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Fixing Rose Hall

It was four days of interesting stories about this beautiful island with such rich history and culture. The sound of music in the background of any location we found ourselves or any taxi in which we rode reflected the beautiful culture of Jamaica. I have heard countless stories, some of them mythical. I have also met lots of interesting people-including parishioners from this beautiful island. But I had not visited until about a week ago.

One of the many interesting stories I heard was from an amusing cab driver, who essentially became our friend. He told a story about Rose Hall Plantation. He exaggerated a bit until I read about the plantation on Wikipedia. At some point in the history of the plantation, it had over 650 acres of land and over 250 Slaves who worked the land, mostly growing sugar cane, harvesting sugar cane, and working the mill to turn the sugar cane into sugar - all for the benefit of their masters/owners.

When slavery was abolished and the money to sustain the lavish lifestyles on the back of Slaves was no longer available, the one mansion that stood on the plantation, one where the masters of the Slaves lived and enjoyed the benefits of free labor, fell into disrepair. The mansion, Rose Hall, was bought by a couple who renovated it, fixed it, repaired it, transformed it, and turned it into a museum.

I thought that the idea of a couple renovating the mansion which had been a witness to so much tragedy and atrocity was pretty interesting. If only that mansion had a mouth with which it could speak. If only that mansion and other Slave plantation mansions had mouths with which they could give voice to the tears and suffering that they had witnessed. I wonder about the stories that would pour out of those mouths!! I wonder, and I wonder more. And you should wonder, too, because they are dirty, painful, and ugly.

In fact, the idea of turning Rose Hall into a museum raised a few questions for me. How about the lives of the descendants of the Slaves who still bear scars of working to keep the life of the plantation afloat? How about those whose lives have been destroyed by the ghost of Slavery? Who is going to fix those lives?

Granted that those who worked at Rose Hall Plantation and many other plantations across Jamaica and the United States are dead and long gone, but how about their descendants who now carry with them the indelible scars of Slavery? Is there a need to repair the damage of Slavery on the descendants of those who suffered brutal and inhumane treatment? I like that the couple bought the mansion, fixed it, and turned it into a museum. Shouldn’t we also recognize the damage and ruin that Slavery caused and fix it?

I have not, as yet, come across anyone who believes that they ought to be fixed and turned into a beautiful museum. But I know many Black people who believe that they can live beautiful lives if given the chance. There are millions of Black people who understand that if we all had a level playing field, they, too, can blossom, they too can live dignified lives. There are millions of descendants of Slaves who desire to see that the descendants of their masters can at least recognize that just as they enjoy generational wealth, they struggle with generational poverty. It is this kind of acknowledgment, and a burning desire to fix it should be our generational task

For me, this is a task geared towards wholeness.

In a few days, we will be celebrating Juneteenth. It is a day filled with the legacy of Slavery. It tells of our desire to keep others in bondage. It tells of our liking for free labor. It tells of the desire of the dominant power to maintain the status quo and milk it for as long as it can.

There are times when some try to overlook or even minimize the damage of Slavery. Some do think that we are so far removed from Slavery that its negative effects shouldn’t be felt by anyone. They are right that we are so far removed from Slavery, but they are incorrect about its negative effects.

They are incorrect because you don’t have to be in a Black body to understand this particular human degradation. You don’t have to be in a Black body to understand the damage of Jim Crow and segregation. You don’t have to be in a Black body to understand the devastation of redlining. You don’t have to be in a Black body to feel the weight of the burden that Black people carry with them on a daily basis. You don’t have to be in a Black body to know what needs to be fixed - housing, schools, communities, drugs, and homelessness, among other things. You don’t have to be in a Black body to yearn for the honor that comes with being alive and the dignity that comes with life. You don’t have to be in a Black body to resurrect the hope that seems to be dying even though that hope hasn’t yet been born.

In fact, you don’t have to be Black to understand the lives that have been ruined because of Slavery and the systemic racism which directly flows from it. I’d like to remind you on this Juneteenth that you don’t have to be Black to attest to the decisions of those who only see money and not the restoration of the lives that have been ruined

The ruins in your life and mine aren’t like Rose Hall; they can’t be easily fixed. But they can be fixed. The ruin in our communities may not be like Rose Hall; they can’t be easily fixed. But they can be fixed. The ruin in several different places can’t be easily fixed. But they can be fixed.

It is my prayer that we will all have the mind of Michele and John Rollins who fixed Rose Hall, just so we can also fix the ailing lives and communities of our time.



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