It's Jamaica 59: Come Mek We Celebrate Online! This is the theme for this year's independence celebrations. For a second time, we’re forced to honour our release from colonial shackles in muted tones because of the pandemic. Such a spoilsport!
And it gets worse. Covid-19 restrictions have tightened, again. So, we have little time to fete the moment. Emancipation Day celebrations have scaled down and moved into virtual space. Any night on the tiles will be at our house. On the bright side, we are protecting ourselves from a death-dealing virus. Plus, we can still put out the national flag and adorn our spaces with gorgeous fabrics and ornaments bearing Jamaica's national colours.
Despite curtailments, we can breathe a sigh of relief that Jamaica’s diamond jubilee is not in trouble. But we cannot say the same for entrepreneurs, especially party promoters and event planners who were banking on the ‘Emancipendence’ weekend for income after the long pause on events. The famed weeklong Dream Weekend (August 5-9 this time), Negril’s high-energy summer series, will not escape Covid-19’s constraints. The 8 PM island wide curfew is a major damper. Event organisers are asking patrons to come out early and use innovative approaches such as partying in a bubble, much like travel bubbles. Sadly, not all their colleagues can follow suit because of restraints in finance and size. Smaller businesses, like bar owners, may have to cancel their soirees.
An average joe staying home will have a hard time living it up during this usually exuberant period. But we can all take the time to reflect on the significance of Emancipation and Independence celebrations: the end of chattel slavery in Jamaica; our independence from Britain; and a chance to honour those responsible for the peaceful transfer. Besides, it won’t be as hellish as you think. Entertainment Minister Olivia Babsy Grange is giving us a 10-day independence celebration package that closes out with A Jamaica Independence Story, a made-for-television event to be aired on Independence Day, August 6. There is also a special virtual ceremony scheduled for July 31 for Emancipation Day celebrations.
We can enjoy the Emancipendence weekend in other ways while observing restrictions aimed at delaying a Covid-19 third wave. For starters, we can ‘run a boat’ with family and friends in small groups and consider what our freedom means. Those of us who have children, can entertain them with homemade patriotic crafts. Anything with a Jamaican theme will work on Independence Day. But when out over the holiday , remember to get home before the curfew, wash your hands, sanitise areas and items frequently used by others, avoid crowds, and observe social distancing.