Sat | May 27, 2017

Jamaica, Land We Love

Published:Sunday | July 12, 2015 | 7:00 AMMaya E. Smith
From left: Earl Jarrett, general manager, Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), with Maya Smith; her mother, Marcia Whyte-Smith; and Leon Mitchell, assistant general manager, JNBS, after a tour of the JNBS Chief Office recently.
Leon Mitchell, assistant general manager, Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), presents a gift to Maya Smith. Maya and her mother, Marcia Whyte-Smith, won a trip to the island to participate in several cultural and educational activities that would expose her to the Jamaican way of life, business, education, and entertainment.
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Maya Smith, a student of Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio, was born in the United States and is of Jamaican parentage. Her desire to connect with her roots compelled her to enter the Union of Jamaica Alumni Association (UJAA) Essay Competition to write about Jamaica and its attractions. She received a UJAA scholarship, in addition to winning a grand prize trip to Jamaica. Maya is very excited about being able to return to the place of her heritage and participate in various activities. Here is her winning piece.

I, too, sing, 'Jamaica, Land We Love'. From the glassy blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, to the produced-filled parish of St Catherine, from which my grandfather hails, to the red-dirt hills of the countryside in Manchester where my grandmother was raised, I, too, sing Jamaica.

The first time I went to Jamaica was like a dream. I was so filled with excitement to see where my family had come from. My young eyes were hungry with wonder as I looked out the window of the plane and onto the beautiful island below me. Having only seen American waters before this, I remember turning to my mother and saying, "Mommy, Mommy, the water! I can see the bottom of the ocean!" This was an unimaginable sight for a little New York girl.

 

seemingly insignificant

 

It captivated me how on a map, Jamaica was seemingly a small insignificant piece of land compared to the rest of the world. But I knew the truth of its rich culture and the way in which Jamaica has in fact had a large global influence.

All my life I had heard the words 'Eternal Father Bless Our Land' sung with great pride. I had eaten the flavourful meals prepared by my grandparents and mother with such love and unmeasured precision. I had listened to the musical rhythms of reggae and calypso, which always managed to put a smile on my face no matter my previous mood. I had been taught the ways in which I should behave towards others and how they must behave towards me. I had been taught who I came from, where they came from and to be proud of it. I am a Jamaican.

Jamaica is a place that realises the importance of higher education whether it is going to university, working to cultivate the natural resources, or learning a trade. This is the reason that many notable individuals of the world are people originated from Jamaica. People like Colin Powell (former Secretary of State), Susan Rice (National Security Adviser), Christopher J. Farley (Wall Street Journal editor), and writer Kwame Dawes are all of Jamaican heritage. My Great Grandmother also stressed the importance of education, setting a goal for all 11 of her children to be successful. As a result, she succeeded, her children and grandchildren did as well and now it is my turn to ensure that her dream lives on.

However, it saddens me to say that when I observe how 'new-school' Jamaica is portrayed and how some young Jamaicans act. It is no longer these qualities that seem to be dominant. I see how many of them have lost their culture. They have lost these special values and ideals taught to us by our parents and grandparents. My hope for Jamaica's future is that it reclaims its cultural richness in all areas.

I imagine that the people of Jamaica are like a body of water and the motor of the boat, the troubles that they are facing. As the motor disturbs the water, it tosses and turns, waves form, surge, ripples and then stillness. As the country travels through this voyage, the turbulence will soon become nothing but a memory like the waves formed in the sea. Maybe this is just a part of the journey we, as a people, have to endure to return to a more tranquil state of being.

 

forgotten values

 

In the end, this hard time will always be kept as a memory and reminder to never come back to such a place of forgotten values. I have faith that the light will reappear along with Jamaica's beautiful sunrise. Waters once hectic will soon only be slight bumps that cause us to bob every now and then as a dingy does in even the calmest of seas.

I can't wait to go back and see those beautiful waters, eat the best foods, and listen to the music inspired by this unique island. I love embracing my rich culture and for it I show much pride. For these reasons, I, too, sing, "Jamaica, Land We Love."