'Bishop Gibson wanted to ban the Mighty Sparrow from Jamaica’

'Bishop Gibson wanted to ban the Mighty Sparrow from Jamaica’

Ewart Walters’ controversial book We Come From Jamaica launched in Toronto

BY DESMOND ALLEN Executive Editor - special assignment allend@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

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REVERED founder of Kingston College, Bishop Percival Gibson once wanted to ban calypso great the Mighty Sparrow from performing in Jamaica, according to Jamaican journalist Ewart Walters in his controversial book We Come From Jamaica: The National Movement 1937-1962.

Walters, whose latest work was recently launched in Toronto, Canada where he lives, also wrote that "O T Fairclough was an assistant manager of a bank in Haiti (but) could not get a bank job in Jamaica because he
was black".

Bishop Gibson was the first black in 100 years to be consecrated as Anglican Suffragan Bishop of Kingston in 1947 and Fairclough was the founder of the Public Opinion newspaper and a co-founder of the People's National Party (PNP).

Walters said that Fairclough had created a newspaper to develop ideas and a climate in which to launch a political party to work for self-government and Independence and that he should have been "at the top of the list of national heroes".

In March, while the book was still on the press, Walters was severely criticised by three ex-prime ministers of Jamaica for charging that Bustamante, the national hero and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) founder, had split the national unity movement of the late 1930s when he left the PNP and formed the JLP, thus setting back Jamaica.

In We Come from Jamaica, the journalist also quoted another writer Obika Gray — in his book Demeaned But Empowered — as saying that "Bustamante unabashedly identified himself with the use of force...violent skirmishes and was a practitioner of the disruptive uses of violence to turn back political challenge".

Walters, after being lashed by three former JLP leaders Edward Seaga, Bruce Golding and Andrew Holness for his "outrageous and ludicrous claim", struck back that Lady Bustamante, widow of the national hero, as well as Sir Alexander's biographer, George Eaton, had described the national hero's penchant for violent and dictatorial action.

Walters said his book was the result of 10 years of work; reading, researching, consultation, interviewing, digesting, writing and editing. He challenged Golding, in particular, saying: "I hope therefore that when Mr Golding has a chance to read my book he will see that the accounts in the book are neither outrageous nor ludicrous, and he will publicly concede that his challenge has been met and his dare unfounded".

At the launch on June 17, 2014, Walters asserted that late leaders Premier Norman Manley, Prime Minister Hugh Shearer and Prime Minister Michael Manley did more for education than any other prime minister and that George Headley and Herb McKenley inspired Jamaicans to greatness in sports.

Walters' book got the powerful endorsement of Jamaican-born University of Toronto professor emeritus, Dr Keith Ellis, a renowned scholar, translator and critic of Latin American literature, who called the work "a masterpiece and a magnificent literary and historical body of work that all Jamaicans should be proud of".

Dr Ellis, a Calabar old boy, is the first Jamaican-born scholar to be awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Havana and the first black to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the highest honour a scholar can achieve in the arts, humanities and science in the North American country.

He told the launch that the book charted the course of the national movement, a period and group of people who were instrumental in propelling Jamaica out of slavery and "apprenticeship" to nationhood and Independence.

"This was a period when people were really serious about taking on the task of doing for themselves what the colonial masters didn't do, didn't allow us to do or didn't give us an opportunity to do," said Ellis.

Ellis suggested that the book would appeal to the public in Spanish-speaking countries, particularly Cuba and Venezuela "where the people relish books and are voracious readers".

Walters' book was also embraced by Jamaican writer Rachel Manley, daughter of Michael Manley and winner of the Governor-General's Award for English Language non-fiction in 1997 for her memoir, Drumblair: Memories of a Jamaican Childhood. She said, "Ewart is a journalist and not a word is wasted", in reference to We Come From Jamaica.

"He has been able to cover these years richly and deeply and yet in a journalist's economic language with straightforward simplicity. And in a clear accessible form, for Ewart's structure is not only chronological as a story but also separates into cameos featuring pivotal heroes and heroines, movements and themes and religions which makes it a user-friendly reference book.

"If every school child in Jamaica left high school with this overview of those 25 years and pertinent themes behind them in their heads, what a difference it would make to the landscape of background information that would frame their Jamaican consciousness. I am hoping high schools in Jamaica will offer this to students in their history classes and that these books will find their way into Canadian schools as well. Nowhere will they have a better catalogue of events with a fairer proposal of questions they can discuss in class and ponder through the years as they come to know their young country's story," Manley said.


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