My fellow Jamaicans,
I greet you warmly as we unite in celebrating that momentous first of August in 1838 when “Full Freedom” finally ended the oppressive slave regime in Jamaica and elsewhere in the British Empire.
Amidst the various celebratory events, we must not forget the journey of our ancestors: the degradation, hardships and suffering they endured; the resilience they exhibited; and their long years of struggle for freedom and human dignity. On that tortuous road to freedom, thousands of lives were sacrificed, culminating in the Christmas Rebellion of 1831 where Sam Sharpe and hundreds of other slaves willingly chose death rather than continue existing as slaves. Emancipation was not cheaply won by a “Proclamation”! So let us celebrate, ever mindful of the price paid for the freedom which we cherish and must guard at all cost.
Imagine the joy and anxiety that filled the total being of the newly freed on that August morning! Our ancestors were no longer slaves…Emancipation Day had finally come! And the advocates of slavery had learned a truth later expressed by American Civil Rights Leader W. E. B. Dubois when he said: “There is in this world no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained.”
And yet it would appear that a large number of our people are still chained.
Many are paralyzed by fear of crime and criminals.
Many seem shackled by despair about the deep socio-economic problems which hamper our growth.
Many are mired in negative thinking, self-doubt and an apparent unwillingness to take responsibility for their own lives.
Many are bound by tribalism and other forms of divisiveness.
We must liberate ourselves from these chains! Our present stability and our future growth demand our commitment to think, act and unite for the good of our country.
Marcus Garvey knew that breaking those chains requires a change in our mind, our attitude and in the way we think. He said: “Liberate the minds of men and ultimately you will liberate the bodies of men”. This statement is what Bob Marley popularized in the “Redemption Song”: Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds”.
This emancipation, like that from slavery, is not an overnight event. Like our ancestors, we have to be prepared to struggle for progress. Or, as the Jamaican proverb goes: “If you want good, your nose must run”. Life offers us no easy ride. We too must strive for freedom from the shackles which delay our progress as individuals and as a nation. Let us celebrate the accomplishment of their emancipation by securing our own emancipation as we join hearts and hands to build Jamaica into that great country that we all want it to be!
May God bless you and Jamaica, land we love.