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'Why I love Jamaica!'

PROUD: Naomi Campbell

Life & Style caught up with a host of high profile folks of Jamaican heritage, who shared their pride on hailing from the Caribbean island.

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Benjamin Zephaniah, poet
If you consider the intellectual, artistic and sporting contributions that have come out of Jamaica, you would think it was a massive place. But all of these things come from a little island. We’ve done very well in the cultural areas – where we haven’t done so well is politically.

When I think of independence, I think of real independence and Jamaica can go a further step. I think the highest court in Jamaica shouldn’t be based in London. Moving forward would be real independence. But I’ve just come back from North Korea, the most isolated place in the world, and they know about Jamaica and their music and that really makes me proud.

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Levi Roots, businessman
Sometimes, as a Jamaican living in the UK, you can feel a bit disconnected from Jamaica itself. You leave your homeland to come to England, and when you return to Jamaica, people there call you ‘English!’

But the celebrations for Jamaica’s 50th year of independence link the Jamaican diaspora not just in the UK, but throughout the world. Also, with the Olympics taking place in the UK, and the excitement surrounding the Jamaican team, I think there’s a real sense of pride amongst British-based Jamaicans.

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Naomi Campbell, supermodel
It’s hard to put into words how proud I felt of the amazing achievements of so many Jamaicans as I was growing up in south London. The incredible exploits of Courtney Walsh, Michael Holding and the rest of the cricketers; athletes like Linford Christie; boxer Chris Eubank; and footballer John Barnes.

Then of course there is the wonderful music that inspired us all, starting with Bob Marley and also Jimmy Cliff, Millie Small Dennis Brown, not to mention the UK massive: Aswad, UB40, Maxi Priest and the fabulous Grace Jones. All of course reported in The Gleaner and later The Voice too.
But really, Jamaica was everywhere and the influence over UK culture in particular was spectacular and gave me enormous pride and confidence in my heritage. The island’s motto is ‘out of many, one people’... and what an incredible people we Jamaicans are!

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Freddie McGregor, reggae artist
I’m proud to be a Jamaican and I fight for my country all the time. It’s just a pity that the Jamaican politicians don’t fight for the country the same way we [the Jamaican people] do.

Jamaica is appreciated throughout the world and I don’t think Jamaican people realise just how appreciated we are. But I’m a proud Jamaican and regardless of what the politicians do, I’ll be representing my country throughout the Jamaica 50 celebrations and beyond.

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Diane Abbott, MP
With Jamaica turning 50 this year, it feels like a coming of age. More and more, Jamaica is stepping out onto the world stage, confident in its own skin. From where the country was 50 years ago to where it is now, is something to be really proud of. We have champions who are global superstars, adored wherever they go and that’s got to be great. Jamaicans are no longer minnows – they can hold their heads up high with anybody.

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Lennox Lewis, former boxer
My mother and father are from Jamaica, and I went there for the first time when I was 16-years-old. I got off the plane and I said ‘wow, this is where my parents are from’ and I felt really good – like I belonged to Jamaica.

My Jamaican heritage is me because I love Jamaican music and I eat Jamaican food all the time. So now it is the 50th year of independence, I know the whole country is gearing up for it. I can’t wait to see the celebrations.

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Robbo Ranx, BBC 1Xtra DJ
Jamaica, as a nation has inspired many people far beyond its shores. This small Caribbean country has made a massive global impact on sports, music, fashion and culture that is unmistakable. When your hear the Jamaican saying ‘We little, but we talawa’ (meaning we're small but mighty), it’s impossible to disagree!

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Bunny Lee, musician
I’m proud to be a Jamaican, believe me. I was in Jamaica from the colonial days, when God Save The Queen still played on the radio. In fact, when the young Queen came to Jamaica in the early 1960s, I was in the crowd waving my British flag. Thank God I’m still around to see everything that has happened. It’s good to be here to see the 50th anniversary and what’s taking place.

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Stylo G, dancehall artist
Jamaica is my home, my place of birth, and the 50th year of independence means a lot to me. Our country is standing on its own feet. It’s a small island that has made such a big impact on the world. Our culture, our music – we are just leaders. If it weren’t for Jamaica, I don’t know where I would be.

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Junior Giscombe, singer
Jamaica’s 50th independence carries so much hope and love. My parents came from a colonial background, but I think that Jamaica moving to not having the queen as the head of state would be monumental.

The little island has affected the rest of the world and I’m very proud of my Jamaican heritage.

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Roger Wright, singer and former contestant of ITV show Superstar
It’s wonderful when any island in the Caribbean celebrates independence; it’s a real joy to see. And it’s good for the younger generation to have a connection with their heritage because it gives them a foundation and some people can get a little lost if they do not know where they are from.

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Akala, UK rapper
I think this should be a time for reflection and not just to party and act as if Jamaica, its diaspora and the wider diaspora doesn't still face challenges throughout the world.

It's good to celebrate what's been achieved over the last 50 years, but Jamaicans should reconnect and as they have done at best, reorient themselves as part of a discussion with the wider African diaspora.

The work started by people we hear spoken about as heroes – like Samuel Sharpe, Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley – shouldn't have to end there. After all Bob [Marley] sang 'Africa unite', not 'Jamaica unite'.

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Tippa Irie, reggae artist
My Jamaican heritage makes me proud. It is part of my identity and I feel happy to be spreading Jamaican culture around the world through my music.

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Rita Marley, reggae singer and widow of Bob Marley
We’re here in Europe promoting the 50th anniversary through concerts, and I think everyone is well aware that it’s Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence this year! I give thanks that I’m alive to see it happening. Jamaica has come a long way and it’s great to see just how much the country has done for the world.

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Ziggy Marley, reggae artist and son of Bob Marley
The slaves who came to Jamaica from Africa had a rebellious spirit and I think that bloodline runs through all of us Jamaicans today. When I think about my father’s music, I believe it was our heritage that enabled him to create music that talked about change. Our ancestors who fought for freedom – Paul Bogle, Nanny of the Maroons, Marcus Garvey – they had a strong, rebellious heritage and that lives in us today.

In the grand scheme of things, 50 years isn’t that long, so we still have a long road ahead of us. But I am happy that Jamaica has reached this milestone.

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Cedella Marley, designer of the 2012 Olympic kit for the Jamaican team, and daughter of Bob Marley
I am a proud Jamaican and it was an honour to be the designer for the 2012 Olympic kit for our Jamaican team. I’m blessed to be a part of our rich history and the kit itself reflects our Jamaican motto: ‘out of many, one people.’

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Jimmy Adams, former West Indies cricketer
Having been born in Jamaica in 1968, I am one of a growing number of Jamaicans that have only known our island as a sovereign, independent, country. I acknowledge, and am extremely proud of the rich heritage my generation has inherited from those who brought us to independence.
Of equal importance is the confidence that I, and many Jamaicans like me, take from the many significant achievements we have accomplished as young nation since 1962; achievements that make me extremely proud to be Jamaican.

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Audrey Reid, actress
Jamaica has come a long way and we’ve achieved a lot, in terms of entertainment, academia and just being a friendly nation.

That might sound simple, but our friendliness as a nation has proved very important to the island, in terms of tourism. I’m very proud to be a child of that little dot on the map.

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Beverley Knight, UK singer (pictured with Usain Bolt)
I enjoy a fantastic dual existence, flitting unconsciously between my [British] black country slang and patois; tea and cerassie; Team GB and Team Jamaica in the Olympics – best of both worlds!

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Derrick Evans AKA Mr Motivator, fitness guru
Jamaica is a very beautiful country, but I have mixed feelings about the island gaining independence. After living in England and then returning to my homeland, the heritage I thought I’d find is no longer here. It has been eroded by family breakdowns, political problems, problems with religion and problems with culture. But in spite of this, Jamaica has a wonderful edge that makes it unique.

There’s a wonderful feeling when we are all drawn together, like now during the Olympics. Things like that have been far more influential than what we have gained out of independence. Despite all the problems, I love living in Jamaica and I would recommend it to anyone, as long as they come with their eyes open.

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Patricia Cumper, playwright and director
I was born before Jamaica was independent and I can remember independence and what it meant. So to see the way we have created a national identity for ourselves, essentially out of creativity and talent, I think it’s amazing.

One thing that people don’t realise about Jamaicans is that we are quite proud. We like to pretend we don’t work hard but we work terribly hard at being good at what we do.

The other thing that is deeply rooted in me is the fact that Jamaican women are powerful. You don’t feel, as a Jamaican woman, that you are a second class citizen. I also think that we Jamaicans tend to have a sense of identity that goes beyond race, class, colour; we literally are out of many, one people.

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Gyptian, dancehall artist
It’s a wonderful milestone that shows just how far we’ve come. Wherever I go throughout the world, people show a lot of love for Jamaica – some even speaking patois even though they’re not from Jamaica! I’ve been around and there’s nowhere to me that’s like Jamaica.

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Terri Walker, singer
‘We are the best, no other can test, no need to bother ask the rest, coz we are the best!’ It’s slogans like these that have been cemented in me from the moment I could draw a breath. I’ve been raised by a phenomenal Jamaican woman, my mother, and to me, she represents Jamaica with her strength, her wisdom, her pride, her laughter, her fight, and through always pioneering the good vibes.

We are a happy nation who don't like to be bothered with foolishness, and if you look at what we have produced, who can really argue with that?

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Mr Vegas, dancehall artist
Independence to me means having our freedom. It’s like watching your kid graduate; we graduated from England and got our own independence. And Jamaica is a beautiful place.

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Michael Frater, captain of Jamaica's male Olympic team
We (team Jamaica) look to shine brightly for the 50th anniversary of independence and do our country proud.

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Robbie Gee, actor
I think without the hard work, perseverance and determination of our parents, we would still be ‘dependent’. God bless those pioneers I say.

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Charlene White, ITN News presenter
It is wonderful now that everyone else has the love for Jamaica that I have had my entire life.

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