Youth targeted for annual Morant Bay celebrationsSaturday, October 16, 2021
BY ASHAGAYE MULLINGS
MORANT BAY, St Thomas — The St Thomas Renaissance Foundation is making a big push to include youngsters from the parish in this year's commemoration of the Morant Bay uprising during Heroes' Month.
“The event is held in commemoration of the work that Paul Bogle and the warriors did to defend our rights, especially as it relates to liberty of land and liberty of persons. Even though they were free from slavery, we were still not allowed the right to own possessions that would allow us to advance in terms of economic well-being. We want our young people in the parish to understand this and what it would have meant for the people who lost their lives in fighting for this freedom,” said the foundation's youth ambassador Tishauna Mullings.
Throughout the years, there have been many events across Stony Gut, Morant Bay, and surrounding areas of the parish to commemorate the 1865 uprising.
On Monday, the foundation hosted the inaugural Paul Bogle and The Warriors celebration at the Casa Lagoona Hotel in Pamphret.
It included a spirited panel discussion dissecting the theme 'Resetting Jamaica: Assessing St Thomas's Role since 1655'. There was also a debate between students from Morant Bay and St Thomas Technical High schools who explored the topic, 'One cannot be free without a means of his own living'.
The foundation said that going forward it intends to more heavily involve the parish's youth in its rebirth.
“When you talk about knowing your roots it is a part of self-identity. When the students had to do the research for this debate it actually helped to solidify who they are,” said Dr Melissa Campbell, teacher at Morant Bay High School.
Omar Ryan, a history teacher, poet, and advocate for culture and heritage, also spoke of the value of the debate.
“It is very important for any people to know their history because I believe it is the foundation of success. Societies which have shown great success are those who inscribe the culture and history of their people, so it is important for our students to know their history and take part in these progressive discussions,” he said.
Some youngsters have shown an interest in learning more about their history and participating in ongoing discussions about the rebirth of St Thomas.
“Children cannot build a healthy future unless they have a background as to where they are coming from. This conversation, as it relates to our history, is very crucial in our lives as youth, because it sets that background and lays the context for us to build a firm future,” said youth parliamentarian and Morant Bay High student Othniel Lammie.
The panel discussion, moderated by journalist and attorney-at-law Dionne Jackson-Miller, saw input from social historian, Professor Verene Shepherd; cultural analyst and former chairman of Jamaica National Heritage Trust, Ainsley Henriques; Tourism Product Development Company destination manager for St Thomas and Portland, Daryl Whyte-Wong; along with Ryan.
Many long-standing issues that have been plaguing the parish were brought up during the discussion.
“I think our parish has a tremendous capacity in its people. The people are smart, however, the lack of opportunity has caused us, in one sense, to become the backward parish of the country. For example, it took us years to attain proper education in the parish,” said Henriques.
For many years St Thomas has been labelled the poorest parish in Jamaica. The foundation, which hosted Monday's event, is among those working to change that.
“In 2021 St Thomas is still being called the forgotten parish, so I love the idea of the St Thomas Renaissance Foundation. I love the idea of a rebirth of a parish. It is more than time for St Thomas to experience an exciting and important rebirth,” said Jackson-Miller.