Every year, since I came back to Jamaica, a singular thought runs through my head: National Heroes Day needs to celebrate the many Jamaicans who have done so much for this country who are unlikely to find themselves on any list of honours. I suspect that almost every family has a person somewhere in its history who can be seen as a national hero. In my case, I often think back to the stories of what family members did to build something for themselves and by extension for others in the family.
- My maternal grandfather left South St. Elizabeth to work the cane fields of Cuba, to then return and continue to be father to his 11 children.
- My paternal grandmother left St. Mary to go to Kingston and sell charcoal, later become a domestic and lay a base for my father to also go the capital, study more and later work as a nurse at Bellevue Hospital.
- My parents left Jamaica in 1961 so that my mother could find better work as a nurse, while my father abandoned his nursing career to follow her, and build a base for me to study in England and eventually go to university and later find myself working for the IMF. I don’t think either of them would want to have more done than the family’s recognition. No need for ribbons and bows. No need for any ‘Windrush Generation’ accolades.
- My maternal uncle who studied hard and loved education so much that he eventually became Principal of Nain All-Age School, and died having done much to expand and extend the scope of the school in his ‘home’ district. He was also the family historian, whose memories of those now long gone were so valuable.
- My aunt who went to England in the 1950s to nurse and later provided encouragement for my father to also go to England, despite his real reluctance. Her children were all born in England and still live there, but manage to visit Jamaica often and keep some real connection with this island. This aunt is now happily back in St. Mary, in her home district.
While some will sit at Kings House under tents or on chairs, I will be raising a silent toast to those above and others whom I know are truly Jamaican national heroes.