Sunday, October 18, 2009

National Heroes Day is October 19.

There are 10 national holidays in Jamaica. 10 guaranteed days off from work!
January 1 - New Years Day
February 25 - Ash Wednesday
April 10 - Good Friday
April 13 - Easter Monday
May 25 - Labour Day
August 1 - Emancipation Day
August 6 - Independence Day
October 19 - National Heroes Day
December 25 - Christmas
December 26 - Boxing Day

It is always comical when someone visiting says "so... do you celebrate July 4th in Jamaica?" Den with quick wit always says "of course, we celebrate July 4 on August 6!"

Yes holidays are different in other countries! Renee goes to school and we teach on Thanksgiving day. Seems odd at first especially when you have to search real hard to find a turkey to have your own thanksgiving! Somehow it just doesn't seem like Thanksgiving eating spaghetti and meatballs!

You can get down about it or you can see humor in the situation which most times we try to do!

But tomorrow is a national holiday and the Jamaica A/G sets this day as the Women's Ministries conference. I will be able to go tomorrow into Kingston and check it out at New Life A/G. It is an all day affair, not quite what we do in the states for WM's! no retreat center, no 3 days away from the family, no high powered speaker or band, no bookstore to shop in, and the list goes on what it is not, but I will go find out what it IS! I'm sure it will be spirited, lively and fun!

Jamaica has 7 national heroes and the memory of them and the freedom Jamaica has is what we celebrate. These heroes represent the struggles for freedom, justice and equality.

Nanny of the Maroons is the first. She was a bold leader. She was born in the Ashanti tribe of Ghana, West Africa. She was captured and brought to Jamaica as a slave in early 1700. She led the slaves in a fight against the English use of slaves on their sugar plantations. The first Maroons were the slaves who ran away when the British captured Jamaica from the Spaniards.

In Africa the slaves had benefits and the land belonged to everyone. Not so in Jamaica, the slaves owned nothing, not even themselves. Husband and wives could be split up on different plantations, slaves were bred like animals. Women were raped to produce more slaves. Life was horrible, needless to say. Nanny and her brothers escaped from the plantation and headed to Portland where they set up a stronghold against the attack from the English. The town was actually named Nanny Town. The Maroons fought from 1728 to 1734.

Nanny was added to Jamaica's list of national heroes in 1975. Her image is on the
500 dollar bill and is actually called a "nanny".

The second national heroe is Samuel Sharpe. The fight against slavery continued for another hundred years. Samuel Sharpe was a slave and led the final battle in Jamaica in December 1831. He and his followers declared that they would work only if they were paid for their labour. He organized a strike that they would not work on Boxing Day. Instead of a strike, violence broke out in Trelawny, St. James, Westmoreland, Hanover and St. Elizabeth.

Samuel Sharpe was one of 550 slaves hanged. However, the message was clear to the slaveowners, the slaves were determined to be free. Samuel Sharpe was very intelligent and could read well. He was well liked and remained active in Christian work till he died. He used the Bible to declare that slavery was wrong and was a leader in the Baptist church. The community called him "Daddy Sharpe". Slavery was abolished in 1834. He never saw the day but he worked toward that end.

Another national heroe is George William Gordon. He was a church leader as well and as a businessman wanted to make life better for the poor. He was a Justice of the Peace and worked with peasant farmers who were once slaves. When slavery was abolished, some of the free people bought land and started their own villages. Others remained on the plantations and were paid for their labour. In 1860 people began to complain about low wages, irregular work, high taxes and unfair treatment in the courts. Gordon was one of the first to fight for justice for all. He also started a Baptist church.

One of Gordon's supporters and deacons in that church was Paul Bogle. He is the fourth national heroe. Paul Bogle, along with his brother and trusted friend formed their own court for the people that were struggling with hardship. The Governor of Jamaica didn't understand the problems in the country and had no sympathy for the people. He said they suffered because they were lazy. There was no justice in the courts for black people.

Through a series of events to help the poor and to reach the governor, Bogle led a rebellion. He and Gordon were both hanged in 1865.

The fifth national heroe is Marcus Mosiah Garvey. He has been called "the black Moses". He had a vision for the future of the black people. Garvey inspired civil rights and independence in the Americas and Africa. He was born in 1887. He along with his wife started the United Negro Improvement Association. He had branches in Jamaica, the Caribbean, North America, Central America, Europe and Africa. He also formed the People's Political Party. He called for low minimum wage, land reform, public housing, a department to assist the poor in legal matters and the setting up of a university. Not all of these things happened in his lifetime but today are established. His life is very fascinating and all he went through, even spent time in prison in the states.

The sixth national heroe is Norman Manley.He was even born on a special day! July 4, 1893. He believed in democracy and believed that each man should have a vote. He worked toward Jamaica's independence from Britain. He fought in WWI and lost a brother, together they fought in the British army. He returned to Jamaica after being away 8 years and became a lawyer. He set up Jamaica Welfare Limited. This was the first social development agency to be formed, all as a result of bananas! There were problems between United Fruit Company and Jamaica Banana Producers Association. The Jamaica team wanted more money for their bananas.

Manley also started, along with O.T.Fairclough, the People's National Party. Manley wanted Jamaica to prepare to become a nation.

The most recent national heroe is Sir Alexander Bustamante. Bustamante is the leader of the labor movement. He wanted improved working conditions for all. Manley and Bustamante led the country into independence in 1962. Jamaica became an equal member of the British Commonwealth and of the United Nations. Interesting Manley and Bustamante are cousins. Bustamante went through trials and ordeals all to better his country.

None of these national heroes had easy lives, but in spite of the hardships placed on them personally, they were successes and today are heroes that Jamaica celebrates.

ALl of this I have learned from Renee's reports at school along with a wonderful book, "Our National Heroes". Renee and I have learned alot since living here because of school projects! Thank you Belair School!

I will have a lovely Jamaica day off tomorrow while you my friends head back to the office on Monday morning!

1 comment:

  1. Debby,

    That is all indeed very interesting! (As you know, I'm quite a history buff.) The only one of those heroes I'd heard of was Marcus Garvey. He had quite a following in the black community in the U.S. I know it MUST be hard to have no Nov. Thanksgiving Day! Conversely, I've twice been in Canada on THEIR Thanksgiving Day, so in a sense, in those years (2002,2003) I had 2 Thanksgiving Days!