Jamaican politician makes international news for slavery scene backlash

A video depicting a Jamaican public official in a skit that symbolizes slavery has stirred significant controversy, igniting tensions and drawing sharp criticism.

Golding’s controversial act

The video, shared by a local radio station, featured People’s National Party President Mark Golding releasing a hefty chain from around the neck of a Black man during an event. 

The opposition leader was greeted with applause from onlookers and the moment was quickly followed by a dance session. 

“I have a feeling that Mark Golding has the key to get his out of bondage,” the MC says to the crowd.

Reports are that the man chained in the video metaphorically referred to the chain as the repressive hold that Prime Minister Andrew Holness has over the nation.

Politicians condemned for act

Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange, expressed deep dismay over the act.

She believes the act recounts the painful history of the ancestors who faced unimaginable torment at the hands of white colonial oppressors.

“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,” Grange said in a statement on Tuesday.

“All of us have been the beneficiaries of Emancipation given to us by the ancestors.”

Jamaica’s haunting past resonates with memories of around 600,000 Africans who were brought to its shores under dehumanizing conditions during the slave trade era. 

Abolished in 1807, it was a combined result of relentless efforts from anti-slavery advocates within and beyond the Caribbean, the Maroons, and the enslaved population, as per the National Library of Jamaica.

Grange did not mince words when she opined that Golding’s act was unacceptable, urging him to tender an apology for the mockery of the ancestors’ sacrifice. 

Young Jamaica, the youth arm of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), also condemned the viral video of Golding.

“Young Jamaica, the youth arm of the Jamaica Labour Party is deeply concerned and disturbed by the recent actions of People’s National Party (PNP) President Mark Golding and General Secretary Dr Dayton Campbell during a political platform event. The duo’s portrayal of slave chains and related imagery have ignited outrage among Jamaicans and has drawn sharp criticism from the Young Jamaica membership,” a section of its release said.

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Public’s mixed response

While some online users claimed Grange was merely “playing politics” due to her affiliation with the Jamaica Labour Party led by Holness, others echoed her sentiments. 

Several took to social media, questioning the appropriateness of such a representation in a predominantly Black nation.

The man portrayed in chains, Claude Sinclair, spoke to the Jamaica Gleaner to share his perspective. 

Sinclair, steadfast in his stand, expressed that the intention was to showcase the metaphorical chains weighing down ordinary Jamaicans due to issues like crime, violence, and poverty. 

He was firm in his belief that Mark Golding, drawing parallels with the late politician Michael Manley, could potentially be the solution to alleviate these burdens.

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