We admit to deep paternal pride at seeing the demonstration of patriotism by Jamaican American Ms Alison Smith, who has brought Jamaica to the centre of attention of one of the most prestigious organisations in Florida — the Broward Country Bar Association (BCBA).
After smashing a nearly century-old tradition in the BCBA, by becoming the first black woman to be elected president since its founding in 1925, Ms Smith ‘conspired’ to wear a dress that would be a head-turner — towards Jamaica — at her installation ceremony last Saturday.
That ruse was spectacularly achieved as discussions about the green and gold lace dress, complimented with black accessories, in homage to the colours of the Jamaican National Flag, eclipsed legal talk about policy and organisational plans at the ceremony held in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Broward.
The truth is that Ms Smith, even as she has steadily climbed the ladder of success in her chosen profession in Florida, has never missed an opportunity to fly the Jamaican flag as an unofficial ambassador.
As a trailblazer, she has represented Jamaica and the Jamaican legal profession in Florida extremely well, notably when she became the first black woman to be a partner in top legal firm Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman.
No one could have missed the demonstrable respect that senior judges and junior lawyers alike at the banquet hold for Ms Smith. No superlative was spared in describing her and her achievements, both professionally and in voluntary work for the community.
The loudest cheers came, not unexpectedly, from the Jamaican and Caribbean legal community for a colleague they believed will look out for their interest and those of other minority communities.
As indicated in our story elsewhere in this edition, Ms Smith’s role as president of the predominantly white BCBA will be a challenging one. She will be presiding over an organisation comprising almost 4,000 members, 19 practice sections, 19 committees, and three affiliate organisations, including the Association of South Florida Mediators and Arbitrators, the Collaborative Family Law Professionals of South Florida, and the North Dade Bar Association.
Ms Smith was born in New York but, at one month old, was taken home by her parents, Fay and Donald Smith, himself an attorney, who practised in Black River, where she had her childhood years, growing up with her sisters Meisha Smith-Coulter, also a lawyer, and Dr Jessica Smith, a doctor.
She migrated to the United States in 1996 after graduating from Manchester High School in Mandeville, and has since regarded herself as very Jamaican, even as she embraced her new home.
“I am extremely proud of my heritage, and everyone who knows me here knows that I am an unofficial ambassador for Jamaica,” Ms Smith told the Jamaica Observer in an interview from her Florida home last year when we first reported her election to the BCBA.
She graduated magna cum laude from Shepard Broad College of Law at Nova Southeastern University. Before law school, she earned a BSc in psychology with a minor in legal studies.
While Ms Smith did not become the “Jamaican Mariah Carey” as she had planned for her career, the legal profession has been the beneficiary of an overachiever and a patriot who loves her country and people.