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In conversation with Sir. Vivian Crawford In conversation with Sir. Vivian Crawford
by Dr Elsa Lycias Joel
2021-09-11 06:04:59
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We are so thankful for your willingness to chat honorable Sir. Crawford. To begin with let me assert that gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. Like you always say, our heritage influences who we are and who we become. So, may we know what is that one striking commonality you see in maroons across generations that fosters a sense of gratitude for who they are, where they are from and the life as they know it today?

Pride of heritage in securing freedom. It makes me, a Moore town man with a maroon DNA, realize how much I owe to those on whose shoulders I have been standing. Every time I receive an award or a recognition for my works, I feel indebted to many who were part of guiding me to who I am today.

What are those few feathers in your cap that decorate your entire self!

sicra01_400(Grins) The Abeng Award in recognition of my contribution to the Maroon heritage, the Mico University Gold Medal for being an outstanding graduate and key musician, the Gleaner Honour Award for Culture and in 2012  the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons Jamaica 50 Living Legacy Award. There are many more to mention. Being a recipient of Jamaica’s national honour, the Order of Distinction and of the Governor General’s Achievement Award catalyzes my purpose of life.

The concept of free villages ushered in a new era I see and there was no need for any police, for almost 3 decades until 1866. Does this fact convey that an ideal society is utterly realistic?

Indeed, communities would have benefited from the template of freed Maroons. An ideal society is always possible with the death of prejudice and birth of gratitude.

We share the surprise of the then governor Sir Charles Metcalfe who arrived in Jamaica in 1839. Do you think peace and love is Jamaicans' genetic disposition?

Peace and love are Jamaica’s genetic disposition and for many years. Genes were active up to 1960 (Smiles). Kingston never had iron grills and gates to public institutions, just glass windows!! To date Maroon communities are crime free because of the social structure of “ manners and behavior” instilled from childhood.

How many of these free villages have you visited? Your thoughts on formation and investment of human capital towards creating a better world.

Yes, Sligoville, St. Catherine and Brittonville St. Ann. The missionaries and the churches played a significant role in establishing stable communities including homes and schools and centres of empowerment. A major concern now is illegal access to land,” squatting”.

Yes! We hear you loud and clear sir Crawford. And rightly did the Chinese Philosopher, Kuan Tzu declare , ‘if you plan for a year, plant a seed. If for ten years plant a tree, if for two hundred years, teach the people.” When you sow a seed once, you will reap a single harvest, when you teach people, you will reap a hundred harvests. With you as the vibrant head, how well did the Institute of Jamaica contribute towards equipping Jamaicans with knowledge, especially of their rich heritage?

Our National Hero Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey said,” A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”. The INSTITUTE OF JAMAICA was established in 1879 for the Encouragement of Literature Science and Art” and has been a catalyst for many institutions in this country including the University of the West Indies. Restoring Liberty Hall,  the legacy of Marcus Garvey to its former glory was a calling and challenge that I paid heed to during my days at the Institute of Jamaica.

Hailed as a “national treasure” by The Grace Kennedy Foundation, you are the pride of Jamaica. By age nine, you were well aware and thorough of your great and authentic past. We are sure you would have given every bit of yourself to establish a national identity by focusing on multiple dimensions of what it means to be Jamaican, including issues of language, identity, gender and race. Few words on that, please.

I am indebted to Grace Kennedy Foundation for their generosity of spirit in allowing me to share my zeal for Jamaica, the land we love. However, much is owed to my parents, relatives and community for exposing me at an early age to my heritage. The theme of the presentation INTANGIBLE HERITAGE OF JAMAICA SO MUCH TO TELL is a signal for me to accelerate the process of sharing the information.

Outside of colonial rule, Jamaica would've been at a crossroad with regard to culture and customs. Was it a task to restore elements of local culture and customs or the transition to original selves happened by itself?

Acculturation where the victor imposed its culture on the vanquished is still evident as this takes time to rectify. However, Jamaica popular music has created its own identity and is blazing the path for us to follow- “ create not imitate.”

As chairman of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission for 10 years (up to 2007), what was your most challenging project? We know that art and culture, even oral culture is the foundation of historical and personal identity, but how did you make sure the world looked up to Jamaica to appreciate its contribution towards catalyzing global peace and a sense of gratitude?

The challenge was organizing and sustaining with sponsorship for a week in August ,BEST OF FESTIVAL where for every afternoon from 5:00-11:00 pm we celebrated the visual and performing aspects of our culture .Apart from sponsorship and the dynamic staff the response from the public signalled that we had to deliver. It was during my time at Jamaica Cultural Commission that I was Chairman of the Committee which received UNESCO’S first declaration of the INTANGIBLE HERITAGE OF JAMAICA. "Oral culture" is the easiest vehicle for transmission! Bob Marley's music is embraced by the world- the song One love declared by BBC as the song of the century and the album Exodus declared by Time Magazine as the album of the millennium.

Sir, you leave no stone unturned when it comes to celebrating maroon legacy. During the campaign you launched to raise money to get a plaque installed at the entrance to the old King's House building in the town, how was the public response? Can you recall a few good memories of events and people connected to this endeavour of your's?

The campaign to install a plaque at the site in Spanish Town where the Act for the Abolition of Slavery was read was a challenge because I wanted it to be sponsored by public subscription and by the time I was told I had no authority to request funds on behalf of Government the amount we required $40,000.00 was achieved with the largest donation from Mr. Egerton Chang whose parents owned the first Supermarket in Jamaica. He whose ancestors did not come on the Middle Passage could affirm “Out of many one people.”

With your strong background in finance and retail banking you had served UTech as honorary treasurer and later as pro-chancellor and chairman of the council. Does opening up to international trade result in steeper reduction in the cultural distance, diluting native cultures?

International trade beckons cultural interactions. Recall the visit of the Queen of Sheeba to Solomon and Europeans to the far east and the exposure to the culture and how it was shared.

Tutoring students at Boys' Town should've given you immense satisfaction, kind of a 'mission fulfilled' feeling because teaching youngsters is another way of documenting history in addition to establishing a connection between the past and the future. How receptive were the kids in knowing how they became who they are?

That was a voluntary project and the students were taught to play the recorder to make music and learn a skill for livelihood. The past students appreciated the discipline of working in groups which created better interpersonal relationships as well as learning a skill for life's vocation

Your favorite childhood memory!

The day my grandmother told me that 18 persons from Moore Town walked to Kingston 70 miles away over two days to attend the International Exhibition of 1891. She was emphatic when she said she saw a white soldier and realized they had reached New Castle, the training camp of the Defence Force.

Most loved and most important family member you remember and you are grateful to!

My mother Etty Angeline Crawford formerly McGregor. My father died when I was four months old and she always said, "The violets will bloom again". Have you  heard, "The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks"!

Yes, I have heard of these beauties that can blossom beneath the snow. Thanks for your time. People like you are a blessing and are much needed to instill the spirit of nationalism that’s necessary for the social and cultural preservation/development of Jamaica. Being resourceful and culturally aware is your forte and may God grant you everything that you need to contribute towards nation-building.


Elsa Lycias Joel is an Indian journalist who holds a doctorate in biotechnology, worked with The New Indian Express and  writes for quite a number of lifestyle magazines, national and  regional dailies. An anti-imperialist with a keen interest in environmental, social and health challenges facing humanity, she is loud and clear with her views whenever and wherever possible.

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