Women of Distinction | Tova Hamilton, from tomboy to attorney to MP
While she was born in Montego Bay, St James, Tova Hamilton, the daughter of Hyacinth Minto-Hensley, and Trevor Hamilton, is a proud product of Trelawny, the parish where she spent her formative years in the communities of Hague, Martha Brae, and the parish capital Falmouth.
“I attended the Ms. Gilchrist School for pre-school at the age of two, the Falmouth Infant School, and the Falmouth All-Age School,” said Hamilton, who would go on to William Knibb Memorial High School for one year, before transferring to Westwood High School.
“I was that little girl who was lucky enough to benefit from my classmates walking with me every evening after school from Falmouth All-Age to congregate at my mother’s office. I don’t know how I got it done, but every single evening it was me and them," said Hamilton.
Tova, the reading tomboy
“I was that tomboy who would climb to the top of our mango tree in Hague, and I would stay there for hours and I would read and entertain myself. I always took my storybooks to school by Ms. Gilchrist for her to read to my classmates. I am that little girl who read and read and read and committed entire books to memory. On a Saturday, I would recite them religiously on my veranda using my mother’s broomstick as my microphone, much to her annoyance of course, because that was her cleaning day and she could never find her broom,” said Hamilton, reminiscing on her happy childhood.
“I was always a busy bee. I participated in a lot of activities, and I think those activities have helped to shape me into who I am today. So, I participated in the spelling bee, I did some amount of public speaking because I recall reading about Norman Washington Manley at a Heroes’ Day function in the town of Falmouth many years ago; maybe I was younger than 10 years old. I was a Girl Guide, a member of 4H, Key Club, choir, music, culture club, the magazine committee, graduation committee at Westwood High School; I entered a number of JCDC competitions, won medals of course, I was a student council representative, a prefect, I was chosen by the Jamaica Institute for Excellence and Education as a gifted child,” said Hamilton.
From student to politician
Becoming an adult was a journey that took Hamilton through the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus (Barbados) and the Norman Manley Law School (Kingston), where she developed new areas of interest.
“When I entered the UWI, I was drawn to another service organisation known as the Mona Chapter Youth Link (MCYL). That organisation undertook a number of social outreach and environmental activities, and I recall just going into various communities in Portland, St Mary, St Thomas, Clarendon, and we would just give of ourselves. We would undertake some form of project; it was very fulfilling. So, if it was painting somebody’s house, adding an aesthetic feature to somebody’s dwelling to improve it, we would do it. If it was a beach clean-up, we were there. And that is what really drew me into the G2K, the youth arm of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).”
Outside of her growing affection for service, Hamilton also developed a love for travel and experiencing new cultures. In fact, her travels to places like China created a fascination for architectural designs and contemporary living.
“I am fascinated with the creativity and how willing some cultures are to go above and beyond. I’m fascinated with cultures, for example in Tibet; when you research some of their homes, you are amazed. I remember going to China for the first time, I was in awe of their architecture. I have a level of respect for the Chinese, and so I don’t have a problem with Chinese assisting our culture to develop, because I have seen first-hand what they can do,” said Hamilton.
‘Busy bee’ learns to find balance
Despite her busy as a bee persona, Hamilton also found time to relax, using her love of reggae music to add another dimension to her life.
“...law, for me, was my back door into entertainment because I could not see myself as an artiste, so for me to experience the sector, the industry, I had to find a way, and I did, because I have worked with quite a few of our acts, locally. I worked with Moses Davis [Beenie Man] at some point; I have done work with Konshens, with Voice Mail, some work with Spice, with Chronixx, done some work with a couple of agencies, management teams, both locally and internationally. It was quite an exciting journey, and it is why I can never do anything without involving the entertainment industry, because I understand what they go through. I understand how they earn, and I understand the importance of music to our culture,” said Hamilton.
A politician without a promise
Now that she is into politics, Hamilton is committed to providing first-class service to her constituents, albeit she is not one to make a lot of promises.
“I don’t make promises, and I’ve said that to people all the time, along the campaign, out of the campaign. It’s not about making promises, and I try to tell people, don’t force me to lie to you, because I don’t want to. What I would rather is for me to partner with the people, they highlight their issues, we come up with solutions together, and they are part of the process of getting it done. So, it is through this kind of partnership that the trust deficit faced by politicians will be resolved. You can’t do it any other way,” said Hamilton.