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D K Duncan's legacy of service

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, September 21, 2020

It is when we lose political leaders that we see the collegiality among parliamentarians from all sides. Tribalist utterances are replaced by words of respect and, finally, we get to see the true mettle of the individual. And so it is with the passing of Dr D K Duncan, who was regarded as the master planner for the Michael Manley Government and, later showing that he was more for Jamaica than for party, joined Bruce Golding's erstwhile National Democratic Movement (NDM).

Donald Keith Duncan studied dentistry at the Canadian Ivy League McGill University and operated a respected practice. He could have lived a comfortable life, but he decided to offer himself for service to country as a politician.

He inspired his children to have lives of service in different spheres. We know of Patricia Duncan Sutherland's and Imani Duncan Price's political careers, but few are aware that after the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake, Dr Khia Josina Duncan was a first responder, boarding a Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) flight to assist in saving lives under dangerous conditions.

The twins Donna Duncan-Scott and Keith Duncan have grown JMMB, the brainchild of their mother the late Joan Duncan, into a regional financial powerhouse, and Keith serves as president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) and chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC). It was when Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) honoured activist-nurse Joy Crooks, founder of the Committee for the Upliftment for the Mentally Ill (CUMI), that we discovered Donna's strong support of the organisation. So here we have a family, stirred to duty's call, no doubt influenced by their patriotic father.

D K's widow, Beverley Anderson Duncan, shared in a telephone call on Saturday, that “I can feel D K's spirit, strong as ever,” as she discussed the importance of voter participation. She wants a movement for civic responsibility to be led, not by any political organisation, but by civil society. Even as she grieves for her husband she will not allow it to cloud their shared vision for an educated and engaged Jamaican society. I mourn with Beverley, who has been my wise mentor.

We may all not agree with his politics, but there is no doubt that Dr D K Duncan has been a “good and faithful servant” of his people. May his soul rest in peace.

COVID-19 spike and crime

You would think that the criminals would give Jamaica a break during the worst spike we have seen since the start of the pandemic here six months ago. However, we have reports of shootings and a warning that the criminals are targeting the police.

Jamaica Observer Editor-at-Large Arthur Hall wrote a heart-rending report, headlined 'Mi nuh have any more', the cry of 51-year-old Loreen Powell, whose two daughters Shauna-Kay “Tiffany” Hunter and Raenae “Tassy” Martell, were shot dead by gunmen last Thursday at Mona Commons. They were at a celebration for Tassy's 23rd birthday when the thugs rode up on a bike and targeted the two sisters, killing them on the spot.

Hall quotes the distraught mother: “Mi weak, mi weak. Dem left me with four grandchildren, but me will take care of them. God will give me the strength. Why dem couldn't kill me instead? At least one of dem should beside me now to help me mourn.”

Jamaica's poor are exposed to grave danger in such run-down communities. We celebrated with our winning Members of Parliament of both parties and now we beg them to prioritise the safety and security of the vulnerable members of our society.

We must come together to support the police, against whom there have been recent attacks. Theirs is the most dangerous occupation in Jamaica. Our unattached youth are easily lured into criminal gangs; if we are able to rescue them we can rescue ourselves from this crime monster.

Spotlight on two special causes

Today we observe World Alzheimer's Day and Dr Ishtar Govia, of STRIDE Jamaica, will participate in a discussion on environmental design for people with dementia and other long-term care needs at a launch of the World Alzheimer's Report. The theme of the report is 'Design, Dignity, Dementia'. Please check the STRIDE pages on social media to participate.

Further, director of mental health and substance abuse at the Ministry of Health and Wellness Dr Kevin Goulbourne has warned that caregivers are under severe stress as they attend to the elderly and people with special needs in these COVID-19 times. Please contact the toll-free line at the ministry (888 NEW LIFE [888-639-5433]) if you are experiencing these issues.

Today is being celebrated also as the International Day of Peace. Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA) Chair Dr Elizabeth Ward has advised that VPA, in partnership with the Child Protection & Family Services Agency (CPFSA) will present a virtual showcase – 'Music in the Homes'. The production will highlight the efforts of their Drum Therapy Project. Participants will include representatives of the childcare facilities involved, the drum trainer, other stakeholders, and musical items from the wards. Please join them 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm this evening on Facebook Live:

Caribbean writers teaching literature

Last Monday The University of the West Indies (UWI) Press launched a publication which promises to be a mainstay for teachers of literature, Caribbean Writers on Teaching Literature, which is authored by brilliant educators Dr Lorna Down and Thelma Baker. The book features interviews with teachers of three generations. Readers at the event were Professor Edward Baugh, legendary poet and retired The UWI lecturer; Dr Brian Heap, director of the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts and author; Samuel Soyer, lecturer and author; and Dr Aisha Spencer, senior lecturer and deputy dean in the Faculty of Humanities and Education at The UWI, Mona. Baugh spoke of his performative style, which I remember well: I still cannot read Walcott without hearing his voice.

In their enthusiastic telling of their teaching practices we see the care and creativity of the 18 educators. What a delight to read the witty interviews, including some with my teachers and colleagues, Professor Emerita Maureen Warner Lewis, Dr Velma Pollard, Professor Emeritus Mervyn Morris, David Williams, and the late Dr Victor Chang. Dr Chang said he dressed in full red to teach The Scarlett Letter!

I predict that this book will be translated into myriad languages for not only teachers, but also for lovers of literature worldwide.

RIP, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I reached out to former US Ambassador to Jamaica Sue Cobb to find out if she knew the iconic Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (“RBG”), who passed away last Friday. Ambassador Cobb responded, “Yes. I have met RBG several times over the years, but our paths did not cross frequently in a substantive manner until January of 2020 when she and I were dinner partners at a small US Supreme Court event. My respect and admiration increased every moment as we dropped judicial philosophy and chatted about life experiences. I am grateful for her service over so many years. My heart goes out to her family. God bless this brilliant public servant.” Rest in peace, great RBG.