Jamaica needs more every day heroes

Monday, October 16, 2017

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The usual pomp and pageantry will accompany today's celebration of National Heroes' Day, especially at King's House, where 171 Jamaicans will be conferred with national honours and awards in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the country.

Last week, schools across the island observed National Heritage Week in keeping with a most noble tradition to instil and reinforce in students the priceless sacrifice made by our foreparents to secure the freedoms that this nation enjoys today.

Last week as well, legislators started debating the National Heroes and Other Freedom Fighters (Absolution from Criminal Liability in Respect of Specified Events) Act, 2017.

The Bill, which was appropriately piloted by Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange, will, when passed, absolve Messrs Samuel Sharpe, George William Gordon, Paul Bogle, and Marcus Garvey, as well as their supporters, sympathisers and participants by association, and other freedom fighters, of criminal liability arising from their participation in what has been termed “acts of liberation with moral justification”.

According to Miss Grange, the objective of the Bill is to redeem and restore the dignity and integrity of those who suffered much.

“Our ancestors were of a pedigree that was not daunted by challenges, no matter how great they were or how seemingly insurmountable the obstacles,” Minister Grange said in opening the debate in Parliament. “They came to Jamaica shackled and belaboured, but within their fertile minds dwelt the militant cultures they had fashioned back home in the various tribal forces of the (African) continent.”

The minister also pointed out that those freedom fighters made life difficult for the enslavers as they ensured that the plantation owners and the empire knew that they could not enslave their minds.

That fixity of purpose and mental strength contributed in no uncertain measure to the achievements of our foreparents, particularly our seven national heroes who are generally the focus of activities throughout National Heritage Week, and indeed today.

We know, though, that there are many other Jamaicans who are imbued with a similar sense of nationalism and high regard for the welfare of others that was evident in our ancestors.

While some of them have their stories told, for instance in this newspaper's Everyday Heroes feature started four weeks ago on a Sunday, there are many others — unsung heroes — who make sacrifices daily to build this country.

We have argued in this space before, and it is worth repeating, that many more Jamaicans need to be heroes in small but significant ways if this country is to grow and fulfil its dreams.

But even as we all strive to play our role as nation-builders, our political leaders need to make an even greater effort, especially because they have been elected to work to make this country better.

Our ancestors handed the baton of political independence to us. It is now the duty of the current political leaders to complete the leg that will give us true economic independence.




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