Jamaica……..E-Class & Pushcart

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to spend at least two months straight in Jamaica. Traveling to my homeland three or four times per year, for a week or two just wasn’t cutting it. That was just too short a time to experience and witness some of the things I needed to. Finally the opportunity presented itself. I have recently returned from a four month trip, and I have to admit…I witnessed more than I thought I would. Some good, some not so good. Jamaica……………………from my eyes.

What an amazingly beautiful country. Magnificent mountain views, crystal clear waters, and lush landscapes. Yep…Jamaica is a beautiful island alright…………..especially when you’re just visiting. For the tourist, our island is paradise. Coming from the United Kingdom where a single pound will yield you about one hundred and sixty Jamaican dollars, or from the United States where the dollar when I left a few days ago was sitting at about one hundred and four to one, of course it’s paradise. Jamaica is a travelers dream, but from where I sat most days, it’s seems to be a native’s nightmare.

I looked to find the middle-class residents but couldn’t find many. I saw either residents with E-class Mercedes……or a pushcart person trying to survive. Couldn’t really see much else in the middle. I know many reading are saying I am going overboard here, but that’s really not my concern. Things in Jamaica for the majority of the population tight…tight bad. Things are hard in Jamaica, and the government is of no effect.

During the summer months, most of the children I saw…you know, the less fortunate ones who have no wealthy relatives to send them to Miami or Disney World on holiday, did most of the same things they did all year round. Roam the streets and hills with not much else to do. No access to libraries or computers. No summer camps, no summer programs…basically the highlight of their summer is………….well, not much at all. I watched many youths and small children kick around (bare-footed no less), home made soccer balls, dressed in shorts so tattered it was hard to believe this was actually Jamaica. Talented youths who could benefit from things many children in the US take for granted. I brought a few soccer balls with me to give to them, and all the school supplies I could carry. I silently wished however, that I could build a community center with a basketball court etc…donate some computers, and maybe even some equipment like guitars and keyboards so these children could harness their skills.

The poverty level in my country is sickening and actually in many areas, most depressing. I take my hat off to many of the men and women, parents in Jamaica for the way they hold it together. The way they do what they do to provide for their families. Many have no jobs and do whatever they can to put food on the table. It breaks my heart to see children who should be in school, on the street cleaning car windshields for $10. What the hell can ten Jamaican dollars do for anyone? It can’t even buy bag juice nuh more, cause in most places the good ole bag juice cost $15. Do you know how many car windshields these people have to clean to acquire enough money to purchase provisions to prepare a hot meal?

I took special notice during the back to school period. Imagine the average family with a $50,000 a month income. (very rare…if that much). They might be paying $30,000 for rent, $10,000 to thiefing JPS for electricity, $2-3,000 to the Water Commission, buying clothes, uniforms, shoes, food (one bread is almost $300), school fees, school books (one text book for a seven year old is $1,300), transportation, medical etc etc etc. You do the math. No matter your math skills, or what kinda degree you have, something just isn’t adding up.

One of the things that really worked my nerves was the phone credit system. Digicel nuh easy at all. I don’t have to elaborate on this. If unnu know…leave a comment. Jah know star. Digicel, you are a wealthy company. What can you and others like you do for Jamaica’s poor. Let me rephrase that………what will you do?

One evening I was in Constant Spring purchasing some rather expensive fruit. $1,400.00 for a few sweet sop, guinep, one pear, and a few bananas. Damn! Anyway, I heard a siren and saw an ambulance moving slowly by. Siren blaring yes, but he was going nowhere fast. With the narrow roads and the traffic congestion, I couldn’t help wondering about the person on the inside who needed medical attention. I prayed that I would never need any sort of medical care while I was on the island. Sure there are top notch doctors and nurses, but with the hospitals so far and few….oh dear Lord. I can’t even imagine. A young lady told me that when she had her baby, the very next morning they told her she had to be discharged because they needed the bed she was laying on. She had to take her baby, sheet and pillow and leave. Yes, I did say sheet and pillow. (please don’t ask). In certain areas I was told, emergency vehicles don’t even exist. Oh hellllllloooo…who is really running the country??? Are you guys blind???

Even if someone has access to a medical facility, who can afford it? I feel for my people for real. Many cannot afford the doctor or the dentist for preventative care, so how can they be expected to afford emergency treatments or medications? The suffering tun up loud loud for many on the island, and it makes me sick and sad.

The world talks about the violence in Jamaica, and I don’t deny that yes, my homeland can be a very violent place. However, what are some of the under-lying factors that trigger some of the violence? Of course some people are just wicked…there’s no denying that. However, some steal to survive…that’s a pity. Why the killings, and where are these guns coming from? That’s another story. The last time I checked, guns were not being produced in Jamaica, but in many areas, bullets and automatic weapons outnumber food items. How is that? Who’s responsible? Customs give you a hard time if you bring een two tv…but pistols make it outside with ease. (things that make yu go ummm)

Many people say Jamaicans are lazy and don’t want to work. That’s a fable. Where are the jobs? There are not many opportunities at all are there? People say the youngsters need to farm. True…………………but where? Yu want dem plant yam inna the concrete? Where would you like them to get the land on which you want them to cultivate? Jamaicans on a whole are talented and know how to “tun yu han an mek fashion”. They try…and that’s the truth. When the government of Jamaica let the whole a China etc tek over the country, and turn places like Ocho Rios and Montego Bay inna Miami number two with our own country people banned from selling their wares in certain areas…..helllooo!!! What do you expect people to do? In a certain section of the island, youths with stalls and higlers are being terrorized by the police. Their merchandise seized and often times destroyed. Many are jailed, fined, or both. For what?

They have graduated high school, some with degrees, but there are no jobs. So when you turn the island into a miniature China, and turn your nose up at your own people, what do you think is going to happen? Bob Marley already told you. The prophet said: “a hungry mob is an angry mob.” Marcus Garvey said: “up you mighty race”. I smell a revolution coming soon. People are suffering and the poor can take no more.

I am having a hard time believing that in this 21st Century, Jamaica is still suffering from class and color prejudice. Many uptown still turn their noses up on downtown. Light skin and dark skin still have issues, and your address is still a factor when job hunting. Don’t even try to deny it, cause you know it’s true.

As to the police…I have heard how some officers treat civilians. Seen it myself. No here-say. I can talk, because I have been searched seven times in recent years on my many visits to Jamaica. I don’t smoke or drink, but if you’re traveling with anyone, male or female with locks, beware. A stop might be in your future. It’s a damn shame, but that’s how the police operate. They search because they can…they mistreat because they can, and they will tell you just that. My pocketbook was searched…an m16  nozzle at one point rested squarely on my cheek etc etc etc. I could go on. Why were we stopped on these occasions, no valid reason. Just road blocks. One even tried to take money from us. Thankfully my friend was brilliant enough to take out her phone and pretend to call the US embassy. (that was kinda funny)

Yes…Jamaica is a beautiful place. Especially from the air. Way up in the air. On the ground reality hits kinda swift. It’s one thing to visit and leave after a week or so, but we cannot forget our people in Jamaica with no way out. We celebrated our fiftieth year of independence last year, but what exactly were we celebrating? What have we gained with our independent status? A flag?

We’ve lost so much. Our dear Air Jamaica was a recent casualty. Who should we blame? Not me. I tried to support as often as I could. Perhaps some of the highty tighty people dem who used to say things like, ‘mi nah fly with Air Jamaica cause a pure farm worker and higler fly them’, and the ‘Air Jamaica always late’ need to suck up some of the blame. They never congratulated Air Jamaica’s safety record once…but they had a chock full a negative things to say frequently. Well…I hope unnu love that JetBlue and American etc now charge in peak season all $600US from Miami to Kingston…one way. No more $200 round trip from Air Jamaica plus two free bags.Serve unnu right.

I am not a politician, but if a change is to come to Jamaica, it has to come from Jamaica House or wherever the Prime Minister and the people in charge hang out. People…please stop the ignorance as well. If your allegiance is to a certain party, but you know in your heart that party is not the best thing for the country…SWITCH!

Jamaica is indeed a beautiful country, so it’s time for all Jamaicans to start enjoying the country’s beauty. Poor people need to enjoy the island just like the tourists do. Many have never seen Dunns River Falls, or travelled from East to West or vice versa. What a shame!

Jamaica needs a government…Jamaica needs a change. Soon!

Well…off I go. I have four more barrels to pack. I can’t do everything by myself…but this is me putting my money where my mouth is and doing what I can. Bless up to all the selfless folks walking the walk.

Dear GOD, please bless Jamaica!

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9 Responses to Jamaica……..E-Class & Pushcart

  1. Spot on Sister. The thing is, Jamaicans are a resourceful people who make the most of what they have. Many are a people also in denial…not recognizing that the more they strive to become more Americanized it’s the worse things become and the more they lose their identity I use the word “they”, not because I want to distance myself from Jamaicans, but because I am not living there or experiencing the things they are going through now.

    We are typically a people who learned to make something out of nothing so when trials and tribulations hit, we’re able to cope. This trait has been abused over the decades by the powers that be. Through all I’ve read, they’re still coping. For how much longer? That is the question but still….they trod on.

    Thanks for this very well written piece which has reminded me that there is still something that I can do to help.

  2. KALISHNIKOV says:

    WELL SAID I SHARE THE SAME VIEWS ONLY MINE ARE VERY HARSH BECAUSE I THINK POLITICIANS HAVE GOTTEN AWAY WITH TOO MUCH … THEY ARE THE ONES Y THE COUNTRY IS IN THE CURRENT SHITUATION.. THEY SHOULD ALL BE IMPRISONED FOR THEIR CRUELTY SENSELESSNESS CARELESS FREE HANDED WASTING OF TAXPAYERS MONEY….. ONE THING I HAVE BEEN SEEING ON A REGULAR BASIS THESE DAYS IS THE LACK OF WATER IN MANY RURAL AREAS … THE EXCUSE IS ALWAYS THE DEFECTIVE PUMP. MOST OF THOSE PUMPS HAVE BEEN IN OPERATION FROM 1992… MANY OF THE AREAS NEED NEEW PUMPS BUT GUESS WHAT THATS NOT A PRIORITY , THE MINISTERS COMFORT ARE MORE OF A PRIORITY SO INSTEAD OF APPROVING FUNDS TO PURCHASE NEW PUMPS FOR THE AFFECTED AREAS OR MAKE FUNDING AVAILABLE FOR REPAIRS TO THE AFFECTED AREAS THEY APPROVE FUNDS TO PURCHASE HIGH END VEHICLES FOR THE MINISTERS TO RIDE IN COMFORT AND STYLE….. WELL IN MY OPINION , AS LONG AS THESES POLICIES REMAIN THE COUNTRY WILL BE MAKING BACKWARD STRIDES FOR YEARS TO COME ……..

  3. Shilo, speak sister speak. As I always tell people many Jamaicans have a 1st world mentally but living a 3rd world reality. It is a hard life to live when more money goes out to pay for the imported goods than is spent to provide basic necessities. So every Jamaicans need to listen to ‘Revolution, by Tappa Zukie.’

  4. Paul Brown says:

    Well written piece Mumma Shilo & so very true, i remember back in about 1992 in Ocho Rios where everything was paid for in US dollars even the little man selling his rasta belt for $50 US, from that i vowed never to go back to Ocho as i realised the US had taken over which is something they have been working on since the 70’s (C.I.A. FBI SPY) after the british had raped the country for how much hundreds of years with other european countries then left the Island independent to do what? Ever since the devaluation of the Jamaican dollar has fallen so pitiful.

    Jamaicans have always had to work hard for what they need, but for some their backs are against the wall, i have been to places that have filled my eyes with water to see how some have to survive under such pressure, seeing is believing poor people do exist and suffer with pride and dignity, like you said Shilo there is no middle class just top & bottom, uptown downtown, not every child can get up have breakfast then go to school have lunch come home and have a cooked meal, school cost money which the government or economy don’t seem to be able to provide because the island has been raped and pillaged by outside infrastructures which is of no benefit to the people of the island.

    It is sad to see the level of violence on the island but with system the way it is it is no wonder, from politics come right down poor people suffer, corruption of hearts and minds and a feeling of injustice leaves a bitter taste, he who feels it knows it.

    Jamaica is one of the most enchanting places on earth but the people need real help, how much more can they endure under the pressure of outside forces holding the island to ransom by fear of economic sanctions?

  5. Ras Fire Bones says:

    Greetings MamaEarth.

    I just read the post that you sent out and totally agree with all that was said. I personally as a Rastaman have experienced numerous harressment from police and damn rudeness from certain sectors of society… The situation is Dire and you are so right when saying things are getting worse. Outside of the music I work in schools with children with behaviour and physical problems. Recently I applied for work in Jamaica only to find none was available and that there are hundreds of teachers who are unemployed. I also would like to do some youth projects in rural Manchester but find it hard to get anything up and running due to lack of funds and finding the right people to work with, as one hand caan clap.

    Keep doing what your doing MamaEarth and may RasTafari guide and protect you on your missions in Life!!!!

    Nuff respect Everytime !!!

  6. Vi Destiny says:

    Well written Mumma I love u like no other and u know i been going there too for past 5 years and doing my share in St Cathrine.. I couldnt say it no better .. Im from da Virgin Islands so ye i was bless to have citizenship so i travel freely and talk bout this all the time to my people from my island dat ask me why Jamaica ?? Cuz dey r not as fortunate as us dat have everything the US GOVT give us .. So yes i will continue sending my barrels down and school supplies.. Wish I could do so much more but I do wat I can ..

  7. Dimitri Lyon says:

    It appears we did find the same disparity when it comes to social classes within Jamaica. What we see is a sad reality. I commend you for the efforts you made to give back the best you could. It is efforts like those that start the tidal wave of actions that it will take to put Jamaica back on the road to prosperity.

  8. Jamaica, racing to the bottom real fast ….

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