Obama and the Jamaican Culture

pres-barack-obama-jamaica The message was so clear. I wonder if we got it though. The president of the United States arrived to start a much anticipated visit. The roads were paved, unsightly people and images were pushed aside; security was tighter than a sardine can. A feeling of euphoria swept the area that the president traversed, as people gathered in large numbers just to catch a glimpse, and some were most disappointed when he flew overhead instead of driving past. A tight schedule of activities was planned for his trip. But, where did President Obama head first? It seems that the president couldn’t even wait to put down his bags and rest his feet a bit. He headed straight to the Bob Marley Museum. This is a very interesting choice of a priority. The first Jamaican to whom he was anxious to show that “respect due” was Bob Marley. Bob Marley And then, Obama demonstrated how excited he was about basic aspects of our culture. In his town-hall meeting he had everyone cheering his greeting “Wha gwaan Jamaica?” and “Big Up” , and “…massive…” What does that say about the place that our pervasive culture occupies in the minds of some of the greatest and most powerful? I observed the events with some level of disappointment though: not even a little “cultural item” on the menu of activities. It would have been appropriate to have a little folk group at one of the events, or a dance group presenting some moves to Marley etc. After all, the real world boss Obama, had already demonstrated his ratings for the reggae boss, and maybe he and his delegation would have enjoyed some mento, and ska while having lunch.

Louise Simone Bennett-Coverley or Miss Lou, OM, OJ, MBE, was a Jamaican poet, folklorist, writer, and educator.
Louise Simone Bennett-Coverley or Miss Lou, OM, OJ, MBE, was a Jamaican poet, folklorist, writer, and educator.

A Miss Lou poem would have been most appropriate, and he would have heard the local tongue wittily expressing the most thought-provoking ideas. But then sometimes we don’t see…. The world loves our culture. We should be giving greater emphasis to packaging and supporting our creative and cultural expressions. Government policy should surround providing opportunities for these areas in which we as Jamaicans clearly have an advantage over many other countries throughout the world. Lip service is not good enough, but tangible actions are needed to help the many naturally talented creative people to find their place, like a Bob Marley did; and to find their voice like Louise Bennett. Entrepreneurship in the creative industries should be encouraged, and may be the next time Obama visits, he will sing “Stir it up”, and will big up the government for its work in providing enterprising opportunities for the massive. 🙂


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