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Heroes' Week, 11th October 2012

Brothers and sisters, it is a beautiful sight to see so many of you here this evening – glowing in a space that is devoted to our emancipation – even though I am aware that some of you are offended by the closeness of that artistic representation – or misrepresentation- of our freedom that does not have national consensus. Be that as it may, we claim this space now for our purposes and pay our respect to those who went before so that others could follow.
Admittedly, many have become cynical about this heritage week; about this annual ritual and talkfest. Many of us have become tired of the sameness of the regurgitated biographies of the six national heroes and the one national heroine; biographies that are dusted off each october, placed back on the shelf and dusted off again the next october.
This cynicism is perhaps related to the fact that while we read about their heroic deeds annually, when we look deeply into the society we do not see that much evidence of the implementation or articulation of their philosophies and ideologies apart from among committed pan-africansists: anti-colonialism, black pride and self reliance, connection with africa, equity and justice for all regardless of ethnicity, class, colour, gender or place of abode; decent wages for decent work, respect for workers rights, and symbolic and real decolonization, including insisting that those who trespassed against us make real amends.
Moreover, we have refused to find sufficient ways to collectively memorialise the thousands without whom none of the current seven would have had their names inscribed in our history and our consciousness. For example, there is no wall of honour in this emancipation park on which the names of those who fought and died with Sharpe in 1831/32 are inscribed; none for the dead in the Morant Bay war of 1865; none for the workers of the labour protests of 1938/39.
The insufficient recognition is not the fault of our heroes and heroines. They did what they had to do. It is for us to really actualize the freedoms for which they fought and lobby our policy-makers for their full recognition.
In the meantime, we can still say thanks to Nanny for allowing women to be a part of the discourse of liberation and for being one Maroon that refused to form alliance with the colonizers; to Sharpe for using a network of dedicated men and women in the army that fought to end enslavement when peaceful negotiation failed; to Bogle and the people of St Thomas and the east for saying no to injustice and demanding the rights of citizens of this country; to Gordon for his attempts to act as a true political representative of the people; to Garvey for teaching us that mental slavery is unacceptable; that we have a beautiful history that will astonish the world; that race pride is fundamental; that history is the landmark by which we are directed into the true course of life.
I cannot honestly say that Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley were primarily responsible for instigating the labour protests of 1938/39, for winning workers' rights and for the successful decolonization movement that ended in independence in 1962. We thank them for their contributions but we must pay tribute to others like Father Coombs, Aggie Bernard and St William Grant who also struggled for workers' rights and respect and for the end of British colonialism.
It may even be time to add more names to this pantheon and ensure that some critical people get recognised for their role in the liberation struggles and for ensuring recognition of Jamaica's culture, three being Tacky, Miss Lou and Bob Marley.
In closing, let us not forget that today is the anniversary of the outbreak of the Morant Bay rebellion. Let us honour the memory of Paul Bogle, who was hanged on 24th October 1865. But let us not forget that one hand alone cannot clap. Bogle had the support of the people of St Thomas and Portland and we will call some of their names as we pledge to continue their fight for justice for all. As I call each name, raise your light in remembrance and honour:
Return of Persons put to Death in course of the Suppression of the Insurrection in the County of Surrey, Jamaica from 14th October to 13th November 1865
Morant Bay and Immediate Neighbourhood:
1. Moses Bogle hanged
2. James Martin 31/10 hanged
3. Edward Fleming 14/10 hanged
4. Henry Bunnyman shot
5. John Bundy 17/10 shot
6. Thomas Darby 19/10 shot
7. Denis Geoghegan ,, , shot by the Maroons
8. Henry Patterson , , shot by the Maroons
9. Joseph Henry 20/10 hanged
10. Thomas Jones ,, , hanged
11. Colin McDermott , , hanged
12. Frank McQueen , , hanged
13. Simon Taylor , , hanged
14. William Ward , , hanged
15. Mary Ward , , hanged
16. George Donaldson , 21/10 hanged
17. John Blake , 23/10 hanged
18. Joseph Clarke , , hanged
19. Edward Howell , , hanged ringleader of rebellion
20. Charles Mayne , , hanged
21. Robert Barkley 24/10 hanged
22. Lewis Dick , 25/10 hanged
23. Letetia Geoghegan , , hanged
24. Mary Ann Francis , 27/10 hanged
25. Judy Edwards , 28/10 hanged
26. Justina Taylor , 1/11 hanged
27. Joseph Garvey , 10/11 hanged
And let us remember the many women who were subjected to rape and other forms of violence in the brutal suppression after the rebellion. In fact, the suppression of Black women in post-emancipation society constituted a main plank of an overall strategy to pacify the masses. The use of sexual violence was a form of coercion, intimidation, and control integral to the suppression of Black women. Clinton Hutton tells us that pregnant women and mothers of young children suffered unbridled repression. Gruesome stories came to light of the treatment of Black mothers and mothers to be whose homes were razed even as women gave birth or begged to be spared a roof for their children.
May the memory of what our ancestors went through inspire us to be soldiers in the continued fight for rights, respect and true independence in this Jamaica land that we truly love. May their souls rest in peace.

 Speech give by Professor Verene Shephard.

Carlos Daley holds an executive certificate in Strategic management and business evaluation from Harvard University and a Masters in Financial Management from the University of Maryland.
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