Jamaica celebrated National Heroes Day on Monday, with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller saying – to be Jamaican “is now one of the most powerful identities worldwide”.
In a message marking the occasion, Simpson Miller paid tribute to past Jamaicans who have contributed to the development of the island and saluted “the guardians of our culture and heritage – our artists, poets, writers, carvers, sculptors, athletes, reggae musicians, dub poets, the brethren and sistren of Rastafari, the scholars, members of the public and private sectors, civil society, churches and political movements, who are all dedicated to building a better Jamaica”.
She said Jamaica is made great by its rich heritage and quoted the local poet Basil McFarlane “that Our Land is full of echoes”.
“These are the echoes of our original Taino and Arawak people living their simple, yet productive and happy lives. Our history echoes too, with arrival of the Europeans who brought the cultures of Spain and England to our shores.
“However, by far the loudest and most profound echoes across this land of ours are the echoes of West Africa, and the voices of the Akan, Ashanti and Yoruba people,” she said, adding that in the nineteenth century, we were joined by the cultures and people of India, China, Lebanon, Syria and others as partners in the struggle for Jamaican nationhood, political and economic independence.
“Out of this melting pot has emerged the great story of the Jamaican people. It is a story of resilience, defiance, a love of liberty, a pre-occupation with justice and a passion for progress. Our Jamaican heritage has been impacting the world for centuries.”
She said that in today’s global trade in goods and services, Jamaica remains a premium and highly sought after brand.
“Over the decades too, our leading market position as a destination of choice for tourists, has remained strong,’ she said, adding “earlier this year we celebrated one of our newest national achievements, the inscription of the Blue and John Crow Mountains on the global list of World Heritage sites.
“Our standing in the world continues to improve and we are respected by other nations, by world leaders and global institutions, whose faith in our country has been strengthened,” she said, adding “we all know that Jamaica has for a long time been identified with world class and world leading entertainment as the natural mystic of reggae has held sway in every corner of the globe.
Simpson Miller said the names of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff and so many other Jamaican artistes have been placed on the tongues of successive generations of diverse nationalities.
“Today we give God thanks for our resilient, resourceful people including our contemporary musicians, sport men and women, other professionals, creative and literary giants, who command immense respect and accolades worldwide,” she said thanking “our athletes, who continue to make Jamaica proud on the world stage.
“We salute them as flag bearers and keepers of our great heritage. I also congratulate Jamaican writer, Marlon James, who recently won an important global award – the Man Booker Prize for Literature.”