No, it was not the wedding of a superstar athlete or dancehall DJ. Or a politician. Or any of the usual ‘cebrelity’ types who regularly haunt the social pages of our newspapers. True, the marriage proposal had been made and accepted on air on Miss Kitty’s radio programme. Pure excitement!
But that’s not the reason the wedding was a celebrity affair. In my book, Erica Reid and Ricardo ‘Nardo’ Currie are a true power couple on the campus of the University of the West Indies, Mona. Their wedding, two Saturdays ago, was a celebration of old-time Jamaican values: hard work, discipline and commitment to family and friends. And the UWI community came out in strong support.
I can still remember Nardo, as a little boy, walking all over the campus after school with his box of icy mints and sweet biscuits and Cheese Krunchies – you know the usual snacks – selling to both students and staff. To clear my conscience, I would sometimes ask if he’d done his homework. And he would smile sweetly.
Those days, vending was illegal on the UWI campus. There used to be regular skirmishes between campus police and stubborn vendors. All of a sudden, the alarm would be sounded that the police were coming. The vendors would pick up their goods and make a run for it. It was a most undignified way to make an honest living.
Nardo’s mother and grandmother were both vendors. And it was this vending money, little as it may seem, that sent all their children to school. It gave women independence. You didn’t have to work for anybody but yourself. And you made more money from buying and selling than doing domestic work for people who had no respect for you.
A woman who used to sell fish in Papine Market told me why she stopped doing domestic work. One Sunday, she cooked a whole heap of dishes for a dinner party her employers were having. Roast beef, chicken, rice and peas and much more. And guess what she was given for dinner? Sardines.
It’s this kind of bad treatment that makes angry domestic workers hawk and spit in their employers’ food. That woman bawled the living eye water when she realised that those wicked people thought she wasn’t good enough to eat the high-class food she had cooked. She just walked off the job.
UWI eventually relaxed its rules on food vending. In addition to the traditional dining rooms in the halls of residence, ‘brand-name’ food establishments appeared on campus. But the struggling vendors were still illegal. I led a campaign to change things. The vendors were providing a very valuable service for students who couldn’t afford expensive meals.
In a meeting of Academic Board, I vigorously argued that if KFC could be on campus, surely the small vendors ought to be free to earn a living. I was amazed when a self-righteous colleague objected. Legalising the vendors would be tantamount to rewarding indiscipline. Not resourcefulness!
Fortunately, sanity prevailed. It was agreed that the vendors could operate legally on campus. All of them were invited to submit applications to be licensed. And the university built small shops that were rented to the vendors. Nardo, now an enterprising adult, got one in the Faculty of Humanities and Education.
Nobody, even with an MBA, could run their business better than Nardo and Erica. In fact, students doing courses in entrepreneurship in the Faculty of Social Sciences have regularly interviewed Nardo about his business model. Customer satisfaction. Nardo’s One Stop even offers credit to students who can’t always pay as they eat. And he hosts regular customer appreciation days when there are giveaways for students. The small shop has outgrown its location.
A couple of months ago, Nardo was a guest on ‘Big Tingz a Gwaan’, the current affairs programme on NewsTalk radio that I co-host with Tyane Robinson. When I asked Nardo if he’d ever thought of going back to school, he gave a revealing answer. He didn’t want to steal his children’s future. He was investing his resources in them. It wasn’t his time now. And he said his biggest joy would be to see his son stepping through the gates of the campus as a student. And coming to his shop between classes to get a snack.
FOR RICHER OR POORER
Nardo and Erica’s wedding ceremony was full of joy and laughter. The Nexus choir was magnificent. A high note was the exchange of vows. Pastor Harris admitted that he got quite a surprise when he asked Nardo and Erica, in turn, to repeat after him the phrase, ‘for richer or poorer’. Much to the amusement of the congregation, they both said, “for richer and richer”.
I don’t suppose many people get married with the expectation that things will get worse. But the traditional wedding vows are a reminder that we have to be prepared for the worst. There’s a cynical Jamaican proverb that warns, ‘marriage have teeth an bite hot’.
In the case of Erica and Nardo, I hope their marriage won’t bite. After the ceremony, there were tears of joy in Nardo’s eyes. And you should have seen his face when Erica met him at the altar. She was absolutely beautiful. I know the couple will get richer and richer. And not just financially.