by Howard Campbell
KINGSTON, Jamaica – In 1974, 18 year-old David Hinds faced a quandary like many black youth in the United Kingdom. Even though he was born in that country the white establishment cast them as squatters in a foreign land.
It was then that he discovered the philosophy of Marcus Garvey whose message of black empowerment hit home. But as the son of Jamaican immigrants, why did it take so long for him to find out about their countryman?
As Jamaica celebrates Emancipation Day on August 1, Hinds, leader of Grammy-winning reggae band Steel Pulse, is still asking questions.
“Upon learning about Garvey via (Burning) Spear’s music, I became agitated with my parents after I did further research, only to find out that Garvey was actually born in the same parish (St. Ann) as they were. ‘How could you possibly hide this man from me, Dad? Why didn’t you ever tell me about him? You told me everything else about Jamaica. And this man lived just down the road from you!’,” Hinds recalled.
He added that, “Pops honestly admitted that it never occurred to him that it would matter. My father was a 19 year-old adult when Marcus died (in 1940), so he really had no excuse.”
Hinds, rhythm guitarist, lead singer and chief songwriter for Steel Pulse has hailed Garvey and other black stalwarts on songs like Rally Round The Flag and Tribute to the Martyrs.
In 2004, the band revisited the glory days of Africa pre-Atlantic Slave Trade on Door of no Return, a song from their African Holocaust album.
To many youth in the Caribbean, which was once part of the British Empire, Emancipation Day is another public holiday to lounge at home or the beach.
Songs like Burning Spear’s Slavery Days and Declaration of Rights by The Abyssinians awakened Jamaican youth in the 1970’s to the horrors of African bondage two centuries ago.
Those sounds also reached David Hinds and like-minded friends in the UK during the turbulent 1970’s.
“Reggae music was an informative ingredient to our lives in the UK at the time due to the identification crisis we were going through as blacks born in Britain. We were not considered being British by society at large. Burning Spear became the catalyst to that awakening, with songs like Marcus Garvey, Old Marcus Garvey and Slavery Days, just to name a few,” he said.
The British parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833, but it did not take effect until August 1, 1834. On July, 1838 all slaves in the British West Indies were freed.
In 1998 after a six-year break, Jamaican prime minister P. J. Patterson declared August 1 as a public holiday in commemoration of Emancipation Day.