A time to celebrate
On few days in history have the signature black, green and gold colours of the Jamaican flag shone brighter.
On the 50th anniversary of the island nation’s independence, the Jamaican community was bursting with pride Monday in Nova Scotia. The warm afterglow of sprinter Usain Bolt’s recordbreaking Olympic gold- and Yohan Blake’s silver-medal finish in the men’s 100-metre final Sunday further cemented the Jamaican anniversary theme: A Nation on a Mission.
“We came from being governed by the British to having our own leaders. Our leader, for the first time, was a local person and has been ever since," said Halifax Jamaica 50 committee member Lorna Little.
“We’re in charge of our destiny so that’s pretty big when you start off being slaves and end up having your own country."
On Aug. 6, 1962, the Union Jack was lowered and replaced by the black, gold and green of Jamaica, marking the end of nearly 300 years of colonial domination.
Little and dozens of Jamaican nationals spent the holiday Monday celebrating 50 years of independence with a flag-raising ceremony at Grand Parade and a barbecue on the Halifax Commons.
As a wide-eyed nine-year-old in 1962, she vividly recalls how important that day in August was when the official flag was raised and schoolchildren across the country sang the new national anthem, Eternal Father Bless Our Land.
Little immigrated to Canada in 1973, but the memories of those days still bring tears to her eyes.
In the weeks leading to independence, Little accompanied her father, a historian and schoolteacher, as he travelled the countryside, teaching youth the new anthem.
“It was all so exciting because we all grew up singing God Save the Queen, and then one day we were finally singing our own anthem," Little said.
“The fact that we’ve come so far and in other ways we still have a long way to go . . . makes it important to celebrate this milestone today."
Jamaicans began relocating to Canada in 1796, when a few hundred Jamaican Maroons were deported to Nova Scotia following their rebellion against the British.
An estimated three million to five million make up the Jamaican diaspora worldwide, with about 300,000 choosing to call Canada home.
Today, the fourth-largest island nation in the Caribbean is home to nearly three million.
Proudly sporting Jamaica’s signature colours, Josian Petgrave said the anniversary was a chance to learn from the past and plan for the future.
“This is the point where we look back and reflect to see what we’ve done right and how we can make the next 50 years even more magnificent," the 24-year-old master’s student said.
“We’re looking at our progress to see what we have done that was successful, what we can do to improve, and the things that we have done wrong to see, in the next 50 years, what our accomplishments will be." While the Jamaican community celebrated the milestone, much of the rest of the area was swept up in another birthday celebration Monday.
Halifax and Dartmouth’s Natal Day celebrations included the 106th Dartmouth Natal Day Road Races, a parade, a regatta at Lake Banook and fireworks.
Charlotte Burns, a new resident of Northwood Terrace on Gottingen Street, took in the parade for the first time with her brother and a friend.
“It’s great to see so many people out," Burns said. “And to see the young people here, carrying on the tradition."
Born and raised in Halifax, 70-something Margaret Callaghan has taken in Natal Day festivities for as long as she can remember.
“It’s my own tradition, in a sense," Callaghan said from her perch at the corner of Gottingen and North streets. “It’s an enjoyable weekend, and it’s important to me to get out and celebrate Nova Scotia."