It’s testimony to the strength of the human spirit that even the worst health emergency of the last 100 years has not drowned out Mr Michael Manley’s call of 48 years ago for Jamaicans to “put work into Labour Day”. Social distancing and other restrictions aimed at preventing spread of the novel coronavirus mean today’s Labour Day activities will be very different from any since the late former Jamaican prime minister outlined his nation-building vision of voluntary, community service back in 1972.
In the circumstances, we applaud advice from Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Ms Olivia “Babsy” Grange for Jamaicans to use today to “clean up and fix up” their home and immediate environment under the theme ‘Labour at Home’.
Says Ms Grange: “We want you to ‘tan ah yuh yard’ and workâ¦ and to do all the things that you would have wanted to do over the years but just never got around to doingâ¦ So you are going to clean up, you gonna plant up.”
Crucially, Ms Grange has placed the ‘Labour at Home’ project in the context of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, which officially begins June 1, but which, in fact, has started already with Tropical Storm Arthur.
That relatively weak system which formed off the Florida coast just over a week ago brought rain and wind to sections of the US east coast before drifting out to sea.
No one can afford to ignore the warning from weather experts that this season will be very active.
We are told that forecasters expect 13-19 named storms, six to 10 of which could become hurricanes, and three to six of which could develop into major events with wind speeds well in excess of 100 miles per hour.
Jamaica and its sister Caribbean nations all looking forward to reopening their life-giving tourist industries locked down by COVID-19 will be hoping and praying.
Jamaicans are well aware of their good fortune in recent years, having not had a major brush with such a system since Tropical Storm Sandy caused one death and considerable damage in eastern parishes in October 2012.
In the circumstances, Ms Grange has given very sensible advice regarding today’s activities: “You may want to see what is necessary to be done to your roof, to your windows, to your housetopâ¦” she said.
All that aside, we note plans for small, ‘social distanced’ projects — both privately and publicly organised for today — among them the cleaning of statues of the nation’s founding fathers at St William Grant Park in downtown Kingston. That, we are told, is this year’s National Labour Day Project.
We are aware that across the country, mayors, custodes, and other leading citizens are heading small clean-up projects in their communities, subject to the prevailing safety protocols.
Commendation must also go to departments of the National Solid Waste Management Authority as well as private sector bodies such as Caribbean Cement Company Limited and Jamaica Pre-Mix Concrete Limited — all involved in cleaning and enhancement projects in communities, parks, etc.
To all those volunteering their time and labour today, we say, many thanks and keep safe.
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