Thursday 22 August, 2019

A view from the outside: Sweet Jamdown calls

                                                                 With Karyl Walker


No matter where I roam, Jamaica is my home, I love the sweet coconut water and white rum – The Austronauts

The latest social media post by Jamaican entertainer Mr Vegas, hit a chord.

It is an undeniable fact that 11 returning residents have been murdered in Jamaica this year and that statistic has resonated negatively with a lot of Jamaicans who live outside the country and harbour hopes of returning to their native land and retiring in comfort; away from the cold and combustible life in other countries.

President of the Jamaica Association for the Resettlement of returning Residents, Percival LaTouche, has since urged Jamaicans in the Diaspora with hopes of resettling in the land of their birth to throw those plans through the window and not return to Jamaica.

Stay away, he says, and save your lives in the winter of your years.

In his social media post, Mr Vegas is eating what appears to be an East Indian mango. He speaks to the concerns of Jamaicans in the Diaspora regarding their safety at home and says: “Them mango yah nah miss unu.”

And he is absolutely correct.

Now, there have been social media posts by the same artiste that I have entirely disagreed with - and wish he would stop making a fool of himself - but, on this issue, Mr Vegas is spot on.

I live in the United States of America and every day that my daughter steps through my front door and heads to her high school in Florida, my heart sinks. I fret, worry and do not feel good until she returns home safe and sound. The reality is that I fear getting a call from the school that there is an active shooter incident and my daughter has been harmed. It is a fear that every parent who has school aged children in this country face on a daily basis.

There are so many incidents of violence in the US. While in Jamaica in September to attend the funeral of the woman who raised me, I was informed that my daughter had to utilise her Jamaican speed on feet to escape a shooting incident at a basketball match that was being held at her school.  Two people were shot (one killed) in that incident and my daughter and her friends sprinted for about five minutes before being picked up by a parent and taken to their respective homes. That had never happened to her in Jamaica.

In his post, Mr Vegas asks if schools and entertainment events are not being shot up by nut jobs in the United States. He is spot on.

For LaTouche to urge those of us living abroad to stay away is disingenuous and unwise.

Make no mistake, I understand where he is coming from. Eleven murders in 2018 alone of people who have toiled hard in the cold and saved their little pittance to build a retirement home in the land of their birth, only to have their lives extinguished by some miscreant is unacceptable. Something must be done to protect those of us who want to live out the winter of our years in the paradise called Jamaica.

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The response from the Government after the murders of two female returning residents recently was a bit delayed and less than satisfactory. It left a bitter taste in the mouths of some of the Jamaicans I interact with here in the US.

However, every coin has three sides. Heads, tails and the round side. It is another way of saying, there are three sides to a story: your side, my side and the truth which lies somewhere in between.

I for one will not turn my back on Jamaica. It is the land of my birth and, if we, as Jamaicans, turn our backs on it then why should we then complain if Mandarin becomes our second language?

As the silly season approaches, I yearn for some sorrel, homemade ginger beer and gungo rice and peas. I long to be where I am most comfortable and can speak in a way that everyone understands and don’t have to be on my guard not to use a tone that everyone will not understand.

Regardless of the high murder rate and gloom and doom stories that emanate from my country, I will not turn my back on Jamaica. I encourage those of us who live abroad not to do that either.

However, Jamaicans must realise that everything is not OK at home and a lot needs to be fixed post haste.

Jamaica can and must do better and stop turning us, who want to come spend the little we have, away.

When me check it out, Lord, No way nuh better dan yard!

That is my view from the outside.

Karyl Walker is a multi-award-winning journalist who has worked for Loop Jamaica, the Jamaica Observer, the RJR Communications Group and Nationwide Radio among other media entities. He now resides in South Florida.

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