Jamaica's blessed gene pool

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, January 21, 2013

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MICHAEL Holding, Jamaica's legendary fast bowler and now a sought-after cricket commentator, took us for a refreshing swim in Jamaica's gene pool at the recent RJR National Sportswoman and Sportsman Awards.

He recounted the exploits of our athletes, beginning with the iconic George Headley whose record doublecentury at Lord's — regarded as the home of cricket — stood for 51 years from 1939 to 1990. Holding also reminded us that our first Olympic Gold was reaped in 1948 by Arthur Wint and that Usain Bolt and Shelly- Ann Fraser-Pryce were the latest links in our chain of victories.

As we glowed in these triumphs, Michael Holding told us that our Merlene Ottey still holds the record of having nine Olympic medals, the most reaped by any woman in the history in the Olympics. He hailed Deon Hemmings for being the first Jamaican woman to bring home Gold from the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. He said we should not forget that David Weller won us our first non-trackand- field medal in cycling at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

He vividly projected in our mind's eye, Don Quarrie's Gold in the Montreal Olympics, Courtney Walsh's long-standing record for the most Test wickets, the Reggae Boyz’ exciting entry into France's World Cup arena, the reign of John Barnes as one of England's finest League players, crowned by his captaincy of Liverpool, and Mike McCallum's WBA Junior Middleweight Title.

He went further afield, reminding us that celebrated basketball player Patrick Ewing, who retired from the New York Knicks in 2003, and football headliner Patrick Chung of the New England Patriots were both born in Jamaica. Ndamukong Suh, a recent sensation with the Detroit Lions, is also of Jamaican parentage — his mother is Bernadette Lennon of Spanish Town, Jamaica. General Colin Powell is of Jamaican parentage and Dr Susan Rice, US ambassador to the United Nations, has Jamaican grandparents.

He said the replication of Bob Marley's image worldwide is only matched by that of Che Guevara, and Usain Bolt's 'To the world' gesture is practised by celebrities (including Prince Harry) in every corner of the earth.

Then the light-hearted Mike Holding of my youth became very serious. He was concerned about the violence in our beloved Jamaica, the bad press and asked us to devote ourselves to creating safe havens where this marvellous Jamaican energy could be channeled.

"All our greats had abundant talent," he said, "but it didn't end there." He said Headley trained by swimming longer and longer distances in the Kingston Harbour. And here we remember the brave Sarah Newland, winning the Kingston Harbour swim despite her physical disability.

He recalled a documentary on Bolt, showing him being sick after a gruelling training session: "This kind of hard work shows us that fame comes from not just eating yellow yam."

There is one other significant factor that revealed itself when Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce stood before the microphone, holding their awards: faith in God. Said Shelly- Ann: "I give thanks to the Almighty", and Usain: "I thank God." This is the faith of our fathers and mothers that follows us in their whispered prayers wherever we go.

The safe havens called for by Michael Holding are being created out of that faith — sports and community clubs, homework centres and youth groups in our multitude of churches. Faith in God and in Jamaica inspired Governor General Sir Patrick Allen and Lady Allen to launch the I Believe Initiative (IBI) which last year established two 'I Believe' communities in Westmoreland and St Catherine, and will focus on career development, youth entrepreneurship and parenting skills this year.

All our religious denominations have created institutions and projects to educate and empower our people. Let all who are dedicating their resources to the betterment of Jamaica make their voices heard in condemning the acts of violence and corruption that are undermining their good work.

‘IMF — Increase My Faith’

We welcomed Rev Dr Peter Garth's interpretation of 'IMF' at last Thursday's National Leadership Prayer Breakfast (NLPB). Surrounded by leaders in Government, the NLPB chair said like them, 'IMF' was constantly on his mind — only that his 'IMF' was not a funding agency but a prayer: 'Increase My Faith'.

The Prayer Breakfast committee soldiers on despite the brickbats, and we think VMBS CEO Richard Powell summed it up well when he explained to a reporter that his company remained the faithful sponsor because we should attend not only to the financial, but also the spiritual needs of Jamaicans.

That champion of community empowerment through the Mel Nathan Institute, Rev Dr Maitland Evans, delivered the message, reflected on the poetic letter of St Paul - 1st Corinthians Ch 13: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."

Dr Evans warned that the most powerful gifts we may have "make no sense if they are not anchored by the power of love." He said that if we say we have access to the love of God, "we have to claim it and steward it". He said we should recognise its capacity to care and to cure and warned that "there is no virtue that does not also call us to the pain of gifting".

To the public and private sector leaders in the room, Dr Evans appealed for leadership with love, advising, "people know when we are leading them with arrogance and rudeness — they read between the lines".

Farewell, Dr Dahlia Repole

We bid a sad farewell to that brilliant visionary Dr Dahlia Repole, retired principal of St Andrew High School and Excelsior Community College, who passed away last Thursday after a valiant battle with cancer. Even as she gained academic and national accolades, Dr Repole retained a heart for the humblest of her students and worked tirelessly to improve and expand the two institutions which she led. Our condolences to her children and other members of her family.






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