Letter of the Day | Raising national pride from our history
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Recently, I had the opportunity with my family to visit one of Jamaica’s historical sites, a former sugar plantation in Trelawny, where in 2019 we continue to perpetuate the emotional distress found in the history written for us, as was evidenced in the well-rehearsed, regurgitative pain of the young lady giving the tour in outlining the benevolence of the plantation owner or overseer.
There was nary a sentence on how the slaves, maybe a direct ancestor of the tour guide from the same community, survived the daily drudge of work without pay, what they ate, where they slept, how they cared for their children, how many died over the years of enslavement on the plantation, where are they buried, what were the punishment meted out, what medicines did they use, what was their house like.
Instead, the focus was on the benefits of the ill-gotten gains and prestige housed in the majestic plantation buildings, where the oppressors entertained, how they got the land from the Crown, how well-constructed the plantation great house was, how cool it was, and where the various spouses came from.
We are left pondering why a lot of our young men in the Jamaican society today pursue a dishonest path via a different medium. Maybe in 200 years it’s them that will be glorified in Jamaican history as we subconsciously, or deliberately, validate that crime pays.
I would hope that this will not be the case, and, as such, am proposing the following;
1. The Ministry of Sport and Culture develop a national policy governing the information on all Jamaican historic or heritage sites in order to have consistent content that adds value to the descendants of enslaved people, thus raising the self-worth and pride of every Jamaican.2. The Ministry of Sport and Culture, in collaboration with The University of the West Indies (UWI) Department of History, develop a research-based narrative for all historic/heritage sites, whether public or privately owned in Jamaica, showcasing the resilience of the people enslaved for 400 years, and with the plantation owners becoming a footnote.
3. Tourism stakeholders, specifically the private property owners of historical site who benefit from public funds in the advertising of Brand Jamaica, be mandated to use the narrative provided by the ministry. If unwilling, then to recover advertising expenditure, a cess be imposed on that entity.
4. Funds from the Tourism Enhancement Fund be used to fund two scholarships per year for the next 10 years and one year for postgraduate students in the UWI Department of History. Their postgraduate work has to be centred on the analysis of some facet of the lives of the African enslaved and Indian indentured labourers in Jamaica. This, then, would be used to update narratives for tour guides on Jamaica heritage sites.