Thu | Nov 15, 2018

Sean Major-Campbell | Jamaica Day - all song and dance?

Published:Wednesday | March 14, 2018 | 12:00 AM

If you are anything like me, you have tremendous appreciation for the Jamaican flag, patriotic songs, and the affirmation of things Jamaican. I grew up at a time when all the children got these cute little Jamaican flags in school whenever we were celebrating the country.

The patriotic fervour is such that even now, I can be moved to tears when I see little children performing in celebration of Jamaica. I am moved because I realise that with all its positive intention, we have hidden behind the frills of national colours, symbols, and songs. We have hidden from the aborted project of Independence and Emancipation.

Jamaica Day in schools should be lifted to another level. We should now seek to empower our children with skills of empathy, advocacy, and human-rights awareness and activism! What is the use of singing 'Jamaica, land we love', one moment and expecting to be bullied in the next?

Many students pursuing tertiary-level studies do not have a clue about their rights as citizens. Many are just robots in the system with a complete lack of debating skills, empowerment from the performing arts, and facility with language to give voice to life-transforming messages from deep within.

Many of Jamaica's teachers, for no fault of their own, are clueless about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and even any basic understanding of the essence of the Jamaican Constitution.




It would redound to the good of Jamaica if schools were to introduce just one minute per week for the spread of a basic principle of human rights.

We continue to fool ourselves into believing that long chorus sessions and devotions in school will develop conscience, inspire compassion, and build community. Just speak with the many school principals, deans of discipline, and guidance counsellors who, within five minutes of devotions, must attend to a stabbing incident, or threat for chop-up, or some act of assault or other offence.

Children singing, "I've got Jesus in ma knee and I got him all over me ... " and in the next moment they are knifing Jesus in somebody else.

Jamaica Day celebrations would do well with schools, including sensitisation projects in affirmation of the Jamaican citizen. Jamaica, land of beauty, must also mean a place of peace. The love and loyalty of our hearts must also be for each other.

What does 'Jamaica' mean in our songs and poems? It has to be more than the land. It has to be more than celebration of sports. Jamaica is every person who calls this place home. Jamaica Day for human rights.

- Father Sean Major-Campbell is an Anglican priest and advocate for human rights. Email feedback to and