South Florida, USA — August 6 marks Jamaica's 60th anniversary of independence since the former colony gained freedom from Great Britain in 1962.
In South Florida, consul general of Jamaica in Miami Oliver Mair kicked off the celebrations on May 5 at Miramar Cultural Center alongside US Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz and Jamaica's portfolio minister Olivia Grange, who praised the contribution of Jamaicans in Florida to Jamaica.
Much more is planned this weekend.
"It's an opportunity for us Jamaicans at home and all around the world to give thanks to God for guiding us through 60 years," Mair told the Miami Herald. "I think it's key to really celebrate. It helps us to bond together as a people and to reflect on what continues to make us a great nation."
With 311,589 people reporting Jamaican ancestry, Florida is home to the second-largest Jamaican community in the US — after New York City, which has more than 313,854 residents of Jamaican descent — according to the latest estimates from the US Census Bureau.
Jamaicans in South Florida refer to Broward County, where most of them live, as Kingston 21.
Many Jamaican-Americans say the official theme of the celebration, 'Reigniting a Nation for Greatness', resonates deeply.
"We are strongly connected with the homeland," said Norman Whyte, a Jamaican-American resident of Miami Gardens. "We still go back home. I think reigniting, restarting, in a strong way, in a passionate way, somehow really sends a message to me about uplifting."
Here's a list of key events taking place this weekend in South Florida to celebrate Jamaica's 60th independence anniversary. There will be live entertainment from Jamaican artistes and Jamaican food during all of the events:
Jamaica 60th Pre-Independence Day Fete: Presented by Miramar Commissioner Alexandra Davis, it will start at 6:00 pm at the Miramar Multi-service complex located at 6700 Miramar Parkway. Admission is free.
The Jamaican Emancipendence 60th Anniversary Awards Reception: Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam and Victoria Mutual President Courtney Campbell will host this awards reception from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm at Miramar Cultural Center, located at 2400 Civic Center Place, to recognise and honour Jamaican leaders in the community. Admission is free.
Jamaica Emancipendence Ole Time Fair: A free family-friendly event at the Miramar Regional Park Amphitheater, located at 16801 Miramar Parkway. There will be a Kids Zone featuring water activities, bounce houses, face painting, and a farmers' market with gardening and composting lessons.
Jamaica Diamond Independence Jubilee Gala: The Consulate General of Jamaica in Miami and the Jamaica United Relief Association are hosting this premier event during which they will be honouring Jamaican musician Dr Jimmy Cliff at 7:00 pm at the Marriott Fort Lauderdale Coral Springs Hotel & Convention Center. Attendees should wear formal attire, and the admission fee is US$125.
"Even though money is tight, we still want the ball," said Josette Crosdale, a Jamaican-American woman from Miami Gardens who plans to attend. "Jamaica is my home, and I didn't forget it."
On Saturday night, the Freedom Center in Miami-Dade will be lit in Jamaican colours.
Jamaica 60th Independence Celebration: Lauderhill Commissioner Denise D Grant will host this event at 6:00 pm in the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center. Admission ranges from US$49 to US$150.
Jamaica 60th Independence Motorcade: The Unity in the Community Motorcade will start at The Gardens (Lauderdale Lakes) at 4:30 pm and end at Lauderhill Performing Arts Center.
"We anticipate over 300 vehicles to join us as we celebrate Jamaica in the community, and then there's a concert in the evening, as well as a flag-raising session," Consul Mair said.
Jamaica 60th Independence Brunch: Jamaican food awaits at the Creek & Caribbean Seafood Restaurant from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm.
There will be live entertainment from Jamaican artistes and Jamaican food during all of the events. People who plan to attend expect the celebrations to be as vibrant as the ones taking place in Jamaica.
Alison Smith, a Jamaican-American lawyer who was the first black woman to be elected president of the Broward County Bar Association in Florida, plans to attend many events.
"You can forget your roots and your culture and your heritage and having these events is a way to keep that alive, but also pass on those very important facts about the culture to the younger generation," she said.
Smith said that at the Ole Time Fair, children will get the opportunity to look at what their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents used to do in Jamaica.
"The Diaspora here is very engaged," Smith said. "I think people here are even more excited or connected to the Jamaican community than people in Jamaica themselves, because when you are far away from your homeland you tend to be even more passionate."