Out of many one Jamaica; we are Jamaicans

“Jamaica’s apparently peculiar position is usually explained along lines somewhat like this: We are neither Africans though most of us are black. We are neither Anglo Saxon though some of us would have others believe this. We are Jamaican! And what does this mean?” (Nettleford, 1998 p.23)

out of many 1 people1Jamaica is one of the smallest islands in the Caribbean and the world but the variety of races which make up our people, far encompasses the size of this rock we have grown to love. Long before, and after our independence, Jamaicans struggled to find a single term that could represent us all. With no success, the Jamaican motto “Out of many one people” was carefully crafted; these words ideally captured the true picture of the Jamaican citizens. Dr. Rex Nettleford in his essay National Identity and Attitudes to race in Jamaica highlighted that this desire to define ourselves still exist among our people today, and it is the word “many” that persons pay close attention to in the motto ignoring the idea that we have become one.

The quotation portrays the idea that though some Jamaicans have accepted that they are descendants of one or more race that were taken here during slavery, there are some who firmly believe that they are nothing but Jamaicans. I too share the view that many races have become one and we are Jamaicans. Although heavily influenced by the Africans and the British we have still found ways to acquire unique characteristics that set us apart as a people. Jamaican creole and Reggae music are two examples of such characteristics that define us, our foods and the crops we cultivate are other factors that have helped to mold us into an independent people.

Presently the Caribbean looks to North America, Canada and England as the guiding nations that influence and define us. They affect our media, how we dress and what we eat. Even though most of the countries are under the same influence they can still be individually identified because of their originality. We are black, but not Africans, neither are we Anglo Saxon: Out of many, one Jamaica. We are Jamaicans.


Nettleford, R. (1998) Mirror, Mirror. Identity Race and Protest in Jamaica. 2nd edition Kingston, LMH Publishing p. 16-33


Representations in the Harder they come.


“Select 2 songs which appealed to you from the movie and discuss their symbolic interpretations.”


Jamaican reggae is music of protest that carries an angry message of poverty (Davila, n.d.).Untitled3 Music is used by the powerless to counter the oppression of the powerful and send a message draped in melody that “You can get it if you really want.”


The harder they come by Perry Henzell, is a symbolic film which speaks to the heart and soul of its viewers, using music as a catalyst to evoke emotions. Adding to the images on screen, scores in the movie helped to create a sense of reality. When times got hard, and Ivan felt desperate, one could hear the sounds of “Many rivers to cross” playing in the background, making the scene more intense. In a review of the movie, Julianne Burton detailed that music conspired with the visual image to draw the viewer deeper into the emotional experience of the film (Burton, 1975.)

The two songs from the movie that appealed to me are; “The Harder They Come” and “You can get it if you really want.” Both written and perform by Jimmy Cliff who plays Ivan in the movie. I chose these songs because as Ivan’s character changed, so did the meanings of these songs, the lyrics of which are well incorporated into the film.

In the opening scenes, “you can get it if you really want” symbolized hope and highlighted how gullible and innocent Ivan was. Untitled1The song played as he hopped off a bus in the big city, with nothing but dreams of making it big. The song comes on again, but by this time Ivan has changed dramatically, caving under the hegemonic pressures he “makes it” but by no means did he trod the straight and narrow. Gallivanting in a car he hijacked, the song now symbolizes determination and achieving goals regardless of the outcomes.

“The Harder They come” portrayed several symbolic meanings throughout the film, the lyrics written in such a way, it followed the journey of the main character. The song made symbolic references, to religion, social indifference and a fight against oppression and media hegemony.


Burton, J. (1975). The Harder They Come Cultural colonialism and the American dream. Retrieved February 4, 201, from:http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays  /JC06folder/HarderTheyCome.html

Davila, M. (n.d.) Oppression and Resistance in Jamaican Reggae and Afro-Brazilian Music A Comparative Study of Race  in Music and Culture. Retrieved on February 4, 2015, from:http://debate.uvm.edu/dreadlibrary/davila.html