Brian Brown – THE X-FACTOR
“Cause when yuh check it out Lawd, nuh weh nuh betta dan yaad…” – Tinga Stewart.
As we reflect on the many trials, tribulations and triumphs we’ve faced, endured and enjoyed, it’s easy to take for granted how much we’ve accomplished, for we are as they would say in school, ’hard markers’ when it comes to giving each other a passing grade. As Omar McCloud, the recently minted 110 metres world champion put it, we’ve been spoilt, so used to winning that we often forget to big up those who work so hard just to be in the race to begin with. But that’s part of being Jamaican. Nuff ah we ah band-wagonists but deep down, if we really and truly check fi yuh, win, lose or draw we love yuh same way. Yes, we have our issues, some home-grown, many imported and deported, but there is something about Jamaica and Jamaicans that is remarkably colourful, undeniably magnetic and just unlike any other country or people on the planet.
Give Thanks & Praises
So yes, despite the many challenges and issues that constantly remind us how human we are, we still have much to be thankful for. I can’t believe it’s been 30 years since Roy Rayon won the National Festival Song competition with his catchy entry marking our 25th anniversary as an independent nation. That means several things; we’ve come a long way since then, great music stands the test of time and yes, we are well and truly getting up there in age. Even as a Jamaican, I can’t quite figure us out for it seems we’re also innately schizophrenic. How else can you explain a people being so steeped in the revolutionary spirit and equally docile in the face of glaring displays of poor leadership and corruption? How do we pull off being so brash and colourful and still be humble and respectful? The Honourable Usain St. Leo Bolt readily comes to mind. Many things about being a Jamaican, especially in Jamaica, just don’t add up. Even the gunmen know better than to turn their weapons on our cash crop, tourism, because at a cellular level they get that random, even unnecessary acts of violence that adversely affect our primary income earner makes no sense whatsoever, even if committing daring daylight deadly attacks on their targets or their relatives does. It defies logic how we can be so amazing and destructive in almost the same breath. What it does prove though is that we excel in just about everything we put our minds and hands to, good and bad. So when we’re good, you guess it, we’re very very good. Unfortunately, when we decide fi bad, God help anybody it’s directed at. That’s why you can either love or hate us, no grey area, nothing neutral or in between. Full ah life, vibes, ism and schism and love, yes, more than anything else love.
To Di Worl’
So even while I took great pride in returning to a big stage, the MoBay Independence Gala stage in front of my fellow Jamaicans and visitors alike, I remind myself that we didn’t get here by buck up or through colonial charity. We are where we are, for better or worse, because of the blood, sweat, tears and years we spent on the backs of our departed and currently living with us ancestors.
We have such a rich tapestry of oral history living amongst us and we take it all for granted for the new flashy easy to come by internet or cable-based ‘history’ as given to us. African tradition behoves us to treat the elderly as living treasures of knowledge and wisdom to not only learn from but to let the young recognize who we were and are as a people. Millennials can’t naturally appreciate what it means to depend on actually seeing someone to communicate with them before the internet and cell phone era. And things we now take for granted didn’t come as easy as they seem to these days, starting with something as simple as the clothes that now floods our streets and stores. Once upon a time, we had to wait on hand-me-downs and the occasional barrel or visitor from overseas to even see a pair of new shoes or ‘trackie’, an item of clothing or Irish Spring soap bar, singular. Then we had to make do with maybe a gift for our birthday and at least one toy at Christmas. But for me, that spirit of innovation we learned through oral and hands on tradition not long ago, that inspired us to make our own toys like milk carton trucks, cotton wheel, gig and bleach bottle airplanes and creatively entertain ourselves with marbles, simple elastic bands (bounce lastic) and just running and catching each other (ketch and ketch or stuckie) – things being replaced by a tide of laziness of thought, apathy and this feeling of entitlement that is devoid of an appreciation of what it takes to earn something, even the smallest of things like that first job. My first proper job was at Lloyd’s Department Store, as a 13-year-old earning J$150 a week. As a 19-year-old doing videography and editing, I earned J$500 for a six-day work week plus the random not normally allowed tips. It took years of hard work in multiple jobs and evening school to get to a point where even thinking about a first car was possible. Translate that to now where somehow the expectation is that by age 21, even without any discernible, marketable talent or expertise in trade or craft, that a car and apartment or house should come standard. While many are still raised with a work ethic to strive hard and do right by others, it seems some of us skipped that lesson, frankly because the teacher, who is in most cases the parent(s), often don’t know any better themselves.
Jamaica, Land We Love
We are as dark as we are bright, with the several hues and innuendos that this suggests. The same spirit that empowers a Bounty Killa to march on stage and literally grab the mic from my hand on Sunday night because he was ready to perform is the same energy that makes global icons like Bob Marley and Usain Bolt, and our very own Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore, now an Order of Distinction recipient, so irresistible to most everyone else in the world. Just the mere mention of our name or a hint of our unmistakable accent or glimpse of our style or signature walk announces to the world that we are here, and that this world is the better for having a little gem of a rock so influential in every conceivable field of endeavour. From freedom fighters and revolutionaries, to scientists, educators, creators of literature, cultural architects, and yes, amazing human beings of sport and music, wi likkle but wi tallawah. And love we or hate wi, those of us who live abroad can still attest that as bad as things are, nuh weh nuh betta dan yaad. We are indeed cut from a similar but very different cloth, the good ones. And though we may have lost our way a little, we as a people are resilient and loving at our core and together we will find a way, out of these many one people to bring back our Sweet Jamaica. Happy Birthday Jamaica. Walk good!
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