The creation of that historic corridor at Emancipation Park

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, June 24, 2018

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WHAT is the use of having an “emancipation” park that shows no relevance to the story of emancipation?

That's a question Jamaicans and foreigners visiting Emancipation Park in New Kingston have been asking for years.

No doubt there is consensus that it is the best-kept green area in the Corporate Area and, probably, in the entire island. But, what links it to the struggle for emancipation and political independence?

That was how Michael Buckle, who operated the once-popular attraction Putt'N'Play Amusement Park, across the road from Emancipation Park, also felt about the park.

“I always gave Emancipation Park full credit for its maintenance, but I couldn't find anything that identified it, as a park, with emancipation,” he told the Jamaica Observer last week, after the grand opening of the historical corridor inside the park which acknowledges Jamaica's “Journey to Freedom”.

Buckle, a banker, who unfortunately had to close down Putt'N'Play — the closest the urban commercial area came to providing its children with a modern playground and a variety of rides, including bumper cars, safari train, cup & saucer, pumpkin ferris wheel and scramblers, in 2015 — always felt that the park should embody the spirit of emancipation.

“Every single, civilised country have their nation builders, the people who contribute to their national development, displayed prominently. They even have tours around these attractions. Being next door to Emancipation Park, I noticed all that was missing,” he said.

Buckle was elected president of the Rotary Club of Kingston (RCOK) in July 2017, and in pursuit of its theme 'Making a Difference' the club committed itself to three Rotary strategic objectives: Enhancing Humanitarian Service; Environmental Sustainability; and, enhancing Rotary Awareness through a very visible national project.

“We wanted a project that captures, in a sustained way, and hopefully for generations to come, the history of 'Jamaica's Journey to Freedom',” he stated.

He said that the idea was to create a historical corridor that captures, in a very profound and compelling way, and in chronological sequence, the image and likeness of each national hero juxtaposed with their contribution to nation building, he told the crowd at last Monday's night's unveiling of the “Jamaica's Journey to Freedom” project at emancipation park.

The new addition to the park will certainly become a must-see for adults who share the RCOK's view of paying respect to those who were apart of the struggle.

“As you traverse this historical corridor, you should feel the spirit of your ancestors, the pain, the sacrifice, the blood, the sweat and the tears,” he told the crowd.

Buckle believes that at the end of the journey through the corridor, visitors to the park should be able to feel “the joy, triumph”, the true spirit of emancipation, he remarked.

He said that once the project had been approved by the RCOK board in 2016, the next step was to identify the best resources available in Jamaica which would ensure its success.

Eventually, Buckle was introduced, through the Institute of Jamaica, to the famous Jamaican sculptor Basil Watson who was in Jamaica at the time on vacation from his current home in Atlanta, Georgia.

“Fortuitously, it just so happened that Basil was in Jamaica at the time, and we decided to share the concept with him the same evening. The project resonated with him so much as a purist, that he would not only create the busts, but waived 50 per cent of his fees as a contribution to the telling emancipation story,” Buckle explained.

According to him the entire project cost about $25 million, thanks to Watson's generosity, as well as the sponsorship of the busts, which was given by seven entities as follows:

The first bust, that of the Jamaican heroine, Nanny of the Maroons, was sponsored by Mayberry Investments Limited; ScotiaBank Jamaica Limited sponsored the next bust, that of Samuel Sharpe; the third, Paul Bogle's, was sponsored by the NCB Foundation; George William Gordon was sponsored by the Tourism Enhancement Fund; Douglas Halsall, head of Advance Integrated Systems, sponsored Marcus Garvey's bust; Stewart's Auto Group did the same for Sir Alexander Bustamante's; and head of the Down-Sound Entertainment Group, Joe Bogdanovich, sponsored the Norman Manley bust.

Plaques with the National Anthem and National Pledge, courtesy of Ian Neita and the Yello Media, are also included.

Buckle also paid tribute to the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport (MCGES) and portfolio Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange, as well as the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission for their support.

In fact, Grange, who was the main speaker, praised the RCOK for making a reality of their view that Emancipation Park should have on show the country's national heroes permanently entrenched in the form of the busts, and the plaques.

The corridor will now be left to be maintained by the staff of the park, which is operated by the National Housing Trust.

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