Category Archives: Community Groups

International Women’s Day 2021

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

Marked annually on March 8th, IWD is one of the most important days of the year to:

  • celebrate women’s achievements
  • raise awareness about women’s equality
  • lobby for accelerated gender parity
  • fundraise for female-focused charities

The campaign theme for 2021 is ‘Choose To Challenge’.

The colours symbolising IWD are purple, green and white.  Purple signifies justice and dignity. Green symbolizes hope. White represents purity, albeit a controversial concept. The colours originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union in the United Kingdom in 1908.

The Birth

The Women’s Day movement was born in 1848. 

Indignant over women being barred from speaking at an anti-slavery convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott congregated a few hundred people at their nation’s first women’s rights convention in New York.  Together they demand civil, social, political and religious rights for women in a Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions.

60 years later in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.

In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman’s Day (NWD) was observed across the United States of America on February 28. Women continued to celebrate NWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913.

Going International

In 1910, at the second International Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen, IWD was born.  Clara Zetkin, leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, tabled the idea.  She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands.  The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, unanimously approved the proposal, resulting in IWD.

The United Nations (UN) first celebrated IWD in 1975.  In December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.

The UN announced their first annual theme of “Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future” in 1996.  Since, each year a campaign theme is selected. 

Coming of Age

The 100-year IWD centenary was held in 2011.  In the United States of America, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 2011 to be “Women’s History Month”.  He called on Americans to mark IWD by reflecting on “the extraordinary accomplishments of women” in shaping their country’s history.   

Australia’s first International Women’s Day was held in 1928 in Sydney.  Organised by the Militant Women’s Movement, women called for equal pay for equal work, an 8-hour working day for shop girls and paid leave.  The next year the event spread to Brisbane.  By 1931 annual marches were launched in both Sydney and Melbourne, which continue to be held today.

In Jamaica the first IWD was celebrated in March 1978.  It was jointly coordinated by the People’s National Party Women’s Movement and the Committee of Women for Progress.  In 1979, both groups made a formal call to the Government for maternity leave with pay to be placed on the books for all working women. This call received wide-scale support from a large number of women’s organisations headed by the Young Women Christian Association. One of the major achievements during this period was that the Governor General signed the Maternity Leave Act on December 31, 1979. 

Did You Know?

  • IWD, celebrated on March 8th is strongly linked to the women’s movements during the Russian Revolution of 1917.
  • New Zealand was the first self-governing nation to allow women to vote.
  • In 1920 the Egyptian Society of Physicians went against tradition by declaring the negative effects of female genital mutilation.

The Need

After so many years since inception – Do we still need an IWD?

The answer is – Yes!  There’s no place for complacency.  According to the World Economic Forum, sadly none of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes, and nor likely will many of our children. Gender parity will not be attained for almost a century.

There is urgent work to be done – and we can all play a part.

So make a difference, think globally and act locally! 

Make everyday IWD.

Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.

Master Of My Fate … by Sienna Brown

I was born in Jamaica and spent my early childhood in Kingston, before my family migrated to Toronto Canada. There the bitter cold shattered any illusions I had about enjoying the romance of a ‘white Christmas.’ It would be several more years before I met my Australian husband-to-be in New York, and travelled with him to Sydney. There further shocks awaited me, including destruction wrought by drought, flood and bush fires. But this blog isn’t about the environment, it’s about finding your passion later in life and being rewarded for sticking with it.

Sienna Brown – Author

After completing grade 13 in Toronto, from the outside my choices seemed right. I was on a creative path of my own choosing and success of a kind followed. First as a contemporary, professional dancer with Toronto Dance Theatre. Then on arrival in Sydney, I gained entry to the Australian Film Television and Radio School. This helped me to shift into documentary filmmaking as a producer, director, writer. I was disciplined, persistent and good at what I did, but through it all, there seemed to be something missing. And gnawing away underneath was the relentless sense of un-belonging. Who was I in these vast landscapes of others? Where did I fit in?

Master Of My Fate

It was during the process of writing my debut novel Master Of My Fate that my sense of self began to change. Recognising that although I thought I had been living my passion, my choices had left me feeling unfulfilled. And ironically enough, the title of the book reflected not only my main protagonist William Buchanan’s journey, but my own.

My research for the novel started accidentally while I was a guide at the UNESCO World Heritage listed Hyde Park Barracks: https://hydeparkbarracks.sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/

It’s where male convicts were housed after being transported from all the far-flung parts of the British empire. During that period, I dived deep into Australia’s Colonial past. It felt like even the walls whispered stories about the men housed there. But the stories were always about European convicts. So, one day, I idle typed the words ‘West Indies’ into the convict data base. To my total surprise the names of 18 men flashed across the screen. They had arrived in the colony on 31st August, 1836, on the convict ship the Moffatt. I was covered in goosebumps.  What excitement to know that my fellow countrymen had stood, lived, breathed in the very room I was standing in. And, I was bearing witness to this, 170 years later to the day!

Hyde Park Barracks

One of the men was William Buchanan whose convict indent listed him as a rebel. I would later discover, William was born into slavery in 1800, on a plantation called Rock Pleasant, in the parish of Saint James. He was transported for participating in the Christmas Day Rebellion that took place in 1831-32, led by the legendary Baptist Preacher, Sam Sharpe. Although not an ancestor, the research was providing me with a direct channel to a shared collective dreaming. It felt like I was bringing the past, into my living present: echoes of which I believe surrounds us, lives on inside us.

Christmas Day Rebellion – Depiction

A new awareness started to unfold about myself and a history of Jamaica, that I should have known about, but didn’t. It helped me to understand, in a very visceral and intimate way, what life may have been like in the early 19th century. It was only then that I was able to empathise as to why people behaved the way they did. Gained a deeper understanding of the society, within which our ‘past selves’, dressed up as our characters lived in. And how, a ‘perfect storm’ of events could give rise to ordinary people doing exceptional things.  

Historical Novel Prize 2020 Shortlist

While I was writing Master Of My Fate, I was driven by the questions – how does a mother explain to her child, they are born into slavery? How does the culture shape that child to accept the lack of freedom for the rest of their life? And how even within that terrible landscape of bondage can there still be joy, love, shared community and the resilience of the human heart to shine through. So, while I spent a great deal of time making sure all the factual historical details where right, ultimately my goal was to embody what it felt like to be in bondage. What it felt like to long for freedom. And I tried to articulate those states using the written word.

It took about seven years of research and writing early in the morning and late at night, after my event management day job, before I was not only able to finish the novel and lucky enough, to have it published in May 2019, by Penguin Random House: https://www.penguin.com.au/books/master-of-his-fate-9780143787532

Sienna Book Signing

It was a huge journey and one in retrospect, I now realise was the beginning of a profound, transformative cycle. One that moved me out of the feeling of un-belonging, into a place of being at one with myself. The inner reward was to discover that ultimately writing was the craft I had been pursuing all along, underneath my other careers. It allowed me to bring together all the skills I had acquired and pour them into my passion for the written word.

I was humbled and grateful when I gained outward recognition. At the beginning of this year – Master of My Fate – won the MUD Literary Prize for best debut novel written by an Australian author in 2020. And later in October, out of an entry of 185 novels, was not only longlisted for the inaugural Historical Fiction Prize:  https://hnsa.org.au/2020-ara-historical-novel-prize-longlist/ but also shortlisted: https://hnsa.org.au/2020-ara-historical-novel-prize-shortlist/ .

Trinidad and Tobago …. by Dr. William Milne-Home

Every year in August the folks at Jamaican Products organise a celebration of the independence of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. This timing relates to the actual days in August when the respective countries became independent: 6th for Jamaica, and 31st for Trinidad and Tobago. The celebrations are inclusive of the wider Caribbean community in Sydney and Caribbean food, music, dance, culture and history are featured. Unfortunately in 2020 a physical gathering is not possible because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but hopefully in 2021 it’s back on!

Map of Trinidad and Tobago

In the meantime we will reflect on aspects of the culture and history of the Caribbean starting long before the independence of Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago in 1962.

August is a significant month in history for our two countries and some other Caribbean islands. The first day of August 1834 marked the bill in the British House of Commons which abolished slavery in most parts of the British empire. Some historians consider the slave uprising in the French colony of Saint Domingue which began on August 22nd and 23rd, 1791 and which resulted eventually in the creation of the independent state of Haiti, also influenced the abolition. August 23rd is the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition (UNESCO). Finally, in passing, we remember that Marcus Garvey was born on August 17th.

These events in Augusts past continue to leave their mark. Since 1962 in Jamaica celebrations of August 1st (Emancipation Day) and 6th have merged and in Trinidad and Tobago, after it became a republic on August 1st 1976, Emancipation Day was declared a public holiday in 1985. It is also a public holiday in Jamaica and Barbados since 1997. In Trinidad and Tobago Emancipation Day formerly was called Discovery Day because Christopher Columbus reportedly landed on the south coast of Trinidad at Moruga on July 31st 1498 when he “discovered” the island. Columbus is commemorated by a municipal square and statue in Port-of-Spain. Although the statue has been there since 1881 its future may not be secure, as there are echoes of the debate in Australia over Captain Cook statues.

Statue of Columbus in Port of Spain

Reverberations from the Black Lives Matter and cancel culture movements in the USA, UK and Australia are manifest in demands to remove Columbus and rename the square. The statue itself was daubed with red paint and a banner reading “murderer” was draped around it in June 2020.  

The current uproar about whether Columbus should be removed highlights the resurgence of the long-suppressed and ignored First Peoples (Amerindians) of Trinidad and Tobago. They were lumped by the Spanish into Caribs ( tagged as fierce, warlike cannibals and therefore legally could be enslaved) and “peaceful” Arawaks. But there are many other First Peoples within the Carib/Arawak nations: Carib (Kalinago) who can be Chaima, Nepuyo, Suppoyo or Yao; Arawak (Taino/Lakono) and Warao.

After the landing of Columbus, as no gold was discovered, the export of Amerindian slaves was the next resort. The First Peoples resisted fiercely and achieved some success. A chief named Boucanar defeated the attempt of the Conquistador, Antonio Sedeño, to settle in Mucurapo (west of Port of Spain) in a war lasting three years. Eventually Sedeño’s army left Trinidad on August 27th 1534. 

Warao Nation Queen and Delegation with Port of Spain Mayor

A century later in 1637, a Nepuyo chief –Hyarima- allied with the Dutch from Tobago to burn down the Spanish capital San José (now St. Joseph) and caused the Spanish settlers to abandon Trinidad completely. Of course, the Spanish returned in force and Trinidad was firmly incorporated into Spain’s Latin American empire. Tobago was left to be fought over by Dutch, French, Latvian (Courlander) and British colonisers. The Carib and Galibi First Peoples in Tobago were gradually replaced by the sugar-producing estates like in the rest of the Caribbean.

Some of the remaining First Peoples in Trinidad lived in encomiendas (estates worked by indigenous labour); the most prominent of these were at San Juan, Caura, Tacarigua and Arouca, which today are part of the urban sprawl eastwards along the southern foothills of the Northern Range from Port-of-Spain towards Arima. This town gradually became a centre for First Peoples as the last Spanish governor closed the encomiendas and moved the First Peoples to the mission in Arima between 1784 and 1786 to make way for the influx of French settlers and their slaves  and the post 1789 refugees from the French Revolution in the islands. Today Arima is where the Santa Rosa Carib Festival is held each August (except 2020!) by the revitalised Santa Rosa First Peoples Community.

The Festival incorporates a church procession, smoke ceremonies, parang music and  heritage foods, like cassava bread. It has become more prominent since the Government of Trinidad and Tobago granted a lease of 25 acres to the Community on August 9th 2018 to establish a First Peoples Heritage Village and Living Museum.

Now, back to the statue of Columbus and Columbus Square. The queen of the Warao Nation, Donna Bermudez-Bovell and Shabaka Kambon, the director of the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project (part of the Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad & Tobago) met with the Mayor of Port-of-Spain on June 12th 2020 to request the removal of Columbus and renaming Columbus square – shown in the Warao delegation photo. However, at about the same time, the Chief of the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community, Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez stated that replacement and renaming were pointless unless some tangible measures could be put in place which would benefit the indigenous peoples of Trinidad and Tobago. These conflicting opinions sparked a vigorous debate which continues to rumble along.

The Spanish ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago joined in the fray arguing strongly against removal of the statue and renaming the square. Even the Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley, felt compelled to calm down the debate and is quoted  by Newsday on 11th July 2020 as saying:

Trinidad and Tobago Coat of Arms

“Columbus has gone a long time ago; let’s not fight over a statue. If we are no longer prepared to accept a colonial relic or anything that’s in our midst then let’s just look at it civilly and decide on whether he should be on a pedestal in Port of Spain or in a museum.”

Rowley promised to have a community discussion about it after the election. Well, his Peoples National Movement (PNM) has just won the election with a small but working majority so there may be some resolution soon. However, enthusiasm for change may well be tempered by the Columban symbolism embedded in Trinbagonian heraldry.

The Coat of Arms of Trinidad and Tobago, as shown above includes the three ships of Columbus’ fleet on the central shield. The three peaks of the Southern Range from which Trinidad was named by Columbus are also in the design below the shield. The Amerindian name is Iere or Ka-iri, but Trinidad and Tobago is the country’s formal, official and internationally recognised name.

Every country has so-called contested heritage in which historical commemorations compete to be the preferred view of the past. The statue of Columbus in Columbus Square can be compared with Hyarima’s statue near the Arima velodrome since 1993. Moruga also has a statue of Columbus and celebrates Discovery Day with a pageant of the landing of Columbus. He and his crew disembark from his three ships in the Columbus Channel and are welcomed by Tainos and Caribs. (By the way, Morugans also celebrate Emancipation Day).

But let’s leave the last word to Marcus Garvey:

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

My Jamaican Mom … Wayne

My Jamaican Mom is proud;
Proud of her birthplace and her heritage;
Proud of what she and her husband have accomplished;
Proud of her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren.

Hazel Bigby

My Jamaican Mom is strong;
Filled with the strength and resilience of her ancestors;
Filled with strength from her sense of place and purpose;
Filled with the strength of God.

My Jamaican Mom is beautiful;
Beautiful in flesh and in spirit;
Beautiful in personality and character;
A reflection of the natural beauty of the place she was born.

My Jamaican Mom is intelligent;
Smartly embracing the ways of her adopted nation,
While never forgetting her Jamaican roots;
Astutely adapting to a lifetime of change.

My Jamaican Mom is loved …

By Wayne Bigby, a retired lawyer and business executive who lives in Canada and loves his Jamaican Mom, Hazel Bigby.

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Our Mother … Gary

Our Mother was a short woman in height, however she stood very tall in stature, brilliance, resilience, compassion and plain human decency. Mavis Thompson was no ordinary woman. As a mother and home maker, during the early 1980s she would get up at 1am to do laundry for us as that was the only time we could have water available. Then went to work for a full 8 hours.

Mavis Thompson

She worked a full-time job yet was always able to be home to accomplish tasks as if she was a full-time housekeeper and had been home all day.

As a family we knew what good well-prepared food was and that’s because she made it happen, no matter the economic or social circumstance.  Her culinary skills and ability to satisfy hungry bellies went beyond the family to grace many a social event. Some of us (Gary) may have benefited a little bit more than others in this respect.

Mavis was wise!  All her 3 children (Cordia, Roger and Gary) can attest to her broad band of wisdom that she was able to apply to all areas of our lives.  And we are the better today because of it.

Mavis and Victor Thompson

Our mother was a very attractive woman who on all occasions carried herself with poise and grace. Indeed, a prize-catch for the slick and equally handsome Victor, our Dad. But be not fooled for if required she could knock heads and come out swinging strategically as required. Not one to mess with as we all realized when we received the wisdom of her punishments on crossing the line.

This woman had a heart of gold. She gave of herself to all who she came across. Stories of Her compassion and sense of giving would resonate in our lives long after her passing. Her stature and her presence today are quite vivid in the looks and mannerisms of her grandchildren.  

Our Mother, Our Friend, Our Hero, your physical presence has been gone for awhile but the fire of your spirit continues to burn in our hearts and minds. Keep smiling down on us Mother we love you.

Cordia, Gary and Roger Thompson

Written by Gary, her 1st son in coordination with Cordia and Roger

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To My Mother … Marco

This year Mother’s Day things will be very different for me.

It was one month after Mother’s Day last year 2019 that I started planning what I should give my mother for her birthday. We had already taken my mother to Cuba for Christmas 2018 and were spending an extra two weeks with her in Jamaica as we would be heading back to Australia in January 2019. 

Young Inez Breakenridge

My mother died in June 2019 – one day before her birthday. As soon as I got the news I was on my way back to Jamaica. I could not wait to get there. On arrival in Jamaica I went immediately , to the funeral parlour and saw my mother lying there, eyes closed, motionless but with a smile on her face. She had meant the world to me.  

My mother, like all mothers with average education, was a great teacher, a doctor, a health worker, a fantastic cook, you name it she did everything for her 8 children. She was never selfless, always having a kind word for everyone, always giving to those who were less fortunate than her. And even giving to those who were more fortunate than her but trying to pull a swiftie on her.

The greatest gift my mom gave me was supporting me to pursue my dream which took me to Australia. She knew that our times together would be limited to one or two visits every other year- she coming to Australia or me going to Jamaica. However, the times we shared together will always be etched in my memory.  

That Enduring Smile

She was always singing and praying to the Lord for her children, her close friends, her husband before and after he died. She even asked the Lord to bless those who wronged her. 

Everywhere I went people always said my mother was waiting for the Lord, so when he took her she smiled. She had received her goal of being with the Lord. Thus, this Mother’s Day I will sit and reminisce on you, my mother and how you lived a humble life and pray that I can emulate you, so that when I die (we all will), I will have a smile on my face as I will be ready for my Maker. Hence my message to everyone whose mother is alive I encourage you to love her and celebrate the day with her. For those who live with their mother or those who may be separated from her please remember your mum always deserves the best.

I will be celebrating this and every future Mother’s Day by reflecting on the memory of times my Mom and I had together.

By Marco Breakenridge, the honorary Consul of Jamaica in Australia

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Reflecting on Daphne … Celia

When my Mom, Daphne Innerarity, married my father it became an immediate family of 6, as they had 4 children combined, and were shortly joined by myself and younger brother. Never did any of us feel that we were not all one.

My memories of my Mom are… active. She was always doing something or on the move. As such, as kids we had no choice but to be active ourselves. Mom’s passion is sport and she was an athlete (sprinter and netballer) turned Physical Education Teacher and Lecturer. She also taught dance (until she was 8 months pregnant with me) and was a Netball Coach par excellence.

Daphne Inneraity

I have so many memories of being at Netball Matches, watching Athletics at our national stadium, cricket at Sabina Park.  In addition there was the cultural aspect, being taken to every Pantomime (back in the day), National Dance Theatre recital and Play that was on. We were dragged until we became appreciative. Mom’s other passion was singing and she had a beautiful soprano that made her very popular on the wedding scene, as she serenaded many Couples with the song Ave Maria.

You never felt unwanted or uncomfortable around my Mom, as you’re getting a hug first thing! She has a warm spirit, an infectious laugh and ever the life of the gathering.  She can fit into any situation.

I appreciate her for the legacy of all these things. She has instilled in her children a love of people, which is expressed by the strength of friendships that my family has enjoyed over decades. I even became a hugger myself. I thank her for the love of sport and appreciation of the arts, especially music and dance. But most of all, I thank her for imparting the values by which we live.

My Mother embodies the Proverbs 31 woman. She was a wife of noble character, and has lived her life with purpose, integrity, honesty and love. Because of that her children call her blessed. She speaks wisdom, she prays for us, she sacrificed much for her family and continues to so. So today I honour her for all that her hands have done. She recently had her 80th birthday and unfortunately the celebrations had to be postponed. We give thanks that she is still here and going strong.

My prayer is that she will have health and strength all the days of her life and that she will know that she is loved.

By Celia Innerarity. Celia is a dietitian, working in private practice. She assists her clients, most of which have chronic conditions such as diabetes, with lifestyle management of their condition.

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A Tribute to Mom … Vil + Jos

Mom came into this world with a purpose to teach young ones and to serve her fellowmen.

Lorna Charlton was born on March 15, 1916, in Darliston, Westmoreland, Jamaica, and passed away on October 4, 2008.  Her marriage to Jeremiah produced four children- from the eldest to the youngest, Vilma, Jossette, Glen and Karl.   Apart from her husband, her children were her greatest confidant; so close were we all.  Many nights she chatted with us until we fell asleep.

Young Lorna Charlton

We vividly recall as young children being drafted by Mom over our summer holidays to carry out all the domestic chores generally done by the live-in helper.  As was customary, the live-in helper went off on holidays to her home town in the parish of Westmoreland.  To our chagrin we were required to: clean the board floors throughout the whole house, first applying the dye and then shinning the board with a coconut brush; wash the soiled clothing with the use of scrubbing board and wash pan; iron the clothes ensuring that the little iron heated on the coal stove was impeccably clean before applying them to the clothing. Even helping to prepare the meals was sometimes quite painful as we very often grated our knuckles instead of the coconut, and if we were not careful the wood fire in the iron stove would go out if the fire sticks were not continually adjusted. Balancing a bucket of water on one’s head and walking from the riverside up the rocky road to our house, was also a skill which we fought to achieve.

Perhaps we did not consider it much fun then, but as we grew older we came to appreciate the tremendous value and experience of those early years.  For that we are eternally grateful to Mom.  She helped to prepare us for life away from home.  In those days life away from home could begin as early as ten and eleven years old, particularly for country children like us, who were sent off to high school in Kingston.  

The Charlton Family

Lorna Charlton, spent her entire work life in the primary school as a teacher.  Like her husband, Jeremiah, who was generally the Head Teacher of the school, she was very soft spoken but extremely successful in preparing children for the upper grades.  Students in her class received a good foundation as they prepared for another two years of studying, culminating in the sitting of the National Common Entrance Examination.

At church, she played the organ and also devoted a lot of time to choir practice, ably supporting her husband who was the Choir Master.  Choir practice prepared the choir for regular church services and special events.  One of these special events was the Annual Choir Competitions in the parish of St. Catherine, which they won on several occasions.  After winning for many years the trophy was eventually retired to then at the Point Hill Baptist Church.  Later she also played the Piano for school.  As a matter of fact her two oldest children, Vilma and Jossette, were given a very good foundation in piano, before pursuing it further, during their High School years.

We remember Mom as a remarkable mother, very affectionate and close to her children.   On this Mother’s Day we salute her.

We remember Mom as a remarkable mother, very affectionate and close to her children.   On this Mother’s Day we salute her.

Vilma Charlton, OD, Officer Class in the field of Education and Sport. Olympian 1964, 1968, 1972

Jossette Charlton, OD, Officer Class in the field of Local Government.

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To My Moms … Eileen

The celebration of Mothers’ Day brings a focus on mothers.  In Jamaica, and indeed in the Caribbean, mother has a special significance being often the only constant and consistent parental figure in a child’s life.  Accordingly, Mothers’ Day is a big celebration when mothers are honored and saluted for the role they play in the family and the wider community.

Mother and Daughter

“Loving”, “caring”, “nurturing”, “sacrificial “, “selfless”– are terms we associate with “mother”.  You will hear it being said of a person who is obstinate and difficult and generally of unpleasant disposition -“only his mother can love him”. This is a reaffirmation of the unconditional love expected of a mother.

These maternal characteristics are not peculiar to the woman who gave birth to a child, but also demonstrated by other persons who assume the responsibility for the care and upbringing of children, whether formally or informally, in some cases voluntarily and in others coincidentally.  It is a common feature of Jamaican society for children to be raised by “granny” or “auntie” or other female relative or friend, and in rare cases a male.  Thus “mother” is defined more in terms of relationship than biological ties or even gender.  A celebration of the Jamaican mother must recognize this wider concept to be truly representative.

Granny – Miss Terry

From my own experience I have been blessed to have had the love and support of not only my biological mother but also some other wonderful women who were “mother figures” at critical junctures of my life’s journey.  In great part I owe what I am today (the good bits that is) and what I have achieved to them.

My mother, Louise, has been a supportive and stabilizing force throughout my life.  Though not physically present continuously, her influence, and I think her good genes if not her beauty, are   evident.  Friends and family members remark how much my expressions and gestures remind them of her, and as I move into the senior years I hear her voice in my laughter. I do miss her sense of humor and think how much she would enjoy my dog, Zorro.

Aunt Ives and Eileen

My Grandmother, “Granny” “Miss Terry”, was for all practical purposes my mother as she raised me from age 5 years.  She inculcated in me the good old fashioned values and the love of God above all else.  Although she believed in not sparing the rod for fear of spoiling the child, she was loving and kind and made me feel I was the best at everything.  She had an appropriate saying for every situation and her vocabulary was more expansive than the Oxford dictionary! Indeed, some of her expressions were unique and I would impress my friends with granny quotations.  Hardly a day passes that I don’t recall her with fondness. 

Then there is Aunt Ives who was married to my Uncle Reg and who took on the role of mother and confidante in my late teens and young adulthood.  She was loving and kind and imbued in me a sense of style and good graces and taught me the art of entertaining.  We enjoyed a good relationship which led some people to believe we were biologically related.

Aunt Ina

I was well into adulthood when I met Aunt Ina, my ”England mother” while I was pursuing post graduate studies at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.  I was introduced to her and her family by a friend to whom she was related.  We developed a special relationship.  We worshipped together and would have a tipple to celebrate occasions.  She not only fed me and gave me a home when I needed one but wholly treated me as a daughter. The family connection and friendship continue today even after her passing.

The above is just a brief mention of the impact and contribution of the amazing women who have mothered me.  There are other women who have played a maternal role along the way and whose mentoring and love and support have smoothed life’s pathway – I speak of the mothers of friends, my former boss, Miss Min and Mama Keizs. I think of them all with respect and affection, particularly at this time of year when we celebrate mothers. To my mind the best tribute to them is to emulate the good characteristics exemplified by them in my own relationships with children.   

Eileen and Zoro

I have not given birth myself, but I have been blessed with many children in the form of nieces; nephews; godchildren; the children of friends; my young colleagues and not to be left out, my pet, Zorro.  I thank God for the opportunity afforded me to practice what I learnt from my mothers and pray that the legacy will continue through those whose lives have been touched. 

By Eileen R Boxill CD,QC,Ph.D

Eileen is a former Consultant/Advisor to the Jamaican Ministry of Justice, and retired Director of Legal Reform at that Ministry. She was awarded a national honour – Order of Distinction, Commander Class (CD) and appointed a Queen’s Counsel (QC). 

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Jamaican Christmas Traditions

A bit of nostalgia for those of you who can remember, while for others a chance to learn, about some of our Jamaican Christmas traditions.

“Grand Market” and “Jamaican Sorrel” are two important elements of a Jamaican Christmas.

Grand Market Downtown Kingston

Christmas is the most celebrated holiday season in Jamaica.  Children especially look forward to this time of the year.  Not all because of Santa Claus.  It is the season when most Jamaican parents treat their kids to new clothes.  Thus the kids usually get to dress up in these new clothes and attend Grand Market and other events throughout the season.

Grand Market is held on Christmas Eve in all major towns across Jamaica.  It is considered by many Jamaicans as the highlight of the Christmas season. It is also the liveliest day of the year; as vendors and stores usually operate for the entire day and night.  From as early as 6 am on Christmas Eve most businesses are open.  The streets are lined with vendors selling clothing, household items, decorations, ground provisions and items not available all year round.

Grand Market provides an opportunity for parents and their smartly dressed children to complete their last minute Christmas shopping.  Festivities and music go hand in hand in Jamaica.  So sound boxes playing music are set up to entertain.  After a certain time of the night, a lot Jamaicans usually gather in a “street dance fashion” to dance, drink and enjoy themselves until Christmas morning.

Sorrel Drink with Pods

Christmas Day usually begins with the playing of Christmas Carols.  However Christmas dinner is what most Jamaicans look forward to.  It is a Jamaican tradition to have Jamaican Sorrel with Christmas dinner.

Jamaican Sorrel is a drink made from the Hibiscus Sabdariffa flower (Sorrel).  In Mexico this Christmas drink is called ‘Agua de Jamaica’ (Jamaican water).  The Hibiscus Sabdariffa plant is harvested and the dried flowers pods are boiled and used to make this famous and refreshing drink.  Ginger is added for flavor and it is sweetened with sugar and a splash of white over proof rum is usually added to give it a kick.

Jamaican Christmas cake

Jamaica Sorrel is not only tasty but has numerous nutritional benefits you may not be aware of.  Sorrel is an excellent source of Vitamin C.  It is also rich in iron, calcium, copper, magnesium and phosphorus. It helps to lower blood pressure, high cholesterol and it enhances liver function.

If you want to have a taste of Jamaica this Christmas just head to our website to purchase a bottle of Christmas Sorrel cordial or Contact Us for one of our delectable Christmas Cakes.

Thanks Jhana Dunbar for this informative post.

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