Ashley Moncrieffe beams with joy as she displays her Jamaican passport.
'It's your birthright,' Gramps Morgan declares, as 290 participate in 'Back To My Roots' ceremony

Singer Gramps Morgan of Grammy-winning band Morgan Heritage is encouraging people of Jamaican descent living in the United States to seek citizenship in the Caribbean country.

He believes it would lead to similar umbilical ties American Jews have with Israel.

Morgan was one of 290 Americans of Jamaican heritage granted Jamaican citizenship on February 17, in a virtual ceremony called Back To My Roots.

“I would definitely encourage people of Jamaican heritage to become a citizen, I would love to be the voice for that. Even people of Jewish descent, they talk about their Jewish heritage and promote children of Jewish heritage to come and visit and be a part of Israel; come and visit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and all these amazing places,” he said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer. “So, I would definitely encourage persons to become citizens. It's your birthright, you've earned that.”

Morgan disclosed that his siblings in Morgan Heritage also became citizens. They took advantage of their 18-month break from touring, caused by COVID-19, to complete the necessary paperwork.

The New York-born artiste first visited Jamaica in the early 1970s with his parents who are from Clarendon. Morgan Heritage settled in Jamaica during the 1990s when they worked with producer Robert “Bobby Digital” Dixon on Don't Haffi Dread, their breakthrough song and album.

“In the mid-90s when the family moved to Jamaica we would travel on an unconditional stamp. It's a great feeling to finally get it out of the way. Now I can fly to Jamaica on a one-way ticket,” said Gramps.

Miami-born Ashley Moncrieffe was also excited about gaining Jamaican citizenship. She began the paperwork five years ago, travelling to Jamaica to obtain her Tax Registration Number and other required documents.

Moncrieffe, who is in her early 30s, is a media and events specialist. Most of her family is from Stony Hill in St Andrew.

“I feel magnificent, elite, grounded. Ultimately, it is a privilege; I am so grateful to leverage my birthright and turn it into citizenship,” she told the Sunday Observer. “I may have been born and raised on another country's soil but it's my culture, my upbringing and my 'brought-upsy' that raised me.”

Back To My Roots is an initiative of the Office of the Consul General in Miami. Oliver Mair, the consul general since 2018, believes gaining citizenship is a win-win situation for Americans of Jamaican background.

“Some of the benefits include being able to apply for a Jamaican passport, voting in general and local elections, receiving social benefits, access to government programmes, staying as long as you want in Jamaica and most importantly, basking in the national pride of being a Jamaican,” he said.

To apply for Jamaican citizenship, prospects must show proof of lineage to the country when downloading the Jamaican Citizen By Descent section of www.jamaicacgmiami.org. This can come from documents including their parents' original birth certificates.

Once the application is successful, citizenship is certified through the Passport, Immigration, and Citizenship Agency of the Ministry of National Security. The application process can take as long as three months.

Mair said there has been an increase in Jamaican-Americans seeking Jamaican citizenship since Back To My Roots was launched in 2019. Last year, 185 people were granted citizenship.

Moncrieffe, who first visited Jamaica as a five-year-old, is the youngest of four sisters. She is the sole sibling born in the US but said her parents ensured all had a strong sense of “Jamaican-ness”.

She agrees with Morgan that more Americans with Jamaican pedigree should become citizens.

“Most definitely! It's a privilege we have to gain our citizenship in a very easy and affordable way,” she said.

Gramps Morgan performing at the Back To My Roots ceremony last week.
Ashley Moncrieffe and Jamaica's Consul General Oliver Mair at theBack To My Roots ceremony.
By Howard Campbell Observer writer editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

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