WASHINGTON, DC – Jamaica continues to enjoy the benefit of a strong national spirit. It is a spirit that nourishes unmatched popular music talent, nurtures athletic and intellectual prowess, and cultivates a sense of determination in the face of economic and social difficulties.
Pause, for example, to consider our national love for track and field glory: which country of comparable size can boast our cavalcade of Olympian and world-beating successes over the years? We delight in the exploits of today’s champions who lift our spirits by their commitment and success, and we give glory to the legacy on which our international achievements are constructed. At the same time, our national athleticism is built on an important foundation of broad participation, through the Boys and Girls Championships, frequent track and field meetings, and school planning from the earliest levels.
And so it is with sports, so too it is with music, an area in which stars from the rocksteady, ska, reggae and dance hall era have defined us a people and delighted the world with our culture: Bob Marley and the Wailers, the I-Threes, Singa D Brown, U-Roy, Gregory Isaacs, Delroy Wilson, Sugar Minott, Alton Ellis, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, Cynthia Schloss, Tessanne Chin, Eric Donaldson, and a long stream of other exemplars of musical excellence from our homeland.
This excellence also manifests itself in literary pursuits. Our poets and playwrights, novelists and journalists, essayists and editors, invite us daily into the community of words. From another long list of achievers, today we can note, among others, Trevor Rhone, Louise Bennett, Poet Laureate Mervyn Morris, Edward Baugh, Lorna Goodison, Kwame Dawes, Erna Brodber, Curdella Forbes, Jean “Binta” Breeze, Frances Coke, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Olive Senior, Beverly East, and Basil Bryan, as stars of the literary firmament. Our writers remind of the gunshot trilogy of death, disease and debt that is present in our lives, even as their words provide the balm of humour, elegance, knowledge and grace.
As we celebrate the 52nd Anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence, let us recall the capacity of This Jamaica, My Jamaica, to lift our spirits, calm our nerves, and strengthen our resolve. In times of joy, and times of sorrow, may patriotism and love of country help us to build on the collective effort of nation-building.