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Manchester residents reflect on Independence

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND
Staff reporter
sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, August 20, 2018

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Independence Day 2018 was particularly special for Barbara Crawford.

In June she celebrated her 56th birthday and following her attendance at a civic ceremony at the Cecil Charlton Park in Mandeville on August 6, to celebrate the same age for Jamaica, she expressed how privileged she felt.

“It is a good feeling,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

The annual Emancipation and Independence festivities in Manchester usually include an Emancipation vigil, an Independence uniformed groups march past, salute and civic ceremony to start the day, and a local gala in the parish capital during the night.

The activities on Crawford's personal calendar aligned, and this year, for the first time, she was getting the chance to attend more than the local gala in the town centre.

Crawford recalled attending the gala from as early as 10 years old with her parents.

Though having no children of her own, she ensures that she plays a role in getting youngsters to have an appreciation for their culture.

The Three Chains resident said that she often allows children from the central Manchester community to travel with her to the gala.

“If you don't do it this way, some children won't have the opportunity until they are adults,” said Crawford.

She said that she is pleased with where Jamaica is as a country.

Astley Peart, a vibrant 85-year-old returned resident, who was celebrating his birthday on Independence Day, told the Observer that he is proud of Jamaicans as a whole.

Peart said that the education standards are commendable and he was pleased with the system of free health care.

Though he said his heart was always with the land of his birth, financial difficulties as a young man forced him to cut his stint short at what is now known as the Holmwood Technical High School and then head off to England in search of a brighter future.

Peart said that both in England and the United States he got involved with Jamaican and Caribbean associations to keep his heritage alive.

“Jamaica means a lot to me,” he said.

One of the hindrances, the octogenarian said, is the undying commitment of the Jamaican people to selected political parties. He said that members of the electorate should always demand “100 per cent” representation.

For educator Rose Salkey and her family it was a three-generation-strong celebration as they came out to the civic ceremony.

She was with her mother Nellie Salkey, her daughters Jallia-Jaye and Jola-Shae and son Javion.

For her, it is important that her children know their roots.

“It is just the hope and dream that more parents will take the time to educate children about where we are as a nation. If that happens, they will also educate their children and so on, so traditions like these will never die,” said the former Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) festival committee member.

The elder Salkey, who is a native of Balaclava in St Elizabeth and is now 80, mentioned transportation among the improvements in Jamaica over the years.

Howard Miller, a photographer for more than 30 years at the Cecil Charlton Park, longed for a time when the Independence Day celebrations were livelier.

Miller said he remembered when all sections of the town would be abuzz with people and there were Independence Day parade floats, jonkonnu and merry-go-round.

He said that he would like to see the celebrations go back to those days, while admitting that the scaled-down version he was experiencing was bad for business.

Crawford argued that a low turnout for some events is not necessarily an indication of diminished appreciation for culture, but of more diverse options for individuals and families.

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