MONTEGO BAY, August 23, 2022 - The historical value of Jamaica’s primary cricket grounds, the world-famous Sabina Park in Kingston, lies not necessarily in that fact that many of the world’s cricket greats have played on that field, but that a little-known slave woman, for whom the grounds are named, was buried there, having paid the ultimate price as part of her battle for freedom from slavery.
Any attempt at renaming this facility, must bear in mind the fact of its historical value in the fight against slavery, as well as the symbolism it bears as we rewrite our history, to highlight the role of the many rebel leaders and revolutionaries who fought against the devaluation of and dehumanization of enslaved Africans.
The cruel and inhumane condition of slavery, was so dreadful, that it drove many of those who were forced to live under its conditions, to take extreme measures in their fight against the system.
One of these slaves, who in her own way and style fought against European slavery which lasted some 332 years in Jamaica, was a woman called Sabina Park. Yes, Sabina Park !
Sabina Park, operating from Goat Island, attacked the edifice of the cruel system of slavery from the only angle she knew how.
The information on this is sparse, because of course, there was always an attempt to suppress information concerning slave revolts and “uprisings.”
Social historian Shalman Scott in his article on the “Roles of Sabina Park, Cubah and John Dunbar in the struggle against slavery,” observed that: “Blot out a people's history and you blot out their identity and source of information.
- “Blot out a people's history and you instill in them the feeling of impotence — the fear of confronting problems head-on and solving them.
- “Obliterate a people's history and you instill in them the crippling forces of self-doubt and insecurity.
- “Obliterate a people's history and you destroy all traces of the common, unifying cultural thread in their social and national fabric,” Scott said.
Sociologist and historian H. Orlando Patterson in his book on the Sociology of Slavery, recounts how Sabina Park murdered her four-month-old child, and in her deposition in the Half-Way-Tree court, admitted that she had killed her child, and proceeded to give her reason for doing so.
An enslaved woman, Sabina Park was owned by Joseph Gordon, father of National Hero George William Gordon.
She was one of 17 slaves on Goat Island, a property also owned by Joseph Gordon, who was a Scottish planter who had been given huge acreages of land in Jamaica after the restoration of the Monarchy in England, by King Charles II, grandson of King James of the Bible.
As a matter of fact, Gordon also owned 17 properties across the island.
According to the Crown witness, Sabina's complaint was that “she had worked hard enough for 'Backra Massa’ already and that she would not be plagued to raise the child…to work for white people.”
Sabina was cognizant of the fact that the fewer hands there were to work the plantation, the sooner the system of slavery would collapse. She took her cue from the many enslaved persons who had committed suicide, denying the slave-owner the benefit of an additional slave hands to work the plantation.
In fact, over time Sabina Park quietly took on folk hero proportions, as many enslaved women saw Sabina as being a brave woman for taking the stand of a mother bearing the excruciating pain of sacrificing her own child rather than having him end up in slavery.
Sabina Park was found guilty of murder by the court and hanged. She was buried on the Liguanea Plains at the very place that bore her name in perpetuity - Sabina Park Pen.
Her name survived because the ordinary folk saw her as a leader who used an unusual methodology to undermine the system of slavery.