Jamaica ‘Proud & Free at 53’

From left, Mrs. Wanetta Lamont (wife of JA CG), Harry Parboosingh, District Leader, Scherie Murray, an unidentified individual, CG Herman G. Lamont, Cynthia Neita (with fruit basket) and State Senator Leroy Comrie with Jamaican national outside Veterans Memorial gardens in Queens.
Photo by Vinette K. Pryce

Black, green and gold dominated the Queens Boulevard location where nationals and friends assembled to raise the colors decided to best represent the freedom and purpose self-rule imposed on Aug. 6, 1962.

At the borough hall plaza in the most diverse borough in all of New York City, its borough president Melinda Katz, State Senator Leroy Comrie, Scherie Murray, district leader and Republican state assembly candidate, joined the island’s Council General Herman G. Lamont and his wife Wanetta in a garden dedicated to veterans to salute the 53-year achievement of independence.

In a message from Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, the diplomat read a statement to nationals saying: “Independence is a time to reflect on our journey as a nation… a time to embrace the opportunity to chart our destiny as a people. It is a time to continue to embrace peace, progress and prosperity for all Jamaicans.”

“Let each of us play our part in writing a new uplifting history of hope, courage and prosperity for our people and proclaim our independence with the theme: “Proud and Free: Jamaica 53.”

Her message to diasporans residing here added that during this period, nationals should be cognizant that it is also “a time when we celebrate the solid achievements of the past decades. It is a time when we challenge every Jamaican to contribute in some way to the national good, by re-energizing the Jamaican spirit of resilience, hard work, passion, genuine love for each other and our unflinching faith for a better and brighter tomorrow.”

“Much respect is due to every citizen, who in the interest of our country has heeded the call for greater social discipline, industry, innovation, cultural creativity, and economic self-reliance.”

The holiday message resonated on Jamaican immigrants of every ilk.

“I celebrate the enterprising and entrepreneurial spirit of our citizens, from the small commercial operators to the large investors, who have all maintained their confidence in our ability to skillfully manage the affairs of this nation despite the difficulties identified.”

The gathering seemed keenly attentive to the words directed to them by their leader at home.

“Fellow Jamaicans, allow me to say on this historic day: Jamaica is our home; We belong to her and she belongs to us. “

The first female leader of the country quoted Norman Washington Manley, one of the island’s founding fathers and the first leader of People’s National Party who said: “There is a tremendous difference between living in a place and belonging to it, and feeling that your own life and destiny is bound up in the life and destiny of that place.”

She also took the opportunity to reference a statement made by the island’s first prime Minister and leader of the Jamaica Labour Party Sir Alexander Bustamante. Another founding father of the nation, Bustamante said: “Independence means the opportunity for us to frame our own destiny and the need to rely on ourselves.”

The leader reflected on the challenging years the country faced and hailed the prosperous times, the people reveled in glory. She cited achievements made by athletes, scholars, scientists and all Jamaicans that have excelled in various fields of pursuit and urged dedication in all endeavors.

“I wish for all Jamaicans, at home and in the diaspora, a happy and rewarding Independence Day and God’s continued blessing and guidance.

Throughout the poignant message she wished everyone a “Happy Independence – “Proud and Free, Jamaica 53.”

Although Jamaicans throughout the world marked the historic date by wearing the colors, gathering at festive events and reaching out to friends and family, Queens had the distinction of hosting David Reid, a Jamaican tenor who reportedly is regarded as the very first individual to voice a recording of the national anthem.

The visiting singer told a gathering in Queens that he was able to sing the lyrics penned by a Robert Lightbourne, a Member of Parliament because there were no arrangements to the “Eternal Father” hymn voted most appropriate to be the song of the country.

He said at the time he was affiliated with a church and choir, and the secretary of the cabinet frequented that institution.

According to Reid, he was asked to sing the melody into a tape recorder thus becoming the very first to sing a recorded version of what became the national anthem.

While Reid’s unique rendition of Jamaica’s national anthem added significance to the afternoon’s tribute, BP Katz offered her own version of the Star Spangled banner. To the pride of many county residents she offered a rendition a worthy of national significance. She won favor with emcee Ewayne McDonald who hailed her mellifluous voice.

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