It should perhaps not strike one as odd that the last few months have seen the Jamaican landscape engaged with the issues of heroism in many shapes and forms. Jamaican film-makers have been revisiting the images of our six national heroes and one national heroine, while theologians and academics have been exchanging new opinions on the impact that their roles have had in the evolution of Jamaican life. Their legacy remains a fundamental part of the expression that is Jamaica, which expression is carried both actively and latently by all those who retain that national identity. It is that legacy that prompts us, the members of the Jamaican Kittitian (JamKit) Association, to take this opportunity to commemorate a special Jamaica National Heroes’ Day, in this 51st anniversary year of our country’s political independence.
That legacy, as it has always done, continues to shape the thrust of our collective understanding of our region and the wider world. We remain grateful for the separate roles that were played by our National Heroes, and the broader collective impetus that they exerted on national development. We proudly highlight them yet again, and invite all interested to take a peek into their lives:
1) The Right Excellent Paul Bogle – Baptist Deacon, Peasant Advocate and Martyr of the Emancipation Movement;
2) The Right Excellent Sir Alexander Bustamante – Leading Labour Movement Advocate and Inaugural Prime Minister of Independent Jamaica;
3) The Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey – Black Nationalist, Pan-Africanist Leader, Publisher and African Repatriation Advocate;
4) The Right Excellent George William Gordon – Advocate, Member of the Jamaica Assembly and Martyr of the Emancipation Movement;
5) The Right Excellent Norman Washington Manley – Political Titan of Independent Jamaica and Eminent Barrister;
6) The Right Excellent Nanny of the Maroons – Mythical embodiment of the female Maroon fighter who repelled British expansion into the island’s heartland.
7) The Right Excellent Samuel Sharpe – Freed slave, Advocate and Martyr of the Emancipation Movement;
Each, in his/her own inimical way, facilitated the burgeoning of a nation which, though travailed by many challenges, continues to rise to meet each one.
As we pause to share this special commemoration with our friends and family here in the Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis, we similarly acknowledge the recent extension of the Federation’s own pantheon of heroes, in the elevation of the Right Excellent Sir Simeon Daniel to the status of National Hero last month. We are reminded that it is through the work of individuals who made direct connections with the lives of ordinary people that many of the developments being enjoyed by us today were made possible.
In the words of the Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller,
“In celebrating the theme (for this year’s celebration of Jamaica National Heroes’ Day and Heritage Week), ‘Our History–Our Strength’, we must draw on the history of selfless national service given by our heroes; their history of putting the interests of others ahead of themselves; indeed, risking their lives for others. ……. we need more than ever to recapture that spirit…”.
While we remain heartbroken at the villainy that continues to stalk both our countries in the form of reprehensible incidents of crime and untenable incidents of dissension, we continue to be called upon to be heroes for justice and truth forever. In our own small spaces and small ways, we are exhorted to embrace probity, expound virtue, reject violence and loathe depravity. There can be no better way in which we, Jamaicans at home and abroad, could honour and commemorate our National Heroes than by being true to this sacred charge.
We proffer our warmest sentiments to all residents of the Federation in this period of reflection, and wish that peace and safety will extend, along with God’s blessings, to posterity.