Flanker in mourning
Nash loses battle with cancer
FLANKER, St James
RESIDENTS of Flanker have been plunged into insurmountable grief following the recent passing of their renowned community activist, Marilyn Nash, who recently lost her gallant battle with cancer.
When the Jamaica Observer West team ventured into the tough inner-city community on Easter Monday, the mention of Nash's death evoked expressions of deep sorrow, replacing the festive mood of young men who were seen having drinks on the outskirts of the once-volatile community.
In Flanker, a man who gave his name as Gary Blake was a picture of grief as he expressed that Nash, who was the bedrock for social advancements in the once- troubled area, will be greatly missed.
"Mek me tell you the truth me wish somebody else could take the sacrifice and take a death for Miss Nash. Cause we lose a lot since Miss Nash gone out of the community. And we know what going happen to we without Miss Nash. We naw go have a good Flanker. Me a tell you the truth. And it hurts me heart when me hear seh she pass away," a distraught Blake expressed.
Nash who was the executive director for the Flanker Resource Centre, was at the forefront of mediation and counselling of area residents who were from time to time embroiled in conflict.
"Everyday we go round the centre Miss Nash always have something good to tell us, a good word of advice towards anything at all that we doing and a strong help behind whatever we a do in the community," Blake reflected.
Joan Munroe Green, youth peace facilitator at the resource centre, explained that Nash played a yeoman's role in the brokering of peace between warring factions in the community, transforming the negative image in which the area was depicted and sweetening the relationship between the police and residents.
"Her role was to garner community pride and community awareness, and she sought to build peace between the community members and the police because we had a bad reputation in the community and because of her and what she did in the community, we were able to overcome. So we are now recognised everywhere and anywhere," explained Munroe Green, her face was etched in grief.
"So she was the one who instigated peace in the community. Also when there was war amongst the community members and there was the stigmatisation with the police, she was the one who mediated and brought all the groups together to have a proper solution so that the police and community members could come together and have a very good relationship."
She noted that Nash's death was not only a great loss to the Flanker, but by extension St James and Jamaica.
"It is a great loss to the community and to the wider St James. As a matter of fact to the wider Jamaica because she contributed so much," Munroe Green said of her former co-worker.
"She has been an inspiration in my life, she has taught me a whole lot. She has built my self-esteem and given me the opportunity to express myself in various ways. So it is a great loss to the community, a great loss.
"She was a great singer, a good counsellor, a very good friend and somebody whom you could depend on to give advice."
Another of Nash's attributes that did not escape Blake was her forthrightness.
"She don't hold back from we. Anything happen she tell we...... straightforward lady she no go round. Whatever she has to say she just say it. Either you go like it or you don't like it, but she going tell you the truth. And people like that when we lose them we lose a lot. We need a lot more people like that in the community and I hope God will give we a next Miss Nash," Blake said.
In the meantime, Munroe Green revealed that even as Nash will be greatly missed, the work at the resource centre will continue, noting that the community stalwart had trained her very well.
In fact, even as the grief-stricken peace facilitator conceded that the void left by Nash will not be easily filled, she expressed optimism that a youth leader will emerge to take her place.
"It is a tough shoe to fill, but I am sure that younger persons coming up in the community will take over. It was our hope that these young persons will take over from us because it was about community building," Munroe Green argued, adding that Nash was instrumental in the establishment of the resource centre.
In addition to mediation, with the assistance of the Sandals Foundation, Nash also established educational programmes for all ages, including a facility for students preparing for Grade Six Achievement Test and the Caribbean Examinations Council, as well as a skills training programme.
She also served the wider community as part of the St James Peace Management Initiative, Youth Crime Watch of Jamaica, secretary of the Lay Magistrates' Association of Jamaica, choir director of Faith Baptist Church, and president of the Flanker Development Committee.
Nash was the recipient of several community awards including the Sam Sharpe Award for Community Service 2004; Kiwanis Club of Providence International Women's Day awardee 2010, and the Social Development Commission award for community service in 2011.
Following the erecting of the second floor of the resource centre which houses a large auditorium and offices for the accommodation of members of staff, last year, President of Sandals Foundation Adam Stewart dedicated that section of the facility in Nash's honour.
"We felt very strongly... and with the permission of the chairman of the community centre we felt that we should dedicate this building to a very special lady, Mrs Marilyn Nash," Stewart stated, then.
He also noted that Nash, who has over the years been providing outstanding service to the often volatile Flanker community, has sat on the Supervisory Committee of the Sandals Foundation "from the outset".
"You have been the cornerstone for everything we represent in this community. Clearly you are one very loved lady, not only by us, but by this community," added Stewart, who is also CEO for Sandals Resort International (SRI).
In expressing delight for her recognition, a modest Nash expressed that the dedication would serve as a heirloom.
"I am not very good with the honour part of the thing. For me its doing more. I feel good though that people appreciate what you do and it encourages you to continue. So at least I have a legacy," a smiling Nash told the Observer West, then.
The remains of the late community stalwart will be interred at the Dovecot Cemetery following a memorial service at the St James Parish Church in Montego Bay on Saturday, May 3.