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Big turnout for flag-raising ceremony at 'Jamaica House'

BY INGRID BROWN Associate Editor — Special Assignment browni@jamaicaobsever.com

Tuesday, August 07, 2012    

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LONDON, England — Hundreds of Jamaicans stood for hours in wrap-around lines to gain entry to 'Jamaica House' at the 02 Arena here to participate in the official flag-raising ceremony to celebrate Jamaica's 50 years of Independence from British rule.

Many had travelled for miles to be a part of the memorable occasion but unfortunately had to settle for just spending the moment in the company of their countrymen, as even the overflow area was full to capacity.

As has become the usual sight around London since the track and field competitions of the Games began, flag-bearing Jamaicans came in their black, green and gold attires, striding with national pride through the bustling O2 Arena, creating a spectacle.

However, inside Jamaica House the ceremony took on a more sombre tone with speeches and musical performances that gave attendants an opportunity to reflect on Jamaica's accomplishments over the 50 years.

Out of respect for Britain, the Union Jack was not lowered. However, the raising of the Jamaican flag was done as happened on August 6, 1962 to signal the birth of the nation.

The day's proceedings began with the background music being played by the British Imperial Brass Quintet, followed by prayers from Jamaican-born, UK-based pastor Bishop John Francis of the mega Rauch Ministries in London.

Soulful performances by Camille Davies, the University of the West Indies Performing Arts Ensemble, Donna Croll, Chevelle Franklyn and the recital of the National Pledge by children of the Diaspora in the UK completed what was an exhilarating ceremony.

Programme Chair Donna Parchment, executive director of Jamaica's Dispute Resolution Foundation, reminded the audience about the symbolism of the colours of the flag.

"Black depicts the strength and creativity of the people; gold, the natural wealth and beauty of sunlight, and green, hope and agricultural resources," she informed.

In her message, Jamaica's High Commissioner to the UK Aloun Ndombet-Assamba pointed to Jamaica's successes on the worldwide stage as a testament of the character of the people.

She pointed out that although 50 years is not a very long time in the life of a nation, Jamaica has made a considerable mark on the world.

"Not just in athletics but with culture, music, street fashion and food," she said, adding that so many people now want to be Jamaicans.

She noted that Jamaica has always been at international tables as our influence is very wide.

Henry Bellingham, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office — who also has responsibility for Caribbean affairs — lauded Jamaica for the setting up of 'Jamaica House', noting that many larger countries had failed to capitalise on the Olympic games as Jamaica has done through its engagement with investors and the Diaspora.

He expressed delight that Jamaica's anniversary coincide with the staging of the Olympic games.

"What an incredible performance by the fastest man in the world!" he said.

"I was spellbound watching the fastest man win... what an extraordinary performance!" he added.

Bellingham said the support being shown to the Jamaican athletes was a testament to the high esteem Jamaica is held in Britain even as he noted that his country was very proud of the contributions Jamaicans have made there. He pointed to the fact that the Empire Windrush, on which Jamaicans arrived in the UK in the 1940s to take up jobs, was featured in the opening ceremony of the Games, which depicted the evolution of the British society.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in a message read by Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton, urged Jamaicans everywhere to "find the flag in their heart and wave it".

"We have come a long way in 50 years, let us pause and take stock and say a prayer of thanks," she said, adding that Jamaica's mission continues.

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