Being a part of the history of where you live is something that is within all of us. We all contribute in one way or another to the development of our individual communities. Our families are a resource for others and what we do to communicate, help each other, and keep our area safe are important components of living in a particular neighbourhood.
As someone said on TV last night, the need to welcome new members to an established community is an important way of getting to know people who are of different cultures, religions, race, and language. Making newcomers feel welcome feeds generosity of spirit and reduces fear of the unknown.
Yesterday, I was also reminded of the beauty of a larger community in which people are drawn together by things they have in common, such as race or immigration from a particular area, or language because Jamaica, the land of my birth, celebrated its 50th anniversary of independance.
To mark the day, many people from the small island nation pulled together at a community fete and waved flags, listened to music, danced, ate, and shared stories. They also affirmed their committment to the country of their birth as well as pledging allegiance to their adopted country. I wasn’t able to be a part of the celebrations in Toronto but in my own way, I connected with my family roots.
I have already talked about Grannie’s story but there is so much more.
While people celebrated the 50th, I was remembering the 1st such celebration in Toronto. My parents were an integral part of the planning for the event but I had my own role to play. For years I had studied music, piano, under the strict eye of a Mr. E.R. Ricketts. When the idea was brought forward of celebrating Jamaica’s first independance, he went to my parents and asked if I could be taught to play the national anthem and perform it for the first time at the celebrations to come.
Well, I was an obediant child, scared of the awesome responsibility but I practiced and practiced so that it would be perfect. It wouldn’t be the first time I played in public but it would be the most important time in the eyes of my family, my community and my teacher.
Indeed, the night at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto seemed to be exciting and filled with the sense of purpose and community I had experienced very rarely. In many gatherings of the ‘West Indian’ community, there was always a little bickering about leadership, although Jamaica, being the largest island, usually took that role.
This event however was to be a wholly Jamaican event with everyone sharing the pride and joy of a budding nation with an incredible 500 years of history already behind it.
I will never forget that night. My mother sang, I played the piano while the sounds of the new national anthem soared from the hearts of those in attendance.
So this writing is a global story, one which is inclusive of Jamaicans living all over and coming together. Out of that night, those who felt a need to be supportive of the community of Jamaicans migrating to Canada, gathered and formed an association which exists to this day.
The Jamaican Canadian Association continues to thrive and provide services to new and old alike.