Devon Dick: Youth got it wrong on the heroes
Recently, a Youthlink writer asked: "Which hero are you?' (January 26 to February 1). The noble goal of the article was to help readers to appreciate national heroes "to whom we owe our freedom" and to "carry on their legacy".
The narrative on National Hero Norman Manley was great: "Not only do you have a strong intellectual status, but you also hope to represent the cause of weaker ones in their struggle for equality." One would be a 'Norman Manley' by scoring mainly 'As' in the questionnaire of three options.
If one scores mainly 'Cs', then one is a Samuel Sharpe. The personality profile is, however, troubling: "Your personality is rough around the edges. This simply means that you display a tough facade not just to protect yourself, but also those you care about."
'Rough around the edges' can mean having a few imperfections. If that were the meaning, then it would have applied to Manley and all other national heroes. 'Rough around the edges' could mean that one has not mastered a certain skill or subject. That would also apply to others. Finally, 'rough around the edges' can mean lacking in social graces and manners. In addition, 'faÁade' speaks to a deceptive outward appearance. These two negative descriptions of Sharpe's personality are unfortunate and without merit. Perhaps the depiction of Sharpe's image might have misled the writer.
In my book Cross and Machete, I posit that Sharpe was about 25 or 26 years old; however, he was 27, based on court records. In other words, when Sharpe mobilised 60,000 enslaved persons without mobile phones to protest the working conditions, he was two years younger than Usain Bolt is. Sharpe was the same age as Ashley-Ann Foster, attorney-at-law, the youngest potential candidate in the upcoming general elections.
Sharpe is a young national hero who could be an inspiration to youngsters in the quest to make a difference in society.
Sharpe was considered a non-human, without political, social, and economic rights but led a movement that became a catalyst for the end of slavery in the British West Indies. Perhaps if young people knew that Sharpe was a youngster when he protested slavery then they might not be disaffected from the voting process but would participate in politics, knowing that they can accomplish much against the odds.
Twenty-seven-year-old Sharpe operated as a pastor and had a few white men in his congregation. He was a great expositor of the Bible. He was intelligent and articulate. He was a leader and organiser.
National Hero Paul Bogle was treated a little better in the article. Those who scored mostly 'Bs' would have a personality like Bogle. Bogle was described as "Many call you 'zealous' and you probably are, but ..." By putting zealous in quotation marks, it gives the word the connotation of trying too hard. It would have been better to describe Bogle as zealous in the denotative sense, meaning devoted, diligent, eager, intense, and passionate.
Bogle was passionate about the people of St Thomas. He believed in the equality of all and justice for all. He bemoaned the justice system, which favoured the ruling class at the expense of the peasants. He agitated for land reform so that persons from the lower classes would have security of tenure for the development of their economic base, family life, and voting rights.
The article was a novel approach to get young people to appreciate our national heroes, but unfortunately, it spread some misconceptions about the personality of Sharpe and Bogle.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete' and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.