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The prime minister of Jamaica called for dignity for people of African descent worldwide and on U.S. citizens to respect the international community while fighting the war on terror.
P.J. Patterson made his comments Saturday after signing copies of his book, A Jamaican Voice in Caribbean and World Affairs, at the African-AmericanResearch Library on Northwest 27th Avenue, just outside of Fort Lauderdale.
He also spoke about a number of themes in the book, a collection of speeches delivered over the past 10 years.
History “used to be divided between B.C. and A.D.,” he said. “Now it’s divided into pre-9-11 and post-9-11. The world we live in now is very different from the world pre-9-11.”
Without mentioning specific United States policies or the war on Iraq, Patterson spoke of the need to respect the sovereignty of other nations and the importance of broad coalitions.
“No country has the right to unilaterally impose any system on any other country without the consent of the people of that country or the international community,” he said to the applause of about 100 people gathered to hear his speech. “We are faced with the threat of terrorism, but we have to be careful that we don’t respond to terrorism by abandoning the precepts and principles necessary for peace and a lasting prosperity.”
Patterson also recalled a British politician’s use of the phrase “a black day” in a nonracial but negative context.
“This only goes to prove how much we have to do to make it clear that we are equal human beings, insistent on being treated with dignity,” he said,noting that the negative connotations can spill over when the subject switches to race.
He even said the meaning of the color black on the Jamaican flag was recently changed, from “hardship” to “strength and resilience,” to rid the symbol of any negative connotation.
Julie Hunter, executive director of the African-American Research Library, said Patterson’s presence affirmed the cultural relevance of the library,which opened a year ago.
“It shows that this center is a bridge to the culture and heritage of Jamaica,” she said. South Florida is home to 400,000 Jamaicans, more than any other region.
The prime minister’s South Florida visit concludes today with a 10 a.m. service at the Holy Family Episcopal Church in North Miami.