Tonight as Imani bows out and passes on the scepter to another Jamaican beauty, it is with fond thoughts of a race well ran. Imani has had an impressive reign – one filled with heartwarming moments, experiences and memories. Here in her own words, Imani speaks about her reign as the 38th Miss Jamaica, the high point of which was meeting Nelson Mandela, president of South Africa. She talks about her experiences as the spokesperson for Peace and Love in Schools (PALS) initiative and as the patron for the first ever and highly successful Green Expo, and the impressions these involvements have left upon her. She closes by issuing a challenge to her successor who will be crowned tonight. “You have been afforded a wonderful opportunity to make a difference, use it to the fullest.”
“I am only one, but still I am one.”
By Imani Duncan
“I am only one, but still I am one, I cannot do everything, but still I can do something, and I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”
These words attributed to Helen Keller, have been my inspiration and guiding philosophy, particularly over the past year since winning the Miss Jamaica title on September 2, 1995. Their simple truth has been brought home to me on numerous occasions as throughout my reign, I have been fortunate enough to encounter those individuals who are busily doing ‘something.’
Meeting Nelson Mandela was the high point of the Miss World Competition in South Africa. I was struck by his presence – the phrase “larger than life” took on new meaning – and his commitment and accomplishments as one person fighting against the odds breathed life in the words quoted above.
Glamour and glitter aside, it was the people who made the pageant memorable – the conglomeration of cultures – individuality and the sameness; the differences and the undeniable unity made for a rich learning experience.
I was proud to represent Jamaica in the United States, the United Kingdom and Scotland, as part of the Jamaica Tourist Board team, but at the same time very conscious of the responsibility involved in sharing Jamaica with people of other cultures and trying to counter some of the negative views that exist.
As the Jamaican delegate to the Youth Federation for World Peace, I was inspired by the attempt being made to bring the world together and honoured to be a part of the initiative.
The best part of the entire Miss Jamaica experience, however, was the opportunity to interact with children. My major focus as spokesperson of PALS Jamaica (Peace and Love in Schools) was primary and secondary schools as we tried to bring a message of peaceful conflict resolution to the youth.
My eyes were well and truly opened during those visits. I learned so much from Jamaicans, hailing from all walks of life, who erased previously held misconceptions – and can only pray that I was able to touch their lives, albeit in a small way as they touched mine. Talking with the children and meeting their teachers, experiencing joy and enthusiasm in spite of deplorable conditions provided some balance to the sadness I felt upon witnessing first hand the impact of violence and poverty on the youth of Jamaica.
It is my hope that the new Miss Jamaica will see it fit to contribute to this worthwhile programme and continue to invest in Jamaica’s future. My involvements with the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) and the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT) were a special bonus during my reign as the environment is the area in which I wish to specialize.
We need to wake up to the problems that we are facing as a country and I was heartened by the ideas offered by the children through the School’s Environmental Competition, projects such as the Habour View Environmental Park and the success of Jamaica’s first ever Green Expo. Other highlights of my reign include visits to a variety of institutions such as Children’s Home, and the Homestead Place of Safety, where I was invited to give motivational talks. I was humbled by the warmth of the reception I received.
It was a thrill to assist with the Special Olympics in May. The event was a tremendous success as it brought attention to the indomitable spirit of people so often overlooked in our society. Of course, mingling with our Olympic athletes, prior to their outstanding performance at the recently held Games was the ‘icing on the cake’!
It would be difficult to mention the many openings, raffles, receptions and fashion shows that I was privileged to attend through-out the year, but returning to my old school to address the student body was another significant event during the year.
The entire experience as Miss Jamaica was a fulfilling and challenging one, exhilarating yet humbling – a real exercise in leaving. I would like to end with these words said by Martin Luther King Jr. “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
To my successor, my advice is simple – Give of yourself during your reign. You have been afforded a wonderful opportunity to make a difference – use it to the fullest.
It is my hope that I have made a start in the ‘something that I can do.’ Thank you for the experience.
Source: 1996 Miss Jamaica World Souvenir Magazine