Emancipating ourselves

"Transcendental spirit" honouring the ancestors
"Transcendental spirit" honouring the ancestors (Photo credit: Garfield Morgan)

www.yaawdmedia.com         www.yardabraawd.com

On 1 August 2021, Jamaica marks 183 years since the full abolition of Negro slavery in the Caribbean archipelago and on its own shores and five days later on  6 August 2021, the island celebrates its 59th year as an independent nation. Typically, these celebrations provide opportunities for some level of revelry among our people as we collectively embrace this significant milestone of controlling the reins of the island’s stewardship. After all, we should never forget that our island’s history has been forged from nearly 400 years of slavery and colonial heritage, and that despite many economic and social obstacles it was the tenacity and resilience of the masses of Jamaicans that helped us to survive those tumultuous times.

As we go through this year’s observance of Emancipation and Independence celebrations, I would like to urge Jamaicans to take a moment to reflect not only on where we are coming from but also on where we are today as a nation.  The past year has been challenging for people across the globe as we endured the upside-downing of the world as we knew it, brought on by the challenges of COVID-19. Obviously, Jamaica was not spared the ravaging of the pandemic as it upended the social and economic life of Jamaicans everywhere, especially at home.

It was this capacity to deal with the struggles that were embodied by the founding fathers in the design of the flag of the new nation. “The sun shineth, the land is green, and the people are strong and creative” is the symbolism of the colours of the flag. Black depicts the strength and creativity of the people; Gold, the natural beauty of the sunlight, and the wealth of the country; and Green signifies hope and agricultural resources. It is these symbols that I would like to encourage Jamaicans everywhere to reach for as a collective if we are to realize the nations fullest potential. At the apex of these symbols are the people of Jamaica, the absolute greatest of the island’s resources.

Any unbiased assessment of our economic, social, and political capital since Independence will undoubtedly conclude that we are nowhere near where we should be, considering our position in 1962. The negative effect of the global COVID-19 pandemic has left our economy teetering on the edge, and once more there are thoughts of returning to the international capital markets for borrowings to shore up the economy. Our debt-to-GDP ratio will once more become a millstone, rising above 100 per cent; our currency rate of exchange is $152.00 to US$1; unemployment is still at double digits and even more pervasive at the youth level. At the same time, crime continues to be a major deterrent, affecting local and foreign direct investment, and causing our tourism product to be seriously under-priced relative to our competitors in the region. On the political side, Jamaica swims in a sea of decadence as our leadership has, for the past four and a half decades, proven themselves incapable of uniting Jamaicans and providing a vision in which we all can participate.

That notwithstanding, we should remember that Jamaica in 2011 was ranked third among the most culturally influential countries in the world behind China and Brazil. I sense that our ranking is still high, as is the work ethic and creativity of the average Jamaican. In the area of music, Jamaica has gifted at least five genres of music to the world. In the area of sports, particularly in track and field athletics, Jamaicans have consistently demonstrated that we are not just able to compete with the best, but that we are in fact the best in the world and have set the standard that the world today wants to identify with.

Our people have always been our most significant resource and must be the pillar on which any attempt at building out from the mire in which we find ourselves. That is our challenge going forward as we celebrate this Emancipation and Independence period; providing the motivation for all Jamaicans, and finding the required leadership. Anything less is continued economic and mental slavery. 

Happy 59th Jamaica.      

Richard Hugh Blackford is a Jamaican creative artist residing in the United States.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *