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Poet - Writer - Public Speaker - Activist - Actress Jewel Allison
An author’s search for peace
By: Gercine Carter Jewel Allison is an American with deep Barbadian roots, on a mission to make life easier for Barbadians and other Caribbean people. The statuesque six-footer, who at various times worked as a professional model, actress and journalist, recently launched her first book Stealing Peace at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill campus. In an interview with the WEEKEND NATION, Allison explained Stealing Peace dealt with world issues. It is a combination of poetry and essays in which she highlights the need to  find world peace, a cure for racism and the need to treat the environment “kinder and gentler”. The Barbados book launch marks the beginning of a world tour which she said she kicked off  here “because I  wanted to go where my ancestors are from”. Her father, Sylvester Gittens, is originally from St Philip. She also plans to go to Puerto Rico, London, South Africa, Bali, Australia and Senegal, her ultimate goal – to air her views in every continent. Allison has been visiting Barbados from childhood. She was born in  Brooklyn, but her father  first brought her to Barbados at about age six and she said even at that early age, her first and subsequent visits helped her to confront the  identity issues which dogged her in the Brooklyn neighbourhood where she grew up. Hers was the only family of Barbadian origin there. There were also some Jamaicans. She was teased for her accent; she and her family were called coconuts and boat people – her grandfather George Gittens did go to the United States in a boat, there being no air service from Barbados in those days. “I just remember as a little girl being teased and not really meeting a lot of people from Barbados and going to a map to try to fight back the bullies in school. “They would say ‘well where are your people from’, and I would say Barbados and I remember grabbing a map and trying to show them where in the Caribbean we are from and it was not there. That was devastating to me, that even back then they did not bother to put us on the map. “It was here that I learnt at a very young age to validate where my people were from.” Though her Barbadian grandparents are deceased, Allison asserts: “I am sure that they are very happy and very pleased that I am here doing what I am doing. It is a pity that they are not physically here, but I am sure spiritually I have their blessings and their support.” Allison graduated from New York University with a degree in film and television and worked as an actress. She is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, winning a part in the film  Boomerang which featured Eddie Murphy. She has also done several  commercials and voice-overs. But while she was busy with all the other activity, Allison was secretly writing poetry through which she explored  themes of love, peace and the environment. She plans to publish another book next year, with the title The Seduction. Just as her father brought her to Barbados, she has brought her daughter to expose her to the culture and lifestyle of her ancestors. Now retired from acting and modelling, Allison has taken on the role of public speaker, contracted by some of the well known American public speaking agencies. She has chosen this as her medium to get across the message of freedom of access for Caribbean people to borders outside their own, especially the United States. “One of the matters that I am bringing up a lot these days because I want to sensitise the world, is  our issues in the Caribbean and Africa. “In doing this in one of my last speaking engagements, I brought up our need to revisit the visa and  passport situation. “I think it is too difficult for most Caribbean people to be able to come to the United States.” Allison relates the story of her Barbadian grandmother Eloise Gittens who had her own “underground railroad” in the United States. Gittens migrated and laboured hard as a maid “scrubbing toilets”, a menial task which she did not allow to define her. Instead she acquired her own home and other real estate and assisted many other Barbadians with migration to the United States. It bothers Eloise’s granddaughter decades later, that Barbadians still have great difficulty with migration given what she considers exhorbitant visa fees. “Even now it is easy for an American to come here but it is not easy for us to get to America. My question is ‘Why’?  “Not everyone can afford the cost of a visa and the money is not even returned if you are unsuccessful. “I believe every human being should have the right to travel in this God-given world. The way the border and the visa situation is set up now is one in which we are all prisoners. “If you do not get your visa you do not get your money back and I just believe that the way God has the world with the air  and the water flowing into each other, there really are no walls . . . man built the invisible walls.” NationNews.com © Nation Publishing Co. Limited 2011
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Jewel Allison, poet, public speaker, activist, actress
Jewel Allison Photo: NationNews.com
Actress launches book
Author Jewel Allison autographing a copy of her book Stealing Peace.(Picture by Shaka Mayers.)
The Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies on Wednesday played host to actress, former model and poet/spoken word artiste Jewel Allison at the University Bookshop. She was on hand to promote her book Stealing Peace, a collection of thought-provoking, riveting and honest gathering of words in poetic form that reads like a candid intimate. The book is said to be an enjoyable read for poetry and non-poetry lovers. Allison is a fresh new voice exploding in the poetry and public-speaking arenas. It is said that no one talks about such sensitive issues like civil rights, diversity and world peace with the joy and optimism that she does. The book is in sale at bookstores nationwide. (PR) NationNews.com © Nation Publishing Co. Limited 2011
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