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16-month wait for Garvey - Plans to restore hero's birthplace unclear

Published:Saturday | February 16, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Marcus Garvey's birthplace in St Ann.
A sign erected at Marcus Garvey's birthplace.

Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer


SIXTEEN MONTHS after then Prime Minister Bruce Golding broke ground in October 2011 to signal the start of the restoration of the birthplace of National Hero Marcus Garvey at 32 Market Street in St Ann's Bay, the property remains untouched.

Restoration was expected to begin that month and be completed in time for Heroes Week 2012. The project was slated to be financed by the CHASE Fund. Restoration was to be done in accordance with plans by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT). The project was listed as one of the Jamaica 50 legacy projects.

At the time, no figure was mentioned for the cost of the project. Sources say, however, that the cost was put at $22 million.

But instead of restoration, the 126-year-old structure is now showing signs of instability.

The delay has prompted the Marcus Garvey People's Political Party (MGPPP) to seek from the Government a clear indication of what the plans are for the property.

In a release, vice-president of the MGPPP, Devon Evans, has described the situation as "most shameful and an insult to the followers of Garvey".

Evans said the MGPPP wants Minister of Culture Lisa Hanna to say if the project has been abandoned, given the delay in starting. He also chided Member of Parliament Shahine Robinson for what he said was a lack of interest on her part in preserving the life and works of Marcus Garvey by not speaking out about the matter.

On Wednesday, Coleen Johnson, daughter of Oswald Johnson, Garvey's great-grandson, told The Gleaner that nothing had happened since October 2011.

"I was born here and I reside here. Since the announcement, nothing has happened, nothing. We don't hear nothing, and we don't see anybody follow up. I don't know what's happening since the change of government," Johnson said.

Johnson said she was even more concerned as the building is showing signs of shifting on its blocks.

According to Johnson: "Our relocation and the restoration supposed to be in progress, but we're in limbo right now because we don't know what is going on. To make matters worse, the house is very old. The house is going down; it's leaning. I was planning to go to my attorney to let him write to JNHT to let them speed up the process, or do something; because we can't touch it. We cannot put anything there, and we cannot pull anything from it. We are restricted. But the house is lean, it's going down, and one day it will just fall."

A source told The Gleaner that the delay might have occurred because a lawyer was retained by the family to represent them in negotiations with the JNHT.