Celebrating Jamaica: Authentic and Unique

February 23, 2024 was celebrated as Jamaica Day. The Mercy Schools in Jamaica wholeheartedly embraced this opportunity to acknowledge and explore our cultural heritage and identity through the visual and performing arts; object lessons on Jamaican history; and exciting competitions. Here’s a look back at what just a few of our schools did to make the most of this day.

Alpha Infant 

The day began with the reading of the official Jamaica Day Proclamation; an activity which schools across the island took part in to kickstart the celebration. Alpha Infant reflected this year’s theme of ‘Celebrating Jamaica: Authentic and Unique… A Fi Wi TREND A Dweet’, by showcasing the unique talents found in its diverse set of clubs. For the entire day, the school was treated to a wide variety of performances and demonstrations by the Sign Language club, Dance club, Speech & Drama club and more! Two standout performances from this line-up were the intense martial arts demonstration as well as the expressive recitation of the classic poem, “Roast Turkey” written by Jamaican icon, Louise Bennett Coverley (Miss Lou). The day was made even sweeter by the special traditional Jamaican lunches which were lovingly prepared by staff and parents.

A performance of the poem “Roast Turkey” written by Louise Bennett Coverley

Alpha Primary

Over at Alpha Primary, performances were not the only things on display. The hallways were lined with a variety of colourful posters created by students which gave information on notable places in Jamaica and famous Jamaicans in the world of the arts and sports. Students had the opportunity to learn about legendary places and people such as Port Royal, Edna Manley and Claude Mckay; all of which are national treasures that are strongly tied to our heritage and cultural identity. Besides this, students were entertained by items such as the theatrical performance of the “Time Dread” skit (written, of course, by the beloved Miss Lou), which featured Ms. Beckford, a grade 3 teacher, along with students. There were also dances galore, as another teacher, Mrs. Lammie, danced solo to Jimmy Cliff’s deeply meaningful “Many Rivers to Cross” song and two other student dance groups interpreted the songs “Could You Be Loved” by Bob Marley & the Wailers, and “Champion” by the more modern artiste, Dwayne “DJ” Bravo. Perhaps the most exciting item of the day, however, was the Cultural Fashion Show wherein second and sixth graders modelled striking outfits designed by Ms Sterling, APS’ first grade teacher. The blacks, greens, and golds being walked up and down the “runway” served as yet another reminder of the sheer creativity inherent in our culture.

St. John Bosco Vocational Training Centre

In Mandeville, St. John Bosco Vocational Training Centre turned back the clock with an exhibit of traditional items from ‘Ole Time Jamaica.’ Students, who grew up in our current age of modern convenience, had a great time handling and play-acting with vintage items like a mortar and pestle; an old-style suitcase and grater; and even an antique baby bath. Still taking a look back into the past, students and staff even played a throwback game of hopscotch! Beyond this, their Speech & Drama Club treated their peers to a wonderful poem.

Mount St. Joseph Catholic High School 

Mount St. Joseph Catholic High School (MSJCHS), had not one, but two Jamaica Day concerts for its lower school (7th-9th grade) and upper school (10th-13th grade) students respectively. Lower schoolers sang and danced to traditional folk songs and vintage crowd pleasing hits such as the Three Little Birds Song by the Reggae legends, Bob Marley & the Wailers. Original poems centred around Jamaican culture and national pride were also shared onstage by the younger students. Things amped up further at the upper school concert where a highly entertaining dance competition was held. Contestants showed off their impressive moves to a blend of Jamaican musical genres ranging from the traditional Ska to the more modern Dancehall. Although these student contestants had definite dancing skills, it was the surprise entry of a teacher into the final round of the competition which drummed up the most claps and cheers from the delighted audience. A teacher-student emcee duo moderated the event and, during periods with no performances, they hosted a quiz competition wherein members of the were asked to finish the lines of proverbs and folk songs as well as test their knowledge on Anansi stories and Jamaican foods. The students did not disappoint with their answers! While some questions left them stumped, most upper schoolers were able to offer up correct answers – even when it came to old songs that were unknown to even some of the teachers.

These Jamaica Day celebrations have done a tremendous job of representing the many unique talents and skills of the Jamaican people. It is our aim as the Sisters of Mercy to help each and every student discover and hone these skills to equip the next generation of Jamaicans to “play [their] part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.”

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