“The majority of our population is poor; whole heap a dem over deh so have money. Dem inna better job, better situation. They can engage, but part of the problem is half of them are scared. Dem don’t want to come down here for a cause because they are terrified… it’s as simple as that. “Much like how we have leaders in Jamaica who take a stand on certain issues and push things, you don’t have community organizers in the Jamaican diaspora that are active… who are just at it. You just kinda find a man who will say ‘mi a yaadie’, wear the colours and a it dat and big up themself when Bolt a run. For us to have a strong Jamaican or Caribbean voice we need organisation, we need people to be actively supporting causes in Jamaica,” These are the word of dance-hall artiste Shaggy as he addressed a press conference at the Jamaica Observer where he announced plans for his concert to aid the Bustamante children’s Hospital.
Shaggy has done a great job on behalf of children, through his Make a Difference Foundation, his work on behalf of children and the needy is worthy of praise. I believe his heart is in the right place and I sense some frustration in his comments, probably because he feels those of us who live overseas can do more to help. With that said however, I believe his comments were at best in-artful and worse case, smacks of ignorance. There is an old saying that you can attract much more ants with honey than you can with vinegar. Shaggy certainly has enough acclaim and influence to make successful appeals to the diaspora which can translate into cash.
That is why his comments are so unfortunate. I hope I am not over-analyzing Shaggy’s comments but they do smack of something dark and sinister which many Jamaicans can attest to. It is a kind of deep envy which comes out of even those at home who are well-off and have the option of leaving. “whole heap a dem over deh so have money. Dem inna better job, better situation. They can engage“. Many returned residents and others returning to visit have been killed because of what that statement signifies.
Jamaicans living abroad send significant sums of money home every year. That is foreign currency which keeps the Jamaican economy afloat. I understand that what he is contending is that there is not enough support for charities, yet the remittance sent home is not the only foreign exchange being put into the Jamaican economy by the diaspora. The Customs Department rake in tremendous amounts of revenue each year from goods sent home by the diaspora. As a small business owner I see the level of commitment of our people in the remittances , goods and even the Digicel and Lime credits they send home. Many including myself, make important contributions to various Charities, Schools and NGO’s without the fanfare of press conferences.
What Shaggy does on behalf of the poor is commendable, more of us really need to engage in helping if we are in a position to do so. However it is important to note that what each person or group does is as important as what Shaggy and other celebrities do, even if of different magnitudes. As we aspire to do more to help we must also simultaneously work to change the mindset of many at home that those who live overseas are an unending money-pit to be raided and exploited or even killed. We must dispel and discredit the notion that dependency is a virtue. Lets hope we will all find a way in 2014 to lend a hand-up to those less fortunate, while avoiding the acrimonious and regressive demonizing of others.