So today, I saw red, when a visitor described in the Herald Journal, Utah, a version of Jamaica I saw only in the history book. I wrote to the editors and one Charlie McCollum, wrote me back. He would, he said, publish my response if I provided the name of my town.
For those of you who may see it online, please disregard the bad grammar and spelling. I was red with anger and did not check Word’s correction or my passionate language.
The letter I pasted below.
I wonder where this Fernando Leonhardt went, when he said he visited Jamaica. Surely not the Jamaica I grew up in.
As a journalist I have travelled and reported across the length and breath of this island and whilst I have met poverty, I don’t think I have seen many place as described by Mr Leonhardt.
Jamaica is a multi-cultural society- our motto: Out of Many One People describes a nation of many colours. Our food: a blend and the any cultures making up this beautiful island.
Of course, most of the inhabitants are descended from slaves and a large percentage of us are the results of the intermingling of the slaves, the Asian and European people who came. And yes, some of the descendants of the white folks who came here long before the slaves are still here, and more Europeans who came after have joined them.
I am currently in the Jamaica Mr Leonhardt purports to describe. I live in a gated community in the midst of a canefield. I live in a perfectly decent cottage with a car out front, flat screen tv among other “comforts”. I have running water, electricity, telephone, internet and although mostly unnecessary, a water heater. I am a dark skinned black woman, kinky hair with two sets of qualifications from internationally recognised Universities.
I just returned from a check up at the Medical Centre across the street- not the hospital down the road because the wait is shorter at the Medical Centre. Like any American, we have to travel to the hospital.
I have never seen such blatant lies published anywhere and wonder what Mr Leonhardt’s motives are? We have rich black and white folks here. Our Prime Minister is a black woman – Portia Simpson Miller- and yes we have a few brown Jamaicans and perhaps one or two whites in Parliament.
We can’t afford to spend the money you do on education, but the little we do have, goes a long way in getting our students up to international standards.
A test of our self-confidence, expertise and self-reliance is evident by our very successful sports programme. Few years ago, US commentators accused Jamaican athletes of being ungrateful to the US because they attended college there and were trained there, but competed for Jamaica. Today, our athletes are world leaders. Only now they attend school and train in Jamaica.
Not to be outdone, our IT graduates consistently outperform those trained in the US, beating them at their own competitions. Our researchers have been developing drugs and applying for patents for a range of these medicines.
I invite you all to do some research and see the achievements of this nation of 2.6 million extraordinary people. Incidentally there are the University of the West Indies, University College of the Caribbean, The Mico University, Northern Caribbean University, and the University of Technology here. The University of New Orleans, University of Florida and a few United Kingdom-based universities also operate here.
On his next trip to Jamaica, I would urge Mr Leonhardt to remove his shades so he can see what is happening around him.
There is no denying that there are poor people in Jamaica. But all our children have access to schools. Yes, they may have to walk a long way to get there, but there are school feeding programmes to ensure that they get a nutritious breakfast or lunch- much of it paid for by local companies, not multinationals.
I will be bold enough to say that despite the poverty, it is less likely for a Jamaican child to go to bed hungry, than it would be for one living in the US. We care for our own. We cook enough to share with our neighbours who are less fortunate. There are poor people all over the world, but please Mr Leonhardt, be truthful. This country is far more than 1800s picture Mr Leonhardt is trying to portray.
I urge you Mr Leonhardt and the editors who published his cruel words to take a good look at this island through unbiased eyes.
The offending letter is here