Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister calls for mental freedom
Jamaicans turned out in their thousands Tuesday night to celebrate Emancipation Jubilee at Seville Heritage Park in St Ann, as the country begins a week-long celebration that will culminate with the Golden Jubilee of Independence on Monday, August 6.
Indeed, the turnout reflected the high spirits Jamaicans are currently in, as the holiday celebrations are flavoured this year with expectations of gold medal performances at the London Olympics, currently under way.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller used the occasion to encourage Jamaicans to carry on with the work of liberating their minds and rise to the challenges that confront the nation.
In a presentation that touched on the abolition of the slave trade, the 125th anniversary of the birth of Jamaica's first national hero, Marcus Garvey, the 100th anniversary of the African National Congress and Jamaica's involvement in the abolition of the apartheid system in South Africa, Simpson Miller told the gathering:
"These and other significant milestones provide Jamaicans with an opportunity to understand the link between colonisation and liberation struggles."
It is a fact, she also reminded the gathering, that there would have been no Independence without Emancipation and no embracing of a black consciousness without the unrelenting advocacy of Marcus Garvey.
"Today, we are armed with the knowledge that we now have about the role of our ancestors in the shaping of our present freedom. We must ensure that we carry on that liberation project," Simpson Miller urged.
Lesser known activists
The prime minister acknowledged the efforts of the many lesser known anti-slavery activists which led to Emancipation, including Mary Walker, Charlotte Smith, Priscilla and George Taylor who, she said "showed us the importance of standing up, standing tall and standing strong again and again and again."
She urged the nation to find a way to celebrate Emancipation, suggesting visits to monuments associated with Emancipation and also dance and songs.
"Dance, free your mind, free your body and satisfy your soul," the prime minister encouraged.
The Emancipation Jubilee programme was divided into sections relating to Jamaica's history and road to freedom.
'The Beginning' featured performances by Kingston Drummers, Prof I and the Nyabinghi among others. 'Life in Africa' featured, among others, L'Acadco Dancers and Amina Blackwood-Meeks.
There were several other sections relating to the journey across the Atlantic, life on the plantation, resistance and rebellion.
After the Proclamation of Independence was read, wreaths were laid in honour of the ancestors by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna and Ainsley Henriques, chairman of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, which stages the annual Emancipation vigil.
After greetings by Hanna and Member of Parliament Shahine Robinson, and the address by Simpson Miller, the massive crowd was treated to more excellent performances on the packed programme.
In the praise-and-worship section that immediately followed, Sister Scully started off on the right note, shortly after 1 o'clock.
Him A Mi Daddy Oh got the crowd in the mood for worship and for other favourite selections such as Hard Road To Travel, I Am Determined, I Know Where I am Going, among others.
She set the tone for Omari, Prof I and the Nyabinghi, St Ann Pocomania Group and Levy's Heritage, and the acts showcased the nation's diverse religious practices.
Fabulous Five, Yasus Afari, QQ, Ashe Ensemble, Heather Grant, Roy Rayon and Romain Virgo were among a long list of performers on the second half of the programme.
Miss Jamaica Festival Queen 2012 Kemesha Kelly, from St Ann, was also present at the Emancipation Jubilee.
Food stalls offered the typical Jamaican foods, including the chocolate tea offered each year by Jamaica National Building Society. As usual, there was a long line of persons with their enamel mugs trying to get a sip of the hot, tasty beverage.
Jamaican-made products, mainly craft items and clothing, decked many stalls.
Known yearly as Emancipation Vigil, the event was rebranded Emancipation Jubilee this year to coincide with Jamaica's Independence jubilee.