Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Reflections of a Jamaican Father

 


By Donald J. Harris


Reflections of a Jamaican Father By Donald J. Harris As a child growing up in Jamaica, I often heard it said, by my parents and family friends: “memba whe yu cum fram”. To this day, I continue to retain the deep social awareness and strong sense of identity which that grassroots Jamaican philosophy fed in me. As a father, I naturally sought to develop the same sensibility in my two daughters. Born and bred in America, Kamala was the first in line to have it planted.

Maya came two years later and had the advantage of an older sibling as mentor. It is for them to say truthfully now, not me, what if anything of value they carried from that early experience into adulthood. My one big regret is that they did not come to know very well the two most influential women in my life: “Miss Chrishy” and “Miss Iris” (as everybody called them). This is, in many ways, a story about these women and the heritage they gave us.

My roots go back, within my lifetime, to my paternal grandmother Miss Chrishy (née Christiana Brown, descendant of Hamilton Brown who is on record as plantation and slave owner and founder of Brown’s Town) and to my maternal grandmother Miss Iris (née Iris Finegan, farmer and educator, from Aenon Town and Inverness, ancestry unknown to me). The Harris name comes from my paternal grandfather Joseph Alexander Harris, land-owner and agricultural ‘produce’ exporter (mostly pimento or all-spice), who died in 1939 one year after I was born and is buried in the church yard of the magnificent Anglican Church which Hamilton Brown built in Brown’s Town (and where, as a child, I learned the catechism, was baptized and confirmed, and served as an acolyte). Both of my grandmothers had the strongest influence on my early upbringing (“not to exclude, of course, the influence of my dear mother” Miss Beryl” and loving father “Maas Oscar”).

 Miss Chrishy was the disciplinarian, reserved and stern in look, firm with ‘the strap’, but capable of the most endearing and genuine acts of love, affection, and care. She sparked my interest in economics and politics simply by my observing and listening to her in her daily routine. She owned and operated the popular ‘dry-goods store’ on the busy main street leading away from the famous market in the centre of Brown’s Town. Every day after school, I would go to her shop to wait for the drive home to Orange Hill after she closed the shop.

It was here that she was in her groove, while engaged in lively and sometimes intense conversation with all who came into the shop about issues of the day. Business was front and centre for her, a profession and a family tradition that she embodied and carried with purpose, commitment, pride, and dignity (next to her devotion to the church that, as she often said, her ancestor built). She never paid much attention to the business of the farm at Orange Hill. Her sons took care of that side of the family business.

Her constant focus was on issues that affected her business of buying and selling imported ‘dry goods’ as well as the cost of living, issues that required understanding and keeping up with the news – a task which she pursued with gusto. She was also fully in charge of ‘domestic affairs’ in our home and, of course, had raised eight children of her own at an earlier age. There was a daily diet of politics as well. She was a great admirer of ‘Busta’ (Sir William Alexander Bustamante, then Chief Minister in the colonial government and leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

She claimed, with conviction and pride, to be a “Labourite” (as members of the JLP were called) and for the interesting reason that, as she argued, “labour is at the heart of everything in life”. Little did I know then, what I learned later in studying economics, that my grandmother was espousing her independently discovered version of a Labour Theory of Value! Her philanthropic side shone through every Easter and Christmas when she had my sister Enid and me package bun and cheese (a favourite Jamaican Easter fare) and other goodies in little boxes that we carried and delivered to families living in the area around our home. She died in 1951 at the age of 70.

Her departure left me, then only fourteen, with a deep sense of sadness and loss. Miss Iris, mother of eight children too, was the sweetest and gentlest person one could meet, but underneath it was a tough farming woman who ran the cane farm at Thatch Walk (near Aenon Town) jointly owned with her husband “Mr Christie”. She was always ready to go to church on Sunday to preach and teach about the “Revelations” she saw approaching the world at that time (during and after World War II) in accord with the Bible. I spent summers with her, roaming around the cane field, fascinated by the mechanical operation of cane ‘juicing’ by the old method (a wooden pole extended out from the grinding machine and tied to a mule walking round and round to grind the cane), and eager to drink a cup of the juice caught directly from the juice flowing into the vat to be boiled and crystallized as ‘raw sugar’.

No Coke or Pepsi could beat the taste of that fresh cane juice! It was a joy and a learning experience for me to hang out with the workers on the cane farm, see them wield a ‘cutlass’ (the machete) with such flourish and finesse, listen to their stories of exploits (some too x-rated for me to repeat), and sit with them as they prepared their meal by putting everything in one big ‘Dutch’ pot, cooking it over an open fire in the field and serving it out on a big banana leaf for all of us to eat sitting there. Looking back now I can say, with certainty and all due credit to Miss Iris, that it was this early intimate exposure to operation of the sugar industry at the local level of small-scale production with family labour and free wage-labour, coupled with my growing curiosity about how these things came to be, that led me, once I started reading about the history of Jamaica, to a closer study of the sugar industry.

I came then to understand its origin as a system of global production and commerce, based on slave labour, with Jamaica as a key component of that system from its very start. Miss Iris died in 1981 at the grand old age of 93 and I grieved over the loss of someone so dear and close to me. She is shown here in photo (taken by me in 1966), just back from church, proudly holding in her lap little Kamala, and confident in her firm prediction even then of the future achievements of her great-granddaughter (after giving her ‘blessings’ by making a cross with her finger on the child’s forehead)

click on this link: https://bit.ly/3iGbQLW

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Natalee’s letter


Written by Natalie Clark Richards

www.Loveoutloud.llc



 During this time of global pandemic where COVID-19 has caused us to literally go inward. I imagine I have at least one person who is doing some inner reflection and having great memories of sweet, sweet Jamaica. Like myself, you are grateful for all the lessons and fun over the years. During self-reflection, I wrote her this letter.

Dear Jamaica,

I truly miss you; I reminisce on the days I grew up in the hills of St. Ann. I would wake up before the sun rises, and watch its entrance over the majestic mountains, listen to the birds sing, the butterflies flutter by, the smell of the fresh morning dew and the harmony of nature.

I love how relaxed and at peace I feel when I spend time with you. You truly know how to calm my spirit and set my mind at ease. Jamaica, when I spend time with you all I see is abundance. You are creative, vibrant, joyful and have a divine spirit. These are the same sentiments I seek within me and share with the world. Thank you for teaching me, and showing me, I already have that which I seek.

Jamaica, I love you so much, being away I am able to see your true strength. You are resilient, creative, confident, bold and courageous. You stand tall and own your beauty, you know you were meant to be here, to share your love with others and also tell them of their beauty and courage.

I know you have had some challenges, we all do. I am always captivated by your ability to rise above the challenges, to keep going and reaching toward your goal. When I am apprehensive, I am also reminded of my exceptional ability within me to rise above and grow through to new opportunities.

Jamaica, I love you! I am overjoyed to say I really know what it means to say No weh no betta dan yaad! No problem man! Nuff respect!

If you have never been to my Island, or it has been a while since you have soaked up her beauty. You owe yourself a travel treat. Enjoy & One Love! 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

"Racism”

 


In my book, "Leave The Rat Race To The Rats", I deal extensively with racism from a very unique perspective. I blame racism on what Occupy Wall Street refer to as the 1%, the richest one per cent of America who dominate American politics. Instead of calling them the 1%, I refer to them as American Supremacists. Here is an excerpt on racism from my book:

 "Racism

 Blacks have been and continue to be the victims of racism in America. It is worst in the ghetto. They have suffered at the hands of whites. Even today there is still hostility between blacks and whites because of this. But alas, most people have missed the big picture. Racism is unnatural. Black and white kids play together to grow up as enemies. Why? Because as Rodgers and Hammerstein points out in “South Pacific”, “you have to be carefully taught, you have to be carefully taught”. Racism has not only been carefully taught, but it has been promoted and exploited for political gain by the 1%, the American Supremacists. Even the worst crime committed against black people, slavery, was not done for the benefit of white people. It was done for the benefit of the 1%. Lots of white people lost their jobs to slaves, just like lots of Americans are losing their jobs to near slave labor overseas.

 Many white people think these promoters of white supremacy and white privilege care about them. What folly! Do these American Supremacists care that millions of white people do not have basic healthcare? Do these American Supremacists care that jobs for white Americans are being sent overseas wholesale? Do these American Supremacists care that millions of white workers do not make a living wage? Do they care that millions of white workers are losing their full-time jobs to become part-time, thus losing job benefits like pensions, promotion opportunities, job security, vacation and sick leave? Not only do they not care, but they oppose them. They do not care about black people but they do not care about white people either. The way to fight racism is to fight divide and conquer. Too often fighting racism worsens conditions between white and blacks to the delight of the 1%. The solution lies in the goodwill-to-all revolution. The solution lies in the pursuit of goodwill towards all. In the ghetto, we will seek to use the goodwill revolution to eliminate racism. All America will be next."





 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Declaration of Freedom



Alphonso McGriff

I’ve got no GURANTEES for NOBODY. If we cross paths and enjoy some time, then wonderful I’m having GREAT CHALLENGES with meeting EXPECTATIONS of myself and COMMITMENTS to myself. I CAN NO LONGER LIE to YOU with the idea of meeting YOUR anticipated expectations and commitments from ME…too impossible, too unreasonable, and too stressful

~

TIME don’t give one single damn about how we use it. IT’S GOING TO PASS REGARDLESS.

~

I have chosen to ENJOY TIME such as much as possible. YOU wanna’ ROLL? That’s cool, If not, then that’s cool also, but EXPECT to be DISAPOINTED if there is any hope that I am going to attempt MEET YOU EXPECTATIONS of ME. That’s OVER.

~

Call it SELFISH. Call it WEAK. Call it INSENSITIVE. If that works for YOU, then that’s BEAUTIFUL. But Imma’ do what works for ME ‘cause there is NOTHING more IMPORTANT in this entire existence than HOW I FEEL ‘BOUT ME.

~

…nothing


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

MONEY






The goal of all entrepreneurs is to service a want or desire. If you can find out want your market wants or needs, the money will come into your hands. What is money? Memorize this acronym:

M- My brand

O- Own the message

N-Natural emotion

E-Energy in product

Y- Yield profits

Monday, June 1, 2020

FOCUS




As an entrepreneur, we will have to be cook, bottle washer, and waiter in the early stages. However, you must have mini goals for each position or everything will be pointless. For example, if my goal is to open a culture center for the community, one must be focused. Otherwise, the project cannot be achieved. We have to develop relationships with others.

 We choose our partnerships carefully to be in harmony. As visionaries we belong to a specific community and our closest fellowships should be on the same accord. Mavericks must never forget our objectives; we are innovators for the futures. What is the definition of focus: 

*Follow 

*One

* Course

* Unit

* Successfully


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

THE GOOD OLE JAMAICAN DAYS MEMBA WHEN (Remember When?) Part 4







1.       Memba a go undaneat the cellar fi the fowl egg (yes I do)

2.       Memba playing "Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack, All Dressed In Black Black Black"

3.       Memba a kick foot ball wid yu fren dem roun' a ball grong

4.       Memba when Cristmus come and we watch JohnCunu jump up and down and we get fraid?

5.       Memba yu madda sen yu go a shop and yu sing the list all the way deh ... "one pint milk, one bread, 1 lb a flour. But when yu reach deh, yu tell the shop keeper yu want "1 pint of bread, 1 lb of milk & a flour

6.       Memba when yu last yu madda money and yu fraid fi go back home because she might beat yu

7.       Memba settin up the roosta dem fi fight

8.       Memba all dem good duppy story, and nancy story wi 'ear growing up

9.       Memba how yu use to fraid fi walk a night cause yu tink sey black-heart-man woulda tek yu weh

1.   Memba when bokkle cut yu foot bottam dung a gully

1.   Memba when yu use to stone Missa Smith mango tree dem, and we use to tink seh him have gun

1.   Memba when yu left all day and go a rivva an go cook and when yu come come yu get a beaten

.   Memba when yu unifarm get dirty Monday marning, and Yu madda beat yu ina di evening