We One

I went to a wake earlier this week for the grandmother of a very close friend of mine. I had only seen his grandmother a few times in all the years I’ve known him, but by then she was a legend come to life, the star of a dozen anecdotes I’d heard hundreds of times over the last twenty something years. His grandmother, a native of Jamaica who had lived almost all of her adult life in New York, had not been physically able to get out into the Atlanta community by the time she arrived here in her later years, and so the wake was mostly filled with her offspring and family friends.

After greeting those I knew, I took a seat and drank in the tableau. My friend’s grandmother had given birth to twelve children, and raised one or two more children alongside her own. The offspring of her flock filled much of the funeral chapel, several generations who had dispersed across the country in those patterns familiar to the descendants of Caribbean immigrants—Miami, New York, Atlanta and California.

There were many familiar faces at the funeral chapel, people I had known almost as long as I knew some of my own relatives. But for the most part, these people, who had come by car and plane and the ubiquitous charter bus that often ferried my own relatives from New York back down south for these kinds of occasions, were folks I had never seen before. They were young and old, from all walks of life, all descended from the woman who lay in the casket at the front of the room.

It didn’t take long before I had lost focus on the faces and began to hone in on the unmistakable lilt that rang out from young and old around the chapel. There is a distinctive manner in which the inflections of Jamaica enveloped the English language that has always reminded me of the unique cadence of my own family’s speech patterns, a vernacular that has its origins in South Carolina’s Lowcountry. The man who presided over the wake itself had a very strong, undiluted Caribbean accent which seemed to wrap itself fully around all the syllables of each word, presenting them to the assembled crowd as if they were gifts we could not refuse.

Nasal velarization may be defined as the production of an historical alveolar nasal as a velar nasal next to a correlate of the diphthong /aw/ in syllable-final position (down = dow[ŋ]). This process, unattested in non-creole varieties of English, has been recognized as a feature shared between Gullah-Geechee and Caribbean English-lexified creoles as early as Hancock (1969), although not by that name.

The linguistic status of Gullah-Geechee: Divergent phonologicalprocesses

My own Lowcountry relatives often use a similar style of speech. They do not merely envelope the idiosyncrasies that make up the English language, but often alter its very structure, shortening or lengthening syllables to suit the needs of a speaking pattern that relies heavily on rhythm for emphasis.

As I listened to my friend’s relatives give tribute to his grandmother, it was the sound of their voices, more than the actual words themselves, that summoned memories of the emotional comfort I experienced when I was in the presence of my own relatives under similar circumstances. 

In the words of noted sociolinguist Andrée Tabouret-Keller (1998: 315) “[t]he language spoken by somebody and his or her identity as a speaker of this language are inseparable.” A native or first language fosters a sense of belonging to a group: when one is born and raised locally, one typically speaks the local language. Speakers recognize other members of the group that they do not know personally by their speech, among a number of other potential factors such as dress or physical features. Speech patterns serve to identify others as much as ourselves, and we expect the other group to use the same strategy.

Linguistic identity, agency, and consciousness in Creole: Gullah-Geechee and Middle Caicos

In the end, as the people milled about after the short ceremony had concluded, I thought of my own grandmother, a Lowcountry native in her nineties, and what she would say about an experience like this.

“We one.”

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat to good health and well-being

Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.

Image courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
  • As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
  • If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
  • Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
  • By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
Keep reading Show less

Fairness is a universal value. So why all this inequity?

Are we trying to solve too many problem with technological solutions?

  • Technology has given humanity the amazing ability to fix almost any problem, conditioning us to search for technological remedies to what might be social problems.
  • Alleviating social inequity is a problem that technology must necessarily attempt to solve, but technology alone cannot shape how humans assemble their societies.
  • Only by emphasizing the primary place of individual identity, human dignity, and universal values like empathy and emotion, can we hope to solve global issues that, so far, technology has been unable to conquer.

Radical Transformational Leadership: Strategic Action for Change Agents


Radical Transformational Leadership: Strategic Action for Change Agents [Monica Sharma] on Amazon.com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Monica Sharma describes how we can source our inner capacities and wisdom to manifest change that embodies universal values such as dignity

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

An ancient structure visible from space isn’t man-made

Long hidden under trees, it's utterly massive

(Roy Funch)
Surprising Science
  • This 4,000-year-old structure can be seen from space and wasn't built by humans
  • It's made up of 200 million mounds of earth
  • It's still under construction today
Keep reading Show less