A day of celebration and tragedy
We felt joy in greeting friends and colleagues at last Thursday’s Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards, some of whom we only had contact with via Zoom for the last two years.
We were treated to Jamaica’s finest in food and drink and felt the relief of those restaurateurs who had managed to survive the pandemic. Our favourites were Sandals, where bartender Marland poured us his unique gin fizz; Rainforest, including desserts created from their frozen fruits by chef Trevanne Donegal; paella from Bahia Principe hosted by David Shields; and Select Brands, where my “little sister” wine authority Debra Taylor Smith exulted after receiving the Chairman’s Award. I was sorry to miss the display of the family favourite Pelican Grill, which I later found out had “milkshakes galore” — one of their most popular offerings.
The service was impeccable and the displays delightful, the result of Jamaican excellence when we unify around our goals. Kudos to Novia McDonald-Whyte and Natalie Chin for pulling off this sparkling event after a worrying deluge that afternoon.
However, our hearts were heavy as we learnt that afternoon of the death of a high school student at the hands of another — two teenage girls. There have been allegations that the attacker had a negative history. This is the dilemma of those of us who have served on school boards: Do we expel a troubled child, leaving them to the perils of their community or do we try to mentor them and keep them in school?
We have to accept that we have young parents in Jamaica, some of whom have received little guidance and live in crime-torn communities. They need support. I remember a Stella Maris Foundation parenting programme in Grants Pen supported by the USAID in the 90s. The remarks of the parents at the end of the project revealed that they desperately needed guidance on discipline, communication, and budgeting. We have a wealth of successful professionals who could participate in mentorship programmes.
As I recall the great folks at the Food Awards, I believe a mentorship drive having a presence at such events could assist in the social healing which Jamaica needs.
LIVING OUR MOTTO
We read deeply into history at The University of the West Indies (UWI) and, yes, we knew all the ills of colonialism, but we did not feel malice toward our fellow students from various ethnic origins because of their colour. Indeed, we learnt that the Irish joined the Indians and Chinese as indentured servants and later there was a settlement of poor Germans and Jews who fled Nazi Germany. How could we decipher then the ancestry of our fellow Jamaicans based solely on their colour?
Fast-forward to the present, where white-looking folks in Jamaica are being painted with a broad brush. Never mind that these Jamaicans care for their country, that they built businesses which create employment, that they offer scholarships and invest in the professional development of their staff. Even as we celebrate our young black Jamaicans who have risen to become business moguls, let us also celebrate those who were not content to only inherit businesses but continue to put their energy into innovative expansion.
Our motto ‘out of many, one people’ was created on a bright hope for Jamaica’s future, a hope that all of us, regardless of class or colour, would aspire to be nation-builders. There is nothing that saps our common good like malice, both for the giver and the target. We have lost fine Jamaicans who could not tolerate the bile being poured on them and have opted for a more peaceful life abroad.
But there are some of us who refuse to give up our Jamaican dream that we can all work to affirm and help each other to prosper. It was Dr Martin Luther King Jr who exhorted Americans not to judge someone “by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character”. It is a challenge that we should embrace here in Jamaica.
DEVASTATING HURRICANE IAN
The extensive flooding we experienced when Hurricane Ian passed south of us was nothing compared to the devastation it wreaked in Cuba and Florida. The videos are reminiscent of our Gilbert experience and the losses have been heartbreaking. So far there have been six deaths in Cuba and 65 deaths in Florida.
I have appealed on social media for assistance for Cuba as they have never failed to send personnel to support our health-care system. I believe that grateful Jamaicans would contribute to the effort.
There was widespread criticism of Jamaica’s authorities regarding the flooded areas but as we see from the highly developed state of Florida, no amount of drainage infrastructure could have stood up to the deluge of a hurricane.
Let me hasten to say, however, that the pile-up of garbage all over the island is a health crisis. A news report a few months ago showed rats running in and out of garbage heaps; we could have a leptospirosis threat on our hands. It should be noted that dumping offenders include businesses who are not managing their waste. However, the final responsibility rests with the National Solid Waste Management Authority, which can act against lawbreakers even as they address the ever-increasing garbage on our roads.
20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE STELLA MARIS STEELBAND
Congratulations to the Stella Maris Steelband, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last Friday with a free concert. Band Captain Margaret Rhoden and Musical Director Gay Magnus led the happy troubadours who delighted us with a variety of medleys from gospel to Bob Marley, to Jamaican folk and soca. They played a tribute to octogenarian Sister Mary Andrew who had retired from the band at the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Stella Maris Steelband has toured Europe and the United Kingdom, raising substantial funds for renovating our church.
If you believe seniors don’t rock, please check my social media pages for some of their items. Like fine wine, our Stella Maris Steelband members have mellowed with age.
We said farewell in recent weeks to two wonderful individuals, Kamla Devi Kumrai, mother of my friend Rita Kumrai Mitra, and Professor Michael McFarlane, father of colleague Nicholette McFarlane and brother of my college friend Pamela McFarlane.
The gracious Kumrai and her family made their home in London, even as they preserved their Indian traditions. She was a gentle lady and a culinary creative who kindly graced my kitchen on a visit to Jamaica. Kumrai and her late husband raised five outstanding children.
Professor McFarlane was an exceptional medical professional, who, along with his wife Allison, raised three high-achieving daughters. Professor McFarlane was a member of the Department of Surgery, UWI, Mona, the Association of Surgeons of Jamaica, the American College of Surgeons (serving as governor, Jamaica chapter), the Medical Association of Jamaica, the Caribbean College of Surgeons, the Royal College of Surgeons, and The Jamaica Cancer Society.
Our sympathy to the Kumrai and McFarlane families, may the souls of their loved ones rest in peace.