Jamaicans in the US Capital turn out in large numbers to give thanks for the country’s 56th year of independence
by Derrick Scott
Washington, DC – It was standing room only as Jamaicans and friends poured into Dumbarton Chapel at Howard University School of Law, for the service of thanksgiving for Jamaica’s 56th year of independence on Sunday, August 5, 2018.
Organized by the Embassy of Jamaica, the annual church service was packed to capacity with members of the Jamaican communities from Washington DC, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, New York and Connecticut. Others in attendance included members of the diplomatic corps, among them a strong contingent of CARICOM Ambassadors, representatives from international organizations in Washington,, DC, senatorial, congressional and state representatives, as well as heads of various Diaspora organizations.
Prime Minister the Hon. Andrew Holness, in his message to the Diaspora, read by Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States Her Excellency Audrey Marks, reassured Jamaicans abroad that he “deeply values” their contributions to all sectors of the nation “and it is for this reason that the Government has embarked upon a new thrust to harness the skills and expertise of Jamaicans in the Diaspora.” He added that despite the country’s achievement as a nation over the past 56 years there are challenges which confront us, but dismantling these barriers requires united effort by Jamaicans from all walks of life – both at home and in the Diaspora.
Prime Minister Holness said the commemoration of Jamaica’s 56th year as an independent nation “presents an opportunity for Jamaicans both at home in the Diaspora to reflect on and celebrate the significant achievements made in the past by the nation, while significantly planning the future.
“Jamaica’s success as a nation is in large measure attributed to the bold, courageous and energetic spirit which defines our people at home and abroad. It is this innate and unique spirit which gave birth to independent Jamaica in 1962, characterized by patriotism and sacrifices by the country’s founding fathers,” the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister added that Jamaica is considerably endowed with human capital which is tremendously innovative, powerful and influential. The strength of brand Jamaica can be largely attributed to our three million-strong overseas Jamaican community, “of which you (the Diaspora) are proud members. He went on to tell them: “Your deep affinity to your homeland and fervent loyalty to Jamaican products ensures continued growth, recognition and success of brand Jamaica.
Mr. Holness called on members of the Diaspora to partner with the Government to work side by side for sustained socio-economic growth and prosperity for all Jamaicans.
He pointed out further that the indelible mark that Jamaica’s culture had made globally was evident through various international designations, and cited Kingston’s classification by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a creative city of music, the only Caribbean city so designated.
In her own remarks, the Ambassador described the celebration of the 56th anniversary of independence under this year’s theme, “One Love, One Family,” as quite fitting. “‘One Love, One Family’ serves as a rallying call for Jamaicans both at home and abroad to unite to achieve national development goals.”
Ambassador Marks used the opportunity to thank the members of the diaspora, who, she said, continue to give sacrificially, volunteering their time, energy and resources towards the wellbeing of the wider Jamaica family – both those at home and abroad.
“I continue to be inspired by the fact that the years and distance that separate us have not in any way diminished your love, affinity, and strong ties to your beloved homeland, Jamaica.”
Rev. G. Maxwell Jones, Pastor of the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ, Syracuse, New York, delivering the sermon, reminded the large congregation never to forget that the Lord is our keeper as a nation. Citing statistics showing Jamaica with the largest per capita concentration of churches in the world, the Rev. Mr. Jones, a brother to the famed actress Grace Jones, challenged the community to always prioritize family, stressing the importance of the theme of Independence, “One Love, One Family.”
Scripture passages were read by president of the Jamaican Nationals Association, Dr. Elaine Knight; youth representative Nicholas Williams; Ms. Barbara Brissett, president of the Washington DC chapter of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Alumni Association; while the gospel was read by Sir George Alleyne, chancellor emeritus of the UWI and director emeritus of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
The service was officiated by Jamaican theologian and dean of the Howard University School of Divinity, Dr. Bertram Melbourne, and Rev. Sylvia McDonald Kaufman, Dean of the Howard Graduate School, while musical selections were rendered by the Performing Artists Under the Lord (PAUL). This year’s recipient of the offering is the Jamaica Association of Persons with Physical Disabilities.
After the service, the Ambassador treated everyone to a reception that featured delectable Jamaican fare, prepared by Island Cuisine. Sponsorship for Sunday’s event was provided by Jamaica National Building Society, Jamaica Tourist Board, National Continental (Bakery), and the Washington-based accounting firm of Bert Smith & Co.