And so it was, on the 6th day of August 1962, Jamaica gained independence from centuries of British Colonial rule. On that day we gained our own flag, anthem, and identity. Many recall with pride the many parades, independence artefacts and the overwhelming sense of pride felt by a nation when the Union Jack came down and the Jamaican flag rose to dominance, a reminder of the struggles of our forefathers, the lush landscape and the sunshine that warms the island.
In the years since Jamaican independence we have had many experiences that have caused us as a people to celebrate (big up to the athletes, workers, educators and scholars) and many others that have caused us to stop and think. Whether good or bad times it is imperative that we learn from every example and forge a path significant of a country with a vision in mind.
This 50th year has been described as a call to action for Jamaicans worldwide through the tagline “A Nation on a mission”. In the years following independence the economic landscape of the island has changed significantly from one primarily dependent on agrarian exports to one that has to find its own way to compete in other industries with other well established competitors such as the United States, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago and China. For many years we have focused on enhancing trade relations with other countries and strengthening our hospitality industry. More must be done. I say to you that the call to action should be more than just improving trade relations, increasing competitiveness in given industries and creating jobs. While these are all important activities the call to action must cause each and every Jamaican at home and abroad to look at the bigger picture of a people unified. Too long have the barriers of political affiliation and intra island competition blinded us to the real situation at hand. While thankful for the loans and grants of our trade partners and the lending agencies and investors of the world, we must build on the assistance these countries provide TOGETHER to become a truly independent nation.
We must understand what independence means to us now and measure it against what it should mean to us all. Does it match up? How do we successfully bridge the gap between just saying we are independent while we nurse our bleeding economy? We must work assiduously at actually proving our independence by looking inwardly with the purpose of building our people, our purpose, our economy and our spirit while becoming a force to be reckoned with beyond the track.