As Jamaica celebrates its Diamond Jubilee, Fae Ellington, veteran broadcaster and lecturer, took OBSERVER ONLINE down memory lane to share her experience of August 6, 1962 through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl living in Smithville, Clarendon.
Ellington explained that leading up to the big day the country was in preparation mode, and as a little girl she had to learn the national anthem, and pledge, and about the different emblems and what the colours of the national flag mean.
It was a time of excitement and much importance for Ellington, who said because her mother and grandmother understood the importance of Jamaica being independent, she too caught on and developed a sense of pride for the country.
“At that time, with a grandmother and a mother who were so invested in what was happening and saw the importance of being able to govern ourselves and being independent, even though I was nine, I was caught up in understanding, to a certain extent, what this was all about because they were informed, they were conscious about what was happening; they knew the importance of political independence,” Ellington explained.
This knowledge and pride overflowed on Independence Day when little Fae, dressed in her uniform, watched the Jamaica flag being hoisted for the first time as the words of the national anthem rang out.
“Now, on the actual day we put on our best uniform, well laundered and iron on coal pot or wood fire and we went to the school for the hoisting of the Jamaica flag. One of the interesting things I should tell you, why learning the national anthem was so important, when I went to school I was singing ‘God save the Queen’ so it was a big transition for me,” Ellington recounted.
She added: “I felt proud as a nine-year-old, because my grandmother and mother made sure I understood, that you square up your shoulders and when you singing the anthem on that day -with all the preparation to get the right notes- you sing it with understanding. Not just to sing it like that but to understand why we have an anthem, why you singing it and why you standing still.”
As the years progressed, celebrating Jamaica’s independence became a big deal, and took on various ways of showcasing the island’s culture and the spirit that makes us a proud people. Ellington has had a front row seat to the celebrations as she was often the one hosting events such as the festival song competition.
“The festival song competition was usually held in the National Arena and you couldn’t find a seat from upstairs to downstairs; that was how popular it was. You would see the spirit and the energy and I can remember the song that Roy Rayon did, ‘Give Thanks and Praises, we are 25’; look yah nuh missis, the whole arena was on fire and people were celebrating and the people upstairs were jumping and I actually thought I saw, and maybe I did, that the concrete was undulating; was moving a little bit,” Ellington explained.
Ellington went on to add that the Jamaica Cultural Development Corporation (JCDC) has also played an important role in keeping the country’s traditions alive by expanding on them and ensuring that children in schools learn about Jamaica’s traditional folk forms.
Over the 60 years, however, celebrations for Independence Day have been scaled back and the spirit and excitement have somewhat diminished. According to Ellington, this could be attributed to the fact that now there are more options to choose from as opposed to during the 70s and 80s when there were only two radio stations and one television station.
“The JBC stations were designed to promote government programmes and things like festival and television programmes showcasing children performing, interviewing somebody involved with the culinary and dramatic arts, and the literary and fine arts. So JBC’s role was to put that front and centre and it was only one TV station so everybody saw it. And the two radio stations had scheduling over a number of weeks for the festival songs so they were rotated and people got to hear them and connect with them,” Ellington explained.
She admitted, also, that things may have changed due to a disconnect among younger Jamaicans – where older generations understand and appreciate Jamaica’s history, younger generations are sometimes not as patriotic as they do not share in the experiences.
“I think our generation, in most cases, is to be blamed because we didn’t infuse you (young people) with the passion and the understanding of why we are where we are as a nation and how we got here and the roles that people played. So that is what happened,” Ellington said.
Despite the dwindling expression of patriotism, there is still much to be proud of, which is evident when Jamaicans come together to cheer on the nation’s ambassadors when they are representing the country in sports, academia and other areas.