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Clovis Brown a 'son' of the soil

Published:Saturday | September 6, 2014 | 9:00 AM
Retired educator, Clovis Brown, is a leader in community development in Sligoville, St Catherine.-PHOTOS BY PAUL H. WILLIAMS
Clovis Brown of Sligoville, St Catherine, a retired educator, does her own backyard farming.
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Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer

SLIGOVILLE, St Catherine:ON EMANCIPATION Day, after receiving an award for 40 years of contribution to the field of education in the parish of St Catherine, Clovis Brown, in her acceptance speech, referred to herself as a son of the soil. Members of the audience smiled and corrected her. "Daughter," they said. But Brown retorted by telling them why she might just be a son of the soil.

But, whether daughter or son, Brown is a giant in her community, the first free village set up in Jamaica in 1835, three years before Emancipation. Born and bred in Sligoville, she attended Sligoville All-Age School, and was trained at St Joseph's Teachers' College and Moneague Teachers' College. She taught at Sligoville Basic School, Mount Moreland Primary School, Rock Hall All-Age School, and Sligoville All-Age School.

In the citation read to her during the awards ceremony, Brown was described as an "exceptional teacher" who received two major awards from her peers. They are the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) 2000 Pixie of The Year Award for demonstrating pedagogical creativity in the classroom, and the Golden Torch Award from the JTA for 38 years of dedicated service to education. She was also a long-standing member of the 4H Club movement, and has received many other awards over the years.

lauded for outstandingcontribution

The award she received on Emancipation Day wasn't just for education, in essence, but for her general contribution to the development of her community. It is a community with a rich history, where the evolution of post-Emancipation peasantry started in Jamaica. Yet, the significance of Sligoville's heritage has been lost on many residents, especially the younger folk.

This lack of interest in the story of Sligoville has been observed by Brown for whom the history and heritage of Sligoville are very important. In her acceptance speech, she remarked that, "Sligoville is a very historical place, and this is my story." She said she is from a family of people who love to do voluntary service, and she has never been tired of volunteering. What she is in fact tired of, she said, is not getting people to work with her.

She is the daughter of a man who himself had contributed significantly to the development of Sligoville. And now she is wearing his mantle of leadership, participating in many community projects through the Sligoville Support Committee (SSC), and in collaboration with other organisations. "Being a member of this community, I truly believe in community development," she told the gathering on Emancipation Day.

The SCC had been dormant for a while, but Brown had revived it in the name of Sligoville Heritage Foundation Benevolent Society (SHFBS), for which she is the president, to preserve and showcase the heritage of Sligoville. "The history of my community is very important. We need to know where we are coming from ... in order to move on," Brown told Rural Xpress recently on a visit to Sligoville.

The theme of the foundation is 'Transforming community through historical and environmental awareness'. To this end, the SHFBS is working towards community tourism status and the historical points of interest therein. The sites, it is hoped, will be developed to attract tourists. Tour guides have already been trained to take tourists on heritage trails.

But for the foundation to meet its objectives, Brown needs help. So, in an impassioned appeal on Emancipation Day, she exhorted the community to work with her, commenting that the people of the community are its greatest assets. She took the opportunity to encourage the citizens to get ready to participate in many community development projects that the citizens' association will be engaged in.

Clovis Brown is truly a 'son' of the soil, a woman who still farms her land, who has a traditional man's name, who has been a single mother, and who is a leader on the path of the development of her community. She is indeed a beacon glowing from the hills of Sligoville.

rural@gleanerjm.com