Paul Bogle Day gives lift to celebration of national heroes
The declaration of last Wednesday, October 11, as Paul Bogle Day was most fitting and provided the perfect build-up to tomorrow’s observance of National Heroes’ Day when we honour the contribution and sacrifice of our freedom fighters.
Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Ms Olivia “Babsy” Grange is to be commended for advocating a day in celebration of Mr Bogle, whose leadership of the Morant Bay uprising on October 11, 1865 served as a catalyst for changes in the awful social and economic conditions of poor Jamaicans throughout the island.
Mr Bogle paid the ultimate sacrifice as he was captured and hanged on October 24, 1865. However, his legacy lives on as he stands among the country’s seven national heroes, the others being Messrs Marcus Garvey, Sam Sharpe, George William Gordon, Norman Manley, Nanny of the Maroons, and Sir Alexander Bustamante — all of whom are addressed by the title ‘The Right Excellent’.
It was, therefore, appropriate that a few years ago the Parliament passed a Bill that absolved Messrs Sharpe, Gordon, Bogle, and Garvey as well as their supporters, sympathisers, and participants by association and other freedom fighters of criminal liability arising from their participation in what has been termed “acts of liberation with moral justification”.
“Our ancestors were of a pedigree that was not daunted by challenges, no matter how great they were or how seemingly insurmountable the obstacles. They came to Jamaica shackled and belaboured, but within their fertile minds dwelt the militant cultures they had fashioned back home in the various tribal forces of the [African] continent,” Minister Grange said in the debate on the National Heroes and Other Freedom Fighters (Absolution from Criminal Liability in Respect of Specified Events) Act, 2017.
That Bill, she correctly stated, has redeemed and restored the dignity and integrity of those who suffered much.
Ms Grange also pointed out that these freedom fighters made life difficult for the enslavers as they ensured that the plantation owners and the empire knew that they could not enslave their minds. That fixity of purpose and mental strength contributed in no uncertain measure to the achievements of our foreparents.
It is with that in mind that we celebrate and honour the achievements of our national heroes throughout National Heritage Week, and it is against this background that a thankful nation will, tomorrow, invest 125 Jamaicans with national honours and awards in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the country.
But even as we honour these nation-builders, we should not forget that there are many other Jamaicans who are imbued with a similar sense of nationalism and high regard for the welfare of others that was evident in our ancestors.
While some have had their stories told, there are others — unsung heroes — who make sacrifices daily to build this country. For example, neighbours who ensure that the children next door go to school; who assist young school leavers to gain marketable skills and/or employment; who lead the way in building self-help community groups, neighbourhood watches, etc.
There is, though, need for more Jamaicans to be heroes in small but significant ways if this country is to grow and fulfil its dreams. Among them are our political leaders who, we insist, need to make an even greater effort, especially because they have been elected to make this country better.
Our ancestors, we reiterate, handed the baton of political independence to us. The duty of the current political leaders is to complete the leg that will give us true economic independence.