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Looking for Emancipation in the park
published: Saturday | August 16, 2003


Where is the EMANCIPATION in the park?

The controversial Laura Facey Cooper nude statue, 'Redemption Song', is at the site of a major international protest rally held on Feb. 13, 2000 against the first Hedonism III/Playboy Cable TV Porn Channel mass nude wedding.

That insensitivity to community feelings is in itself a measure of the depth of the rift in our society.

However, there is a deeper problem with the park as a whole: where is the EMANCIPATION in it? For, as I confirmed by a visit last week, as of August 7th:

Nowhere in the park do we see a display of the history of plantation slavery, the liberation struggle that was energised when the evangelical missionaries began preaching to the slaves in the late 18th century, or of how it culminated in Emancipation and the enduring challenge to live in a free and well-ordered community.

I did not see key national symbols displayed, such as: Our Motto, Our Coat-of-Arms, Our National Pledge, Our National Anthem - all of them high points in Jamaica's heritage.

As Mr. Michael Morris protested in a letter to the editor published in The Gleaner on Aug. 19, 2002, the very date of Emancipation is missing.

There is no Visitors' Centre/
Museum that would help educate our children and visitors to our nation on our heritage, heroes, history and core national values.

Given the resonance of emancipation in our as yet unhealed history, such a cluster of omissions is utterly astonishing. But, if emancipation, education and the challenge of building a free, orderly and productive society have been left out of the park as a whole, it is then no surprise to see the emerging consensus that the commissioned statues are irrelevant and offensive to a broad but often derided, censored and ignored cross section of the community. Perhaps the best way forward is to view the park as a work in progress, and in that light I wish to suggest the following:

That the present storage house be converted into a visitors' centre with artefacts and a multimedia presentation. Print and multimedia educational materials should be available for sale at a modest cost. (2) That the jogging path be converted into a history and heroes' walk, by developing a list of "heritage stations." (The utility as a jogging/walking path should not be destroyed by this addition.)

That these stations present the history of slavery and emancipation accurately, fairly and tastefully, highlighting the often unsung people, initiatives and institutions that helped us find liberation and empowerment-not to mention, the ongoing challenges of freedom, order and productivity in a largely Christian community. (Cf. Ephesians 4:17 - 24, Galatians 5:13 - 15. By the way, why is it that George Liele, founder of the indigenous Baptist church that has played such a foundational role in the liberation of Jamaica, is not a recognised National Hero?)

That at the entry of the centre, the key national symbols be prominently displayed, as a shrine to the values and visions that will help build our future.

That the controversial statues be removed to the National Gallery, and replaced by one similar to the well-received liberation struggle monuments in Barbados, Guyana and Haiti.

Similarly, that the all too similar statue group at the Harbour View Roundabout be reviewed as to its suitability for that site, as the FIRST monument seen by visitors to our city, and again one sited at a major intersection.

I am. etc.,


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