Valerie Dixon, Contributor
MANY PERSONS, when asked about Jamaica's achievements over the past 50 years since Independence, are of the view that we have achieved some positive milestones over the period. It is felt that despite being a stratified society, especially before 1962, we have managed to become a reasonably cohesive society, despite the turbulent period 1972 to 1980, which took a bit of struggle to bring us back from the brink of political hegemony.
The free market system was restored, and once again, the creativity of ordinary Jamaicans surfaced to the fore. Historically, the former slaves were never compensated for their years of giving free labour. This is in comparison to the ruling planter class, which received reparations for the loss of their labour force. So ordinary Jamaicans, from back then until now, still rely on their creativity and intelligence to survive, and in many instances, the ruling class depends on this creativity as it is able to fund and capitalise it to their benefit. We just need to examine who owns and controls (for the most part) the vast repertoire of ska, reggae, and dancehall music that originated from ordinary Jamaicans.
The current administration has promised to do something tangible towards protecting the country's intellectual property rights, copyrights, trademarks, and Brand Jamaica. This is good news in this our jubilee year.
Women have advanced
Our women, especially those in high positions, have done extremely well. We have had our first female prime minister since 2006, and she has been back at the helm since 2011. Other firsts include first female children's advocate - 2006; first female attorney general and minister of justice - 2007; first female director of public prosecutions - 2007; and our first female auditor general - 2008.
Housing stock has improved tremendously across every stratum of the society. Since 1962, there have been improvements in the quality of materials used, as well as in the technology employed, which is evident in our design, form, and function and in the vast array of amenities used in all types of housing units. Our architects and builders are among the best in the world.
We are 50 and we love the fact that we have established some great institutions such as the Edna Manley School for the Visual and Performing Arts, which now attracts students from all corners of the globe to study dance, music, drama, and the visual arts. Our National Art Gallery, which showcases our great artists, can stand with the best in the world.
We have the only children's hospital in the Caribbean, and our locally trained doctors and nurses are in great demand locally and internationally.
Our national hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, stands tall, especially over the past 50 years. Although controversial, he cannot be pushed aside from his position of being a pioneer in the Pan African Movement. His views on Pan Africanism influenced a wide variety of famous Pan Africanists and Black Nationalists since 1962 - leaders such as Julius Nyerere, first president of Tanzania in 1962; and Jomo Kenyatta, first president of Kenya in 1964. Others influenced by Marcus Garvey are Nelson Mandela, first black president of South Africa; Malcolm X; and Jamaican reggae singers Burning Spear (Winston Rodney) and Bob Marley, to name just a few.
Since Independence, we have more tertiary institutions that offer accredited degrees and other training programmes that give greater scope and opportunities for economic development. Many ordinary Jamaicans have gained access to high-quality training to enable them to acquire marketable skills and competencies to be used locally, nationally, and globally.
Our democracy is strong and we transition from one government to the next with ease. We have no fear of the military seizing power as the officers of every rank are loyal first and foremost to the Jamaican Constitution, and this overrides any individual's ambition.
Valerie Dixon is a public affairs commentator based in central Jamaica. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.