Come August 1, Jamaicans from all across the island will be celebrating Emancipation Day.
Some activities begin on the evening of July 31, as the nation pause to honour those ancestors who fought for freedom from enslavement, and reflect on the nation's journey from Emancipation to Independence.
One of the biggest celebrations will be the national event at Seville Heritage Park in St. Ann. Known since 1997 as 'Emancipation Jubilee', the event is organised by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) and will begin at 4:00 p.m. on July 31 and continue into the early hours of August 1.
Emancipation Jubilee is a major celebration in honour of the African ancestors and their contribution towards the free society that Jamaicans enjoy. This year’s event will be an all-night vigil, featuring the performance of traditional rites.
At a launch on Friday, July 20, at the Jamaica Grande Hotel, Executive Director of the JNHT, Laleta Davis-Mattis, announced that this year the event will be free to the public.
Mrs. Davis-Mattis explained that the decision to allow free admission to Emancipation Jubilee was made by the JNHT and the Ministry of Youth and Culture, in celebration of Jamaica 50. The JNHT will however, be issuing tickets in order to have some level of crowd control to the usually very popular event.
The Executive Director said Emancipation Jubilee will be the first major activity during the main celebratory period for Jamaica 50 (August 1 to 6), and would be staged under the theme: ‘A Nation on a Mission: Movement of JA people.'
Other vigils and celebrations will take place in St. Catherine where on July 29 there will be the Emancipation Church Service at the historic Phillipo Baptist Church in Spanish Town, where Rev. Devon Dick will be the guest preacher.
On the night of July 31, the Phillipo Baptist Church will also hold a vigil under the Tamarind tree where hundreds of shackles worn by the slaves were buried after Emancipation. The tree was planted as a reminder.
Over in Sligoville, site of the first free village, there will be an all night vigil at the Multi-purpose Stadium complex, which will be held under the patronage of Member of Parliament and Minister with responsibility for Sports, Hon. Natalie Neita-Headley.
There will also be Emanci-fest at the venue, to include a sport extravaganza and a concert.
On Emancipation Day, residents of St. Catherine are invited to turn out for the ‘Voices of Freedom’ vigil in Emancipation Square, Spanish Town.
Project Director of the Jamaica 50th St. Catherine Planning Committee, Rupert Walters, explains that there will be Nya-Bhingi drumming and chanting, revivalists, traditional folk forms, including Dinky Mini, Bruckins, Quadrille, Mento Band, Storytelling and more.
Mr. Walters says that from 11:30 to midnight there will be a praise and worship session with gospel artiste Lubert Levy and Levy Heritage, followed by worship at midnight and the reading of the Proclamation.
Over in Portmore, on July 31, there will be Emancipation vigils at the Gregory Park Baptist, Hellshire Baptist and Portmore Missionary churches, beginning at 9:00 p.m. These activities were announced at a launch in the sunshine City on July 12.
The grand Golden Jubilee Village at Independence Park (National Stadium), in Kingston, will be opened on Emancipation Day and will last until August 6. This Village is being staged to celebrate the country's 50th Anniversary of Independence.
Several events are planned for the Village, including panel discussions on the progress of the music, religion and the economy; the traditional 'Augus Fair' on
August 1; and as well as Jamaican foods. This will climax with the Grand Gala in the National Stadium on August 6.