Sat | Dec 10, 2016

Betraying our heroes

Published:Wednesday | July 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM

By George Davis

The Emancipation-Independence holidays are here again. It has been 180 years since the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and 52 years since we signed a piece of paper declaring our birth as an independent nation with responsibility for our own bills and asserting that we were mature enough to set our own butter pan on fires that we could make ourselves.

Not many of us will toast either or both occasions, save for going out on the town and 'shelling down' a club because it's another holiday. Many of us will drink beyond our bladder's protestation point and will smoke until our eyes are as red as the brake lights of a JUTC bus. We will say we are celebrating. But celebrating what? Many of us men will bed a girl or two, or three, either at the same time or roster them over an 18-hour period. Many women may give it up to one or maybe two men, both together, or take two now and one later, like a Type Two diabetic taking prescribed doses of Avandia.

Those who say they are conscious will reflect on the lives and exploits of our champions - Sharpe, Bogle, Seacole, Garvey, Lecky, Wint, McKenley, Miss Lou and Bob. They will reminisce on how those champions and their peers lifted us from the days after Emancipation to the days of Independence, all the while exhorting us not to betray their effort on the early legs of the relay by running distracted after having the baton slapped into our hands.

Jamaica was built by a special kind of people. People who spent time thinking and doing, all in the name of making this nation greater by improving the lot of the little black, Indian and Chinese pickneys who used to run wild in the various communities. These people, like the Reverend Hugh Braham Sherlock, gave the people a love they could feel, gave them hope, nurtured their ambition and showed them a route up the respectability ladder. They are the ones who we should toast at times like Emancipendence.

No pint of beer should be consumed without tipping a bit to the kerb to pay respect to Louise, Hearne, Mais, DaCosta, McKay and Senior for their contribution to our learning and understanding. No spliff should be enjoyed without a puff in acknowledgement of the works of Maxwell, Perkins, Cargill and Mock Yen, who used the media to keep our leaders honest.

our reason for being

No leg should be shaken at any tune before homage is paid to Tom the Great Sebastian Wong, Sir Coxsone, Duke Reid, Scratch Perry, Sonia Pottinger and Leslie Kong - people who helped to promote and make the kind of music which made foreigners think of sunshine whenever they heard the first beats of a song from Jamaica. These are the real legends. These are the men and women whom it should be mandatory that we refer to as Honourable This and Most Honourable That, rather than some stuffy, clown-fish politician who assumes a position as Cabinet minister by virtue of a career sniffing farts.

These were the people who gave Jamaicans hope and a sense of independence, even as they fought to be emancipated from the evil visited upon them from the ballot box at every four- or five-year cycle. They all are our reasons for being. It's to them that we should raise a toast this holiday season, acknowledging their role in girding our confidence before sending us off to accomplish great feats and scrawl our signature on the eyeballs of the world.

As we celebrate the dual holidays, let us endeavour to fall in line with the conscious among us who yearn for the reincarnation of a Marcus Garvey or who pray that the musical gods deliver to us another Peter Tosh.

Nearly 200 years after Emancipation, we behave in this country as if we still do not know ourselves. The legends before us have every reason to feel betrayed. Let us not allow their memories and exploits to be confined to the pages of dog-eared textbooks, tossed away because of an infestation of silverfish. They have given us vision. Must we perish?

Happy Emancipendence.

Selah.

George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and georgesylvesterdavis@gmail.com.