Jamaica marks 173rd Emancipation Year

Byron Lee

Jamaica observed the 173rd anniversary year since African slaves won full freedom from British captivity with an Emancipation Jubilee heritage festival at the Seville Great House and Heritage Park.

Held in the parish of St. Ann, (birthplace of the island’s first national hero Marcus Garvey) the commemorative festivity which began in 1999 showcased Jamaica’s cultural heritage through entertaining performances and informative exhibitions. The theme of this year’s festival amplified: “Let the Drums Talk.” It resonated with the observation of the International Year for People of African Descent declared by the United Nations.

During the Emancipation Jubilee, bamboo torches illuminated the historic Seville Great House and Heritage Park. A musical feature also retraced how reggae evolved to be the popular beat after transitioning from various pulsating rhythms of African traditional folk sounds.

“Events such as the Emancipation Jubilee allow the Jamaican people to reflect on Jamaica’s past and appreciate its transformational journey,” John Lynch, Jamaica’s director of tourism said.

An advocate of the liberating celebration, he added that because “Jamaica’s motto is ‘Out of Many, One people,’ and “reflects the island’s diversity and vibrant culture, the Emancipation celebrations provide an in-depth glance at the root of our cultural beginnings, which we’re proud of and excited to share with visitors from around the world.”

Participants at the event were able to examine cultural artifacts; learn the art of weaving baskets and sample authentic cuisine.

Although slavery was supposedly granted in 1834, it took a full four years for the British to relinquish total control by declaring the period a kind of apprenticeship to liberation.

When Jamaica achieved independence Aug. 6, 1962, the government combined observances with Emancipendence revelry. However, after a committee decided the two events to be historically separate, the Aug. 1 Emancipation Day observance was resumed. That year, Col. Jerry Rawlins, then president of Ghana was invited to deliver a poignant message from the continent. Since that year, numerous heads of state have joined Jamaicans in marking the date. Among them: Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo.

JA Gala To Pay Homage To “Dragon”

The annual Jamaica Independence Grand Ball celebrating self-rule and progress in determining the future of the Caribbean nation will return to the Hilton Hotel on Aug. 20. In addition, the gala will pay homage to Byron Lee AKA ‘The Dragon,’ one of the island’s spectacular musicians and national contributor to enhancing the culture of the Caribbean.

Hosted this year, under the patronage of Ambassador Raymond Wolfe, Jamaica’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, the black-tie affair is expected to hail the founder of the popular regional band Byron Lee & The Dragonaires.

Reportedly, Lee’s legacy will be regaled with music and dance that keynoted a five-decade career that ended at the age of 72 in 2008. The ska and calypso proponent is credited for introducing carnival to the island’s calendar of festivities.

An early pioneer of eclectic Caribbean sounds, Lee was honored with the Order of Distinction by his country just one month prior to his death.

The island’s former Prime Minister Edward Seaga described him as a “social engineer who was able to bring uptown and downtown into one with music and culture as his tool.”

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