Inclusion + Belongingness = Respect for UK Diaspora Jamaicans: What the Diaspora is Saying about Constitutional Reform
Doirean Wilson, PhD
In readiness of Jamaica’s quest to become a republic by the year 2025, there are several key things that the Constitutional Reform Committee (CRC), charged with helping to ensure that this national government objective is achieved, would be advised to consider.
Namely, the voice of the Jamaican people extends far beyond this beautiful “Island in the Sun” as the title of the song written by the late Harry Belafonte and Lord Burgess, (Irving Burgie), suggests. That is, it reverberates (to use a metaphor), from the British shores where around forty-four thousand (44,000), Jamaican nationals reside (Clark, 2 March 2023).
This group of Jamaicans in addition to those of Jamaican descent like myself, who were born in Britain to Jamaican parents, or for others, whose grand-parents were Jamaican, or even those whose great-grand-parents were Jamaican, all arrived in Britain, to what was believed to be akin to the promised land Israel, reputed to be flowing with the abundance of “Milk and Honey”, referred to in Exodus 3:8 of the bible, during the Windrush Era (1948-1971).
Alas, for the majority, nothing could be further from the truth, as my father who was a reasonably well-off contractor with Tate and Lyle, prior to travelling to Britain in 1955 to treble his fortunes, found out. This was when he arrived to be confronted with the scourge of overt racism, so pledged to return to home to his, “sweet Jamaica”.
Nonetheless, this community of first, second, third, and fourth generation Jamaicans, accounts for approximately 800,000 thousand UK Diaspora Jamaicans (Stewart, 11 Sept, 2022). Furthermore, this figure represents 28.26% of the 2.83 million Jamaican population, and as such renders our significance in what will arguably be a momentous moment in Jamaican history.
However, our strength in numbers is not the only thing that we are able to contribute to Jamaica, as our other assets include our potential to invest our diverse skills, professional insights, technical prowess, industry specific competencies, new ideas, new knowledge, alternative ways of doing, and not least, (for the more affluent), our finances.
As a reminder, Jamaicans are recognised under chapter two of the Jamaican Constitutions as being those born on the island, and those born to Jamaicans outside of Jamaica. With this thought in mind, it should serve as no surprise to learn that the Jamaican Diaspora UK organisation’s vision is “to promote and protect the interests of Jamaica, and Jamaicans, and to contribute to the country’s development” (www.jamaicandiasporauk.org, 2023).
However, this would be difficult if the CRC failed to include, and consider the voice of the UK Jamaican Diaspora, and that of others across the globe, particularly when `shaping`, recommending, or advising on the government’s policies for constitutional reform. This portent is likely to be the case if we have no appropriate representation on the CRC, or where knowledge of our views and opinions are either, marginalised, skewered, or out of date.
Such an oversight would deny us UK based overseas Jamaicans of the right to feel that we belong to a nation, that many of us regard as a significant `thread` sewn` through the very `fabric` of our ethnic origin and cultural identity.
Belongingness, or lack thereof whether, intentional, unintentional, or due to the absence of awareness, can stoke feelings of disrespected.
My study that explored cultural meanings of respect and how these meanings manifest in behaviours, revealed that respect is a core commonly shared value for all (Wilson, 2019).
Additionally, respect is taken for granted, is culturally situated (Wilson cited in Mabey & Wolfgang, 2015), so to understand what it means for us UK based Jamaicans, is subject to understanding what it means from our different generational, cultural perspectives.
At this point I am reminded of the many discussions that I have had over the years, and more recently, with my fellow Diaspora members, that made evident what we believe are further considerations for the CRC to know-how to build an inclusive culture for UK based Jamaicans to feel that they too belong (Wilson, 2023).
This includes what we believe is a need to adopt a more diverse, collaborative open approach, and to ensure that any recommendation is informed by new opinions, plus insights gained from a review of successful reform models.
The passing of Queen Elizabeth II on the 8th of September 2022, has ushered in a new era for Jamaica and its people, far and wide, signalling that the time is indeed nigh to initiate our transition to becoming a republic.
Nevertheless, to promote the success of this transitional process, is subject to ensuring that the country is `fit` for purpose by e.g., incorporating the suggested considerations specified in this article, albeit not the only ones.
Finally, and speculatively asserting what might be termed as the obvious, the inclusion of the UK Jamaican Diaspora, could potentially help to boost Jamaica’s future economic standpoint globally, in addition to the society’s long-term sustainability, making evident that as Jamaican’s whether at home or in the UK, we are worthy of respect, which as a reminder starts at home.
[Dr Doirean Wilson is a multiple award-winning diversity expert, Middlesex University London, and Visiting Professor of Religion & Multiculturalism]
© Curtis A. Ward/The Ward Post