MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA (JIS) - Chairman of the Jamaica National Bicentenary Committee, Professor Verene Shepherd, has called for an expansion of the national heritage calendar to embrace all the critical moments in the country's history that have helped to shape the nation.
Professor Shepherd, who was delivering the main address at a ceremony held at the Frome Sugar Estate in Westmoreland on May 22, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Frome labour riots, said that while the existing calendar was commendable, there were still critical gaps in the country's history not accounted for.
"While I laud all those who helped to create the existing calendar so that we mark Reggae and Black History in February, Labour Day in May, Emancipation Day in August, and the Morant Bay Rebellion and the struggles of our heroes and heroine in October, I believe that there are critical gaps," she argued.
"I urge the cultural agencies to get together and collaborate on a more realistic national heritage calendar that will be more representative of the contributions and experiences of our people; all of our people," she stated.
Professor Shepherd clarified that she was not lobbying for all significant dates in the country's history to be declared as public holidays, but that some form of recognition should be given to these dates, no matter how small.
"Where all the commemorative events cannot be funded by the Government of Jamaica and the cultural agencies, they should be made the responsibility of parish councils and the Ministry of Education should insist that these commemorative moments are marked in all of our schools," she advocated.
Professor Shepherd said a more accurate calendar, would incorporate some of the dates recognized by the Jamaica National Bicentenary Committee, in addition to other significant dates.
These include the commemoration of the last ship with African slaves to arrive at the Kingston on February 17; the passage of the Trans-Atlantic Trade in Africans (TTA) Abolition Act on March 25; the anniversary of the outbreak Tacky's war on April 8; the trial of Sam Sharpe on April 19; and Frome massacre day on May 2.
She also cited Taino remembrance day, May 5; Indians arrival day, May 9; Sam Sharpe execution day, May 23; remembrance day for the victims of the TTA on August 23; hanging of Paul Bogle on October 25; and eruption of emancipation war on December 27.
The function was staged through the collaborative efforts of the Institute of Jamaica and the Frome Sugar Estate to mark the 1938 riots, which changed Jamaica's social and political history. A monument was laid to mark the spot where the labour unrest, which led to the riots, began.