October is Black History Month in England.
October is also the month that the government of Jamaica honors its heroes.
Throughout the island, October is embraced as Hero’s Month with Oct. 17, the national holiday observed for acknowledging past and current citizens with Heroes’ Day tributes.
This year 200 individuals were distinguished for recognition for national service during a ceremony presided over by the Governor-General, Sir Patrick Allen.
Celebrated on the third Monday of the month, the day also commemorates seven national heroes from Jamaican history while bestowing national awards to present day trailblazers.
Established to replace Queen Elizabeth’s birthday, the first national heroes were announced in 1965 and subsequently added distinguished pioneers to the independence status attained in 1962 by Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Paul Bogle, George William Gordon, Sam Sharpe, Nanny of the Maroons, Alexander Bustamante and Norman Washington Manley.
The date was significant because it marked the 100th anniversary of the Morant Bay Rebellion, a slave revolt that disrupted control by the colonial powers that governed the island.
History records that in 1865 Paul Bogle led a rebellion into the town of Morant Bay and forever changed the trajectory of Jamaica’s history. Brave, fierce and relentless as he was like Nat Turner in the south of America, Bogle was captured, convicted and hanged on Oct. 24, 1865.
Bogle’s selfless sacrifice was regarded to be criminal to the crown but 100 years later, an independent country free of from colonial rule named him a freedom fighter and the island’s second national hero.
The first named Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).
Also reviled for his Pan-African stance by colonial governors, Garvey was convicted and sentenced to three months in prison for speaking out against the oppression of Black people on the island.
After returning to Jamaica in 1929 following charges of mail fraud in the USA 1923, Garvey formed the People’s Political Party and began preparation to contest the Legislative Council Elections due the following year.
In the course of a speech on Sept. 9, Garvey criticized the state of the legal system in Jamaica calling it “oppressive.”
He also challenged the proponents of the judicial system and said laws should be enacted to “punish judges who acted unfairly.”
For that bold statement, Garvey was fined 100 pounds sterling, charged with contempt and was convicted for sedition and imprisoned at the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre for three months.
“As a result, Garvey would still have a criminal record in Jamaica” Delroy Chuck, minister of justice asserted during a session in Parliament last week.
He added that “as such, a statutory pardon is required.”
He said that the government was already moving forward with steps to expunge the local criminal record of Jamaica’s first national hero.
He noted that in 1984, Garvey was given a royal pardon by the governor general at the request of then Prime Minister Edward Seaga. However, the pardon, under section 91 of the Constitution, relates to the sentence and not the conviction.
Five days before Hero’s Day 2016, Olivia “Babsy” Grange, minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sports entered a bill before the House of Representatives calling for an immediate expunge of the police record of the national hero.
“The view has been widely held that the acts for which these National Heroes were convicted were not criminal acts of rebellion or treason but acts of liberation with abundant moral justification carried out in the best tradition of humanity,” Grange argued. “Consequently, our heroes ought not to have the stain of a criminal conviction accompanying their role as national heroes.”
“We must continue a trend of “reversing colonization” of our people,” she said.
“Our heroes are standard bearers of our culture and heritage. They are heralded in our education system; their stories are presented as historical narrative in our curriculum.”
Grange and a majority of her government would like to absolve Garvey — Bogle and Gordon — of any criminal wrongdoing adjudicated by the British.
This year’s theme “Our Heritage… Our Legacy… Our Strength” recalls the contributions of heroes Jamaica claims to be integral to their independence.
“This theme calls us as a nation to reflect on the strength and vigor of those who have come before us, and their tireless, impassioned works upon which we now build,” Grange explained.
Garvey was posthumously conferred with the Order of the National Hero in 1969.
Of the recent effort at obtaining a presidential pardon from President Barack Obama, Grange said “This is another opportunity for Jamaica to once again become trail blazers, to take a decisive step towards ensuring that those who come behind us find us faithful.”
“The trial and conviction were meant to tarnish Garvey’s image and diminish his global movement.”
She added that, “the United States officials disapproved of Garvey’s fearless advocacy of self reliance, Black pride and unity among his people so they imprisoned him, then deported him.”
“Garvey’s actions were not criminal, they were acts of liberation, with moral justification.”
Reggae legend Peter Tosh will be honored with the opening of a new museum in Kingston, Jamaica.
The talented singer / musician who was bestowed honorary status in 2012 when his government conferred him with the Order of Merit, the third highest award for national service to Jamaica collaborated with Bunny Wailer and Robert “Nesta” Marley to record and release music as the Wailing Wailers.
From this week on he will finally secure a space dedicated to his life and impact on the music industry and the entire world.
Born Winston Hubert Mc Intosh, he was murdered on Sept. 11, 1987 at his home in Kingston. Acclaimed for his recordings with the group he was also regaled for a stellar solo career, social activism and advocacy of the Rastafarian lifestyle.
Tosh was an unapologetic critic of apartheid in South Africa.
He defied governmental regimentation and rules related to the criminality of individuals who smoke marijuana. His relentless advocacy for the legalization of the weed left a lasting mark on a global community.
The archival launch comes on the 40th anniversary of the commercial release of Tosh’s 1976 hit single “Legalize It.”
Some of his major hits included “Get Up, Stand Up,” “Mama Africa,” and “400 Years.”
The care-takers promise to give fans a fascinating and introspective look into the life of one of Jamaica’s most celebrated figures.
“Visitors will also be able to relive aspects of the non-conformist, futuristic and abundantly creative Tosh experience through sizzling audio and video recordings featuring the superstar, as well as iconic artifacts including his M16 guitar and beloved unicycle that became one of his favorite means of transportation.” Also available will be exclusive merchandise for sale to the public.
With the opening of the Peter Tosh Museum, Jamaicans and visitors from around the world will be able to see a large collection of never-before-seen Tosh memorabilia.
Many of the exhibits will be displayed to the public for the first time.
The opening is slated for the 72nd anniversary of his birth on Oct. 19.
A five-day program and tribute to the legendary reggae talent will include a symposium, a press conference and benefit concert ending on Oct. 23 with a Peter Tosh Memorial Garden Excursion.
Catch You On The Inside!