Caribbean Diaspora Engagement: A focal point of JA Diaspora UK Conference

| June 18, 2014

Caribbean news. Last Friday 13th June 2014, the Jamaica Diaspora UK held its fourth Diaspora Conference under the theme Our Heritage, Our Legacy ‘Working together to develop a sustainable Diaspora Movement’.

Held at the Centennial Centre, 100 Icknield Port Rd, Birmingham, West Midlands the conference attracted Jamaican and Friends of Jamaica from all over the United Kingdom. Though planned for two days this writer was present for only day 1 but managed to get a real sense of the level of preparation, the level of corporate support and participation via stall purchases and the degree of attendance and possible workshop participation by ordinary Jamaicans and Friends.

H.E Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, High Commissioner for Jamaica making a point. Photo courtesy CaribDirect

H.E Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, High Commissioner for Jamaica making a point. Photo courtesy CaribDirect

Among the dignitaries at the event was H.E Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, High Commissioner for Jamaica and Lloyd Wilks (Director of Diaspora and Consular Affairs Department). One aspect of the weekend’s presentations was a workshop on topic Caribbean Diaspora Engagement: How does the CSME agreement influence the Caribbean Diasporas engagement and collaboration in the UK? How can we mobilise the Caribbean Diasporas in the UK to influence policies and gain resolve for key issues impacting the wider Caribbean Diaspora in the UK?

The workshop was facilitated by MS Evadney Campbell MBE, managing director of Shiloh PR, with the main address being delivered by The Honourable Minister of State Arnaldo Brown. Contributing speakers were Mr. David F. Roberts (Founder / CEO and Ms Keisha Rochford-Hawkins Second Secretary Consular and Student Services High Commission for Trinidad and Tobago.

Minister Brown provided a concise definition and outline of CARICOM and the CSME with a brief historical overlay for each before pointing out the areas where Jamaica and to a lesser extent, other Caribbean territories have made strides in incorporating the Caribbean Diaspora in the thinking and practical workings of Caribbean life. He hastened to add, however that the CSME works in theory but is some way off from providing practical benefits to Caribbean citizens particularly in the area of free movement of labour. Minister Brown asserted clearly that in order for proper integration and a special relationship between the Caribbean Diaspora and the Caribbean to take place, the CSME must be put right or in his words, ‘must be fixed’.

Chair, JDUK Mrs. Sasha Henry-Crawford. Photo courtesy

Chair, JDUK Mrs. Sasha Henry-Crawford. Photo courtesy

Following on from Minister Brown was David F. Roberts, CEO of CaribDirect Multi-Media who suggested strongly that in order for any real change to come about in the area of better relations among ourselves as Caribbean people in the Diaspora, we must first recognise and then seek to remedy the identity crisis that plagues us as a people in the UK;
•We need to dispel with the ‘island mentality’ and work as a united Caribbean community;
•We need to celebrate our achievements and embrace our failings as a Caribbean community and record them for posterity;
• We need to preserve the values of our ancestors, the essence of our ‘Caribbeaness’ in the face of a hugely permissive wider society.

Mr Roberts went on to further suggest:

•We need to communicate our social, cultural, political and economic experiences with each other using appropriate media;
•We need to establish professional media platforms to broadcast / communicate our experiences to our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean;
•We the Diaspora need to produce our own films/series for  broadcast on UK mainstream TV and dissemination in the Caribbean
•Get a positive image on film that shows the realities, complexities and depth of Caribbeaness then we’ll have invaluable influence in the Diaspora.
He had intended to present a bold solution, in the establishment of a Caribbean Diaspora Action Committee that would set about the formulation of a politically independent body of progressive Caribbean nationals working to empower the Diaspora in a plethora of ways, but time did not permit.
The final speaker Ms Keisha Rochford-Hawkins Second Secretary of the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission set out by making it clear that Trinidad and Tobago is not new to the idea of Diaspora but are new to the policy of Diaspora. She remarked how patriotic Jamaicans are, evidenced by their distinguishable language and pride in practicing and preserving the Jamaican lingo. She made the point that as a unified Caribbean people overseas we are are formidable force and as individuals we are week but as a group we’re strong.
Ms Rochford-Hawkins then made the popular suggestion that a Caribbean Diaspora Conference be established to harness the collective talent, skills, ideas and intellect. This conference will, in part serve to bring about a sense of collective pride for Caribbean nationals representing the entire Caribbean region; it will also engender an atmosphere of tolerance among a people with a common history, a common geographical reference and a common experience in Britain.


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