Is Independence Day! Jamaicans all around the world flying the black, green and gold with pride. For no matter our concern at all that is wrong on JamRock is still our Yahd! The place where our navel string bury. Is still Jamaica, Land we Love! In Washington Der Capital… the usual fanfare will take place…the dinner gala, the church service – but unfortunately not the Grand Market Day as money shortage this year has placed that on pause. Between the recession here in America as well as back at home, is like everything gone down, well except for the price of oil, cost of living, and the debt ceiling. Nonetheless, the money shortage this year is not as vexing as you would imagine because we all saving our breath for next year. All the buzz is about what we going to do next year, for our 50th. It’s strange how turning 49 is like a non-event. Think about it. At 19, there is the excitement of leaving the teenage years behind, so you do something to commemorate this rite of passage. Then at 29, there is the anxiety of leaving your roaring twenties and anticipation of entering your thirties and becoming fully adult. Then when you reach your 39th birthday, celebration is vital, because 40 is the age of no return! This is the last year when your mistakes and mishaps will be chalked up as youthful follies. When you reach 40, you are no longer eligible to be called a young turk, young professional, or rising star, so 39 is a banner year to be celebrated! But 49? No one bothers with celebrating the 49th. You don’t believe me, go look see if you Hallmark makes a 49th birthday card. Celebrating your 49th birthday would be like buying yourself a new car the day before they put out the next year’s model. Fifty is all the rage. Half a century. The age of turning wise!
So for the last few weeks even while planning for the 49th all the talk has been about what we doing for Jamaica 50th independence. Beginning today we start the 366 day journey to 50! Having just passed that milestone myself recently, well alright not so recently, I know the exhilaration of turning 50. Its hard to explain to non-fifty people, but its like you now know that you really know what you know; and you also know that you don’t know what you don’t know, and knowing all of that makes you really feel comfortable about yourself. Moreover in these days when 50 is the new 40, given that the days of retiring at 55 are long gone and the projected retirement age is 69 or never, depending on your welfare and wellbeing, people are having more and more extravagant celebrations to mark the milestone. They are throwing grand balls, going skydiving, skindiving, world cruising, and creating bucket lists of things they have to do before they expire. Some people celebrate their 50th the whole year beginning the day of their 49th birthday. With the buzz that has been building, I can already imagine the grand events that are being conjured up for Jamaica’s 50th birthday party around the world.
Aunty Girlie say she praying she live to see next year independence when she will be 85. She say she remember August 6, 1962 as one of the proudest days of her life. The West Indian students at Howard University had their own flagraising party in the student center on campus. Because in those days there was no Jamaican Embassy and the event was too momentous for Miss Lady’s basement on Webster Street. So right there in the Student Life Center, they organized a flagraising by mounting and dismounting first a Paper Union Jack, then a handsewn flag of the Black, Green and Gold, amidst a pot of rice and peas and curry chicken. In those days you could not get goat meat in Washington DC. Then they repeated the ceremony for Trinidad on August 31st.
Aunty Girlie say that she ready to do whatever she can to put on a Gala that will show Washington DC and therefore the world, how much Jamaica progress since 1962. I am also excited about the prospect of a really grand Independence celebration next year. But I really really wish that next year we do more than throw bigger and better parties and street festivals. I truly believe that a momentous occasion such as turning fifty calls for us to spend time in reflection, not just on our past achievements but also on our future promise. Arriving at our 50th anniversary is an occasion for us to look for an answer to our prayer ‘Give us Vision lest we Perish’. It is time we look to ways in which we can teach true respect for all, beginning with respect for self, respect for life, respect for community, respect for the land, and respect for law. It is time for us to call together our collective minds to help decipher the true wisdom that is needed to create the blessings for our land. For even as we ask Father-Mother God to keep us free from evil powers, we must find the matches and fuel needed to light our countless hours. We must stir response to duty’s call, and strengthen ourselves and our institutions, the weak to cherish. We must embark on a collective vision quest lest we perish. We must mine the knowledge needed to generate the wisdom required not just to survive the current daily realities of crime and conflagrations, but to thrive during the coming global whirlwinds of climate change and its attendant ills such as food security and water security. Yes next year as we turn 50, we must celebrate our achievements with fanfare and fandangles. And, we must contemplate our failures and weaknesses not just by navel-gazing, handwringing and dirty-laundry-airing but also by looking out and beyond, to the global horizon that now lies online at our finger tips.
Aunty, what I really want is a birthday celebration that goes on for the 366 days between today and August 6th 2012. I want a commemoration that goes beyond looking back on the past fifty years, and looks ahead to the next fifty. I imagine the architects and engineers (known and unknown) that commissioned our independence, as they met around dining room tables and rum bars and school rooms and church halls on August 6, 1961 to plan for the occasion then, and I wonder how can we best emulate their example and honor their sacrifices, today. I don’t know what the official government plans to do for next year, but I do know that democracy calls for government by the people. And so I am calling on all Jamaican people, at home and abroad, to become the architects and engineers of Jamaica Independence at 50. Since independence means we are free to establish as we freely will, we must in all corners of the world come together to strike a match for independence, by independently creating the commissions and committees that will engage to build a new Movement for Jamaica’s independence in an interdependent global community. Each of us has at least one dream for Jamaica that has yet to be fulfilled. I out some of mine in what I call the Imagine Jamaica 50 Birthday Wish List. Feel free to act on any of them that strikes your fancy, or to create your own to add to this list. But please be of good courage and act on at least one! Let us activate our inner hero to be the change we want to see. Let us meetup on the streets and in church halls or in cyber space over the course of the next 366 days and help each other to fashion our dreams into reality. By coming together, we will be able to right the wrongs, till the soil, and plant the seeds on the fertile ground of our collective vision and will, and thus to grow a continuingly independent – Jamaica Land we Love.
Walk Good, Cousin Claira.
PS - MY IMAGINE JAMAICA 50 BIRTHDAY WISH LIST
1 Establish Diaspora Bond to raise US$50 million @ shares as low as US$1000 to Invest in Small Business Equity Fund
2 5,000 Diaspora Mentors for 5,000 Student Mentees
3 Create a Real Estate Investment Trust to build 50,000 Units of Low Income Housing by 2015
4 Support the Development of 50 Community Based Development Corporations
5 Break Ground to build a New Parliament building and National Center for the Arts downtown by 2015
6 Buy Back Air Jamaica
7 Plant 50,000 Fruit and Shade Trees in Schools and Churches across Jamaica
8 Establish Company to Create Energy from Garbage
9 Organize Hometown Development Summits to result in Five Year Development Plans for each Parish
10 Enroll all 140,000 Unattached Youth in a Compulsory Service & Training Corps
11 Require all Food Use Plastic to be Corn-Based by 2015 and Recycle all non-biodegradable plastics as waste
12 Alumni pledge to partner with One Laptop per child to give each student starting CXC A Level studies in 2012 a Laptop
13 Create an Online Educational Platform for Science and Technology Training and Make access free for all students
14 Create a Marine Area Development Plan for the island’s territorial waters
15 Create a Biotech Venture Capital Fund
16 Organize a Tidy Town Contest for 50 Rural Communities Across Jamaica – the Winner to be Built a Smart Community Center
17 Establish a College Preparatory Program for Fifty Young People under 25 that are incarcerated
18 Establish A Marcus Garvey Elocution Contest at All Primary Schools – Top 5 winners share JA $500,000 in Cash and Prizes for High School
19 FaithBased Community Leaders in US Partner to Establish Economic Justice Missions in Jamaica
20 Create Work Study Programs for students at all Colleges and Universities
21 Create the World’s First Reggae Museum
22 Create a National Hall of Fame
23 Create a World Class Medical Marijuana Research Facility, Wellness Retreat Village in Accompong
24 Copyright and Licencse Jamaica Track Training Methodology
25 Pledge to install 50,000 Solar Panels and/or Windturbines on Roofs of Schools, Hospitals, Clinics, Police Stations, Churches across the island
26 Get 500,000 People to support Campaign to Exonerate Marcus Garvey by Signing Pledge and Donating US$1.00 to Legal Defense Fund
27 Make a Law requiring MPs to reside in and not just represent their Constituency
28 High School Alumni Associations create fifty Enterprise & Innovation Clubs
29 Make downtown Kingston an International Boxing Mecca by creating a Boxing Stadium as a Hub Facility
30 Organize the First All- Island “IronMan” Hepathalon (to include Running, Biking, Swimming, Horseback Riding, HangGliding, Driving, Boating Racing)
31 Diaspora to Invest in 50 Youth Enterprises @ US$2,000 each
32 Organize an Around the Island Regatta for FisherFolk and set up National FisherFolk Festival Program
33 Organize a Youth Futures Summit for 500 Young Professional Leaders
34 Create 50 Art in Public Spaces Projects
35 Build a World Class Children’s Science & Technology Museum by 2015
36 Create a digital library of all Jamaican books ever written
37 Create a world class trauma center at KPH and Cornwall Regional
38 Build a Peace Monument from Confiscated Guns
39 Start an Institute for Peace
40 Organize a National Dialogue on Financial Independence
41 Introduce Marine Sciences at the elementary school level
42 Organize a Twin Community Program between Jamican Diaspora Organizations and Communities at Home
43 Create 50,000 New Jobs by 2015
44 Refurbish National Heroes Circle and Interactive Museum
45 Organize a Science Engineering and Technology Summit with 50 of Jamaica’s Top Scientists in the Diaspora
46 Heroes Alive Around the Island - A Play A Day Festival (Fifty Plays in Fifty Days in Fifty Locations using Seven Actors representing our Seven National Heroes)
47 Build a Monument/Shrine to Nanny in Nanny Town
48 Clean up Kingston Harbor
49 Organize a Convention of All the Jamaicans who have done Medical Missions in the Last Fifty Years
50 Make Port Royal a Historical Theme Park with Live Reenactment of Pirates
FEEL FREE TO ADD MORE BUT ACT ON AT LEAST ONE!