Op-ED: National Hero status for Michael Norman Manley!

The late Michael Manley seen here as the new Prime Minister of Jamaica in 1989.
The late Michael Manley seen here as the new Prime Minister of Jamaica in 1989.
Associated Press

Recent news articles have led me to further raise my voice to call on the Jamaican government to confer the honor of Jamaica’s National Hero on the late and former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Michael Norman Manley. These writers suggested some Jamaicans should become the nation’s next national heroes. National Heroes in Jamaica bear no humor with the experiences of those already honored. People died!! So, despite the brilliance of these people with their great talent, extreme skillfulness, the creativity in their arts, all the above-mentioned exceptional knacks are great attributes, but not enough to merit them as national heroes for Jamaica. These names that were suggested are great Jamaicans. I honestly have lived through blissful moments because of their performances. They all have done good work for their country, Jamaica, that have helped increase the interest of non-Jamaicans in Jamaica. Definitely! Their expertise have given most Jamaicans boasting rights and have led younger Jamaicans to aspire for greater things in their lives. These Jamaicans have propelled the tiny nation of Jamaica to become one of the most loved and respected places across the globe.

All of this is awesome! The conflicting side of this argument, however, is that being skillful, being a great performer and being talented and creative are not attributes that qualify one to become a national hero of Jamaica and be given this honor. We cannot go along with other countries who see their citizens as good performers and perhaps see other assets in these individuals and then make decisions about who our national heroes should be. A national hero in Jamaica is the highest honor for any citizen to be awarded within the nation. The national hero’s award is given only to Jamaican citizens with public services of the most noble, and distinguished actions toward the development of others, not for self.

I am writing about this also as almost two years ago, The Jamaica Progressive League, the founder of an independent Jamaica, an 86-year organization based in Bronx, New York, one that is operated and managed by Jamaicans wrote to the Prime of Jamaica, Andrew Holness to bestow this honor of national hero on the late Prime Minister, Michael Manley. A follow-up telephone call to the Prime Minister’s office confirmed that the letter was received, but nothing has moved forward since that tenure. The Jamaica Progressive League has reached out to Prime Minister Holness’ office with another follow-up call, but the League has gotten no response to support this suggestion.

After reading these articles I have again looked carefully on all the work of the seven national heroes that Jamaica now has. These were men and a woman who were willing to give up of themselves even their lives to save the destiny of our nation, Jamaica. Thus, we should consider giving the national hero a prestigious honor, achievable only to any Jamaican citizen when distinguished services are rendered rightly for the benefits of their fellow Jamaicans.

Some of our national heroes were hanged and beaten after the colonialist’s court disagreed with their convening in the Morant Bay Rebellion. These men were critics of the policies of the government of the day. They stood their ground fighting for freedom and justice in a colonial Jamaica for the oppressed and poor. This was not for themselves but for their fellow Jamaicans to gain common rights, like other Jamaicans and the right to participate in a voting process. Marcus Garvey preached self-reliance, and knowledge of self for Black people across the globe more than anyone else has. Garvey knew economic freedom was the only exit for the downtrodden people who are often Black people. Michael Manley’s work for Jamaica was economic independence for the Jamaican people, education, and self-reliance. Manley was a torchbearer for self-reliance for the Jamaican people. His work bears honor when he included policies in his administration to help championed small businesses for poor Jamaican farmers. Manley argued for self-reliance as political independent Jamaica did not make any changes for the poor in the nation, the plights heightened. He paved the pathway during the 1970’s and opened the doors for poor Jamaicans to tap in the resources of what was available in Jamaica that only the privileged few benefited from and enjoyed.

A man of great prose struggling against the oppressors of the poor. Michael Manley help fought for the freedom of Nelson Mandela in South Africa and for struggling South Africans to have the right to vote in the own independent country. Michael Manley’s aim was to bring about a significant change for Jamaica and Jamaicans through organizing and mobilizing all Jamaicans to understand what the country was facing after years of political independence. Manley challenged the government of the day and was a fierce advocate for injustices. On par with the work of Paul Bogle and George William Gordon who led the protests in Morant Bay in 1865. These protests were to obtain justice from a court system working against many everyday Jamaicans. They are national heroes. Michael Manley led demonstrations and block roads to change the stagnant conditions of the poor, to express empathy and stand up for justice to give poor Jamaicans an opportunity in their own country. To let poor Jamaicans, know that they can own houses too and get paid vacation as other Jamaicans do.

Manley instigated a movement for the masses. The dawn of new an era emerged when Michael Manley became prime minister. Manley paved the way for the Jamaican music to go beyond our shores. The movement of the National Youth Service. A talented and brilliant Jamaica high school student no longer had to worry about finding employment, after leaving school. Instead, the National Youth Service program was used as a steppingstone, a bridge for the youth after leaving high school to start developing a career path in their chosen field or move on to obtain a tertiary education, at the end of two year program. Most of the young people who benefitted were from poor Jamaican families. Thousands of young Jamaicans find themselves working with large and reputable companies in Jamaica, companies they once thought were unreachable. The Youth Program was a national movement to benefit all youths who are eager to excel. Parents across Jamaica embraced the services of this program. These young people, thousands of whom have excelled so well and are now making their contributions and brilliant strides to Jamaica and other places across the globe as professionals. Poor farmers, for the first time in the nation could be allowed to borrow from a government bank to expand their farming.

Do not dismiss a man who gave Jamaicans a great awakening and a positive feeling in their psyche about who they are as a people, about their nation. Jamaicans learnt from Michael Manley, that “Labour Day” was no longer a day in Jamaica to go to the beaches or laze around. Manley called for a day of patriotism, community building and community development to benefit everyone on “Labour Day” each year. Jamaicans loved it and worked along with the late prime minister. It was a movement in the right direction. An enlightened position for a tiny nation to feel so much pride in a country.

Norman Washington Manley and Alexander Bustamante are the founding fathers of an independent Jamaica. The older Manley gave all he could for Jamaica to gain political independence from Britain. They are our heroes, and we honor them. Michael Manley’s modern techniques and approaches were the most patriotic to the Jamaican public since the dawning of Norman Washington Manley and Alexander Bustamante. We all know this as truth. Let us thank Michael Manley and honor him as the Jamaican who exposed the nation to a developing stage. Let us remember he started the dismantling of neo-colonialism in Jamaica. He was the first to let us know who we are JAMAICANS!!

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