The following are excerpts from an article written in 2006 by the late Ian Boyne.Our emphasis is in bold.
Edward Seaga has more respect and regard for black people than many of his political opponents. He understands black people far more than many black people understand themselves and certainly more than most politicians. Seaga’s credentials as a black nationalist are unchangeable.
There are the cynics, of course, who say that Seaga merely exploited Jamaican culture; that he had and has no real interest in the Jamaican masses; it was only that he found them serviceable in his unquenchable thirst for power and Messianism. The cynics say that he learnt the people’s culture in order to “fool them up” and dominate them. He went to live on Salt Lane so he could understand the people and win their affection on his way to winning the West Kingston seat.
CONTRIBUTION TO CULTURE
Any idiot can question a person’s motives. Cynicism can be the trademark of the intellectually indolent. Talk to cultural nationalist Professor Rex Nettleford, the country’s most esteemed cul tural scholar and one of the most distinguished intellectuals of the developing world (and no Labourite!) about the contribution of Edward Seaga to Jamaican culture.
The demonisation of Edward Seaga, plus his own personality weaknesses and many blunders, have blinkered many persons to his enormous passion for the culture of Africa and Jamaica. Contrary to the perception of many, Seaga is no elitist.
It was an unforgivable load of propaganda and mischief to say he despised black people. That ‘black Scandal Bag’ propaganda which was effectively used against him was a tragic and most regrettable part of our history, for which he should receive a full apology, however belatedly.
Edward Seaga has more respect and regard for black people than many of his political opponents. He understands black people far more than many black people understand themselves and certainly more than most politicians.
When black people’s African-based religions were despised and demonised, Edward Seaga documented and celebrated them. In a Christian fundamentalist country heavily influenced by Euro-American conservative Christianity, he was bold enough to have a revival table at Jamaica House, leading to the charge that he had brought obeah to the centre of power and had invoked God’s wrath upon Jamaica. (Which was rubbish)
He had a respect for and an appreciation of Afro-Jamaican religions which has not been shared by many of those who dared to question his respect for black people. Not to mention his sophisticated grasp of the power and meaning of religious symbolism in people’s lives. He has never displayed the arrogant contempt for religious rituals, particular of an African variety, so common among so-called enlightened white scholars.
His promotion of Jamaica Festival as well as the establishment of a week-long celebration of Jamaican heritage, National Heritage Week, culminating in a National Heroes Day shows the depth of the commitment he has had toward the promotion of Jamaican culture. In 1967, he established the Jamaica Journal to document, celebrate and eulogise Jamaican culture. It was he who brought back the remains of the world-renowned Jamaican black nationalist and Pan-Africanist Marcus Mosiah Garvey, and it was he who created Jamaica’s highest national awards, that of National Hero; making Garvey our first National Hero.
This is the same man who was said not to like black people. For a leader who was not ‘born ya’, he has done more to advance the cultural interests and heritage of black Jamaicans than every other ‘born ya’ political leader in this country.
The creation of Things Jamaican to market the craft of our people; the establishment of the Cultural Training Centre, where the range and variety of art forms found full expression and where young minds could be moulded, are signal achievements.
PUTTING JAMAICA ON THE MAP
The most famous Jamaican in the world is Bob Marley. It is reggae music which has put Jamaica on the map. It is not our business class, or our intellectuals or assorted professionals and money people from uptown. It is the cultural products of poor, inner-city people which put Jamaica on the map and which uptown now has to ‘sponge’ on to sell the country.
NO POLITICAL leader in the history of Jamaica has done more to advance the culture of black people than Edward Phillip George Seaga. That the Institute of Jamaica will tomorrow induct him as a Fellow is not only fitting, but overdue. On the eve of this important induction it is appropriate to assess and celebrate Edward Seaga’s contribution to Jamaica’s culture and its African retentions.
Perhaps now that he is out of the political fray, we can evaluate him more dispassionately and with a greater degree of analytical incisiveness. (For the record, I state that while he was Opposition Leader I wrote several articles blowing the whistle on those who were demonising him and pointing to his strengths.)
If you look at the sheer record of cultural institutions established and initiatives taken to promote Jamaican culture, no Jamaican political leader equals his record of achievements. Just do the math. But Seaga’s contribution to Jamaican culture goes way beyond the statistics.