Stirred by a pledge; living for others

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, January 14, 2019

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The annual National Leadership Prayer Breakfast (NLPB) will be held this Thursday, preceded by a week of prayer. Chaired by Bishop Stanley Clarke, and generously supported once again by Victoria Mutual Building Society, this year's theme is 'I Pledge'.

Jamaica has a beautiful national pledge, which the legendary educator Dr Polly Bowes-Howell promotes wherever she goes:

“Before God and all mankind, I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart, the wisdom and courage of my mind, the strength and vigour of my body, in the service of my fellow citizens.

“I promise to stand up for justice, brotherhood and peace; to work diligently and creatively; to think generously and honestly, so that Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.”

As we consider the call to “think generously and honestly” we acknowledge the difficulty to control those 50,000 thoughts that we are estimated to have each day. Many are based on fear, regret and hurt.

In this jungle of politics, business and leadership aspirations we should guard against becoming downhearted. There is proof that positivity attracts success and that those who use disappointments as lessons to maintain their optimism thrive in some of the most challenging circumstances.

Standing up for “justice, brotherhood and peace” means that we owe it to each other to be our neighbour's keeper. When we see a person or a situation descending into negativity we have a responsibility to assist in whatever way we can. This is why we need to join together in prayer to reaffirm this precious pledge to our Jamaican family.

My company has been volunteering for the NLPB for over 20 years, not because we feel that it will solve all our nation's problems in one morning, but because we believe that if our leaders get together in prayer they will be strengthened for the year ahead. To engage the nation we proposed to the then NLPB chairman, Rev C Evans Bailey, that we invite the media to do live broadcasts of the event. We have been collaborating ever since with Kirk Buchanan of Creative Production & Training Centre (CPTC) to provide the feed and the managers at CVM TV, Love TV, Power 106, Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica ( PBCJ), and Television Jamaica ( TVJ) organise their broadcasts. Please tune in with your families and co-workers on Thursday at 7.30 am.

The Peace Management Initiative's Safe Schools Monitors Programme will be the beneficiary of the offering at this year's NLPB.

'Jah Ova Evil'

When 24-year-old singer Alty “Jah-Ova-Evil” Nunes died from an aneurysm in February 2011, his mother, the legendary dancer Patsy Ricketts, and his siblings decided to carry on his legacy, expanded his Jah Ova Evil (JOE) social enterprise project in Vineyard Town. Digicel Foundation project officer for community development, Miguel “Steppa” Williams, notes: “Jah Over Evil has been involved in creative productions formally for the past 10 years… Now the group does numerous creative arts development interventions with youth in communities across Kingston and the wider Jamaica. Their most recent partnership with Youth Crime Watch Jamaica, NIA (National Integrity Action) and USAID (United States Agency for International Development) solidified their social enterprise as a viable option for vulnerable spaces.” Via training, employment and life skills development, the company, which has a music studio and screen-printing facilities, now benefits 25 directly and 200 young people indirectly. Well done, Patsy Ricketts. As the Bible says, you have “turned your tears into dancing” for the good of your community, in tribute to your dear son.

Healing the spirit

There was a full house at Palace Cineplex for the entrancing documentary on Jamaican sculptor Laura Facey, written and directed by Amanda Sans. We are taken to her homestead in St Ann, where she created the monumental Redemption Song statue for Emancipation Park. The film recalls the criticisms, but widens to contextualise the artist's exploration of the cruelty of slavery, her acknowledgement of an ancestor who was a freed slave, and of her own suffering from sexual abuse, thus the meditative aspect of the emancipated couple in Redemption Song and her painful rendition of Phibba — a tortured slave woman — come from deep empathy.

While creating miniatures of Redemption Song Facey was inspired to carve out a ship in which she packed them, evoking the ordeal of the transatlantic slave trade. She named the creation Their Spirits Gone Before Them, which was a sensation at an exhibition at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC, USA, in 2011. In a Jamaica Information Service report, Ambassador Audrey Marks commented, “The rave reviews and massive attention lavished on Facey's work in the exhibition speaks volumes about the inventive edge she brings to her craft.”

Paddlin' Spirit describes Facey's triumph over her crises, with the help of her counsellor, freeing her to create her breathtaking art.

Dr Michael Abrahams, who participated in a discussion after the showing, noted the long-standing trauma that women suffer from sexual abuse as they repress the memory. He said a patient in her 50s only recently spoke for the first time about abuse she had suffered at nine years old. The panel reflected on the plight of lower-income women who may not be able to afford counselling. We have to look out for our wounded sisters.

Farewell, friends

My husband Hubie recalls that his St George's College schoolmate Dwight Nelson was a kind and popular student. Nelson has been lauded for his achievements as a union leader and government minister, but I knew him also as a dedicated board member of Convent of Mercy 'Alpha' Academy. Principal Kali McDonald wrote: “Our nation says goodbye to a man of great worth… Nelson was a father and a grandfather in our family. He was the friend of our principal [Mackran] Singh and brought his wisdom to guide a new principal. As a board member he was faithful and served to his fullest capacity... We will celebrate his memory.”

We also lost Janet Thompson, the mother of our pastor, Father Howard Thompson, and my schoolmate, Karen Silvera. Thompson gently supported her only child's vocation to be a priest. Karen was a ray of sunshine and a dedicated fund-raiser for her Kiwanis Club of New Kingston. She was an outstanding mother to her beloved Simone.

Then we heard of the passing of Troy Caine, whose encyclopaedic knowledge of Jamaican politics made him a favourite on talk shows. He was also a gifted calligrapher, who produced beautifully illuminated citations.

We extend deep sympathy to the families of these fine Jamaicans. May their souls rest in peace.

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