As we look back on the past week's events, we cannot be too grateful that Jamaica has a free Press. This has come at great cost to those veterans who were subjected to death threats when they were fewer in number and thus easily singled out by those terrible thugs. From a mere five media houses, Jamaica now boasts nearly 20 radio stations, about eight television stations, including the free-to-air CVM and TVJ, and three dailies. In addition to traditional media we have about 600,000 folks on Facebook, perhaps about a quarter of that on Twitter, thousands of YouTube postings, hundreds of websites, and a couple thousand blogs.
My dear goodly Jamaicans, through the expansion of traditional media, and the galloping social media, we have outnumbered those horrible, threatening thugs. Free speech is now triumphant! Anyone who dares to disrespect our right to pronounce our truth or to ask questions of those we pay through our hard-earned taxes, will be humbled. And so, dear FB friends and Twitter fam, take a bow for helping former junior minister Richard Azan to do the right thing — to resign after the very sobering report from the Office of the Contractor General.
Let our political representatives know that this new, open environment will serve the genuine leader very well. Since we are all human, we do not expect MPs, councilors and caretakers to be faultless, but we do expect them to be aware and humble enough to know when they are doing wrong, to admit to it, and to resign if the very body appointed by the Parliament exposes questionable actions.
Although every square inch of Jamaica has two political representatives — MP and councilllors — the country is looking as unkempt as a long-term street person, and alas, smelling likewise. How are we going to manage the piles of garbage, the clogged gullies and drains and the increasingly chaotic cities and towns, if our paid servants are spending more time plotting, bickering and profiling, rather than planning, building and producing? As for the 'better' representatives: is the power so sweet, are the perks so enticing, that you will 'see and blind,
hear and deaf'?
A new wave of brain drain has been wracking Jamaica, and those of us who have watched this happen repeatedly over so many decades were almost giving up... until we listened to reports of the 50th anniversary celebration of the historic March on Washington led by Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr on August 28, 1963. Dr King, an intellectual and a minister of religion was repeatedly imprisoned, but refused to become embittered. He believed that, in order to fight evil, one had to purify one's soul, and so he infused his writings and speeches with righteous challenges.
In his famous "Letter from a Birmingham jail" written on April 16, 1963 to fellow clergymen who were wary of his tenacity, he said:
"Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right."
A few months, later, on that mall in Washington DC, we saw that God had firmly taken the hand stretched out to him by his co-worker Martin Luther King Jr. How do we know this? MLK took the podium with a written script, but then the famous gospel singer Mahalia Jackson said, "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" At that point, MLK pushed his script aside, and, obviously filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaimed his dream:
"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal... I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today." Please read the full script of the speech at www.archives.gov/ press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf. Historians have observed that no one has ever been able to match the level of Dr King's oratory that descended like a cleansing rain upon the people of all races who had travelled thousands of miles to support the cause.
Clearly, our clergy must step up — as Rev Dr King did — and join hands with our God of justice to halt this rapid slide of our nation into lawlessness, indiscipline and poverty. Why have they not spoken up on the report from the OCG? Why are they not demanding not only a Tivoli enquiry, but also a garrison enquiry, so that our benighted sisters and brothers will finally be free of the reign of thugs over them?
Food For the Poor serves
We saw some judgemental comments about poor Imogene Lawrence from St Ann, who had no money to feed her nine children or send them to school. While those folks were criticising, Food For the Poor Jamaica (FFPJ) reached the family within 24 hours of the article's publication in the Sunday Observer, taking food, stove, clothes for the children, and other items. I posted photos of the visit at lowrie-chin.blogspot.com /2013/09/food-for-poor-gives-urgent-help-to-st.html. The first shows the mother, Imogene Lawrence, being interviewed. FFPJ Chairman Andrew Mahfood urged quick action as he insists that his organisation must give 'the best customer service to the poor'.
During the past week of celebrating seniors, Professor Denise Eldemire Shearer, Chair of Caribbean Community of Retired Persons shared statistics that should build respect in both private and public sectors for Jamaica's elders. Her recent research concluded that 87 per cent of seniors have been enumerated, 72 per cent own their own homes, and 89 per cent of them are not only physically but mentally able. The inspiring Syringa Marshall-Burnett, chair of the National Council for Senior Citizens (NCSC), remarked that our elders are people of resilience who have kept faith in their country through thick and thin.
Thank you to Rev Sam Green of Grace Missionary Church for an inspiring Seniors' Service, and to the Kiwanis Club of North St Andrew, led by President John Allen and President-designate Christopher Ebanks, for sponsoring a generous garden party for about 300 seniors. It was organised by Charmaine Muirhead and her team at NCSC. We are still agog at the agility of the NCSC's dance group, "The Recycled Teenagers".
Farewell Monsignor Mock Yen
A Thanksgiving Service for Monsignor Kenneth Mock Yen will take place on Friday, September 27 at 2:00 pm at the Holy Trinity Cathedral. He was a deeply compassionate and talented priest. I remember a colleague calling me one evening in near desperation over several health and emotional crises and I appealed to Monsignor to visit her. Soon afterwards she called to say how quickly he arrived and how fervently he prayed. Things began to improve from that very night she said, and they have not looked back.
Such is the beauty of partnering with God to heal our human family. Rest in peace, Monsignor Ken!