flag_jamaicaIf you have never had a taste of Jamaican paradise, now is the time to visit the popular Caribbean vacation hot spot! Yeah mon, Jamaica is the place to be the week-end of August 5th through 6th when festivals and celebrations will be taking place all over the island. All year Jamaicans along with people around the globe have been excited and preparing for this worldly event. With the recent launch of the Jamaica 50 commemorative ‘Pin-of-Pride’ by the Jamaica 50 Secretariat, islanders are beaming with pride and over 45,000 pins have already been pre- ordered.  Big five-o celebrations have begun and the whole island is getting ready for this momentous occasion.

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary, many island dignitaries and governmental officials will make appearances during the celebrations. Festival-goers will enjoy cultural workshops, arts and crafts, music, entertainment and authentic Jamaican cuisine. Celebration activities will include concerts, fashion shows, sports events, conferences, lectures, dinners and activities for children. Other cities around the globe with Jamaican populations will have similar celebrations. Some have already joined in with the launching of anniversary campaigns with celebrations culminating the beginning of August.

Various cities in the United States celebrating Jamaica's anniversary include New York, Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Earlier this year, Florida launched a Jamaica Anniversary campaign, and the Jamaican 50th Anniversary Festival will be going on at the Roberte Clement State Park in Bronyx, New York on August 4th.  Canadians cities hosting celebrations include Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto where activities commemorating the island’s 50th anniversary of independence from Britain have already begun. In the United Kingdom, activities began back in January with cities and towns, including London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds and Reading participating. South Africa is among African countries celebrating Jamaica’s 50th.  Jamaica is being hailed all over the planet!

There is much to celebrate about the English-speaking island nation of 2.9 million people with such a rich heritage.  Professor Verene Shepherd, noted historian and director of the Institute of Gender and Development, Mona, told Jamaica Information Services (JIS) News that there are many aspects of Jamaica’s culture and heritage that set us apart from other societies, including our local cuisine, music, fashion, religion and sports. According to JIS, Professor Shepherd further argued that despite the influences of North America and other cultures, most Jamaicans have still been able to maintain their authenticity. “There is still something uniquely Jamaican about us,” she says, noting that the mixing or integration of outside influences have not erased “what is truly Jamaican from our consciousness”.

Historians and sociologists agree that despite the influences of globalization, Jamaica's cultural heritage and practices remain strong, distinct and vibrant. They also stress that greater attention must be paid to the maintenance of heritage sites, and that Jamaica’s cultural legacy must be preserved and respected. Some Jamaican heritage experts believe that Jamaica has experienced a revolution in cultural development since gaining its independence from England in 1962. Even though they agree that Jamaican culture has maintained its authenticity, some also believe that Jamaica’s culture has changed in some ways and is not exactly the same today as it was 50 years ago.a_jamaica_50th

Over the last 50 years, Jamaica’s music has evolved into an international phenomenon that has garnered worldwide appreciation for the talents and work of musical greats like Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Toots Hibbert, Ziggy Marley and Shaggy.  Its reggae musical legacy has had an impact on the international stage as a cross-culture phenomenon as reggae has become synonymous with Jamaica.  Even UK’s Prince Harry has become a huge fan of reggae music since his visit to Jamaica earlier this year. When visiting he got to meet Rita Marley, the widow of Bob Marley, who got him interested. Ever since, he has been stocking up on the Jamaican music and even being a DJ with reggae sounds at parties.

Jamaica boasts of a rich sports heritage that has continued to produce great athletes in the last 50 years.  Jamaica’s history in boxing includes iconic stars like Bunny Grant, Percy Hayles, Uriah Grant, Michael ‘the body’ snatcher McCallum with boxing in Jamaica becoming even more popular and vibrant in the 70s.  The island’s sports history also includes track greats like Usain Bolt who in 2008, set a world record of 9.72 seconds and later beat his own record at the Beijing Olympics when he clocked 9.69 in the final. A year later he ran 9.58 at the Berlin world championships. Even before Bolt, there was Dr. Arthur Wint, Jamaica's first Olympic Gold Medalist who won in the 400m race in London.  And let’s not forget Merlene Ottey, Jamaica’s female athlete, dubbed the 'Queen of track' who will be honored as Jamaica's “best athlete in 50 years’ at the anniversary celebration in Bronx, New York.

In addition to its sports, music and also culinary heriage with its scrumptious cuisine enjoyed all around the world, Jamaica has produced noted professionals, entrepreneurs and scholars. Despite many of its difficulties due to a slow economy, people from all over are gaining reverence and respect for Jamaica. The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – Caribbean will be coming to Montego Bay. Set up by Richard Branson, business mogul of Virgin Airlines, the center, the second of its kind with the first in South Africa, is a non-profit organization, with a mandate of helping to produce entrepreneurs to create jobs to drive the economy. 

Jamaica continuously enhances its presence on the world stage with signature events like Caribbean Fashion Week, musical performances, sporting events and educational and professional conferences.  With the election of the first female Prime Minister Portia Miller, the country seems to be changing with the times. Since the days since Bob Marley and Marcus Garvey, and the 50 years of its independence, Jamaicans has continued to push forward making contributions to their country and the world.

Everyone is invited to show support for Jamaica and to celebrate its rich culture, heritage and legacy during its 50th Anniversary of Independence. Let's all jump for Jamaica.  Hail to Jamaica, Happy 50th! For more information, visit jamaica50anniversary.com