Bob Clarke: We still have some positives
“IT WAS something to behold,” said radio personality Bob Clarke as he brought his mind back to August 6, 1962 - the day Jamaica became independent. As told in the history books, though we were emancipated, Jamaica was being governed by the British monarch, but the leaders of the day had other ideas.
According to Clarke, leading up to what we now call Independence Day, both leaders, Norman Washington Manley, who was the premier, and his cousin, Alexander Bustamante, who was the leader of the Opposition, had differing ideas of how to move the country forward,
“Manley wanted us to federate with the other Caribbean islands, forming a unit. Bustamante, on the other hand, wanted us to be independent, so he opposed the federation, and Manley and him couldn’t see eye to eye, so they decided to go to the Queen in England, and get her approval; but the Queen told them to go back to Jamaica and have it sorted out in their own way,” said Clarke, as he continued the history lesson,
“So, the premier said he was going to call an election, and when Bustamante came off the airplane in Montego Bay, he started to campaign right away - from Montego Bay come right up - and Norman Manley came off in Kingston,, so he had less time. Anyway, when the election was called Bustamante was the more popular between them and he went on to win the election and became the first prime minister.”
Clarke reminisced that Jamaica, 58 years ago, was a good place to live, with peaceful, happy people going about their business. He described it as a time where if someone lost a fowl, they could almost tell who the culprit was, because of the type of environment that existed.
“Jamaicans were happy, peaceful people; if a man throw a stone in a political party meeting in Montego Bay, that would have to make newspaper headlines for four or five days — it would be a big thing!” Clarke exclaimed, “Police never used to carry guns, only the ones who are considered as detectives today would carry guns, and it would still be only some of them who did. Peaceful times, man,” he reminisced.
The radio personality told The Gleaner that the changes that have occurred throughout the years - the violence and lack of compassion towards each other - could be attributed to our social upbringing, among other things.
“Jamaicans have a thing called ‘red eye’, ‘me want your own; me want one like your own’, so you find a way to get it without going about it the right way, so that’s part of the reason things are the way they are today,” he explained.
Clarke went on to reminisce about past Independence Days, where there were vibrant celebrations on each shop corner and community square, of people dancing and singing along to the music bellowing from sounds systems at the Independence Day street dances,
“People looked forward to the street dances; it was an event where everybody was enjoying themselves, vendors making a little money, the people spending, and everybody great and having a good time, that was the independence celebration,” he recalled, “Festival Fong Competition didn’t start until about 1966, initiated by Edward Seaga, when Toots Hibbert (Toots and The Maytals) won with a song called Bam Bam. Jamaica was nice, man, and though the money never plenty, it had great value, moving from the pounds to dollars and cents in September 1969,” Clarke noted.
As for the 2020 Independence Day theme, ‘Resilient and Strong…Let’s Celebrate Jamaica 58’, Clarke believes that it is a fitting one as, in his opinion, we have done well handling the issue of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The theme is a desire that is being expressed, one that is positive, and we can all do with more positivity at this time,” he said, “We hope that we will have enough to celebrate, especially with all that is going on right now; because while we do have a lot of areas of concern, especially considering COVID-19 that is still around, the high crime rate and ‘gunmanship’, we still have some positives.”
For Jamaicans, Independence Day is a time to remember where we are coming from and celebrate the victories, despite the challenges that have been endured.