Jamaicans in the Diaspora reflect on Independence
AS Jamaicans prepare to celebrate 61 years of Independence on August 6, those in the Diaspora share their thoughts on this significant milestone.
From the bustling streets of London, England, to the sun-kissed neighbourhoods of Massachusetts, in the United States, the love for their homeland echoes through the hearts of these patriotic Jamaicans.
The milestone holds special significance, evoking myriad emotions ranging from pride to nostalgia for those living abroad.
For award-winning journalist and communication specialist Sasha-Gay Lobban-Fullerton, who now calls Ottawa, Canada, home, Jamaica’s Independence Day represents the essence of unity and resilience.
Lobban-Fullerton, who hails from St Ann, said that every Jamaican at home or abroad should be proud to band together to celebrate and honour their rich heritage and unique identity.
“We should always keep the tradition of celebrating Independence because it’s something to be proud of, even though we’re not yet where we would like to be. I think it is great to keep the celebrations going to make sure that we honour that day,” she added.
Living outside of Jamaica for seven years, Lobban-Fullerton said she misses the camaraderie and the joyous celebrations that take place on Independence Day back home.
However, she remains connected to her roots by staying informed about what’s happening in Jamaica through social media and keeping up with the news.
Lobban-Fullerton and her family make it their duty to represent Jamaica wherever they go, proudly sporting the colours and symbols that reflect their Jamaican identity.
“For me and my family, we always make sure that we represent Jamaica wherever we go. In our workplace, there’s always some kind of symbol, like the colours, and just carrying that Jamaican swag. I don’t know how to explain it, but I always make sure that I wear Jamaica on my chest wherever I go,” she says.
Lobban-Fullerton is encouraging Jamaicans that as they continue to preserve their culture and pass it on to future generations, to focus on promoting the positive aspects of their country, rather than perpetuating negative stereotypes.
“We are the generation that’s going to really inform the future and tell our kids about the country, and in turn, our kids are going to tell others,” she told JIS News.
For Sue White, a proud Jamaican residing in Ontario, Canada for 17 years, the Independence celebration serves as a poignant reminder of her roots and the values instilled in her by her mother.
This milestone is bittersweet, as her mother who was born in 1962 is no longer present to join in the celebrations. However, she finds solace in the music, especially the festival songs, which bring back fond memories of her mother.
The St Mary native said she continues to maintain a strong connection with Jamaica, noting that she regularly visits her family, keeps in touch with friends, and stays up to date with the latest news, ensuring that the spirit of Jamaica always runs through her veins.
“Jamaica is a part of me, and I’m proud of my roots. It’s always a joy to be back and experience the diverse wonders of the island,” she shares.
“Jamaican people are known for their pride and passion, be it in sports or music. The recent success of the Reggae Girlz in the current [World Cup Football] tournament instils hope, but we must also focus on passing down our traditions, stories and customs to create a brighter future rooted in our history,” White said.
Turning to Jamaica’s achievements, one of the significant positives she highlighted was the high standard of education in Jamaica.
“Our education system is one of the best in the world. Those who are educated in Jamaica can thrive anywhere and compete with anyone globally. Education is a lifelong gift that will always empower and uplift individuals,” she affirmed.
Ochand Lee, a Jamaican residing in Nantucket, Massachusetts, emphasised the significance of celebrating the milestone with dignity, acknowledging how far the small island nation has come and the bright light it continues to shine throughout the world.
“I firmly believe that once a Jamaican, you’re always a proud Jamaican,” Lee said
Despite living abroad for 20 years, he maintains a strong connection with his homeland by regularly communicating with family and friends and visiting Jamaica as frequently as possible.
To mark the occasion, Lee plans to wear his Jamaican colours to work and extend heartfelt greetings of ‘Happy Jamaican Independence’ to his fellow Jamaican colleagues, fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie in his workplace.
Noting that Jamaica has progressed significantly in the field of education, Lee lauded the younger generation for their increased focus on higher education and the opportunities that have become more accessible to them.
“Back in the day, attaining many things was difficult for most people, but now the younger Jamaicans are more educated and have brighter prospects,” he said.
For Lee, Jamaica’s rich culture is a cherished part of his identity, and he delights in sharing stories of his upbringing and the invaluable life lessons he learned through his Jamaican heritage.
“Our culture helps shape who we are, and I am grateful for the experiences and values it has instilled in me,” he said.
In the meantime, Dr Daren Johnson, a prominent member of the Jamaican Diaspora, said the Independence celebration symbolises more than just a date on the calendar; it is a time for reflection, celebration, and reaffirmation of the unbreakable bond with Jamaica’s history and future.
The entrepreneur, who is currently in England, underscores the importance of staying connected with his roots, regularly visiting Jamaica to reunite with family and friends.
His frequent visits to the island allow him to experience first-hand the country’s positive changes, such as improvements in education, infrastructure and tourism.
Dr Johnson, who is 30 years old, is also assistant professor at Howard Community College in Maryland, United States.
He also shows love for his homeland by engaging in charity work, contributing to the country’s development and supporting those in need.
“As a member of the Jamaican Diaspora with a background in academia, human resource and education, I envision contributing to Jamaica’s development by collaborating with local educational institutions, supporting workforce development, empowering Jamaican youth, and facilitating networking opportunities between the diaspora and professionals in Jamaica,” he said.
Dr Johnson has recognised the significance of passing down specific traditions and customs to the younger generation within his family. He teaches his son Jamaican patois, which he said reflects their cultural identity, and has introduced him to the delicious Jamaican cuisine, further solidifying his connection to their heritage.
“Passing down these traditions has been a meaningful way for me to preserve and share our Jamaican heritage with younger generations within our family and community,” he said.