Sun | Sep 24, 2023

'So much things to say'

Published:Thursday | May 27, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

When people refer to crime in Jamaica, they often use the metaphor of cancer. Cancer is, of course, a frightening illness, one that often requires radical surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. The pain of the sickness is sometimes easier to bear than the pain of the cure.

If we think of the Jamaican political body as suffering, and the police and military action in west Kingston as a drastic but needed protocol that we hope will be worth it in the end, we must also allow ourselves to consider something else. What are we going to do in this long period of healing? Are we going to hang on, just happy to be breathing, or are we going to live?

As the founder and artistic director of the Calabash International Literary Festival, these questions are not just philosophical ones. They are questions that remind me of those being put forward daily by members of the local and international media. Is Calabash still going to go on? My answer is yes.

Create joy

Look, there will always be crises. There will always be pain. But joy isn't something guaranteed. Joy is something we create.

Like the woman who decides to dance salsa after coming through a mastectomy or the man who decides to pick up the guitar again after his prostate is gone, or the little boy who decides to learn to write left handed after his right hand is gone, we the people of this great nation can choose to look at this moment in history as the end of one era or the beginning of the next.

I am inviting each and every Jamaican at home and abroad to use this crisis as a moment of decision. I am inviting you to recognise the source of all the millions of blessings that are yours every day, to see the gift in all that you would think of as a lost privilege if it were taken away.

West Kingston is part of Jamaica, but so is Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth. The two are 85 miles apart. Both of them are yours.

The writers and performers who agreed to come to Calabash are flying in from all corners of the planet, and driving in from all parts of the country to be with you this weekend despite the news. As I am writing this, I was notified that Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka from Nigeria has just landed in Montego Bay.

Secure in commitment

Yes, some of the invited guests were a bit fearful. But our commitment to our own joy, our commitment to going ahead with this celebration of all that is good about Jamaica even if they stayed away made us seem fearless, made them feel secure enough to come.

The source of our commitment is no secret. The festival is nothing less than the distillation of the finest qualities of the Jamaican spirit blended and aged to perfection. We begin each day with a sip of it from a little gourd.

Jamaica, we've come too far as a nation. We can't turn back now. We can't settle for hanging on. We are in pain. We are weak. But life itself is a blessing. To be able to read and write and dance and say, "I love you" or "Hail the man" is a privilege. We must LIVE.

One world. One love.

I am, etc.,


Founder & Artistic Director

The Calabash International

Literary Festival Trust