Be The Change You Want To See

I have not coined this term, ‘be the change you want to see’ however, I want to endorse this statement. If you are a sceptic, we can rephrase the term as ‘Practise before you preach’. Motivational speakers will say, ‘Lead by example’. Religious people might connect to the statement, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Whichever way you choose to word it, the meaning remains the same. If we want to bring about a change in this world, it starts with us. 

Anyone who observes the current situation in the world today, we can all agree that we need to change. We need to change our attitude, outlook and approach to viewing, handling and resolving issues. The issues we are facing are not new and unsuspecting, they have been brewing for quite some time without any signs of abating. Until now, all our efforts to resolve have only served as bandaids on a fractured bone. We have missed the mark one too many times. One of the reasons that the same issues continue to fester time and again is the lack of change. We need to make fundamental changes to the way we approach the problem, change our perspective. 

As a party to this conflict, our perspective, opinions, solutions often, tend to be biased, one way or the other. Asking an oppressor or an oppressed for their opinion will yield results coloured by their experiences. To correctly identify the root cause, we need to see the problem with an unbiased set of eyes. This unopinionated set of eyes are the most difficult to come by. 

I know that some of you are thinking that the only unbiased set of eyes can be that of aliens 😜because everyone else has already picked sides. There is, however, another solution, be the change you want to see. If you wish for the oppressed to stop complaints and be thankful, then you start practising it. If you expect the oppressed to stand up for what is right and speak up at the right forum, then you practice it. If you want to see tolerance in this world, then you be tolerant of people who disagree with you. If you desire to see friendly faces, then you smile and be open to friendship with strangers. 

I hope my message catches you in good spirits, that you see my perspective too. Have a great day

Image Courtesy of canva.com

How Do We Decide Who Is Right??

In the last few weeks, we have seen many controversial and disturbing events that took place around the world. Mass shootings in the USA, protest against the regime in Hong Kong, reorganization bill in J&K (India), Ebola crisis in Congo, increased tensions in Iran, terror threats in Afghanistan, etc. We hear many such unfortunate and troubling news items daily. It makes us wonder about the dilemma of humankind. In many cases, it also instigates unrest in other parts of the world. People try to show their solidarity and support to the victims by taking out protest rallies and marches elsewhere. Some even resort to violence in the name of standing up for the oppressed.

All this might seem like a positive move to unite the world as one. Whether I show solidarity toward the army for quashing an attempt to revolt or march with the citizens of Hong Kong against police brutality, or dispute human rights violations by China, there is an equal number of people who support the opposite side. Herein lies my question. How do we decide who is right and who is wrong? What is propaganda and what is the fact? How do we identify the difficult truth, when it is surrounded by misinformation?

It is always easier to believe the words of deceit than to examine and find the truth for yourself. Since we cannot be everywhere and watch reality with our own eyes, we rely on news and social media to know the truth. When these people deceive us with smokescreens and play with our sensibilities, it is time to stop and make the effort to seek out the truth ourself. When you see two opposing viewpoints, try to find the truth behind the words of each party. Don’t fall for the sweet and soothing words of anyone who promises an easy way out. Believe in the words of those who show reality, however painful it is. The ones who appear to be victims may not always be the wronged party. The aggressors may not always be oppressors. Sometimes, they are just balancing mistakes long due.

I am not interested in telling people what is right and what is wrong. We must come to that conclusion on our own after digging for the truth. Social media, WhatsApp forwards, celebrity endorsements and speeches should not blind us from fact checking. Just because our favourite icons support a cause or make a statement, it need not be the factually correct. The media can be easily manipulated to promote a certain agenda or viewpoint. I can only urge people to think on their own and not become the mouthpiece fearmongers and xenophobes.

Historic Sam Sharpe Square In Montego Bay

Nested in the centre of Down Town, Montego Bay, is the popular Sam Sharpe Square. This historic place is bustling with pedestrian and vehicular traffic. It was originally called Charles Square.

Sir Charles Knowles was the governor of Jamaica from 1752 to 1756. James Lawrence who was the custos of the parish in 1755, laid out the parade in the town of Montego Bay and named the square as “Charles Square” in honour of the governor.

Charles Square was renamed as Sam Sharpe Square in the year 1976 to honour Jamaican National Hero Samuel Sharpe. He was from Montego Bay and was executed in the market place for being the main instigator of the 1831 Slave Rebellion at Kensington Estate nearby.

Here are a few images of what the square looked like then based on the images sourced from the National Library of Jamaica .

Today, Sam Sharpe Square boasts of several historic monuments such as the Sam Sharpe Monument, the Cage, the Civic Centre and the Freedom Monument and a fountain.

The cage, a wooden structure was originally built in 1806. It was used as a jail for runaway slaves, unruly seamen and vagrants. In 1822, the Vestry replaced the wooden structure with a stone and brick structure you see in the picture above. In later years, it was used for other purposes. Today, it is a place where they sell phone cards and other things.

Sam Sharpe Monument

Kay Sullivan designed the Sam Sharpe monument and it depicts Samuel Sharpe standing with a Bible in his hand and talking to the slaves. Samuel Sharpe was instrumental in the abolition of slavery in Jamaica. He was a Baptist Preacher and a great leader. Through his religious meetings, he communicated with other slaves and encouraged political thinking.

The Montego Bay Cultural Centre formerly called as the Montego Bay Civic Centre is a majestic structure that catches your eye as soon as you reach the Sam Sharpe Square. This facility has undergone major refurbishing by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and involved a cost of $109 million. This place now houses an art gallery, a museum, space for the performing arts, a bistro, an artisan village and a gift shop.

It is a collaborative effort of the TEF, the St. James Parish Council, the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Urban Development Corporation (UDC).

Originally, this building served a different and grim purpose. It was the Old Court House and was built in 1774. This is the place where many African slaves were tried. Samuel Sharpe was also tried here for his involvement in the Emancipation War on 19 April 1832 and he was sentenced to execution by hanging.

By 1959, the court offices and local government offices had become too large for the building to accommodate them and the court offices were moved to new premises on St. James Street. A fire destroyed the courthouse in 1968. In 2001, the Urban Development Corporation restored the building with funding from the Venezuelan Government through the San Jose Accord. It was reopened as the Montego Bay Civic Centre. It is a multi-faceted facility with provision for a museum, art gallery, performing arts and conferencing facilities.

The Freedom Monument was erected in 2007 to memorialize the enslaved persons who participated in 1831-32 war of emancipation.

In this picture, you can see what the Old Court House looked like in the early 1900s.

Here are a few more pictures I clicked at the square.

View of the back of the Montego Bay Cultural Center. While I was clicking these snaps, the bystanders told me that there were prisons here too.

A patty shop to snack at if you are tired or you could buy a few fruits at this pushcart.

When you visit Montego Bay, don’t miss a trip to the Sam Sharpe Square in Down Town.

Image Source: National Library of Jamaica and Jamaica National Museum. Click on the images to go to their website.