yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind...” Our
world famous reggae icon Robert Nesta 'Bob' Marley sang about emancipation. He explicitly
states that “none but ourselves can free our mind...”But how many of us
understands what it means to “free our minds”? Wednesday August 1st, 2012 marks
our Emancipation Day. We all anxiously anticipate this holiday as to frolic,
get the long awaiting day from work or just to relax. But do we really know how
the history of Emancipation Day and how it began.
observance of Emancipation Day stemmed from the 1838 decree. August 1st, 1838 marks the
abolishment of slavery and the declaration of freedom. On August 1, 1834, all
slaves were legally declared free. The celebration of Emancipation Day as a
public holiday began in 1893, at which time it was observed on the first Monday
in August. Between 1895 and 1962, it was celebrated on August 1, unless the
date fell on a Saturday or Sunday. Emancipation
did not mean the beginning of good times. According to Sherlock and Bennett in
"The Story of the Jamaican People," "Emancipation provided the
citizens with the right to free movement, the right to choose where and when
they wished to work, but without basic education and training many were
compelled to remain on the plantation as field hands and tenants-at-will under
conditions determined by the landlord, and for wages set by him." But, the
former slaves were just glad to be free. The savagery of the plantations was
now behind them, they could now look forward to a better life ahead.
View of the monument at Emancipation Park in Kingston Jamaica
1962, when Jamaica became an independent nation, the official observance of
Emancipation Day was discontinued in favour of Independence Day, which is
observed on August 6. However, since 1997, Emancipation Day as a public holiday
was re-introduced and observed on August 1, except when the day falls on a
Sunday; in which case it is celebrated on Monday August 2.
observance of Emancipation Day provides Jamaicans the opportunity to reflect on
their ancestors and the freedom for which they fought. In this regard,
Emancipation Park in New Kingston, St. Andrew, which was opened on July 31
2002, was built in their honour. The statues of a male and female at the main
entrance of the Park commemorate the struggles and victories of Jamaicans.
of the largest events leading up to the Emancipation Day celebration is
‘Emancipation Jubilee’. This is held on July 31. This event usually starts at
6:00 p.m. and continues into the morning of August 1. As a family event, adults
and children have the opportunity to learn about and participate in various
cultural activities, including our traditional foods and dances.
As we await this year’s Emancipation
Day, let us not only frolic, and enjoy the cultural festivities; but let us
contemplate and appreciate the trials of the men and women who fought to obtain
and defend our freedom. Let us strive to
uphold their legacy and make them proud.