J60 launches year-long celebration of Jamaica’s Independence

Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness.
Jamaica Information Service / Yhomo Hutchinson

Jamaicans are four months early in celebrating their island’s 60th anniversary of independence. To mark the landmark occasion, their government launched J60 to begin commemoration and revelries related to the historic Aug. 6, 1962 date when self-governance replaced dictates from their British colonizers.

First launched on the Caribbean island in mid-April, on May 1, Prime Minister Andrew Holness is slated to announce plans for the year and also unite with tristate Jamericans to bestow national appraisals and a thanksgiving service at Brooklyn’s New Life Tabernacle Church, 4905 Ave. D at 10:30 am.

Bishop Micheal Mitchell will officiate the Sunday service.

Later that May Day the leader and the region’s Consular General Alsion Roach Wilson will host an intimate, private reception at which time the diplomats will explain how and why after six decades of self-governing their nation is deserving of 365 days of celebration.

Earlier in the month, Olivia Grange, minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport told nationals gathered at Jamaica House in Kingston that Jamaica 60 will be used to “engage and motivate our people towards achieving our national objectives.”

She explained that the year-long celebration, is “not just a party, but it’s also a time to reflect and to build.”

According to Grange, Jamaica 60 will enable nationals to “do a report card on our progress as a country (and) set goals for the next five years.”

The theme for the year is ‘Reigniting a Nation for Greatness.’

At the launch she said her government “has always taken the position that milestone commemorations should be more than celebratory activities but that celebrations, such as Jamaica 60, must include projects that will benefit our country for generations to come.”

In addition, “we must seek opportunities to improve our infrastructure and build new infrastructure — all with the aim of making a better life for all the people of Jamaica.”

She explained the Jamaica 60 program will not only commemorate the historic precedence Jamaicans initiated for the rest of the English-speaking region to follow but will also “include banquets at which 60 outstanding women and 60 outstanding men will be awarded for their service to the nation, the Kingston Biennial Exhibition at the National Gallery of Jamaica, the Jamaica 60 Reggae Gold Awards, the JDF 60 Parade, the Independence Village from July 29 to Aug. 7, and a Grand Gala which will be held at the National Stadium.”

In an effort to fulfil the promise of redevelopment on the island, she said a number of legacy projects will begin this year. They include enhancements to the National Stadium, the establishment of the Jamaica Sports Museum & Sports Hall of Fame and the Harry Belafonte National Concert Hall, a monument to honor frontline workers in the pandemic, as well as the construction of a new parliament building.

Grange traveled to Toronto, Canada later in the month to launch the J60 initiative.

She was joined by Edmund Bartlett, the nation’s minister of tourism and foreign affairs minister Kamina Johnson Smith who issued a virtual message from the island.

A similar kick-off was held in Florida.

56 Years After Ethiopia’s HIM Haile Selassie Visit To Jamaica – Rastafarians Receive Reparations & Sense of Purpose

 “Although it happened 56 years ago, the memory and importance of the Emperor’s visit remains an anchor to the Rastafari community of their beliefs and their constant ties to Africa,” Jamaica’s minister of culture said on April 21.

“The Emperor’s visit gave Rastafari a new measure of respectability that was welcome, following the negative image that had led to the over-reaction of the State to the Coral Gardens Incident three years earlier.”

Olivia Grange referenced the tragic police altercation which allegedly victimized an unknown number of Rastafarians in the Montego Bay community on a Good Friday weekend.

According to reports, the April 11-13, 1963 travesty transpired when military forces and police waged terror against Rastafarians after an altercation at a Montego Bay gas station implicated a member.

Also known as the Coral Gardens Massacre or Bad Friday, on orders from the government, approximately 150 Rastafarians were tortured and killed.

“Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, apologized in 2017 as the first part of the process of providing reparations for this injustice,” Grange said.

She lauded the steps taken since the tragedy explaining the establishment and contribution of reparations totaling one hundred and two million dollars to the Rastafari Coral Gardens Trust Fund.

“Additionally, we have provided special housing support for survivors of the incident at an Elders Care Facility, working closely with the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Association.

“Today, Jamaica is proud of the contribution of Rastafari to the national cultural image at home and abroad, and as relationships continue to improve, my Government continues to play its part in all this. We have taken steps to repair the damage done by the Coral Gardens Incident.”

“As a result of the new relationship between the Rastafari community and the wider public, reggae music gained more interest and acceptance, leading to further global spread of the Rastafari movement,” Grange added.

As Jamaica celebrates 60 years of Independence, the nation will continue adding more historic moments and contributions from the unique Rastafari community.”

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