by Howard Campbell
[SOUTH FLORIDA] – He was born in Harlem, New York but Colin Powell always acknowledged his Jamaican roots. It was fitting that on October 18, the day he died, Jamaica celebrated National Heroes Day.
Powell died at age 84 from complications of COVID-19. His family, in a statement, said the former Secretary of State and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was vaccinated.
Marlon Hill, a Jamaican attorney and leading figure in South Florida Jamaican Diaspora affairs, said Powell was the “embodiment of grace, resilience, dignity, and service to the greater good.”
He added that, “As a son of Jamaican roots, we can celebrate the significance of his life contributions to the American landscape. His family journey was and is our own journey. This is an extraordinary loss for our adopted home of the United States of America, Jamaica, and the Caribbean region.”
Powell’s parents were from rural Jamaica. His father Luther grew up in Top Hill district in St. Elizabeth parish, where Powell visited several times.
In his autobiography, My American Journey, Powell reflected on the significance of growing up in a Jamaican/West Indian home, compared to the African-American experience.
“West Indians were left more or less on their own. They did not have their individual dignity beat down for three hundred years, the fate of so many black American slaves and their ancestors,” he wrote.
Dahlia Walker-Huntington, another Jamaican attorney based in South Florida, met Powell once at a immigrants rights event in Washington DC. She said “he made sure that at every opportunity the world would know that he was the son of immigrants.”
According to Walker-Huntington, “He visited his ancestral home in Top Hill, St. Elizabeth often and walked among the citizens with ease. He was a proud son of Jamaica and was sure to point out that only in America the son of black immigrants could achieve what he did in his lifetime.”
Mayor Wayne Messam
Wayne Messam, Mayor of Miramar, has a similar background to Powell’s. He was born in the United States to parents from rural Jamaica.
Colin Powell, he noted, was always someone he wanted to emulate.
“We have lost a tremendous leader who exuded the epitome of great character. As a fellow American of Jamaican descent, he always served as a role model not only for persons back home but here in America as well,” said Messam.
Prime Minister Hon. Andrew Holness
Jamaican prime minister Andrew Holness, who also has roots in St. Elizabeth, paid tribute to Powell.
“We have had many good conversations and very interesting discussions about Jamaica and the developments taking place. On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, I extend heartfelt condolences to the family of former US Secretary of State, General Colin Powell as well as the people of the United States,” said Holness.