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Letter of the Day: Lessons for Jamaica on building national pride

Published:Saturday | June 13, 2015 | 12:00 AM


I was afforded the opportunity to visit China recently and can't help but look back on my journey and wonder if we have lost our identity as Jamaicans.

After three weeks of travelling to several provinces, cities and towns, some general characteristics of the people were evident: they are very diligent, great builders and planners, but what stood out most for me was how proud they were of their rich history. Everywhere I visited, from the baby to the old man, glorified stories of their past. They were proud of their past, even the adversities.

You saw the fireworks in their eyes when names like Chairman Mao Zedong were mentioned. I was in awe of how they knew their history from dynasties to the New Republic. It was clear that the village still raises the child in China. It was clear that the formal system played a very important role in preserving the history, but when the common man spoke, you knew they were retelling all the great stories they heard growing up.

My experience made me reflect on Jamaica, my country, my homeland. I thought about growing up as a child and all the great stories I would have been told of the history and greatness of my people. Truth be told, I was left wanting.

I couldn't seem to remember the stories, the songs, the poems that truly glorified my history, that made me proud to be a Jamaican. I vaguely remembered the classes we had yearly during Black History Month, Emancipation, Independence and National Heroes Day. But were they enough? Did they make me feel proud to be a Jamaican long enough to love and believe in my country? I wouldn't be true to myself if I said yes.


Ignorant of our legacy


It's funny how great Jamaicans are seen through others' eyes, but as a people, we don't see that. It is seen every day when the people fail to do small but important things like disregard protocol when the national anthem is played, know the national symbols and meanings, and choose not to participate in choosing our leaders.

We can't even teach our children the history of Jamaica or tell the great stories of our forefathers, as we don't know enough. We learned about the seven national heroes, but how much do we truly know about them other than their names? How much do we truly know about the history of our music? How much do know of the adversity our people endured to make Jamaica a sovereign nation?

There are important lessons to be learned from China about preserving history - a successful model. For the people to have great national pride, they have to know and understand the journey of the nation. That is lacking in Jamaica. We need to go back to the basics both on a policy and community level.