Lisa Punch deserves our votes

Social media in Guyana has been on fire since Sunday with “Lisa Punch” and “Rising Star” trending. The Guyanese song bird, now based in Brooklyn, made her international debut fittingly with the debut of ABC’s singing competition which promised a revolutionary new format.

In “Rising Star”, the audience votes through the use of an app downloaded on their mobile and tablet devices. It is the audience, right then and there who determine the fate of the contestant as their opinions, through their vote of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ are at the forefront, above the judges’.

If the contestant surpasses 70% a massive wall is raised and the contestant moves on to the next round, if the wall does not rise due to lack of adequate votes then the contestant is sent packing. Each judge (actually called ‘experts’ on the show since they do not judge or determine who goes forward) only offers advice and counselling. The experts, Ludacris, Kesha and Brad Paisley could also vote; each of their votes is worth 7%.

20140104culture boxLisa garnered 80% of the votes after singing Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know?” the wall only rising during her last few seconds and the votes crawled for a while before shooting up with the support of all three experts.

The figures do not lie. Lisa’s 80% placed her at fifth of the six contestants voted through to the next round. They were as follows: Macy Kate – 93%; Jesse Kinch – 92%; Sarah Darling – 89%; Joshua Peavy – 87%; Lisa Punch – 80% and Maneepat Molloy – 73%.

While the American audience may not have strongly supported Lisa in their homes, the theatre was loudly cheering from the time she sang her first note. Lisa even gained the attention of NBC’s famed meteorologist Al Roker, who publicly announced on Twitter that he had voted for her. For many of us here at home, internet speeds were too slow to load the app, or we found we had incompatible devices such as the BlackBerry.

These limitations bring us to Lisa’s story. Introducing herself to the world, Lisa was honest about her humble beginnings and the fact that she came from a poor country. The response on social media indicated that this statement ticked off a lot of Guyanese at home, who apparently are blinded by the false progress touted by politicians. So blinded are they that they sought to discourage the artist and her dreams. For those who tried to deny Lisa’s honesty, these are the facts: Guyana is the second poorest country in the Caribbean Community. Guyana is the poorest country in South America. It is on the list of the poorest five countries in the entire Western Hemisphere! Yes it is abundant in natural resources, but it does not have much to offer its people, particularly its creative people.

This is what Lisa migrated from and she said so on television, for the world to hear and then clips of her former home broadcast for the world to see along with her ‘new’ immigrant home in the United States. Lisa joined the competition for her family; a girl from a third world country with a dream in the land of opportunity.

Some of us are selfish enough to think that this is all about us; it is not. This is about our sister and we need to support her. Lisa deserves our support because while in Guyana she gave her heart to us and now miles away she is projecting her Guyanese identity to the world, not denying or rejecting it as many others have done.

Meanwhile “Rising Star” certainly delivered the excitement: the sudden dream come true or the ultimate demise. The performers might have been gladiators in a coliseum. And while we can expect Lisa to go out there and conquer—she did captivate the American audience with the flare she brought to the performance, the hand movements, the facial expressions, the dance moves and heel kicking; her personality was written into her performance—we cannot just sit cheering on the side lines.

Lisa has already made her country proud; she has made her region proud. That pride must now be manifest through votes. Every Guyanese, no not just Guyanese, but every Caribbean national here and in the Diaspora (and we know that’s a mighty crowd) should be encouraged to lend support to Lisa. For her next performance in two weeks, that wall should rise and go right through the roof.

(Jairo Rodrigues)

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