Jamaica has no modicum of thought or consciousness with regards to restoration or preservation of the vestiges of her history within the body politic of our country and it is no doubt due to a lack of exposure. As a result, the thought process leads to mash up, tear down and rebuild only.
There were fervent discussions about the demolition of The General Penitentiary somewhere around 2015 amid the furor of England having the gall to offer us £25,000,000 to be used for building a new prison. Did the offered handout come with a slap of shame and a reminder of the heinous period of slavery the country suffered under colonization, I guess. But here is what I know for sure, Jamaica is not in a position to afford that tidy sum from it’s coffers comfortably any time soon, as there are more pressing matters to be addressed at hand, and which, I daresay, are challenging at this time. Do we need a new prison, of course. Will our refusal stop England from deporting prisoners to the island by the plane load? Absolutely not. I admit that it takes more than I have to bring to the table to figure out how best to keep malice, specify demands for handouts or piss in a piss-pot or “chimmey,” rather than accept a gift of sorts from the landlord to upgrade to a latrine or toilet – to save face.
However, to accept or not is not the bone of my contention! It is the wanton and thoughtless acts of chopping down trees as old as the island and the stupid freaking mentality in demolition of buildings that form a part of our historical heritage!
Granted, the General Penitentiary was built in 1845 which was post slavery, but since I am not aware of any serious industry dedicated to creating building blocks during that time, I am left to assume that much of the material for construction of that building came from the balusters that were used to balance the shipments of human cargo as they moved from island to island in their pillaging and raping of nations. It is a lack of recognition of the importance of preserving that part of our history that concerns me. It is the cavalier approach to destroying our 19th century structures – that should unquestionably be cemented as part of our historical legacy!
At worst, that space, that building, that solid structure that has weathered many storms, should be preserved and transformed into a quaint jaw dropping mall housing little book shops, art galleries, fancy little bistros and boutiques, to name a few, and should be the nucleus of gentrification for the surrounding downtown community!
But I digress from my initial thoughts, for I am never more certain than now, that our town planners who are clearly bereft of any such vision or knowledge – are mere draftsmen!!!
Founder & Visionary