The following Clovis cartoon, published in the Daily Observer on Tuesday, August 7, 2012, prompted today’s post.
The message is quite clear: during this period of even greater national pride than ever before – our Jamaica 50 and the superior performances of our athletes at the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games – a window is now open for us to educate ourselves about our national symbols.
It’s all well and good that we feel euphoric during events like the Grand Gala held on Monday, August 6 (which, by the way, was fantastic!), and the goose-bump forming moments at the Olympics that was the women’s 100m finals that saw Jamaica getting the gold and bronze medals, and the men’s 200m finals that saw Jamaica sweeping all the medals! – but we need to find a way to translate that euphoria into positive actions for the country’s overall benefit. How you ask? By teaching the reasons for that euphoria again and again and again, until it becomes a part of our DNA. After all, as Marcus Garvey, Jamaica’s first National Hero, rightly stated:
A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.
So what exactly do the colours of the Jamaican flag stand for?
Let’s start with a bit of history about the origin of our National Flag.
Considering a National Flag and its Meaning for Independent Jamaica (September 30, 1961 – June 20, 1962)
On September 30, 1961, the “Government decided to hold competitions for a National Anthem and a National Flag for an independent Jamaica. It was decided that an award of £100 would be paid for the best entry for the words of the Anthem and a similar compensation for the music. A further £100 would also be paid for the accepted design for a National Flag” (Ministry Paper No. 20 – National Emblems, pg. 1).
A total of 368 entries were received for the National Flag competition and “a special Committee of private individuals was named to recommend for further consideration by Government a short list of 12 designs from which the winning entry would then be chosen by a Joint Bipartisan Committee of both Houses of Parliament” (Ministry Paper No. 23 – National Flag, pg. 1).
However, this special panel of judges was unable to reach an agreement on a mutually acceptable design. The Premier, the Rt. Hon. Alexander Bustamante, therefore made the decision to chair a Bipartisan committee “to examine the short list of designs considered by the panel as worthy of more detailed examination by Government, with a view to arriving at a design suitable to become the nation’s flag” (Ministry Paper No. 23 – National Flag, pg. 1).
None of the designs were deemed suitable and, on May 22, 1962, the Committee came up with a design, agreeing that the National Flag should embody the following details (Ministry Paper No. 28 – National Flag):
I. As to design, the Flag should consist basically of horizontal stripes;
II. As to colours, these should be Black, Gold and Green arranged as follows: a centre black band with gold stripes above and below and with outer stripes of green at the top and bottom.
III. The flag should follow the “Admiralty Pattern” and be in the proportion of 2 x 1, and
IV. The symbolism should be:
BLACK – hardships overcome and to be faced.
GOLD – natural wealth and beauty of sunlight.
GREEN – hope and agricultural resources.
It can also be rendered –
“Hardships there are but the land is green and the sun shineth.”
But there was a problem: the chosen design closely resembled an already existing flag, that of Tanganyika (now part of Tanzania), which had gained its independence months before Jamaica.
It was back to the drawing board.
Finally, on Wednesday night, June 20, 1962, after much deliberation, the Committee finally arrived at a decision about Jamaica’s new National Flag. Ministry Paper No. 28 (pg. 1) described the design of the new flag as follows:
(a) the proposed parallel bands be substituted for a diagonal cross or saltire with four triangles in juxtaposition;
(b) the diagonal cross should be in GOLD and should be one-sixth of the length of the fly of the flag;
(c) the top and bottom triangles should be in GREEN; and
(d) the hoist and fly triangles should be in BLACK.
The symbolism remained the same: “Hardships there are, but the land is green and the sun shineth.”
The Daily Gleaner made the announcement on its front page on Friday, June 22, 1962, as follows:
This new flag was raised for the first time on Monday, August 6, 1962, signalling the birth of Jamaica as an independent nation.
Re-Igniting Nationalism through a Revision of the Meaning of Jamaica’s Flag (1996)
In an effort to take stock of the country’s use and appreciation of its national symbols, a committee was appointed in February 1996 by then Prime Minister, the Hon. P.J. Patterson, to re-examine Jamaica’s national symbols and observances. Chaired by the Hon. Ralston Milton “Rex” Nettleford (February 3, 1933 – February 2, 2010), the Committee to Examine National Symbols and National Observances held meetings and public hearings across the country, invited written submissions, conducted interviews and held special discussions to come up with several recommendations concerning the country’s national symbols and observances.
One such recommendation concerned the symbolism associated with the flag. It was deemed necessary “that a new interpretation should be provided” to avoid “the association of black with hardship or any symbolism that may be regarded as negative” (JIS). It was therefore decided that the colours of the flag will mean:
- BLACK – the strength and creativity of the people
- GOLD – natural beauty of the sunlight and the wealth of the country
- GREEN – hope and agricultural resources
This is therefore the symbolism of Jamaica’s National Flag:
The sun shineth; the land is green; and the people are strong and creative.
What are the Exact Shades of the Colours of the Flag?
With all of this nationalistic fervour in Jamaicans during this time, every Jamaican man, woman, child and car MUST have a Jamaican flag. But many are sporting flags that are not the correct shade of gold. Have you seen those washed out yellow and lime-green flags around the place? Mi cyaan stand dem!
The Jamaica Information Service (JIS) provided me with the following as the true colours of Jamaica’s National Flag for printing purposes:
- BLACK – 100%
- GOLD– Golden Yellow or Pantone 109U (16 parts pantone yellow [98.5]; 1/4 part pantone warm red [1.5]). The CMYK designation is:
- C = 6
- M = 24
- Y = 87
- K = 0
- GREEN – Emerald T8 17 or Pantone 348C (10 parts pantone process blue [60.6]; 6 parts pantone yellow [36.4]; 1/2 part pantone black [3.0])
So there you have it folks. Now you not only know what is the current meaning of the colours in Jamaica’s National Flag but you also know the history behind the flag we hold so dear to our hearts. Respect it, believe in it and let us all work towards maintaining it’s symbolism for the future of Jamaica, land we love.
Until next time…
Daily Observer, Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Ministry Paper No. 20 – National Emblems
Ministry Paper No. 23 – National Flag
Ministry Paper No. 28 – National Flag
The Daily Gleaner, Tuesday, October 3, 1961
The Daily Gleaner, Saturday, March 10, 1962
The Daily Gleaner,Thursday, June 7, 1962
The Daily Gleaner, Friday, June 22, 1962
The Gleaner, Wednesday, May 15, 1996