It's our turn to make history


Monday, August 06, 2018

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Happy Independence Day, Jamaica!

We are so taken up with news here and abroad, so deep in discussions and accusations that we forget that we are the ones who make the news and, indeed, we can make history.

Last week, Emancipation Day reminded us that, had it not been for our heroic history-makers, we would not be celebrating either of these two Jamaican August holidays.

Besides our national heroes, the history-makers keep emerging and impressing the world. Bob Marley and Usain Bolt bring us kudos wherever we travel. Gordon “Butch” Stewart's Sandals brand graces multiple cable channels. Jamaican-born Claudia L Gordon, who was the first, deaf black woman attorney in the US, headed the Disabilities Division in the Barack Obama White House, and recently gave a stirring TED Talk about her determination to excel, whatever the environment.

So how will our current political leaders make history, as did the founding fathers of the two major political parties Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Washington Manley? The ruling party and the Opposition are in that 'one moment in time' when they too can become icons of a new Jamaica.

Governance divides

The governance issues leading to a series of resignations at two agencies attached to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Energy are a call to create a serious new era of leadership.

The lingering Trafigura case reminds us that there are questions of integrity on both sides of the House.

Yet, we have reason to believe that there are enough solid political representatives, individuals who could have successful professions outside of politics and who genuinely want to make a reality out of our Vision 2030: “Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.” I spoke with one concerned representative recently and urged the individual not to lose heart as Jamaica needs strong patriots.

The inglorious beginnings of political 'tribal war' and the continued divide in certain garrison areas can be phased out and a proud new era can begin for Jamaica. We need to observe which politicians are willing to engage their opposite numbers for community and constituency activities and which keep resisting. The dividers are signalling that they are putting party above country and do not deserve support.

We also need to look at ourselves — those who do not choose a political path but have done well in our country — and ask if we have contributed enough to affirm the good people who have stepped up to take the brickbats aimed at politicians in general. Have we shunned them, leaving them vulnerable to less positive influences?

Here we are, the third-largest English-speaking country in the Americas, perfectly mapped between North and South America, with one of the best God-given harbours in the world, and a landscape that Christopher Columbus described on landing in 1494 as “the fairest isle that eyes ever beheld”. The three centuries of the transatlantic slave trade left our emancipated sisters and brothers weak and traumatised; their 'reward' was the least arable land and tough terms to 'pay back' their ruthless 'owners' who received handsome settlements after Emancipation. The matter of reparation cannot be simply dropped, so let us be courageous in our negotiations, as there are great humanitarians of every creed and colour.

It was wonderful to read the many quotes from the late revolutionary writer James Baldwin as we observed his 94th birthday last Friday. This is one that should move us: “I'm not interested in anybody's guilt. Guilt is a luxury that we can no longer afford. I know you didn't do it, and I didn't do it either, but I am responsible for it because I am a man and a citizen of this country; and you are responsible for it, too, for the very same reason... Anyone who is trying to be conscious must begin to dismiss the vocabulary which we've used so long to cover it up; to lie about the way things are.”

Fire, fire!

One of our team members had to seek medical attention last week when the poisonous smoke from the Riverton dump crept as far as her New Kingston home. The discomfort this fire must have caused in closer communities must have been so much worse. If the problem is arson then, as Shakespeare would say, “Men have fled to brutish beasts.”

The late Monsignor Richard Albert was very fond of the residents of the neighbouring Riverton Meadows. He told us that, after a round of visits, a humble elderly lady came after him to give him a little package wrapped in newspaper. She said it was out of her meagre savings, but she wanted to help the priest with his ministry. Kind, humble folks like this lady live everywhere and can help build their communities if they get the right kind of help.

The use of security forces to guard the dump is the short-term solution. The transformation of the lives of our destitute and desperate is the only way out of this recurring nightmare.

Rich Jamaica 56 publication

Lorraine Murray, editor and publisher of The Jamaican and Insider's Guide magazines has produced a gem of a booklet to celebrate our 56 years of Independence. If you want a quick but informative read on our history, our heroes and our achievements, this deceptively little book has big stories that will move and inspire you.

Lorraine's thorough research brings together photos of Taino art, our heroes and ancestors from all races, and icons of culture and sports. It's an easy to pack book for visiting Jamaicans who want to remind their younger family members in the Diaspora of our rich and unique history. No, we don't do public relations for The Jamaican — We are just totally impressed by this little treasure!

Happy 15th, Stella Maris Steelband

The Trini 'pan' remains a miraculous musical instrument, and last Sunday the Stella Maris Steelband, led by Margaret Rhoden, sounded its magic in a memorable programme, entitled 'Timeless', of classical, religious, reggae, and Latin music. The band has wowed audiences at the annual Lourdes pilgrimage and in Scotland. Their fund-raisers have contributed significantly to church renovation and outreach. Happy anniversary to the dedicated band members. May your musical ministry continue to lift your audiences for many more years to come.

Farewell, Esmie Talbot

This coming Saturday, the family and friends of Esmie Talbot will bid farewell to their blessed matriarch at the Holy Rosary Church. She has left a legacy of caring as we see constantly in her daughters, the dynamic Lorna Bell and Ann Marie Smith — they were the popular Talbot girls from our Alpha school days.

Talbot was the pillar of her large family, a most caring grandmother who made their friends feel warmly welcome. We extend heartfelt condolence to her children Tony, Las, Lorna, Ann Marie, and Briggitte and other family members. May her sweet soul rest in peace.

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