Sun | Nov 17, 2019

Andre Marriott-Blake: The consummate patriot

Published:Friday | November 8, 2019 | 12:12 AMVanessa James/Gleaner Writer
Andre Sean Marriott-Blake, compliance legal officer for the Kingston & 
St Andrew region at the National Housing Trust.
Andre Sean Marriott-Blake, compliance legal officer for the Kingston & St Andrew region at the National Housing Trust.

There are some who take the words of the National pledge as just that; words. Then there are others, like Andre Sean Marriott-Blake who when he said ‘ … I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart, the wisdom and courage of my mind, the strength and vigour of my body in the service of my fellow ­citizens …’ he meant it.

As a past students’ council ­president and head prefect of his alma mater, Campion College, Jamaica youth ambassador to CARICOM, and a recipient of the Prime Minister Youth Award in 2017, Marriott-Blake was primed to be the attorney-at-law he is today.

However, the story goes that law was not his first choice, but there was a calling to the profession.

“I wanted to be a pilot, so I chose subjects in that respect; I did nothing in respect of the traditional legal subjects at the fifth-form level. Incidentally, what would have changed my path, somewhat dramatically, we had career day at Campion, and we had a guest who indicated to me that because I wear glasses, it may be a challenge to start out as a pilot with astigmatism, which I found out later to be not true,” Marriott-Blake said.

So the question of, ‘what else can I do?’ was raised and after careful consideration and with his background in advocacy, and being the voice of the youth as a former youth parliamentarian, law felt like a natural fit. Even so, Marriott-Blake swayed from the inevitable once more and began his studies at The University of the West Indies, pursuing a degree in international relations (IR).

“I didn’t choose law out of Campion; I chose international relations because I was saying that it would be good to have an international relation flair, because I do want to be in service at some point, and I wanted to get a (foreign) language and so on,” Marriott-Blake reasoned, “So I started doing IR and then one of my teachers and personal mentors, Lisa Vasciannie, and I spoke about my career path and I told her I wanted to do law and she said, ‘Well, why you doing IR? It doesn’t benefit you in any way if you want to do law,” he said.

With encouragement that he had the grades, competency and the skill set, Marriott-Blake decided to transfer after his first year.

There was still the issue of financing a law degree at The University of the West Inies, and other factors did not make things any easier.

“When I left Campion my dad was ailing with cancer, so we were financially stressed as a family and I couldn’t see how I was going fund the US$10,000 per annum [for law],” he said, “Then I wanted to be close to my dad as well, knowing that it may very well be his last few months or years with us.”

But with the advice from his mentor and the insistence from his father, Marriott-Blake started his studies in law, after which he went to the Norman Manley Law School, where he was a member of the executive student body.

Soon afterwards, he joined the law firm of DunnCox, which Marriott-Blake said he enjoyed immensely.

“DunnCox is one of those spaces; we are 76 years old, and I still say ‘we’ because I feel like I am still a part of the family. What I learnt there, I couldn’t have learnt in any other space because of the rich legacy that DunnCox has. DunnCox has taught me the importance of quality; the importance of maintaining the standard of the profession; and maintaining your dignity and the brand amid all that is going on,” the proud ­attorney stated.

However, after a four-year stint in the private sector of the law, the self-described ‘consummate patriot’ has recently started a journey as compliance legal officer for the Kingston & St Andrew region at the National Housing Trust.

“I think the private sector is an immense space where you can add value to society and economic growth. But as someone who always wanted to be a part of the building blocks of our nation, I have always wanted to add value in that [public] space,” Marriott-Blake said. “I always want to give back to the Government in some way and this is perhaps one of the many ways I can do that; by trying to serve and give back my talents to Jamaica as best as I can, and I think that this is an opportunity to do that.”

While he admits that he does not know what the future holds, Marriott-Blake wants to leave a ­lasting impression wherever he goes.

vanessa.james@gleanerjm.com