From reggae stars, to guerrilla fighters, from a father and son political duo, to the occasional Black Nationalist, you’ll find all types of heroes at the National Heroes Park. Located in Kingston, this 50-acre park is the largest open space in Kingston. The area houses both burial site and artistic memorials to Jamaica’s national heroes. With numerous memorials at the park, there are far too many to talk about here! So here are some of my favourite ones…
Marcus Garvey memorial
One of the original, memorials at the site is dedicated to Marcus Garvey. A black nationalist, who worked for the improvement of black people and through the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) with offices both in New York and Jamaica. Garvey promoted a sense of self and black awareness, through quotes like “a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Garvey died in England in 1940 and was buried there due to the war. In 1964, his remains were exhumed, transported to Jamaica, and buried in memorial at National Heroes Park. The vault holding the remains is made from terrazzo and inset with marble. The bronze bust was previously in another part of the park and added to the memorial in 1956. Garvey was made Jamaica’s first National Hero in 1964.
Joint memorial of William Gordon and Paul Bogle
Both sons of slaves, these “defenders of the rights of the underprivileged” fought for civil rights on the island. Gordon, a deeply religious man set up Baptist organisations across the island and ordained a number of men into the Church- one of who was Paul Bogle.
On 11 October 1865, both men were involved in the Morant Bay Courthouse protests. Violence ensued, and 500 people were killed, and many more flogged and punished before order was restored. The protests helped to change the attitudes towards the people from the Crown Colony governments. Both men were executed for their part in the protests.
The ten upright pillars symbolise a pair of hands, which toiled during slavery and are to show the lines of bondage. There is a bust of each man on either side of the memorial. Both were made National heroes in 1969.
Donald Sangster memorial
To me one of the most striking monuments at the National Heroes Park is the monument to Donald Sangster, which stands out due to its colour and the, which naturally draws the eyes upwards. The memorial is dedicated to Donald Sangster, the second Prime Minster of Jamaica.
The shafts rising and expanding show Sangster’s rise from humble beginnings. Their abrupt termination is to suggest that his work was unfinished. Donald Sangster died just one month after taking office. The airport in Montego Bay is named after the late Prime Minster.
Michael Manley memorial
“Touchstone of Equality” is dedicated to former Prime Minster, Michael Manley. Son of Norman Manley (who was also a Prime Minster of Jamaica), started his political journey in 1952 with the People’s National Party (PNP). Following two stints as Prime Minster from 1972 to 1980, and from 1989 to 1992, Manley retired from political life. He was also a celebrated author, and write about the theme of equality throughout his works.
The memorial helps to voice Mr. Manley’s passion for equality and has two quotes from his works:
National Heroes Park is also home to the cenotaph which commemorates the fallen soldiers from WWI and WWII. On guard at the cenotaph are two members of the Jamaican Defence Force and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to see the changing of the guard which occurs on the hour.
Here are two facts for you reggae fans! In 1976, National Heroes Park was the venue for the Smile Jamaica Concert. Bob Marley and The Wailers performed at the concert, just two days after Marley was injured in an assassination attempt. It is the final resting place for the “Crown Prince of Reggae”, Dennis Brown, who died in 1999.
National Heroes Park is something different, that I did not know about until I was in Kingston, driving past. It’s a great example of how Jamaica remembers integral politicians, leaders and civil rights activities who have gone before, and have created what Jamaica is today.
As mentioned above, there are a number of memorials such as Alexander Bustamante (Jamaica’s first Prime Minster), Nanny of the Maroons, Samuel Sharpe, and Norman Manley – just to mention a few. So when you’re next in Kingston, and want to see some culture and history some influential Jamaican, get on down to National Heroes Park, and choose your hero!