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Emancipation vigil a celebration of 'spiritual freedom'

Monday, August 13, 2018

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Performance after performance had many who were out to the annual Emancipation Vigil here on their feet in exhilaration as the event took the form of a gospel concert.

Recently retired Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) parish manager Vivien Morris-Brown, who chaired the function, told the Jamaica Observer Central that there is autonomy at the local level in how the event is executed and that over the years the focus of the entertainment is usually on gospel.

“There is a strong pull for gospel in Manchester,” she said, noting that spiritual freedom was important and “righteousness exalteth a nation.”

“Our National Anthem is a prayer. Jamaica is a Christian country and the spiritual element ensures that centering,” said Morris-Brown.

Tracey-Ann Campbell, who is now the parish manager following time spent as a cultural organiser in Clarendon, said that with the social challenges being experienced it is good to encourage the spiritual component.

“In light of what we are going through as a parish and as a country, it is important to keep God in the mix. The gospel element is also a part of the Jamaican culture so we are trying to preserve it,” she said.

Errol Ransford Johnson, known to many as 'Ranny', was one of the engaged patrons who was not shy to demonstrate his appreciation for the entertainment package. He was rarely able to sit during the event, which was held on the grounds of the Mandeville courthouse on the night of July 31 and continued until midnight, the start of Emancipation Day on August 1.

Johnson told Observer Central that the format did not take away from the cultural significance of Emancipation.

“The essence of freedom is when a man is free spiritually. The Bible was used as a tool to enslave us and now is the same Bible we are using to liberate us. To be truly free, one has to be spiritually free, psychologically free, before you can be physically free,” he said.

While the entertainment focused on gospel, the food had elements of yesteryear and the menu included beberage (lemonade), chocolate tea coffee tea, pudding and ginger beer.

The reading of the Emancipation Proclamation at the courthouse by Stanley Skeene, representing Custos Sally Porteous, to re-enact what happened in 1834 as slaves became free, was among the highlights of the occasion.

— Alicia Sutherland

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