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Let’s promote a new consciousness among our people

Published:Thursday | July 30, 2015 | 7:00 AM

It's appalling that we have embarked on yet another Emancipendence celebration with relics of our past, that should have never been, still intact. Lady Musgrave Road in St Andrew is an example of one piece of our history that we certainly can do without. It is a flamboyant symbolism of classism and a reminder that no matter how much you achieve you should be 'humble', never offend the 'haves' - those who are more privileged, wealthy and have power. How offensive!

Over the years, a number of persons, myself included, have called for the road to be renamed because of the history behind its existence and its significance to fostering a national consciousness that gives us, borrowing from the words of the Guyanese scholar Walter Rodney, "a sense of where Jamaicans came from, what we have done, and to what we should look forward". I can't imagine successive governments have seen the urgency and significance of such an action.

For the benefit of those people who are not familiar with the capital city, Lady Musgrave Road stretches from the intersection of Swallowfield Road and Old Hope Road (close to NCB Towers) to the intersection of Hope Road and East King's House Road (at TGIF). The road is said to have been built around 1881, when Sir Anthony Musgrave served as governor between 1877 and 1883, to 'circuitously bypass' Devon House which was, at the time, the home of George Stiebel, the first wealthy black man in the country.

"At the time of the road's construction, King's House was the official residence of the governor of Jamaica. The main route from King's House to the busy districts of Cross Roads and downtown Kingston was along Hope Road, past Devon House," but the governor's wife refused to drive past there because she was reportedly offended "that a black man had managed to build such a prominent house (Devon House) in close proximity to the governor's residence" (Visit Jamaica).

This is a vulgar reminder of the leaders of post-colonial Jamaica's gross negligence over the last 53 years. Yes, we have done a lot of good things to improve the situation for many of our people but a lot needs to be done to emancipate us from 'mental slavery' and restore our dignity and pride as a people.

 

Reconstruct our society

 

As I have asked in the past, 'what is the purpose of being free; of being independent; if not to rid ourselves of as many of the demarcations of privilege and status as possible so that we can all "reconstruct our society so that all Jamaicans can meaningfully participate in the economic life of the nation". (Portia Simpson Miller)?'

When will our leaders realise that it is imperative that Lady Musgrave Road and similar relics of our past be renamed to symbolise a new consciousness among our people so we can truly be 'proud and free'.

It is unfathomable that our leaders have not done as much as they ought to after 53 years of independence from Britain to foster a national consciousness that cause all of us, not just a privileged few, to feel a sense of pride and belonging in our country. Now is the time for our leaders to create a legacy. Rename Lady Musgrave Road. And while we are at it, let's put some money into restoring The Ward Theatre to its former glory.

On another note. What, pray tell, is the seemingly deafening silence by our leaders - the Opposition included - regarding high levels of voter apathy among young people and the strong desire for more than 70 per cent of us being willing to give up our citizenship? Are they not concerned about this frightening reality? What is the role of the student unions and guilds of students - UWI and UTech especially - in all of this? Do they not realise our complacency, as young people, is conveniently facilitating a culture where our leaders can underperform and be returned to the office? For the sometimes slow pace at which things happen in this country? Let us as young people emancipate ourselves from apathy and complacency that have shackled us in recent years. The time for action is now. Complaining alone and retiring in frustration will get us nowhere. We have to take responsibility for our future.

Happy Emancipendence!

- Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.