The color of governance in Jamaica: Choosing between a rock and a hard place:


The election bag:

On September 3, 2020, the island of about three million people will decide to replace the locks or give back the keys and what party color they will hang for at least four more years as voters contemplate countless economic issues.

Economic pressure, unanswered promises, growing or shrinking economy, high or low unemployment, climate change, economic mobility, stagnation, who is less or more corrupted- high, low crime, how many murdered under what party, prosperity, poverty, a widening gap between the have vs. have-nots, high or reduced taxes.

COVID-19 Pandemic, accountability of funds, old-new manifesto, but who is accurately counting depending on one’s political side. They will perceive these issues through the political glass, either half-full or empty.

Because of concern amid COVID-19, many voters and party officials questioned the timing, but prime minister Andrew Holness of the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) seized the moment observing favorable poll numbers called for an election hoping for another 4 years to extend and tackle the socio-economic and crime dents that have been inside these communities’ neglected paint shop for many years.

An earlier Nationwide radio poll noted that about 64% believe that the Holness administration is corrupted, but maybe better to manage corruption. This report is suggestive in that, it is better to have these foxes guard the hen-house. This election continues to be about had they, should have, could have, maybe, and perhaps, and the past.

Once the whistle of the election rang, the two leaders, the players, immediately activated on a non-stop color media bliss taunting the progress or lack thereof. COVID-19 social distancing as it seems relegated to the back burner of a nationwide political campaign.

Unfortunately, no matter the circumstances, justification, rationalization, or excuses, bad things invariably follow if the life of a country is put at risk for personal gain.

This election debates for changing the economic tires, refueling these communities, repairing broken parts to get one of these two drivers the winning flag may simply come down to what side telling the truth or to a greater degree better at covering up the truth as the island battle for its soul consistency looking good governance.

Jamaica’s local politics typically operate like a contact sport where only the fittest survive. After the political colorful game is over, the economic strain will continue with injured community players sidelined from lost jobs to navigating students who may face distance learning in rural areas without resources.

Maybe same cars; different colors?

Peoples National Party (PNP)
Jamaica Labour Party (JLP)

Whether Dr. Peter Phillips, the opposition leader of the (People National Party (PNP) agrees with the election call. It is a delicate balance asking locals who have been neglected to purchase another ticket regarding their economic future. Both vessels with an upgraded soundtrack arguing better days are ahead while accusing the other are in the same murky water.

Any party that loses is more than likely, that leadership will take the entire crew into an iceberg. The tribal toxicity in these campaigns leaves little room for compromise, even if the messenger on the other side has a good plan.

For the leader that will emerge, rebuilding will continue to be a challenge. COVID-19, economic stagnation, crime, poverty, and yes, COVID-19 Blame Game Is Going to Get Uglier as this pandemic in an election will ruthlessly be exploited at the cost of people’s lives.

Chinese coronavirus 2019-nCov under the microscope. 3d illustration

The pandemic also provides a cushion to deflect the direct economic decline that has seen several local businesses closed, massive layoffs as the service industry took a direct hit from reduced vacations, which is a vital portion of the island’s GDP. But in all fairness, it has caused a global shutdown of the global economies, but it also exposed how fragile these shores were.

Today, likely voters are stuck between a rock and a complex place. It may be from COVID-19 fear, easy access to polling stations for seniors, or from abandoned hope and trust may stay home. Jamaica will rise and can do better, but whose less tainted, or carries a permanent stain to continue navigating these ostentatious waters, roads, and hills.

 However, this fight should be about the nation’s future, environmental issues, actual trade deficit, balance sheet, investments, especially for the youths, and other key economic indicators for Jamaica’s real economic stability that will benefit all.

Will everybody love and benefit from the finished piece?

Bob Marley

The reality is as it seems; one side blemished, the other imperfect, while the downtrodden are constantly being squeezed from decades of promises, distrust, and inadequate management, lack of up upward mobility as many argued that only political leaders seem to be the exclusive ones getting ahead

An incumbent has an upper hand, and people may stick to the putrefaction because weeding through political tribalism is difficult and where governmental power is seldom based on real accomplishments, but personal time served in a cabinet and popularity, resources to paint a better picture than the reality.

This showdown may not come down to who won the debates; or command of what the nation’s needs are. The sole question communities should ask during this political showdown is, are they better off today, or foresee a future for the next generation. However, this election may come down to one issue, “safety,” which is a public health problem.

What is certain, the party that wins will need to have a majority because there is no room for compromise, even if the messenger on the other side may have a friendly message. It is more than likely, the losing leader will take his ship into an iceberg with down-ballot candidates?

The missing color:

It seems, “Out of Many One People” get cast aside when voters are whipped into a desperate frenzy, pitting communities against each other for temporary feel-good while the youths, downtrodden, teachers, law enforcement, public safety victims of crime, small businesses, and a vanished more educated middle class inside the body shop hoping someone fixes their dents from years of neglect and bumps.

After all colorful battles, these political parties should operate like primary colors where leaders can combine both sides to produce an excellent portrait. Continuous political fighting only makes it difficult to govern and paints a picture for a more promising future.

Jamaica’s prosperity is not the best beat on the street though it has its cultural significance; it is a single unemployed mother, dad, sons, daughters, cousins, grandparents, uncle on the hill debating if they should dance because after the music stops, what next?

“The rhythms being played may change, but on same vinyl, one argued.

Many argue that politics there, and in other poverty-stricken and developing countries, is like some aspects of the Chinese investments. They come to extract the minerals, and other natural resources and return cheap goods. However, what will change, not much.

Often only the rich, well-connected, and the politicians will continue to get ahead. Many will claim patriotism from their gated community, and continue to influence the political system to protect their profit margin.

Voting should be for the future, and not for temporary jobs or an overnight financial handout. In the long run, what about tuition, school supplies for your child’s education because you can’t announce an election to be compensated.

In this early stage, the island has made some strides in maintaining the pandemic, but leaders must be honest with themselves and open a genuine debate from managing COVID-19, Tests, Treatment, and Trace (TTT) that will be critical from the reported uptick.

Hoping for a new blend: 

One glowing new color based on local reports, more than a few women have entered this election on both sides, and whoever is successful must demand a seat at the prime minister’s decision table.

Few Pictures from 2020 campaigns: Photo Credit JLP & PNP.

Women are under-represented, not only in Jamaica, but several other poor and developing countries across key positions to make critical changes from elected offices, civil services, private sector, or academia, scholars have noticed.

This political election will not severely lessen COVID-19 the next day, reduce crime; create affordable education, violence against women, better medical care, lower unemployment, increase bed space or new necessary equipment to safeguard lives.

I hope after these colorful events, all people can find a combination of colors to renovate the nation as the region continues navigating the rough tides. It will take more than party devotion for this beautiful island to see hope over fear, fact over fiction.

Jamaica is not perfect and remains a vibrant place with hope and possibilities, but people must seek change from the bottom up and not the other way around. Regardless of what color wins, the nation must deal with several ignored rusts that yarns for a new upward mobility pain for sustainable development; transforming the nation.

An election is like art; it should create wonderful memories. As this shore tries to pick an image for brighter days between this rock and a hard place regardless of who has the next paintbrush, they must stay hopeful until everyone can genuinely enjoy these recycled portraits, add their color for both the country and personal prosperity.

Is there a me-too moment for racial, economic- equity, justice and reparation in the` Caribbean region?


The unexpected call:

Shortly after George Floyd, an African American killed during an encounter with members of the Minneapolis, Minnesota, police department; a global social consciousness rose with massive protest. They called for the universal reversal of laws and systematic practices that many deemed socially and economically ruined local communities of color for decades.

Protesters gather Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Minneapolis

The domino effect forced several businesses once benefited from slavery and the institutional discriminatory practices to confront their past. However, many argued that some gestures were not enough as it appears some banks and insurance companies across continents where slavery generated enormous wealth now setting the agenda regarding implementation of any reforms, apology or compensation.

The global reckoning on race relations and discriminatory business practices has caused some noted changes despite previous resistance. Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s Rice, and Mrs. Butterworth’s brand changed its logo from 130 years that many argued were racial stereotypes of blacks. Other companies have been taking steps to address hiring practices even more diverse advertising that featured people of color.

Will that be enough remains an open question.

Today’s global racial equity call is not like recent women’s me-too movements when several ladies came forward and spoke up about their experience of inappropriate widespread sexual advances, harassment, and rape by powerful men that have gone un-noticed for decades.

The leadership equation for racial and socioeconomic equity along these shores

Though the Caribbean islands often take a hint from the international media and struck courage. However, the Caribbean me-too for equality, and an economic package to build a better future from its dark past, is more complex.

Furthermore, with reported millions of dollars in debt owes to foreign investors, it is almost like one is in playing in a football game down 3-4 touchdowns, and two minutes before the game ends, and the opponent has the ball.

Can they all afford to protest earnestly for fundamental as for a change in the street; and how do you bite off the nervous hands that are merely sustaining you? But the lack of a massive protest along these shores, as seen elsewhere; does not mean that there is not one brewing especially among the younger generation.

Sure, it is a noble feeling to eradicate 400-years of the colonial chain, laws, and mental debris for equality and equity that has been hitting many disadvantaged communities like a destructive hurricane recklessly causing administrative, economic, and social barriers to upward mobility. This sea change will take more than tweets, likes on social media, or political position, or silence.

The Caribbean tragic colonial history cannot be eradicated with a rope, stones, or fire as seen elsewhere pulling down historic generals or former slave owners statues; or call for the official resignation of local managers who typically operate businesses in the region once benefited from these ships with tweets, anger, and photo-ups for quick sound bites.

Decades of economic and social disadvantage despite few educational and economic transformations, as it sits now, need a new blueprint to reverse not only what was on paper, but to reverse the mental anguish of colonial practices that have caused communities to be stuck at sea without an anchor.

Sadly, it is an uphill battle as some leaders cannot even decide if or where to hold a protest, whom, or policy, structure’ leaders should move or steer this reparation vessel for critical change.

Change can be difficult, but moving forward requires a holistic approach from the youths, churches, community and elected leaders, political alliances through collaborative voices. Who arranges a seat at the head table with the biggest notepad along these shores remains a challenge. Many reports have shown there are wide-spread skepticism and distrust of local elected leaders in several communities as to who will benefit from any mee-too approach

One of the challenges, not all on a similar path, but they are looking dock. Barbados, where scholars noted that colonial powers first docked in the region with the blueprint may have an alternative approach from Jamaica, Haiti still looking for an economic anchor to move several people out of poverty may have a different approach.

Another example, Trinidad and Tobago, where many Indians descendants were also enslaved on sugar, cane plantations during slavery. However, today some see themselves as a prominent part of the privileged class and may embrace a different approach to reparation. Antigua and other islands are still under colonial rule and benefiting directly from the shade of the Commonwealth structure.

A Troubled History:

Despite one mission from the Transatlantic slave trade as many philosophers have recognized, in which they transported between 10 million and 12 million enslaved Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas from the 16th to the 19th century.

Many who share the umbilical cord have a different approach, deep philosophic difference, while some rather remain silent woven in a social class system despite being descendants of slaves while others continue suffering from the lingering legacy of slavery racial inequities. As a result, it seems today, on many of these shores, they invite more discussions than policies.

Based on historians; the Caribbean islands fell under the ruling of a European nation; British, Dutch, and French. Denmark, Portugal, and Sweden also occupied territories in the Caribbean. And since innocent people of color did not have a personal reservation, they established rigid rules and penal laws that transcend into systematic institutional racial discrimination today.

History has informed us, between 1788 and 1838 workhouses in Jamaica, one of the most significant British West Indian colony marginalized its population, and that affected local industries, like finance and manufacturing to progress. Today, many dark-skinned people experience steeper mobility subsequently carries forward even in more migration elsewhere across these shores for better opportunities.

The Caribbean may have passed its hostility tone since those cultural prohibitions of black settlement in some areas to interracial sex, part of the racial discrimination known as the “color bar” that has severely constrained its unique culture and economic growth, but it until now reverberates globally today. It may give that melting pot atmosphere, but it is, however, segregated by class, and yes, the complexity that many darker skin people still struggle from that horrific past.

A delicate dance for equity:

Colonial occupation has established a legacy where only a new economical reconciliation path for all that will establish an economic foundation to left people out of poverty. Some argued, perhaps eliminating several debts, financial compensation, but I believe a mental rehabilitation from slavery has to be balanced across these coastlines to reduce decades of a psychological drain.

Many reports have shown that many of today’s buildings, imported goods, and service contracts, ports, and manufacturing own by foreign investors on the shores, which will sit at the reparation table, therefore; me-too may not represent the downtrodden. Subsequently, where does the Caribbean start for social and economic justice for Afro-Caribbean and ethnic minorities who have been marginalized for decades?

Me-too on many fronts absolutely is not about resettlement, re-distribution of land to the poor owned by elected officials, or the top one percent of the rich, removal of colonial images from a local church window, lower interest rates on predatory loans, a new police station to cut violent crimes, and reported corruption or political alliance that only create a stalemate.

The mental complexity

If the Caribbean solution is to its decades of poverty, inequality, and other barriers,  “reparation” or a unilateral economic package permanently building the education system, job opportunities, adequate healthcare, better salary for public servants, modern infrastructure, or manufacturing will represent an excellent approach.

However, openly talking about reparations for the descendants of enslaved people, remain open debate on philosophical grounds like the ocean as to where, who, when any economic wave will approach its shores.

This reconciliation debate is more than a dollar value, social and economic equity, nor can it be the voice of the privileged class, but an economic widespread policy that addresses institutionalized practices that have created a wide gap between the have vs the have-nots.

Today, many wealthy islanders who have successfully attained academic opportunity, business success and can promptly compensate their way into that privileged class often still harbor the colonial bourgeoisie consciousness mentality and a strong grip maintaining stratification, them vs us. Often there is minimization in areas of poverty, crime, poor education, healthcare structural impediments as it appears these poverty-stricken community are at fault.

Conveniently some will yield their financial power to maintain their status> One former diplomat said, “many locals are more foreign minded that the foreigner.” This mentality will stymie any me-too moment for equality.

What is good from the colonial doctrine if it does not eliminate the paralyzing debt, promote manufacturing, improve schools that play a key part in economic prosperity? Many island nations have contributed to the economic power of their once colonial rules, and the economic success they enjoy today.

The hidden rough tide:

Though these islands remain a place to forget your overdue bills and any other issues temporarily; where the smile continues to be broad, linked by the slave ship. The region’s shorelines forever roar with a dark cloud after Europeans decided they wanted to establish their economy and Africa represent the place they went and eagerly snatched people of color, filled several ships without reservation.

An economic collaborative even the ability to travel to other islands for accurate diagnosis and critical medical care rather than waiting eagerly for weeks for urgent surgery or test results will safeguard many lives, and access to good and affordable healthcare represents new me-too respiration. But social disadvantage remains difficult to detect with the naked eye like bigotry seen elsewhere because many bears a resemblance to you does not make it a steady path.

A notable example: Since the COVID-19 pandemic washed onto these shores, it exposed the already poor healthcare system, the ever-widen gap between the haves vs the have-nots, access to decent healthcare, and the major disparities. And if provided local reports that highlight ongoing corruption, mismanagement of COVID-19 funds received, and a system where not everyone can agree on if it is going to rain, or what party is less corrupted in leading these islands; it generates more questions about how to manage any potential reparation or me too question..

This pandemic has affected tourism one of the vital economic and significant industries in the various Caribbean islands. Today, despite measures balancing the economics and safety, It further shows a lack of collaboration as these island stances regarding which one secures a firmer grip on the pandemic for the next terrorist dollar.

This COVID-19 pandemic may leave the shore one day. Those impacted numbers can be disguised as to which leaders telling the truth on the figure of infected individuals, fatality, and the exact cause of death or delivered it there.

What is clear, the internal political struggle goes on, and hidden division between many of these islands that should be working together more than it seems to reverse this decade of ongoing strain from the colonial slavery virus.

The enduring mental impact:

Slavery divided the region into different plantations that established a protectionist and competitive system, subconsciously or not. Today islanders are not from the sugar canes and coffee fields and are free to travel between islands, but some continue to identify others as you over there, and if some could erect a wall, they would.

Recently the Jamaican Supreme Court ruled a student could not attend classes if she didn’t cut her dreadlocks and the school did not infringe on the child’s constitutional rights. This ruling confirms that Rastafarians typically remain a social outcast based on an old colonial ideal, and this culture should only be practiced behind closed doors.

Slavery is no longer on paper, the casting of a new fishing net to have a balance dance is still delicate; especially if the judiciary system has holes in basic democracy and cultural tolerance for all? To such a degree, these communities must step back and rigorously evaluate that, “Out of Many One People,” and any other motto after colonial rule.

Undoubtedly, the Caribbean continues to search for its socio-economic soul, and if one’s hair is no longer acceptable in the local school, what next, Rasta solitary bathroom, dining area, etc. The styling of one’s culture may explain the abundance of bleaching cream being bought in the region for acceptance by many, as the colonial mentality still lingers.

Bob Marley: From R.D. Library

It is like a recent report surrounding a British insignia, a medal worn by the heads of state, the governor-general of Jamaica that depicted an individual on the neck of a black person. Though dehumanizing, how can you achieve a balance if laws bear similar weight on their people?

The Order of St. Michael and St. George

And if the region conveniently overlooks this pivotal moment for upward mobility despite other systematic socioeconomic disparities, and without the right leadership, I am genuinely terrified they all are naturally wearing the official insignia, and me-too and any other push for economic prosperity represent just a thought.