Friday, June 09, 2006

It is unseemly, disgusting and sickening!

On June 2, 3006 UNAIDS report for the Caribbean revealed that AIDS-related illnesses are the leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 44 in the Caribbean, accounting for 27,000 deaths in 2005,. Further although Bahamas, Barbados, the Dominican Republic and Haiti showed they had "dented the progress of HIV" that region still remained seconds only to Africa as it regards infection rates.

More alarming data from the UNAIDS reports show that at the end of 2005 approximately 330,000 HIV-positive people were living in the Caribbean. Particularly,
-22,000 of whom were children
-51% of people living with HIV/AIDS in the region are women
- an estimated 37,000 new HIV cases were reported in the Caribbean in 2005
-12% of reported HIV cases in the Caribbean result from homosexual and unprotected sex.
-in region only 25% of people needing antiretroviral drugs was receiving them
- In Trinidad and Tobago, females ages 15 to 19 were six times as likely to be HIV-positive than their male counterparts
-In Jamaica, females of the same age group were 2.5 times as likely to be HIV-positive than males of the same age group

The also indicated that poverty and vulnerability of women as some of the contributing factors for the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region.

The good news from the report include
-varying levels of HIV prevalence ranging from 0.1% in Cuba to more than 3% in the Bahamas and Haiti.
-Guyana, a country in which AIDS-related illnesses are the no. 1 cause of death among people ages 25 to 44, had an HIV prevalence of 2.4% in 2005
-the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean has been relatively stable over the past few years, with heterosexual sex accounting for the majority of HIV transmissions in the region

Well the writing has been on the wall in big bright red letters for a while. It is not like the people did not already have a fair idea what is happening. Yet we as a region continue to pretend and behave as if HIV/AIDS are not real issues.

I still see relatively young girls pregnant and not married, not even having a steady man. Young men generally don't want to use a condom. You must force your pattern most times and once they become comfortable as in having regular sex both parties often forgo the condom. I see women who as soon as they are away on a course or seminar hook-up with a man they have met for the first for those two weeks etc.
We are just not recognizing the monster that lurks among us. I guess we will treat this disease, like how we have treated diabetes, hypertension and the other chronic "black diseases" which plague our region. We will spend a pretty pound on the cure rather than a smart penny on the prevention.

We are happy people who don't like to bother with reality. Is World Cup that matters now…no talk of HIV/AIDS as it relates to that either, although cool Mello the mascot rocks his red ribbon without fail.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

A New Pastime: Turtle Watching

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For the last three nights environmentalists/conservationists, turtle watchers, Canadian scientists, forest rangers and curious on-lookers have been flocking to the black sand beaches, stretching from Cabana to Melville Hall, just outside my village, to see leatherback turtles come ashore to nest.

The female turtles come in, dig a whole in which to bury thousands and thousands of eggs and then return to the ocean, leaving the eggs to hatch and the young turtles to brave the elements on their own.

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There is much folklore about this natural phenomenon. There are those who point out the dark clouds in the sky, claiming that they are signs of the large amphibian coming ashore. They explain with conviction that when the clouds darken, the rain drizzles heavily and there is some lightning, it means that the creatures are near shore. They also claim that turtles prefer to lay their eggs in the black sands because the heat the sand provides high temperatures during the day to hatch the eggs. I am sure they have stories about the why the turtles come from the Atlantic waters as oppose to calmer Caribbean sea, but I guess I switched off after a while.

Whatever the truth about the natural occurrences that signal the turtles' arrival, people's interest has been heightened. Young and old come in the 100s to see for themselves. They wait long hours too, to get a glimpse of the creatures. Turtles coming on the sand to lay and bury their eggs has happened probably since the formation of the islands but for some strange reason people have taken keen interest in the natural wonder now.

The first night reports indicated that two turtles waited to come ashore until after most of the 100 or so on-lookers had left. The turtles seem to be spooked by the large numbers of people and the noise. The only lucky watchers were the watchers who were patient enough to wait.

For night two, even more people came but only one was seen and it came ashore to lay its eggs in the wee hours of the morning. On the third night I went to see too but in spite of the moonlit beach, several darkenings of the skies and drizzle, I still did not get lucky. The following morning I was told that indeed one had come in for nesting but it was about 2:00am in the morning when it made its appearance.

Check out Rosalie Sea Turtle Initiative (RosTI) the Dominica program for the protection and sustainable use of the sea turtles.

Read here

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


That is all I could say right after I heard the story I am about to relay.

The parents of some students of a secondary school are taking the school to court for punishing its entire fifth-form class after some pretty out of hand behavior by a few students. I think the group punishment was that there would be no graduation for the entire Class of 2006. Some parents have expressed their opposition to what they think is an unreasonable action by the school. It appears complaints to school authorities have gotten them no satisfaction and so they have threatened to take the school to court. Yup! The parents are suing the school!

Image hosting by PhotobucketBut the most amazing part of the story is not even this although it is pretty far-out. I wonder if anybody can guess what the original offense committed by the few was. Well the Roman Catholic affiliated school had organized a spiritual retreat for its most senior students. It is a tradition of sort among RC schools here. Anyways the retreat was on and it probably presented an opportunity for introspection by the majority of students. But some of the students of the all-girl school were not having any of that. Spiritual, smiritual...Introspec-wha?

Haahaaa…some girls had other ideas about what they should be doing for the weekend and they were eventually caught sharing among themselves a marijuana cake and porn magazines. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Bad girls! Hahahaha ...I had to laugh the first time I heard the story. But my initial reaction was "WHAT?!"

I mean can't imagine me or any of my peers doing that when we were fifth-formers, which seems like eons ago considering what the kids think they can get away with now. Maybe a page or so of soft porn but a whole flicking marijuana cake?! I mean what the hell was going through these kids’ minds?

But back to the suing parents....The school now is shamed in the public especially because they are an RC run school and they are upset about having the whole purpose of the retreat shot to hell and back. The Principal and school authority then hand down the harsh sentence of no graduation but not to the offending few, mind you. All fifth-formers get to share in the sentence!

And so now some parents, who feel that their children were not involved and had worked hard for graduation, are now fighting the school’s judgment in a court of law. As to whether things can be resolved amicably before it gets too far or whether the parents are just calling bluff is left to be seen. In my opinion, I think the parents may have some reason to gripe though. That group punishment thing is silly especially if you know the culprits and that no graduation is a big black mark on the students’ record if they did nothing wrong. It is case of Petra paying for Paula. Not Fair!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Windsor Parks Sports Stadium: Gift or Burden?

Image hosting by PhotobucketIn Dominica the average sports fan, more so cricket fans, will be elated come December 2006, the carded end of construction of the Windsor Park Sports Stadium. The stadium is a gift worth EC$33 million, from The People’s Republic of China to the Government and People of Dominica.

The mostly cricket stadium located in downtown Roseau will be of International Cricket Council (ICC) standard and will accommodate state-of-the-art facilities which include among others 10,000 seats, a media centre, practice nets, players’ complex, digital score boards and five cricket pitches. The young and aspiring cricketer should be ecstatic because after decades of empty promises, the cricket stadium is finally a reality. The Government of Dominica should be and probably are proud that they could deliver this facility, without burdening the Dominica Treasury.

So all looks well finally in Dominica as far as the sport of cricket goes? After all, cricket is one of the more popular games in the Caribbean. There is already regional management and physical infrastructure for the game in the Caribbean. It brings in revenue to countries which host international tests and one day international (ODIs). Just ask the tourism departments in Antigua and Barbados to get firm facts of the economic spin-offs that are derived from hosting international games, especially versus England and Australia. Additionally the Texan/Antiguan billionaire and businessman' Allen Stanford' has introduced his multi-million dollar annual 20/20 tournament. On the surface cricket infrastructure looks a good investment for any Caribbean country.

But is it so for Dominica? Is the new stadium going to impact our tourism industry and the economy positively? How will the stadium support itself? Well, maybe answering the questions to follow may help the reader to decide.

Image hosting by PhotobucketQ1.With the new stadium will we be able to host any Cricket World Cup 2007 (CWC07) matches? The Government having officially indicating in April 2005 to WICB, their interest in being involved in CWC07.

My Answer: No. It is too late for us to benefit from CWC07. The awards for hosting the CWC07 games were handed out in July 2004. Moreover, Dominica did not submit a bid.

Further, the completion date for the stadium is Dec 06, just over two months before the actual the mid-March CWC07 Opening Ceremony. Even if Dominica had placed a bid we would most likely have been turned down. St. Vincent’s bid was turned down b/c they did not have enough hotel rooms on St. Vincent and because they do not have an international airport.

They managed however to get some practice games b/c they at least have night landing up to 11pm at night and an ICC endorsed cricket stadium which they have repaired and upgraded just for the practice matches. Unlike St. Vincent, we have no international airport, no night landing to talk of and approximately 300 hundred international standard hotel rooms! Last but not least Dominica is not a traditional cricket venue as opposed to a country like Guyana who also has accommodations problems. In the history of West Indies cricket Dominica hosted one ODI in 1977/78 at the very Windsor Park.

Image hosting by PhotobucketQ2. Would we not be able to host CWC07 matches if something happens to one or more of the selected stadiums, for example damage during hurricane season 2006?

My Answer: Well there is a small chance, a very tiny chance that is. But for how many hurricane seasons over the last two decades was Dominica spared while other islands were hit? If we are lucky to have a repeat of hurricane season 2005 this year then maybe, but Bermuda is already lined-up as the ICC official back-up venue. In the case where there is need for more than one back-up stadium, we would probably be lucky if the whole tournament is not moved to South Africa or Australia. If it remains in the Caribbean we would have to stand in line behind a second stadium in T&T and other bid submitters in Bermuda, St. Vincent and Florida. Yeah a small chance in hell is right.

Image hosting by PhotobucketQ3. So what about hosting practice games or games between the fans? There has been some discussion with WICB World Cup Committee in this regard?

My Answer: From where I sit, I don’t know which rational fan would come for practice or fans games when they can't get out in the evenings after the games are over and into their rooms in St. Lucia and Antigua. Where would we put them? We might as well scratch that idea. If we were to host any of the practice or fans games we would be again sitting behind places such as St. Vincent, Bermuda and Florida and maybe even grounds in St. Marten with FC grounds and easy air access.

Image hosting by PhotobucketQ4. Ok forget about CWC07. You can say we've missed that boat. How about other events like the World Creole Music Festival (WCMF) and regular cricket tours post CWC07?

My answer: I don't see how we can just forget it (CWC07). Any stadium in the Caribbean that misses that boat has basically missed it all. When again will any cricket venue in the Caribbean be able earn a significant surplus to buoy upkeep and maintenance costs in future slow periods?

But on to other possible revenue streams, WCMF and cricket tours. If one talks to the organizers of WCMF they will understand that the biggest stumbling block to attracting the big bands, larger numbers of visitors and also international media to Dominica for WCMF is the sad state of our air access.

It is just simply murder getting into and leaving Dominica around festive times. The big names don’t even bother. Again the absence of an international airport or having only very limited night access is the recurring problem. Until air access is improved I can say with certainty that all we will experience is just a transferred small festival, crowd and bands, to a bigger venue.

In regards to international cricket teams touring the Caribbean to keep ICC commitments, we will stand behind the more popular and traditional venues in Guyana, Jamaica, T&T and Barbados. As it is Antigua, Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia even St. Kitts will be in front of us as well and for nothing else but our problematic air access. It is important to note also that the Government of Dominica has indirectly given 2030 as the year for the start of construction of an international airport.

One also has to factor into all this, the low rank of West Indies team in ICC world cricket standings. The number 8 position out of 10 test teams means that most touring teams will most likely not play more than 4 test matches in the region. For the six-year period 2000-05 for example, the West Indies played 35 tests and 48 ODIs at home. This averages at just fewer than 6 test matches and 8 ODIs per year. For the Future ICC tour programme 2006-2012, I have estimated, from the total scheduled matches for West Indies, that they will play 5 tests and 9 or 10 ODIs per year at home. Do the math. We will have ten other venues besides Dominica’s post CWC07.

This means that even with a possible 10 ODIs per year scheduled for future home tours, the matches will have to be shared among eleven venues. Without the night access and hotel rooms we are hamstrung in our ability to compete with other Caribbean stadiums and this therefore may restrict Windsor Park Sports Stadium ability to earn income from even ODIs.

Zimbabwe and India will be here in 2006, but WICB has already scheduled the venues for these tours. Given the moves afoot in India to sidestep the ICC future programme, in order to play more matches against the more lucrative English & Australian teams, one would be hard pressed to put much faith in the ICC schedule beyond 2006. Additionally Australia has already indicated that they will not tour the West Indies in 2007. So that leaves England only for 2007 and those matches go to the traditional venues in Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana. These games will be lucrative and they (the big four) have the power advantage in West Indies cricket. None of the other teams draw crowds to venues and so we might be granted some ODIs for the Bangladesh and Sri Lanka tours in 2008.

Image hosting by PhotobucketQ5. Prime Minister Skerritt had responded to pessimists at the start of construction of the Windsor Park Stadium by saying and I quote: "The question is would we prefer to have the Windsor Park in the state it is and nobody can make use of it?" Would one prefer to keep the eyesore that existed or accept the generous gift from the People's Republic of China of an international cricket stadium?

My Answer: Without an international airport in the near future, this Windsor Park Sports Stadium is just a waste of a showcase infrastructure in the short-term. I predict it will morph into a white elephant eventually. Do we have any idea what it will cost to up-keep the stadium? I don’t think any thought has gone into plans for transforming the stadium in order that it is utilized for other revenue generating purposes outside cricket and possibly football. I doubt whether anybody has looked that far ahead but the most important business of the stadium's management should be generating revenue from the facility. Without proper night access into Dominica at least, they are severely handicapped.

Maintenance will be a major cost to come from just having the stadium but it will not be the only cost to Dominica. Maybe it would have served us better to establish a park, another green-quiet zone in the city, with a few benches and trees. The location of the stadium is not ideal as it is down town Roseau. Granted it is in a corner of the capital but it is estimated that when the stadium is in operation, serious traffic congestion will be experienced.

The stadium is also located near the Roseau River but in spite of this there is strong suspicion that there was no full-fledged environmental impact assessment conducted for the stadium. It appears that the effects of stadium waste, traffic etc on the river have been left for discovery after they actually occur. I guess the Roseau River is something we are prepared to lose even if both landmarks could coexist. It is practically dry as it is but maybe there are plans in the pipeline to restore the river. Interestingly this year has been declared the year of the rivers by one of the more active local environmentalist NGOs. So anything is possible, I guess.

Another interesting matter is that new stadiums according to ICC requirements since 9/11 should have a perimeter buffer zone for security purposes. It is not coincidence that most of the new stadiums are built out in open areas away from the congestion of capital cities. Whatever the depth of the buffer zone, it is practically impossible to achieve it here, as Windsor Park Sports Stadium has neighboring buildings that include the Dominica Grammar School, The Government Headquarters/Ministerial Building, public main roads and the Financial Complex to name a few.

Finally it has been intimated that in order to supply the stadium with electricity/power for night events it would require that the entire capital and its environs be without power. In other words, Roseau will experience a black-out whenever the stadium is in use at night.

Call me a pessimist or party pooper, but from my analysis of information available to me on the Windsor Park Sports Stadium, it appears it may go from gift to burden in no time, more so if air access into Dominica is not significantly improved.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I know black men who hate on Oprah

Image hosting by PhotobucketI often wonder why so many black men hate on Oprah so much. Well I guess she is not in the physically beautiful league of a Pam Grier, Lena Horne, Halle Berry, Vanessa Williams, Janet Jackson etc. The above women among many others are the women black men tend to hold up as attractive. It seems that most black men think that physically both Oprah and Whoopi for example are as attractive as a donkey's behind. I think both these women are beautiful in their own right and therefore I don't agree with these men but I understand. In the real world it is in this way most men's preferences are shaped. So I concede on the attractiveness quotient bit.

Image hosting by PhotobucketOprah however is a woman who, like many black women even if they are only successful at having raised some kids into upstanding contributing citizens, has done wonderfully well for herself, by herself and most importantly with lots and lots of hard work. She has achieved and achieved big and is a mover and shaker in the world. So why no credit for that? Why do most men have to hate on the sistah so much?

Image hosting by PhotobucketGranted I don't agree with everything Oprah espouses. I often find that her politics and mine are diametrically opposite but I understand. I understand her environment, where she has come from and what she has to do achieve. I forgive her because she always intends well and I recognize the good things she does, the good part of all her work that outweighs the bad for the most part.

Image hosting by PhotobucketDoes this hate of Oprah by some black men stem from the same place that gave and continue to give Alice Walker good licks for her work in Color Purple, or Toni Morrison in Bluest Eye or Terry McMillan in Waiting to Exhale? It appears once you start to open up the discussion of how men (black men more so) treat their women and ask questions of these men and the status quo, you become public enemy number one?

Image hosting by PhotobucketIt seems that black women no matter how successful must bare whatever is her assigned role in private and grin but remain silent in public. Why can't black women with strong voices raise questions about incest, rape and child sexual abuse where the black man is the perpetrator? Why can't they talk about the type of black man who will knowingly father a child and leave the woman holding all the responsibility for it? The type of black man who will start a family and then just ups and leaves never looking back. Why is it blasphemy to talk about black women's experiences at the hands of unreasonable, mean black men (husbands, fathers, boyfriends etc)just because they hold the purse strings? Why is it taboo for women who have powerful voices to deal in the open with violence and abuse suffered by black women at the hands of black men?

I have come to believe that it must be for this reason that some black men hate on Oprah so much. It can't be that they think that she has sold out; there are tons of sucessful black men who care jack shit about black people, who have done fuck-all for any black person after they arrived and they are adored among other black men. They are held up for all they have accomplished.

So what gives?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Vanishing People....A Village Dying?

Image hosting by PhotobucketTwice recently I have felt in the pit of my stomach the dread I must have felt the days surrounding my father's death. I was three when my pops passed but I know that event made an indelible mark on my psyche because that feeling of dread would overcome me every time I happened on death or funerals. Mark you, the funeral did not have to be of a very good friend or close family member to awaken such a visceral reaction. An accidental meeting of a funeral procession was enough.

So who died recently? Whose funeral? Well it is not who but what and I really don't know if it is a death or a major transformation. That dreadful feeling has reared its ugly head not in signal of an actual funeral but for a vanishing people and maybe for a village dying. I have been looking closely at the village where I was born and raised; my immediate neighborhood and the whole village. Recently I even had the opportunity to accompany my mother on her visits to some shut-ins in the village. What I am uncovering certainly reminds me of my friend's desolate ancestral village in Kenya.

To be accurate, two days ago as I watered some newly planted hedge in the yard of my family home it hit me. My village, my home is fast becoming a replica of my Kenyan friend's. On my visit there in 2000, my friend pointed out the number of homesteads that were empty and others where there were only young children and grandmothers. Even worse there were quite a few homesteads where only young related orphans fended for themselves. The HIV/AIDS pandemic had rendered the place, where her parents spend most of their retired days and her once alive and vibrant ancestral home, a ghost town!

Finally I understood my friend's compulsion to point out the empty and near empty homesteads in her village. I would not have otherwise known it had not always been like that. She was not just noting the impact of AIDS/HIV on her community but most likely sharing her deep sense of loss and sorrow for her vanishing people, her dying home.

Image hosting by PhotobucketWhat is interesting about my circumstance is that it is not the AIDS/HIV pandemic that is laying waste the population of my home village but migration; internal and external. From a cursory count of the homes that existed in my immediate childhood neighborhood, the number of children per household averaged around six. Now the majority of these homes are empty. The people who grew up here and their children are gone and their parents have died or are in their twilight.

The first wave of the exodus which really started in late 50s, though significant was not as acutely felt. Those who left the village went away for secondary school and later jobs in the capital. Back then, not every household was fortunate enough to have a member make that transition. Of those who lived mainly in the capital there was always family and friends to bring them back. Moreso entire families did not leave following them.

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It was a few decades later in 1979, after Hurricane David destroyed the island, that the serious exodus to other countries started. With no employment and a severly affected banana industry, the main source of income in my village, young persons just out of school left in search of opportunities in places such as Antigua, Tortola, St. Martin, Guadeloupe and North America. As they settled and made a life for themselves in these places they encouraged and made way for siblings and other family to join them. And so the reproductive portion of my village has gradually relocated to other parts.

The inability of successive governments to turn around the deteriorating economic conditions and more so the banana industry since Hurricane David, has not helped stem the outflow. Those who had left children behind with grandmothers, clear them out as soon as they finish secondary and sometimes primary school. The primary school I attended as a child for example now hosts less than 50% of its capacity. The registered student population has dwindled from about 400 in the early 90s to less 200 today. The entire top floor of the school remains unoccupied during the normal school day.

The houses which used to be full and overflowing, when my siblings and I were children, are mostly empty or are home to mainly older and sickly persons. Young, productive and verile villagers are in the minority. The children make up the numbers but their numbers continue to decrease.

Image hosting by PhotobucketMaybe, just maybe, it is change and not death which is transforming the landscape of my village. Right now two neighborhood houses have been turned in business places; one a cable company's office and the other is home to a pharmacy, restaurant, the village library and a doctor's and dentist office.

What is undisputable though is that the people are vanishing, the numbers are dwindling. The women who remain don't have nearly as many children as their mothers and grandmothers. Imagine, the AIDS pandemic is yet to unleash its wrath on us (God forbid if it ever does) and we are already staggering. My village home is vanishing.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Parrots of Dominica

Image hosting by PhotobucketIsn't it a beaut? This is the national bird of Dominica. Its scientific name is Imperial Amazon. It is found only in Dominica and local name is Sisserou, the Carib word for parrot.

The Sisserou parrots on Dominica all but disappeared after the passage of Hurricane David in 1979. Scientists believed that only about 50 of them remained on the island after the destructive storm. As such Dominican Forestry and Wildlife officials had to wait until 2000 to get a glimpse of the huge parrot in its stumping ground, the Morne Diablotin National Park.

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe Sisserou parrot resides mainly in the thick rain forest reserve situated at the foot of Dominica's highest peak [4,747 ft, Morne Diablotin]. The parrot shares the lower elevation of its home with the other equally popular Jacko Parrot. The Jacko Parrot or the Amazona Arausiaca is smaller than the Sisserou and is also endemic to Dominica.

Image hosting by PhotobucketDominica is lucky in that these two parrots of the Amazon species have survived to this day. Parrots almost identical to the Sisserou, on Martinique and Guadeloupe, were made extinct in the 1800s. The size of the Sisserou prevents it from flying long distances. It is said that fly like a duck. The Parrots survival therefore requires that their natural habitat, the rain forest of tall trees, is maintained. [Shamefully this is something Dominican leadership seem to ignore; considering that is, the developmental activities they promote.]

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe Jacko Parrot derives its name from the Jacko Flats, the area where it was first observed. Jacko Flats is an old maroon camp named after the famous runaway African slave and camp leader Jacko; who escaped into the rain forest soon after his arrival from Africa in the 1760s. Jacko, the aging rebel maroon, was killed some forty years later at Jacko Flats. So two beautiful and resilient parrots get the honour of bearing names associated with powerful and courageous people.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Of Q-Tip and Wutliss Luv

Image hosting by PhotobucketWutliss luv I define as what ordinary women do when they fall in luv with some star or personality who they will never meet or know. Like how some women just luvs them a Denzel Washington while others luv them some Will Smith or Morris Chestnut. For me it is the nondescript Q-tip of the Tribe Called Quest. Yes Q-tip!

Most people who read this would wonder “why?” I don't know either but there is something about this man that my spirit just loves....From the first time I saw him in Tribe, I was hooked. He is not remarkable physically or as a rapper. Never dresses up as Kanye West does... he certainly does not bling like most of the brothers in the entertainment business....does not seem to make much money and certainly does not appear to squander whatever he makes like most of these ‘never-see-come-see’ fools either.

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe strangest thing about me and Q is that I don't follow his career and I know none of his songs off-hand. I can re-call the chorus of Bonita AppleBum with Tribe but that is about all. I don't know Q's real name, his biography nor do I have any of his or Tribe Called Quest albums...I have seen him in Disappearing Acts and Prison Song and that is it. I absolutely loved him in Prison Song though. I would say I am not a groupie at all but whenever I see him on the screen or hear his voice I stop and come back to listen or me that man is just beautiful.

Q-tip my wutliss luv, I luvs yuh some baby!