Saturday, August 6, 2016

Emancipate your mindset

Jamaica Observer column published Emancipation Day 1 August 2016
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Bob Marley entered a BMW dealership in Florida, and a red jacketed salesman seemed surprised that this Rastaman could be looking so intently at his expensive merchandise.  He asked if he could help and Marley said yes, he wanted to buy a car.  The salesman looked unconvinced and asked him for a bank reference.  This was being witnessed by a young holiday working student from Jamaica, David Mair, now Executive Director of Food for the Poor Jamaica.

David watched the expression of the salesman change during a phone call to the bank, as he discovered the wherewithal of the prospective buyer.  He said Marley noticed too, and laughed.  Then Marley called out to the salesman: “Red jacket! Come here!”  Bob Marley bought two BMWs that day, and taught ‘Red jacket’ a good lesson: emancipate your mindset.

First lady Michelle Obama delivers her speech on the first evening of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Michelle Obama’s was an important Emancipation message last Tuesday evening at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia:
“That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.

“And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”

Donald Trump stayed clear of insulting Michelle Obama after she spoke; there are some people, so superior in dignity and intelligence that you dare not touch them with your itchy little Twitter fingers.

However, Fox news commentator Bill O’Reilly had the nerve to respond that the slaves who built the White House were ‘well fed’ and had decent lodgings, while another cynic asked why she did not mention the white workers. MSNBC show host Joy Reid showed the pay list – the slaves’ wages were paid to their owners, while the white workers were of course paid directly. 

The dim Rush Limbaugh compared slavery to an affair in a marriage, and wondered why it had to be constantly brought up. As we see the news reports of Pope Francis visiting the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in Poland last week, we understand why no cruel injustice of history like slavery or the holocaust must ever be forgotten. We cannot drive safely into the future without a well-angled rear-view mirror. 

As the “Black Lives Matter” movement gains momentum, we realise that there is still a dangerous mindset lingering among some backward Americans.  How else can you explain the actions of that Florida policeman, who shot a therapist with his hands held upwards. This was a black therapist who was trying to rescue a white autistic boy who had left a secure area.  But with a mindset like O’Reilly or Limbaugh, why would anyone believe that this was a black man trying to help a white special needs individual? This is the danger of ‘Trumpism’, where a US presidential candidate can point to someone at an event and refer to him as “my African American”.  If Mr Trump can refer to an American in that way, how does he view people of colour in the developing world? 

Our beloved Jamaica
Members of the Union Garden Foundation pose for a photo with Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites(3rd left).  Shown, from left, are Glen Christian, Marva Christian, Melanie Subratie,  Gary ‘Butch’ Hendrickson, and Simone Murdock.
Members of the Union Garden Foundation pose for a photo with Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites(3rd left). Shown, from left, are Glen Christian, Marva Christian, Melanie Subratie, Gary ‘Butch’ Hendrickson, and Simone Murdock. Photo:
Now, let us look at our beloved Jamaica, and know that we are far ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to racial respect.  Yes, there are the sorry few who believe some of us are not black enough to be truly Jamaican, but we will bless and release them. Meanwhile we see Glen Christian and Butch Hendrickson of African and Chinese ethnicity respectively, joining together to build the model Union Gardens Infant School, complete with school bus. We see our variegated families living lovingly and our church and community groups embracing all comers, who subscribe to peace, tolerance, productivity and decency.

We applaud our political leaders on both sides for cooling down their dialogue, and remind them and their followers, especially those who have received prestigious appointments, that it is the Jamaican taxpayer who is their employer.  Every single person who buys telephone credit is a taxpayer and has a right to the best possible use of their hard earned funds.  We therefore need to be emancipated from corrupt and wasteful public servants. We are still reeling from reports of that ‘golden handshake’, and wondering how the keen public sector auditors that keep descending on a colleague’s rural business employing over 50 low-skilled individuals, could not have caught this bountiful bonus.

Still, we do have some sound benefits from our National Insurance Scheme (NIS), National Housing Trust (NHT), National Health Fund (NHF) and the Jamaica Drug for the Elderly Programme (JADEP).  Unfortunately, too many Jamaicans do not know enough about them to avail themselves of the benefits.  This is where we can all become participants in the emancipation of each other: share information on these schemes, and sign up folks who may not be comfortable with the filling out of various forms. 

As a member of the Judges Panel for the GraceKennedy Household Workers awards, I was impressed with the awareness and participation of the finalists in these various programmes.  Kudos to Jamaica Household Workers Union founder and president Shirley Pryce for educating her members so well. I am asking my media colleagues to encourage household workers to join this empowering organisation.

‘HeForShe’ campaign
It was wonderful to share in the local launch of the ‘HeForShe’ Campaign, created by UN Women, and sponsored by the US, UK, Canada, the European Union and the Digicel Foundation. Prime Minister Andrew Holness who appears in a promotional video with his wife, Member of Parliament Juliet Holness was strong in his endorsement of the campaign which promotes equal rights and pay for women, and rejects any form of violence against women. 

A weary medic related to me the many cases of abused women that arrive for emergency care at the public hospital where she works. Let us be alert to signs of abuse and look out for the mothers, sisters, daughters and friends who are at risk. Master of ceremonies Dr Michael Abrahams shared his heartrending poem of domestic abuse. Usain Bolt’s endorsement of the programme is gold.

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