|Great need for a Jamaican cultural center|
|Friday, 01 June 2012 10:37|
As South Florida prepares to celebrate Jamaica's 50th independence anniversary, the Jamaican-American community must tackle its unfamiliarity with the diaspora's history and achievements in the region.
The Jamaican South Florida community has developed rapidly since the mid-1970s, when many left during the changing political climate under then Prime Minister Michael Manley. Many of these migrants, unlike earlier migration patterns, flew to nearby South Florida, where many quickly planted roots in Kendall, Miami Gardens, Miramar, and Boca Raton. A scattered business and residential community gradually intensified, especially in Broward County, following the ravages of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
South Florida now boasts a vibrant Jamaican presence, with strong Jamaican communities extending from Miramar and spreading to Pembroke Pines, Sunrise, Lauderhill, Lauderdale Lakes, Plantation and Davie. Today, an estimated 300,000 Jamaicans live in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. The region is now one of the strongest Jamaican Diaspora communities in North America, rivaled only by communities in New York, Toronto and London.
Certainly, there is little lack of lip serving this thriving South Florida Jamaican community, but herein lies the problem. The achievements of the community have been accounted for only by lip-service.
As many Jamaican-American community organizations seek to honor individuals in the community for the Jamaica 50 celebrations, these groups can find scant documented accounts of the achievements of the community over the past 50 years. Because of this absence of a repository of the community's achievements, sadly, many of these award could go to mostly "Jamaicans come lately," leaving the achievements of community pioneers from the 1970s and 1980s unrecognized.
This glaring absence of a structured repository base recording Jamaica's immigrant history in general, and the history of the Jamaican South Florida community in particular, is a call for action to the community to fill this gap.
The Jamaican Consul General in Miami, Sandra Grant Griffiths, and a small group of community members have taken steps towards developing a Jamaican cultural resource center in South Florida. This is not the first time such a program has been proposed, but these former initiatives never materialized. This proposed program must be a major goal for the Jamaican Diaspora Council in South Florida.
First, a Jamaican cultural resource center should be formed as a non-profit entity that can legally attract grants and other funding. The center, structured with a secretariat, would become a multifaceted organization which would provide a collection of historic and cultural records of the community, where students and third-generation Jamaicans can learn more about their heritage. The center should also have a space to host cultural performances and exhibitions for Jamaican art and craft. And, with eyes on the community's future, the center could also serve as a research resource for new Jamaican migrants and budding entrepreneurs.
This is an attainable dream, but its success requires the involvement of dedicated people committed to serving the community. Establishing this center would be a meaningful way to commemorate this special year and ensure that when Jamaica 75 arrives, the Diaspora in South Florida will be prepared to properly honor the community's achievements.