Jamaica at 60 St Ann

NAME OF FEATURE | THE GLEANER | MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2022 14 Paul H. Williams/Gleaner Writer WHEN THE Gleaner chanced upon some young men at a ‘cook shop’ in Lime Hall, St Ann, lunch was over the fire and they appeared to be overjoyed that The Gleaner was in the area. They were saying things that gave the impression that they wanted to chat. One was quick to ask about where he could get a banana boat on which to leave Jamaica, as he was living in the wrong country. But, when they saw the camera, the pen and the notebook, they became coy and trailed away to occupy themselveswithother things, including attending to the food they were cooking. However, the eldest among them, KerwinWhittingham, was ready to talk, and he did not mince words. The subject of Jamaica’s political Independence was the first to be broached, and he did not hesitate to say that he would prefer if Britain regained the day-to-day running of Jamaica’s affairs. To him, that would not be a backward step for “even though we are independent, we still have to look towards the Queen and other international bodies” to survive, and we could get the opportunity to travel without restrictions. While the other youths refused to speak on tape and have their pictures taken, at points they stopped and listened, nodding in agreement with Whittingham and echoing some of his words. They are convinced that Independence celebrations are not for the people. Rather, they are a money-making opportunity as the Government itself has no real interest in Independence and “people life a living”. And it is not only about Independence celebrations but nothing that the Government does has any meaning to them. “Culture and entertainment in this country is a joke thing to how dem promote it and represent it … . A just dem friends andmoney in dem pockets it means to dem … . And use the people dem and the country name to gain what they want,” he opined. “When dem come with heart and soul and the people dem see it, dem can get all the support demwant because everybody want to live, everybody want a good life.” It is a sort of daily nonchalance and frustration that they are going through as they said people cannot work with the system as it does not protect and provide for them. The authorities must put laws and structures in place so that the people can live independently and be progressive. “For a country to be independent, we must be independent together … . If the people understandwe are all together in this Independence, we are going tomake sure that everyone is independent.” So, the conversation switched from political Independence, whichmeans nothing to them, to personal independence.“Wehave toknowwhatwe want, we have to have a clear vision because nobody has any vision for us,” he said. “I was born and bred in LimeHall, andwhat is therewas done not by the government, but by the peoplewho are trying touplift themselves … . You see what the youth dema do?Dema sell some food, others farm, do construction, no outside help, no community meeting.” The disillusionment that is rife among them can be changed if they see that the authorities care about them and show some interest, they said. “If it were not for the Government, people would have been around here in woodland in a garbage, no proper water structure, noproper light structure, no Internet, no nothing, you understand. But the peopledemroundhere see that dem cannot live like animal, so demclean up demplace and do what dem can do fi earn a living. Left to the authorities, people would live like dog,” Whittingham stated. To deal with the stress, they said, they smoke, take their minds off things, show love and take care of one another in their own spirit of independence. “Memba say we live together roundyahso….Wehave to understand say the system is against us so we have to be together … . Sometimes the pressure gets hard, and certain tings gwaan, and it escalate, butpeople realised thatwar isnot theanswer, violence isnot theanswer,” Whittinghamstated emphatically. On the subject of a possible food shortage, and the popular axiom about ‘eat what your grow and grow what you eat’, they were particularly vocal, for, with so much idle lands and hands, they said the Government is doing nothing to mitigate the former and live up to the latter. They want: lands on which to farm; support structures put in place; Government to educate, train and mobilise the farmers; and to hold people in charge accountable. Another youth scoffed at the concept of Vision 2030, saying too much emphasis is on crime-fighting and not on skills training and education. There is a general neglect of the youths in the communities. Their struggles are real and, because opportunities are limited, they are tempted “to go steal and scam”. “This country can be the best country in the world, Vision 2030 as dem say, but only if dem a come clean and straight. Yuh see if corruption ina it, a pure judgement…. Dem affi care for and structure the people them the right way… and den it will happen for 2030… . That is why we have a government, to give people a sense of independence because … once you give them a sense of independence, you are giving them hope,”Whittingham philosophised. ‘Give us land and structures’ Kerwin Whittingham says Lime Hall, St Ann, would he be a better place should he be given the chance to run it. A youth in Lime Hall, St Ann selling food to eke out a living. PHOTOS BY PAUL H. WILLIAMS jamaica at JAMAICA AT 60: ST ANN