Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Honour ancestors by casting ballot

Published:Friday | August 7, 2015 | 8:00 AM


As a Jamaican living overseas, I use social media to keep up to date on even the smallest morsel of news. So when I saw the social media furore over Andrew Holness' Emancipation message, I had to read it.

I don't know if the wrong message was published elsewhere but, the version I read on the JIS website, and the one I read on my Facebook timeline, which was posted on Emancipation Day, had no error of fact and generated more than 2,000 likes.

I have never really paid attention to these national messages before, as they are rather uninspiring and repetitive. However, I found Holness' message quite relevant and meaningful. I particularly identified with the section on the high levels of cynicism and apathy among youth that "threaten the efficacy of freedom to bring change".

In the US, where I now live, there is some sense of apathy and withdrawal, but it is not as bad as in Jamaica. In our last two presidential elections, the black voter turnout rate, and minority voter turnout rate in general, increased. Even more encouraging is that 54 per cent of black youth (18-29) voted in 2012 and 60 per cent of young black women turned out to vote. This must be viewed against the context of laws and practices in some states designed to minimise black voter turnout.

I have not found any good data to make a comparison with youth voter turnout in Jamaica, but all indications are that it would be very low. So I agree with Mr Holness' conclusion that "... freedom requires social responsibility [and] non-participation in our democratic system is not a wise exercise of choice".

I want to encourage all our Jamaican youth to participate in the civic affairs of our country to secure a better future for yourselves. Use your freedom to hold governments to account. This is the best way to honour the forefathers who made the ultimate sacrifice for you to live in a free society.