Monday, June 1, 2020

I Can't Breathe

The Webster Dictionary defines “breathe” as: a) to draw air into and expel it from the lungs; to take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide through natural processes.  b) to inhale and exhale freely.

My mother whenever she was overwhelmed with domestic chores or perhaps her own thoughts, would say to my siblings and I, “Please I beg you all to give me a little breathing space”, as we gathered around to make much of her or tug the hem of her dress for food or something else. In my mind, I could never understand her “sometimish” response because no one was holding her nose and squeezing it tight to cut off her air supply. So being the obedient children we were raised to be we would scamper away before the count of three. No questions asked of Mama and the breathing space she wanted.

Now, I said all of that to raise the topic of some Law Enforcement officers, Policemen/Cops, in our society who don't quite understand the statement “I can’t breathe” whenever it has been repeated several times by a suspect who is pinned against the ground. I don’t know the details of policemen-training so as a civilian I am not at liberty to say they are wrong or right. Nor would I even consider that they are doing a game of play wrestling like little boys do. Little boys can be mean when they fool around but not to cause grave harm or injury. But if commonsense must prevail, as a Policeman, I would pay attention to the suspect pleading for help or mercy. Never believe that the suspect is trying to weasel a way out of an arrest or situation. Call for advice of backup helpers.  Get that teamwork going. Do not make a decision to the detriment of others or even yourself.

My grandmother loved to repeat the Jamaican adage, “Bullfrog said what is joke to you is death to me”. This adage rings through daily in many of our lives yet we do not take heed.  The statement “I can’t breathe” has become one too many these days from suspects who are pinned against the ground by a police officer. Be it in an arm-hold, neck-hold or whatever the tactical training is, “I can’t breathe”, should be given prompt attention. Don’t take it for granted. Unfortunately, Minnesota experienced an arrest of a suspect who was pinned against the ground crying “I can’t breathe” to the officer who remained on top of him with his knee locked into his neck. The suspect yelled I can’t breathe more than once yet the officer remained in his composure: knee in the suspect's neck and hand in pocket until the suspect became silent….

The May 25, 2020 video account of the death of suspect George Floyd was hard to watch. It was real. My emotions were real. Hence, I wrote this poem called "I Can't Breathe":

Tah-tah! Exercise power with good judgment and commonsense. 

Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2020

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Arrived Like A Bat Out Of Hell And Took My Brother

What is COVID 19? It’s referred to as: virus, disease, pandemic. By any name, one thing is certain and that is: it wreaks havoc. Claude McKay was a Jamaican poet. And as death after death became mountains, his poem, “If we must die”, stood dominant in my mind.

If We Must Die

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

Claude McKay

The year 2020 was dubbed the vision year for everyone. We had great intentions and ideas to improve our lives. Some of us planned to make our biggest mark in life. We were ready to show leap year 2020 that no matter how it tried to lift its tail of usual woe we would be victorious in all we had planned. But just as we began our great expectations all hell broke loose. A new strain of coronavirus swooped down on planet earth. Nation after nation reported about it. By March 2020 it was declared a pandemic. We were told to remain home, wear masks, practice good hygiene and adhere to public health manners just like our elders and parents had taught us to do. 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it uncertainty and fear as we listened to public announcements and updates by leaders, doctors and scientists. Fake news about Coronavirus and it's origin sounded plausible, I hardly wanted to dismiss them. Because according to a Jamaican saying, "If it nuh goh soh, it near goh soh". Which simple means that some of the fake news must have some element of truth to them.

As the awful behavior of COVID-19 took charge. People with deep cultural beliefs used remedies of old passed down by ancestors. I for one took advantage of my cultural upbringing and tried bush-teas of all descriptions. I used Jamaican white rum to rub my body here and there and dab the tongue with a small amount just for taste, or clear my throat according to the old time people. I increased my intake of lime, ginger, lemon, turmeric, garlic and onion. The remedies didn’t hurt me as a child, they did more good than harm so why not try them. And especially since they said that the coronavirus carried symptoms like the flu those were perfect choices.

The COVID-19 pandemic took me back to basics in true Jamaican fashion. Items for use against germs were imperative: Carbolic soap, dettol soap, liquid dettol, bay rum, and rubbing alcohol. There was one old fashioned germ fighting item that wasn’t available and that was jeyes. I recall my parents used to wash my siblings and I bodies in tepid jeyes water when we rolled around in dirt. God forbid if we had picked up any germs in the form of a scratch-mark, bump or pimple, the germs would be nipped in the bud. Not get out of hand. When I had my children, I also washed their bodies with the same jeyes formula if I suspected they had mingled with any germs. Jeyes was also used to disinfect floors too. Jeyes was a big deal disinfectant for domestic animals, floors and humans.

It’s weird that I should have written this piece in the past tense as if COVID-19 is gone. It’s still on planet earth doing its ugly and desperate visits. On Sunday, April 26, 2020, it robbed me of a dear sibling, a brother, Norman Washington Fitz-Herbert Dunkley aka Sloopy. He was a resident of the United States of America and a Jamaican citizen. With an already frail body beaten by Parkinson’s and lying in a Nursing Home, COVID-19 seized the opportunity to prey on him. Don’t forget that people with underlying conditions stand less chance of surviving the ordeal. So it was easy when it attacked him. COVID-19 robbed my other siblings of a brother too. He was witty, comical, intelligent and a charmer. COVID-19 robbed his children too. It robbed his grandchildren too. It robbed his nieces and nephews too. It robbed his family, relatives and friends too. You name it!  COVID-19 didn’t care. It took friends, neighbors, strangers, a friend of a friend. It even took my Primary Care Physician as he worked on the front-line.

It is with hope that COVID-19 goes away, RIGHT NOW!  No more lingering. Go away destroyer and evil! GO! ENOUGH!

Tah-tah! Exercise Care: Wear Masks. Cover Coughs and Sneezes. Wash hands. Let all the good prevail among us.

Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2020

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Plan Your Plan And Work Your Plan...2020 vision

A Google search has defined the word plan as: A detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.


One day my younger daughter, at the age of five, idly sat on a stool in the foyer of our abode. My older daughter and I in the meantime were discussing the details of a situation. To our surprise my younger daughter interjected by telling me to follow God’s Plan. You have to follow God’s plan, Mommy, she said, clenching her fist and staring me in the eyes. She was a miniature politician in the moment. I put on a broad smile at her and her matured input and wanted to know where she had heard that statement. The reveal was Sunday School. Damn, my baby is learning at Sunday School, I said to myself.

But what if I don’t want to follow God’s Plan? Every tub must sit on its own bottom is one of my favorite sayings. It also reads like a plan. We are responsible for charting our own course. Here we are in the year 2020 where most people have dubbed it “vision year”. And appropriately so as the number 2020 is associated with the eyes. With such a number in our space, it’s the perfect time to set our sights on something good. Desires. Ambition. Success. Focus on being a better person. Be kind to oneself and others. Lose weight. Gain weight. Travel. Join an exercise class. Become a millionaire or marry one. Buy a new home. Keep fingers crossed with the hope of finding a sincere person with whom to have a sober and healthy relationship. Tackle anything which in the past had seemed far fetched or out of reach.


New Year’s resolutions are expected. It’s a journey, not a fad in my opinion. Participants of New Year’s resolutions project solemnity in the same manner they would assume positions to an office of high calling. Loyal and trustworthy. Or, perhaps their seriousness can be measured against the undertaking of the oath of marriage. To have and to hold. Great testimonials are banked on along the journey or at the end. But amidst high hopes, embosomed resolutions are set to fail for some people. Perhaps a resolution gives a moonbeam effect. It shines bright at first and then begins to fade by the end of the first week of the new year. And by the third month becomes a figment of one's imagination. But hope shouldn’t be lost among the repeat offenders of resolutions. A  plan can be installed anytime.


The street language defines New Year’s resolutions as: same shit different day...just a change in year. In my opinion doing certain tasks requires a strong mindset. And so it is when carrying out resolutions and goals. There must be a plan. A blueprint. There should be precision, focus,   determination and movement for a plan to come to fruition. It requires constant hands on along the way as in operating a standard vehicle, a stick shift. It’s not an automatic and cruise control effort in the case of Plan Your Plan And Work Your Plan...2020 vision.


Should obstacles surface while a plan is in motion, remain confident. Do not be deterred by the noise: violence, greed, hate, racism, ego, arrogance, lackadaisical attitude, liars, doubt, naysayers and political dogma. Move towards your goal.

Tah-tah! Use your 2020 vision to execute your plan.

Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2020

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Thanksgiving: Harvest Sunday Nazareth Moravian Church, Maidstone, Manchester, Jamaica

We plow the fields, and scatter
the good seed on the land,
but it is fed and watered
by God's almighty hand;
he sends the snow in winter,
the warmth to swell the grain,
the breezes and the sunshine,
and soft refreshing rain.
All good gifts around us
are sent from heaven above,
then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
for all his love.


Thanksgiving! Harvest! Church! God! Lord! I am not the best when it comes to scaring people but should the word church, Lord and God scare you, simply wait. Remain calm. Don’t run away yet. Those words are nothing to make you run, hide, swear and call on your ancestors; compared to the thunderous sounds of the pipe organ and the militant voices of the congregation at the Nazareth Moravian Church on their rendition of the song: We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land. 

To a little girl it was scary. Scarier than the spider who came down the wall and frightened Little Miss Muffet as she ate her curds and whey. It was the most righteous, grateful, cleansing time of my life to hear that song. I wanted to say that I am not the only one who stole a little bit of sugar from the jar at home. My siblings did too. I had to get it right with God in that moment and to display a humble, penitent look for the helpers of the church to see the effect of the powerful singing which was enough to push me to the altar. I had been a participant in altar call many times at church only to be reprimanded by the members of the Helper committee. It was their belief that my sporadic show was a copycat issue among the children. We had no clue at such a tender age what it meant to be saved and sanctified, according to them. In that moment too, of Harvest celebration, if I had my own wish I would rather be at the altar where all the donated goodies awaited: candy canes, cakes, sweet potato pudding, coconut grater cake, coconut drops and more.

Frankly, though, some people may be of the opinion that Thanksgiving is an American thing. No, it’s not. People elsewhere in the world do their thanksgiving on a regular basis and in their own way. The Harvest Sundays, I celebrated as a little girl, in my village were also deemed Thanksgiving. People in our village and surrounding areas walked, rode horses or drove to give thanks. Of course there were donkeys in the village but perhaps that would be upstaging Jesus if a congregant had ridden one to the service. It would have been a coo-ya and giddy-up moment instead of a come by here moment.

Back in the day, in my hamlet, villagers and well wishers went deep and plentiful to give thanks. They gave their best, nothing riff raff as we gathered at the house of worship to celebrate and enjoy a spirited service. The sanctuary on that day would be decorated with crops of all sorts in every nook and cranny. It’s a time when the local farmers get to showcase the harvest from their crops: corn, yams, bananas, plantains, potatoes, sugar cane, oranges, tangerines and more. The farmers also brought along a few fowls which were placed at the altar too. Some ladies donated crochet and tatting pieces. Above all though my interest was with the sweet treats.

Our Harvest Service or Thanksgiving dismissed nothing. There was a special offering. My parents, like many others, gave my siblings and me money to deposit in the collection plate. I was the happiest during that Harvest Service moment because we all got the opportunity to walk to the altar where we deposited our pennies and thruppences, sometimes sixpences and shillings. It was with hope too that people would see my pretty dress with stiff crinoline underneath to make it wide and nice to brush against each pew as I went by. I also wore drop curls hairdo under a lovely hat to match my dress. Complemented by socks with lace around the edge and black patent leather shoes which glistened from the Vaseline used to polish it. It was seldom in those times for a child not to be dressed in new clothes on Harvest Sundays. Everyone came looking clean, fabulous and celebratory.

Most importantly, I could hardly wait for Monday morning to arrive when people would gather on the grounds of the church to buy any desired Harvest donation. How enlightening and rich to see earth being bountiful with its beauty for all to participate.

Tah-tah! The more we give; the more we shall receive in return.

Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2019

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Pacifier: Whenever Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures

A pacifier is also referred to as a dodie, soother, binky, dummy or teether.


Given the wavering political climate in America and all the diatribes of relationships, home, work, healthcare, financial groundings, social media, Alexa and social conditions, how many times have we heard the statement desperate times call for desperate measures? And exactly what do people mean when they use that particular statement? I wish I was a mind reader but since I am not one, I will share something I have observed; a possible reaction by the people who are troubled about the times we are living in. While also wondering if our beloved America will be going to hell in a hand basket.

Often times, parents warn children against putting foreign objects in their mouths. Those who suck fingers are no exception to the rule. There would be a strong opposition by parents when a child was caught sucking fingers. According to the parents, the child would end up growing a buck tooth. Parents addressed the situation as a horrible look and were quick to give a  demonstration to scare the children. Nevertheless, parents are humans too and sometimes they never practice what they preach. In their moments of desperation, wanting to get something of importance done and having a weepy child in their care, the only measure that could do justice in that moment would be to push a pacifier in the child’s mouth to give comfort.

The baby with the pacifier in the mouth becomes quiet, relaxed and comforted. It’s then quite noticeable that the parents' desperate measures worked in desperate times. They get to carry on doing work without interruption. The pacifier is a silencer too. Perhaps a bit and bridle which could be a topic with relevance at another time. And so recently, in my neighborhood, as I watched a few adults walked along the streets with pacifiers in their mouths my only thought is that the pacifiers must also be their desperate measure to the desperate times. Immense comfort. And also, a warning to men who are quick to ask for a blow job/fellatio, that sucking on a pacifier is best. Some will not be deterred by that action. They will see it as a rehearsal. I also considered that they having a pacifier in their mouth could have been a result of a medical situation. I refuse to stand in agreement with myself at this moment in time on the medical aim. In the mid nineteen nineties, also, a pacifier in a teenager’s mouth was a fad. The pacifier has had a run of the mill, holding various positions. I am sticking with the pacifier in an adult’s mouth as a desperate measure for desperate times, peace of mind to the weary and confused soul.  Why not?

Tah-tah! Pacify the  soul to keep the peace.

Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2019

Friday, August 30, 2019

A Jamaican Bush Testimony...Chinny pee pee

What is a testimony? To cut a long definition short here are a few synonyms that best describe the word testimony: corroboration, attestation, proof, evidence, witness.

There are different kinds of testimonies. Back in the day when there was much respect for religion, one of the most exciting things to me, as a little girl, was to attend revival meetings. The nightly meetings were held at the house of worship in the village where churchgoers had the opportunity to deliver their testimonies. The testimonies rivaled a storytelling session by the greatest raconteurs. One by one members of the congregation shared what the Lord had done for them. Some were happy to report that they were brought back from the brink of death, having recovered from a serious illness. Others narrowly missed a lightning strike. Some farmers spoke about the bounteous crops they reaped whereas some asked for prayers for the Lord to continually bless them. Make them prosper in all they do. Those who were in a strong relationship with their faith, expressed that is was their determination to follow the Lord Jesus Christ their personal savior and soon coming king. Some testimony-participants drew laughter from children in the congregation, the moment they stood up to deliver. Laughter swelled too if Lucifer decided to lay hands on the ill-mannered persons to break wind, especially in the middle of a testimony. The bursts and booms became a parody of an anthem. The culprits always seem to hold their wind until testimony time. Perhaps they considered their behavior late night entertainment which became a detriment to children who giggled, including me. We were not spared the brutal reprimands from clergy, board members and our parents.

If someone wants to share a testimony in the twenty first century, there is no appointment and no special venue. It is done any time, in any fashion and anywhere. Person to person delivery of testimony is more appropriate for some people while others consider social media to be the best place. One way or the other, the fact is that people are doing what they want to do and are thinking less about doing it at a place of worship. I often take nature walks when I visit the island of Jamaica. So one day while looking at a tree in a cluster of bushes I couldn’t resist taking my eyes off its fire red bell-shaped flowers. A relative, with me at the time, told me that the tree is referred to as chinny pee pee. Upon close inspection I noticed the buds on the flower. She relieved one from its hold, pinched a hole at one end, poured the water from it and then told me that she used it as eye drops. Her daredevil act scared me. I would never take such a chance with my eyes. Using the special water meant nothing to her because she was a seasoned user of the old remedy which she said worked for many people. She told me that they all shared their testimonies about the water found in the flower bud of the chinny pee pee tree. 

After four years of using the medicine from the chinny pee pee tree the time came for my relative to share her testimony. It occurred, July 2019, when I visited Jamaica. We sat on the balcony of her house talking about this and that when she decided to read me excerpts from a book. After she was finished reading, she said to me, girl you don’t notice I am not reading with my spectacles on. The chinny peepee worked to rahtid, she laughed. No more specs! My jaw dropped looking at the obvious. I was amazed. Shocked! It was a pleasure to see her bragged about the medical miracle brought about by chinny peepee, the old time remedy found in the bush, not from a lab or pharmacy. Her exuberance allowed her to also demonstrate and prove she can string a needle with thread without wearing her spectacles. Damn, was all I could afford to say at the end of the demonstration, wishing I had the wherewithal to market chinny pee pee in America.  To further set the situation on a hype, another relative told me that it’s the most sterile water anyone could ever find. Birds gather a drink of water from it too. It sure is astounding to hear about the things that some of us didn’t place value on, have now become the ones working wonders. Today in a world of modern medicine, if the professionals were to hear about chinny pee pee, the miracle eye drops, what would they have to say about it. 

At this juncture, let me mention that I am not a pharmacist, a naturopathic doctor or a medical doctor. Neither am I a prognosticator. Whatever I share in this essay about chinny pee pee should not be tried. Neither should anyone favor chinny pee pee over medications they receive from any healthcare specialists for an eye condition. I will not be held responsible for any bodily harm or medical mishap because of obstinate behavior. Please DO NOT use chinny pee pee for ANY medical situations including as an eye drop.  Let it be known that my main purpose in writing this essay is to share the testimony of a relative who favored chinny pee pee as her eye drops.  And to also mention that I have seen her applying chinny pee pee a few times to her person. 

Tah-tah!  Puss and dog do not have the same luck. Never get involved with anything that you have no knowledge of. Or, just because someone will report good results. Seek professional advice and help before you indulge in anything. Results can be different.

Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2019

Friday, July 12, 2019

A Stick of ‘Juicy Fruit’ In Scanty To Puzzle Customs and Immigration Officers

It has been said numerous times that good things come in small packages.


Back in the day I attended Nazareth Primary School located in Maidstone, Manchester, Jamaica, West Indies. While there, the female students from a young age were cast into home economics classes. The agenda included sewing. Female students were taught how to crochet, tat, hemstitch, decorate dresses with smocking and sew garments without the use of a pattern (the method was called free hand sewing). One of the first garments that the girls were taught to sew was the “scanty”. A scanty was also known as baggie and panty. But none of these labels sounded decent for little girls to repeat in a classroom setting and especially in public. Hence, to say “scanty” was appropriate and becoming.

A scanty in those days was made out of cotton or calico fabric. Or, to be more resourceful, flour was stored in strong cloth bags and delivered to shopkeepers. Customers would place orders with shopkeepers to receive one as soon as they were relieved of flour. In return, the customers would rip open the bags at the seams, bleach away all the writings and thoroughly wash the material. Elastic was placed in the waist of a scanty but none in the legs, which was done on purpose for ventilation. With such a design a little girl should walk with care and guard against jumping and spreading her legs, as hidden areas could be revealed and met with laughter and a description to further embarrass: Mi si yuh lickle fishy. Meaning: I see your prized possession, the vagina.

Now that the word scanty has been expressed (and also to give millennials another reason to use this old fashioned term), this leads me to the main purpose of this essay. So here I go without further ado. A few years ago I journeyed from America to vacation in Jamaica. I had had the usual great and fabulous time with family and friends and was preparing to return when on the night before the set date, a relative came to me with a sealed envelope to deliver to her lover who resided in New York, my destination. I took the envelope but grew a little suspicious about a bulk I felt. It could be drugs, I said to myself. And inasmuch as she is a relative, I am not taking any chances with any unknown contents. With no one in sight, I carefully opened the envelope. In doing so, i found something wrapped in cloth that was protected by a handwritten letter. On proper inspection, I discovered it to be a piece of scanty, the crotch, and a stick of Juicy Fruit gum.  My good Lord! Haha!

I laughed until tears flowed from my eyes and formed a bowtie under my chin,  knowing that I had feared the worst about the contents of the envelope only to discover that it was a piece of scanty wrapped around a stick of Juicy Fruit, chewing gum. I then proceeded to read the letter. My eyes  bulged with excitement and more laughter came. The words in the letter were words of love. My relative had found it necessary to express her undying love for her lover in New York and reminded him, without mincing her words: Honey my pussy will always be the best no matter how many other ones you will come across in my absence. She wanted to deter her man from cheating and to stay true and committed to her. Let him remember the good times they had together in Jamaica as lovers before he left for America. The letter was a great read. However, the scanty crotch and chewing gum became a hit. In my head, in the moment, that was a damn good and clever move by my relative, Juicy Fruit chewing gum was the perfect item to express her true feelings for her man. Youth allowed her to be juicy and possess gum to “hold” her man from a distance. Keep him focused on her and no other female,  while the contents could also translate as her being sexually starved, a symbol of loyalty.

Did I reseal the envelope and take it to my relative’s lover in New York?  No, I didn’t. I returned the envelope with contents to her. I expressed that while I understood her purpose and feelings, I would not be able to deliver her special and romantic effort as “randomness and suspicion” seem to be traits among customs and immigration officers. She smiled and told me no problem.

If I am asked to choose my family, rest assured that I would choose my same crazy ass family again. My family is complete. Hahaaaa…

Tah-tah!  It’s healthy to express feelings, thoughts and self.

Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2019