Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Donald Quarrie gold miner

If the elephant picks it up, he knows he can swallow it. (Kiswahili)

1951 - Donald Quarrie was born

A look at the line-up of Quarrie's gold medals shows why he is synonymous with speed:


* 1976 - Gold 200m

Commonwealth Games

* 1970 - Gold 100m, Gold 200m, Gold 4x100m
* 1974 - Gold 100m, Gold 200m
* 1978 - Gold 100m

Quarrie broke a 24-year Jamaican drought. He was the first Jamaican in five consecutive Olympic Games to stand highest on the podium, receive a gold medal, see his flag hoisted and listen to his national anthem. Before him, the last Jamaicans to mine gold were the 4x400 metres relay team of George Rhoden, Les Laing, Herb McKenley, and Arthur Wint. I had the pleasure of seeing that team run a demonstration race at Sabina Park after their return from the Helsinki Games.

Donald Quarrie is regarded as one of the world’s outstanding sprinters ever. He was the metaphor for speed in Ernie Smith's song, "Duppy or Gunman".

He first qualified for Jamaica’s Olympic team when he was 17 years old. He was known not only for his skill and ability in athletics, but for his discipline. In addition, he is known as the greatest runner around the bend.

He had particular success in the Commonwealth Games and in the Pan-American Games. He was the first male athlete to earn six gold medals in the Commonwealth Games. Further, he broke the world record for the 200 metres at the Pan-American Games in 1971, and tied for the 100 metres world record in 1976.

Quarrie’s statue is placed at the entrance to the National Stadium, and an East Kingston school is named after him.

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When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at