Ready to fight

We're not squatters, we have a title, say occupants of Garvey's birth home

Observer staff reporter

Monday, January 08, 2018

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THE family the Government is offering $3.2 million to leave the childhood home of National Hero Marcus Garvey say, contrary to stories accusing them of being squatters, they are title-holders of the land.

Last December, the Jamaica Observer North & East reported that the occupants of the St Ann's Bay property, which is the birthplace of Garvey, are unhappy with the amount being offered to them for the place they have called home for more than 50 years.

“This a wi grandmother place. Mi mother born here; she died when she was 66. So it's like because him a hero dem track back where he was born. When we get the place we never know seh a Marcus Garvey birthplace still,” Jacinth Johnson, one of eight occupants, told North & East on a second visit to the place.

She said her family is in no way related to Garvey, but shared that several residents of the community bear the Garvey name and have no problem with them living there.

“Wi nuh capture nuh land. If wi did capture the land, how wi would have a title; wi have title. Wi cyah really follow people,” the woman declared.

She said that her mother, before her death, was in possession of the land title, but feared building on the land only to lose it.

“Wi a retaliate now because wi waah live. Wi can't do nothing to the house. Me a hot girl a road and when yuh look which part mi live mi affi a seh, no man. The [Jamaica National] Heritage Trust did come here and seh wi can't put nothing pon the land,” Johnson said.

The woman said she, like her sister Coleen Johnson who spoke to North & East last month, will not accept the sum being offered.

“$3.2 [million], weh dat can do? Dat a fi me alone. It's eight of us. Weh wi a go live? Yuh nuh feel seh dem mind dead or something? How yuh fi see people live inna dem house and want the property? Dem a go mek millions here, enuh. When tourist come here wi make money. Wi ask dem for a donation and sometimes dem lef' US$50 [and] US$100,” she shared.

Johnson said they are willing to move if they get three houses for the eight family members.

“A big deal a go mek outta it because the whole St Ann's Bay a talk 'bout it. Dem seh unnuh crazy? How dem fi give unnuh $3.2 [million] fi unnuh house? The Marcus Garvey Movement tell wi seh 'wi have unnuh back any time unnuh ready'. Dem seh dem standing with us too, so it's going to be a fight.”

The Government in 2015 announced plans to refurbish the boyhood home of Garvey, Jamaica's first national hero, transforming it into a heritage site.

“We are working to resolve the issue of the relocation of persons who occupy the house of national hero, the Rt Excellent Marcus Garvey,” the Government said at the time.

It said a submission for resources to assist in this effort was made, citing that the aim is to start the refurbishing and restoration of the property by the next anniversary of his birthday (August 17, 2016).

The property on which the house is located was declared a protected site in 1992, as the Government moved to ensure that Garvey's legacy and history were preserved.

Work is yet to start.




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