We are in the one-month run-up to Jamaica's Golden Jubilee, a year that could finally see a more unified, productive Jamaica - if we walk all this glorious talk! Indeed, we have now entered the Holy Ground of our national celebrations where we should refrain from negative behaviour, reach out in love to our neighbour and do our part to right the wrongs in family, community, parish and country.
"And you shall consecrate the 50th year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants," declares Leviticus 25:10. "It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan." In ancient times, slaves were freed in jubilee celebrations - in our case we should be freeing ourselves from old politics and prejudice. Love more and judge less!
In response to my column on the historic African apology for slavery recently given by the Archbishop of Accra Most Rev Charles Palmer Buckle, Lifeline Expedition representative David Pott wrote: "I was deeply moved to read your recent article in the Jamaica Observer. It was sent to me by my friend Joseph Zintseme who is the main leader and African representative of the Lifeline Expedition. I'm sure you'll be very interested to know that the Lifeline Expedition has been bringing an apology for slavery around the North Atlantic world since 2000. This has definitely included the African apology often given by Joseph Zintseme."
Then he gave us some wonderful news. "The Lifeline Expedition will be coming to Jamaica between July 25 and August 8... We pray that our visit will continue to build on the good work that the Archbishop from Ghana has begun and that this will be an amazing Jubilee time in Jamaica."
Please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4X35cb4a7gg to see how the white folks on this expedition parade through communities in yokes and chains asking for the forgiveness of those whose ancestors were enslaved.
Just a few years ago, former Australian Prime Minister David Rudd made an emotional apology on behalf of his government to citizens who had been stolen from their aboriginal families and raised in white families. I had suggested then an apology that our leaders should offer the terrorised people in certain communities of Jamaica who are still enslaved by gang warfare.
These gangs were said to have had political links but we are now hearing that this is no longer the case. We dearly hope this is so and we hope our leaders and those who provided the means will offer this apology: "We apologise for our complicity with thugs who have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Jamaicans. For the pain, suffering and hurt of these victims, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry. For our divisive strategies, pitting parent against child, brother against sister, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry."
But we cannot blame the politicians alone. We the people are the far greater majority than the 63 in Gordon House and the 226 in the parish councils. We who do not experience the terror of inner-city gang warfare, and others who through education have migrated from the clutches of the "area leader" are also accountable.
This Golden Jubilee requires us to become a part of the healing. There are myriad opportunities in your churches, and various community groups. Last Saturday, several corporate donors sponsored inner-city children at a Hope Zoo Fun Day in aid of Food for the Poor. Some had never been to Hope Gardens before and rolled around happily on the grassy lawns of the beautifully restored zoo.
It made us wonder - do their parents know admission to Hope Gardens is free? Are their parents around at all? So here is a simple thing we can do - take a few disadvantaged children to Hope Gardens. A wise person once said, "People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care."
We have been hearing the complaints regarding trade imbalance with Caricom and the rest of the world. One can imagine that some of these complaints are being made at fancy dinners featuring imported delicacies. My friend Audrey Grant said one day while she was shopping she suddenly decided to seek out Jamaican-made products. "I stopped and examined the stuff in my trolley," she said, "and ended up putting back over 80 per cent of what I had, substituting Jamaican products with little price difference." Now that is something we can all do. Indeed, if we substitute fresh instead of imported canned food, we will save money, our health and our economy.
Our superior tourism product
A recent visit to Sandals Whitehouse reminded us of the superiority of Jamaica's tourism product. The service was outstanding, our tasty local food was heavily featured on the menus, and the weather was great. A US visitor commented that she was relieved to leave the over 100º temperatures in Virginia and enjoy Jamaica's lower temperatures, with the sea never too far away for a cooling dip!
Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeil is right to say that this may very well be the mainstay of our economy. However, he said there was a reduction in the numbers projected for Canadian visitors in the coming winter season. Let's say it straight: our headlines are not pretty, especially to folks from a peaceful and respectful environment like Canada.
We are a tiny rock of fewer than three million souls - let's fix our headlines by healing our communities. The government and the security forces cannot do it alone. The church and its people must develop some "Jesus-muscles" - increasing our work with the most marginalised, rebuking the tribalists and making this a Jubilee renaissance for a hopeful, waiting Jamaica.
Morgan State thrills JA
The Maryland-based Morgan State University Ensemble recently presented three wonderful concerts courtesy of the US Embassy, as they continue to celebrate "50 years of friendship" in honour of our Golden Jubilee. Audiences at the Institute of Jamaica, St Andrew Memorial Chapel and Northern Caribbean University enjoyed the varied and inspiring programme. Director Dr Eric Conway said the ensemble was treated to an evening at Jamaica's National Trials by Morgan State Alumnus Minister Anthony Hylton. They were able to see the cousin of choir member Tristan Morris win the 200 metres event - none other than Yohan "The Beast" Blake. Jamaicans are everywhere!