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Jamaica, land we love!

PROUD: Jamaica celebrates 49 years of Independence today

BORN IN Britain to Jamaican parents, today, I find myself reflecting on what Jamaican independence means to me.

The much loved Caribbean island acquired its independence from the British colonial powers on August 6, 1962 after years of political subjugation. For many, this victory is still worthy of celebration even 50 years on.

But in a survey conducted last year by US pollster Bill Johnson for The Gleaner newspaper, 60 percent of Jamaicans said they believed the island would be better off if it had remained a UK colony.

The poll results came as a huge surprise for many black Britons, myself included. After all, the word ‘colonized’ is enough to make me shudder, never mind the reality of it. Why, after years of rebellions and uprisings to rid themselves of British dictatorship, would so many Jamaicans think they’d be better off being back under Britain’s thumb?

Granted, from afar, it’s easy to conjure up a picture perfect image of the island – beautiful beaches, blue seas, blazing sunshine – whilst being ignorant of the economic problems (most notably the debt burden) the island faces.

Nonetheless, I’m inclined to agree with what one reader commented on The Gleaner website in response to the survey’s findings: “That Jamaica needs help is true,” the commenter wrote, “but that help must come from within Jamaicans themselves!”

Another reader commented: “I’d rather to be wild and free than well-fed and chained... True independence is independence of the mind.”


FREEDOM FIGHTER: Paul Bogle

Such sentiments may be seen as nothing more than poetic-sounding drivel for those Jamaicans facing tough times. But surely, now is the time to strive for better – by looking forwards, not backwards? Surely, Jamaican freedom fighters like Paul Bogle and Nanny of the Maroons did not fight to overcome their oppressors, for Jamaicans today to fling it back in their faces by hankering for the colonial rule of yesteryear?

This year marks the 50th year of independence for the small island that has given the world so much. And for all the problems Jamaica may face internally, people all over the world who look from the outside, still salute the country for its music, its style, its food and so many other aspects of its culture that have made a huge impact worldwide. I only hope the people of Jamaica view the island with the same value.

As a proud Jamaican descendant, I salute fellow Jamaicans on this, the 50th year of independence, and pray that that independence isn’t wished away or taken for granted. Even in times of economic hardship, Jamaicans should, particularly on independence day, feel proud of all the country has achieved and be inspired to work for improvement.

The late Jamaican singer Delroy Wilson famously sang Better Must Come. But better will only come if you strive for it.

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