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Jamaica Day Celebrations/Toronto Style

Written by Kharl Daley

Like Canada Day Celebrations three weeks ago with fireworks and military jets maneuvering in splendid breath taking acrobatic formations in the sky, Jamaica Day 2004 held on July 24th at Keelesdale Park was nothing short of such adulations. Flying overhead at very low altitude in preparation for landing at Pearson International was the sight of our recent returning National Airline to Toronto’s airspace, an Air-Jamaica Plane (The Lovebird). Oh what an “irie” feeling of nostalgia and nationhood pride as hundreds of heads turned upward, punctuating the merriment to “signal the plane” in this spectacular flyby, while from the mouths of many with trigger fingers cocked, the rapid sounds of explosions symbolizing their adoration.

Thousands of Jamaicans turned out in the yearly tradition in honor of Jamaica’s Independence Day Celebrations now in recognition of its 42nd. A rendition of the National Anthem and the message read by the Consulate General Ms.Viva Betton on behalf of Prime Minister P.J. Patterson drew thunderous applauses from everyone in attendance. Flags of black, green and gold the emblem of Jamaica’s Sovereignty fluttered aloft. Portraits of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie, Marcus Garvey, Paul Bogle, Michael Manley, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Kappo, Edna Manley and others were on display. Jerk pork & chicken, curry goat, patty & cocoa bread, greater cake and drops, red stripe beer, white rum, ginger beer, kola champagne, roast yam, boil corn, cow cod soup, talent & fashion shows, soccer and domino competitions were inclusive of the day’s cuisine and activities.

As the mercury on the thermometer accelerated, festival songs of yesteryears jolted the atmosphere into frenzy, not even the legs of elder folks were spared from trying out the latest dance move ‘pon de river pon the bank” while others rock to tunes from the era of decades gone. For many, this is the time to meet and greet, eat, dance reason and “labrish” with our not seen for awhile brothers and sisters, parishioners and brethrens that the reclusive Canadian lifestyle robs. For some, it’s a time to give the children an exhibition on Jamaica’s folklore, heritage and culture, thus allowing them to acquaint and immerse in the rich tradition of our Homeland that are theirs as well. And for others, it’s a time to take in the Reggae Messengers that have journeyed from Yard to pump up the vibes. Yet, on the contrary Jamaica Day means much more than that to us all.

It is really a time when we honor the men and women that have gallantly fought the struggles against those practitioners of colonization, oppression, exploitation, inequality and injustice through the years of Spanish and British tyranny to secure our own freedom, territorial integrity, fraternity, identity, ideologies, and Independence. It’s the Day in which we recognize our strength as a people in a land far away from our Native Shores and realize the power that lies in our number. Jamaica Day provides for us the pride and joy of being unique; it is a show of revolutionary defiance for us living abroad to highlight who we are against the insidious white dominated racist systems disguised under the phrase of a , “Diverse Multi-Cultural Society of Toronto”.

On this day our solidarity, love and patriotism are reflective on the many insignias of Jamaica depicted on our garments, as well as in the ambience of our camaraderie. We shower accolades on the success of our fellow Jamaican Nationals and Enterprises here in Canada from Olympian Ben Johnson to Donovan Bailey, from activist Dudley Laws of the Black Action Defense to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Hon. Alvin Curling. From the Event’s Vendors selling Jamaica’s craft, souvenirs and artifacts to Mutual Fund Titan, Michael Lee Chin. We salute and extend our appreciations on this day to the Jamaica Canadian Centre, Jamaica National Building Society, Victoria Mutual Building Society, The Alumni Associations, Grace Kennedy and The Jamaica Gleaner Company and all other Jamaican Businesses for availing us the goods& services with close ties to our beloved Homeland. It is a message we send on this day through our harmonized gathering to those “other people” that have always used the media and their political might to our belittlement and transgression that Jamaica’s Integrity and Jamaican People will be protected and guarded sworn and affirmed to by our National Pledge … even if we are on foreign soil.

Nonetheless, as the day progress groups of seniors openly reminisced on the things they’d enjoyed back Home, the push cart derby, the agricultural shows, the maypole dance, the Ferris wheel and merry-go-round, the festival song contest, crocus bag & needle and tread race, pin the donkey tail and even the crown and anker man. Toronto resident The Honorable Louise Bennett Coverley O.D. Miss Lou, Jamaica’s Cultural Ambassador along with Freddie McGregor, Tinga Stewart, Anthony Malvo, Pam Hall and Lovindeer, the Musical Icons from the Island were on hand to back up our local Artists and make the day pleasantly unforgettable, confirmed by the wild cheers from the ecstatic crowd.

The music was fabulous. A medley of songs starting with Half Pint’s, “We a one big family living in a harmony,” followed by “Long time we noh have noh nice time,” “Simmer down,” “O Cherry O cherry O baby”, “A need a big heel boot and a bell foot pants to jump this ya festival”, “Me neva noe say country people was so nice”, “Play the music …jump like leggo beast”, “Dem a go tired fi si mi face” and countless more excited and unified us to a state of nationalistic triumph. Notable, the infants had a very good time on the rides, with beaming faces they searched their grab-bags, they were running around, dancing, playing, and making new friends, just simple enjoying the day. Teenagers fraternizing, Old men with lustful desires and a barrage of arguments sweet mouthed and charmed younger women while others with rum glass in hand debated the economy, politics and social changes affecting Jamaica.

About the author

Kharl Daley