The Jamaican Nationals Association (JNA) of Washington D.C. was launched in 1969, at an inaugural meeting on the campus of Howard University. Numerous members of the Jamaican community worked hard the preceding two years to bring to fruition the concept of the new organization; however, six students at Howard University were recognized by most of the participants, at the time, as founders of JNA. The founders of JNA were Horace Neil, Eunacio McGill, Ralston Parkinson, Desmond Malcolm, Keith Knight, and John Junior. The purpose of this article is to give a brief narrative of JNA over the past 34 years. The article will focus on the genesis, stated purpose, eligibility for membership, leaders, activities, and affiliation of the organization.
The concept of a Jamaican organization addressing the affairs of the Jamaican community in Washington, D.C. was influenced profoundly by the nationalistic feelings of Jamaicans during the mid-sixties: Those feelings, no doubt, emerged as a backlash of the demise of the West Indies Federation (1958-1962) in 1962. Up to that time, the affairs of Jamaicans were addressed by two Caribbean organizations: The Caribbean Students Association at Howard University ,and the Caribbean American Intercultural Organization (CAIO).
- The purpose of the Jamaican Nationals’ Association, as cited in Article 1, Section 2 of the 1969 Constitution reads:
- To keep an open line of communication and to encourage nationals to return home and participate in the development of the nation;
- To keep abreast of the political, social, and economic developments in Jamaica , and to make recommendations, where necessary;
- To unify, foster and defend the welfare of all Jamaicans;
- To maintain a link with the Jamaican Embassy;
- To provide legal aid;
- To make available information concerning educational opportunities, both at home and abroad;
- To work closely with other Jamaican organizations throughout the world;
- To maintain relationship with the University of the West Indies;
- To inform members of job opportunities at home and abroad; and
- That this should be a non-profit organization.
Between 1969 and 2006, 21 individuals led JNA (one person twice), by assuming the office of president. Those individuals, in the order that they held office, were:Keith Knight, Desmond Malcolm, Louis Hemans, Francis Wongsam, Cecil Blake, Stanley Tracey, Franklyn Burke, Alda Anderson, Carlton Drummond, Curtis Ward, Jacqueline Asher, Roxroy Anderson, Carl Bryant, Elise Morse, David Greaves, Desmond Malcolm (a second time) , Audley Stevens, Richard Wilson, Jennifer Asher, Jacqueline Payne, and Moreen Wallace. Those leaders, along with their executive committee members, regular members and friends, volunteered their time and created many activities, which benefited communities in the United States and Jamaica.
Some of the activities, which JNA provided or sponsored over the past 34 years, include:
- Care packages sent to various institutions in Jamaica ;
- Financial contributions to institutions and causes in Jamaica ;
- Attempts to become a sponsoring agency for persons in Jamaica , who wished to become migrant workers in the U.S.A;
- The forwarding of a document to then Prime Minister Hugh Shearer, by a Special Studies Committee, advising him of the factors which they thought deterred Jamaicans from returning home;
- Sponsorship of numerous dances, picnics, and raffles for entertainment and fundraising;
- Sponsorship of a chartered flight to Jamaica;
- Liaison between JNA and the Embassy of Jamaica in promoting Jamaican culture, attempting to gain scholarships for students, and recruit graduates for jobs in Jamaica;
- Extensive games program, which included cricket, soccer, tennis and badminton;
- Recognition of Jamaicans for outstanding contributions to the community and or the Jamaican nation, via awards of trophies and certificates;
- The publication of newsletters (Peenie Wallie and JNA Focus ); and
- Receptions for students in the Washington Metropolitan Area.
The Jamaican Nationals Association of Washington, D.C. is affiliated with the National Association of Jamaican and Supportive Organization (NAJASO). The JNA was among the first members of NAJASO, when the umbrella was founded in 1977, and continues to be a vibrant affiliate.
There is no question, that for more than 30 years, the Association has exhibited viability, with concomitant credibility. The organization demonstrated adaptability to the changing times by adopting revisions to the 1969 Constitution in 1972 and 1986; gaining non-profit status in 1972 (under the 501© 3 code of the Internal Revenue Service.). In 2006, the Jamaican Nationals’ Association is as vibrant as ever; and that bodes well for the future!