THE EDITOR, Sir:
I think it's important to reflect deeply on a presentation by one of my heroines, Dr Erna Brodber, at a recent conference in honour of Professor Emeritus Rupert Lewis at the University of the West Indies.
The latter is best known for his pan-African perspective and engagement of the work of Jamaica's first national hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Lewis combined his scholarly work with a refreshing kind of activism, while demonstrating a commitment to his family
A wonderful feature of the conference was the invitation of a group of sixth-form students from Lewis' alma mater, Calabar, to attend and participate. This bridged the yawning gap which is affecting many of our young people who know little of their heritage and who do not understand how to build their present and future lives. Hence, I wish to return to the harrowing and challenging Brodber presentation which is a call to action, not just reflection.
Brodber used the terrible death of a 13-year-old at Anchovy High School at the hands of her former best friend, the brutal, horrifying behaviour of hundreds of uniformed students, the cynicism of the videographer intent on recording the dying moments of his schoolmate for Facebook and YouTube.
As my grandmother used to say, "Lord, have mercy, poor Jamaica." Also identified was the use of indecent language throughout the cacophonous recording and the inaction of the adult male taxi drivers who ply their trade outside the school.
Brodber cited this example of the decline in community, the value systems which now characterise some of our people, and the need for well-thinking people to continue the work of their ancestors, who struggled valiantly to make Jamaica a place to live, work, raise a family, and do business.
She also identified the plight of some youngsters sent to enjoy a better life with parents abroad, who have ended up dead as a result of a combination of reunification problems and the unpreparedness of family abroad to care for these youngsters.
Anchovy is not just the name of a place but somewhere that I lived in the 1960s. I attended the famous Mt Carey Baptist Church and heard the prophetic words of Reverend Greaves. Incidentally, Rupert Lewis, the son of a Baptist minister, the Rev Fergus Lewis, was familiar with that church where he had visited the family of the late Professor Aggrey Brown, whose father was also a Baptist minister.
I followed the rise of Anchovy High School under the visionary principalship of Dr Walton Small, now head of Wolmer's Boys' School, and now this.
I want to join with any group of Jamaicans interested in taking action to ensure that we stop this bloodletting and encouraging the more than 40 per cent of our population
The country has to become committed to respecting its heritage of struggle, tolerance, mutual respect, that would mean that we cannot firebomb a house because the occupants are gay. With Heritage Week having just ended and as we mark National Heroes Day today, this should be a time for families to convene, celebrate, collect themselves and commit themselves to building.
In that way, Heritage Week and Heroes Day will not only be a time for the notables gaining recognition and national honours but a time implied by Dr Brodber's title, 'Blackspace and the Offspring of the Spade'. It is time for healing, for self-love, self-respect, hope and communal action. It is time to build a nation in which the centre is not holding as things are falling apart.