AFTER all the doubts and fears and the predictions of doom and gloom, anyone could sing Fi wi island a boom. It didn’t matter who was on a mission or who was waving a piece of flag in the heart (cardiologists, take note). The political samurai sheathed their swords and One Love really made sense. The prime minister even included a “flag in the heart” reference in her message to the nation. The only colours which mattered were the Black-Green-Gold. Age was no deterrent to dancing in the street. Uptown and downtown waved flags, sang songs and “drop foot” as we celebrated.
Come-homers enriched the airlines despite the jacking-up of fares. (Oh, for an Air Jamaica!) Any food-kind with “jerk” as an adjective, sell-off before the fire even ketch. The Jubilee Village was a big hit. The National Stadium couldn’t take a message as thousands crammed in. No questions have been asked, as far as I know, about who sold the FREE Gala tickets which disappeared while the pure at heart were under the illusion that they would get into the stadium.
When Ernesto, the presumptuous wanna-be hurricane gave signs of wanting to make landfall during the weekend, he soon got the message that this country was not going to batten down for anybody, hurricane or no hurricane. So he just drop lickle rain and went his way. Not even the “popdown-ness” of the JPSCo system could dampen our spirits. Whether our electrical appliances will be the same after the on-again, off-again assault is another matter. As is customary on these occasions, investigations are in order. One more Enquiry?
To get back to the celebrating – the Jubilee Village owed its success to features like the shuttles from parking lots to the venue and the many big-screen viewing points. The performances by a variety of artistes were crowd pleasers. Best of all, entrance to the Village was free. I visited on Saturday afternoon and was impressed by the level of professionalism demonstrated by members of the Constabulary Force. They did their security searches firmly but with “manners”.
A tour of the booths in the shopping area revealed some attractive locally designed and well-constructed fashions, a change from the massproduced, ill-fitting, “heng-pon nail” from the Far East. It is time to ask why we’re settling for other people’s rubbish when we can produce fine goods of our own. If the spirit of Jamaica 50 is not to be wasted, we’d better get our act together and return to local manufacturing like in times past. Full time for the fine art of dressmaking and tailoring to be revived.
I did not return for the Grand Gala on Monday for the reason that I was among the ticketless. Watching the event via the struggling TV at home, it appeared that once again we’d done what we do best – rise to the occasion. Nothing we love like a good show. In the vast audience, you could spot the Come Backers who returned home to cheer on their beloved YARD. The panorama of faces captured by the camera showed from youth to age, uptown to down, black to brown and inbetween. The Many who made up the One were out in full force.
The show was a good effort but too long. The producers seemed anxious to pack in everything but there were two spots at which the finale could have come – one, after the Festival song medley, the other, after the One Love salute. It was futile to bring on other performances after that, none of which had the dramatic elements to lead into the fireworks display. Still, the crowds danced and sang in honour of Sweet Jamaica.
WITH THE CELEBRATION SPIRIT and the Olympics running high from well before the formal events, we didn’t have time to sit up and take full notice of the presence of eminent guests. Prime Minister Zuma of South Africa and President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria journeyed from their far-off lands to bring their greetings. Former US Secretary of State General Colin Powell flew in to spend a few hours on Monday, as envoy of President Obama. Despite his prominence in the US where he was born, Mr Powell still celebrates his St Elizabeth connections. He came this time to reaffirm President Obama’s support for our country and hail our Jubilee.
The excitement which would have greeted a US envoy in the past got overwhelmed by the celebrations. It could also be that the November presidential elections have distracted somewhat. Mr Obama is fighting to regain the edge in the cantankerous battle about health care, his struggles with the economy and the demon of unemployment. Some may ask if, in the circumstances, the president’s word of support for us at this time means much. Friendship will always count for something.
AS TO OUR AFRICAN FRIENDS, Mr Zuma is not without his hometown challenges and yet he came all the way to affirm the historic bonds of fellowship between South Africa and us. Respect! As for President Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian connection, particularly in these fuel-challenged times, means more than a social call. He even deferred a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be here and address the joint session of Parliament, but there was little time to be seen by the man in the street.
In previous times, we would have had a big public display of support, which we like to accord African dignitaries. This time, the drums were muted. The brevity of the visits and the fact that they arrived one after another, did not allow space for evaluating the significance of the occasions. This did not diminish the value of the visits, however. The African bond is still strong.
Others who came to celebrate with us were US Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, another second generation Jamaican, and Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam who was also here paying respect. Between all that and Olympic fever, we were really tallawah.
HONOURS AND AWARDS: Every year the National Honours and Awards list evokes mixed feelings. The list is growing and growing and growing. Some feel we will be “debasing the coinage” if we continue the “confetti trend”. Why do we continue to talk and talk about this and still have not acted on recommendations made in 1996 when then Prime Minister Patterson appointed a committee, under the chairmanship of Prof Rex Nettleford (now regretfully deceased), to examine how we treat Honours and Awards, among other things? One of the unsettled questions was posthumous awards, which today are becoming more frequent. Is this what we want?
FAREWELL to Desmond Elliot, broadcast journalist, whose journey ended last week... He was one of the diminishing JBC team, reviving golden memories on PBCJ (Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica). RIP, friend.
CONGRATS to RJR’s RALSTON McKENZIE on a well-earned accolade (Officer of Distinction) in the National Honours List. About time...