KINGSTON, Feb. 27 (JIS): It was a day of cultural extravagance and celebration at the Norman Manley High School in Kingston on February 27, as the institution hosted the official ceremony to mark Jamaica Day 2015.
The Maxfield Avenue School was alive with excitement, as ecstatic students and teachers showcased aspects of Jamaica’s rich and diverse cultural heritage through dance, music, drama and poetry.
Special emphasis was placed on the country’s friendship and historical bond with its Caribbean and Latin American neighbours, such as Haiti, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Cuba. This was highlighted in the theme – ‘Celebrating Jamaica: Celebrating Regional Friendships from Boukman to Bolivar’.
There were also booths mounted by several organisations, including the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF); City of Kingston Credit Union; Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS); and the Jamaica Information Service (JIS).
Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, who brought greetings at the ceremony, told the students that Jamaica Day is an opportunity for students and the wider society to focus on what it means to be Jamaican and to promote those qualities.
“We have a lot to be proud of as Jamaicans. Jamaica has provided a home for many like Bolivar and an inspiration for many like Boukman. Our people have also contributed to the socio-political and economic development of other countries, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.
“We helped to build the Panama Canal, and we helped to broker development in Costa Rica. We have cut cane and built roads in Cuba, and we started the sugar industry in Colombia. We are a people who go many places and carry our distinctive strength,” the Minister added.
He said Jamaica Day is also an invitation for Jamaicans to look beyond the confines of their own island and to learn more about the friendship and similarities of “those who surround us in the Caribbean region.”
In his remarks, Minister of Finance and Planning and Member of Parliament for East Central St. Andrew, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips, told the students that they must remain mindful of the fact that they are a part of a regional community, and that they have a role to play in the upliftment of the entire human race.
“If there is anything that marks our history, it is that we are a people that have been conscious of our responsibilities to the rest of the world, and who have benefited from the support and assistance of other countries. As we have received, so have we tried to give,” he said.
For her part, Mayor of Kingston, Senator Angela Brown Burke, said that Kingston has played an important role in Jamaica’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, which can be traced as far back as 1923, when the council was first established.
“Kingston is known as the cradle of culture, not just in Jamaica, but across the entire Caribbean, and we have been home to many (renowned figures), including Simon Bolivar, liberator and national hero of Venezuela,” she noted.
Mrs. Brown Burke said she is eagerly looking forward to the redevelopment of downtown Kingston and the repositioning of Kingston as a cultural and creative city.
Meanwhile, Ambassador of Venezuela to Jamaica, Her Excellency Maria Ortega Mendoza, said she was honoured to celebrate with the students of Norman Manley High, not just Jamaica’s rich legacy, but also regional friendship and togetherness.
“It is also an honour to pay tribute to our heroes – Boukman, Bolivar, Marcus Garvey, and Norman Manley,” she said.
This year’s Jamaica Day activities at Norman Manley High also included the development of a peer mentorship programme, in which senior students of the school will mentor students from Maxfield Park and Rousseau Primary Schools.
Volunteers from the high school will also implement projects with the Maxfield Park Children’s Home.
Jamaica Day, which started in 2002, was celebrated in schools across the island.