1st of August, Jamaica’s Emancipation Day is one of my most favourite days of the year. In fact, the whole month is my favourite month. Naturally, it has something to do with the fact that my birthday is the 9th of August. [Hint. Hint] But apart from that significant event (ahem), there are other reasons.
There is Emancipation Day on 1st of August, Independence Day on 6th of August, and Marcus Garvey’s birthday on August 17. Note carefully how we say the dates. In Jamaica, it is never, August 1, or August 6. It is like how Americans say, 4th of July. It is well established as a date of supreme importance. Well, It’s the same thing for us Jamaicans who are still Jamaicans. Just say 1st of August and we know what you are talking about.
The enslaved Africans in Jamaica received Emancipation on 1st of August 1834. They suffered in some cases far worse than during enslavement for the next 4 years under an unjust Apprenticeship System. So 1st of August, 1838 is considered the year of ‘full emancipation’. This year marks 170 years then of full emancipation. I’m sure Bob Marley would have something to say about that ’emancipation’. But I’ll leave that for next time.
So I love the month of August, and I owe the roots of this love to my Mother, Rema. She breastfed and weaned me on a deep love for my roots and my culture. And I love 1st of August because….
It is the time, more than any other when I celebrate my African ancestry and my Black Heritage. It is the time to give nuff respect to my ancestors who suffered the horrors and indignities of enslavement in Jamaica.
It is the time when I’m particularly thankful for the family I grew up in. Especially for my mother, who is one of those gifted Jamaican women who is very culturally aware. She knew her history, loved her folk culture and saw to it that I developed a healthy appreciation for Africa, Jamaica, and my Blackness. I want to believe she had more in mind than just keeping me quiet and out of her hair, when she gave me a ‘hard’ book to read at age 8.
The book was Clinton V Black’s The History of Jamaica. Thank you Mama! Even though the ruse of getting me to be quiet didn’t work, you gave me the gift of love for the history of our people.
It is the time for storytelling and my mother knew all kinds of Anancy stories bout Anancy and Bra Tookuma. An Jack Mandora mi noh choose none! Bwoy mi did love a story time yuh see. But my grandmother, “Sis”. My fahter’s mother lawks all now I still friad of that dere Granny. What a woman fi tell a duppy story especially bout rollin’ calf, and ketching duppy and putting them in bottles, long teeth duppy, sore-foot duppy. All kinda duppy-story. You know who not going to them bed first! Nope.
It is a time for Dancing and my mother can dance. And her daughter tek right after her (even if I have to say it myself!) She would tell me the stories of the cultural group she was a part of as a young woman. They learnt all the folk songs, participated in cultural events and they danced up a storm. And she like Paul to the Corinthians, handed on the great tradition….
From childhood to teens, ‘proper education’ included school choir especially for the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) Jamaica Festival competition particularly in music and dance. What fun! How can I forget, jigging about singing and moving to:-
Mouta Massi Liza
Dis Long Time Gal Mi Neva See Yuh (Peel hed jancro)
Fan Mi Soldier Man Fan Mi
Who could have told me that one day, I would be in Colon (Panama) after learning the song Colon Man A Come as part of my childhood folk repertoire!
And then there were the Ring games and songs like Go Dung A Manuel Road; and the thievery of my older cousins always cheating at the game ‘Ship-Sail’ that we use to play with Roast Corn. Then bring out the drums, and it was time for Kumina, Bruckins, Dinki-Mini, Gerreh and Ettu.
And ‘recitation’ time (reciting poetry)! Performing Hon. Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett-Coverly’s poetry was just a special ting.
But the best stories were of the ancestors, and the early days. The stories of their courage, of the Baptists and their penchant for revolt and their activism for Emancipation. And those stories continue to inspire me. So tonight as I think that tomorrow is 1st of August. I miss home. And I’m not sure where I’d be tonight…at a church vigil? or at Seville Great House in St. Ann at the Emancipation Vigil there?
I can hear them in the hills of St. Ann. And I can see the Red Set and Blue Set team on stage…Bruckins!
Augus marnin come again
Augus marnin jubilee
Queen Victoria set we free
Queen Victoria jubilee
Freedom come at last
Freedom come at last
Freedom come at last and what a jubilee
Now imagine what a CD and a bit of clear space in my living room will do for me this Augus mawnin..
Clear di way!