Jamaica is 51 years old now: Wednesday, August 7, 2013

In the past two weeks (while in the eastern Caribbean) I actually did not see a gun. Not one. Or a squatter community. But, back to reality now. And we have been celebrating our 51st year of Independence. It’s amazing to think that all the Jamaica 50 hoopla was a whole year ago, already…

She has found her voice: My heart sank when I heard our Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, campaigning vociferously for a candidate in a Kingston by-election, the morning before Independence. “Victory for the People’s National Party!” our Prime Minister thundered, to raucous applause from the assembled “comrades” (this is what her party’s supporters are called). She wants them to have the by-election all sewn up by midday. There seems something unseemly about this, to me, at this time. Anyway, the local by-election, in Finance Minister Peter Phillips’ constituency, is tomorrow, in case you are interested.

Messages trotted out: Here are some selected quotes for you to ponder as we are overwhelmed by Emancipation Day and Independence Day… And to my surprise, perhaps, the words of the Governor General, the Queen’s representative in Jamaica, resonate more strongly than those of the two political leaders, with me.  There is a higher degree of honesty about the state in which Jamaica finds itself in 2013 in Sir Patrick Allen’s words. He also ended his Independence message one of my favorite quotes from Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing.”

“This insistence on freedom and human rights is our heritage, fellow Jamaicans.” (Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, Emancipation Day)

“We are indeed triumphant! Our triumphs shine through the spirit and resolve of Jamaicans who, despite our economic challenges, valiantly press on.” (Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, Independence Day)

“And yet it would appear that a large number of our people are still chained.” (Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, Emancipation Day)

“Each Jamaican, whether at home or abroad, has the responsibility to help restore our image as a peaceful and productive country.” (Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, Emancipation Day)

“We have another duty to our forefathers, we must never allow our society to be enslaved by foreign cultures and ideals.” (Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, Emancipation Day)

“Let us bear in mind these constructive words of Sir William Alexander Bustamante in 1962 on the occasion of our very first Independence Day: ‘Independence means the opportunity for us to frame our own destiny and the need to rely on ourselves for so doing.’ (Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, Independence Day)

Let them eat oxtail: Our Minister of Agriculture Roger Clarke (and his comrade, the head of the Jamaica Agricultural Society Senator Norman Grant) have both been wearing fancy straw hats to the annual Denbigh Agricultural Show, as is traditional. Minister Clarke must have quite a collection of them at home. But just this evening on CVM News, Minister Clarke spoke of a shortage of chicken back – which, some of us are surprised to know, is actually imported. Now, chicken back is “poor man/woman/child’s food.”  How can there be a shortage? To make matters worse, when asked what people are to do for their much-needed protein, the Minister suggested they eat oxtail, or beef, or pork, or mutton (or turkey neck, which I think might be a cheaper alternative). He says Americans are cutting chickens into quarters, including the backs, for summer barbecues. Hence the shortage. I am not quite convinced…

Reparation is back in vogue: Meanwhile, the above-named Minister is joining the reparations bandwagon. Perhaps, as the Governor General wisely commented this week, he should focus on issues affecting his sector – such as the plight of farmers who are being robbed of their livestock and/or produce left, right and center. It’s called “praedial larceny.” Any thoughts on this, Minister Clarke?

Mixed reviews: Yesterday’s Grand Gala got mixed reviews on Twitter and elsewhere. Some complained that it was the “same old, same old,” then in the same breath protested when a new act appeared on stage.  Some people are hard to please. I agree, though, that women with padded bottoms and bosoms wiggling around is pretty tacky and a caricature of Jamaica’s heritage. Anyway, this marathon affair takes place at the National Stadium every Independence Day, and it’s a challenge to come up with something new every year, I am sure.  Personally, I would rather the money had been spent on something else – new equipment for a school in an impoverished area, or for a small rural hospital, perhaps. OK, boring, I know.

“Put up yuh hand if…” Meanwhile, an “artiste” called Queen Ifrica decided to round off the evening at the stadium by asking Jamaicans who were NOT gay to put up their hand (yes). She also called for the legalization of marijuana – nothing new, really, Peter Tosh sang “Legalize It” in 1976. When asked whether her comments were appropriate at a feel-good patriotic celebration, Ms. Ifrica expressed annoyance that few people go to the Gala these days; clearly, she was peeved that the venue was virtually empty when she made her controversial comments. She considers herself a social commentator, with great influence. Perhaps she is. In which case, she could do better than that. Much better.

Jamaica circus: I must comment on Dr. Garth Rattray’s delightfully biting Gleaner column, likening the whole of Jamaica to a series of ridiculous circus performances. Beautifully constructed – I really enjoyed reading it. Dr. Rattray ends, “As for the clowns, considering where we once were and where we are today after 51 years of self-governance, I’m sure that you know where many of them can be found.” Indeed, we do.

What about the economy, folks? No one is talking about it, apart from Ralston Hyman. I am not sure who is listening. Have we forgotten about the IMF already? Well, one thing is for sure – the IMF is not a “nine-day wonder.”

Too late: I wish I could congratulate Dr. Olive Lewin (our former neighbor, humble and beautiful human being and great musicologist) personally on her Order of Merit. Unfortunately, it has been awarded posthumously; Dr. Lewin died in April. While the politically-favored ones walk away with their medals and honors while still hale and hearty, Dr. Lewin, who had been in declining health for some years, did not. This despite her wide and substantial contribution to the legacy of Jamaican music and culture. Anyway, we love and miss you Dr. Lewin. I am sorry you will never proudly wear your O.M. medal.

Things (and people) lining up for a Petchary Bouquet:

A nice new radio voice: I like Nationwide News’ new reporter, Orville Burke. He has a very nice, well modulated voice. He sounds so cool!

Journalist Janet Silvera, a warm-hearted lady – for her support for the city of Kingston and its culture (the recent “Pon di River” literary festival for example). And for her kind support for needy students to attend the University of the West Indies. Janet is terrific.

Viviene Deokoro, a dedicated and enthusiastic educator, who has gone off to a big conference (the 20th Biennial World Conference of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children (WCGTC) in Kentucky) to talk about educating the gifted in the Caribbean. She plans to lobby for the conference to take place in Jamaica in 2017. Good for you and good luck, Viviene!

Junior Achievement Jamaica, which has been quietly doing good work in training our young people in entrepreneurial skills. It has now received the MetLife Foundation Entrepreneurial Award for its work, including a US$25,000 grant. Congratulations to all!

The youth advocates: I could mention some names but just want to say that, although very few people apparently consider young people and their opinions of much importance, the Jamaica Youth Action Network and others are doing an excellent job. One of those advocates is Ms. Kemesha Kelly, who has stepped down now as Miss Jamaica Festival Queen. But she is far from your average beauty queen – much more to this youth empowerment officer than that. A great role model at 23. I expect you to go far, Kemesha! And I have posted a profile of another very bright young activist, Tameka Hill, whose heart is definitely in the right place! Big ups to you all, and keep on doing what you’re doing!

The weather: We actually had some gentle rain today (accompanied by crashing and banging thunder). One is grateful for small mercies…

Six of the names below are those who lost their lives some two weeks or so ago, just before I went away… The other names are for the past three days. My deepest condolences to all those who are mourning the loss of these Jamaican lives…

Marvin Johnson, 33, Crescent District, St. Catherine

Nicosta Samuels, Old Harbour, St. Catherine

Unidentified woman, Spanish Town, St. Catherine

Dwayne Harris, 27, Annotto BaySt. Mary

David McIntosh, 41, Annotto Bay, St. Mary

Maureen Pinnock, 44, Annotto Bay, St. Mary

Dennis Meadows, 57, Ocho Rios, St. Ann

Jason Douglas, 31, May Pen, Clarendon

Colin Stephenson, 39, Ramble, Hanover

Howell Grant, 38, Negril, Westmoreland

Marvin Campbell, 40, Little London, Westmoreland

Killed by the police:

Sheldon Rose, Spring Mount, St. James

And here’s my favorite quote for today: “Truth alone will endure, all the rest will be swept away before the tide of time.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Related articles (with local blogs in purple) – note that the first few articles are from a couple of weeks back, but I wanted to draw attention to these issues…

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130718/lead/lead5.html JFJ engaging in dishonest tactics to smear Jamaica – Hanna: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130718/lead/lead6.html Parties see no reason to return Olint funds: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130718/letters/letters1.html Letter of the Day: We must acknowledge our past: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130718/lead/lead2.html Chuck wants anti-gang law to clamp down on turf defenders: Gleaner

http://dmarcuswilliams.blogspot.com/2013/07/trayvon-martin-lessons-for-jamaica.html Trayvon Martin: Lessons for Jamaica: cogito ergo sum

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130718/news/news1.html Journalist gives on birthday: Gleaner

http://www.jis.gov.jm/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=-90 Independence 2013: Celebrating Jamaica: Jamaica Information Service

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/thieves-hit-cumi-once-again Thieves hit CUMI once again: RJR News

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/six-held-as-cops-probe-murder-of-11-year-old-in-west-kingston Six held as cops probe murder of 11-year-old in West Kingston: RJR News

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Move—-or-else- Multi-million dollar agri-project stalled: Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/PetroCaribe-surprise PetroCaribe surprise: Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/No-interest-rate-hike-on-PetroCaribe-loans–Paulwell-says No interest rate hike on PetroCaribe deal, Paulwell says: Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Outrageous-_14826086 Pastor condemns killing of cross-dresser, man at church altar: Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/magazines/allwoman/Tameka-Hill–Youth-advocate_14803279 Tameka Hill – youth advocate: Jamaica Observer/All Woman

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=46978 Youth group to petition health minister on sexual and reproductive rights: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130805/news/news2.html Junior Achievement gets MetLife award, grant: Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/It-s-you-we-re-talking-to_14824173 It’s you we’re talking to! Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130805/cleisure/cleisure2.html Jamaica circus: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=46977 Roger Clarke joins reparation call: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130805/lead/lead8.html Master teacher to pitch Jamaican model at Gifted confab: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=47022 Queen Ifrica’s Grand Gala performance disappoints J-FLAG: Gleaner

http://www.tallawahmagazine.com/2013/08/home-girl-kemesha-kelly-takes-pride-in.html Home girl: Kemesha Kelly takes pride in serving her culture and country: Talllawah Magazine

Governor General of Jamaica Sir Patrick Allen, ON, GCMG, CD (Photo: pr.com)
Governor General of Jamaica Sir Patrick Allen, ON, GCMG, CD (Photo: pr.com)
OH, THE HEADGEAR! Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke (centre) observes as Christopher Levy (left), CEO of Jamaica Broilers Group, and Jamaica Agricultural Society President Senator Norman Grant examine a seedling at yesterday’s opening of the 61st Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show in Clarendon. (Photo: Norman Thomas/Jamaica Observer)
OH, THE HEADGEAR! Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke (centre) observes as Christopher Levy (left), CEO of Jamaica Broilers Group, and Jamaica Agricultural Society President Senator Norman Grant examine a seedling at yesterday’s opening of the 61st Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show in Clarendon. (Photo: Norman Thomas/Jamaica Observer)
Tameka Hill is a youth advocate and spokesperson on human trafficking. (Photo: Garfield Robinson/Jamaica Observer)
Tameka Hill is a youth advocate and spokesperson on human trafficking. (Photo: Garfield Robinson/Jamaica Observer)
Queen Ifrica performing at yesterday's Independence Day Gala. (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)
Queen Ifrica performing at yesterday’s Independence Day Gala. (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)
President of Junior Achievement (JA) Jamaica, Alphie Mullings-Aiken (second left), and board member Paul Lalor (right) chat with JA Alumnis, Callia Smith (left) and Martin Jarrett (second right). - (Photo: Janet Silvera/Gleaner)
President of Junior Achievement (JA) Jamaica, Alphie Mullings-Aiken (second left), and board member Paul Lalor (right) chat with JA Alumnis, Callia Smith (left) and Martin Jarrett (second right). (Photo: Janet Silvera/Gleaner)
Kemesha Kelly, youth activist and all-round a bright and beautiful young Jamaican.
Kemesha Kelly, youth activist and all-round bright and beautiful young Jamaican.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller greets disabled Jamaicans at the Independence Day celebrations. (Photo: Gleaner)
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller greets disabled Jamaicans at the Independence Day celebrations. (Photo: Gleaner)
Culture Minister Lisa Hanna does the royal wave, channeling her beauty queen days I guess, on Independence Day. (Photo: LiveStush.com)
Culture Minister Lisa Hanna does the royal wave, channeling her beauty queen days I guess, on Independence Day. (Photo: LiveStush.com)

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