Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of the marches from Selma to Montgomery, USA, for civil and voting rights for Black Americans. I’m Jamaican. I was born and raised in Jamaica and am currently living in Jamaica. You would think that what happened on those marches didn’t affect me or my ancestry. For those who think that, well, you may be right. Why should I care? I don’t live in America.
But let me tell you, it doesn’t matter what nationality you are or where you live: black oppression exists everywhere. The marches in the USA were made in the 1960s. Jamaica had its own march in 1865.
Students studying Jamaican history are well aware of the Morant Bay ‘Rebellion’ of 1865. Similar to the blacks in the US around the 1950s/1960s, lives proved difficult for the black Jamaicans who were at the bottom of the social ladder. Justice was not meted out correctly, wages were next to nothing–the standard of living was deplorable. The blacks wanted to fight for their rights to a better standard of living. But Emancipation had only just ended (1840), and the white elitists weren’t having it. It took one man’s idea for a march from Morant Bay to Kingston for the British government to stop playing around.
I personally cannot imagine the struggles the Selma Voting Rights Movement went through, to bravely march from Selma to Montgomery. These people had families but they decided to march anyway, knowing they could face persecution and death.
Paul Bogle died in 1865. He, along with another national hero, George William Gordon, was hanged for his so-called ‘rebellion’.
The Selma marches hauntingly remind me of the Morant Bay ‘Rebellion’. It just goes to show that every generation has their own struggles of oppression. So far, Jamaica’s current generation has not gone through similar struggles. But the Ferguson protests in the United States happened just last year.
We, Jamaicans, now know the contributions of Paul Bogle to the empowerment of the black Jamaicans. If he had not acted out against the government, I can’t tell you where I would be today. The commemoration of Selma reminds our black generation of the sacrifices which were made for our better standard of living.
#Selma50 is for ALL black people. Our lives will always matter.