"Lawd, yuh really love me!" Edward Phillip George Seaga, a man for the people wasn't asking me if I really loved him, but rather he had a revelation that I indeed loved and admired him. In 2006, the Schomburg Center for Research In Black Culture hosted the Honorable Edward Seaga. As a young Journalist, I was over the moon. I could not wait to position myself front and center to finally meet the man that I've seen many times from a distance but never had the chance to touch him, to thank him. As a Jamaican, I could not have been more proud to be in the presence of a man who changed the trajectory of a small island nation.
In 1980, the Honorable Edward Phillip George Seaga became the 5th prime minister of a tiny but tallawah (Strong) Island- Jamaica. He served as the longest parliamentarian in Jamaica and in the Caribbean region. He rebuilt Jamaica's economy during the early 1980s through his hard-earned efforts and determination. He collaborated with opposition leaders with grace and diligence. Seaga was able to accomplish what many leaders could not have done in their tenor as prime minister- and that's broadly because of his strong convictions and dedication to the people.
As he greeted fellow Jamaicans, and local reporters, I noticed that with every interaction, he smiled, he was patient, he took his time to acknowledge everyone. He was compassionate and engaging and I was fascinated by him and wanted nothing more than to shadow him around all night. He turned left, I turned left. When he walked up to someone to shake their hands, I wasn't too far behind him. Every move he made, I made. I wanted to extract a bit of wisdom and knowledge from him and learn as much about the man who helped made Jamaicans grow to love their own culture, their own music. He helped build my childhood.
As a young child, I remember accompanying my father and sometimes, my grandmother to our Jamaican Labour Party meetings at Munamar Square in the heart of Spanish Town. He pledged his commitment to the people and follow through almost on all of his promises. This was a man who exposed Jamaicans to their own authentic cultural music by introducing national festivals throughout the island, filled with dancing, rival spiritual gatherings. He was able to place musical programming such as 'Teenage Dance Party that would air every Friday evenings on JBC television station. Reggae and Ska music would be seen and heard throughout the country and Jamaicans started 'Jammin' and everything was 'Irie'. All of this would generate major interest in Jamaican culture overseas.
Today, almost every corner of the world has been influenced by Jamaican music. I am personally, grateful for him for being instrumental in shaping the cultural influence and showing Jamaicans to appreciate their musical culture at that time.
I share my love and respect for Mr. Seaga with many who saw him as an agent for change and a man for the Jamaican people. His charming charismatic demeanor might have been one of many characteristics why so many Jamaican people all over the world loved him. However, make no mistake about his charm, it was his ability to connect with the people, the ability to perform as a leader for the layman, for the poor, for the destitute that made so many people loved him. Perhaps that is why he was fondly called by the people, 'Papa Eddie' or ' 'Daddy Seaga'.
(Photo, Jody Cobb-1984)
What made him a great leader was his ability to listen to the people he was serving. He actually listened to their dire needs and concerns, in turn, he then implemented policies and programs for them to alleviate some of those concerns and provide contentment and resolved for their needs. Throughout his 50 years of service, Edward Seaga was able to implement various projects and social programs such as:
-Drafting Jamaica's Constitution, 1961 -Development of the Kingston Waterfront - Reclamation and development of the Ocho Rios waterfront -Establishing many of the financial institutions,that was needed to build a market which brought in growth revenue to a newly independent island of Jamaica -The national School feeding program, the Golden age home for the elderly - He ordered for Marcus Garvey body to be returned -Made Marcus Garvey the first National Hero(The Order of National Hero) 1964 -Established the Jamaican Stock Exchange 1969 -Student Loan Bureau -Human Employment and Resource Training Program (HEART) 1983 (This is a very small example of some of his achievements)
Edward Seaga without a shadow of a doubt is one of the forefathers of Jamaica. There isn't any area within the Jamaican national society where he did not promote, create, or helped to shape in some way. He was a gentle, kind man with a warm heart who was a voice for the people.
The Schomburg event was an amazing experience. That night as he blessed us with his presence, and his sense of humor. After his speech, he went to the catering hall, where he was given a small cup of rum punch; with one sip of the rum punch, he said, "Lawd, this too sweet. Hold this for me Allison" As he handed me the cup. We both laughed. He turned to me and said, "You really love me." as his wife Carla stood by smiling. I wanted to see if this was a true statement, so I sipped from his cup and yes, it was indeed sweet, and so was he. Sleep gentle Daddy Seaga, you served your country well.
Schomburg Center for Research In Black Culture October 20,2006