A commendable vision for August Town

Sunday, August 03, 2014

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IF Jamaica is to get anywhere near its Vision 2030 development goals, there has to be a concerted drive towards community development.

And that drive can't be spurred only by the policies and actions of Government. There has to be a push from within communities, guided by local leadership, to organise and galvanise local people towards excellence, socially and economically.

For that reason, this newspaper sees fit to applaud those, including member of parliament for eastern St Andrew, Mr Andre Hylton, for visionary plans to develop August Town as a community tourism centre and as a provider of services for neighbouring universities.

Those used to thinking of August Town in negative terms linked to crime, gangs, 'badmanism', and disorder may well be surprised to hear that the community has a rich historical and cultural legacy.

This was the nurturing place for Mr Alexander Bedward's revivalist ministry — much maligned and misunderstood by Jamaica's colonial rulers and the local establishment at the closing of the 19th century and in the early years of the 20th.

Mr Bedward was hounded, persecuted and dismissed as a mad man for his ideas and teachings, which nonetheless attracted thousands of followers.

Historians are only now coming to terms with Mr Bedward's role at a very pivotal time in Jamaica's history in helping the black masses towards dismantling the shackles of mental slavery — the inevitable product of physical slavery, which had only ended in the 1830s.

We think it useful to bear in mind that, for much of Mr Bedward's ministry, there would have been some alive with vivid memories of physical enslavement.

Mr Bedward's role should not be discounted as Jamaicans this week celebrate their awakening as a nation and fiercely proud people.

By seeking to build a sustainable economy around the story of Mr Bedward and the historical markers that provide the physical evidence, August Town will be honouring the name of a genuine Jamaican hero and doing a great service to the nation.

We must also hail plans to build on the entertainment heritage of the modern August Town, and to utilise in a more structured and organised way, the community's huge geographic advantage as a place of habitation and leisure for those at the nearby University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, and the University of Technology, Jamaica.

We say to Mr Hylton and others involved in planning and fleshing out the vision, it won't be easy. There will be days when you feel like giving up, as the naysayers and cynics hold sway. At such times you must stay strong and keep the faith.

If the vision is realised, August Town will be a beacon for communities across the country with hidden treasures, hardly contemplated.

By such small steps will Jamaica one day become the "place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business".




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