Keisha Hill, Gleaner Writer
So rich is Jamaica's history that persons in the diaspora are so intrigued they have sought to capture the events via a timeline. Gaverne Bennett, a teacher in East London in the United Kingdom came up with a Jamaica 50 timeline that highlights aspects of Jamaica's history dating from as far back as AD600.
Bennett said he created the timeline to preserve the information on Jamaica's history for generations to come. He said the aim is to encourage persons not to lose contact with their identity. "There are many young people who are unaware of their history. If we do not make an effort to highlight the country's history they will be unaware of their legacy. Jamaica has a powerful heritage, if you travel around the world and say you are Jamaican, or of Jamaican descent they are happy to see you," Bennett said.
Bennett who is of Jamaican parentage feels the need to contribute to preserving the legacy of the country. He approached the Jamaican High Commission in London in January and discussed the possibility of using the timeline to commemorate Jamaica's 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations as well as highlighting the achievements of the island.
"I included things that many persons do not know about. It is educational, nothing in detail because in today's technological age, persons want information at their fingertips. They are relatively short entries and they are designed to make you want to read more," Bennett said.
It took Bennett just over six months to research and have the designs created to launch the Jamaica 50 timeline. He explained that he wanted to approach the information in a deeper way and not just about Jamaica celebrating its Independence.
"I went back to the people who originated in the island to explain why Jamaica is so special and unique. Jamaica is an international island. It's hard to explain why Jamaica has had such an impact considering it's small size," Bennett said.
It was hard to decide what to omit from the timeline, however Bennett said he chose the best images based on the information that was selected. He wanted to give his audience a sense of what Jamaica is all about. "I considered my audience including people in Jamaica, the diaspora, those who know a little about Jamaica, those who know nothing about Jamaica and those who would be interested in the information on Jamaica," Bennett said.
He indicated that the information on the timeline can be used as a reference in Jamaica and around the world. (http://jamaica-history.com)
Bennett began creating timelines in 2000. According to him while watching a television programme about the start of the first millennium, which looked at how different cultures had contributed to human civilisation in the last 2,000 years he noticed the programme said little or nothing about how Africa or people of African descent had contributed to the human story.
"It led me to devise a timeline about black history from the beginning of the millennium to the year 2000. I wanted to try to do something to include Africans and black people. My original intention was not to retell the story of the last two millennia, but simply to insert an element that had been left out," Bennett said.
"I spent a month in the British library trying to put together a complete picture, and when the timeline was published, I received a huge amount of positive feedback from readers who wanted to know more - people of all backgrounds wanted to get copies," Bennett added.
The Guardian in the United Kingdom has also published Bennett's timeline tweaking it to look at black history and the importance of the victory of President Barack Obama of the United States. See: www.guardian.co.uk/black history.
He has also done timelines for the FIFA World Cup held in South Africa, the history of London and the history of the Olympics among others.