National Heritage Week is a time to treasure the great moments that have made us so special as a nation and a people. It is also a time to treasure the great people who have played a pivotal role in charting the course of our future.
Our heroes were ordinary people who did extraordinary things to improve the quality of life for others. They did so against all odds. Some were killed. Some imprisoned. Others alienated and misunderstood. But they all showed courage and determination and most of all, a burning desire to achieve real freedom for the Jamaican people.
As a nation and a people, we are still on that journey of full freedom. The road has been paved with many obstacles, but through perseverance we have covered many miles.
Let us not take the progress that we have made as a country for granted. Let us not underestimate the enormous challenges that we have faced thus far. Let us not devalue our efforts to bring the full meaning of independence to our people. And let us not pretend that we have many more miles to go ‘before we sleep.’
Our forebears and Founders of our Nation had fewer resources at their disposal. But they had an abundance of will and a deep and abiding faith in our capacity to be determinants of our own destiny. It is this will and deep faith that we must call upon to leap-frog our way to prosperity, peace and full freedom.
This year’s theme for Heritage Week: “Preserving our heritage…our guide for the future”, requires three things of us:
1. We must know our heritage. This calls for action at the local level in our churches, communities, libraries and schools. Work must be done to research, document, disseminate and store information and data. Our people must know the journey we have traveled.
2. We must respect our heritage. Vibrant networks of communities, non-governmental organizations and the state must pursue an active partnership to restore, protect and preserve our physical sites that are monuments of our past and guideposts to our future. We need to preserve our cultural constructs, the very foundation upon which we have built Jamaica.
3. We must build on our heritage. This requires a fundamental re-think in the way heritage is viewed. It must become an integral part of our policy space and viewed as an investment in much the same way we regard education. This would encourage a nation not only to feed on the past but also sow seeds from which future generations will make a reaping.
As we celebrate this year, we must also ponder on how we can create in our people, a profound respect for the past and a confident expectation for the future. We must also call our people to action to take up their responsibility to this country by starting in their homes and communities; with their own families and neighbours.
Our forebears and Founders of our Nation were united by their love for Jamaica and the Jamaican people. It is time to reclaim that great love, as this is the strongest foundation on which we must build for future generations.