Few things fill me with joy and pride like Jamaica. I wear my heritage like a badge of honour and for good reason. My island has it all: beautiful landscapes, a fascinating history; a diverse – and hilarious – population and one of the most influential cultures in the world.
So today, I’m joining nearly 5 million Jamaicans worldwide to celebrate Jamaica Independence Day.
This year marks 58 years since Jamaica was set free after 300+ years of British rule. And while the island’s post-colonial hangover still lingers, many choose to spend the day bigging up all that is great about our ‘land of wood and water’.
To mark this h’auspicious occasion, I spoke to 5 Jamaican PR and media specialists about their love for the mighty island.
Director of Public Relations and Communications, Ministry of Health & Wellness, Jamaica
Jamaican parish: Kingston
Favourite Jamaican food: Potato pudding (I have a sweet tooth!)
Favourite Jamaican saying: ‘Wi likkle but wi tallawah’ [We’re a small nation but we’re determined and unstoppable.]
The best thing about Jamaica is the people – our strength of character, warmth and personable nature. It is also great to be from a small island that can boast so many significant contributions to the world.
The PR industry on the island is very dynamic. We have some very digitally-centred companies and other traditional companies that have had to transform and adapt to the change in landscape. There are a lot of entrepreneurial PR professionals who either have a small team or fly solo and outsource when necessary. The coronavirus pandemic has increased interest in PR and communications so I think we will see the industry continue to evolve in the coming years.
Speaking of COVID-19, the Jamaican public have responded positively to our public health messages. We were challenged with various fake news reports and theories but one of our first actions at the Ministry was to educate the public on the virus and keep the messaging consistent. We have had to advance our messaging further, as, following successful control of the virus and the easing of restrictions, people have become more complacent.
Jamaican Independence is a big deal on the island. Before working in health, I planned and promoted independence celebration events. I will be bringing some of the celebration to my new team and will tune in – albeit virtually – to some of the activities taking place. I am so proud of our culture.
My one hope for Jamaica is for all of us to live out our motto – ‘out of many one people’ – every day so we can build the best Jamaica.
External Relations and Public Affairs Officer, Jisc
Jamaican parishes: St Elizabeth and Manchester
Favourite Jamaican food: Ackee
Favourite Jamaican saying: “Wi likkle but wi tallawah”
The best thing about being Jamaican is our chilled-out vibe – it helps me put things into perspective. I think the world could do with adopting a relaxed attitude and positive perspective right now. Don’t get me wrong, we can be serious when the situation demands it. But for the most part, ‘everyting irie’ for us – meaning everything’s alright, safe and peaceful.
When I visited Jamaica in 2018, I made a conscious effort to travel the island, visiting ‘hidden’ spots I’d never seen before. Doing this gives you have a unique chance to see the island through the eyes of a local and to experience the richness that the social scene and natural environment has to offer. The island was as beautiful as it had ever been.
I’ve so many long-term hopes for Jamaica, but right now I’d like to see parliament initiate legislative reform regarding hair discrimination. The recent Supreme Court ruling upholding a dreadlock ban in one primary school seems so bizarre to me, especially since it’s a natural hairstyle, is seen by many as an expression of identity, and is sported some of the country’s icons like the late Bob Marley.
For Jamaican Independence, I’ll probably spend some time perfecting my coconut drops recipe while listening to some of [legendary Jamaican reggae artist] Buji Banton’s live performances.
News reporter, HuffPost UK
Jamaican parishes: Clarendon, St Catherine and Trelawney
Favourite Jamaican food: Ackee, saltfish and breadfruit; failing that – chicken foot, or steppaz, soup works every time.
Jamaican culture is effervescent, full-of-vibes, colourful and completely one-of-a-kind. From the fashion and swagger, to the food and dialect. People generally know good things when they happen across it, so I don’t blame the UK for gravitating towards our culture. So long as due homage is paid to the source of this magic.
Being Jamaican in the UK media industry has been challenging recently (to say the least). The Windrush scandal disproportionately affected Jamaicans – something I don’t think many people fully understand or appreciate. That, in itself, has been sobering and difficult to reconcile at times, especially given how much Jamaica has contributed to the UK. Then there’s COVID-19, which has disproportionately affected Black people [Nadine questioned Health Secretary Matt Hancock on this topic at one of their daily coronavirus briefing – see below].
That being said, I’m a descendent of the Jamaican Maroons – fighting for the greater good is in my blood. So, we move with the winds of change and promise of a better tomorrow.
My most recent trip to Jamaica was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I attended and reported on Buju Banton’s 2019 comeback concert at Jamaica’s National Stadium, following his 7-year stint in US federal prison. I knew the event would be of huge cultural significance, and as someone who is deeply interested in culture, music and Brand Jamaica, I wanted to be there.
People came from far and wide just to witness this highly anticipated event, and Banton’s songs could be heard on every street corner in Kingston. In the press area, I was surrounded by a who’s who of Jamaican entertainment and celebrity scene united by one purpose: to witness history. And that we did.
My favourite Jamaican saying is “Wah sweet nanny goat a go run him belly” [The things that seem fine to you now may hurt you later]. It’s a cautionary proverb that carries so much weight but it also reminds me of ‘Simmer Down’ by The Wailers. This song is one of my earliest memories of hearing music and listening to it always brings me to a happy place.
I’ll be spending Independence Day reflecting on how far Jamaica has come including my own family’s journey. I’ll also play songs by my favourite reggae artist, Dennis Emmanuel Brown, and be loud and proud about my Jamaican heritage as I am on any given day.
Founder and CEO, Coldr
Jamaican parishes: Westmoreland (Savanna-La-Mar to be precise)
Favourite Jamaican food: Ackee and saltfish with plantain / saltfish fritters
Favourite Jamaican saying: “Wanti wanti can’t get it, getti getti no want I” [Those who want something can’t get it, and those have said thing don’t want it]
Jamaica feels like home to me. I love the warmth of our culture – it’s the best thing about being Jamaican.
I visited the island just before the UK lockdown with my cousin to find a venue for my wedding next year. I stayed in Montego Bay and Negril – it was hot, stunningly picturesque and homely. There’s still a big difference between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ but the relaxed Jamaican ‘no problem’ spirit was very much alive and well. I plan to explore more of the island next time I go – I’ve never been to the capital [Kingston] nor seen the Blue Mountains, and I’ve yet to meet all of my family out there.
I’d love to see Jamaica become a hub of entrepreneurial business activity and to solve its societal challenges. I want to see Jamaica thrive.
Out food, our music and our spirit is infectious, which is why Jamaican culture is so popular in the UK. I’ll be cooking it up today to celebrate Independence!