Grange: proclamation and celebration of Sam Sharpe Day to inspire Jamaicans

Artist's impression of the Right Excellent Sam Sharpe Artist's impression of the Right Excellent Sam Sharpe

Kingston, 24 December 2020 – The Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Honourable Olivia Grange, has welcomed the proclamation of December 27 as Sam Sharpe Day by the Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen.

Sir Patrick made the proclamation on Tuesday.

The first annual Sam Sharpe Day — in memory and celebration of the National Hero, the Right Excellent Samuel Sharpe who led the war for Emancipation — will be observed on Sunday.

Minister Grange said the proclamation was made at the request of the Cabinet and is in keeping with the policy of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport “to promote the knowledge and memory of those who have contributed to the development of Jamaica [and] the Right Excellent Samuel Sharpe stands tall among such men.”

The date, December 27, is significant. It was on December 27, 1831 that the Emancipation War of 1831-1832 began under Sam Sharpe’s leadership. The plan called for enslaved people to refuse to work after the Christmas break, unless they were being paid; they were also told to prepare to fight in the event plantation owners tried to force them to continue working as slaves.

Sam Sharpe led the largest and most successful of the fights to end slavery, as his war was a major catalyst for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.

Minister Grange said Sam Sharpe Day, each year, will be an occasion to “reflect on and celebrate the unflinching courage and bold resolve of these our ancestors, led by Sam Sharpe, who gave their lives for our freedom.”

The Minister expressed the hope that Sam Sharpe’s “life, commitment and ultimate sacrifice” would inspire Jamaicans to “commit to nation building, to see ourselves as our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, and to promote the wellbeing and welfare of all Jamaicans.”

The text of the Proclamation follows:

WHEREAS it is the desire of the People of Jamaica that the contribution of persons to the development of the country be demonstrably recognised and celebrated; particularly in circumstances in which their commitment to this cause has culminated in death or impairment;

AND WHEREAS it is of great social, cultural and political value that the heroic acts of such persons be positioned for sustained memory;

AND WHEREAS the Right Excellent Samuel Sharpe, National Hero, hereinafter referred to as the Right Excellent Sam Sharpe, displayed remarkable acumen, character, leadership and courage in the face of insurmountable odds, without fear of what he would face from an entrenched, dehumanising and oppressive system;

AND WHEREAS the Right Excellent Sam Sharpe possessed great elocution and wit, exuded a warm personality, stance and bearing that elicited confidence in his followers, was engaging and engaged within the parameters of civil disobedience, displayed tenacity and meticulousness in planning, and was tireless and resilient in his numerous nightly escapades born out of the yearning for freedom;

AND WHEREAS the Right Excellent Sam Sharpe led the enslaved in Jamaica in the first ever recorded strike, opting ultimately for outright war in response to the intransigence of the ruling planter class, through skirmishes and incursions, that culminated in freedom for all oppressed and enslaved Africans across the British Empire;

AND WHEREAS it is deemed fitting that in lieu of his date of birth, the most appropriate day on which to celebrate his achievements and solidify his memory in the minds of every Jamaican, is the date on which his glorious war for the freedom of his people began, being the Twenty-seventh day of December in the year One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-one;

AND WHEREAS the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport gave notice of the intention of the Government of Jamaica to recognise the 27th day of December, being the anniversary of the start of the "Sam Sharpe War", as appropriate for such a purpose, though not being declared a Public Holiday.

NOW THEREFORE, I, PATRICK LINTON ALLEN, Member of the Order of the Nation, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Commander of the Order of Distinction, Knight of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, Governor-General of Jamaica, DO HEREBY PROCLAIM and make known that the 27th day of December shall be designated as Sam Sharpe Day annually and so observed.

Given under my hand at King's House this 22nd day of December in the year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty.

END

Minister's charge

I remain hopeful because of the giftedness of the Jamaican people; their warmth and creativity; their dynamism and indomitable spirit that have resulted in excellence in all sectors.

It is by tapping into the gifts and awakening the spirit of the Jamaican people that we will, by God’s grace, re-group, re-engineer and re-open to a brighter future with Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.

Olivia Grange

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