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Let's keep our Jamaica

Barbara
Gloudon

Friday, February 09, 2018

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Am I the only one who is getting the feeling that this Jamdown of ours is gradually becoming a place of confusion? I have always taken pride in boasting to people abroad that Jamaica a di boss. In my alleged arrogance, I listed out all the things which make Jamaica so great. So what the hell is happening to us now?

When did we now find ourselves having to run away from killers? Why are children being included on the destruction list? Dear God! What happened to the love which we used to give not only to our children, but all children? We used to love them all and did our very best to ensure that they could grow up to mek wi feel proud when dem pass exam and go to the best schools. Everyone took pride in university graduates, especially when the children of the poor were successful.

Neighbour, mi neighbour

When did we stop making friends with the people next door; the people with whom we once ate food and shared like family? If anybody tek sick, neighbour would help neighbour to get to hospital. And when they got back home, neighbour would make sure that they were getting proper treatment. Why is it that now it seems the word “neighbour” has diminished from our vocabulary? Even neighbourhood watch, our way of protecting the community, has gone out of style just when we need it.

Of late, I've been sharing with others some of the stories about my mother (no longer with us). We had a large household and things were often more than difficult to feed nine children. Thank heavens my mother was the 'Queen of Gravy'. She would boil and crush the yellow yam or potato and then add the gravy to it — hot and well flavoured. The chairs drawn up to the table were filled with hungry schoolboys who invited themselves to lunch and had followed my brothers home to share in the 'feast'. My mother asked no questions as to why she had to feed so many in a time when life was tough. She was given the gift of sharing… sharing so that every child could go back to class, fed and ready to learn. It didn't matter that my mother didn't even know the names of her guests as she made the gravy go round.

Today, how many children get fed? Who pours the gravy, hot and tasty — a gift from a mother who never turned away a child facing hunger? Or a plate sent to an elderly neighbour who can no longer put pot pon fire? Another old-time Jamaican neighbourly ritual, the nine-night, was occasion for comforting the bereaved, not a time to quarrel about the quantity of curry goat or drink provided. Where is the love, the caring for, the rescue of the perishing, the care for the dying which held us together as a community?

The irony of all that's happening to our country now is that, far across the oceans, the name “Jamaica” is resonating. The confusion, therefore, is how come in parts of our land there is killing more than could be seen in any action movie?

Nonetheless, in other areas, there are Jamaicans displaying astounding talent. Luckily, all is not spoiled. Let us keep the positive alive for a new generation.

Pride in wiself

Going through a pile of books, among them I came across The Selected Poems of Claude McKay. He was a Jamaican blessed with the magic of poetry. Living abroad in the 1900s, he could share his gift with his countrymen and readers the world over. While he lived in the USA, he had to face the good times and the bad. He used the magic of the creative spirit to pen the lines of a poem: “If we must die… let it not be like hogs, hunted and penned in an inglorious spot.”

McKay was speaking at a time when war ravaged the land overseas. Also fighting against racism, McKay's message called to our people. Battered and bruised as we may be, he reminded us that we should have our dignity to the very end.

The poet, is long gone, but his messages are never forgotten. His words ensuring our people to remain wise. He reminds us we should be valuing ourselves to the end — even “the children, are made wise”.

If it's one thing that old-time Jamaicans used to speak out about was that we Jamaicans should always have pride in ourselves. Where are we now in this day and age? Because somebody comes to give us what we didn't ask for, will we be smart enough to retain our pride? Will we fight for our right when some forces think it is theirs?

Since when do we think it necessary that visitors from outside can claim the right to tell us who or what we should be? When foreigners say they know more about us than we know ourselves, how do we respond? Let us hope that no one is getting ready to sell us out. It seems that some don't care what the name Jamaica will mean in the future. Why are we forgetting who we are?

Jamaica to di worl'

Sports and music have become the busiest methods of this island taking over the world, so to speak. More and more our athletes are on the move. Our females will be taking on bobsledding in the Winter Olympics in South Korea, of all places. The Reggae Girls tested themselves on the football field overseas a few weeks ago. We even have a rugby contingent now preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Australia. Jamaica is on the go.

Musicians have hit the road even before the athletes got the call. It matters not who went abroad first. What matters is that, in the words of our ancestors, Jamaica is planting its pole in distant lands. Who would ever imagine that Jamaican footballers will be on their way to Sweden — far-far-away, and in the cold too! We are brave enough to face challenges, so let it be known that this country is as good as any other. It is time for us to lift the spirit of Jah-mek-yah and encourage each other to “straighten up and fly right”.

As a nation teeming with ambition, despite the many problems, may we never be tricked into giving away our future. One would think by now that we are mature enough to stop hanging on to handouts.

The media repeatedly has on display some successful project or other telling of the successes made by our people at home and abroad. There is much to be done. May we never give away our Jamaica, the land of our birth.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or gloudonb@yahoo.com.

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