A Christian's view of Independence
According to Seventh-day Adventist youth leader Omar Marston, next week's annual Emancipation and Independence celebrations provide the perfect opportunity to reflect upon how the liberties many of our ancestors fought and died for are being utilised.
As a youth empowerment officer at the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Marston works as the manager of the National Centre for Youth Development in Port Maria, St Mary. He said that although faith and religion are his priority, all Jamaicans have a duty to acknowledge and learn about their national heroine and heroes.
He told Family and Religion: "On July 31, I will be attending the Emancipation Jubilee at Seville Great House and Heritage Park in St Ann, and a cricket match in Three Hills, St Mary, on August 1. As a Christian, I still recognise the national events and cultural activities of the land because they don't really affect my beliefs.
"My life is dictated by my Christian and spiritual beliefs, and if there is ever any conflict between the two, I am now mature enough to know that I would always choose my Christian beliefs over secular, national festivities.
"For me, Emancipation and Independence are about our freedom; freedom from a lot of things, including slavery and white oppression, and that provides an avenue to spread the gospel even more because people are free to preach and teach the Bible and about God. Freedom from white supremacy was not only about freedom for black people to live; it was also an avenue for spirituality."
While much time has passed since the abolition of slavery in Jamaica, in 2016, many persons are still severely hampered by limited by access to finance and other economic constraints.
Marston, nevertheless, claims that for the most part, the average Jamaican citizen's rights and liberties remain intact. However, he does believe that voters must learn to make better use of their political representatives, both at the local and national levels.
He explained: "I believe Emancipation and Independence is something that happens on many different scales and levels. For example, we select leaders to rule, but if we don't hold them to account, then we are not really free.
"Even though we are independent, are we really free to do certain things? Even freedom comes with limitations, so I believe we are free, but I also believe we do not hold our leaders accountable to the fullness.
"Not everybody can go regularly to Gordon House, so we have decided to send people there on our behalf, but we must hold them to account and charge them whenever our freedoms are breached."