The 6th of August 2009 Marks 47 years since Jamaica first gained independence. The Honourary Consul for Jamaica in Atlanta, Georgia, Vin Martin leads an effort annually to celebrate Jamaican Independence, this year is no different.
Jamaicans in Atlanta plan a week of festivities that run the gamut from religious, to cultural, to partying to celebrate Jamaica’s 47th year of Independence. The Union of Jamaican Organizations in Atlanta (UJOIA), an eclectic mix of Jamaican organizations in Atlanta, has again planned this range of activities, led by Jamaica’s Honorary Consul to Atlanta, Mr. Vin Martin.
According to the Consul General “The primary objective of celebrating independence in the manner that we do is to provide a platform where any Jamaican or friend of Jamaica can have an opportunity to congregate with others in celebration of this special holiday.”
“Jamaica’s Independence celebrations have special meaning for Jamaican’s living overseas,” said Vin Martin, Jamaica’s Honorary Consul to Atlanta. “This is a time when we remember the island of our birth. This is a time to celebrate our culture and our heritage as we share special memories with Jamaicans and others here in our new home in the USA,” Mr. Martin said. “We live here in Atlanta, and make our individual contributions here, and at this time we acknowledge that we owe much to our heritage and to the heroes of our island who taught us, as our pledge says, ‘to play our part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.”
Continuing a 10-year tradition, the week-long celebrations begin with a Service of Thanksgiving on Sunday, August 2nd at 4:00 p.m. at the Hillside Presbyterian Church, 1879 Columbia Drive Decatur. Rev. Dr. Barry Davies, award-winning musician and contemporary of Jamaica’s famous late folklorist, Miss Lou, (Louise Bennett Coverly) will bring the message. The ecumenical service is free and open to all faiths. Families are encouraged to attend.
The celebrations continue on Wednesday, August 4th with a Cultural Extravaganza at 7p.m. at St. Timothy United Methodist Church Hall, 5635 Memorial Drive, Stone Mountain. “This is going to be an “old-time talent show,” laughs Michael Thomas, event organizer. “Folk songs, reggae music, recitations and a fabulous fashion show are just some of the highlights you won’t want to miss!” Mr. Thomas says. The fashion show will showcase items from The Mushroom – a Jamaican fashion house specializing in custom-made swimwear and cover-ups for all sizes. A $5 entry fee is requested.
The partying continues on Friday, August 7th with a Festival Dance. Dance the night away at Footprints Night Club, 4185 Snapfinger Woods Drive. Doors open at 10pm. The $10 admission fee includes a buffet from 10 – 12midnight.
The week’s activities culminate with the Jamaica Day – Family Fun Day, Sunday, August 9th at Exchange Park, 2771 Columbia Drive, Decatur. Traditional games – sack race, lime and spoon, donut eating, dominoes, cricket and Jamaican foods will be available from noon onwards. This free event offers the opportunity for families to enjoy games, food and fun together.
On August 15th the celebrations end on a high note with the annual Independence Ball hosted by the Atlanta Jamaican Association. This year the event will be at the Renaissance Hotel by the airport. Featured again this year is the Mighty Vikings with guest speaker The Honorable Seymour Panton, O.J.
When asked about the Consulate leading the movement Martin said “The Consulate has a unique role to play in leading these celebrations. It is clear that by coming together under one umbrella, the large number of groups which have been formed in the Atlanta area can benefit from the leadership which an established entity of the Jamaican Government can lend to the occasion. Often, sponsors are more responsive to the Consulate than they would be to the individual organizations. Also, in many of the major cities around the world where embassies/high commissions/consulates/honorary consulates are located, it has become the function of these government agencies to play a lead role in ensuring that the celebrations are of the standard which our nationals would be proud of”.
In terms of the response from the past ten years he stated, “the celebrations have not grown at the rate which I would have expected. The primary deterrent has been the lack of financial resources which would allow us to bring in acts which would attract a larger audience. However, we will continue to strive to organize these activities and hope that in the near future our financial constraints will be overcome.” As for the future, “over the next decade it is my expectation that these celebrations will have greater appeal to the wider population. Clearly the current economic conditions are having a negative effect on our planning. However, hopefully the momentum which we have established over the past ten years will continue and as our community becomes more aware of these celebrations, we will have an easier time attracting patrons. “