Still I Rise

Up from a past rooted in pain –
I rise.
I am the hope and the dream of the slave and so – 
I rise. 

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On my last trip to Jamaica I met up with my friend Amalia, author of Vices and Victories, who shared some of her favourite spots in Kingston, Jamaica.  As the capital of Jamaica, Kingston is hardly known for its travel and tourism as most travellers opt to visit the sandy beaches on the North Coast. However, if you are looking for a more cultural experience, Kingston just be a destination worth adding to your itinerary.

Our second stop on our #ExploreKingstonJA circuit was 41 Fleet St. While downtown Kingston has been known for its violence and poverty, community leaders alongside Paint Jamaica are trying to change this outlook by bringing community members together through the power of art. Referred to as an urban oasis this old factory shell has been converted into an open concept art space with life-size murals painted by local artists.

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Sometimes it’s a space for children in the neighbourhood to play football, other times it’s an outdoor art exhibit and sometimes (while we were there) it’s just a shortcut for people to walk their goats across! Either way it’s a colourful space that radiates with positive energy.

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The murals pay homage to Jamaican national heroes and heritage – and celebrate black culture by encouraging observers to take pride in the colour of their skin, the kink in their hair and the rich heritage that flows through their veins.

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In North America, we are often bombarded with Eurocentric images that do not reflect black culture. That’s why I was so happy to see a space where little black boys and girls can see themselves depicted. With messages that convey that “black is indeed beautiful”,  41 Fleet St is a must-see landmark that successfully uplifts and reminds community members and visitors alike to love more.

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Sadly, we didn’t get time to eat at the farm-to-table eatery, Life Yard that promotes sustainable living. The eatery sometimes hosts fundraisers to raise funds for community development and is sourced from Parade Gardens only community food garden. Next time I am there, because there will be a next time, I will be sure to get my ital (no meat) Jamaican ground provisions!

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While the neighbourhood still has a long way to go to reduce poverty and violence – I felt perfectly safe and even made a friend in Joseph who so kindly gave me a musical entrance on the hand-drum as I took in the unconventional beauty of Fleet Street!

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The next time you are in Jamaica – take a break from beaches and visit this urban sanctuary!

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