiagnosed or your medication is not optimal. This can include polycystic ovarian syndrome, hypothyroidism, heart failure, kidney disease, obstructive sleep apnea or Cushing’s syndrome. At your next medical exam, ask your physician to determine whether you may be suffering from an underlying medical condition that is negatively affecting your weight.
4. Mental Health
In the United States, mental health issues skyrocketed as our physical health, jobs, schooling and ability to socialize became significantly impacted. Though stress can cause weight loss for some, it can cause weight gain for others. It is important that you develop management tools for the stressors in your life.
For many, increased food consumption is one of those tools. But weight gain from stress can actually make you more depressed, which can lead to further weight gain. Increasing physical activity by going out for a walk can help with your mood and your weight. If you can’t manage the effects of stressors on your own, it may be helpful to seek the guidance of a therapist.
5. Inadequate Sleep
Studies show that an average of seven to nine hours of sleep can help to improve weight loss. However, I believe it is more important to understand how many hours of sleep you personally require to feel rested rather than pick an arbitrary number of hours. When you are tired from sleep deprivation, you are more likely to reach for high-calorie foods to keep your energy levels up throughout the day.
Also, if you are too tired, you will most likely avoid physical activity. This ultimately means that you burn fewer calories. In addition, it is theorized that sleep-deprived individuals have lower levels of leptin — the chemical that makes you feel full — and higher levels of ghrelin — the hunger-stimulating hormone. Consequently, the less you sleep, the more you will eat.
Stick to the Basics
A balanced diet using the USDA’s “MyPlate” method and a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly is a recommended place to start when working toward your weight loss goal. Choose an exercise that you enjoy. Personally, I have enjoyed cycling as it gets me outside and has a low impact on my joints.
But again, don’t forget these other five factors that may impact your weight, and don’t “weight” another minute!
For athletes around the world, going to the Olympics marks the greatest moment of a lifetime. It’s the event hopefuls plan their whole lives around, sacrificing other experiences and opportunities for a chance to push the boundaries of their sports and bring glory to their nation. So what happens when the games you’ve been waiting for your whole life get canceled?
This was the fate of all Caribbean athletes when the Tokyo 2021 Olympics were postponed for a year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Isolated from their peers and unable to maintain their usual training regimens as facilities closed down, these sports stars had to find a way over the emotional and mental hurdles. Caribbean Olympians Briana Williams, Damion Thomas, Danusia Francis, and Mulern Jean stared down these challenges head-on and never blinked. This July, they will mount their Olympic bids for the Tokyo 2021 Olympics.
These are their stories, marked by perseverance, mental fortitude and courage.
Young Jamaican track star Briana Williams is ready to pick up where she left off in 2019, when she was touted as one of the world’s next great sprinters.
The COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into her bid to compete on track’s biggest stage at 18 years old, but she believes using the delay to fine-tune her technique and speed with coach Ato Boldon could become her secret weapon.
“Last year, starting in March, we anticipated the Olympics would be postponed, with meets being canceled left and right,” said Williams. “I wasn’t sad. I was more upset [because] I could have gone there at 18. However, it just gave me more time to get stronger and work on what I need to work on.”
While two-time Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson-Herah is still considered the Jamaican sprinter to beat and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, one of the most decorated athletes of all time, should still prove formidable, much of the spotlight will fall on Williams who is being hailed as the heir apparent.
“Competing for Jamaica means a lot to me,” Williams said. “Jamaica has such a rich history in track and field. Arguably the number one or two country in track and field.”
From Amateur Athletic Union track prodigy in South Florida to record-setter in the World Athletics U20 Championships, Williams has been on a steady trajectory to superstardom. Now, as she prepares to face her stiffest competition yet, she is conceding nothing. “There are no nerves,” Williams said. “I have worked hard for this. I know what I have to do. I will go in there with a lot of confidence and faith and know what I have to do.”
Briana is looking to build on a spectacular resume that already includes the world age-15 record (11.13) in the 100 meters, and the Jamaican national under-18 and under-20 records in both the 100 meters and 200 meters. At the CARIFTA Games in 2018, she won the under-17 100 meters in a meet record, added the 200-meter title, and led the Jamaica 4×100 team to victory.
The icing on the 2018 cake was, at 16 years old, becoming the youngest athlete ever to win a sprint double ― with gold in both 100 and 200 meters ― at the 2018 IAAF World U20 Championships. She was only the seventh athlete to do so in history. In 2019, she returned to the CARIFTA Games and won the Austin Sealy MVP award for the second consecutive year, earning her sixth gold medal in two years.
We interviewed Williams before she left for the Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) Relays in California, a competitive warm-up for the Olympics. “My goal is to run 10.8 this season,” said Williams. “Mt. SAC will tell me where I am. Before the trials I just want to be healthy and perfect my form. I just hope to do my best. I just want to go there and get better after that. 2020 really didn’t ruin anything for me. It just stinks knowing that people were affected by this virus. That is the part that really hurts.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down training at her gym, gymnast Danusia Francis, who represents Jamaica, used her ingenuity to keep her Olympic dreams alive. When she was unable to work out with her coach, their Zoom training sessions became a lifeline. Practicing at home, however, required some adaptations.
“Nobody has that full-sized equipment in their house and gardens,” Francis said. “So we used the stairs for strength and conditioning, and toilet rolls for other exercises.” Despite the challenge, “our coach did a great job of keeping us motivated. The pandemic showed you how unexpected life is. And to just cherish the moments.”
Francis is certainly cherishing the opportunity to represent Jamaica. Though she was born in the UK, her father is originally from Jamaica ― granting her the opportunity to compete for her ancestral island. She secured her place in the 2020 Games by finishing ninth among the 20 gymnasts competing at the 2019 World Championships who were not on a qualifying Olympic team.
The one-year delay, however, presented some emotional challenges. In addition to losing a relative to COVID-19, Francis had to re-evaluate all of her life plans. “It makes it more difficult, how you plan your training around your timeline and building yourself up,” Francis explained. “I am a bit older, so it is also delaying the end of my career too, if I decide to retire after these Olympics. Just mentally and emotionally trying to stay motivated, and physically as well.”
A six-time All-American gymnast and 2016 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Balance Beam Co-Champion, Francis has started to imagine life post-Olympics. She has parlayed her success and charisma into stunt double roles for movies like “Wonder Woman 1984” and “The Midnight Sky.”
Competing for Jamaica since 2015, she also wants to leave a legacy for aspiring Jamaican gymnasts beyond just competition. She was a special guest at the grand opening of the National Gymnastics Training Centre in Kingston in November 2019 and believes it’s just a matter of time before gymnastics takes a foothold on the island.
“That was the reason I switched to Jamaica in the world of gymnastics,” Francis said. “It was to show the youth that the Olympics in gymnastics is an option. To be a part of that is special. It feels amazing. Crazy to know I can tell my children in the future that I was part of the Jamaican Olympic team. One day I will see a Jamaican gymnast winning gold, and I will feel so much pride.”
After waiting four years to set the record straight after her mishap at the 2016 Olympics, Haiti’s 100-meter hurdles star Mulern Jean had to wait one more. The 2020 Olympics delay stretched Jean to another level of patience. “When I first found out they were postponing it, I was sad,” Jean confessed. “But I took a step back, and that just gave me more time to prepare. To enhance my training and improve in areas I lack.”
Jean, a former star at Blanche Ely High School, Charleston Southern University and Florida State University, said the disappointment of being disqualified in the preliminaries at the 2016 Olympics was the driving force behind her getting to the Tokyo Olympics later this summer.
“That is why this is so important,” Jean said. “I plan on making it past the prelims and making it to the finals. That would be very special to me.”
Once the initial disappointment of not being able to compete in 2020 subsided, Jean found a silver lining in the extra time to recover from a torn knee ligament she suffered in 2019. She has a personal best of 12.94 seconds, which she set in Jacksonville in 2017, and is aiming to run 12.84 seconds to qualify for the Olympics.
“It means a lot for me,” said Jean. “I really want to put the [flag of the] country on my back and represent us. Even if it’s just a handful of athletes ― to show that this little country, Haiti, has athletes too. I do plan on setting or breaking the national record.”
For Damion Thomas to put his best foot forward, he had to take a step back. The pandemic shut down his sophomore season at Louisiana State University (LSU), thrusting his career into uncertainty, though it was poised to take off for the Jamaican 110-meter hurdles Olympic hopeful.
“We got the news a day prior to the 2020 indoor nationals in New Mexico,” Thomas recalled. “It was heartbreaking. The first month, it hit [me] mentally.”
Flash forward a year, and the improved diet regimen Thomas instituted during the layoff paid off with a world-leading best of 13.22 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles at the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in March. The world record time was vindication for Thomas, who had endured season-ending injuries in past years.
“March and April of 2020 really allowed me to mentally develop a clean slate as far as what goals I want to set and maintain [for] my body and eating the right things,” Thomas said. “Before 2020, I was not doing what I needed to do with hydrating. This year [of] quarantine made me set my goals out and be serious about maintaining my body. It has paid off too.”
The world record followed another major success, as he earned his first 60-meter hurdles national title at 7.51 seconds. It was the fifth-fastest in NCAA history.
Thomas, a former Oakland Park Northeast High School star who recently graduated from LSU, believes this momentum will carry over through to the Jamaican Olympic trials. While 2016 Olympic gold medalist and 2017 World Champion Omar McLeod will be the man to beat at the Jamaican Olympic trials, Thomas said the support from his family makes him formidable.
“I know it is going to be tough, but shoot, I live for this. It is what I’m ready for,” said Thomas. “Once I get to Tokyo, it’s about living that experience and getting on the podium. This will really be for my family. My dad and mom. My aunts and uncles and grandmas who picked me up and brought me to high school practice. They have all made their sacrifices for me. That is my first gift of giving back to them.”
During hurricane season, you have to prepare your home inside and out for the possibility of a tropical storm. And having easy-to-store lawn furniture is as important as packing away things in your yard to protect your home. So, if you’re wondering how to prepare your yard for hurricane season, this article has you covered!
Trim Trees and Branches
During a tropical storm, your beautiful landscaping may take the brunt of the destruction. Start preparing your yard by trimming away any dead branches on trees or bushes since both will probably break when strong winds and rain push on them. As you do this, be careful not to cut trees in a way that makes them top-heavy.
Many people recommend planting trees and shrubs that can withstand strong winds, but before you do this, ensure the new plants are an appropriate distance from your home. Otherwise, they may hit your house during a storm. Also, reinforce any new or young trees to lessen the chances that they’ll snap because of strong winds.
Store Away Lawn Furniture
Just as you need to tend to landscape, you should also move lawn furniture into storage to prepare your yard for a storm. Stow large pieces of furniture like outdoor couches or tables away in your shed or garage.
Likewise, move smaller pieces and potted plants indoors. For example, you should bring a flag inside if you fly one. Normally, you would have to make sure the flagpole remains properly reinforced and ready to face high winds. But, if you own a telescoping flagpole, you can take it down and store it. This is because one of the many advantages of a telescoping flagpole is that it’s easy to install and put away.
Don’t wait for a storm to start. Instead, prepare your home and garden before a storm hits. When you’re under pressure, you may forget a few vital steps, and you need to prepare your home inside and out. In addition to moving outdoor furniture and trimming trees, you should:
Shut off water, gas, and electricity, according to what local officials say.
Reinforce doors and windows with shutters.
Turn off irrigation systems.
Keeping your home and family safe during a tropical storm is of the utmost importance. By knowing how to prepare your yard for hurricane season, you’re already moving in the right direction. Prepare your home before the storm hits and listen to what local officials state to keep everyone safe.
Island Origins takes home two new Florida Magazine Association awards for creative excellence.
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL(July 21, 2021) – Island Origins Magazine, South Florida’s Caribbean-American lifestyle quarterly, received its seventh and eighth Florida Magazine Association awards this July in Sarasota, Florida. Island Origins celebrates the best in Caribbean achievement, travel, art, business, cuisine and more. The annual gala and awards honor and recognize the best editing, writing, photography, marketing and other work in participating Florida magazines.
At the two-day Florida Media Conference, Island Origins publisher Calibe Thompson moderated a panel discussion on what it takes to become an FMA award-winner with panelists Jamie Rich, publisher of 2020’s Magazine of the Year winner, Flamingo Magazine, and John Thomason, JES Media managing editor. Thompson, who is also the secretary of the FMA’s advisory board, also had the honor of presenting several of the awards at the gala and ceremony.
Island Origins writer G. Wright Muir snagged the publication an award for Best Opinion Writing in the magazine’s second win credited to her work. The winning piece, titled “Coming to America,” was a raw, personal piece examining the Caribbean perspective on what it means to be Black in America. The judges commented, “This is quality work in both personal observation and in the reporting of the perspectives of others. It covers the topic in a way that adds accessible and fresh insights, articulating it for all readers.”
David I. Muir, co-founder of Island Syndicate, the publishing company behind Island Origins, picked up an award in the Best Photography category for his photo journal exploring the people and places of Santiago de Cuba.
The Florida Magazine Association is the largest state magazine association in the nation, creating a space for professionals in publishing to network, advocate for the industry and be recognized for their achievements. The annual Charlie Awards are well revered as the Florida magazine industry’s top prize and, in 2021, were presented in person, following pandemic health and safety protocols, at The Westin Sarasota on Friday, July 16. Honorees are chosen annually by a group of leading writers, editors, designers and educators outside of the state.
Launched in June 2017, Island Origins Magazine is a Caribbean American lifestyle print publication primarily distributed in South Florida. It is produced quarterly by Island Syndicate, and appeals to a diverse, sophisticated mainstream audience. Learn more at islandoriginsmag.com.
About Island Syndicate
Island Syndicate is a creative agency that produces exceptional content and unforgettable experiences. The team offers publishing, photography, graphic design, videography, event production, and other branding and marketing services, to discerning clients.
A storm has hit your home—not just any ordinary storm, but a hurricane. After the storm dies down, the sky reveals a clear night with a few stars poking through, and you hear the chirps of crickets. The air is still, but you fear that part two of the hurricane is on its way. This is everyone’s worst fear when living in the Caribbean, but we have some tips on how to clean up your home following a hurricane and what to remember for future storms.
Wait Until Morning
Do not go outside for any reason at night, whether to assess damage or help neighbors out. It’s rewarding to help a neighbor out, but the last thing you want to do is get caught up in a potential extension of a storm. Before you go out to look at the damage, wait until morning comes and it’s bright enough outside to see.
Walk Around Your Interior and Exterior
When inspecting your interior, block off any areas with water and electrical wiring near them. If there is no way to secure the rooms, evacuate your entire family immediately. Take photos of any damage on both the inside and outside of your home. When looking at damage outside, check for fallen trees and any scattered debris. When doing this, check to see if the tree has only caused damage to the exterior, interior, or both. If you notice any damage, make sure you document it as you scope out the area for any destruction.
Don’t Use Any Wet Appliances
If your appliances are wet, refrain from using them until the electrical company comes to remove them all. When water covers plugged-in electrical objects, the surrounding water can become lethal with an electrical charge. Do not go into the area for any reason. Even if your items haven’t been submerged, the floodwaters can still give you an electrical shock if you use or plug in the items.
When cleaning up your yard, make sure you follow these tips on adequately inspecting your home. Doing these will help you remember how to clean up your home following a hurricane in the future when the next hurricane comes.
For many, the tropics resemble gorgeous, white-sand beaches, relaxation, and a way of living you can’t quite capture anywhere else. So naturally, a lot of us want our homes to reflect the feelings of ease and beauty that a tropical island provides. Fortunately, there are some excellent and straightforward takes on how to make your home more tropical so that you can appreciate this lovely lifestyle in your favorite spaces.
Incorporate Plants and Greenery
An excellent way to give your home a more lush, tropical feel is by simply incorporating a little greenery into some regions of your home. For instance, you could group a few pots of varying sizes in the corners of your living room and use them to house beautiful palms and vibrant indoor flowers. Or you could use low-maintenance vines and ivy to border accent walls and embellish long hallways with air plant arrangements and hanging succulent planters. Additionally, if you find that you haven’t got the time or energy to maintain living plants, you can get the same effect by decorating with faux foliage.
Accessorize With Soft Colors, Floral Patterns, and Beachy Décor
Another great take on how to make your home more tropical is using soft colors and floral patterns in a room’s accents and decorative accessories. To illustrate, you could paint the most central wall of your kitchen a light blue and dress it up with floral curtains that complement the color. You could get the same effect in your living room by integrating some tropical accessories and larger accent items. For instance, you could decorate with vibrant throw pillows or a driftwood coffee table and pair them with some Bahama shutters on your windows. Using these lighter colors in tandem with floral prints and beach-styled décor will add a breezy, more tropical feel to your home.
Try a Minimalistic Approach to Furniture
A minimalistic approach to the furniture in your home is another great way to add some tropical vibes to your favorite rooms. Ensuring that you keep your spaces decluttered makes them appear spacious and gives them a more pristine look. On top of that, minimalistic furniture in each room allows for more opportunities to rearrange an area and add more décor to it as you go. This decorating style will also draw more focus to bright accents and décor pieces that tie a space together while allowing more natural sunlight to peek through the windows. Most importantly, less furniture gives your home a roomy and relaxing feel that’s reminiscent of the tropics.
Surprisingly, there are many simple and effective ways to capture the tropical energy you crave in your home. Hopefully, this guide has helped inspire you to make your favorite spaces as gorgeous and pleasurable as the tropics themselves.
When you’re living on the coast, water damage is almost bound to happen. Whether it’s a simple rainstorm or a full-fledged hurricane, the Caribbean coast has its risks. Use these steps to take to repair home water damage if your house was recently flooded or is at risk of doing so. Consider everything from insurance to property repairs to get your home back to its old self.
Talk To Your Insurance Company
First, whether a tropical storm or burst pipe caused the water damage, assessing the damage and talking to your insurance company is imperative. Your homeowner’s insurance policy should cover any lost items. Take photos before, during, and after the cleanup to show your insurance company so that it can assess the damage. If you live on the Caribbean, your insurance should cover water damage and tropical storm damage. If not, get that covered just in case.
Start Drying Out Your Home
After insurance has assessed everything, turn off the power and start cleaning up. Before all else, remove the floodwater. Plastic buckets, high-powered industrial dryers, and dehumidifiers will all come in handy. Floor fans and dehumidifiers dry hard-to-reach areas, such as in walls or under floorboards. It’s also best to dry your home within 24 hours of the water damage to reduce risk of mold or mildew.
Check for Mold
Checking for mold is one of the most prominent steps to take to repair home water damage. Since mold can grow within 24 hours of water damage, drying your home almost immediately is crucial. Otherwise, mold will grow quickly. Checking for mold is essential, because it can have troubling health effects on humans. Black mold, for example, causes mycotoxicosis, with symptoms such as aches, pains, headaches, memory loss, and nosebleeds. Mildew is another potential issue. Like mold, it’s a form of fungus that can have similar health effects.
Replace Damaged Areas
Replace damaged areas when necessary. You’ll likely need to replace damaged ceilings, floors, drywall, siding, paint, and wood. Certain areas, such as the ceiling, can warp from gravity pressure, which puts your foundational structure at risk. Other areas of the home, specifically with drywall and flooded floors, can sag. Either way, make the necessary repairs as soon as possible to reduce mold or further damage.
Flowers are the highlights of the landscaping of every coastal Caribbean home. Some of those flowers, blooming bright with pigment, come from faraway places such as the Netherlands, England, France, and even Spain. To maintain the beautiful blossoms in your own yard, you need to find the most effective way to prune your flowers and increase their permanence.
You should expect your flowers to bloom and stand upright, but if you come across some plants that have wilted, they might be dragging down the buds and full blooms. To prevent this from happening, pull out any dead weeds and flowers to force the growth and stabilization of the flowers.
If the plant has multiple heads, cut below the healthy flowers to create room for new flowers. If it’s a singular stem with one flower, you’re free to cut closer to the base of the flower. Doing either of these will improve the life of your flowers. This will be healthy for annuals, as they’ll grow longer into the year, and your perennials will be ready for the following season.
The most effective way to prune your plants is to thin them out. By that, we mean pulling out any plants that might be harboring unwanted diseases, especially if they’re imported from other places. By thinning, you remove up to a third of stems, preventing overcrowded areas of dying foliage and better shaping your landscape. If a plant is intruding on other plants’ space in a separate bed, all you need to do is cut around the stems to keep that intruding plant situated.
Pruning your plants is a healthier alternative to simply pulling out any unwanted plants and foliage that has died off. You might think it’s okay to prune year-round. However, pruning at particular times of the year—and only a little at a time—can be beneficial for your plants’ life span. You want to do a little at a time and work from the inside out. If you accidentally chop off too much, you run the risk of preventing your fruits from growing, and your bushes may not bloom for a while. There’s even a chance they’ll die and not bloom again. So, groom your plants once in a while, and pamper them when they need it the most.
Before you start pruning, consider what kind of trimming tools you’ll need to achieve the desired look for your flower bed. With precisely the right types of trimming tools, you’ll be able to achieve the necessary practice to cut your plants.
A house in the Caribbean is something to give you pride. You’re the envy of friends, family, and strangers as you live near gorgeous beaches filled with pure white sand and crystal blue waters. Although the area is great, there are still certain risks involved in owning beachfront property. Storms, pests, and humidity can ruin your home if you’re not cautious. Avoid these issues and know how to protect your oceanfront property for safe and comfortable living.
Know the Risks
Living anywhere has its risks, but residing near the ocean poses a great threat to your house: water damage. This can occur from many different types of storms. The main type of water damage you’ll face is from tropical rainstorms. This might involve wind and debris that can rip off roof shingles, destroy windows, loosen siding, and so on. Naturally, seek shelter immediately during a hurricane. Though not every tropical storm in the Caribbean is a hurricane, you can still expect severe wind and rain levels. Too much rain can cause flooding, leading to a weakened foundation, sagging, warped floors, or mold.
Use Resistant Materials
With that in mind, there are ways to combat the risk of storms on your home. Living near the ocean exposes your home to saltwater which can corrode typical terrestrial housing materials. However, fiberglass windows and door frames can withstand oceanic environments much better than wood. Concrete or stainless steel can also help. As well, consider planting native landscaping surrounding your foundation. These plants can tolerate high moisture and absorb oceanic water on your property before it reaches your house.
Check for Pests
A beachside house might have exceptional curb appeal but keep hidden predators in mind: pests. Especially during storms, they will likely consider your home theirs. The most common pests that infest beachside homes include termites, spiders, and bed bugs. Keep this in mind and inspect your home regularly. If needed, call a pest control service to eradicate these menacing creatures. While spiders, bed bugs, or other creepy crawlies are an eyesore, termites can damage your structural foundation, thereby posing a safety risk as much as a health risk.
Monitor Humidity Levels
The last way to protect your oceanfront property is to monitor humidity levels. The Caribbean is a tropical climate, which means humid temperatures given the high moisture in the air. Humidity brings its own list of risks: mold, mildew, watermarks, and rotting wood. Combat this with a dehumidifier for each room. Alternatively, you can install a whole-house dehumidifier through a professional HVAC service.
The Caribbean is known for a lot: great food, music, dancing, and rich history. However, there remains one thing many people remember the Caribbean for: the beaches! With white sandy landscapes dotted with palm trees overlooking beautiful deep-blue oceans, who could visit the Caribbean without visiting one of its coasts? The beach is an exceptional spot for a romantic destination. Those looking to get away with their significant other for a quick getaway must check out these essential tips for a romantic beach date.
Pick the Right Time
Timing is crucial when going to the beach. There are a few important considerations to think about: people, nature, and traffic. Going to the beach in the middle of the day can be a pain given the amount of people and vehicles in the area; not to mention bugs and the blazing hot sun beating down on your skin. For a quiet moment with your spouse, consider going during sunrise or sunset. These times mean less people, less traffic, and, more importantly, a more romantic moment with your partner.
Location, Location, Location
Location is equally important. Beaches are not universally symmetrical. Some have hills, some have rocks and seashells littering the landscape, and some are picture-perfect white sand-filled paradises. It might help to choose a spot furthest from others for added privacy. Alternatively, you might look for an area with shade or some greenery. Wherever you go, remember to choose your location so that you and your partner can have a relaxing moment with each other.
Dress Your Best
Picking the best summertime wardrobe pieces is necessary for an ideal beach date. Not only do you want an outfit that brings out your best, but you also want something weather and seasonally appropriate. Depending on the mood, consider tank tops, sandals, sun dresses or light dresses, or shorts for maximum comfort and style. While dressing up in a cocktail dress and suit is nice for romantic dinners or dances, going to the beach can be as casual as you want.
Make It a Picnic
A romantic date to the beach is not limited to swimming and working on your summertime tan. Bring snacks or a light meal for additional fun in the sun! Light foods, like finger sandwiches, bottled beverages, fruit, salad, chips, and nuts can be a quick energy boost while enjoying the outdoor surroundings. You can also tailor any personal dietary restrictions that local restaurants may not cater to. Regardless, optimize this date to your liking.
ISLAND ORIGINS MAGAZINE is a lifestyle brand that reflects the Caribbean American community. It celebrates the accomplishments and seeks the advice of our high achievers, explores the complex social issues that affect us and our neighbors, and enjoys the frivolities of design, fashion and entertainment inspired by our colorful cultures.