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In celebration of freedom

BY KATRICH WALKER
Jamaica Observer writer

Monday, August 12, 2019

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — As is customary, a late-night vigil was held at the centre of this south-central town on the eve of Emancipation Day (August 1) to mark the freeing of slaves in Jamaica and other British colonies in 1838.

This year's vigil, again organised by the Jamaica Cultural Development Corporation (JCDC) in collaboration with the Manchester Municipal Corporation, featured much music, fun and laughter. People sang, danced and indulged in Jamaican cuisine prior to the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation at midnight, which brought a close to activities.

For those present, the Emancipation Vigil provides a marker for the breaking of the shackles of slavery. It was also time to look back at where Jamaica is coming from and what has changed for the better over the years.

Bivian Wright, an elderly man who danced the night away said: “Emancipation to me, I would say, is a deliverance because we were delivered from certain shackles. We are now in a position to manage ourselves, Jamaica land we love.”

Wright also showed Jamaica Observer Central a cup he had been keeping safe for 57 years. He received the glass cup on the day Jamaica got its political independence from Britain on August 6, 1962. Back then he was a student at Devon All Age School.

The cup, he said, reminds him of the first Independence Day and what the day means to him.

For Vivien Morris-Brown, the former Manchester parish manager for the JCDC, it is important that the country not forget where it is coming from.

“People must spend some time researching what happened, how it happened, and how it impacts us and what is it that we've received.

“We are standing on the backs of our ancestors — what is it that we are going to give to the ones who come after us? What will we give so that they can remember and be happy about?”

She believes that the country has improved since the emancipation of slaves but has remained the same in some ways.

“We can choose to sit back and lay back and wait on the Government to do it for us, or we can get up off our butts and make things happen, and create change,” she said.

The evening started off with music as people started to gather, then greetings were given by officials including new Custos of Manchester Garfield Green.

Guest artistes provided entertainment and an ambiance of praise and worship. Artistes included Jodian Pantry-Brooks, Nicole Robinson, Jermaine Edwards and Fabian Wright.

The British Colonial Government of the day announced the ending of slavery on August 1, 1834. However, historians point out that a compulsory four-year period of additional free labour, described at the time as “apprenticeship”, in effect meant that slaves did not gain freedom until 1838.