An island of less than three million people but with a span of notoriety and glory above its size. Jamaica. The island that punches above her weight. The place which sits on the bucket list of so many people across the globe. Whether it be in the far corners of remote villages in Papua or in the city centre of countries on the African continent, this little island is known. Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, reggae music and big attitudes have placed this island nation boldly on the world stage.
August is a special month for us Jamaicans. On the 1st we celebrate Emancipation Day, a commemoration of our forefathers’ freedom from the anguish of slavery. August 6th is the day we celebrate our independence. On that day in 1962, the flag with the green, gold and black was raised to replace that of our colonizers. This year we turned 56 and as a Jamaican I cannot help but reflect on my country’s past and our way forward into the next half century.
Yes, without doubt Jamaica is a paradise here on earth. A place that, if could be depicted in colours on a canvas, would not include any shades of pastel or white. Instead we would see bold bright colours with neons, blacks, psychedelics and such delights. If forced to use lines on the canvas, none would be straight and hidden in places would be curves because as a people we cannot help but do things in the way we see fit.
A few years ago after being away from my island for two years I landed and was heading to the house when I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed. The man selling coconuts and bagged sugarcane less than a kilometre outside the airport. The waves splashing against the rocks on the Palisadoes road. The smell of that ocean intermingled with a smell that I cannot describe in the same way a child cannot describe the “smell” of their mother but yearn for it. A few minutes later we go through the heart of downtown Kingston where if it happens to be any night from Thursday through Sunday there is music pulsating. Along with the music is the loud and boisterous chatter, banter, hustle, grinding (as in dancing), cooking, eating, drinking and simply being that makes Jamaica the place she is. No YouTube video or tv show can truly capture this scene. It is something one must experience for themselves at least once in their lifetime.
But I digress so let me get back on track. Jamaica is an adult, no doubt. At 56 there should be no excuses for not accomplishing as much as possible unless life has thrown you boulders: a war, constant natural disasters such as volcano eruptions, destructive typhoons and major hurricanes. As an island in the ocean we have had a few major hurricanes but none which have left us so devastated that we had to start again from ground zero. To be honest, we are a fortunate nation. Beauty, personality and so much more have been our lot in life, no real boulders worth using as an excuse. No ethnic strife as we all see ourselves as only Jamaicans (maybe the one good thing to have come from being dragged across the ocean against our will to help fill the coffers of our colonizers).
So without fear of contradiction, I will say that Jamaica is blessed and it is within this context I wonder why we have not achieved more for our people. Why do we still have manageable problems in my homeland? Why is there garbage and beggars on some of our streets? Why do any political party in opposition immediately become dunderheads with nothing but destruction, opposition and mayhem on their minds? Do we need a new system of governance? Am I asking too much? Should I simply be grateful for what we have accomplished and move along? Should I just enjoy the food, culture, music, craziness and warmth of my Jamaica and worry less?
Maybe. Not sure.
The writer is owner and managing director of Forrest Jackson Properties, a full-service real estate company in Kigali, Rwanda