Once again, we are getting ready to celebrate another Workers’ Week/Labour Day.  On Monday, May 23 we will celebrate Labour Day, the culmination of Workers’ Week, May 15 – 23.

Like so many times before since its inception, our objective over this period is to galvanise our people into active and voluntary engagement within the various communities in our nation in acts and activities geared at the upliftment and betterment of each other.  For the most part, we focus our efforts principally on the most vulnerable, the considerably disadvantaged, and the challenged among us.  In this way, we have used this period to foster and promote positive energies in physical labour and social interaction as we put work into Labour Day.  This is the main aim of Labour Day.

Then, through a variety of activities we seek to promote a social discourse that is intended to bring focus to such social and economic factors as productivity, decent work, and the promotion of proper working conditions.  We also pay homage to the Jamaican worker at home and abroad whose blood, sweat and tears have been the platform for the construction of great societies worldwide.  This is the main purpose behind the establishment of Workers’ Week.

This year we have decided to maintain the fundamental focus of the period, but with a distinct difference.

Firstly, we have maintained our focus on Our Children.  All of us Jamaicans cannot but be concerned about the status of our children.  As we approach the 50th anniversary of our Nation in 2012, we must rekindle that flame that historically provided warmth and solace to our children and that offered light as they journeyed on the road to mature and patriotic adulthood.  I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Office of the Children’s Advocate for the work they are doing in the interest of our children.

Our Children are the present and the future.  They represent all that is good and possible within our society.  Once equipped and nurtured, they represent the truest hope and measure of sustainable development, for it is well said that if development is to be sustainable it must begin now and continue into future generations.  We are constantly challenged to achieve this, and Labour Day, used properly, offers us another occasion to put things in order and get things right.

This year 2011 is special for another reason.  It has been designated by the United Nations as the International Year for People of African Descent.  Although we are conscious of our motto “Out of Many One People”, we are mindful that Afro-descendants make up a large portion of our population.  We are also aware of the universality of the themes that have guided the existence of African people over the years.  As such, we decided to identify as our slogan for Workers’ Week/Labour Day 2011 a famous African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child”.

We believe this slogan is appropriate as the platform for the engagement of communal action in the interest of our children.  As such, we invite people to register projects that will enhance the lives of our children.  We point you to children in vulnerable and disadvantaged situations: children in foster care, children’s homes, children who need special care, children with disabilities.  However, we also want us to not forget those who are doing well but still need encouragement, those who are disarmingly precocious but need support and guidance, or those who are focused but may need some kind of sustenance.

We want to invite everyone to register a project, whether individually or in groups, whether in communities or in clubs and societies.  The project may be one that requires physical labour such as painting basic schools or building recreational facilities or enhancing play areas or creating libraries, etc.  On the other hand, we also encourage projects of social interaction, such as mentoring or counselling or helping with homework, etc.

In all this, let us demonstrate the practicalities of the slogan and come together as a village to raise our children and make them shine.

This focus on the IYPAD will bring a special flavour to Labour Day.  We have engaged the African Missions resident in Jamaica (Senegal, Nigeria and South Africa) and they have expressed their willingness to work with us as one African family.  This year, they will either be registering their own project or will select from among the registered projects one that they will support.  In this way, we will promote the IYPAD through this demonstration of solidarity and friendship between Africa and its Diaspora.  Allow me to express my appreciation for the involvement of these our brothers and sisters in this year’s celebration.

Jamaica is committed to the celebration of the IYPAD.  In this launch of Labour Day/Workers’ Week we wish to also launch our own commitment to the programme sponsored by the United Nations and signal to the world our own determination to promote Africa and its Diaspora.

The promotion of the well-being of People of African Descent has always been a fundamental element of what we do in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture.  As such, many of our programmes have historically centred around the role played by African people in the world as well as on the practices that we have inherited from African people.  This year, it is our intention to expand or enhance the offerings in some special events, while creating a few new activities.


These are some of the offerings that we have in store for you as part of our effort to promote the IYPAD:

–      This year’s Labour Day Concert will feature an African theme.  In fact, the Concert will focus on three elements: African rituals and traditions which are part of the retentions of Jamaican culture (dinki mini, jonkunnoo, drumming, etc.), exhibitions of African customs, values and traditions, and the nurturing of children by their elders.  In the latter scenario, the Concert will feature elders singing, dancing, drumming with children, in full orientation of the slogan.

–      On May 25, popularly celebrated globally as African Liberation Day or Africa Day, there will be a Symposium on the slogan, in which the Nigerian High Commissioner has offered to present to us the practicalities through which Africans historically express the concept of a village raising a child.  We believe this is especially relevant to us here in Jamaica as we approach our Golden Jubilee.  In this regard, we are set to target children, teachers in training and teacher trainers.

–      One very special activity of the IYPAD for 2011 is the plan to stage a cultural exposition within the framework of a regular market day at Coronation Market in Downtown Kingston.  This is anchored in the historical significance of the marketplace as the centrepiece of community action and collective engagement of African people.  As such, during the Emancipation weekend,  we intend to stage, in the market, a full cultural expose, including drumming, storytelling, rituals and African retentions, entertainment as well as economic empowerment activities by inviting special institutions to provide information and demonstrations to our people right there in the market.

–      Emancipation Jubilee 2011 in Seville will carry a special theme focusing of the rituals of liberation and the triumph of African people over slavery and oppression.

–      The National Gallery will be staging a special symposium to coincide with the establishment of the John Pringle Collection of the works of Mallica “Kapo” Reynolds in the Gallery.  This event will also focus on the centenary of the great artist/revivalist leader and will focus on revivalism and other African rituals.

–      National Heritage Week 2011 will focus on special themes depicting the various social, political and economic roles played by Africans then and now.  Within this, there is a plan to stage exhibitions of the achievements of People of African Descent.

–      Finally, it must be stated that other activities within the context of the IYPAD have already been implemented.  For example, the Ministry collaborated with Rastafari to commemorate on April 21, 2011 the 45th anniversary of the visit to Jamaica of H.I.M. Haile Selassie.  This took the form of a motorcade from the Norman Manley Airport to UWI and on to Haile Selassie High School and on to Mico University College and finally to National Heroes Park for a rally.  Also, Liberty Hall, the Legacy of Marcus Garvey held its annual event Sankofa earlier.


There are some other events being planned for later in the year, which will be announced later.

In all these activities, the African Missions have agreed to work closely with the Ministry and vice versa.  For example, the Missions have provided us with important dates in their calendar and we will share with them in the planning and implementation of these events.


Other activities to look out for are as follows:

–      The Workers’ Week Thanksgiving Service will be held at the Methodist Church in Ocho Rios on Sunday, May 15 starting at 9.00 am.

–      The Information and Interactive Hub at the Half Way Tree Transport Centre.  This activity started last year with great success and is now being repeated.  Several agencies have agreed to again mount an exhibition of their various offerings and hold face-to-face discussions with members of the public.  This will take place on Wednesday, May 18 as part of Workers’ Week.

–      The Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions will be staging a panel discussion focusing on entrepreneurship: the role it has played in the liberation of our people, the need to promote it among young people today, its value, challenges and triumphs.  This will be held on Thursday, May 19.


Finally, Labour Day 2011 will again identify 14 projects of national focus, one for each municipality.  As we speak, Mayors, Parish Councils and Members of Parliament are meeting together and identifying their principal parish project.  These projects will be given national focus on Labour Day.

Again, I wish to encourage all Jamaicans to identify with a project.  We also want to specially request that people register their projects with the SDC or the Parish Councils as we really want to have a handle on the number of projects being implemented across the island.  This year, we have added another element.  People can now register projects on-line by accessing the JIS Website at www.jis.gov.jm/labourday.

Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Jamaicans, our African family, let us advance the cause for the betterment of our children.  Let us build them shelter and provide them with love and so that in future years they will look back and call us blessed.

I will now unveil the various promotional materials that we have created as we seek to excite you all for the work we will do over the period of Workers’ Week/Labour Day to make our children shine.

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