Trinidad Express Newspapers: THERE is something quite special about the month of August in the political and cultural history of our Caribbean—this region that bridges the two Americas and constitutes a microcosm of the peoples and cultures of the world.
Today, August 1, sees region-wide celebrations commemorating “Emancipation”, the final liberation of our enslaved African ancestors that was to be followed by the freedom from indentureship (contract slavery) of our East Indian ancestors.
This is also the month, as every school child in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago knows when, first Jamaica on August 6, and then Trinidad and Tobago on August 31, joined the family of independent nations.
Young people in the Caribbean are taking early achievements of Caribbean islands for granted:
Jamaica Observer: Many young people do not appreciate how far we have come since Independence, let alone slavery, because they were not taught what it was like before. Many times their parents do not want to tell them what Jamaica was like as they are ashamed to admit the conditions under which they lived because they were looked down upon and ridiculed by others.
Fifty-two years ago in 1960 when I was six years old, my parents left me and my siblings in the care of our maternal grandmother while they went on tour of New York, USA, England and the European continent. My father heard the following story in England and told us on his return.
A Jamaican living in England where he was courting an English girl (white-skinned, I believe), showed her a picture of Hope Gardens and told her that it was his backyard. After the wedding she wanted to take a trip to Jamaica to see the place. The man was ashamed to tell his wife the truth. But how would his children learn to appreciate his efforts to improve their lives if he was ashamed to tell them where he grew up, even if on Spanish Town Road or Back-o-Wall?
In 1967 when I was 13 years old, I saw a photograph in the Star of a Jamaica Omnibus Service (JOS) bus driver who had received an award for good driving. A cloth badge was sewn to his right shirt sleeve. On several occasions while taking a JOS bus, I recognised him as the driver who won the award. Fourteen years later in 1981, I saw him in Papine. By this time he walked with a limp.
The JOS awardee told me that he was retired. He sat on the stone wall by the Hope Aqueduct next to what was then CAST (now UTech) and told me of his struggles to give all his children a good education by sending them to some of Jamaica’s best high schools. He also spoke about attaining the award from JOS.
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