Wednesday, March 12, 2014

‘Out of Many One’ strong

Observer column for MON 10 March 2014 by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Jamaica's Nobel Laureate Prof Anthony Chen - honoured by CCRP Jamaica as a Living Legacy in Jamaica's 50th Anniversary celebrations
Professor Anthony Chen’s address at the re-opening of the Chinese Cultural Association (CCA) last Sunday received a good deal of coverage because of his comments on the proposed Goat Island development.  Although Prof Chen expressed his disapproval of a proposed coal-powered electricity generation plant, he explained that he would not object to the Goat Island project, “as long as all the proper procedures are carried out to satisfaction.”
Prof Chen noted recent negative comments about Chinese in Jamaica. “To be clear I am not referring to genuine concerns of some of those who are worried about the environment,” said the Professor who was part of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for the Environment with Al Gore. “I am referring to the antagonism that would not be there if a USA or UK firm were making the Goat Island proposal.  The antagonists have been swayed by propaganda both locally and internationally.”

Prof Chen reminded us of the significance of Chinese ancestry in Jamaica. He said that although official figures may number Jamaicans of Chinese ancestry in mere thousands, there are many tens of thousands of Jamaicans who are mixed-race. “At CBA last year I recall meeting Paula Madison, the owner of the Africa Channel, who is of mixed Chinese ancestry,” he said. “She travelled to China to discover her Chinese roots and was warmly and enthusiastically welcomed to her village, to the extent that she was invited to visit again the following year for a family celebration.”
Gloria Palomino - Gleaner photo
This reminded me of a story from my friend Gloria Palomino who said when she visited a village in Guangdong and some residents found out she was from Jamaica, out came dozens of African-looking folks who spoke Hakka.  It turned out that they were of mixed Jamaican parentage, born here and sent to China study the culture, but there were no funds to take them back home to Jamaica.  So there they remain to this day, hungry for news of the homeland to which they were never able to return!

But back to the Chinese Cultural Association.  It is located at 22 Barbican Road, next to Orchid Plaza, and its library has many important publications donated by Ambassador Dong, who graciously opened the centre.  It differs from the Chinese Benevolent Association whose emphasis is outreach and limits membership only to those of Chinese ancestry.  Membership in the CCA is open to all Jamaicans.

Tessanne at the White House

Although I believe Jamaica is one of the most racially harmonious countries in the world, there are the ignorant few that hold backward and hurtful views. And so when my Alpha classmates of Chinese ancestry went “Tessanne crazy” last year, I could understand how proud they felt that finally one of their own was allowed unconditionally to wave our flag high, and was embraced unreservedly on that exciting night when she became NBC’s “The Voice” for 2013.  At that Digicel Homecoming concert at the Waterfront, Tessanne shed tears when she felt the love of the jubilant thousands.
As if that were not enough, our Tessanne and her handsome husband Michael Anthony Cuffe Jr were invited by that conscious First Lady Michelle Obama, to participate in the “Women of Soul: Performance at the White House” last Thursday.  What an amazing honour for Jamaica’s young star! We will never forget what she said to Adam Levine about wanting to give her best to “Redemption Song”: “It is an important song for my people.”  Hear that people?  So let us not allow anyone to divide us. Let’s stay “Out of Many One” strong.

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