Jamaicans received a heavy dose of reality when Rev. Audley Donaldson took the pulpit to deliver a sermon at Riverside Church where a thanksgiving celebration commemorated the 55th anniversary of the island’s independence.
The Episcopal rector of Brooklyn’s St. Stephens & St. Martin’s church spoke candidly declaring he wanted to address “the elephant in the room.”
“Fear” he said factors when a generation has grown up accepting burglar bars as decorative.
He emphasized it is fear that demands gated communities to be constructed as a fortress to keep out a particular segment of the society.
Fear he said makes it glaringly obvious when all-inclusive hotels promote a policy to protect guests from locals by discouraging free access to the surrounding community.
“Do the right thing!” he urged nation builders.
He called for reforms from long-standing discriminatory practices.
“You don’t get to criticize while you excuse the sexism, classism, elitism and privilege” that prevails in Jamaica, he added.
He used Biblical passages to amplify his argument that “fear has to do with punishment — not love.”
However, he offered hope echoing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s inaugural address in 1933 when he said “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.”
The preacher did not seem preachy, instead he seemed sincere addressing a hugely ignored obvious situation he believes balanced a mostly bragadoccious precedence summarizing half a century plus five since Jamaica decided to govern itself.
Trudy Deans, the island’s Consul General presented her inaugural statement of goodwill to nationals. In addition she read a message from Prime Minister Andrew Holness which named pride and freedom as two principal sources of accomplishments diasporans should acknowledge.
In song, dance and commentary exhortations lauding Bob Marley’s musical prowess showcased Erin Bailey performing solo to “Redemption Song.”
“Jamaica Land Of Beauty,” a patriotic song rendered by a stand-in for David Reed also punctuated pride nationals often boasts throughout the years.
Also significantly distinguished was the freedom from colonial rule Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the island’s first national hero prophesied.
The Pan-African’s pronouncements were manifested when his son Dr. Julius Garvey offered a prayer in remembrance of all the island’s national heroes.
Special prayers were also read by select individuals for the homeless, poor and neglected, youth, incarcerated and deportees, the judicial system, the diaspora, prime ministers past and present as well as the nation.
And Usain Bolt’s stupendous athletic triumphs were not ignored during amplifications of the mantra that defines the island being “lickle but we tallawah.”
Undisputedly punctuated by a full congregation, the saying interprets to mean that although small in geography, the might of its people is globally recognized by universal triumphs in many genres.
The Negril-born Donaldson scolded the hypocrisy of politicians, power-brokers and stakeholders he said enables discrimination by ignoring overwhelming fears.
He called on “bad-men” to cease from terrorizing the people.
Borrowing from a Beres Hammond lyric he echoed — “rise and shine and clear your mind.”
Not lost on his sermon was his endorsement of Bolt’s contribution to his birth-island.
Without commenting on the third-place, retirement, London loss that the sprinter registered in the 100-metre race earlier that day, the rector enlisted support from his 10-year-old daughter to display Bolt’s signature pose “to the world.”
For that and all he said, he received a rousing “Amen.”