by Michael Heslop
Solomon McCalla, popularly known to many of us as “Salla” was viciously murdered by gun thugs in Jamaica on Wednesday, June 29th 2016.
Paradoxically as it so often happens in history, though “Salla” was a strident warrior for peace both in Jamaica and globally, he was killed violently by armed criminals.
As Family man and Friend
He was a committed father of two children and a devoted husband to his wife who have lost him to the violence he so abhorred. He was a loving family man who understood the importance of his family to and for everything else he did in his multifaceted life.
He was simply a wonderful human being to know and to have as a friend, a family member or even an acquaintance. He was also a genuine, trustworthy, kind, compassionate and a particularly pleasant person.
Characteristically, upon seeing “Salla”, you would first see his big bright smile before any words were exchanged with him. “Salla” was also an excellent listener and an equally disciplined and punctual soldier of justice. Salla’s word was really his bond. He was typically reliable and trustworthy to fulfil any promise he made in his professional and activist lives. He truly personified Malcolm X’s belief that “the best thing a person can be is sincere.”
“Salla” was a champion who fought uncompromisingly for the empowerment of and justice for the so-called “underdogs” in Jamaica. He had a profound love for Jamaica and Jamaicans and served them with distinction in multiple capacities in expression of his love.
As Teacher Extraordinaire
He was a geography teacher at Camperdown High School for several years where he taught many youths including my youngest brother impacting not only their career direction but also infusing in them a vision of the country and its location on the globe.
“Salla” also served as the dean of discipline at my Alma Mater, Trench Town Comprehensive High School (TTCHS) from 2009-2015. He later became a beloved lecturer at Trench Town Polytechnic when TTCHS was transformed into a polytechnic institution based in the community of South St. Andrew.
As Mentor and Social Activist
He also worked as a mentor at Father’s Inc. to defeat common stereotypes about men and particularly fathers that permeate Jamaican society due largely to biases created by the dominant classes to divide and rule people based on their gender. However, “Salla” was also acutely aware that these stereotypes were also the result of the learnt sexist behavior of some fathers and some men towards women. He served in this capacity as a cofounder of Father’s Inc. until he was violently robbed from us.
He played a significant role in mentoring many young men in his work at Father’s Inc. to become better fathers and men to their children and women despite the many financial challenges confronted by Fathers’ Inc. about which he was publicly vocal.
Jamaica and indeed the world are indebted to this soldier for having done so much to erode gender stereotypes that no doubt have positively impacted the lives he touched to be more productive human beings.
“Salla” also did admirable work as a social activist at Fathers Inc. by building critical bonds with women’s organizations such as Women Media Watch and the Women Bureau. His most basic aim was to facilitate the interaction between the genders to achieve two important objectives; first, to defeat the aforementioned stereotypes of males in general and fathers with the solidarity of their sisters in these organizations; and second, to build coalition between the genders so that they could appreciate and realize their common interests to be liberated from capitalist oppression and degradation.
“Salla’s” commitment to Jamaica also led him to work as the Assistant Returning Officer from 2010-2016 in the South St. Andrew Constituency of Dr. Omar Davies until his tragic murder.
As in all his other capacities, he executed his duties as an Assistant Returning Officer with steadfast integrity to ensure that the political will of voters was respected across the political spectrum.
He also served as a Lieutenant Commander in the JDF Coast Guard Reserve for over 15 years and even encouraged a family member to sign up to serve our country in this institution.
As is obvious from the foregoing, “Salla” served our country with distinction in various capacities and as someone who has known him for many years, I can say he did it with honor, dignity, vision and above all else with a deep commitment not only to improve the institutions in which he worked but to have them improve the lives of those who have never experienced a fair shake in our country.
Thus to really know a little better our fallen brother, it is very important that we understand his institutional roles as father, husband, teacher, mentor, Coast Guard officer, Returning Officer be seen not parochially as a mere servant of these institutions. On the contrary, “Salla’s” institutional roles should be understood in his broader struggles as the tireless fighter he was for fundamental changes in the rigged status quo of Jamaica’s political economy to serve the interests of working people.
He was also a relentless advocate for human rights for Jamaicans and peoples all over the planet. He stood squarely in defense of the powerless and against those who abused their power to smash the most vulnerable populations at home and abroad. The latter is and will be a lasting part of his legacy of what is right against the abuse of might.
So as we mourn “Salla’s” tragic loss, we extend our condolences and gratitude to his family for having shared his talents, skills and commitment with us for all these years.
We celebrate his life of struggles to uplift the good in people particularly those being hammered repeatedly into the oblivion of poverty, misery and death. His loss belongs not only to his family but to all those who like him fought for and inspired others to fight for a Jamaica where life and dignity are embraced as human treasures for Jamaica’s development.
As a Friend of Jamaica-Cuba Friendship
“Salla” was a staunch friend and advocate for the friendship between the Jamaican-Cuban peoples as well as the mutual benefits of such a friendship to both peoples.
In this context, as a friend of the Cuban revolution, he was an equally staunch foe of the blockade against the Cuban people. He fought for even closer ties between our peoples and pondered about the increased benefits that could accrue to Jamaicans in the absence of the US blockade.
As Freedom Fighter and Internationalist
“Salla” was above all else a tireless freedom fighter and internationalist. He not only fiercely fought for the sovereignty and independence of “Jamaica land we love” from foreign domination but he also passionately advocated for the sovereignty and independence of all other nations on the planet particular those made poor by foreign domination.
His life, his compassion, his love, his jokes and above all else his embrace for the fire of truth as well as his passionate service for justice and his big sunny smiles will be forever missed by all of us who love and will always love him.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, a perceptive American observer once said that “action is character.” Fitzgerald’s observation is most apt for our fallen brother whose many actions on behalf of the downtrodden unquestionably defined his character as a man of high moral and social values. These rare values will be greatly missed.
Love always brother man until we meet again!! RIP Salla!!