Welcome to JNA’s bi-monthly Community Connection newsletter which brings news of interest to you, the Washington DC Metro Area’s Jamaican community.
Please help to spread the word by sharing these articles and resources.
Message from the Editorial Team
Welcome to the second edition of JNA’s re-launched, bi-monthly Newsletter. Each Section raises thought-provoking questions intended to engage your interest and spur you to action. Here is a sample of questions raised:
- President’s Corner – How can you help the local Jamaican community and Jamaica during this pandemic? Does your family know your medical wishes?
- JNA News – Our May 31st Planning Session will discuss how to increase JNA’s membership and support. Areas to be discussed include the branding of JNA: Should the word “nationals” be removed to make clear that membership includes all persons of Jamaican heritage, not just “nationals”, thereby modeling the Association after other diaspora associations such as Jamaican Association of Maryland (JAM)?
- Memories of Jamaica – Kite flying – a passion of children and adults alike – why is it a popular custom in Jamaica?
- Community Conversations – How can we preserve Jamaica’s cultural heritage through younger generations in the Diaspora?
- Diaspora News – Are you familiar with the two major organizations representing the entirety of the Jamaican diaspora?
- Community Resources – What are the Caribbean community advisory governmental organizations available to the local Jamaican Diaspora?
Dear Members & Supporters:
Please continue to be vigilant and mindful of your well-being. As a people, we’ve come through many adversities, and hardships and “WE SHALL OVERCOME.”
Every day we’re alerted to actions we must take in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this newsletter, we highlight four pieces of advice to allow us to plan ahead, stay healthy, stay spiritually strong, and to look out for others where we can. Specific actions we must take are:
- Have medical directives in place
- Focus on diet and exercise to improve our immune systems
- Use our cultural heritage as a source of spiritual strength, courage, comfort, and inspiration
- Where possible, help the Jamaican community locally and in Jamaica
What’s happening with JNA during this period of social distancing? We continue to focus on staying connected to you by delivering our programs digitally. Jump to the JNA News section of this newsletter for the latest. Some highlights:
- May 31, 2020 electronic review of JNA’s Five-Year Strategic Plan
- Leadership tips to students and the greater community
- Annual student scholarships updates
- Mentorship bank development for our scholarship awardees
- Cancer prevention advocacy and charitable assistance
- June’s National Caribbean American Heritage Month discussion on Jamaica’s strengths and weaknesses, and the role we in the diaspora can play
Lastly, we ask you to support local Jamaican businesses which are struggling from the sheltering in place impact of the pandemic. Our deep gratitude goes out to our first line responders, many of whom are of Jamaican heritage. Please also remember that COVID-19 is an emerging rapidly evolving situation. Always get the latest public health information from the CDC.
Jamaica, The Confounding Island: Its Strengths and Weaknesses – Can the Diaspora Make A Difference? Relative to its size, Jamaica plays an outsized role on
In 2018, JNA successfully undertook a well-attended Retreat & Visioning Exercise, moderated by Dr. Claire Nelson of the Institute of Caribbean Studies. That Exercise ultimately
Leadership is a learned skill. It’s performance art. To understand it, you have to experience it. To improve, you have to practice. We also know
Knowing that mentoring can be extremely helpful in professional development, JNA’s Student Outreach & Educational Support (SOES) is relaunching its Mentorship Program and Mentorship Bank.
Partnering with Jamaica’s Cancer Society & Participating in Local Cancer Prevention Awareness Efforts JNA continues to partner with the Jamaica Cancer Society, St. Ann and
Become a Member, Donor, or Volunteer to Support JNA's Mission & Programs
JNA’s mission is to unite persons of Jamaican heritage and friends of Jamaica in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area (WMA), and to support charitable and educational efforts within WMA and in Jamaica.
Our major focus continues to be our outreach and educational support to college students of Jamaican heritage, and the development of our community through programs on healthcare, self-improvement and activities which preserve and celebrate Jamaican heritage and culture.
You can help JNA to continue its programs via any/all of these options:
- Become a member of JNA.
- Email us to volunteer assistance with JNA’s programs and events.
- Donate* to JNA generally – no donation is too small.
- Become a sponsor* of JNA’s Scholarship Program which awards scholarships to college students of Jamaican heritage in the WMA.
- Volunteer (communication and outreach, including assisting with this newsletter, membership recruitment, and building a support network for the Scholarship & Leadership program)
*Remember, JNA is a 501©(3) charitable organization which means donations are tax deductible.
Kite flying is a “centuries-old part of Caribbean culture” and is enjoyed across the generations. It is beloved in Jamaica. After Easter every year, the island hosts the St. Ann Kite Festival, also known as the Jamaica International Kite Festival.
Why is kite flying a popular custom in Jamaica? Is there a particular time of the year when the breezes are perfect for kite flying? One writer sees the custom and timing as welcoming “calendar summer” to the Caribbean, when the winds are more suitable for kite flying. Another sees kite flying as natural to the Caribbean due to the ever-present trade winds that would propel English sailing vessels across the Atlantic as they traveled to trade in the Caribbean. These winds are strongest and most consistent in April, but simply put, the Caribbean has a lot of wind all year and many perfect places to fly kites.
Why do we love kite flying? Some enjoy the “wonder” that it brings, which has been likened to “touching the sky.” Kite flying takes us beyond the limits of our earth-bound selves as we discover silent, unseen breezes moving above us. For others, there is the pride in building a thing of beauty that captures flight and challenges a bird’s mastery of the skies. Undoubtedly, some enjoy the competition in visibly besting others through kite design and kite flying agility. And for others, there is the “pulling, swinging, swooping, pitching and bucking” skills involved in kite flying and kite fighting.
For many of us, just the mention of kite flying transports us back to our childhood.
“While attending my first public school at Mile Gully Government School in Manchester, Jamaica, I made kites and engaged in kite flying “fights” with my school friends. My classmate and I would each attach razor blades to the kite’s “tail”, which is the long strip of cloth attached to the kite to keep it steady in the air. We would launch our kites and once they were air-born high in the sky we would maneuver them from side-to-side to “cut down” our opponent’s kite. This was done by angling the attached razor blades to cut the long string attached to the kite held by a classmate. When that happened your opponent’s kite floats, then falls out of the sky and is lost, never to be recovered.”
– Franklyn Burke, Esq., JNA member for over thirty years.
My childhood kite flying memories involved building simple kites and watching them soar while lying on a grassy slope in a “perfect place” – a mountainside leading to a Black River tributary, which disappeared into a deep cave in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. It left a deep love of kites which I’ve never lost.
We’d like to feature your memories too. E-mail us at mail email@example.com
Wishing you fond memories and good health – and remember – your memories are your wealth.
Preserving Culture Through Younger Generations in the Diaspora
Jamaicans in the Diaspora often speak with pride of our “likkle but tallawah” culture – the strength, tenacity, grit, “can do” spirit and drive – which forms a brand Jamaican. We also lament that future generations in the Diaspora are likely to lose this part of their identity in the process of assimilating or fitting in.
JNA addresses this concern through the work of its Cultural Heritage & Social Activities Committee which provides “avenues for display or presentations of Jamaica’s cultural forms” – something that should be an important mission for all Jamaicans in the Diaspora, according to a Jamaican author, Joanne Simpson.
Here in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area, there is also Irie Camp Jamaica, an organization whose creation was motivated by concern that many children of Jamaican descent do not know about Jamaica’s rich cultural history. With our approach that “cultural heritage is the legacy of a people that is inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and passed on to subsequent generations,” we had a conversation with Bobbi Rossiter and Lorraine Aarons, co-founders of Irie Camp Jamaica, to understand their views on culture preservation within the diaspora.
What is cultural heritage?
Cultural heritage is the legacy of a people – that essence that is passed on in subsequent generations and maintained in the present.
What are its specific forms?
Tangible forms include books, works of art, artifacts, landscapes, monuments and buildings. And while we have much of that as Jamaicans, I think it’s our intangibles that are most at risk for getting lost. Intangible forms include traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, cuisine, etc.
Why is it important to preserve cultural heritage through generations?
“Academically speaking, cultural heritage creates a certain emotion within us, and this makes us feel as though we belong to something – a country, a tradition, a way of life – and this fuels achievement. While I do believe that adapting is integral to success, I also think that culture forms a foundation and a framework for who we aspire to be/become as well as how we approach the world/how the world understands us.
Are there local efforts specifically focused on preserving Jamaica’s cultural heritage?
When I started ICJ, I was living in California and had no resources available to help me with making my culture REAL for my kids. Trust me, I tried reaching out and even reached all the way back to the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission! I found JNA shortly after moving back to MD. Their activities really appealed to me… and to my kids who started coming to JNA meetings with me. JNA’s cultural group provided presentations of the island’s cultural forms – something that is and should be an important mission for my fellow Jamaicans in the diaspora.
What specific experiences lead to the creation of Irie Camp Jamaica?
I found it distressing that there was a disconnect between my value system and what my children were being exposed to. My big concern was that “mama’s quirks” would always be just that because there was no actual frame of reference as to why I was the way I was, and that when it came right down to it, my children would likely only have an American frame of reference for their cultural identity.
As an immigrant, I know how important cultural identity has been and how it continues to influence my life. Like other Jamaican kids, my children knew Bob Marley’s music and had heard of Usain Bolt, but there wasn’t much more that they could tie to “mama’s culture.” I was not ok with that limitation. My culture was too powerful to be reduced to so few frames of reference.
How does Irie Camp Jamaica accomplish its goals?
Irie Camp has largely operated as a destination camp in Jamaica, where we have established a fun, safe, caring environment for children to learn about Jamaican culture through immersive experiences. Our campers have been children of the island, children of the diaspora, and children whose parents just love Jamaica. We invite them all to explore and embrace Jamaica’s rich diversity, form a sense of Jamaican identity, and know the important contribution Jamaicans have been making to the world for hundreds of years. My hope is that their time with us forms a strong thread in their life’s tapestry.
Has Irie Camp Jamaica changed its destination camp model as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Safety remains a primary focus for us so yes, we’ve adapted. Besides, Jamaicans are fantastic at that! While we have postponed our destination camp sessions for 2020, we are working on a fun virtual experience that will be affordable and immersive, and won’t involve numerous hours of screen time. We are also surveying our camp families and other Jamaicans in the diaspora to identify areas on which we should focus. I’m very excited by this detour. Our mission hasn’t changed, through we’ve added another mode to our delivery.
What is NAJASO? The National Association of Jamaican and Supportive Organizations is a 43-year-old non-profit, 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt umbrella association of Jamaican and supportive organizations. Eligible organizations operate throughout the United States and internationally.
What is its purpose? Its purpose is to unify the various Jamaican and related organizations in the Caribbean, America, Europe, and other parts of the world to address common concerns in their communities and in Jamaica.
What is JNA’s relationship with NAJASO? JNA is a founding member and is represented in NAJASO at board meetings and annual conventions.
What are its priorities for 2020? For more information on joining NAJASO as a member organization, please visit their website.
The Jamaica Northeast Diaspora Region
“Delivering on the promise of a brighter future for this generation and the next”
The Global Jamaica Diaspora Council (GJDC) was established in 2020. Here are responses to some frequently-asked questions about the GJDC:
Why was the GJDC created? It was created to further the expansion and inclusiveness of the engagement processes within and across the Diaspora.
What is its role and function? It serves as an apolitical, advisor and consultative body to explore pathways for increased engagement and partnership within the Diaspora on matters of interest to both the Diaspora and Jamaica.
What is its goal? GJDC’s goal is to create greater synergies between the Diaspora and Jamaica by serving as another avenue for the Diaspora’s engagement in Jamaica’s development at the policy level across several sectors, while also addressing matters impacting the Diaspora where they reside.
What is its composition? It is composed of 28 Jamaicans (14 elected and 14 appointed) drawn from Africa; Asia and the Pacific; the Middle East; the Caribbean; Latin America, Europe, United States of America, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The Council will also include individuals drawn from the Diaspora and Jamaica with expertise in the following sectors: Education; Health and Wellness; Arts, Sports and Culture; Citizen Security; Development Issues; Faith-based Community, and Commerce.
How can you learn more about the Council? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, provide your contact information in the Quick Contact section at the bottom of their page, or follow on Instagram and Facebook.
Who are our local consultative state advisors? Michael Campbell (District of Columbia), Jacqueline Payne-Borden, PhD (Maryland), and Vanessa Butler (Virginia).
What are GJDC activities? The GJDC recently hosted a virtual Community Forum, “Mek we Talk”, on Sunday, May 17, 2020. You may still e-mail comments to email@example.com
GJDC consultative state advisors:
Michael Campbell, Jacqueline Payne-Borden, PhD,
and Vanessa Butler
Ambassador Audrey P. Marks is hosting a local program named “Diplomacy & Business with Ambassador Audrey Marks” on ABC Channel 7, which is broadcast locally in the Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia area.
She is pictured here on the March 29, 2020 program with Maryland State Senator Shirley Nathan Pulliam.
Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, who served as a State Senator in Maryland’s Assembly, was born in Trelawny, Jamaica and is a familiar face to and supporter of JNA. She studied nursing at a number of schools before receiving her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Maryland at Baltimore in 1980 and a master’s degree in administrative science from the Johns Hopkins University in 1984.
Her Healthcare Advocacy
In addition to owning her own business, she has been a faculty associate in nursing for Johns Hopkins. Before being elected in 1994, Ms. Nathan-Pulliam was active with Democratic Party organizations at the state and national level, as well as with Planned Parenthood of Maryland and various professional nursing organizations. She has received a number of awards for her advocacy on health care.
Her Advocacy on behalf of the Caribbean and Jamaican Communities
Ms. Nathan-Pulliam formalized the recognition of Maryland’s Caribbean community through legislation recognizing August as Caribbean Heritage Month in Maryland. August is the independence anniversary for several Caribbean countries. The Caribbean and Jamaican communities are forever grateful to Ms. Nathan-Pulliam for her steadfast support reflected in her attendance at community events and her efforts to ensure that community accomplishments were recognized through proclamations by Maryland’s Assembly.
She has received recognition from many Caribbean and Jamaican organizations, including JNA. Ms. Nathan-Pulliam resigned from the Maryland Assembly in 2019 due to poor health.
Please join us in honoring the life and service of Earl Mitchell and Leo Edwards.
Mr. Earl B. Mitchell, President of Jamaican Social Club of Toledo, a Founding member organization, served NAJASO with distinction for the past Forty-Three (43) Years. He is a Founding Member of this national organization and he will be sadly missed. Mr. Mitchell served NAJASO as Chairman of the Board, Convention Chairman for over 20 years, Treasurer for over 10 years. JNA sends condolences and best wishes to the Mitchell family.
Mr. Earl Mitchell was Past President and Delegate for the Jamaican Social Club of Toledo, Toledo, OH.
Our hearts go out to the family and everyone who loved him. He is a great loss to NAJASO for his extensive experience, dedication and commitment to the Association.
In comments he provided on CaribNation-TV, Eric Leopold Edwards (Leo, as he was affectionately and respectfully called), described himself as “a citizen of the world, born in Jamaica, with a right to live anywhere in the world.” Believing in the strength of the group over the individual, he further observed that “the poor and the weak only make progress when they cooperate… when a people are united in search of their freedom, they will find it.”
The following is largely extracted from the Caribbean American Political Action Committee’s (CPAC) E-Newsletter announcement of his passing and comments by Ambassador Audrey P. Marks of the Embassy of Jamaica appearing in the South Florida Caribbean News.
Eric Leopold Edwards, who was born in Jamaica, passed away on Sunday, April 26th at 98 years old. He came to Washington, D.C. In September 1948 to study at Howard University and “his more than 70 years of advocacy played a key role in winning recognition and respect for the Jamaican and Caribbean communities in the Washington, D.C., Baltimore metropolitan area, said Ambassador Marks”.
She went on to note that Mr. Edwards leaves a legacy that includes many firsts: “his service as an early president of the Caribbean Students Association at Howard University, from 1949 to 1955 and later as president and founder in the Caribbean-American Intercultural Organization (CAIO) and the National Coalition on Caribbean Affairs (NCOCA).”
Leo was a pillar of the Caribbean-American Diaspora. He worked tirelessly throughout his life in America on behalf of Jamaica and the Caribbean as a whole. His civic contributions were as broad as they were deep. His professional endeavors included matters related to politics, academia, and research at the local, state, and federal levels of government. He also consulted with private businesses, foundations, institutions, and civic organizations.
Leo was also a founding member and secretary of the Jamaica Nationals Development Foundation; Chairman of the Board of Directors of TransAfrica D.C. Metropolitan Chapter; and a founding member of the Caribbean American Political Action Committee. These are but some examples of the breadth of his service to the Caribbean-American community.
Recognition for his Commitment
In recognition of his many contributions, Leo was the recipient of numerous awards conferred by his peers and the Caribbean-American community. He was also honored by the Government of Jamaica, which bestowed upon him The Order of Distinction (Officer) for his “promotion of cultural relations between the United States and the Countries of the Caribbean, with special reference to Jamaica.”
Leo and his devoted wife Carmen consistently supported local Caribbean and Jamaican organizations and events throughout their lives. It was only last October, when he was 97- years old, that I had the pleasure of helping him onto the elevator to attend the annual CPAC luncheon. I can honestly say that I admired his deep commitment to causes in which he strongly believed. He epitomizes Jean-Paul Sartre’s statement that “Commitment is an act, not a word.”
District of Columbia
As of May 6, 2010, the District of Columbia has three organizations which complement each other and are focused on Caribbean community affairs.
WARD 4 CARIBBEAN AFFAIRS ADVISORY COMMITTEE (Ward 4-CAAC)
This Committee was created by Ward 4 Councilmember, Brandon Todd, to develop policy ideas, initiate new programs, and provide feedback on legislation before the Council of the District of Columbia which affect the Caribbean Community. Councilmember Todd introduced legislation which established the Office of Caribbean Affairs to monitor the delivery of services and make policy recommendations that affect the District’s Caribbean community. The Ward 4-CAAC is co-chaired by Doreen Thompson, Esq. (Jamaica) and Pam McKee (Trinidad).
MAYOR’S ADVISORY COMMISSION ON CARIBBEAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY AFFAIRS (MACCCA)
Mayor Muriel Bowsers’ Advisory Council on Caribbean Community Affairs was established by the Executive Office of the Mayor on August 15, 2012 through Mayor’s Order 2012-127. MACCCA’s mandate is to advise the Mayor and the Director of Community Affairs as appropriate, on issues, matters, views, and concerns of the Caribbean-American community that are designed to strengthen the education, social, cultural, and economic life of the District of Columbia.
Chair: Michael Yates (Jamaican heritage)
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 332,
Washington, DC 20004
https://moca.dc.gov | 202-442-8150
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA OFFICE OF CARIBBEAN AFFAIRS (OCA)
This newly created Office will become operational beginning October 1, 2020. It was established to monitor the delivery of services and make policy recommendations to the Mayor and Council regarding a range of policy areas including affordable housing, health, education, employment, social services, public safety, business opportunities, and cultural heritage preservation as these relate to the District’s Caribbean community.
CARIBBEAN ADVISORY GROUP OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY (CAAG)
CAAG’s mission is to ensure that the County Executive is well informed of and able to act effectively in responding to the needs and concerns of the county’s Caribbean community, and to work collaboratively with government, nonprofits, and community organizations in creating an inclusive, equitable and welcoming County. It meets regularly, and many meetings are open to the public. Additional information available online.
- Diane Vy Nguyen-Vu serving as Acting Montgomery County Caribbean Community Liaison.
- Chair: Venice Mundle-Harvey (Jamaica), Owner of The Venice Mundle-Harvey Allstate Agency
- Co-Chair: Derrice Deane (Barbados), Producer/Host of CaribNation-TV
PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY MULTICULTURAL COMMISSION
The Commission’s mission is to support and advance the State’s Attorney’s commitment to fostering a long term partnership with community organizations that result in sustainable cultural programming, an environment where diverse communities are recognized, increase understanding and promote multiculturalism in Prince George’s County.
Census Update. You matter. Participate!
In March, the US Census Bureau temporarily suspended the field operations part of the census count in light of the COVID-19 pandemic adjusting 2020 Census operations.
Field operations is the “in person” part of the census data count where Census Bureau employees deliver the census survey to populations that don’t have regular mailing addresses, such as Indian reservations, and knock on doors of households across the country that haven’t responded to mailed requests. Steps are being taken to reactivate field offices beginning June 1, 2020.
Can you still self-respond to the Census Questionnaire? Yes. You can still respond online, by phone, or on the paper questionnaire you received in the mail. With the changed schedule, it appears you will be able to self-respond up to October 31st. However, please self-respond now and please visit the census site for updates. Don’t forget to include your cultural heritage (Jamaican) under the racial category.
How is the census count doing? At this point, over 54% have responded. By the end of May, the Bureau expects to have a response rate of 60.5 % and will need to collect the additional 39.5%.
The change in schedule would result in the Bureau extending the window for field data collection and self-response to October 31, 2020. This will allow for apportionment counts to be delivered to the President by April 30, 2021, and redistricting data to be delivered to the states no later than July 31, 2021.
There are a number of concerns as to whether the census count is compromised by the extended deadline. Will it affect 2021 state elections, and will it favor incumbents? In addition to these concerns, Congress must approve any changes in the deadline for delivering apportionment counts to the president.
This information was excerpted from a May 1, 2020 Washington Post article.