What do these men see and know about Jamaica that others don't?
What do Butch Stewart, Las Chin and Winston Adams know that many others in Jamaica do not know? What do they possess that our political, religious, business, educational and social institutions - and many of the people who lead them - have lost? What value do they see in Jamaica, a country from which upward of 80 per cent of the populace would flee if given a visa to their country of choice?
I ponder the question each time I see the Sandals brand displayed in one of those alluring advertisements on international cable television. It's as if this totally home-grown global brand has become the public relations engine for Jamaica and the Caribbean. Influenced no doubt in part by my love of fine cars, my admiration for Butch Stewart and his progeny deepens when along Oxford Road in New Kingston I see acreage (Mas Camp) where people once wiggled their bodies to music until the wee hours of the morning, being transformed into a multi-million dollar multi-brand automobile dealership. What is it that he sees and knows that far too many Jamaicans are blind to?
I ponder the question more when rising out of the ground along the roadside at Twickenham Park in St Catherine, I see mammoth structures that are to house - not another church, not another office to accommodate government bureaucrats, not another paper-shuffling institution pretending to be creating wealth, but facilities that will produce products bearing the name of another great Jamaican brand, LASCO. Does Mr Las Chin not know that the eulogy of the Jamaican manufacturing sector has been written and that its demise is now riveted in the national psyche? Has he not kept track of Jamaica's worsening standing as a country of choice to do business and the declining business confidence? At a stage of life when most men would think it reasonable to rest on the laurels of past successes, one must ask him, what is it about Jamaica that you know and see that others are blind to?
Almost every day I drive past the impressive structure going up on the main campus of the University College of the Caribbean along Trafalgar Road. This one is interesting for another reason. The time it is taking to complete the project may cause the cynics to see an unfinished building and be blind to the vision of a knowledge society being created with the help of private investment in tertiary education. Even now, ambitious knowledge-seeking people hungry for success and wanting to be infected with the germ of unbridled optimism should be pouring through the gates in preference to institutions committed to maintaining the status quo on the back of government subsidy. While labouring to make the vision a reality, Winston Adams took time to pursue and complete a doctoral degree at a prestigious American university, the type he no doubt wants to model in Jamaica. This, as the words of a popular song say, is no ordinary love. It is extraordinary love for God and country.
I have been privileged - no, blessed - to occupy a front-row seat to the unfolding vision in the heads of these great Jamaican sons. From that vantage point I can say, the drive comes not solely from entrepreneurialism; risk taking towards creating greater personal fortune or from glib lines spoken by motivational speakers. It's more than that. In each case I detect an over-belief in this line from the Jamaican National Pledge: "So that Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race." The combination of nationalistic fervour, business acumen and an indomitable will to succeed causes them, I think, to press forward in spite of government intransigence in the face of looming economic adversity, a suffocating bureaucracy, and cynics shouting discouragement from the sidelines.
Junior Lincoln, a product of Father Hugh Sherlock's Boys' Town and one of those people credited with the export of Reggae music and culture to Europe and Africa, has joined that rare species: those who see in Jamaica something of value that others are blind to. He has a vision of Trench Town being a cultural village and leading tourist destination. The vision is encapsulated by the phrase: Trench Town - The Maker (Mekka) and Mecca of Reggae. An aspect of the vision is to develop the long-abandoned Ambassador Theatre on Collie Smith Drive in the community to be "The Apollo" of Jamaica. On Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 7:00 pm, history will be made when the Ambassador experiences rebirth with a mega show: Jamaica Music Institute (JaMIN) at the "Bas", featuring golden legends like Bunny and Skully, Ken Boothe, Jimmy Tucker, Derrick Harriott and Lloyd Parkes; newer artistes like Alaine, Prophesy, Nezbeth and Mr Myaz; and those ready to burst on the scene, the 10 finalists in the JaMIN Song Competition.
As the scripture declares, there is none that is blinder than he who has eyes that work but yet cannot see the wonders that are happening around him. Jamaicans are fast losing the ability to see beyond negotiation of IMF loans, annual throne speeches, reading of national budgets, and government promises to rectify decades-old problems. Let's pray for and support those among us who retain the amazing ability to know and to see those things that are possible in Jamaica, land we love, but to which others are blind.