Fri | Oct 30, 2020

Importance of culture in community development

Published:Friday | November 30, 2018 | 12:00 AMAmina Blackwood-Meeks
Drama in Education students participating in a story Drama.
Eintou Pearl Springer, Cultural Activist and Storyteller from Trinidad and Tobago.

For many years, the month of November has been observed as Youth and Community Development Month in Jamaica. Within the education sector, November is observed as Parenting Month. The activities are intended to assist parents to do a better job to improve the relationships with their children and, ultimately, their capacity to excel. In addition to these, the United Nations and its agencies have specially designated days during the month. Since 1954, November 20 has been Universal Children's Day, established to "promote international togetherness and awareness among children worldwide".

Young people and children are quickly recognised as the raison d'Ítre of all these initiatives. It forces consideration of whether there is any one mechanism by which they could all be linked and through which their various outcomes might be simultaneously pursued.

The fact that November 20, by official proclamation, has been observed in Jamaica as National Storytelling Day since 2014 and that in 2018, a number of organisations collaborated on promoting the same date as National Play Day indicates that culture demands to be considered as such as mechanism.




The organisations promoting Play Day this year included the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information; the United Nations Children Education Fund; and the National Parenting Commission, which said, "Play is the way children explore and learn about their world, developing and practising new abilities. It builds important social and behavioural skills, too ..." Further, they stated as an objective sharing "in the joy of discovery, sharing and teamwork". If today's young people are playing the games in which their parents and grandparents delighted, they are encountering games such as 'May I', that teaches us to wait our turn; 'Punchinella Likkle Fella', which encourages us to revel in our individual talents; and 'PeeHawk, the Hawk is Coming Down', emphasising the importance of collective security.

Our games form part of our oral tradition, celebrated on National Storytelling Day, a practical recognition of our children's right to heritage and culture. In the proclamation of National Storytelling Day, the governor-general, Sir Patrick Linton Allen, recognised the role of storytelling for "healing the fractured sense of self and contributing towards social recovery".

Part of that healing resides in the ability of the nation to forge the inter-generational links that demonstrate how the values that hold human society together have not changed.

This was the philosophical basis of the staging of the Colour Museum under the theme "Punchinella Likkle Fella" by the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts during February 2018. Members of the Senior Citizens Council of Hughenden spent an evening at the college sharing games and discussing their significance with members of the college community and students from primary schools.

The evening was intended to "demonstrate the reservoir of wisdom in traditional Caribbean games, foster an understanding of the value of traditional games to national identity, raise the profile of traditional games as a tool in the delivery of curriculum across all subject areas, broaden the conversation about the role of indigenous knowledge in the education of people who will be able to safeguard the unique place of the Caribbean in the world, and celebrate the value of the collaboration between wisdom and enthusiasm in safeguarding cultural continuity".

Every prosperous organisation consciously identifies and pursues core values as part of its formula for growth and success. The constant practice of these cultural values becomes a culture in and of itself. By focusing on culture as the vehicle for achieving their objectives, the organisations that mount special programmes intended for national development during the month of November facilitate the nation coming to a practical appreciation of how culture - in this specific case, play and the oral tradition - hold the potential, as stated in the proclamation for National Storytelling Day, "for anchoring more of our youth in positive values and attitudes derived from an understanding and appreciation of their identity and their importance to national development".

It is a mechanism to be employed throughout the year as vital to the initiatives for personal, community and national development forward movement.

- Amina Blackwood-Meeks, PhD, is a lecturer and college orator at The Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Send your feedback to