Jamaica — still ahead of the race curve

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, August 20, 2012

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MARIE related her experience in a buffet line. The server, who had been asking the persons ahead of her what part of the chicken they would like, unceremoniously dumped a piece on her plate without asking. My friend Marie calmly asked why the server had not enquired of her preference. After the server’s rude shrug, Marie finally got her choice.

Our discussion was about shade prejudice. My friend Marie has cool, dark skin and was explaining that she has suffered from shade prejudice right here in Jamaica from her very own people. I told her that I had similar experiences. "Sometimes it seems I am not black enough to have an opinion on anything Jamaican," I told her.

Thankfully, we are still far ahead of the race curve – literally and figuratively – in Jamaica. Perhaps those who would want to change our national motto, "Out of Many, One People", have had embittering experiences. However, it is beyond question that Jamaica is a "rainbow tribe", as Josephine Baker described her manycoloured children.

Check the Sumfest line-up – there was Shabba, Shaggy, Tessanne and Junior Gong backed by musicians with shaved heads and locks to their waists. Taking the argument further, if non-blacks are not truly Jamaican, are we to jettison George William Gordon and Alexander Bustamante from the ranks of our National Heroes? And should we therefore disown Bob Marley, since his father was white? Will the UWI Mona folks who refuse to accept non-blacks as Jamaicans forgo their salaries and professorial chairs, since they are so heavily subsidised by non-black business owners who contribute significantly to our national coffers?

Our dear "Miss Lou’ Louise Bennett wrote these lines as she pondered the race brouhaha:

"Me know seh dat yuh great great great Granma was African,

But Mattie, doan yuh great great great
Granpa was Englishman?
"Den yuh great granmodder fader

By yuh fader side was Jew?

An yuh granpa by yuh modder side

Was Frenchie parlez-vous?

"But de balanca a yuh family,

Yuh whole generation,Oonu all bawn dung a Bung Grung –

Oonu all is Jamaican!"

Indeed, as we donned our black, green and gold to celebrate Jamaica 50 and Jamaica’s fittest at the London Olympics, there was nothing fake about our pride. Jamaicans of African, Indian, Chinese and European descent jumped for joy as shown in the photograph of the folks in my office posted on my Facebook page. Vicki, a blend of every one of these races, is the one banging the pot cover!

From our melting pot has emerged hybrid strength and some of the most attractive people in the world! The biggest threat to our motto is not race, it is political tribalism.

What a wonderful interview we heard last Thursday on RJR with Sir Howard Cooke, former governor general and the only surviving founding member of the People’s National Party. This legendary 96-year-old related to Earl Moxam that, on taking up office as minister of education, he consulted his JLP predecessor Edwin Allen, who explained the various alliances the ministry had forged with such agencies as the World Bank and CIDA. Sir Howard’s objective was to serve his people in the most efficient manner possible, not to cast aside or belittle the achievements of the Opposition party.

Last Friday, we celebrated the 125th birthday of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, our first National Hero. This great philosopher of the 20th century, this world leader who influenced the march to independence of several African states, appealed for unity: "There is a world of opportunities awaiting us," he said, "and it is for us through unity of will and purpose, to say we shall and we will play our part upon the great human stage of activity."

Ambassador Marks calls for ‘E-Bolt’

Congratulations to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Ambassador Audrey Marks, Jamaica’s former Ambassador to the US, who both received the Honorary Doctorate of Laws at the recent commencement ceremony of Northern Caribbean University. In accepting her award, the prime minister noted, "The Bible says that a city set upon a hill cannot be hidden, and NCU, formerly West Indies College, has been lit in a bright, shiny educational beacon which has more than 100 years of contribution in education."

Audrey Marks commented on our recent triumphs at the London Olympics and called for "an Economic Bolt – an EBolt". Reflecting on the careful grooming of our athletes from an early age, she said, "We need to apply that same formula of a vision of global success, focus and dedication to innovation and entrepreneurship, by establishing and running many more legitimate, successful businesses."

She continued: "For Brand Jamaica just this week we have been given amazing access and goodwill to over two billion people watching our athletes dazzle at the Olympics." She called for "the creation of a national culture which recognises and encourages innovation and challenges conventional wisdom".

We need to bring more energy to our aspirations. In the words of Marcus Garvey (courtesy of Ken Jones’ Marcus Garvey said…: "Chance has never yet satisfied the hope of a suffering people. Action, selfreliance, the vision of self and the future have been the only means by which the oppressed have seen and realised the light of their own freedom."






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