Each year Heritage Week and National Heroes Day in particular, afford us the opportunity to celebrate the contributions of our Heroes to national development. We proudly laud their legacy and acknowledge their enduring impact on Jamaica as evidence of their invaluable contribution to their native land. We also celebrate those individuals who continue to build Jamaica through their noteworthy service in a variety of sectors which are crucial to the wellbeing of our nation and to the positive recognition of our national identity.
Heritage Week celebrations this year take on an even greater significance, as it is occurring in the context of our fiftieth year as an independent nation. More important to the celebration of Heritage Week however, is the extent to which our contemporary activities draw on the strengths of our heroes and build on their legacies for future generations. Heritage is more than preserving our history. It involves identifying ourselves with the causes that were important to our National Heroes and doing our part to secure the Jamaica for which they sacrificed so much and in some cases, paid the ultimate price.
Sam Sharpe, who had been martyred after the final rebellion against slavery and Nanny the courageous guerrilla leader in the struggle against colonial domination, ignited the flame for liberation. One hundred and forty-seven years ago on October 11, the Rt. Excellent Paul Bogle and hundreds of men and women marched from Stony Gut to Morant Bay in search of social justice. Arising from the Morant Bay Revolution, the structure of governance in the country was changed and the delivery of social services expanded. Paul Bogle and the Rt. Excellent George William Gordon, who were identified as leaders of that revolution, and many of the protesters, were executed for having dared to take a stand for justice. The Rt. Excellent Norman Washington Manley and the Rt. Excellent Sir Alexander Bustamante would later build on their legacies as they led Jamaica to independence in 1962. The message of our first National Hero, the Rt. Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey, was as true then as it is now: “Up! Up! You might race; you can accomplish what you will!“
Jamaica must continue to build on the foundation of our heritage, by internalizing the examples of our heroes and committing ourselves to the achievement of our goals for a better Jamaica – a Jamaica in which family life is strengthened; fundamental values such as honesty, discipline and respect for self and for others are embedded in the national psyche; and where our children can feel safe, enjoy their childhood years and achieve their dreams.
It is imperative that our people recognize that our actions of today are building the heritage for future generations. Will they arise and call us blessed? Will they be moved to consider as National Heroes, people of the generations since independence?
The celebration of our heritage should be a daily occurrence, reflected in our efforts to preserve and build on the legacies of our National Heroes so that together, as one nation, we may achieve theirs and our own Vision for Jamaica, Land we love.
I wish for all Jamaicans a happy and inspiring Heroes Day.