Emancipation Park is one of Jamaica’s heritage sites located in Kingston, Jamaica. It is located between three major hotels – Pegasus Jamaica, Courtyard Marriott and Liguanea Club. In fact, the 5 acres of land was donated to the Government of Jamaica by the Liguanea Club for them to create a park. It was done out of the need to create something unique for Jamaicans and visitors to pass time. As such, it is said to be the only park of such nature in Jamaica and the Caribbean. Though it might seem like just another park where people hang out, it is significant to Jamaica’s history. In fact, most of Jamaica’s most popular parks or hang out spots have some sort of significance – Devon House and Hope Gardens, for example.
Emancipation Park’s History
On July 31, 2003 Emancipation Park was born. It is said to have taken only three months to be constructed, to have it ready for Emancipation Day, which is August 1st. The initial intention was just for it to be a park, but the government decided to name it Emancipation Park, and to represent this, a majestic 11 ft bronze sculpture of a man and a woman was erected. It was given the title “Redemption Song”, the same title of one of Bob Marley’s hits. This caused some controversy due to them being naked. Some see it as art, while some think it’s inappropriate and doesn’t accurately represent Jamaica’s culture. However, no one really talks about them anymore. Today, tourists and Jamaicans instead take photos there. The justification is that it’s a part of our history, as it represents two slaves who have gotten up, were awaken and now experience freedom. You can tell us what you think of the sculptures in the comments.
In addition to the Redemption Song sculpture, there are two other monuments erected inside. One of these give information about Nanny of the Maroons, Jamaica’s only heroin who played an integral role in leading Jamaica to emancipation.
Emancipation Park Today
Emancipation Park was a major part of our childhood. When the park was created, it was a huge buzz. Now thinking about the actual establishment date, I realized the time I first visited during my childhood was the year it was opened. Back then, it looked very big, and the structures were fairly new, but now, we don’t enjoy it as much anymore. Nonetheless, according to the managerial staff, the park sees on average, 1500 visitors daily, with more on the weekends and holidays.
Opening and closing times:
5 am – 11 pm (Mondays to Thursdays)
5 am to midnight (Fridays to Sundays)
Things You can do at Emancipation Park
There are many things that you can do at Emancipation Park! Here are a few:
Enjoy green spaces
Nature lovers and those who love to take solitary walks can spend time there, do work, introspect, bird watch, and enjoy the view. Persons have been observed sitting for the entire day! It’s referred to as an oasis in the dessert, meaning it’s a chill place to relax in the middle of the busy city. I live within a mile’s radius, so sometimes, I take a walk to the park to study or work.
Picnic and Dates
Family and friends can enjoy time together on the lawns, or even on the benches. The space is clean and well kept. You can make it a picnic or a date night. I’ve actually gone on a date there before.
Take Wedding and Aesthetic Photos
Emancipation Park has become a popular location to take wedding photos. The good news is that, as opposed to other aesthetic locations where you’ll have to pay to take photos, such as Hope Gardens, you don’t have to worry about that because it’s a free space, however permission would have to be granted by the management.
There is a 500 m track encircling the park. It is commonly used for jogging, or walking laps for fitness purposes.
Group Aerobics and Yoga
I’ve witnessed on several occasions free aerobic sessions being held there. We however do not have any details on the groups that meet there, but you could host your own sessions.
Play Ping Pong
There is a table in the middle of the park where you can play ping pong or table tennis.
Event organizers may use the park as a venue. Over the years, many events have been held there, especially during holiday seasons. The park was also the venue for a Kanye West’s Sunday Service that was held in 2019. There is a stage in the middle of the park which makes this conducive, and the space is big enough to host crowds at large scale events like that. A part from these, major corporate entities host yearly events there, such as the Sagicor Sigma Walk/Run, with Emancipation Park as the final destination or central point. If you’d like to book it for stage events, you may contact the management staff.
For all of these, there is no need to worry about food because there’s always vendors near the gate selling snacks and ice-cream. On a major event night, you can even buy jerk chicken and more wholesome Jamaican meals.
Cultural Events Held at Emancipation Park
Here is a list of some cultural events held and around what time of the year you can expect them:
- Redemption Fest and Concert (August 1)
- Story time (Jamaican style storytelling for kids)
- Karaoke Fridays and Sundays
- Reggae Films in the Park (Black History Month)
- Black History Month concert (February)
- Sagicor Sigma 5k Run (February)
- Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce 5k
There are other events that were typically held, however since COVID-19, many have been discontinued. Since it’s a heritage park, you can always expect cultural activities, especially around Black History Month, and Emancipation Day.
Is Emancipation Park safe?
When you read anything about Jamaica, it might be second nature to wonder whether or not it is safe. There aren’t many news about criminal or violent activities in/around Emancipation Park, apart from a robbery which made the news years ago. Additionally, I’ve never had any threatening experiences, a part from people who are overfriendly, randomly trying to start a conversation, or men hitting on women. This happens almost everywhere in Jamaica. Since it’s a park and people aren’t normally “on the go”, this frequently happens, so it’s recommended that you travel with someone or a group, especially if you’re a woman. There are security officers deployed on site who do regular patrols, or may prevent potentially harmful individuals from entering, such as those with extreme mental illnesses. Just like anywhere else in Jamaica and the world, it’s crucial to take safety precautions, e.g. if you’re at a crowded event there, be mindful of robbers and pick-pockets. Apart from those general concerns and tips, the park is safe, even for children. This doesn’t mean they should be left unsupervised. Read our safety and travel tips for visitors to learn how you can stay safe while in Jamaica.
If you decide to visit Emancipation Park, let us know in the comments. Also, don’t hesitate to follow us on Instagram.