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Jamaicans in Southern US seek to revive role in diaspora

Published:Sunday | August 10, 2014 | 8:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Sunday Gleaner Writer

After slipping under the national radar for the past three years, Jamaicans in Southern United States are moving to resuscitate their waning diaspora movement.

Attorney-at-law Wayne Golding, who resides in Orlando, Florida, has attributed the diminishing visibility of the Jamaican Diaspora that covers 13 states, primarily to changes in political administration.

Prior to those changes, Golding said both People's National Party (PNP) and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administrations had been supportive forces.

"There were certain things that were supposed to be put in place and didn't happen, so a lot of people became disillusioned with how things were moving within the context of actual interactions in the diaspora," he said.

Golding stressed that it was hoped that new partnerships would be built with the Government.

"In the past, Government facilitated this partnership, whether it was the PNP or JLP who was in government."

He told The Sunday Gleaner that, with the vast array of professionals ready to assist, it was time to move to surmount the obstacles that have sparked disillusionment among Jamaicans abroad.

Golding, who has lived for more than 30 years in the US, is among several Jamaican professionals who believe that Jamaica is losing out on too many benefits.

Running for election

He has never been silent on the issues facing Jamaicans and now considers it necessary to throw his hat in the ring in elections for new Diaspora Advisory Board representatives.

Three Jamaicans are vying for the two-year volunteer position serving the 13 southern states - Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

Golding is one, while the other two are Courtney G. McFarlane, resident of Atlanta, Georgia; and Alexander A. Williams, resident of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"We need to get the Southern Diaspora in the United States on track," said Golding. "We already have people who have been a part of the Diaspora movement for 10 years."

However, he lamented that the decline of the movement over the last three years has resulted in "Jamaicans standing on the sidelines, who need to get back in the game".

Said Golding: "We have qualified, willing and able people who want to help... it's just a matter of getting organised here so that we can be recognised."

Golding asserted that time for dawdling has been far spent, with Jamaica desperately in need of tangible and intangible assistance that the diaspora has to offer.

He complained that many other movements across the globe, which started long after that in the Southern United States, were more advanced.

"It's not rocket science; it has been done before, and people have come after we started this diaspora movement and have been very successful... . That's my main focus."

Citing what he described as a small sampling of the Jamaicans with expertise in Southern United States, Golding said one city engineer, who controls a budget of anywhere from US$600 million to US$1 billion, is a Jamaican.

He said another professional, who controls the technical elements of the electricity grid in a vast area that serves hundreds of thousands of residents, is also a Jamaican.

"He is the one who deals with coal, solar or other forms of fuel for electricity," Golding said. "That budget is anywhere between US$400 million to US$600 million."

"We (also) have a deputy fire chief here who is Jamaican, as well as security experts, and that's just a small sampling of the direction and assistance we can give to Jamaica," he said.

"That apart, we have organisations which are doing things on the ground every day in Jamaica, but we recognise that we need to get organised so that we can effect changes, whether it's through persons becoming (US) citizens or through advocacy through the political system," he added.

"The opening is there, and we have a chance to play an advisory role with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on diaspora issues."

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com