Rastafari Coral Gardens Elders Home established in St. James, Jamaica

The terrible events of “Bad Friday” in 1963 in Coral Gardens, Montego Bay, have not been forgotten. Back in April 2017, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness made a formal apology in Parliament, on the anniversary of the persecution, torture and killing of Rastafarians in Coral Gardens. At the opening, Member of Parliament Dr. Horace Chang spoke out against discrimination. Secretary of the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Society Pamela Williams called on the Government to determine policies on religious discrimination, especially against Rastafari, at schools and in the workplace.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness met with representatives of the Rastafari community in April, 2017. (Photo: Office of the Prime Minister)

Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry had submitted a report on the atrocities in 2015. Cultural Liaison Barbara Blake Hannah notes: “The Public Defender only found 37 survivors out of the ‘hundreds’ allegedly massacred.” “Bad Friday” was the culmination of a series of events, she adds, that were “all part of the Rastafari battle to try and turn Jamaica towards Africa, not Europe.” She recommends this book for background information.

Here is the press release from the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport:

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport “Babsy” Grange. (My photo)

Minister of Culture Pleased with Rastafari Coral Gardens Elders Home

Kingston, April 2: The Honourable Olivia Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport, has said that she is please that the Rastafari Coral Gardens Elders Home established at Norwood in St. James with funds provided by her Ministry is now operational.

Minister Grange spoke at the official opening on April 1, 2021, of the Rastafari Coral Gardens Elders Home, which is a facility set up to care for the medical and social needs of the survivors of the 1963 Coral Gardens Massacre. It is managed by the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Society.

“It is pleasing and quite an accomplishment to have the Home now up and running and I must say job well done to the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Society, which spent the funds prudently to make the Home fully functional.

“I know that it is much appreciated by the Elders resident here, the Rastafari community and by their Member of Parliament, Dr. Horace Chang, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security,” the Culture Minister said.

She also spoke of what had been done since the apology in Parliament in April 2017 by the Most Honourable Andrew Holness, Prime Minister, to the Rastafari community, when he announced the setting up of a Trust Fund to be administered by the Administrator General as compensation to the survivors.

Minister Grange said the Fund was now far in excess of the initial amount of J$13 million, which was placed in it in 2018. Survivors have been receiving regular disbursements since then.

She gave credit to those who assisted in establishing the home, such as Dr. Chang; Food for the Poor through Mr. Craig Moss Solomon; Cultural Liaison Barbara Blake Hannah, the Team from the Ministry, and private donors.

Dr. Chang, who cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony, spoke of the respect he and the Government had for the contributions of the Rastafari citizens, and his own pledge to continue the work with the Benevolent Society to ensure that commitments for further development will be implemented.

These, he said, included the promise of a permanent structure to house the Elders, an office for the Rastafari Coral Gardens Benevolent Society, and fifty acres of land to develop a community and farm.

Other speakers included Sister Pamela Williams, Secretary of the Benevolent Society, attorney and broadcaster Michael Lorne, ganja activist Ras Iyah V, and Sister Kathy Howell.

The opening ceremony, which was in the form of a mixture of face-to-face and virtual setting, ended with the beating of drums and the singing of Rastafari chants.

Elders make themselves at home in the new facility. (Photo: Barbara Blake Hannah/Twitter)

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