April 9, 2012

Why I Donated to Crayons Count

My mother would have been disappointed with this post. For years, she donated to many charities and it wasn't until after her death when letters of condolence began flooding my mailbox that I discovered the names and stories of the many children from all over the world whom she had supported financially and in-kind. She believed in giving the way the Bible admonishes: "But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth."

For the most part, I've followed my mother's example of giving without drawing attention to myself. But Crayons Count is different kind of charity and my sole purpose for writing this post is to spread the word as best as I can about this noteworthy cause. And Crayons Count is important charity for many reasons:

Child-centered charity
Educational: Book Based
Support for literacy
Building Civil Society

In my post about Mona Heights, I described the kind of community that existed in Jamaica before the undeclared civil war of the 70s. Crayons Count is a step in the right direction of restoring that kind of civil society. But it won't happen by a miracle. It won't happen unless we put our hearts, minds, and money into projects like these.

I also like that Crayons Count is book based. I hope it will expand to include local authors and build on the children's awareness of our regional literature. Our children need to know from an early age that there are storytellers in our midst. If this happens, I believe literacy rates would increase and we could broaden the children's appreciation of our regional literature.

A classic regional literature appeals to the moral imagination and accomplishes what George Lamming in his lecture "The Present Future of Caribbean Literary & Cultural Studies," describes as "the education of feeling": "Art is the most civilizing instrument or tool in the education of feeling…the nurturing of a consciousness to respond sympathetically to a world of people and customs that are different from your own… and to approach the Other with respect."

The last point is very important. Because of our history and geography, Jamaica and the other islands in the Caribbean are uniquely qualified to discuss Otherness and respect. For example, although the book is above the reading level of the target audience of Crayons Count, Dog-Heart by Diana McCaulay imaginatively recreates the distinct worldviews of two characters from both ends of the Jamaican social spectrum. I'm not saying the novel is a panacea, but it points toward a solution.

We can respond imaginatively to others who are seemingly different without fear or violence. By expanding the scope of the readings, Crayons Count may be one of the building blocks of extending our conversations about topics that are relevant to our culture. As Lamming explained further: "Books stay alive when they are talked about in a variety of situations by people who recognize that the books are talking about them and may have originated with them."

Crayons Count is a program that works toward unifying Jamaicans in the care of our island's treasure: our children. It may also become that necessary bridge between race and class, the past and the future, which keeps our cultural gifts in circulation. This is why I used the Amazon link to make my donation:

I hope my mother will forgive me.


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