I was among the first to arrive for the funeral service of Alpheus Brown held April 22, 2022.
Sitting in the almost-empty pews of the historic Brown’s Town Baptist Church, built in 1834 by and for slaves, I was in a pensive mood. There was ample time to deeply reflect on the course of our island home throughout its history — from slavery to Emancipation to self-government to Independence to the present time when consideration is being given to moving beyond monarchical rule to republic status.
The many achievements are there for everyone to see, but the missteps have left us floundering like a rudderless ship in search of safe harbour. Who at a time such as this does not worry that we may be seeing the last of a generation that could aptly be described as the salt of the earth?
Alpheus, affectionally known as AB, 94 years old, was an outstanding member of the church, serving in several capacities, including preacher of the gospel, member of the officer’s board, deacon, Sunday school teacher, leader of the church’s radio ministry, and organist.
One of his most memorable attributes, which one hardly sees these days, was highlighted by the church’s pastor, Rev Everard Allen, who said that, in almost 50 years serving that congregation, he could not remember Alpheus ever being absent from or late for a meeting. In an age when some eulogies sound as if they were written by investment bankers preoccupied with the material possessions left by the deceased, it was a refreshing departure to hear one which could be summed up by this simple line invoking the admonition of Proverbs 22:1, “He left a good name.”
The avid churchgoer and community stalwart, together with his wife of 63 years, Myrtle, produced three sons, one of whom, the Rev Dr Huntley Brown, is, by the most improbable set of circumstances, today a highly acclaimed and decorated concert pianist.
Huntley, who lives with his family in Chicago, USA, is best known for his many years as a pianist with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and is the current artist in residence at his alma mater, Judson University.
A proud Jamaican, Huntley frequently visits the land of his birth to perform for various causes and charities. Some that have benefited include Missionaries of the Poor, SOS Children’s Villages, Hands Across Jamaica for Righteousness, Jamaica School of Music, Jamaica Theological Seminary, and Agency for InnerCity Renewal (AIR) in Trench Town.
Every town, village, and hamlet in our fair island has its Alpheus Browns — unsung heroes who serve their God, go about doing good in their communities, work for their honest living, and raise their families to remarkable accomplishments.
In launching the celebration of Jamaica 60 on April 13 under the theme ‘Reigniting a Nation for Greatness’, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the following: “This means that we must not focus only on celebratory activities, but we must ensure that we foster and promote legacies of pride in self, commitment to national development, patriotism, excellence, mutual respect for others, and openness to other cultures and peoples.”
In addition to its own legacy projects, the Government should register, certify, and authenticate projects submitted by churches, non-governmental organisations, community groups, and corporate entities extolling the virtues of the common Jamaican.
The Butch Stewart Community Awards, which was launched by Sandals Resorts International (SRI) on May 8, 2014, but has since been discontinued, could serve as a benchmark for such an initiative that celebrates our unsung heroes.
Speaking at the launch, the late Sandals Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart championed unsung heroes who often go unrecognised: “I think the unsung heroes of Jamaica are the biggest heroes that we have, and every community is full of them. We know a lot of them, we see them at their work, we see people making blood out of stone. I really hope this award will start shining the light on a lot of the people in the communities who really deserve it.”
There is much happening in our country, especially with young men who have taken to a life of crime and violence, that is depressing.
These words spoken by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen in his Independence Day message 2013 give hope for a better Jamaica: “There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica.”
The occasion of the country’s Diamond Jubilee is as good a time as any to put a pause on the constant diet of bad news by highlighting and emulating instead the unsung heroes among us.