A map of Jamaica
A map of Jamaica (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The predictable chorus of voices asking why Jamaicans are spending so much time talking about the Jamaica 50 song, misses, as we tend to do, the real issue. (If you missed the debate of the last few days check out my post on the Jamaica 50 song controversy here). People have real concerns  about the way this process has been handled, about inclusiveness, and most of all about what many feel has been the marring of a national celebration by political bickering and one-upmanship.

The Culture Ministry’s determined insistence that there is no problem, that we all should just hold hands and get along, ignores, deliberately, its role in the problem.  The latest statement from the Ministry has managed to blame almost everybody but itself, saying that:

“It is unfortunate and regrettable that the promotional agency associated with the producer of  the “On a Mission” marketing campaign song and a corporate sponsor of Jamaica 50, as part of the sponsor’s undertaking to promote the song, incorrectly  branded a released CD and associated printed materials with the declaration of the “On a Mission” marketing campaign song as the Official Jamaica 50 Song, without the required vetting or approval of the Jamaica 50 Secretariat.”

I think only Shaggy escaped censure there.

English: Shaggy Deutsch: Shaggy
English: Shaggy Deutsch: Shaggy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are lessons here for the future, though, if only we would heed them.

1. Allow the annual Festival celebrations to be the vehicle driving such national celebrations. The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) puts on the annual Festival events. They are fun, well-produced, and well-attended.  With those already scheduled events themed for Jamaica 50,  or Jamaica 60 or whatever,  there would be no need for any additional big,costly national events. Each parish also already has its own programme, eg the JCDC Evenings of Excellence, which again are well attended.   With perhaps the addition of a western Grand Gala, or something else to ensure that Kingston is not the only focus, we could achieve the goal of a national celebration with not too much more additional cost.

2. The National Secretariat of such a big event should never again be located in a Ministry, with all the political issues that we have seen develop here. If the secretariat had been independently situated and truly national in composition, the disturbing changing of gear and shifting of focus that has caused a lot of the fuss would never have been necessary.

3. Similarly, regional planning committees could develop events that are celebratory but also money-making in scope, for example special community festivals and cultural events that could be put on the national calendar and marketed as tourist attractions.

4. The addition of  a series of national discussions about Jamaica at 50, and our path ahead for the next 50 years, would add the contemplative note many people feel we need at this time. Hey, I would love to see Parliament spending a few days debating that issue.

5. Let the Festival Song stand as the official song of the celebrations. Barbara Gloudon made the point on All Angles, my TV show on Television Jamaica (you can view the programme on the All Angles page at http://www.televisionjamaica.com) that people have hated some festival Songs and that many veteran producers would feel they are too big to participate in any kind of a national competition to choose a song. Well, so be it. We need to nurture new talent anyway.

Русский: Флаг Ямайки Slovenščina: državna zast...
Русский: Флаг Ямайки Slovenščina: državna zastava Jamajke “The Sun shineth, the land is green, and the people are strong and bold” is the symbolism of the colours of the flag. BLACK represents the strength and creativity of the people; GREEN represents hope and agricultural resources; GOLD represents the natural wealth and beauty of sunlight. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For us to benefit from this experience, however, there first has to be an admission that there was a problem, and so far we haven’t seen that. That is the real pity here.

PS – Oh, Culture Ministry – blaming the media? Really? The latest statement on the issue says:

“It is unfortunate that extended media attention has been devoted to a debate about a song for Jamaica 50 rather than about the real significance the Jamaica 50 milestone in the life the nation.”

I guess the folk up at Culture have been so busy not knowing what was happening with the mission-campaign-song-incorrectly-branded-as-a-Jamaica-50-song, they haven’t realized how much work the media have been doing on exactly that – contemplation of where we are at 50 years. Taking a few minutes to note the concerns people have doesn’t negate that. But hey, you have to blame somebody. Our backs are broad, we’re used to it.