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Celebrating Ja-mai-ka home and abroad

B Gloudon

Friday, July 27, 2012    

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WHAT ARE WE CELEBRATING? Jamaica-50 or the Olympics? If we're not careful, the events in England may well relegate us to a post-script in our own history. The Olympic excitement is now in full flight but we shouldn't get so carried away that we become willing collaborators in our own irrelevance. Some people feel that we haven't reached an appropriate level of excitement for an event as historic as half a century of nationhood.

It is not England only where the diaspora family seems to be in a more celebratory spirit than we are. Up and down the US Eastern Seaboard, where our people have settled in large numbers, the reggae concerts and jerk on the grill in the backyard are well underway. They say you can smell the seasoning across every borough, from New York clean to New Jersey, Connecticut and all the rest. Turn towards Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago - they're ramping up the excitement meter. Don't leave out Florida and Georgia, the Midwest and Southwest. Wherever you roam, Jamaica is in the hearts of fi wi people - and the party is on.

Don't even think of excluding Canada. From Montreal to Vancouver we're celebrating, especially in Toronto, another capital in the Jamaican empire. It is in "Englant", however, that Miss Lou's "Colonisation in Reverse" has come totally true. It was no secret that there were nuff of us Up There but not too many knew there was so much passion for Back-a-yard among the younger set, many of whom have never made a pilgrimage to granny's birthplace.

The Olympics have brought Jamaica to them and they have welcomed our team with unexpected passion. From darkest brown to lightest white, all of a sudden everybody is "Ja-mai-kan". Hail the heritage! "Mi grandpa and mi grandma came from St. Elizabeth and we love Marley and the jerk and of course, Usain. Big up Ja-mai-ka". They can't get enough of the Black, Green and Gold.

Our hometown news media has turned the focus so much and so enthusiastically on the Jamaica-Brits that there seems to be little room left to hype what is to take place here. Private sector sponsorship has gone more to saluting the Olympics than hometown celebration projects. Even at this last minute, some parish administrations say they need a few more millions to augment their celebration budgets. The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) is very optimistic, however. They are assuring us that a comprehensive programme of events is in place islandwide and we can come out to celebrate with confidence. (Check 926-5726-9 for further information).

In the midst of all this, the old question of whether Jamaicans in the Diaspora should be eligible to participate in the democratic process here has surfaced again. The latest is that, if French citizens living in Britain can vote in French elections, why can't we facilitate our diaspora family similarly? The reality is that Britain and France are within spitting distance of each other, just a few miles across the English Channel. Compare that with the thousands of miles between the UK, North America and ourselves. Consider the logistical challenges to be overcome by any MP elected to serve a Jamaican constituency. Technology can certainly help, but there will still be hurdles. How often would the MP be able to afford a weekly journey back and forth to participate in deliberations of the House or Senate?

Who would meet the cost? And what of the constituency and the needs of the people? We already complain about the difficulty local residents have in keeping contact with the M.P. who is in the same country. It is hard to see how itinerant representation would change the equation. All things are possible, however, but let's face it, this is not as simple as calling across the Channel.

As we get acquainted with the Diaspora family in Britain...England in particular, we're seeing that many of the new generation are well educated and are making their presence felt in productive enterprise. Some have embarked on their own business, others are well employed. This does not give the whole picture, however. The Brits know hard times like everyone else. People of West Indian origin, among other minorities, still battle with ancient prejudices.

There is room for development and many of our people grasp opportunities with satisfying results. I celebrate today two of the Diaspora family who are among recipients of recognition in the 2012 Queen's Birthday Honours List. Jean "Binta" Breeze and Jackie Guy are being hailed for their contribution to cultural development in Britain. She is a celebrated dub-poet and story-teller. He is a noted dancer and choreographer.

JEAN BREEZE is one of the early members of the Jamaica School of Drama. A Hanoverian by birth, she is a past student of Rusea's High, a down-to-earth practical woman. She openly admits to battling mental illness (schizophrenia), a brave confession in our culture where to admit to even the slightest form of mental instability is to court being ostracised. People who know Jean will tell you that nothing stops her. An impressive collection of work has put her on the map not only in the UK but in many countries. Besides creating poetry, she has been a teacher and theatre director, through talent and hard work earning the respect now given her as a Member of the British Empire (MBE).

I claim a long-standing friendship with JACKIE GUY, one of the most amusing, talented persons you'll ever hope to know. A past student of Alma Mock Yen's, he also was associated with the National Dance Theatre Company and Monica Campbell's Movements Dance Company. He moved to live in England in 1988 and since then, has gone from one level of success to another.

He's highly acclaimed for his work as a choreographer, researcher, historian, lecturer and nuff-nuff more. His preservation and enrichment of Caribbean dance idioms are well known. His dedication in passing on the heritage to children of the Caribbean diaspora has earned him much respect. For me, it is his tremendous spirit and his loyalty to friends in particular, which make it so easy to send Nuff Big-Up to him on becoming a Member of the British Empire (MBE).

I KNOW, I KNOW, these are colonial honours. They used to be bestowed on JA people in the days before Independence. Today, we have our own National Honours and Awards. When our family members Up So earn honours according to the customs of their new homeland, no problem. Respect to the countless Jamaicans who felt impelled to make life somewhere else, drawn by the same magnet which took their forebears to other countries in search of a better tomorrow. This is our history.

FROM DAWG TO LION: Rapper Snoop Doggy Dog has decided to go Rasta, in costume at least...maybe to save a career which naw sey nutten right now. So he's converted from Dawg to Lion...and nuff Rasta colours to go with it. Try yuh best Snoops! It takes more than costume to make a Lion in Zion.

gloudonb@yahoo.com

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