Jamaicans poured into the Manhattan address of their nation’s consular to meet, greet and herald Dr. Basil K. Bryan who returned to New York City with a 550-page discography titled “Jamaicans: Children of God In The Promised Land.”
On a historically significant day – the 89th birthday anniversary of former Prime Minister Michael Manley; the anniversary date SA posthumously honored Manley with the O. R. Tambo award, a memorial send-off in South Africa for former President Nelson Mandela and the first official snow-blizzard of the season – Jamaicans filled the eastside offices where their former consular general introduced a book that explains, details and compliments his island people who migrated to Canada and the United Kingdom and in significant numbers to The United States.
“I have not been to the consulate since he (Dr. Bryan) demitted office,” Dawn Warren said.
Her comment was echoed by a great many nationals who claimed much had changed at the headquarters for immigrants who reside in the tri-state area.
“Everything changed after he left and it no longer felt like our home away from home.”
Dr. Bryan seemed to offer a reason to return to the space and also to help launch the book that describes why and where Jamaicans left their homeland.
“From 1838 (after the abolition of slavery) Jamaicans were leaving because they wanted nothing to do with plantations, banana or sugar,” Dr. Bryan said “they went to Ecuador, Cuba, Costa Rica, Panama, and some were even paid mercenaries in Central America.”
“Between 1881 and 1921, net emigration from Jamaica amounted to 156,000. More than 46,000 traveled to the USA, 45,000 went to Panama, 22,000 to Cuba and Costa Rica attracted 43,000,” he read from the pages of his researched document.
“It is said that in the period immediately following the Russian revolution (1917) there was a Jamaican, one Herbert Bell from Highgate in the parish of St. Mary, who was then in Moscow serving with the Canadian expeditionary force in Siberia. And in 1934, Jamaican Robert Robinson was elected to represent some 17,000 workers in the Moscow city council, serving alongside another elected delegate Josef Stalin who went on to become leader of the soviet union. Robinson had lived in America for six years before migrating to Russia in 1930.”
“Throughout the country’s history Jamaicans have migrated to foreign lands carrying with them the heritage culture and diversity of the people and doing so with a uniquely Jamaican audacity that transcended class and language barriers.”
The audience seemed awed by the historical revelations and with each excerpted paragraph, the former diplomat who remains the longest serving consul – from 1998 to 1007 – offered an avalanche of tidbits to bolster his claims. Responsible for 38 states in America, Bermuda and Puerto Rico, Dr. Bryan paused at intervals to punctuate each revelation.
“The movement of the people from Jamaica to America began around 1619 when some 20 indentured workers arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. Between 1715 and 1741, thousands of slaves were sent to New York, the majority from Jamaica. Charlestown, South Carolina was seen as the city in the western hemisphere to surpass Falmouth, Jamaica in wealth.”
To hear that Jamaicans incorporated the Tuskegee Airmen: were involved in the American Civil War; inspired Britain’s Sir Winston Churchill and South African freedom-fighter Nelson Mandela to quote from Jamaican poet Claude McKay’S “If We Must Die,” impacted the crowd.
“I truly believe Jamaicans are God’s chosen people,” he added “they are blessed many times over.”
More than any fact, visitors found themselves in the company of modern day immigrant achievers.
Byron Labeach who from 1946 to 1952 with the Kingston Flyers dominated sprinting and on their first Olympic outing to Helsinki, Finland took home a gold medal to Jamaica sat in the second row of the consulate. Labeach was the youngest member of the Jamaican delegation and later won glory for the island sprinting to many successes; Patricia Chin, who with her husband Vincent founded VP Records, the largest distributor of reggae music; Vincent Hosang, Royal Caribbean Bakery founder, Lowell Hawthorne, Golden Krust founder, Ambassador Courtney Rattray, Carib News Publisher Karl Rodney and the current Consul General Herman G. Lamott all seemed riveted to hear the historical accounts.
With a foreword written by the island’s Governor General Sir Kenneth Hall, the book also acknowledges Jamaicans who have excelled in politics, science, medicine, diplomacy and other areas.
“The island’s greatest assets are its people,” Dr. Bryan said.
Of those who migrated to foreign lands, Dr. Bryan said although they left the island “Jamaicans never left Jamaica.”
A must-read in schools and libraries, “The Jamaicans: Children of God in the Promised Land” is available at www.amazon.com
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