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Jamaicans in London reflect on past 50 years with church service

BY INGRID BROWN Associate Editor — Special Assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, August 07, 2012    

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LONDON, England — The black, green, and gold took pride of place during Sunday's worship service at the Clapham Methodist Church here with the day's proceedings being dedicated to celebrating the country's 50th year of Independence.

The congregation was treated to a taste of Jamaica's culture through song and recitals by Jamaicans, some of whom were among the first set of blacks to attend the church. There were also inspirational words from Jamaicans who have made their mark on the world stage, in their own right.

The Jamaicans, who marched in proudly with the Jamaican flag at the start of the service, ensured that they were all attired in their colours as they represented their homeland, which some had left 50 years ago.

The Reverend Norman Grigg lauded the Jamaican members for the contribution they have made to the church.

Neville Lawrence, the father of the black teen who was murdered by white boys as he stood at a bus stop 20 years ago and whose fight for justice transformed race relations in Britain, spoke of the solace he found when he returned to live in Jamaica 10 years ago.

"The burden and pressure you are under when you are here, when I come out of the plane at the airport in Jamaica it is like the weight has been lifted off my shoulders because the sun wakes you up in the morning and the birds sing and make music," he said.

Lawrence urged fellow Jamaicans to feel free to return to Jamaica and not to be dissuaded by thoughts of violence as violent crimes occur everywhere.

Meanwhile, Hollywood stuntman, Jamaican-born Roy Anderson — who has worked with such films as Shaque, Bad Boys, and Batman — also addressed the congregation about his upcoming film about the Maroons. It is a subject close to his heart and one which he hopes will inspire Jamaicans and anyone who champions the underdog.

His talk on the 85 years the Maroons fought the British army served to direct the congregation's minds to the real purpose of the service and what Jamaica's Independence is all about.

The writer, director and producer said the aim of the film is to educate and inspire Jamaicans on the rich history of the maroons whom, he said, were the first to gain Independence from British rule.

"They inspired others not only in Jamaica but other parts of the world to fight and this is something we need to celebrate," he said.

He said Jamaicans have given so much to the world in the form of athletes, statesmen, musicians, and maroons need to be added to that list.

"I want the second and third generation Jamaicans to lay claim to the maroons as much as you do to Shaggy and Sean Paul," he said.

The film, which won the best feature documentary prize at the International Film festival in Belize, will be shown in schools, libraries and museums, according to Anderson.

Meanwhile, Clapham Methodist Church Glamorous Grandmother of 2012 Kathleen Newell — who grew up in Portland — recalled coming to England a week before Independence and finding a place which did not meet her expectations then.

And although she has been living in Britain for 50 years, Newell, who spoke with a distinct Jamaican accent, went on to sing a church song from her childhood, which she accompanied with a dance to the great delight of the congregation. Her infectious energy superseded her advanced years.

Lena James recalled that she was among the first set of black members to worship at the Methodist church.

It did not take her long to get involved and soon started a group, which has since raised thousands of pound sterling to support a children's home in Jamaica.

"I am happy that little me has been able to do this for my country," she said, beaming with pride.

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