Independence mixed feelings in Cheesefield
CHEESEFIELD, St Catherine:
It is located at the top of the district of Time and Patience in St Catherine, but you will not find Cheesefield on the map.
It was by chance this writer came upon the quiet district with a very interesting name. I was in the area to talk about Emancipation and Independence.
It turned out that the Cheeses after whom the community was named 'owned' enslaved African people as chattels. They were mentioned in Jamaica Almanacs of yesteryear, an Internet research revealed. The descendants of the Cheeses and enslaved African people have intermarried, and today there are still many Cheeses in Cheesefield.
At the time of Emancipation, there was perhaps unspeakable joy for the ex-slaves. And it was perhaps even happier times for their descendants when Independence came along 124 years later, in 1962.
Now, 53 years after Jamaica became a sovereign state, there is not much to smile about in Cheesefield, it seems, except that many youths are now being engaged in cassava cultivation, to meet the demand from Red Stripe. Acres of land are being prepared for or are under cassava cultivation.
Rural Xpress spoke with people from different age groups to find out how they feel about Independence. Many of the older folk could not recall what happened in the community on Independence Day 1962. Yet, retired basic school teacher Letriana English still has the commemorative plates she and her mother bought in Linstead.
The reaction from people interviewed was mixed, but they were generally not inspired by Jamaica's Independence status. In fact, many believe the island should revert to being a colony of Britain.
Fredleslie Smith, an elderly farmer, was beckoned from his cassava piece.
He was sweating from his brow, and in a few months he shall have more bread to it. Smith is all for Independence, national and political. "If you decide to work ... yuh get something out of it," he said. He is upset by the youths who don't want to create their own independence, and who go around with their pants under their butts. "You must live up to principle," he told Rural Xpress, "and let people look up on yuh."
Rastaman Mark 'Meally' Hutchinson is in his mid-40s, and doesn't believe Independence is worthwhile, "because we don't have enough resources as we should". Actually, Hutchinson doesn't believe we are an independent nation as yet as "we are still depending".
"When we are independent, we don't have to depend on no one," Hutchinson argues. Yet, he doesn't want direct rule from Britain. Power struggle and ineffective politicians are some of the reasons he gave for the poor state of affairs in the country.
Twenty-one-year Oral Lettman, a graduate of Charlemont High School, is searching for a job so that he can be independent. Rural Xpress met him and some other youths at a church gate, biding their time. On the subject of Emancipation, he said gender bias and skin colour prejudice still exist in Jamaica. The black-skin youth said other black-skin young men are bleaching to get acceptance.
Tevin Cheese, who wants to be a professional footballer, was dressed in Jamaica colours, aspiring to play for his country, which he thinks is not living up to its independence status. We are not united, the 14-year-old said. "I think we should be more together, so I don't think we are independent," he opined.
Political division in the land is the reason for the disunity, Cheese feels, as "some say JLP and some say PNP, and they are not going to combine as one". Yet, the agreeable youngster is proud of his country. "As you have the great Bob Marley from music, you have a lot of footballers ... Marcus Garvey, he's one of the reasons why I love Jamaica so," Cheese explained.
Later in the day, Rural Xpress was brought to an area where many Cheeses live. Some are aware of how they got their surname, and the topics of Emancipation and Independence were raised. Mitford Cheese, the patriarch, believes we are only "half-emancipated", but is somewhat proud.
"Many things that we used to suffer from we have move up to higher lights ... Even how we used to live and eat ... We have a better standard now," Mitford reasoned. Ensworth, his son, said he is proud and free because, "I am not under any bondage, I am free to go about and do whatever I like as long as it is within the law." However, his in-law, Sophia McKoy, believes slavery still exists.
"We are still in slavery, we are working and getting nothing. I work and is a thousand dollars a day I get. When fortnight come is $8,000 I get, and that cannot school my children, and even feed them," a serious-looking McKoy said. Her husband, Vernon Cheese, standing beside her, concurred.