Ahhh... Ackee Christmas in Camrose
by Tamika Williams
(Ahhh...Ras Natango Gallery and Garden, Camrose, Montego Bay, St James)
Ackee Christmas Tree
Camrose is a small community near Montego Bay, approximately 2000 feet above sea level. The community is not conducive to farming because of the terrain but it boasts the most spectacular view in all of Montego Bay, if not Jamaica.
Ahhh...Ras Natango Gallery and Garden has been instrumental in awakening the spirit of togetherness in the community.
As the rest of the world have been dealing with a recession Jamaica's economy was hard hit and most of the youth across the island lost hope, including those in Camrose.
Ahhh...Ras Natango Gallery and Garden, with recent investment from Americans Mark and Frances Tucci, embarked on major renovations which saw all its laid off employees returning to work. The entire Garden was strung and decorated with Christmas lights, and it was decided to spread the renovations to include the Camrose community square.
Several casual labourers were employed and the transformation began in earnest.
With no pine trees available we turned our hands to an Ackee tree growing in the center of the square.
The young men had the task of decorating it, and I stood by and watched the excitement as they decorated the Ackee tree with lights and Christmas ornaments donated by the lovely Kathi Cooke of JPS.
The community gathered around the Ackee Christmas tree at about 6 pm when the lights came on to see the proof of their labours.
None of the men who decorated the tree had ever decorated a Christmas tree before, and what a glorious delight seeing each person speechless at its beauty.
One man, Mr Pinkey, took me aside and quielty asked to have his picture beside the tree because he had never stood this close to a Christmas tree before, and I promised to do so the following evening when he was dressed in his new clothes.
Janet Silvera, senior journalist from the Gleaner is a personal friend of mine so I shared the delight of the community with her, adding that we often take things for granted, and told her about the man, age 22 years, who had never in his life had his picture taken beside a Christmas tree.
She immediately asked if she could do the story, and the following evening she was in our community camera in hand.
The entire community turned out to enjoy the festivities, and one young man said "All me know this is an Ackee Christmas".
Yesterday the Gleaner carried the story on its front page, as the lead story, with a picture of four young men three of whom were having their pictures taken beside a Christmas tree for the first time.
Giving them a copy of the Gleaner was the highlight of this Christmas season.
One stated, when asked if being in the paper was a first for him too, "Mis Tamika. is only when dem shoot we, dat we pitcha come ina de paper".
It was such an emotional moment for me as he looked at me and I felt as if he was saying I had saved his life.
Ahhh...Ras Natango Gallery and Garden takes this opportunity to invite others to come on board and help to provide further motivation for our young people, and maintain the spirit of togetherness as we forge ahead with our community.
In January we will see eight youths from the community being trained as tour guides and security staff.
We are our brothers keepers.
We are all a part of the change.
We all have a part to play.
You in your small corner and I in mine.
Here's to our Ackee Christmas tree and eco-tourism in Camrose.
We are all a part of the positive change.