AN ambitious, yearlong programme of activities, along with plans for lasting legacy programmes were unveiled at the launch of the Jamaica's 50th anniversary Independence celebrations at Jamaica House on Thursday evening.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding, in his final scheduled speaking event before he demits office tomorrow, urged Jamaicans to not only get involved and celebrate the occasion but to reflect on the past and to plan for the future.
Celebrations are to commence with fireworks on January 1, 2012, with a range of activities every month and ending on December 31, to be paid for through a private-public partnership and significant input from the Jamaican Diaspora.
While acknowledging that Jamaica could have progressed more during its 49 years of Independence, Golding called on Jamaicans to recall what the country was like in 1962. He noted the strides Jamaica had made in the economy, education, and infrastructure development.
"There is much to celebrate," Golding said, while asking if more could be done. "The answer is yes," he concluded.
"Today, Jamaica is a highly respected and sought after voice in the councils of the world," Golding noted.
Jamaica 50 should also be a time for "serious thought, reflection and renewal of the unfulfilled dreams of Independence", Golding suggested, recalling the feelings of pride and expectation the nation felt back in 1962.
At the launch, witnessed by hundreds of business and cultural interests, Golding called on community-based organisations, schools and churches to "grab a piece of these momentous happenings that will be taking place and manage it to success."
Earlier, the outgoing prime minister appeared to be at ease, comfortably greeting and chatting with guests, and playfully rubbing the stomach of his new daughter-in-law Emprezz, who is expecting.
In her address, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Olivia Grange said Jamaica 50 "will highlight the positiveness of Jamaica, the warmth and creativity of our people, the beauty of our island and the vibrancy of our culture." Her address flowed into a video presentation announcing aspects of the celebrations, including an international literary festival, a reggae ambassador series of concerts, Independence balls, the establishment of an athlete's wellness centre, a sports museum, Jamaica music museum, Portmore Performing Arts Centre, a sculpture project, a Jamaica 50 Cookbook, souvenir coins and bank notes, documentaries, university projects as well as the annual Independence and heritage events.
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett recalled recent achievements in the nation's hospitality industry and said Jamaica 50 was an opportunity to enhance Jamaica as a destination next year.
Another highlight of the Jamaica 50 celebrations is the four-day international military tattoo from June 28 to July 4 featuring exciting mounted and motorcycle displays; band music; engineering corps and air wing expertise; military dances and drills.
The launch also featured the premiere of the Jamaica 50 theme song Find the Flag in your Heart, written and produced by Mikey Bennett and featuring a host of well-known artistes.