Undoubtedly, it can be argued successfully that Montego Bay’s most outstanding landmark is the historic Sam Sharpe Square, formerly known as ‘Parade’. That area features the Old Courthouse building which houses the Montego Bay Cultural Centre inclusive of an art gallery and museum as well the Cage, the Sam Sharpe monument and the Fountain. Together these icons do not just provide a history lesson but are attractions that may be explored and enjoyed by both locals and visitors.
Local historian, political analyst and Western Mirror columnist Shalman Scott in his latest article on Friday, August 25, 2017, stated that during his tenure as Mayor of Montego Bay, when the Sam Sharpe monument was to be erected strict instructions were given that it should be placed next to the Cage building “but with its foundation elevated above that of the Cage locking both monuments in a timeless drama of the symbol of Liberation
The Cage must therefore be treated as monument, hopefully protected by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines monument as: a statue, building, or other structure erected to commemorate a notable person or event; a structure or site of historical importance or interest; an enduring and memorable example or reminder. What this should mean is that the Cage should not be cheapened into becoming a mere commercial entity. This would be disrespecting the city’s heritage and should be seen as an act desecration.
We are therefore urging the St. James Municipal Corporation under whose aegis it falls to resist any offers from the business community which could see that historic building becoming a “shop”. The Cage should be used to complement the Cultural Centre by being used as an information centre with access to Jamaican souvenirs and artifacts which can be bought. It is also full time that a prominent story board be placed in the Square which tells the story of that historic location. After the death of the previous operator, many concerned and well-thinking citizens had hoped that the relevant authorities would ensure that the Cage be treated as a monument and not just another one stop shop.
We have seen where there have been repeated attempts to rid the Square of the Fountain and if some unthinking persons were to have their way the entire area would be commercialized and all of its historic value destroyed. This newspaper is calling on citizens to help resist any such moves now or in the future. Do not let National Hero Sam Sharpe have to turn in his grave!