‘Won’t you help to sing… Redemption Song!’

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, April 17, 2017    

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Her last Facebook post was of an animated cat, wishing everyone a friendly “Goog’ Morning!” However, Dawn Nugent did not live to see last Wednesday morning. She had driven to her home in Golden Spring, St Andrew, after a church meeting last Tuesday evening, and was murdered. Members of the Immaculate Conception Church in Stony Hill and the Tom’s River Mission are grieving her loss. They posted: “Dawn was a woman of prayer…We have been blessed by her ministry and passion for the faith.”

And so this Holy Week, as I pondered the tragic death of a giving, Christian woman and too many others, I had to turn to the words of Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr: “Undeserved suffering is redemptive.” During our Good Friday meditation on the agony and death of Christ, I wondered if Jamaica was getting the strongest of messages: This undeserved suffering of Jamaica’s innocents could indeed be redemptive, but only if we become agents of that redemption.

We must discern the illogic of one set of headlines preening about big plans, while another is screaming crime. Redemption will come when the two political parties, whose members eat and drink together yet release from their bosoms the thugs who prevent poor people in garrisons from crossing a street to visit a relative. As we contemplate the triumph of the resurrection, no doubt celebrated by our leaders and their family at various church services, we appeal to them to raise their standard of leadership.

Vision 2030 will only be a facile slogan if they cannot protect their people. Political brinkmanship has brought us to this sorry pass and only political will can take us out of it. Newcomers to politics have a great opportunity to make a stand for justice. It is more difficult for those who have been long in the system to drop the tribalist baggage, but what a great day it would be if they decide to do so. Jamaica, blessed with great people, great climate, great natural resources could rise to dizzying heights, if only she could get the chance. With every corrupt act, every bureaucratic obstacle, every crime, we are driving away Jamaica’s promising young professionals.

You would think that our political representatives would see this situation as a national emergency and be arriving early at the House of Parliament to set to work on sound governance. Not so, testified a photograph posted on social media by a journalist at the starting time for Parliament last Tuesday. Only two Members of Parliament were present.

Civil society must strengthen itself. We can help motivate representatives of both political parties to protect the citizens they have pledged to serve. They must now have the moral fibre to step up to the responsibility of power – the power to give their country a legacy of enlightened leadership. Be of good courage, sisters and brothers of Gordon House. Please take up the challenge of Bob Marley: “Won’t you help to sing...Redemption Song!”

‘Prison-to-College’ programme

This past week shone a compassionate light on the imprisoned. US Ambassador to Jamaica Luis Moreno hosted a visionary presentation by Dr Baz Dreisinger, the founder of the New York State Prison-to-College Pipeline.

She noted, “There should be access to education for all… some of our best and brightest are locked away.” She says that her six-year programme has been rewarding, and that individuals have renounced their commitment to gangs in order to qualify for the Pipeline, which is federally funded. “Why respond to harm with harm, and not repair?” she asks.

Dr Dreisinger disclosed that one of the four recent Pipeline graduates is heading to a career in law, perhaps collaborating with the very legal folks who sent him to prison. She congratulated the Jamaican authorities for having a music studio at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre (General Penitentiary), which may have assisted in the rehabilitation of musician Jah Cure.

She has been in discussions with The University of the West Indies lecturer Dr Sonjah Stanley Niaah, and says that a programme has been taking shape with the theme, ‘Education, not incarceration’. She says that using education could also reinvigorate our returning citizens — a much better description than ‘deportees’.

Food for the Poor prison release

I was able to share with Dr Dreisinger the work of the Food for the Poor Prison Ministry, led by Sandra Ramsay, in which returning citizens receive assistance to reintegrate in their homeland, and also about the twice-yearly prison release at Easter and Christmas. She said she was looking forward to meeting representatives of the organisations.

In this ongoing programme, last week Food for the Poor paid fines to free 152 non-violent inmates in four Caribbean and Latin American countries. Here in Jamaica, 25 prisoners were released and greeted by Food For The Poor staff. They all were given words of encouragement, a hot meal, personal care items, and money for transportation home.

One of the inmates released from the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre is a taxi operator from St James, who was arrested in March for failure to pay outstanding traffic tickets. He said it had been a difficult time for his family, as he has a wife and two young children.

“I am feeling good and overwhelmed at this moment,” he said. “My children will be so happy to see me and I am looking forward to seeing them. Thanks to Food For The Poor for making this possible for me and the other inmates. This was my first time in prison and it certainly will be the last.”

Kingston 145 celebrations

Kingston Mayor Senator Delroy Williams hosted a colourful launch of the 145th anniversary celebration as Kingston as the capital city of Jamaica. The launch, which took place at South Parade, featured the talented Lannaman’s and Tivoli dance troupes, the Mico University Choir and a smart march past by the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Jamaica Information Service reporter Chad Bryan noted, “It included the reading of the history of Kingston by executive director of the Institute of Jamaica, Vivian Crawford, and the symbolic lowering of the Spanish Town flag and the breaking of the Kingston flag, signifying the change in the seat of power as Jamaica’s capital on April 4, 1872.”

In an interview with blogger Emma Lewis, Mayor Williams spoke passionately about his plans for Kingston: “I want to make Kingston the number one city in the Caribbean – the capital city of the Caribbean – and a truly global city,” her told her.

Digicel Chairman Denis O’Brien shares this vision, establishing his impressive Digicel Regional Headquarters on the Kingston waterfront and funding the extensive renovation of the Coronation Market. Additionally, GraceKennedy’s new headquarters now under construction, is testimony to that 95-year-old company’s faith in the city.

When questioned about his plans to tackle solid waste and create more green spaces, the mayor gave Lewis a refreshing response: “It’s not just a question of funds. It’s a question of using the funds efficiently and without waste.” Congratulations to the mayor, Town Clerk Robert Hill, and the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation team on their bold steps.





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