Culture Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange on Tuesday reprimanded Opposition Leader Mark Golding for his involvement in a slavery skit mounted at the People’s National Party (PNP) St Andrew Southern constituency conference on Sunday, describing it as disrespectful of the country’s ancestors and an affront to the entire nation.
“Mr Golding’s reprehensible conduct has angered Jamaicans from all walks of life as his performance mirrored a very painful period when our ancestors were chained and pulled by chains about their necks, sometimes before cheering crowds at auctions where they were sold or as a mere act to fulfil the perverse pleasure of the oppressor,” Grange said in a statement.
Golding and the PNP have been attracting flak for the skit which saw a male PNP supporter holding a padlocked chain around his neck and telling the party’s General Secretary Dr Dayton Campbell that he was being held in bondage by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.
Campbell, prancing back and forth on the stage, is heard announcing that Golding has the key to release the man out of bondage, eliciting cheers from the crowd. Golding then appears on stage with a key, unlocks the padlock after which he and the chained man unwrap the chain and hold it aloft.
Joining critics who have accused Golding and the PNP of making light of the country’s painful experience of slavery, Minister Grange asked, “Would the ancestors be pleased with Mark Golding’s behaviour? Would they cheer him? Or would they reject him and condemn his behaviour?”
“I was horror-struck when I saw Mark Golding pull the man by the large chain around his neck while laughing and having a jolly good time,” she said.
“My heart sank as I remembered the ancestors who were similarly treated as they endured hundreds of years of unspeakable oppression and brutality perpetrated by white colonial enslavers in a long war for our freedom today. All of us have been the beneficiaries of Emancipation given to us by the ancestors. We mustn’t take it lightly that today we live the life our African ancestors could only dream of,” Grange said.
“How could the holder of such a high constitutional office as leader of the Opposition so disrespect our ancestors who gave their lives so that we could be here today?” she asked.
“The slavery scene in which the Opposition leader positioned himself as the main character and chief arbiter on the issue of whether a black man is freed is deeply offensive and is an affront to the entire nation,” added Grange, who also has oversight of the National Council on Reparations.
She said that at a time when Jamaicans are “demanding that enslavers set things right for the hundreds of years of chattel slavery of our African ancestors, we cannot accept this behaviour from the leader of the Opposition”.
She accused Golding of making “a mockery of the sacrifice of our foreparents” and said he should, at minimum, “apologise and commit never to disrespect our people again”.