Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer
MANDEVILLE, Manchester:MARCUS GARVEY'S message of self-reliance and entrepreneurism is not lost on O'Brien Thomas of Mandeville, Manchester.
He has always been involved in one venture or another. Whether it's woodwork, video games, teaching, or car washing, he has always been doing something to make Garvey's vision a reality.
But his efforts to self-actualise, from time to time, have been met with challenges, pitfalls, and hurdles. As he spoke with Rural Xpress recently about his efforts to make something of his life, he related personal anecdotes of some of the things and people he had encountered on his many journeys. Some of them have left a lasting impression on him; others have only served to inspire him.
For every venture that did not last, the Holmwood Technical High School past student has found a way to reinvent himself. Reinvention includes teaching himself accounts, mathematics, and computer programming, all of which he has passed and taught at different levels. And since December last year, Thomas has embarked upon another entrepreneurial project.
It's called GV Diner, and it is located in Nashville Plaza in Mandeville. "Marcus Garvey was all about empowering yourself through enterprise, and this is an enterprise," he said. It is not a restaurant, he made it clear, but a diner offering a variety of fast foods, much of which have an international flavour.
The idea is to offer something different and affordable. "I travelled to different countries, I've seen different types of food, I've seen what people have been eating. I want to bring it here," he explained. It's about variety and choices. Everything is prepared on the spot, and the ingredients are from the local markets and shops, even those for the non-Jamaican meals.
But there is an entertainment twist to GV Diner that most eateries do not have. Again, in keeping with Garvey's vision, GV Diner provides a platform - a stage for people to expose their talent. Regularly on a Friday night, there is a show on the little stage for which there is no cover charge. It's all about giving people in and around Mandeville an opportunity that they would otherwise not have to expose their talents.
Thomas said anyone can take up the opportunity, but people who want to perform must audition first. And should they be successful, there have to be rehearsals before they are allowed to perform as Thomas is into producing high-quality shows. And it is not just about performances. Grooming and oral presentation skills are integral to the package.
So Thomas also trains the performers to speak effectively. This is in keeping with the notion of personal development. "Marcus Garvey wanted us to be rounded, intellectual people," he said. The spoken-word performances are thus very much part of the shows. Garvey himself was regarded as a great orator, and public speaking was a constant in Garvey's liberty halls.
Yet, performers are not allowed to make presentations that encourage hate and discrimination and those that seek to propagate personal ideologies. "I have a standard. One of the things I ask them not to do is to preach. I am not keeping a church ... . My belief is that if you skew it to one's persuasion, you will definitely offend others," he explained.