Wed | Aug 12, 2020

Emancipendence spirit still strong - St Thomas, Hanover hosting Emancipation Day concerts

Published:Saturday | August 1, 2020 | 12:00 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer
Patrons kept warm all night with Jamaican chocolate tea at the Seville Emancipation Jubilee 2018.
Students from Retreat Primary School performing a quadrille dance at the annual Seville Emancipation Jubilee, held at the Seville Heritage Park in St Ann on July 31, 2018.
Bungo Herman performing at the Seville Emancipation Jubilee in 2018.
A member of the Port Morant Kumina Group performing at the Seville Emancipation Jubilee in 2018.

On Emancipation Day, August 1, the nation stops briefly to commemorate the African ancestors who fought valiantly for freedom while reflecting on the many cultural and other contributions of the people of African descent who were taken from their homeland into slavery.

One of the most anticipated celebrations on the annual Emancipation Day calendar was the national event at the Seville Heritage Park in St Ann. The Emancipation Jubilee, organised by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), would usually begin on the evening of July 31 and continue into the early hours of August 1. Scattered across the island would be a plethora of cultural concerts in town squares, along with an assortment of all-night vigils featuring the performance of traditional rites. The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) would play an integral role in these events.

This year, however, the pandemic has interrupted all the best-laid plans. “Things have been scaled down considerably as we try to maintain all the COVID-19 protocols,” Marjorie Leyden-Vernon, director, community cultural development services at the JCDC, told The Gleaner. However, two parishes, St Thomas and Hanover, will be hosting events today. There will be a Freedom Concert at Colonel’s Cove in Morant Bay, starting at 4 p.m. and ending at 6 p.m., while over in the west, there will be a Best of Festival concert at the Rusea’s High School.


“We will be highlighting some of the performers in this year’s JCDC Performance Arts competition. The season ended abruptly in March; however, the JCDC had selected some winners in a few of the categories. For these concerts, we are making sure to use venues where social distancing is possible, and all the protocols will be observed,” Leyden-Vernon emphasised.

She shared that some parishes had made arrangements to host vigils on Friday evening, but it is a case of ‘by invitation only’, rather than being open to the public, as would be the norm. “We will be using controlled spaces like church halls and schools, and among the invited guests were the community groups and persons involved in civic affairs,” she explained.

Events were staged at the Holy Trinity Church in Montego Bay, the St Mary’s Anglican Church in St Mary, the Brown’s Town Baptist Church in St Ann, the Gregory Park Baptist Church in St Catherine, and the Port Antonio High School in Portland. A pre-Emancipation concert was staged in Trelawny at Lindsay’s Seafood Joint in Duncan’s.

According to Leyden-Vernon, “For Jamaica 58, the pandemic tried to shut us down, but we are resisting. This year, we can do more things at home, for example, cooking up some of the traditional foods, while keeping abreast with happenings on social media and on television.”