It was a day of green, black and yellow at Hamilton's city hall Sunday as the local Jamaican community raised a flag to celebrate 50 years of independence.
In 1962, Jamaica gained independence from Britain, and it was a “euphoric” moment in the island nation, said Bill Delisser, Jamaican native and head of the local Jamaica 50 committee.
Now Hamilton's Jamaican-Canadians will spend this year celebrating, starting with the ceremony Sunday.
Delisser was a 16-year-old living near Montego Bay when Jamaica gained independence. In that moment, “the world was our oyster,” he said. “For us young people, it was a new day.”
There was music and dancing everywhere. The country held its first independence day celebration at its national stadium, which Winston Morrison, a Hamiltonian since 1969, attended.
“It was a feeling of euphoria,” said Morrison, a retired high school teacher. “It was a case of the country gaining what it regarded as its freedom.”
While the quality of life didn't change much, there was “a distinct change” in the pride and attitude of the country, he said.
About 5,000 Jamaicans live in the greater Hamilton area, Delisser said. Their impact is deep.Azariah Brooks, 6, listens during a flag-raising ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's independence. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)
Lincoln Alexander's mother was Jamaican. Other noteworthy Jamaican natives include Mervin Witter, former head of the Canadian Human Rights Commission in Ontario, and billionaire philanthropist Michael Lee-Chin.
“We are working in the nursing field, the homecare field,” Delisser said. “We are welders and steelworkers and plumbers who have made Hamilton our home.”
The Jamaica Foundation of Hamilton is a 30-member organization that gives thousands of dollars a year to two children's homes in Jamaica, said president Chris Garwood.
It also gives bursaries for Jamaican university students studying locally and helps local Jamaican seasonal workers.
“Without Jamaicans, the city would not be as spicy as it is,” Garwood said. “Wherever we go, we stand out. We are the life of the party.”