Buju, Special Olympians, Calabar – 'one people'


Monday, March 25, 2019

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Jamaica's 'one people' and our visitors celebrated with Buju Banton at his 'Long Walk to Freedom' concert last week. It seems every available room in Kingston was booked — hotel, Airbnb, friends, and relatives. Watching a livestream provided by the now-famous Jermaine Dixon, we were moved by the majestic, yet emotional entrance of the long-awaited Buju, singing “Lamb of God” with the digital torches dancing in our National Stadium.

“It was a night of joy,” said our Canadian friend Jo. “Tears were streaming down my face as I watched Buju, crying also, because he could feel our love.”

I had met young Buju in 1996 when his Not An Easy Road became the soundtrack for Jamaica's Olympic campaign. Little did we know then how radically his lyrics would have changed and how uneasy he would make his own road.

Now he is back, exuding the spirituality we love in his lyrics. We give thanks for the excellent organisers who ensured that his homecoming lived up to the expectations of his ardent fans.

A few days after the concert Buju was seen distributing meals to the street people in downtown Kingston; no fanfare, no media.

The man has paid his dues, he is back and we join in his prayer:

“Destiny, Mama look from when you call me

“Destiny, Mama look from when you calling

“I wanna rule my destiny;

“Yeah, yeah, oh, help I please, Jah Jah mek mi rule my destiny.”

Special Olympians triumph

Our 'Out of Many One People' motto is celebrated in the unified teams which represented Jamaica at the just-ended Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. The football, basketball, badminton, and volleyball teams comprise athletes with and without intellectual disabilities and whose watchwords are “stronger together”. These and the other participants can boast of the biggest-ever haul of medals at the World Games — a total of 33: 15 gold, 10 silver and 8 bronze.

Badminton Head Coach Terry Walker told Jamaica Observer sports reporter Sanjay Myers of her unified players: “I believe both players played at their best level, gaining an appreciation for the work they put on prior to the games. I am satisfied with the result of gold and silver medals. My personal experience of inclusion at these games goes beyond sports; it speaks to how we as a people can team together to help each other experience happy moments.”

There is no praise high enough for Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) Executive Director Lorna Bell, who runs a year-round programme for our athletes from every single parish in Jamaica. In turn, Bell credits the dedicated family members, volunteers and sponsors for keeping the programme going and growing. SOJ Chairman Allie McNab and board director Paula Pinnock have been amazing standard-bearers.

Our Jamaica Constabulary Force has been staging the Torch Run for Special Olympics for over 30 years and were also represented in Abu Dhabi. We have to thank Bell and Fae Ellington for their continuous social media posts which had us living victorious moments and witnessing the splendid luncheon held in their honour by Digicel Chairman Denis O'Brien.

Calabar debacle

I wonder if the Calabar track stars who were earlier this year involved in a dust-up with a teacher would have acted differently if they had been exposed to SOJ. When Calabar physics teacher Sanjaye Shaw appeared on television I realised that he was a person with albinism. Did this have a bearing on the incident occurring?

We should congratulate Shaw for excelling in the challenging subject of physics and courageously continuing his studies while dealing with many challenges.

As for those who do the bullying, and those who turn a blind eye, they should know that a UNICEF study revealed that both the victims and the bullies “tend to suffer from ill health and poor employment outcomes as they grow to adulthood”.

Yekaterina Chzhen writes on the UNICEF website, “It is now understood that childhood bullying casts a “long shadow” on both the victims and perpetrators, but a more nuanced understanding of how it affects bystanders is overdue… our findings suggest that even children who are not necessarily involved in bullying end up being dragged down in their academic achievement.”

School administrators should therefore note her recommendation: “Our research demonstrates that anti-bullying interventions need to consider the whole school context, while the evaluations of such interventions should measure the impacts on children not directly involved in peer violence.”

We need to look no further than our brightest stars of the track — Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce for the best examples of athletes who are focused on their own development and the welfare of others, and have never been disrespectful.

Our young athletes need guidance, not indulgence. Shaw disclosed that he had made his complaint soon after the incident and had to resort to the media briefing only because he had been ignored. If this is so, he must receive apologies from his abusers and from those who did not act on his report.

Then, let this be a lesson to all such institutions, that the “one people” in our national motto refers to every single Jamaican. Let us follow the example of SOJ, embracing our differences, so we will be “stronger together”.

Talented Ina Sotoriva

Who knew that a 1920s Cabaret law made dancing illegal in New York City clubs until 2017? Last week we were treated to a fascinating documentary on this apparently racist legislation by Kingston-based film-maker Ina Sotoriva, freedom2dance. We also watched the beautiful Agwe, Sotoriva's animated story of a courageous young “moon priestess”, which was premiered at the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival last year.

Sotoriva noted that film-making is at a good place in Jamaica with the support of film commissioner at Jampro Renee Robinson for the Propella initiative of the Jamaica Film and Television Association (JAFTA).

Happy 35th, Phase Three

In the audience for Ina's showing was none other than Marcia Forbes, whose company Phase Three is celebrating its 35th anniversary. Marcia and her late husband Richard kept pace with the racing technology of film-making, investing in world-class facilities, making them the go-to film production house in Jamaica. They were unstinting in the professional development of their team members and so have made an invaluable contribution to the development of the film industry in Jamaica. Their son Delano has now taken over the reins of the business — a study in excellent succession planning.

Congratulations, Phase Three, here's to many more successful years of business!

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