Columns

Here's to Jamaicans who have endured!

Lloyd B SMITH

Tuesday, December 31, 2013    

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TRULY it has been said that the race is not for the swift but he/she who endures to the end. The story is told about a young pastor who had just got married. On the night of the couple's honeymoon, just as they were about to retire to bed, he remarked: "Honey, let us pray for guidance." The new bride then coyly replied, "I will pray for guidance, you had better pray for endurance!"

Jamaica is said to be a nation of samples, one-night stands and numerous flash-in-the-pan achievements, but very little sustainability. In an age of immediate gratification, so-called stars and headliners come and go almost daily. But there are those Jamaicans who, like the battery bunny, just keep going on and on; from one success story to another, forever reinventing themselves and staying relevant, despite the cynicism, detractors and obstacles.

As 2013 comes to an end, I have been reflecting on this area of national life. And a number of persons and institutions come to mind that have endured, emerging as jewels in the crown. To start close to home, I must single out my fellow Jamaica Observer columnist Barbara Gloudon. Barbara and myself have the distinction of being the longest contributing opinion writers in this esteemed newspaper, but it is not that milestone that puts her in the pantheon of Brand Jamaica greats.

I had the privilege and pleasure of being her special guest at the opening of the National Pantomime The Golden Macca Fat at the Little Theatre on Boxing Day, and I was truly moved by the fact that this was her umpteenth effort in writing the script and lyrics for this calendar event. This is no ordinary feat, and I suspect that sometimes she must wonder how on God's earth she manages to do it, year after year, in seemingly tireless fashion. It was a jam-packed auditorium that attended the opening night, including Jamaicans from the Diaspora, thus giving legitimacy and the thumbs up for what has become a Jamaican tradition, as staple as sorrel and gungo peas. Kudos to "Miss B," as she is affectionately called: you have endured.

Another Jamaican of endurance is Lascelles Chin of LASCO fame. It is my candid opinion that if there were enough Lascelles Chins out there Jamaica would be truly on its way to becoming economically independent. Here is a corporate giant with an enviable dose of patriotism, who puts his money where his mouth is. He is "Mr Producer" personified, and that is what Jamaica needs most of all at this time, because without production we are doomed. Of course, his many acts of philanthropy speak volumes about a man who is truly committed to the prosperous development of this country. Hats off to you, Mr Chin.

Who would have thought that an accomplished attorney-at-law and legendary talk show host could end up being an effective minister of education?

Roman Catholic priest Rev Ronald Thwaites has defied the odds and has turned out to be a hard-working, committed, courageous, and visionary minister of education. One who is leading from in front, not allowing himself to be swallowed up by negativity. Indeed, Minister Thwaites has displayed a sanguine and amiable attitude even when the going gets tough and his detractors are hurling barbs at him.

In terms of accessibility and being someone who keeps his word, Ronnie ranks way up there, too. Unlike some of his ministerial colleagues who walk around with an imperious attitude, feigning God-like qualities in a swirl of condescension, a ready smile and cooperative spirit, emboldened by a consummate humility, are his hallmarks. Undoubtedly, here is a Jamaican whose endurance has translated into performance.

Recently, celebrated cinematographer Lennie Little-White had a special showing at the Carib multiplex of his seminal work Long Live the King, a moving tribute to the late Professor Rex Nettleford. In a country where film-making is still a risky and unrewarding business, Mr Little-White is a big, black man who has dared to take the unbeaten path. His repertoire is truly a celebration of Jamaican life in its various forms and shapes. Lennie has endured in his field despite the many setbacks and disappointments, including lack of sufficient funding, and has remained true to his craft. He may well have been another Spike Lee had he remained abroad instead of returning home to build the local film industry, and as such he stands out as a truly nationalistic professional who is deserving of praise. Continue to endure, Lennie.

Dr Henry Lowe has become a man for all seasons and is one tallawah Jamaican. I met him many years ago when we worked together on his Science Adventure textbook series -- at which time I was editor of Kingston Publishers Limited (now LMH Publishers), headed by Mike Henry. From then I knew he was destined for greatness. Not one for grandstanding or merely profiteering schemes, Dr Lowe has been a visionary and innovator, focusing on the need for greater levels of research and development with respect to what Jamaica has to offer to the world. It is no secret that, as a country, we have not placed enough emphasis on scientific development, and it is fair to say that there has been a paucity of home-grown Jamaican scientists. Yes, we have a lot of "sciance" men out there -- as Obeah continues to be a thriving business in Jamaica -- but Dr Lowe, through his various experiments and scientific ventures, is taking Jamaica into a brave new world that augurs well for the economic development of this country.

Needless to say that there are numerous Jamaicans out there who are enduring, but space does not permit to feature them all. This is but a sampling which, hopefully. will inspire others to join the endurance fold. But I could not end without mentioning Tessanne Chin, who showed what true endurance is all about. Let's be honest, Jamaica previously paid her very little attention. So it took Shaggy and Adam Levine to unearth a golden nugget that was just waiting to be discovered. Tessanne "The Voice" Chin's rise to international stardom must be a lesson to our decision-makers, be they in the public or private sector, that we must be more cognisant of what we have in terms of talent and possibilities, instead of waiting for outsiders to convince us of what we should already know. So much for the wagonists. However, big up Tessanne every time, Jamaica is the better for your golden voice.

In closing, let me extend best wishes and gratitude to all my readers for the new year which I hope will be a productive and safe one. Be guided by the Holy Spirit even as you endure.

Lloyd B Smith is a member of Parliament and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the People's National Party or the Government of Jamaica.

lloydbsmith@hotmail.com

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