Saturday, December 26, 2015

All they want for Christmas – Respect!

Observer column for MON 21 Dec 2015
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

 If we were to sum up that Christmas message of “Peace on earth, goodwill to all” in one word, that word would be: Respect.  It was research done by sociologist Horace Levy and his team in our inner city communities, that revealed the longing of these humble folks for respect.  The UWI publication (2001), “They cry ‘respect’!” explores Levy’s conversations with these Jamaicans, as they call for our acknowledgement and affirmation.
The shining stars of the recent ‘Respect Jamaica’ campaign are young people from some of these very communities, who have been dubbed ‘Respect Ambassadors’, and last Monday they proved how well the title suited them. Recruited and trained by the Respect Jamaica team, supported by 30 leading corporations, we were refreshed by the passion and creative activities of these young people, ages 18-25.
Neville Charlton emerged Ambassador of the Year. Neville founded the Positive Organization, a non- profit organization that aims to empower and energize Jamaicans to believe in their ability to drive positive change, and volunteerism. He currently mentors youth residents of the Tivoli Gardens Police youth club.

Young Jherane Patmore won the Project Award for her resolve to ‘Kick out Gender Based Violence’. She helped to organise a public forum addressed on gender based violence in the Caribbean and engaged social media supporters with the popular hashtag #KickOutGBV.
The quiet but determined Joel Lee Bishop, is champion Volunteer. Her work with the Positive Organization and the Respect movement, has seen her championing the youth vote at the Y-Klick National Youth Summit and leading a beach clean-up at Robin’s Bay, St. Mary.

Dynamic Chad Morgan told us that, “No matter how much you are doing, you can still do more.” The UWI international relations student copped the Commitment Award for mentoring members of Duhaney Park Police Youth Club and helping to coordinate an educational and empowering field trip for 50 male students of the Cockburn Primary and Junior High.

Tina Renier of Barbary Hill in Lucea, Hanover received the Shining Star award. I heard this articulate UWI student  giving a powerful motivational speech about the programme at the Launch of FiWi Jamaica at UTECH in August of this year. Elton Johnson is developing into a social media star, and copped an award for his activity. His Yuh Zeen! blog promotes progressive-thinking and national development. A Montego Bay resident, Elton presides over lively Twitter chats, especially as he promotes the youth vote.

The ardent, yet respectful manner of these young persons is in direct contrast to the tone of our leaders on the campaign platforms.  There is nothing wrong with the drama, and well-chosen musical selections as these add colour to campaigning; however, we have to draw the line when the campaigner descends into disrespect. 
Political tribalism promotes disrespect for those who may not agree with one’s choice of party, and our young people are subject to insults and worse if they happen to live on the ‘wrong’ side of the street. Disrespect is the motto of the garrison, where citizens are seen as only two-legged votes.  As our top corporates dedicate their millions to the Respect campaign, let us hope our political leaders will make the effort to stay respectful, even as they enjoy the cut and thrust of representational politics.

The 51% Coalition and The Workplace
We had an amazing “Tea and Talk” with the 51% Coalition last Tuesday, as we delved into the topic, “Our Understanding of Human Rights and how it applies to our Work”.  We realised that there were issues of gender, politics, sexual orientation, and ageism at the workplace.  In my contribution, I mentioned that many of us are so acculturated that we don’t even realise the negative attitude we may have towards certain persons. 
It was a star-studded evening: Chairman Merline Daley, discussion leader Joan French, Nikki Sewell Lewis, Linette Vassell, Judith Wedderburn and Nicole Williams shared the programme and helped us crystallise the issues.  Rev Marjorie Lewis and Carrolle Narcisse were invaluable to our group, led by Tanesha Caine.
We realised that gender-based violence had become so ingrained in our society, that we were at danger level.  We acknowledged that sexual harassment at the workplace continues to haunt many. Women who have to be balancing raising families and pursuing careers are suffering from a serious type of poverty: TIME poverty! 
We also discussed the issue of ageism – judging co-workers as “too young” or “too old” for a job without objective assessment.  In the case of sexual orientation, it appeared to be unanimous that as long as this did not interfere with an individual’s productivity, it was absolutely none of our business.
We concluded that we should be more aware of our biases so we can conquer them, that we should use hard data instead of rushing to judgment, and that we should step up as advocates for a more respectful and open-minded approach to our workplace colleagues.  Now isn’t that a great New Year’s resolution?

Hard-working JPs
We enjoyed the St Andrew JPs Annual Awards where we saw so many great achievers who still make the time to serve as Justices of the Peace and Lay Magistrates.  I remember the strict Lay Magistrate training led by retired Justice Noel Irving – as bright as we thought we were, Justice Irving would punch holes into our arguments.  We made a presentation to Retired Custos Marigold Harding who was a model of efficiency and generosity.  Our recently retired Custos Donna Parchment-Brown was very supportive during her short stint, as she retired after it was announced that she would be serving as Jamaica’s political Ombudsman.
Later in the week, we happened on a large operation at the Kingston Bookshop Headquarters, led by Kingston Custos Steadman Fuller. He, fellow JPs, KPH SMO Natalie Whylie, Town Clerk Robert Hill and several other members stage an annual treat for the families of prisoners in the Tower Street Correctional Centre.  They also made special packages for the ‘abandoned prisoners’ – Custos Steadman explained that these are men who have not seen one relative since they were locked up.  “Some suffer from depression,” he explained. “So we are trying to reach out to them.”

Special love for our seniors
We collected scores of gifts from members of CCRP (Caribbean Community of Retired Persons) and delivered them to the grateful hands of residents of the Golden Age Home. The collection was made at our annual social, serenaded by the smooth Boris Gardiner.  Boris and his wife Andrea are so warm, yet professional.  Boris had many encores as our members declared him “Better than ever!” The ever-generous Michael Fraser and Sagicor and our perennial sponsor, PROComm, made it a memorable afternoon.

Then we attended a Mass on Saturday, conducted by Archbishop Charles Dufour at the beautifully renovated Chapel at the Ozanam Home on Mannings Hill Road.  The insightful Archbishop asked us to visit the elderly residents before we left.  What an inspiring exercise – the smiles, the sharing – we enjoyed the company, and salute Hazel Burnett, who received an award for 25 years of service to Ozanam

Season's Greetings to you all, dear readers!

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