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The Jamaica National Bicentenary Committee, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, Entertainment and Culture, will be staging a National Day of Remembrance on Sunday, March 25, in honour of the ancestors.
The day will be observed with an ‘Ancestral Rites Funeral Ceremony’ at the Kingston Harbour at 3:00 p.m.
This is part of activities to mark the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Trade in Africans.
Giving details of the day’s activities at Devon House on March 20, Principal Director for Entertainment and Culture in the Ministry, Sydney Bartley explained that, “the plan is to have a national funeral service for all the ancestors who were never accorded proper funeral rites as they either threw themselves into the sea or were simply thrown aside by plantation owners.”
Mr. Bartley said that Kingston Harbour was selected as the venue for the ceremony, as it was one of the principal points of arrival for the ancestors and an area where slaves were auctioned.
He pointed out that various faiths and denominations would be participating in the day’s proceedings, which was symbolic of the diversity in culture and religion that the ancestors possessed.
The Principal Director outlined that the ceremony would begin with a procession from St. William Grant Park at approximately 1:30 p.m. down to King Street and on to the harbour.
“At 3:00 p.m. the abeng will be blown, which will signal the beginning of the funeral ceremony,” Mr. Bartley noted, adding that it would be “an interfaith ceremony with prayers, text reading and invocations done by all faiths.”
He said that the names of 1,000 ancestors would be read by the president and members of the National Secondary Schools Council. Another important aspect of the ceremony, he pointed out, would be a ritual at sea, where “the JDF coast guard will take a group out to sea for the ritual of those ancestors who died at sea.”
The day will end with a ‘celebratory concert’, featuring various cultural groups.
Additionally, eight wakes or ‘nine nights’ will be held in eight parishes leading up to the national day of remembrance.
Meanwhile, Minister of Tourism, Entertainment and Culture, Aloun Ndombet Assamba said that the day should be seen as an “opportunity to recognize all the struggles of our forefathers, people who were uprooted from their country, suffering violence and all forms of inhumanity and began to fight to develop this nation.”
“Let us not diminish the work that they did or cause their work to be in vain,” the Minister urged.This year marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic trade in Africans to the former British Caribbean.
It has been estimated that the island accounted for about 1 million of the estimated 15 million Africans who were taken from Africa between the 15th and 19th Centuries.