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The Jamaican boy who became US Secretary of the Treasury


Sunday, December 10, 2017

The contemporary story of General Colin Powell of Jamaican parentage out of the parish of St Elizabeth has made all of us excitingly and exceedingly proud.

Not only did this son of the soil distinguish himself in the greatest military apparatus and outfit on the planet, but he also became US Secretary of State under the Presidency of George W Bush.

General Colin Powell stands on a platform tradition of Jamaicans and their descendants who stamped themselves indelibly on the great United States of America in every field of endeavour ranging from academia, politics, diplomacy, civil rights and as defenders of the lost, leasts and leftouts among the US society.

In the long line of our outstanding sons and daughters is Marcus Mosiah Garvey of the Universal Negro Improvement Asssociation (UNIA) and his contribution to the upliftment of black pride around the world, using the United States as his base until the authorities got rid of him from American soil in 1927.

Garvey fought institutionalised racism in America consolidated by an infamous Jamaican planter — Willie Lynch, from whose surname the idea of the mass burning alive of slaves known as 'lynching' was derived. Willie Lynch's influence along with Jim Crow laws pushed racism in the United States to its optimal boundaries with terrible consequences for the negroes. It was most cruel to say the least.

With that said, I now introduce a Jamaican boy who was born and grew up for sometime in the rugged hills of St Andrew at a place named Dallas above Gordon Town in the constituency of St Andrew East Rural presently represented by Juliet Holness — Member of Parliament, and wife of the Honourable Andrew Holness the present prime minister of Jamaica.

Alexander James Dallas, the sixth United States Secretary of the Treasury (Minister of Finance) and one time Secretary of War under President James Madison (Madison Square Garden named after him) was born July 21, 1759 at Dallas Castle Great House in upper St Andrew. His father, a medical doctor, came to Jamaica along with his wife from the US state of Alabama and purchased property even as he began raising a family.

Alexander James Dallas's mother was the daughter of Sir Nicholas Trevennion, after whom Trevennion Road in Kingston is named. It is a settled matter that Dallas, Texas in the USA is named after Alexander James Dallas's son, George Miffin Dallas.

Another one of his sons who was a captain in the United States Coast Guard and who was killed in battle was honoured by the naming of six Coast Guard Cutter: Dallas 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 after him. And so the Dallas name, with its strong US/Jamaican connections, is irrevocably etched in the annals of the history of the Western world forever.

Other place names include Dallas County of Alabama, Dallas Township of Pennsylvania and Dallas County of Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

But the story of Alexander James Dallas does not stop there.

His second son became Vice President of the United States of American under President James P Polk. Like Colin Powell George Miffin Dallas, the son of Alexander James, gave yeoman service to the United States of America in his capacity as theologian, judge and politician in the areas of law, diplomacy and finance, United States Senator 1831-33, Pensylvannia Attorney General 1833- 1835, United States envoy to Russia 1837-1839, United States Minister to the Court of St James, England, Mayor of Philadelphia 1837-39 etc.

He was both a Christian and Freemason being Grandmaster of Freemasons in Pensylvannia 1835. Tourism marketing, particularly in historical and cultural tourism can benefit, and Jamaica by extention, by the treasure trove of information lying around which could be creatively utilised to consolidate the attractiveness of the Jamaican product and destination to a sphere of influence of powerful people with strong purchasing power and a market segment some of which has historical, cultural and genetic connections to the Jamaican multi ethnic and multi racial reality.

This requires a demand on our creative imagination to turn more lemons into lemonade. Or like the legendary Rumpelstiltskin turn straw into gold, figuratively speaking. But there is nothing beyond our collective capabilities as Jamaicans when once we have received the baton ... to prevent our people from running the race that is set before us. And as more of us come to grips with our economic reality involving unsustainable indebtedness marinated with talking, talking, talking … we will pull off the gloves and begin to fight for economic survival. Tourism has unlimited and untapped potential.

Never mind the promised “miracles” of Mr Michael Lee Chin and his group, who seem to know something that the International Monetary Fund and other multilateral agencies' prediction of economic growth globally and here in Jamaica do not know, as we approach the end of the new Millennium in 2030. The multilateral agencies have been doing the work of economic monitoring, analysis and forecasting worldwide for decades and are usually spot on.

But Jamaica's phenomenon of “Miracle Workers” is nothing with which we are culturally unfamiliar as they have been a fixture of the Myalists, Revival Zion and Pocomania balm yard. This art, it seems, has now transcended the balm yard, through the Lee Chin “five-in-four” committee to manage the growth agenda of the Jamaican tepid and sluggish economy persisting for the last 40 years of IMF “rescue” which started in 1977.

Listen for the double speak, the change of mouth, excuses and claims how the country misunderstood what was promised in the first place. Listen for the usual fun and games including the public relations stunts while we walk up to the waters edge. Even as the bold promise, with mush gusto, in almost two years hence, began to be downgraded by the prime minister to now only a belief. Those who are sufficiently discerning will utter only one word: Pity! pity! pity!

I do believe that despite the Michael Lee Chin “miracle workers” all is still not lost. But it is going to be rough, very, very rough in the months ahead as the IMF cracks the whip to effect immediate reforms. I wish it would be otherwise and praying earnestly, like many others, that this nation will have a breakthrough regardless...a tall order admittedly.

Part of the sliver of our hope lies in a serious and profound knowledge of the Jamaican history, the utility of which holds one of the keys to the removal of the malaise in our productivity and persistent indebtedness leading to a descent into greater poverty. Just too much garbage is floating around masquerading as orthodox Jamaican history. And in this the history of the churches, particularly those that began operation during slavery in Jamaica is no exception with a huge cauldron of “Kakanabu” stories.

Every aspect of the Jamaican history needs to be cleaned up and rewritten and retold as our contribution to future generations. Let's get to work seriously ... we can do this. The Dallas Castle Great House nestled in the cool hills of the parish of St Andrew and which is not far away from Gordon Town …. a place named after planter/owner Joseph Gordon father of National Hero George William Gordon is one we can start with.

Joseph Gordon also owned the famous Goat Island with 17 slaves, among them was the historical slave woman of significance …. Sabina, after whom Sabina Park is named.

More anon.


Shalman Scott is a former mayor of Montego Bay.