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Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Call for Afro-Caribbean history lessons
Two Jamaican women hold up the national flag
Celebrations: 40th anniversary marked

The UK's Afro-Caribbean community should use the 40th anniversary of Jamaica's independence to ensure new generations grow up understanding their history, a leading spokeswoman has said.


We tell them the history of the long roads travelled and the many rivers crossed but I don't think that many West Indian children have that in-depth knowledge

Mavis Stewart
Mavis Stewart, chair of the Association of Jamaicans UK Trust, said that parents had to fill the gap left by the education system to ensure that black-British children understand the roots of their communities and their stake in modern society.

This week sees the British Jamaican community joining celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the island nation's independence from the UK in 1962.

Events have been taking place across the country, with Jamaica's High Commission and Tourist Board taking a major part in the plans.

Mrs Stewart said that while the events were an opportunity to celebrate Caribbean roots, it was also a chance for younger generations to recognise how they won their place in modern British society.

"The younger generations are not as consciously concerned about their Caribbean roots but that's because they were born British," she said.

"I don't think that many of them appreciate the scale of what happened when people left to come to Britain.

"We tell them the history of the long roads travelled and the many rivers crossed but I don't think that many West Indian children have that in-depth knowledge."

Parents of black-British children should be filling the gaps left by an education system which was did not teach the history of black Britain, she said.

"I was a child of the Empire in Jamaica and grew up learning about Shakespeare. When I came to England I wanted to see the daffodils of Wordsworth.

"But I wasn't taught about the roots of my community. I think that the average West Indian child [in Britain] faces similar problems with learning the history of their parents' generation. It's now up to the parents to teach them about their roots."

'Bipatriotic'

A recent opinion poll in Jamaica found that a majority of those asked believed that leaving the British Empire by achieving independence had actually made things worse.

UK anniversary events
Gala ball
Musical evening at Westminster Abbey
Thanksgiving service
Anniversary magazine
Family fun days in London and Manchester
But Mrs Stewart said that Jamaicans who had settled in the UK should not let their community be characterised by the island's problems. Rather, those in the UK should celebrate contributing to two communities at the same time.

"Jamaica today is 40 years old but it takes a lot longer to build a nation. Look how long it took to build Britain."

"I think that many of us are bipatriotic.

I remain very patriotic towards my island home but I have also lived in Britain for 40 years and have a family here. There are many of us who have a foot in both camps and that is a good thing for all of us."

Events

Events marking Jamaican independence are continuing in the UK with a special gathering at the country's High Commission and, on Saturday, a family fun day at the Millennium Powerhouse, Moss Side, Manchester.

Last weekend saw two major events in London including a gala ball at Alexandra Palace.

The BBC's special series, Jamaica at 40, is continuing on radio television and online until 18 August.

See also:

30 Jul 02 | Country profiles
02 Aug 02 | Entertainment
06 Jun 02 | Americas
02 Aug 02 | Breakfast
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