As I listened to the list of areas which were declared zones of special operations (ZOSO) in Westmoreland at last week's press briefing, my mind went back to my childhood days in Savanna-la-Mar. Dalling Street was a place where zinnia gardens flourished in front of quaint country cottages. Great George Street was the lovely road on which we walked from our mother's house and shop at 2 Rose Street down to the fort by the seaside where we would watch magnificent sunsets. My mom would lend tables and chairs to both political parties when they had meetings at the fountain.
We attended St Mary's Academy, run by the Sisters of Mercy, with its walkway of swaying palms and the St Joseph's Catholic Church at Hendon Circle. We were fixtures in the Savanna-la-Mar library and we knew we should say good morning or good afternoon to everyone we met, and this was always returned with a smile.
Fast-forward to 2014 when there was news of the shooting of a couple on Dalling Street, who were survived by several children, and Food For the Poor Jamaica decided to build a house for them. When I arrived as part of the handover team I could hardly believe my eyes. The location of the house was in a tenement yard, and all the lovely cottages along the street were gone.
The following year, with the sad eyes of the bereaved children still on my mind, I prepared an Easter package for them and went to Dalling Street to deliver it. At the entrance a man on a bicycle growled, “Whey yu want?” I told him that I had brought a bag for the children. “Gi mi, mi will gi dem,” he said menacingly. I must confess that I became very afraid of being attacked so I gave him the bag and quickly got back into the car.
This is just one of many areas in Jamaica, land we love, where you must seek permission from a thug to enter a yard, a street, or a community. They have decent citizens under their thumbs who must “see and blind” to stay alive.
As usual, the police are being blamed for the upsurge of crime because this takes the heat off those who are bringing in expensive weapons to arm our unattached youth, and those who could do more to heal their communities but hide behind profiling and puffery.
So here is what every Jamaican can do. We can mentor a child; make a weekly call to just listen and point them in the right direction.
Richard Lawrence, who created the Adopt A Youth Foundation, held a webinar last week to assist young people in finding and applying for scholarships. He is active in the Apostolic Worship Centre.
Racquel Simpson, a public relations executive, mentors primary school children and holds extra classes for them.
Through our churches, we can start these groups, using those spaces that are locked all week to create oases of peace and productivity. The Government and the security forces alone cannot do it; we must also do our part to save our beloved Jamaica.
A woman leads the Jamaica Defence Force
Jamaican women stood tall as we watched the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Change of Command Parade at which Rear Admiral Antonette Wemyss-Gorman was handed the baton by outgoing JDF leader Lieutenant General Rocky Meade to become the first woman chief of defence staff.
We thank Lt General Meade for his brilliant leadership of the JDF over the past five years and his 28 years of service in the force. The holder of a PhD in linguistics and a part-time lecturer at The University of the West Indies, Lt General Meade should have great new opportunities in academia.
In her address, the rear admiral stated that she remains committed to changing this culture of violence. “I joined to serve, and my service continues,” she stated.
Indeed, that service marks nearly three decades of firsts for the career officer, who was trained at the Britannia Royal Naval College, HMS Collingwood, and the US Navy War College. She was the first seagoing woman officer to serve in the JDF, commanding various patrol vessels, the JDF Coast Guard, the Caribbean Military Maritime Training Centre, and the Maritime, Air and Cyber Command.
Among the barriers the rear admiral has broken are the attainment of the rank of commander and assuming command of a unit in the JDF in 2014. She now steps up from the position of force executive officer to the pinnacle of her 'tour of duty'. The much-decorated Wemyss Gorman has gained respect regionally and internationally and has been a distinguished participant in forums worldwide.
What a momentous week it has been for Clarendon: topping the charts for high school achievement, winning football trophies, and now proud that Jamaica's chief of defence staff hails from Top Alston district.
Rear Admiral Wemyss-Gorman is married to Jonathan, and they have a 15-year-old son. We wish her many blessings in her historic achievement.
Creating hope and employment
Despite these trying times I heard some good news from two tourism-related companies last week: Bluefields Villas and VIP Attractions, operators of Club Kingston and Club MoBay at our two international airports.
The Moncure family, owners of Bluefields Villas, Jamaica's only all-inclusive villa complex, through its foundation, has been supporting the Bluefield's Fisherme's Friendly Society, the Mearnsville All-Age School, and the Belmont Academy. They built sanitary facilities and donated classroom furniture at the Mearnsville school, subsidise the lunch and breakfast programmes for both schools, and have supplied tablets for students at Belmont Academy.
They also assist the dynamic Bluefields People's Community Association in their anti-litter programme, providing trash cans and skips and organising beach clean-up days.
Additionally, the vice-chair of the Bluefields Foundation Houston Moncure and his wife Kate led their staff members throughout several communities in the area, distributing care packages to the elderly over the holiday season, an annual exercise.
Meanwhile, VIP Attractions, operators of the airport lounges Club Kingston and Club MoBay, are increasing their offerings for departing passengers at the Sangster International Airport. The 4,000-square-foot “island vibe” expansion will be launched in September and will host another 100 departing visitors.
CEO of VIP Attractions Shelly-Ann Fung King described it as “a significant investment in Jamaica's economy not only in cash terms, jobs created, and enhancing our tourism product, but also by boosting the nation's image and marketability as a great place to do business”.
100+ Voices for Miss Lou
You can imagine my joy when Dr Opal Palmer Adisa invited me to share a poem in her great publication, 100+ Voices for Miss Lou. The planning began a few years before the centenary in 2019 of the legendary Louise Bennett-Coverley, and finally, the first batch of books has arrived at the University Press.
When I showed my daughter my poem, she quipped that her dad is also in the book as the one they chose to publish was My Chinaman Jumped to the Riddim of Jah. It is humbling to be counted among so many distinguished poets and authors.
This book is a treasure trove of everything Miss Lou. Please read with the younger generation so they can appreciate the richness and joy of the legacy of Louise Bennett-Coverley.