Foreign Policy Analyst • GIS Mapping Specialist • Bookseller • Freelance Writer & Photographer


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Saturday 31 March 2018

Protoje’s Powerful New Single - Blood Money

“Come take a look inna Jamaica, injustice in the place. If what you see nuh really faze you, then you ah di problem weh we face too.”- Protoje

Video Source: Protoje’s YouTube Channel |

If you are Jamaican or have any ties to the country, you’ll know that it has been a harrowing time for the nation recently. Despite its reputation, Jamaica has been anything but paradise in the past months as the tropical isle is once again being choked by the vice-like grip of crime and violence. Now, high levels of crime and violence are hardly a new phenomenon for the country. According to the United Nations, Jamaica had the highest murder rate globally in 2005 and it remains one of the highest today[1]

Violent elements of the nation’s history are seen in “Blood Money” with references to the Tivoli Incursion of 2010[2] and the long-standing institutionalized nature of corruption through patronage politics[3]. Historically, such political corruption has cost Jamaica approximately US$18 billion[4]. However, although high levels crime and violence are not new, this does not make them acceptable. Furthermore, crime and violence should not be allowed to spiral out of control unchallenged. As Protoje states, “If you build it pon crime then crime will haffi find you, and that’s how it’s been always. That nuh frustrate you like it do to me?”

It should be said that while violent crime levels in Jamaica were higher than others with a similar per capita profile, they were on the decline nationally until recently. Now, there is a different atmosphere in the air. The general lawlessness, not to mention the elevated abduction and murder of women and girls has struck a chord with the populace. The volatile situation has inspired small scale protests and widespread fear throughout the island. 

Moreover, while the situation in Jamaica is alarming; violence, political corruption and socioeconomic stratification are not solely Jamaican issues. As such, Protoje’s single “Blood Money” could not have come at a more appropriate time. Its articulate depiction of the current state of affairs in the country and its call for change are sure to resonate with concerned Jamaicans, reggae aficionados and contemporary viewers of global politics alike.

A Delight for Both Bibliophiles and Music Lovers: Mitch Albom's The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

Well, Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven) has captured our hearts and imaginations once again! This time with his latest novel, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto. The story is narrated by the talent, Music, as it recaps the life one of its favorite prodigies, Frankie Presto. We follow Frankie, orphaned after a tumultuous birth in war-stricken Francoist Spain, as he is mentored by an elderly blind guitar teacher until turmoil and danger force the teacher to send Frankie away to America at nine years old, with nothing but a guitar. Frankie soon learns that when he plays the guitar in dire circumstances, the strings turn blue, and his music can change and even save lives. 

Winter Staple | Jobedu Hoodies

Image Source: Mwahaki King Photography
For today, I am discussing the Jobedu clothing line that I learned about while I was in Jordan. I was studying Arabic at the University of Jordan in Amman when some friends told me about this quirky store in Jabal Weibdeh that sold fun and interesting clothes that embodied the city’s growing youth culture. I had complimented the T-Shirt that one of my friends was wearing at the time; a black shirt adorned with the phrase “Parental Advisory: Jordanian Content”, and the conversation flowed from there. A few days later, a group of us were walking down the white cobbled streets of Jabal Weibdeh heading towards the Jobedu store. The buildings around us were all a similar blend of limestone and cement with a view of Downtown Amman in the distance, but we managed to find the store with ease. Outside, the powerful afternoon sun illuminated the streets, casting its light on roadside Nescafe and Tea vendors; but it left the Jobedu store in shadow making it difficult to see what lay inside. I pushed open the glass door and as my eyes adjusted to the light, I was enthralled by the brightly coloured fabrics that lined the walls from the floor to the ceiling. 

MEJU: The Captivating Culinary Delight in Davis Square

A short walk down the hill from Tufts University, on the outskirts of Boston, quickly brings you into the bustling streets of Davis Square. There you will find the welcoming aroma of freshly brewed coffee, mingled with the sweet and spicy scent of enchiladas wafting up from the Painted Burro Mexican restaurant. Into this delightful mix of sights and sounds comes a Korean restaurant to rival any of the culinary competition on the block.

Aptly named "Meju" due to its prevalent use of the popular ingredient throughout its menu; the dishes that come out of this kitchen are so delectable they’ll have you planning your next visit before you've even finished the appetizer. Speaking of starters, Meju has a great selection ranging from traditional dumplings to scallion pancakes, spicy rice cakes and sweet potato fries. A personal favourite is the restaurant’s fusion take on Korean buns. These fluffy, feather-soft buns are dripping in bright orange sauce filled with succulent pork and delectable cream cheese and pickles.

The Future is Looking Bright: A Review of Protoje's Album, Ancient Future

Originally published September 2016
Ancient Future Album Cover

From the outset of Protoje's album, Ancient Future, with the opening song “Protection”, the album carries with it a raw, honest quality that immediately invites the listener on an intimate and exciting journey. This continues to shine through in the reflective, "All Will Have to Change" and is further expressed through the tales of love-lost heard in "Love Gone Cold” and “Stylin'."


All Will Have to Change:


Love Gone Cold:

Ancient Future is an aptly named, searing look into Jamaica's history and what can be surmised about the nation's future, based on the mistakes of the past. This message comes home starkly in the track “Criminal” with its reference to the murder of musical and social icon, Peter Tosh, and is further echoed in the collaborative single “Sudden Flight” with Jesse Royal and songstress Sevana; a song which highlights the dangers and hypocrisy of garrison politics [1].


Sudden Flight:

The eleven songs on this album, with references to Walter Rodney and Marcus Garvey, but also to notorious gang leaders like Claude Massop, weave intriguing and insightful stories that expertly analyse the complexity of the nation's strengths and weaknesses; her frailty and beauty. A beauty which is on full display in the video for the smash hit “Who Knows”, performed with Protoje’s compatriot, Chronixx.

Who Knows:

Above all, Ancient Future is a musical exploration between the past and present that pays homage to the Jamaican musicians that paved the way for Protoje and his colleagues. This respect, coupled with Protoje's skillful storytelling is seen most obviously in his infectious contemporary take on Prince Buster's "Girl Answer to Your Name":

Prince Buster’s original, “Girl Answer to Your Name”:

Protoje’s, “Answer to Your Name”:

 Rastafarian culture imbues every song on the album. However, its presence is most prominent in the marijuana-centric, “Bubblin’” and the introspective “The Flame”. “The Flame” provides an intimate window into the soul of the man behind the music. The lyrics demonstrate that his passion and dedication to this art form are paramount:


“I rather be spiritually attained than critically acclaimed…Whatever that dem saying, whoever that dem claim coulda never know my pain and never bear my strain…Application ah within, supplication ah to Him. Then it becomes less about the tune dem weh ah spin, but the knowing that the work was the best it could’ve been. Having the team deh pon the road ah tour with me, nuh mean a thing if the message nuh have the purity. And so, me stay substance over hype.”


Protoje's lyricism and musical dexterity have made him one of the most dynamic voices in a highly talented new generation of reggae performers. His Coachella performance this spring was the product of hard work, diligence and commitment to his craft. It is clear from Ancient Future that Protoje’s popularity and the power of his music will only intensify, and to paraphrase the artist himself, there is certainly no way that Babylon can out this flame.  

[1] Since Jamaica’s independence in 1962, governance has been dominated by two political parties: the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). In the late 1960s both parties began to create “garrison communities” to secure political votes and seats in parliament. Garrison communities were towns and neighbourhoods controlled by gang leaders or “dons” who ensured the community’s loyalty to a specific political party through extortion and violence towards its residents. In return, these “dons” received financial rewards from the political party with which they were affiliated, and thus maintained a profound level of power within the community. According to Rupert Lewis in “Party Politics and the Extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke”:
Some 20 per cent of all constituencies and approximately 60 per cent of all urban constituencies have already been fully or partially garrisoned. Within a political constituency, a garrison is an area controlled by a leader or don who dispenses scarce benefits and violence in order to keep the constituents aligned to a particular party. This control enables an electoral candidate to win the seat by a large majority and become the Member of Parliament. Garrisons are therefore a central part of the political system because they provide “safe” political seats. Moreover, garrison constituents may assist in the task of political mobilization in other constituencies. Tivoli Gardens has been the main symbol of a garrison, but it is one of several and was deemed special, largely because it was well-armed and organized, had its own mechanisms for dispensing justice, and was informally outside the purview of the state until May 2010. The extradition of Coke and the subordination of Tivoli Gardens to the rule of law are the first major assaults on garrison politics and the power of dons whose financial and gun power give them influence, putting them in a position to significantly determine the outcomes of both local and national politics. (p.41)
Source: Lewis, Rupert. “Party Politics in Jamaica and the Extradition of Christopher “Dudus” Coke”. The Global South 6.1 (2012): 38–54; 

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Trouble in Paradise: Natural Disaster Preparation in Jamaica: Looking at Flooding, Landslides and Human Vulnerability

The above poster was made by Mwahaki King for the GIS at Tufts University Poster Exhibition 2016 (GIS@Tufts) and has also been published on the GIS@Tufts website here:

The purpose of the project was to ascertain high risk areas and thus areas prioritisation in Jamaica during natural disasters; specifically landslides, flooding and hurricanes. High risk areas were determined primarily by weak housing infrastructure, access to hospitals and environmental factors such as the slope of the terrain and proximity to rivers.

The maps were made by Mwahaki King using ArcGIS software and the poster itself was produced using Microsoft Publisher.

Data Sources:

The accompanying paper can be found below, which further outlines Jamaica's environmental background, conclusions, recommendations and limitations of the project.

China Wind Farm Suitability Analysis

The above maps were made by Mwahaki King in May 2016, using raster data in ArcGIS. Mwahaki King performed by an unweighted and a weighted suitability analysis to determine optimal locations for a wind farm facility in China, north of Beijing. In both suitability analyses the suitability of a wind farm facility was dependent on the following criteria:

1. The site needed to be close to high wind areas
2. It must be close to existing power lines
3. It must be far from the The Great Wall of China so as not to disrupt tourism
4. It must be on fairly level land i.e. a low slope is preferable

In the unweighted suitability analysis, these criteria were assessed on a system of 1 - 5, with the lowest score and thus worst location having a score of 4 and the best location having a score of 20.

In the weighted analysis, these criteria were assessed by importance. Distance to high wind areas was deemed to be the most important and weighted at 50%. Second, was distance to power lines, weighted at 25%. Third, was distance from The Great Wall weighted at 12.5%. The final factor was slope, also weighted at 12.5%. This produced a grid of 1 - 5. One being the least ideal location for a wind farm facility and five being the best.

Data Sources:
Gfk (Tufts University GIS has a license for this data and these maps were made as a part of Tufts University GIS coursework)
National Renewable Energy Lab

Ozone Concentration, California

The above map was created by Mwahaki King on April 13, 2016, using ArcGIS Interpolation Tools to demonstrate ozone concentration in California and areas of concern. The most recent data available to the cartographer at the time of the map's creation was from the year 2007. The California data was provided by the California State GIS Department. The ozone dataset was provided by the California Air Resources Board and represents the concentration of ozone measured on September 6, 2007 between 3:00PM - 4:00PM in parts per million (ppm). 

From the ozone point samples (measurements), Mwahaki King produced a continuous surface predicting the value of ozone concentration for every location in the state of California. Often, it is not the actual values of a certain critical health risk that are of concern, but rather whether the values are above a certain toxic level. If this occurs, immediate action should be taken.

For this project, the critical threshold was determined to be any ozone value above 0.09ppm as this is California State's ambient air quality standard for hourly measurements. Any location with an ozone concentrate above 0.09 should be closely monitored.

Data Sources:
California Air Resources Board
California State GIS Department
ESRI Data Maps

Saturday 24 March 2018

Suitable Farm Land, Groton MA

The above map was created by Mwahaki King in March 2016, using vector analysis in ArcGIS software to determine suitable farmland in Groton, Massachusetts.

The Suitability Criteria were as follows:
Farm Land must:
1. Have a minimum lot size of two acres
2. Not be on wetlands
3. Be land that is suitable for agricultural activities
4. Have prime farm land soil that is good for farming

The most recent data available to the cartographer at the time of the map's creation was from the year 2005.

Data Sources:

Households with a Computer, South Africa

The above map was created by Mwahaki King using ArcGIS software on February 24, 2016 to demonstrate the percentage of households in South Africa with a computer in the home, by municipality. The most recent data available to the cartographer at the time of the map's creation was from the year 2001.

Data Sources:
Statistics South Africa
US National Park Service

African-American Renters in Suffolk County, MA

The above map was created by Mwahaki King using ArcGIS software on February 23, 2016 to demonstrate the percentage of African-American renters in Suffolk County Massachusetts, in relation to total renter population. The most recent geographic, housing and ethnic data available to the cartographer at the time of the map's creation was from the year 2010.

Data Sources:
ESRI Data Maps

High Income Households, South Africa

The above map was created by Mwahaki King using ArcGIS software on February 24, 2016 to demonstrate the percentage of high income households in South Africa, by municipality. The most recent geographic and financial data available to the cartographer at the time of the map's creation was from the year 2001.

Data Sources:
Statistics South Africa
US National Park Service

Haiti Livelihood Zones

The above map was created by Mwahaki King on February 17, 2016, using ArcGis software and the most recent data at the time from FEWS NET Data Center regarding livelihood zones in Haiti. Livelihood zones are specific geographic regions of a country in which people share the same environmental conditions, similar income and access to food and marketplaces. Given these components of livelihood zones, they are an important tool non-profits and aid agencies when analysing food security in developing countries and areas to prioritise.

Data Sources: