Jamaica Diaspora

CaribZone Commentary: Aubrey Campbell –Monday, September 19th

Good day and good morning, folks! Our God is a great God and His wonders are unceasing! The day of reckoning is close at hand and your invite is in hand. Of course, I can’t and I shan’t lose sight of this week’s important face to face with The Most Honorable, Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica.

I hope I got it right because if I get anything else wrong, which I always do, I am not wrong about Jamaicans and their affinity for titles. Those who can’t read and/or write for them, meaning, those who can’t earn it from an accredited school, will buy it at a ‘super center’, not unlike the ones operated by the Waltons.

Do you realize that these days, every Reverend is a doctor? And ask them doctor of what, they don’t know. How is this for an answer? Doctor of community service and even that, too, is questionable!

Speaking of which, the more things change, the more they remain the same. The annual conference of the People’s National Party is in the history books with the results of the election coming as no surprise to many.

The former, Most Honorable Prime Minister, remains where she belongs! One person with some knowledge of the proceedings told me that the consensus is to have her work with her own timetable. Compare and contrast that with the ‘bashment’ from PJ that if the party does not reinvent itself (in a hurry, my emphasis), it will be cast upon the heap of political party irrelevance.

I will just say here, that men have balls. And I don’t need a qualifier, like, real men, etc!

Folks, it’s not wise to dismiss the past but it is what it is! Let’s deal with the present because tomorrow is not promised.

Allow me then the share with you a letter (unedited) from Patrick Beckford, former ABM-Jamaica Diaspora  USA/NE. Some food for thought, in light of this week’s very important town hall meeting with PM Andrew Holness in downtown Jamaica.

Dear Mr. Editor,

I read recently an article by my friend and brother Delano Franklyn titled “Jamaica and the Diaspora, working together as one”.

While I agree with his argument somewhat, I would like to share my perspective from the vantage point as a former Advisory Board Member (US North East 2008-2012) and a firm believer in the importance of the Diaspora in Jamaica’s development.

My tenure was very enlightening, educational and gave me opportunities to engage with Jamaicans separated by geography, income, abilities and social standings. Throughout there was a commonality and that is a sense of allegiance, patriotism and need to see changes in our beloved homeland.

During this time I find myself in the midst of assisting a family in Jamaica to come to the USA to tend to the untimely death of their mother in an emergency room caught on camera. Involuntarily taking on the   Public Relations for Jamaica as it was embroiled in the Dudus extradition saga, an ugly public discourse with an overly political Diaspora State Minister, protecting the integrity of the young movement.

One of my main mission was to become engage with our home government (US) and by way engage with other long established Diaspora Organizations. From my engagement with the US State Department and its initial Global Diaspora conference and the ones that follow, I was able to learn from a number of these groups, however I was more intrigued with the Irish, Korean and Chilean Diasporas and their approach to engagement of home country.

Many of us can remember the daily inter religious conflict in Northern Ireland between the Catholic & protestants, today there is almost zero conflict, how did this happen? A key part was the role of the Irish Diaspora, who created a program, where host families would welcome two (Protestant/Catholic) to stay with them for a period of time. In a very practical way the two visitors, once strangers at home are now roommates, coming to a quick realization that they are the same, so upon return and a development of friendship, it became harder to attack each other. Eventually the conflicts is no more. In the interim because of their connection with Silicon Valley Ireland is now a power house in technology, where these mortal enemies are now working together to build their country’s economy.

The Koreans who were employed at Silicon Valley realized then how technology would change the world and so with an open-minded government helped developed Korea’s prowess in technology.

After the military coup de tat in Chile and the return to democracy that Diaspora realized that with a heavily illiterate citizenry their country could not advance, so it focused on literacy, today Chile is one of the countries with the highest per capita literacy.

Attending all the Diaspora Conferences and quite frankly seeing that with our high level of interest for our country’s advancement, I submit that we need to look seriously at how we are engaged.

Personally I think as a member of the Diaspora, we have to look at ourselves and how we operate. It is ironic that when I introduced myself at a round table meeting with an Assistant Secretary of State as from the Jamaica Diaspora, her reaction was “Wow! Nice to see the Jamaicans, we thought you were only interested in party”, my group was told that it is so difficult to engage us, because of the overwhelming amount of Jamaican identified groups.

We in the Diaspora need to drop our collective EGO, we all can’t be leaders; we have to learn to quickly stop trampling over each other for self-recognition and plain show off. Just this past Saturday May 30 on a radio program about the upcoming conference, Professor Neville Ying in trying to emphasize the level of interest articulated how “we have to deny so many from the Diaspora who want to present”, a sure sign of how so many are so egotistic and want to just use the platform to launch either themselves or entity for personal gain. We see it in some of the Diaspora representatives who uses the role for professional enrichment. If we do not unite in the interest of Jamaica I predict our efforts, watered down as it is presently will be totally useless and unsubstantiated. Remember service before self.

Any given weekend especially in the tristate the various organizations are engaged in an average of five dinner dances, supposedly raising funds for schools, community, only realizing “paltry returns” while at least 75% goes to unconnected catering houses.

Noticed Delano’s article fed into our ego, as he delved into the” Western Union Remittance” I respectfully submit as I did years ago that we in the Diaspora are acting like we have all the answers and our obligated remittance makes us the “Philanthropic gods”.

With the upcoming conference, it makes me shake my head as I look at the agenda, amounting to another “talk fest” with both egotistic members from home and the Diaspora competing to show their “smarts” as they lead or participate in the many varied panels. I respectfully believed that what should be happening is the lessons learned from the Irish, Korean, Chileans and other successful Diasporas, who focused on the most important aspects of what is needed for their respective countries at the time.

For Jamaica this conference should be focused on Social and economic development, as one cannot operate without the other. A realistic working group, objectives, deliverables with time line should be the end result after much discussions with both local (private and public sector) and Diaspora. One key area that must be recognized is how as a country we shift from a Western Union Remittance to a “Human Capital Remittance”? It must be taken from the fact that all trend points to within the next decade or so a substantial decrease in remittance as we now know it.

At the last conference at a session I quoted Matthew 13 vs 55, stating that Jamaica does treat it’s Diaspora like the Galileans treated Jesus upon His return home “The carpenter’s son syndrome”. State Minister was very annoyed at my utterances, but over the past two years have proved me correct.

The Government must be willing to have real Diaspora engagement and capitalize on the plethora of expertise that it has untapped in the Diaspora, in the interim the backpacks, medical mission, books etc. will all still come, eventually these ‘fish giving” will submit to fishing line/bait distribution.

We in the Diaspora must first unite in all our efforts, a good discussion on a “Diaspora Fund establishment, vs decreasing of the useless dinner dances is needed.

We boast about a market place, but ask the average attendee, if honestly they can invest in any of the projects on showcase? Why the various small business entrepreneurs were not invited in an attempt to match potential small investor for many local projects. Why were not the local municipalities invited to do the same, as I am sure many of the councils have lots of projects that requires micro financing?

If we are serious about Vision 2030, we must move from a remittance based to a sustainable society for the Jamaican families, where the now money coming in for family could be investment based. This will now create jobs especially by way of micro business loans using the successful efforts from India, Uganda and Morocco funded by AT & T as benchmark, with Diaspora Funding. (Note Creation of a Diaspora Fund).

If the Government is serious about Diaspora engagement I think a major announcement should be the initial start of “human capital remittance” with a soon appointment of members from the Diaspora with the requisite expertise to all boards.

If we do not change course, then the perception of “Talk Fest and Social Get together” as the output of the conference will be a real confirmation.

Folks, that’s today’s conversation. You have the last word. Share your thoughts.


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