Respect for the struggles of our national heroes

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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Dear Editor,

We have just celebrated Monday, October 16, 2017 as National Heroes' Day — the day on which we remind ourselves of the people we have raised to our highest level of national recognition: national heroes.

Our national heroes are recognised for the sacrifices and contributions they made towards our development and advancement. Daddy Sam Sharpe and Nanny waged a continuous battle against the oppressive system of slavery. They led their followers in struggles against the powerful and oppressive slave owners. They put their lives at risk, and the result of their taking those risks is the freedom we now enjoy today.

Paul Bogle and George William Gordon challenged the post-slavery colonial system which denied the vast majority of Jamaicans the right to have a say in the government of the country. Bogle, in particular, questioned the judicial system which was operating on the premise that all black people who were brought before the court for criminal offences were guilty before even being tried. That challenge is what has brought us to the stage we are at today; now people who are charged with criminal offences are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.

Marcus Garvey challenged the worldwide colonial system which was treating all people of African descent as inferior. He preached to descendants of Africans telling them to cease accepting that they are inferior to any other race and to proudly assert their right to be treated equally in all arenas. Garvey encouraged us to be proud of ourselves and never believe that we black people are lesser beings.

Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley fought for the Independence of our country from British colonialism. They sought to instil in us a positive belief in ourselves as a nation and the belief that we can govern ourselves.

It is safe to say, therefore, that all our heroes play an important role in our development. Sadly, however, we have been slipping back from what our heroes wanted us to be.

There is now widespread bleaching of the skin, primarily among the poor, dispossessed and uneducated, but also amongst black, educated professionals. Bleaching is being done by a wide cross section of our citizens who believe that to be black is to be inferior.

This is turning Marcus Garvey's philosophy on its head and is embarrassing and humiliating us as a nation. What this means is that all the sacrifice made by Marcus Garvey is being cast aside by these simplistic people who believe they need to have brown or artificial, white skin to be somebody.

We should also cry shame on individuals who buy the votes of the uneducated and poverty-stricken electorate. The right to vote was granted to all Jamaicans, irrespective of wealth or colour, in 1944, after years of struggle by our national heroes. Those who indulge in vote-buying are shamelessly undervaluing the sacrifices made by our heroes for us to all have the democratic right to vote. It is as though the right to vote was not worth the sacrifice made by so many and is no longer recognised as an important part of our democracy.

The celebration of National Heroes' Day should include a reminder to us all, but especially to our politicians, that full recognition should be given to what our heroes fought for, and politicians should all commit themselves to protect what our heroes have left behind for us.

Linton P Gordon

lpgordon@cwjamaica.com

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