My family is an example of what Jamaica’s national motto, “Out of Many, One People,” on the Coat of Arms, means. In addition to the African lineage in my family, according to my grandmother, my great grandfather came directly from India on a ship transporting Indian men and women for indentured labour on Jamaican plantations. So that explains the prominent Indian-flavour to the family, especially in the appearance of my sister, Kimberley (hi Kim!), uncle (my mother’s brother), and cousins Alison and Danielle. They got it full blast!
So how do you explain my Chinese-looking appearance?
That would be from my mother, specifically her father’s side of the family. From my youngest days I’ve been referred to as Ms Chin, from within and outside the family. Remember now, any Chinese-looking smaddy in Jamaica is called a Mr or Ms Chin, even if the person hailed from Japan, Korea or Vietnam! In fact, my mother told me that she was also referred to as Ms Chin as a child. She even narrowly missed one of the anti-Chinese riots that broke out in down town Kingston on her way to school one day in September 1965.
I’ve only recently – as in over the past 10 years or so – accepted this as my lot and have embraced it with luster. Now even my car is called Ms Chin. In fact, when I refer to Ms Chin my peeps automatically know I’m talking about my car!
So Jamaica’s national motto is based on the population’s multi-racial roots, and rightly so. Jamaica’s population is a mixture of African, European and Asian lineages that is reflected in our food, music, dance, talk … in everything that makes us Jamaicans. The decision to change the motto to one that rightly reflects the population of the country was therefore an excellent one, considering our move towards becoming an independent nation in 1962.
It has been AGREED, however, that there is a need to revise the present motto which is now deemed out of context with the country’s new status. Accordingly, consideration is now being given to devising a suitable motto in English to replace the existing Latin version.
The Chairman of the Independence Celebrations Committee, on the authority of the Premier and Cabinet Leader of the Opposition, announced on Tuesday, April 3, 1962, that: “Jamaica’s motto in Independence will be Out of Many, One People (The Daily Gleaner, Wednesday, April 4, 1962, p. 1):
The Independence Celebrations Committee later placed the following announcement in the Daily Gleaner of April 9, 1962, p. 6, to: “…advise Manufacturers, Importers, Businessmen and the General Public that the complete illustration shown above and variations thereof are acceptable for Printing on SOUVENIR ITEMS, DECORATIONS etc being ordered for sale to mark Independence.”
On Friday, September 5, 1967, the Minister of Finance and Planning, the Hon, Edward Seaga, unveiled Jamaica’s new currency notes to the country at a news conference held at the Ministry. The new notes came into effect on Monday, September 7, 1969. Among them was the new $2 note, no longer in circulation, which featured the head of Paul Bogle on the front, and “a photograph of a group of Jamaican children, exemplifying the national motto, “Out of Many, One People” (The Daily Gleaner, Saturday, September 6, 1969, p. 1).
So how much does the motto reflect your own Jamaican family history? Here’s an exercise for you: take a look around your family, talk to your parents and grandparents and see if this is the case. In fact, Jamaican Echoes would love to hear from you on your family background and how much this is a reflection of the national motto. So drop me a line!
Until next time…
N.W. Manley, Premier and Minister of Development, Ministry Paper No. 20 National Emblems, 28th March 1962
The Daily Gleaner, Wednesday, April 4, 1962, p. 1
The Daily Gleaner of April 9, 1962, p. 6
The Daily Gleaner, Saturday, September 6, 1969, p. 1