MAY 19, 2013

This afternoon Lady Allen and I attended the appreciation luncheon in honour of Councillor Mike Whitby and to thank the University of Birmingham for their support and the warmth with which they received the Jamaican Olympic Team last year.  There, I relived the moments of glory when the Black, Green and Gold fluttered proudly and the beautiful Jamaican National Anthem was played in the stadium.  Even now, nearly a year afterwards, pride in our Team still wells up in my heart and I can only imagine how thrilled you all were by the exploits of our young men and women during the London 2012 Olympics.

I am certain that the warm hospitality and the enthusiastic encouragement which you showered on our Team played a large part in the mental fortitude which boosted their physical agility.  So I say thanks to all of you for your own role in giving us the Gold in the year of our Golden Jubilee.

This week we proudly celebrate with the Jamaica National Building Society the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of their Representative Offices in the United Kingdom.  Recognizing the strong and vibrant Jamaican community in Birmingham, the JN had no option but to ensure that it placed a resident representative here to “help you find a way” to attain your financial objectives. The fact that JNBS has been so successful here must mean that you are satisfied with their services, including being the financial link between you in this region of the United Kingdom and that beautiful island we call home.

We have come a very long way since the “Windrush” wave of migrants from Jamaica to the UK!  Do you remember the poem by our cultural icon, the Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley entitled “Colonization in Reverse”?  Miss Lou saw Jamaicans turning “history upside down” by shipping off in their hundreds to England after the Second World War.   The last verse of that poem says:

What a devilment a Englan!/ Dem face war an brave de worse;/ But ah wonderin how dem gwine stan /Colonizin in reverse.

That wave of migration started the greatest transformation of British society.  I do not need to recount to you how much those Jamaicans endured and how their struggles helped to foster the system of respect for and protection of human rights which exists in this country.  Nor do I need to speak of the way hard-working Jamaicans have contributed to the socio-economic growth of the United Kingdom, while at the same time supporting your loved ones back in Jamaica.  Yes, there are problems which we have to admit, but in the same way that the deviant in Jamaica are a small minority of our population, so are they a miniscule part of the Jamaican Diaspora in the UK.

Do not be embarrassed to celebrate the achievements of our people in this country.  We know that it is the negative story which attracts the news media.  Do not let our Jamaican communities be defined by those stories.  Trumpet your songs of success! Inspire each other with the ways you have turned your challenges into opportunities for growth!   Find the flip side of envy and emulate the achievements of others who through focused, hard work have realized- or are on the path to realizing- their dreams!

Too often we hear that the reason Jamaicans in the Diaspora are not excelling as they should, is that their own people do not support them.  We hear comparisons with other ethnic groups and how these help each other to climb the ladder of success and there are those who argue that instead, we do the opposite.  They blame that on the DNA implanted by slavery.  I rubbish that as a falsehood which would seek to keep our people debased, if that were possible.  If there is one thing that I believe about our people, it is that the “I Can” spirit is implanted in us.  When I think of my own life experience, coming from the humble village of Fruitful Vale in Portland, I can assure you that it was the “I Can” spirit which propelled me to where I am today.

Each of us has that spirit embedded in us and this is what I strive to bring to the fore in the hearts and minds of our people through the “I Believe” Initiative which I launched in 2011.  The mantra of that Initiative is “There is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica”. I firmly believe that within our people lie the genius and the creativity for the transformation of Jamaica into a prosperous and peaceful nation, embraced by the beauty and productivity of the land with which God has blessed us.  We who believe this, whether at home or in the Diaspora, must join forces to overcome the negativity which threatens the achievement of this vision for Jamaica.  Our voices should spread the positive messages for the healing and upliftment of our people and for the restoration of the values and attitudes which will lead to our prosperity.

Last year we celebrated Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee, Jamaica Golden Jubilee and our Olympic victory.  This week, we celebrate JNBS and its 25th Anniversary here in the UK.  I commend celebration, not so we view our world through rose-coloured glasses, but so that we remember to count our blessings and become overcomers.   Remain inspired to keep pressing on towards excellence!

Thank you!