The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission hosted its National Culture Clubs Virtual Conference 2022 on the 22nd of February. The 6th annual event’s theme was “60 and Beyond…Re-igniting the Cultural Spirit”.
The annual conference brings together JCDC’s Culture Club leadership and members from across the island. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the past year’s achievements and activities.
The Interim Executive Director of the JCDC, Ms Lillian Reid, revealed that over 400 Culture Clubs exist across Jamaica. JCDCs Culture Clubs aim “to focus on our nation’s young people, through whom our customs and traditions can be channelled.”, she stated. Therefore, if any entity is interested in establishing culture clubs, the JCDC is ready to support the process from inception.
Purpose of Culture Clubs
Recognising the importance of preserving Jamaica’s culture and heritage, the JCDC established Culture Clubs. Culture Clubs actively engage youth in Jamaica with Day/Night Celebrations, Heritage Week Celebrations, and Emancipation & Independence Day Celebrations. The clubs are in schools and community-based organisations throughout the country.
The Honourable Olivia Grange commended the JCDC on establishing Culture Clubs in schools and communities. She commended them for “ensuring that our Culture Clubs operate under one united banner in a strengthened and more dynamic framework”. She recognised the partnership among the JCDC, JNHT, and JNC-UNESCO among the other agencies. Likewise, the Minister identifies this type of cooperation and sharing of resources leads to higher success and achievement of the objectives. The Ministry of Education also works alongside the MCGES through the assistance of culture agents in schools.
Minister Grange emphasised that “You the delegates, are the Culture Clubs. Therefore, delegates are depended upon “to become ‘culture evangelists’, spreading the word of culture. Make sure that more people can become aware of the significant contribution of culture to nation-building”. Consequently, the youth are culture agents, and society is looking to them to survive our culture. The Minister further charged the youth to use the talent they were born with to carry the culture torch. She emphasised that “Every Jamaican is a star.”
Culture Clubs Partnership
Mr Marlon Williams, Senior Education Officer, Min of Education & Youth, emphasised the importance of cultural retention to society. He said, “Missing are the days when our children will sit under a tree and tell stories. Reminiscing on the days when the younger ones would pass the adults on the road, and you say good morning or good afternoon, whether you know the adult or not.” Mr Williams says the Culture Club coordinators provide hope to bring back positive values and attitudes in our society.
Meanwhile, Mr Everton Hannan, Secretary-General at JNC-UNESCO, wants the clubs to “ensure that the cultural manifesto being presented is being shared, developed, and nurtured and is transcending the borders of Jamaica.” Mr Hannan says, “They teamed with the JCDC to engage the youth in the JCDC Culture Clubs since they are both agencies under the MCGES.”
Mrs Lorna Bailey, the Director of Public Relations, Public Education & Communications at the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), addressed the gathering. She reiterated the readiness of JNHT “to showcase our various heritage sites to the students, teachers and community members, as our role in this culture club initiative.” She furthermore outlined that a part of their mandate has encouraged the establishment of heritage clubs in schools and communities for years. Mrs Bailey sees the merger of the three entities as vital to increasing the knowledge of our culture and heritage among the youths.
Passing Along the Culture Baton
The Minister of State Alando Terrelonge introduced the discussion theme of the panellists. The theme was “How we protect and pass on the evolving baton of Jamaican culture”. He stated, “Our culture is not static, it is dynamic. It is a fluid force that defines who we are and how we are. How we do things, how we feel about things and, also how we do not feel about things.”
The State Minister sought to differentiate between the Jamaican culture sixty years ago and what it is today. He, therefore, submitted that shadows of colonial legacies shaped our culture. Minster Terrelonge also pointed to some areas which still need improvements. Among them are “How we view the beautiful black pigment of our skin, how we view locked hairstyles, and also how we dress. How we speak now.” The latter is about our use of patois.
The panellists fielded questions from the audience throughout the discussion. Mrs Marjorie Leyden-Kirton, Director of Community Cultural Development Services at JCDC, Dr Dominique Reid, Miss Jamaica Festival Queen 2021 & Patron of the National Culture Clubs were the panel members. Also making up the panellist quorum was Alando Terrelonge, MP. State Minister in the MCGES.
National Awards & Cultural Entertainment
Much to the delight of the delegates and other club members, the long-awaited parish awards commenced. Presentations recognised categories such as Most Outstanding Member Leader, Most Outstanding Teacher Coordinator & Most Outstanding Culture Clubs.
In conclusion, what would a gathering of this nature be without demonstrating cultural performances? With this in mind, Ricardo Anderson presented an intriguing folk song mix. Gospel dance performance by Laud Dance Ministry and young Keith Nugent delighted the audience with a speech and drumming item. Danzick created a sizzle with their Dancehall medley dances. There were also performances by the 2021 Jamaica Festival Song second-place winner DB and Reggae artiste, Yaksta.