At 11:55 pm on August 5, 1962, darkness engulfed the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica. There was a quiet. And later a roar of the capacity filled stadium at 12:01 am August 6, 1962; Indicating the end of the flight of the Union Jack and a new beginning, a newly independent nation, new colors representing a new Jamaica the Green, Gold, and Black. I was two at the time, and this is the story I’ve heard throughout my life describing the momentous occasion of Jamaica’s Independence.
In the 58 years that have followed, Jamaica has shown our prowess with our track and field domination, holding the record for the highest per-capita medal rate of any nation with multiple medals. We have some of the fastest, record-breaking men and women in the world. Our sports prowess is rivaled only by how we’ve captivated the world with our music, culture, and food. Anywhere in the world we go, everyone knows Jamaica. We now boast the highest performing stock market in the world and are consistently rated as one of the top destinations for business in the Caribbean. We even have the top ten best ice cream in the world. The accolades keep piling up.
With nine separate persons holding the prime minister’s office since Independence, there is no doubt Jamaica has left its imprint on the world, including how we harness the Diaspora to contribute to nation-building. “Jamaica recognizes the navel string long.” Despite the inherent challenges of the growing Diaspora movement, many countries are eager to follow in our footsteps and mirror our progress.
As an active member of the Jamaica Diaspora, I can definitively say that Jamaicans abroad have made huge strides in supporting, empowering, building capacity, collaborating, creating access, building bridges, engaging and enabling the development of our beloved country. From individual efforts to alumni associations to regional organizations, faith-based groups, and now task forces; The Diaspora movement is buzzing with activity. It is and dynamic and evolving.
Our 58th year of Independence, the year 2020, has been historic. The world is facing a global pandemic, the likes of which we’ve never seen. Entire Industries are closed for business; We are experiencing record job loss, and the challenges today and ahead are nothing short of extreme. Although we are all, in every country of the world facing this global crisis, the Diaspora’s commitment to service again remains strong. With the rise of zoomification, we found new ways to stay connected and create closer ties between Jamaicans at home and abroad. Like most things in life, with every dark cloud, there is a silver lining. Jamaicans truly embody this year’s Independence theme resilient and strong.
For example, instead of traveling for the professional development of approximately 150 teachers, Diaspora Educators were able to deliver training on zoom to over 1000 teachers, principals, and middle managers through the Jamaica Diaspora Education Task force. We’ve also been able to participate virtually in Emancipendence events across the globe, including Jamaica.
The Diaspora voted for the first time this year in the Festival song competition! “Nuff excitement” as everyone campaigned for their favorite song.
As we move forward in 2020 and prepare for 2021, it is not fully understood, what the post-COVID-19 world and economy will be. The traditional bedrocks of Jamaica’s economy: Tourism, Hospitality, and Travel are at risk. What opportunities do we have to create new cornerstones in this increasingly virtual marketplace? The Diaspora is a full-fledged option for economic recovery for Jamaica; How can Jamaica and the Diaspora partner to accelerate this transition to minimize the economic disruption.
Let’s continue to be resilient; Let’s continue to be strong; Let’s work together to build a better Jamaica so that our: “Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship, and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.”
Leo Gilling is the Chairman, Jamaica Diaspora Taskforce Action Network (JDTAN)