Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The independent Jamaican Diaspora

By Hugh Douse

THE word Diaspora gained prominence from its usage with regard to the scattered Jews. The term relates to the people who identify with the nation of their forebears, and still attach themselves through culture in a way that affects their world view, and subsequently, their identity.

The Jewish Diaspora was impactful enough to represent an offence to Hitler, his Nazis, and countless others who begrudged their wealth, talent and success. The events of the Holocaust is the by which all genocide is referenced. This nation has more influence and impact on the world than its size would suggest.

And so does Jamaica.

The truth of Jamaica is that our greatness, our influence and, indeed, our destiny is to, as our pledge states, play our part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race. We will have practised our greatness to phenomenal levels in many areas: the Arts, sports, academia, religion, entrepreneurship, and all the professions in-between.

Now that we are 51 we must confirm, build on and protect this legacy. We must plan not only for the next three or four years as we are wont to do. We must build for the next 15, 50 and 100 years. I am sure that the practice of working hard for a promised land that may never be entered by the present nation is a mindset embraced by the Jews and other civilisations whose legacies seem to have been secured.

So, alongside the necessary rituals which mark Emancipation and Independence, we must reframe our thinking of ourselves as a nation to include more of whom we call, Professor Nettleford style, the Jamaican Diaspora. With about 3 million Jamaicans within the Diasporas of the USA, The UK, Canada (including Maroon descendants at Nova Scotia), Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba, Colombia, and all the continents and nations of the earth, it is time that the virtual, borderless nation of Jamaica begins to think of itself in larger terms.

There is nothing worse than a great person or nation “smalling up itself” to be accepted by those who he nor she sees as peers, or worse, as superiors. It is neither profitable nor sensible to be less than you are to meet the low expectations of those whose opinions we esteem over our own. I think we have done too much of that over the last 50 years.

This is why I am excited that the Earl Jarrett-led Jamaica National Building Society — through an initiative led by Paulette Simpson, senior manager, corporate affairs and public policy in the UK, and Dr O'Neal Mundle, lecturer at the UWI School of Education — have put on for the third year a Caribbean Cultural Awareness Camp for the children of the Jamaica Diaspora in the UK. The project engages a team of eight Jamaican facilitators, who, through the performing arts, administer an arts-based curriculum with the aim of leading the children, ages eight to 18, into a deeper sense of identity through the engagement of their heritage. Her Excellency Aloun N'dombet Assamba, Jamaican high commissioner to the UK and Jamaica Diaspora UK, led by Celia Grandison Markey are supportive partners without whom this project could not survive.

The amazing thing is that, at the end of this two-week intensive, the campers mount a full-length production in which they teach what they were taught to large audiences in London, Reading, Wales, and Birmingham. Their parents and grandparents who were born in Britain are, through this production, taught their own heritage by their own children. In this 65th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush which carried the first migrants to the UK, they have found clues for this great diasporic civilisation of six million that Jamaica has become.

Six million. Hmmmm.

Growing pains mean that we may have to go the road alone. Interpret that however you wish, but none of the world’s powerfully successful nations are without a period in their narratives when they walked the road alone. We must decide where this independence is going.

One thing’s for sure. It is good to be here. But we cannot stay here.

So in this year of celebration of our 175th anniversary of full freedom, may we remember and honour our ancestors, not just through monuments of words, but rather through deeds great and far-reaching. Let us create a new trajectory.

Up you mighty race. Accomplish.


August 06, 2012

Jamaica Observer