Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Jamaica in my heart

By George Graham

At this moment, somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, a Jamaican expatriate is looking out the window at snowflakes drifting from a leaden sky, coating the limbs and trunks of trees, sculpting pristine mini-mountains and creating a postcard-perfect winter scene.

So, you might ask, is the Jamaican expatriate marveling at the beauty of winter?

Not on your life.

The Jamaican expatriate is thinking of sun-drenched beaches and misty-blue mountains, of island music and belly laughter. The Jamaican expatriate is dreaming of home.

That expatriate could be a powerful source of tourism revenue for Jamaica.

I am not talking only about the Jamaicans scattered across the face of the earth. Of course we all want to go home. We go home to visit and, increasingly, we go home to stay. Friends in Jamaica tell me that retiring members of the Jamaican Diaspora are coming home and buying up houses and land at such a rate that real estate prices have escalated.

But there’s more to it than that.

The members of the Diaspora have made friends and business associates in their adopted countries. They have made contacts in various fields. The Diaspora could be a powerful sales force for Jamaican tourism.

There are many organizations that could help marshal the force of the Diaspora. Across the world, groups of Jamaicans have come together to form clubs and associations. The Jamaican American Club (which publishes this newsletter) is a case in point. And in some areas, Jamaican groups are joining with other Caribbean organizations for social and political strength.

I recently met with radio host and actor Ron Bobb-Semple and teacher/actress Evie Larmond to discuss the launching of the Caribbean Coalition of Associations, Inc. in Tampa, Florida. Ron is from Guyana; Evie is from Jamaica. Ron is noted for his portrayal of Marcus Garvey. And you may have seen him in television commercials. He also hosts an Internet radio broadcast.

Evie is founder of Project Read Initiative, which sponsors seminars for Jamaican teachers of Grades One and Two. The four-day seminars held in Jamaica focus on teaching reading and comprehension. So far, 700 Jamaican teachers have attended the seminars.

The Caribbean Coalition’s launching was set for Jan. 12 at the Clarion Hotel on Fowler Avenue in Tampa. It was planned as “an evening of cultural diversity,” including stage presentations by students reflecting the folklore and traditions of the islands.

These are just a few of the organizations that I think the Jamaican government should recruit to help promote tourism.

George Graham is a Jamaican-born journalist and author who has worked as a reporter in the Caribbean and North America for more than half a century. He lives in Lakeland, Florida. His books, "Hill-an'-Gully Rider" and “Girlie: A Love Story,” are available at

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