Columns

Black Green and Gold ... Cultural Imperialism in reverse

By DONNA HOPE MARQUIS Guest Columnist

Sunday, September 23, 2012    

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Dem ah go tiyad fi see wi face...

Bob Marley

And to think ... a country of under three million people, struggling in the backwash, can have such reach and sweep across the world. Somehow it is awe-inspiring to imagine the potential that this cultural force would have if it were captured and unleashed across the other critical sectors of this society to guide and drive its development. Music and sports, always music and sports the harbingers of Jamaica's greatness, that "Jamaicanly" posture that has captured the imagination of millions whose feet have never touched this soil.

I do not wish to sound harsh and critical at a time of celebration but these areas - music and sports - have striven and thrived in spite of and regardless of political interference and support. Perhaps this is a good thing ... indeed I believe it is so. The children of Jamaica's working classes, the children of Jamaica's rural poor and innercities ... these are the superstars who carry Jamaica's Black, Green and Gold on their shoulders to reaches far and wide. It is on the backs of these men and women, Jamaica's superstars from below that the messages of Jamaica, Jamaican identity and the essence of the spirit of Jamaica are carried across the globe and made popular in a world where many competing messages and ideals dominate.

For example, the Americans have invested billions to ensure that their national symbols, in particular their flag and their anthem - breach the psyche of individuals in every corner of the world. This is a deliberate move, backed by real investment, which means that American cultural products, like Hollywood's deliberately carefully crafted output of "Made in America" films carry these messages. Have you ever wondered why the world always ends somewhere in America? Why aliens always land somewhere in America? Why is the Karate Kid American - in the place where Karate reigns supreme? We have learnt that lesson well. But there is also the Jamaican tide ... what I call the Black, Green and Gold tide.

The Black Green and Gold tide of reverse cultural imperialism has never been a deliberate national project. How could it be in a country that continues to struggle and borrow just to pay its national debt that accounts for 80 per cent of every dollar earned in Jamaica? Indeed, how could it be in a country that is still trying to figure out what exactly is its social and cultural consensus? No, this Black, Green and Gold tide is an unplanned component of the outpouring of cultural activity that seeps through the pores of Jamaicans ... asleep or awake. The Black Green and Gold tide surges through the music and washes up on shores so distant that it is frightening. Jamaican reggae music and its successor dancehall, continue to make waves across all continents of the world, breaching racial, geographical, linguistic and temporal barriers with remarkable alacrity.

And now with our sportsmen and women, the heroes of today who stand tall on the backs of those who went before, the Black Green and Gold continues to spread and fly across continents, taking with it all the essence of Jamaica, giving notice of Jamaica's presence, regardless of its geographical size or location, regardless of its GDP and certainly regardless of its intent. Yes, the recent celebrations of Jamaica's culmination of its 50th year of Independence was made sweeter and more intense by its convergence with the staging of London 2012 in the very country from which Jamaica gained its independence in 1962. In the very place whose Union Jack was lowered 50 years ago to make way for the Black, Green and Gold. In the very same place where many Jamaicans, immigrants and their British progeny with Jamaican roots could share in the unfolding of the dominance of Jamaica's track and field superstars. For many at home and abroad the line where Jamaica 50 ended and London 2012 began were blurred ... and so the celebrations of the dominance of Black, Green and Gold continued beyond August mawning and into the last last deggae deggae day of the Olympics and beyond. I still continue to be uplifted by the empowering moments at London 2012, and even more so by the CELEBRATION of the Black, Green and Gold that overtook Jamaicans at home and in the Diaspora, wannabee Jamaicans, hope-to-be Jamaicans and individuals from all over the world who joined the celebration of Jamaica's dominance using every single method they could - personal, technological and otherwise. The virtual realities created online and in the media and the sharing in of multiple celebrations across time zones too numerous to mention remain as fantastic fantasies of Black, Green and Gold moments. From HWT to London to Philly to Indonesia to Germany to Japan and beyond and above and below the Black Green and Gold did - ah run red. Yes, wi did ah occur.

And now with our sportsmen and women, the heroes of today who stand tall on the backs of those who went before, the Black Green and Gold continues to spread and fly across continents, taking with it all the essence of Jamaica, giving notice of Jamaica's presence, regardless of its geographical size or location, regardless of its GDP and certainly regardless of its intent. Yes, the recent celebrations of Jamaica's culmination of its 50th year of Independence was made sweeter and more intense by its convergence with the staging of London 2012 in the very country from which Jamaica gained its independence in 1962. In the very place whose Union Jack was lowered 50 years ago to make way for the Black, Green and Gold. In the very same place where many Jamaicans, immigrants and their British progeny with Jamaican roots could share in the unfolding of the dominance of Jamaica's track and field superstars. For many at home and abroad the line where Jamaica 50 ended and London 2012 began were blurred ... and so the celebrations of the dominance of Black, Green and Gold continued beyond August mawning and into the last last deggae deggae day of the Olympics and beyond. I still continue to be uplifted by the empowering moments at London 2012, and even more so by the CELEBRATION of the Black, Green and Gold that overtook Jamaicans at home and in the Diaspora, wannabee Jamaicans, hope-to-be Jamaicans and individuals from all over the world who joined the celebration of Jamaica's dominance using every single method they could - personal, technological and otherwise. The virtual realities created online and in the media and the sharing in of multiple celebrations across time zones too numerous to mention remain as fantastic fantasies of Black, Green and Gold moments. From HWT to London to Philly to Indonesia to Germany to Japan and beyond and above and below the Black Green and Gold did - ah run red. Yes, wi did ah occur.

Yet, the real quantification and qualification of Jamaica's branding in those stellar moments on the London 2012 stage is yet to be done. The reach and sway of Jamaican-infused dialogue and debate and culture across cyberspace for example, via Facebook, Twitter, BBM and other mechanisms is yet to be collated and crunched and transformed into meaningful data that may point the way towards some mechanism for creating the proverbial pot of gold that is still so elusive. However, we know during London 2012 that the Black Green and Gold spread its wings and took flight - and we are still flying high.

Dr Donna Hope Marquis is a university lecturer

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