These were the opening words of the motto depicting the meaning of the colours of the Jamaican flag. You wouldn’t be alone if you thought they seemed almost like a condemnation. For the wealth of talent, brilliant minds, creative forces and ingenuity inherent to the island, hardships persist. Despite our natural gifts, we still seem inclined toward a socio-economic status not befitting a country of our renown and capabilities. It was an unfortunate word choice to leave on such an enduring cultural emblem. How do we escape this apparent sentence of hardships?

Not Defined by Hardships

Fortunately, in 1996, the wording was changed. Black now represents strength and creativity to overcome. Nevertheless, many Jamaicans are unaware of this update. Others have a vague recollection of some change.

Even from a casual survey of Jamaicans, many still quote the original depiction of the colours of the flag. Internet searches also predominantly reflect the former version. The new symbolism as relayed on the official website of the Jamaica Information Service captures the new saying and colour meaning.

A New Sunrise

It seems as if growing up in Jamaica, one constantly heard “Hardships there are, but the land is green and the sun shineth.” Wouldn’t it be great if the new and improved, positive version were just as emphatically drilled into our psyche? Perhaps it would make a difference in how Jamaicans see themselves and their future. The former motto seems to have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If all your life you’ve heard there are hardships, that’s likely what you see and maybe expect – even if not consciously.

As long as we learn to appreciate our human and natural resources, we will do all we can to prevent them from being exploited. Above all, we should strive to maintain that pride in being such a small but formidable force. We still have much for which to be thankful. We must appreciate what we have at face value — not just when the rest of the world acknowledges some aspect of our existence. It’s time we started taking power away from that old saying. We should always remember what it means to be Jamaican. We have all we need to rise above our hardships for “…the land is green and the sun shineth.”