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'By faith and not by sight'

Barbara Gloudon

Friday, November 10, 2017

Last Tuesday evening on The University of the West Indies Mona campus, a most remarkable event took place. By now many of us would have heard of one of this country's most amazing individuals: A man who had to face countless challenges from his youth into his adult life.

With determination, he was able to surmount some of the most demanding calls, ending up being honoured for his tenacity, his will to survive, and developing to be the best that he could — and don't ask if he didn't.

So who am I talking about? Have you heard about Floyd Morris, who at the age of 20 lost his sight and chose to develop himself into a highly educated man who did not waste time, refusing to be imprisoned by lack of ambition, who spent his time working to achieve rather than moaning and groaning about his circumstances?

And what was the occasion for celebration? On Tuesday, Senator Floyd Morris launched his autobiography titled By faith and not by sight. It is the story of Jamaica's first blind senator. The launch came days after receiving his Doctor of Philosophy degree from The UWI.

Today, we are singing the praise of a courageous individual who has given service to his nation and his people through his commitment to the best of the systems in which he participated. Over the years, Floyd Morris refused to let anything or anyone set him back. It was in his young years that an accident led to him losing his sight, but that didn't stop him. He went on to become a successful scholar who sought higher education. He started with evening classes at one of Jamaica's best-known institutions of learning — the Mico College in Kingston. Walking up from the college to Cross Roads when he was a student was no easy matter. The sidewalks were often rough and dangerous, and without courage he might have given up. The difficulties he experienced would have deterred many and not just those with disabilities. Floyd kept going, making his way by raising chickens for sale back home in St Mary.

He was smart enough to make a call to Radio Jamaica and shared word of some of the difficulties with noted broadcaster Dorraine Samuels to whom he told his story about the treacherous sidewalks he travelled on. I am not “eggs-ing up here”, if you get my meaning, I also was able, because of radio, to join “Miss D” with the assistance. Floyd Morris, backed by family members and friends, surged ahead. Nothing could stop him.

Before you know it, the St Mary young man who left high school without having passed any (CXC) subjects made his way on to The UWI campus, becoming a Taylor Hall man at that. Floyd soldiered on. How did he achieve all the things he did — good scholar and popular man on Campus?

He has never stopped expressing thanks for the kind deeds of fellow students. He has ensured that other disabled students have the support of the university, as director of the Centre for Disability Studies, which facilitates the studies of disabled students.

When Floyd speaks he often talks of 'visual images'. He uses words and expressions such: “Can see”; “Beautiful”; “Pretty”; “Attractive”. He knew the beauty of this world, and continues to speak of them. He once declared, “Beautiful hands with visionary eyes.”

He developed an interest in politics and the day came when he was named a senator by the People's National Party in 1998, when he became the first blind individual appointed to the Jamaican Parliament. In 2013, he was appointed Senate President, carrying out his duties with diligence and becoming a beacon of hope. Even with his responsibilities as a senator and state minister, Floyd continued his education, completing his PhD this year, receiving the symbols of honour last Friday.

In a chapter of the autobiograpy he wrote of his intention to “make conversation on disabilities an essential part of every dialogue within the executive and legislature to ensure the rights of disabled persons”. Because he was on one side of the political fence, some people might have missed the tremendous contribution he has made in creating the pathway for the disabled. He is insistent that the rights of disabled persons is an issue of human rights, and he is deeply conscious of how much more needs to be done. People who know Floyd Morris are certain that he will not stop until progress is made and individuals with disabilities are given a chance to take their place in the world.

As a nation, we still have a way to go in equipping the disabled among us, to have them treated as real people, not to be locked away in a back room. We must come to a time when we all understand that people must not be dismissed as being disabled are destined to just be beggars, but in a structured way they can be assisted to flourish. People with disabilities can be meaningful contributors to society. Many are educable and employable, and we must support their efforts and open doors for them to succeed. As a friend remarked, “Floyd Morris calls upon us to ensure that we must be conscious as a nation. We must take every care to help persons; from children born with disability to adults struggling to survive.”

On Tuesday evening, at The UWI Regional Headquarters, friends rejoiced with love and blessings. Former prime minister, P J Patterson, who first appointed Morris to the Senate, spoke at the event and is quoted as saying: “Floyd Emerson Morris was not born to lose. Senator Dr Floyd Morris has overcome all the vicissitudes of life to emerge a winner indeed.”

Dr Floyd Morris has shown the way to useful citizenship. What is holding the rest of us back? Floyd Morris is here to guide us. And, while we are at it, let us give thanks and praises to the women who have travelled with Senator Dr Floyd Morris on his journey — his mother Jemita Pryce and wife Shelly-Ann Gayle-Morris — and for all the other friends and supporters who will tell of his sense of humour, his determination to make the world a better place, not just for himself alone, but for others, who he will tell you have walked the road with him. Nuff respect, Brother.


Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or