Since the Rio Olympics one of the ongoing debates in Jamaica is how should Usain Bolt be honoured for his continued success and global impact.
For me Bolt should be made a Jamaican National Hero. Once he retires.
Today the top 4 Jamaican national awards in order are
- Order of National Hero – for distinguished service
- Order of the Nation – for Jamaican Prime Ministers and Governor Generals
- Order of Excellence – for foreign heads of state or government
- Order of Merit – any citizen of Jamaica who has achieved eminent international distinction in the fields of science, the arts, literature or any other endeavou
Bolt has done more in his 30 years that surpasses the level of Order of Merit and that of any Prime Minister/Governor General who automatically receive the Order of the Nation.
The only black men who have attained the Order of the National Hero status were men who were admonished by a colonial Jamaican establishment during their lifetime. I speak of Samuel Sharpe & Paul Bogle (both hanged) & Marcus Garvey who left Jamaica in 1935 disappointed at his treatment.
Public opinion says Bolt is simply too young to become an official National Hero. I disagree. Bolt has been a global phenomenon for 8 years now. In an ever changing world that alone is some achievement.
I would be happy to even see a town or even parish named in his honour. Bolt is from the parish of Trelawny which was named after a former governor of Jamaica. [Most towns and parishes are named after the British establishment folks & towns from the colonial days.]
I would also be happy to see the other distinguished Jamaicans such as Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Dennis Brown, Leonie Forbes, Trevor Rhone etc appearing on currency notes, stamps, highways, towns etc.
For years the National Hero status has been a head scratcher of mine.
- How is it that Jamaica’s highest award – that reflects its history from 17th century onwards – has just one woman on the list – Nanny?
- Why is it that the 2 post independent (1962) National Heroes – Norman Manley & Alexander Bustamante – are solely political figures?
One of the dangers in restricting the current number of national heroes to 7, since 1982, is that when National Heroes Day comes around annually the media and schools tends to focus on just those 7. When we know that there will be other Jamaicans worthy of inclusion and discussion during that special week in October.
Fortunately in post independent Jamaica, the island has not been that involved in wars and therefore their distinguished achievers (heroes) are likely to come from the field of drama, art, sports, literature, music, business, medicine, engineering and not just politics.
Usain Bolt is indeed a Jamaican National Hero. So too Bob Marley, Louise Bennett- Coverley, Mary Seacole, Joel Augustus Rogers, Una Marson, Claude McKay, Rose Leon and others. All worthy of being in the conversation.
The Jamaican government should at least ask Bolt if he would be willing to accept such an important award and take on the expectations and responsibilities the honour carries.
There is no force like success, and that is why the individual makes all effort to surround himself throughout life with the evidence of it; as of the individual, so should it be of the nation. – Marcus Garvey