Sunday, August 8, 2010

Jamaica - 48 years of Independence

This week is affectionately known as EmanciPendence Week as it is bookended with Emancipation Day on August 1st and Independence Day on August 6th. Both are National holidays so the work week was short and the city quiet as many people take advantage of using fewer leave days for a week off work.

On the brief days of work I participated in another meeting developing a collaborative proposal to be submitted to the EU. So much time and energy is put into securing the funding that can promote changes and development in Jamaica and there are moments that it feels unnecessarily difficult. However, there are also moments, such as this meeting, that it is evident that the process of securing the funding also has a significant outcome. The linkages and capacity of the five organisations involved in partnering to submit this proposal will, unquestionably, be strengthened through the process of developing the proposal. I believe new ideas and ways of working together will emerge whether or not the funding proposal is successful.

Friday was Jamaican Independence Day and at 9am as I sat on my balcony the sound of the National Anthem being sung at King's House drifted over the 2 kilometres distance that separates my apartment from the Govenor General's official residence, followed by cheers and resounding applause.
Marching bands and music, a parade of over 2000 participants representing diffferent communities and priorities and a gala event filled the day with celebration and pride.
A number of us went down to the National Stadium for the evening Gala Event. The stadium was filled to capacity on a perfect evening. As the sun set behind the walls of the stadium, once again the National Anthem echoed across a sea of proud Jamaicans and I thought of the promise that must have been felt on this day 48 years ago and the struggles that have ensued and are still being faced. On Independence Day the achievements are proudly recognised and the pride in being Jamaican joyfully celebrated.

The event included presentations by all who had participated in the parade, and as the stadium field was filled by the community groups, they replaced the green of the turf with a carpet of vibrant colour from the glorious costumes that had been designed and created by the each of them. These were not the exotic and provocative costumes of the Carnival Parade but costumes that reflect the colours and potential of the country, greens and yellows, reds and oranges, blues, pinks and purples. Presentations that represented the butterflies and the sun , the sea and the verdant greenery of Jamaica. Of course, there were also dance performers, bands and celebraties. The crowd danced and sang and celebrated in the warmth of the tropical night and the pride of a unity that feels sometimes fractured, but not on this night.

The day gave me reason to pause and think about how strong the Jamaican identity is and how such a small place with a population only the size of that of Toronto has made itself felt throughout the world. It is a country that embodies such determination in so many and expects a level of excellence in its achievements. It is a country that has embraced all the nationalities that have come here over the years and created One People not through a requirement to kowtow to a dominant culture but because it did not insist on cultures and colours being separated. It is a country of tremendous intellectual capital, talent in all aspects of the arts and sports and a level of agressive determination that has served it both well and created difficulties. It is a country in which harmony is hard to find but beauty greets you at every upward glance, where much is in disrepair but where all are fiercely proud, where family is of the greatest importance but self is the driving force, where there is great abundance and immense poverty, where opinions are strong and there is little compromise. It is a country of contradictions, tensions and dichotomies and it continues to be a place of incredible promise.

At the end of next week I will be returning to Ontario for a couple of weeks so there will likely be an hiatus in my blog posts as I will not be "In Jamaica". I am excited at the prospect of a little time with family and friends. It will be a trip that punctuates the beginning of a new era for me. The girls and I will finalise moving out of our family home of 22 years, I will complete the move out of my office and employment at Kinark and I will explore the possibility of a new project with the National Implementation Research Network. When I return I will be poised for another nine months in Jamaica and excited to build on the knowledge I have gained to date. Life is an endless series of opportunities!

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