In 2 weeks, life as we know it, for just under fifty years – or 2 Generations – in Jamaica, will change forever. Two Jamaicans, one in the political sphere and the other a radio personality, will ‘almost’ close out their innings in the public arena … and they will leave a gap that can never be filled – at least, not in our lifetime.
Portia Lucretia Simpson Miller, or simply, “Porsha“, will step down as President of the People’s National Party (PNP) and simultaneously Leader of the Opposition, according to reports, on April 2, 2017. Although she will remain as Member of Parliament for the South Western St. Andrew Constituency for the time being, in a Parliament that is almost evenly divided between the PNP and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), the move ostensibly marks the end of a long and colourful career in the field of Jamaican politics.
Portia has spanned the gamut of the political sphere – rising from Councillor to becoming the first female head of a political party and the first female Prime Minister of Jamaica. Those are 2 simple things that no one else can ever do again in Jamaica, because it has already been done – by Porsha! She came from the masses in a rural community in St. Catherine, and – for the people – she represented the potential and possibility to rise above our current or past circumstances and to become whatever we desire. For the women, she blazed a trail which represented the “strength of a woman” and shattered the ‘glass-ceiling’ that proverbially kept women just that inch below the top. As a leader … don’t test! Twice the best came up against her for the leadership of the party and twice the delegates rejected them.
For the better part of 43 years (save for a small stint when the PNP did not contest the General Elections), Portia has represented the people both in the House of Parliament and in our hearts. She walked among us and with us and – yes – she hugged and kissed us. She associated with the proverbial Kings and Queens, and leaders of great nations – but she never lost the common touch. Aye, she even spoke our language, even on occasions when some of us would have preferred that she spoke the “Queen’s English”. Yes, Porsha was brought to leadership by the people, she was for the people, and she was of the people!
Indeed, her rise to power was on the backs of and with the love of the people. And, if one would fault her, it would be that she lost touch (somewhat) with the people in her last stint as Prime Minister. Mind you, this is not a political critique of her performance as a politician. There will be ample time for that, as the Historians will have their day. But, when a political leader, who is accessible to the people and listens to the people, allows her handlers to form a barrier between her and them and thereby becomes inaccessible to the people … then there will be hell to pay … and she paid it.
For my part, as with Manley and Patterson, I would have preferred that she had demitted office on a high, both as Prime Minister and President of the PNP … but many factors thwarted that and it is what it is.
Notwithstanding, and despite what the naysayers and her detractors would say, Porsha has served her people and Jamaica long and well. She has remained relevant and constant for the last forty plus years and at least 2 generations have been impacted by the fact that she lived and offered herself to serve. Hate, like or love her … one thing is certain, you could not ignore her and her legacy will live on long after she has exited this life, because she has ascended to heights hitherto unknown and blazed a trail for others to follow.
Alan “Teddy” Magnus will probably be appalled that I have linked my tribute to him to that of Portia. From what I have heard and read, he had no inclinations towards politics, nor would he want any unnecessary association with that career. But, given his acquired diplomacy, he would perhaps say “I am too small to be associated with such a great lady” and we would be forgiven for thinking that he was talking about his physical stature – enough said.
Be that as it may, Alan – better known in recent times as the “Mad Nut” (although I prefer to remember him as the “Good Morning Man”) – will hand over the microphone on March 31, 2017. The move (barring 1 or 2 episodes) will mark the end of a career spanning 46 years. Yes – let that sink in!
I am 50+, so it’s safe to say that I have been listening to Alan for – all my life. It was years later that I would see his picture (because I only met him recently and briefly as I shook his hand on the steps of the Towers in New Kingston where he was doing an outside broadcast for VMBS – don’t worry, he won’t remember) and somehow that inimitable voice did not match the small slender frame of the man. But, such is the man – seemingly larger than life – ever present and pervading.
My contemporary country men and women will tell you that it’s not a “good morning” if Alan is not on RJR. As you rise out of bed, you would turn on the radio and you wouldn’t need to search – because it was already “stuck on RJR94 FM”. First, your ears would listen for that voice – that confirms the station. And then you would listen for the feature – Calling Farmers, Starscope, In the Guest Room … – that tells you the time (whether you’re early, running late or on time). And then he would stay with you through your morning chores. Many a mornings I would reluctantly turn off the radio to head through the door. This took me through Primary School, High School, University and work. And – in recent years after I acquired my car – I simply switched from the house radio to the car radio, as he travelled with me to work.
Alan has been like a member of the extended family, he comes into our homes every morning (Monday to Friday) and sometimes on a Saturday. He makes us laugh and feel good about ourselves. And – in recent times in the commentary box – he makes us think hard about some of the issues that are facing our country. I confess that I don’t always agree with his views, but I always look forward to hearing him.
How does one energize himself to get up at 3 or 3:30 every morning of the weekday for 46 years to go before a microphone – happy, sad, ailing or drunk (ooops – did I say that) – to then energize a nation to get up, dress up and show up and play a part in building our nation? It cannot be easy – yet, Alan has done it!
In a recent interview/comment, when asked – why now? He said, “I can’t make it to 50 … I just can’t! So, even if I stay on for another year or two … it will just be additional time which brings me closer to the 50 that I can’t reach. So I might as well go at 46.”
I found his statement to be poignant, because with all the charm and humour and with all that he has given to and done for us, it cannot have been easy to develop that level of work ethic and discipline and determination to show up every morning. I dare say it was not a good morning when we missed his voice on the radio – and there weren’t very many of those.
I hope our nation and especially our young people would take a leaf out of Alan’s book and find something that you love and are good at, pour yourself into it, be dedicated and constant and reap the rewards of your good, honest labour in due season.
So, 2 innings comes virtually to an end. The players had different styles and different roles, albeit that they both played at round about the same time and for the same cause. I dare say that they are even equally loved by the people and that their names will be echoed in the annals of our history. A politician and a disc jock … providing a lifetime of service to a grateful nation … who could ask for more?
To Portia and Alan, I thank you both … Jamaica thanks you!
Walk good, ’til next time …