St Andrew: Centre of Cultural and Social Significance-
Catalyst for Change
It is good to be here with you this morning and I must thank the Custos of St. Andrew Bishop the Hon. Dr. Carmen Stewart for her invitation to Lady Allen and me to meet with you. There are a number of Justices of the Peace, civic leaders, business representatives and other citizens here, and I appreciate the fact that you have taken time out of your busy schedule to come out and participate in this function.
At my Inauguration last February I pledged to travel across Jamaica and meet with the people, in the valleys, on the mountains, and along the highways and byways. Lady Allen and I embarked on these parish tours in order to introduce ourselves to the citizens of Jamaica. We also wanted to hear their concerns, dreams, aspirations and vision for themselves and Jamaica.
We have gathered significant inputs from the general public, which will help us to shape the social functions of King’s House. Your views are no less important, and that is why we are here this morning for the St. Andrew meeting which we did not have in 2009.
OVERVIEW OF ST. ANDREW
Physical and social landscape
Since its establishment 143 years ago, St. Andrew has become a very diverse parish, and today, it is a perfect replica of the physical and social landscape of Jamaica.
The 181 square miles which range from the throbbing metropolis of Cross Roads, Half-Way Tree and New Kingston, to the quiet, deep-rural communities of Irish Town, Guava Gap and Lawrence Tavern. In communities from Bull Bay to Ferry in the South, Brandon Hill to Woodford in the north west, Riverton in the south to Mavis Bank in the east, Gordon Town in the east to Stony Hill in the north, Jones Town to Cooper’s Hill and all areas in between; there are stark contrasts in the kaleidoscope of communities amid the mountains, valleys, plains and rivers.
The population of approximately 550,000 persons from varying socio-economic backgrounds, live in close proximity with some interesting contrasts. In many instances low-income communities are situated on the outskirts of upscale, residential areas, and we see zinc fences peeping out behind classical, or even modern, architecture.
At the many academic institutions in the parish, including the three universities, students from different social backgrounds sit side-by-side in classes and lectures. They exchange ideas in study groups, achieve honor status at graduation, and move on to greatly impact their society. Despite the many contrasts, the majority of the residents of St. Andrew are hard working individuals, who are socializing their children in the core values and principles that will shape their adult lives.
Within the approximately 70 communities listed in the parish, from Arnette Gardens to Temple Hall, there are budding, talented leaders whose energies and creativity needs to be channeled through programmes and activities offered by entities such as sports and youth clubs. Their talents are available to be channeled into areas where they can provide upliftment for individuals, their communities and the parish. Justices of the Peace, who are integrally involved at the community level, can tap into these resources and help to guide the process of change for these persons and their communities.
Cultural and Historical Significance of St. Andrew
St. Andrew is of vast cultural and historical significance to Jamaica.
- It is the birthplace of National Hero, the Right Excellent George William Gordon.
- It can also claim paternity as the birthplace of several genres of Jamaican music including:
- Studio One, the recording studio founded by the late Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd, and Culture Yard in Trench Town, made famous by Bob Marley and the Wailers, were important cradles of Jamaican music.
- The parish has many historic houses including, Devon House, which was built in 1881 by Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel, and which continues to attract local and international visitors. Other historic houses include Vale Royal and King’s House.
- The Royal Hope Botanical Gardens is one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. At the nearby University of the West Indies, the ruins of the aqueduct remind us of the plantation era.
- New Kingston has emerged as the financial capital of the Island, and its business district is integral to life in the Metropolitan Area.
Culture influences our social identity, norms and traditions, and is an avenue through which we can rebuild our society. We live in a global society in which the cultural and the creative arts are regarded as emerging sectors for social and economic growth and development.
It is against this background that I believe the human, cultural and historical resources; verdant natural environment, and fertile land with which the parish is blessed, are assets which can be used to rid itself of its social and economic burdens. Our Justices of the Peace are ideally placed to work with residents in the communities where you serve to find ways in which these resources can be channeled to significantly impact the people.
JOURNEY ACROSS JAMAICA
During the past eleven months in our travels to 13 parishes, we met students, professionals, members of the clergy, representatives of the business sector, nurses and teachers, among many others. The meetings have been refreshing, stimulating and rewarding. Our young people in particular were superbly articulate in the Youth Consultative Breakfasts held under the auspices of the Governor-General Achievement Awards Scheme. They gave an assessment of the state of the Jamaican society and economy from their perspective, and presented practical recommendations for the way forward.
As I listened to the expressions of commitment and observed the enduring passion which Jamaicans have for their parishes and the country, I felt a renewed sense of hope to do my part to inspire the nation. The people we met embody the I believe message, and I believe that together we will make it, if we learn to trust each other and genuinely care for one another. We can demonstrate this by making:
- Each person’s pain, our pain
- Each person’s loss, our loss
- Each person’s joy, our joy
- Each person’s success, our success.
As we listened to persons in our travels across the Island, the common concerns were for:
- Youth and community development.
If we fix these areas we can fix Jamaica. If for a moment we think education is expensive, try ignorance. The home is traditionally the foundation of society, the cradle in which the core values are inculcated in children.
These values include:
How Custodes and JP’s can help
As Custos, Justices of the Peace and leaders of society, you can use your position of influence within your communities to lead the process of change and serve as a source of reinforcement of these values. Earlier this week I met with members of the Jamaica Police Federation. They eagerly discussed the need for cooperation and close relationship between citizens and the police. They noted that with 21 stations, St Andrew has the most police divisions in comparison to other parishes.
The parish also has the most Justices of the Peace, 1044. You therefore have a seminal role to play in bridging the gap between the police force and members of the community.
It is important that each JP knows the Police High Command and Divisional Heads serving your communities, so you can help to establish and maintain amenable relationships between residents and the security forces. This is your opportunity to seize the moment and mend the broken trust, families and communities, thereby assisting in efforts to tame the monster of crime and violence and break the back of criminal activities.
The Custos and Justices of the Peace, as leading citizens, can help to cauterize social problems by engaging in or spearheading activities that will promote social values, and improve relationships between citizens at the community level. You may not have to create new programmes, but work through existing ones to ensure that peace and law and order are maintained initiatives in your communities.
This is not an impossible task:
- In Mocho, Clarendon, we met leaders from the Church, school and community-based organisations who have embarked on a collaborative initiative to rid the community of crime and violence. They intend to accomplish this by mentoring the young people, working with the Security Forces and promoting positive values.
- We have the National Best Community Competition, through which communities can be strengthened and improved on a sustainable basis. You can encourage communities to participate and take pride.
- Justices of the Peace can help citizens work through their problems before they become significant issues which require resolution at the level of an already overburdened court system.
- Justices of the Peace can also assume a greater educational role in their communities, by helping citizens to understand the justice system, and help in the mediation process through participation in the Restorative Community Justice Programme.
SEIZE THE DAY
At my inauguration I encouraged Jamaicans to “seize the day least like sand in the hour glass, it slips away never to return.” There is a lot that is right in the parish of St. Andrew, and I encourage the Custos, Justices of the Peace, civic and community leaders, the business sector and residents, to build upon this and use the resources of the parish to remedy the ills in St. Andrew.
I thank Custos Stewart and the Lay Magistrates of St. Andrew for your tremendous service to the people of this parish. I urge you to keep the message of hope alive. As leaders it is important that we stir the people of Jamaica and inspire them to greatness, and seek their recommitment to building a great Jamaican society. Stand in the breach and bridge the gap that threatens to divide, separate and destroy our nation.
That is the crux of the ‘I Believe’ message.
- I believe that every Jamaican can make a contribution to national development and I invite everyone to come on board. Together we can motivate each other to believe that we can achieve our goals, dreams, and visions of what Jamaica should be and where we fit in.
- I believe you can be the vanguards to lead and protect what is right with Jamaica.
- I believe you can become the catalyst for change as together we seek to ‘make Jamaica the place to live, raise families and do business.’
I thank you for your support so far, and I look forward to us working hand in hand, heart to heart, heralding a new day for St. Andrew.