Sun | Sep 20, 2020

Roxroy Heaven: I am a proud Jamaican

Published:Thursday | August 6, 2020 | 12:00 AMVanessa James/Gleaner Writer
One of the cups that was issued on the first Independence Day in Jamaica.
One of the memorabilia that was issued on the first Independence Day in Jamaica.
Roxroy Heaven poses with the cup and saucer memorabilia from Independence Day in 1962.
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AT 73 years old, Roxroy Heaven remembers one thing about August 6, 1962 - the atmosphere of joy and celebration that the people expressed as they danced and sang in the square with shouts of ‘Jamaica get Independence!’

It is a day, Heaven told The Gleaner, that he will never forget, as he joined the revelling and the sweet taste of independence.

“I remember that I did go to school, and on the day I got a two cups; a brass one and a white one marked ‘Out of Many One People, August 6, 1962’,” Heaven reminisced, “I was living at my mother’s house and it rained the day, and I got the cups and came home from school. I don’t really remember any more because I am 73 years old now.”

At the time of Independence, Heaven was a teenager, approximately 15 years old, and he shared that a number of changes have occurred over the last 58 years.

“A whole heap of things change, man. Back then it was pound, shilling and pence for money, and a did pence a pound for flour, pence for a quart of cooking, and tuppence for a pound of sugar. Them times can’t come back, man! We used to even buy crackers by the dozen,” Heaven recalled.

Another difference he cited was the camaraderie of the people, and that subsistence farming was an important aspect of life.

“People worked together back then, but they don’t do it now. It did hard same way, you know, but it never this hard because everybody used to plant grung (farm); but now nobody planting anything, the place just turn bush because the younger generation won’t do it,” Heaven stated, “Like right now, they prefer stay on the street and buy food and eat, and back in the day you go home to cook and eat your food, but now, boy...,” he trailed off into his thoughts before sharing how just one pound could stretch to take care of his family, leaving change and enough to go back and forth for work.

Heaven revealed that this was his pay after working eight hours at the John’s Hall Quarry, where he broke stone for 25 cents an hour.

MONEY NOT STRONG AGAIN

“The dollar change, and the money not strong again; so what you could have done with it back then, you can’t do that now. You could buy 12 big bulla cakes with one shilling those days, but things change, man, and everything gone up,” Heaven shared.

In his opinion, the reason for the many negative changes is due to a lack of compassion among Jamaicans and corruption from the different entities. Even with these notes, Heaven explains that he would not give up Jamaica for anything, even though he migrated to America over 25 years ago.

“I am very proud to be Jamaican! I migrate and became a citizen of America, but every year me come home to Jamaica, it’s the only place I can enjoy myself; like now, I am home and not wearing a shirt, but I couldn’t do that in America, even when it hot, because I am breaking the law. Me love the freedom that me have when I am here,” Heaven disclosed.

Considering all the nation has gone through and accomplished despite the challenges, Heaven agrees with this year’s Independence Day theme, ‘Resilient and Strong…Let’s Celebrate Jamaica 58’. He went on to apply the theme to his own life, explaining that it took strength and resilience to accomplish all he has for himself and his family.

“At 73, I think I am just as resilient and strong, because this is where me born and grow and experience life,” said Heaven, “I work hard and made sure to build my house, before me bring my wife and kids to America in 1994, with the 29 years I spent at the quarry,” he finished.

Heaven told The Gleaner that he would want to come back home because when he is in Jamaica, he can have his animals, including goats, cows and chickens, in his yard, something he says he is unable to do in America.

vanessa.james@gleanerjm.com