by Leo Gilling
SOUTH FLORIDA – In Los Angeles, California, there is the Jamaica Awareness Association of California, the most impactful Jamaican nonprofit organization on the West Coast. In New York, there is the Union of Jamaican Alumni Associations (UJAA); in Canada, there is the Jamaica Canadian Association (JCA). These are three of the most impactful locally operated Jamaica associations in each of their regions. Several variables are used to determine impacts: size, community involvement, membership, community respect, frequency of participation in community activities, and focus.
The Jamaica Canadian Association (JCA) Difference
I have viewed the impact of many of these organizations from a personal and global perspective. The JCA in Canada, however, is a different model. First, this organization, 61 years in operation, owns its building and functions strictly as a business. With ownership comes opportunities, and JCA does a beautiful job curating its funding sources from government and fundraising efforts.
According to Mr. David Betty in one of his recent presentations, “the JCA represents all Black individuals in the Greater Toronto region, including Jamaicans, the most significant representation of that race.”
What makes JCA unique is its focus on building community first, taking care of the older population, and responding to all political, social, or cultural issues and needs related to the Jamaicans.
In the USA, for example, the term Diaspora engagement is more inclined to benefit Jamaicans at home. Not so in the GTA. JCA adopted the principle of first strengthening the core of the local community, empowering GTA individuals and organizations to respond to the needs of Jamaica by themselves or through the organization. It is an excellent model. The framework is critically designed to attract many persons who willingly give their time, effort, and money to the JCA.
If at any time you pass by the JCA (995 Arrow Road), there is always work being done by people, its members, and friends to ensure the sustainability of the building. Every patron and visitor is treated with love, care, and kindness. The various programs offered at the center prove the quality service the JCA gives to people in the surroundings: senior programs, family programs, educative forums, conferences, summits, international discussions, and many more. You can also find some of the best parties where you can dance the night away.
In displaying their commitment to the community, approximately 200 black refugees from parts of Africa recently arrived in the GTA, and before you could say “ahem,” the machine of the JCA tuned in and turned up. The organization worked closely with the local government and other businesses to secure living arrangements for the refugees because funds from the government were not readily available. The members take the refugee issue seriously and have done their best to lobby for better conditions for these individuals. Currently, the Revivaltime Tabernacle, with Pastor Judith James, and Dominion Church International are two faith centers temporarily housing the refugees, and members of the JCA are personally helping to provide supplies and other needs.
JCA offers a family vibe; each one helps the other. Many of the original members of JCA are still actively participating as consultants and guides. The JCA provides love, care, and family spirit for the older population, and the JCA community support is encouraged by the organization. There are currently active Senior members ages 94, 91, 90, 89, and more. These members are present at almost all JCA gatherings and play their roles in securing the organization’s future.
The organization boasts approximately seventeen significant projects annually. In addition, they actively collaborate with other nonprofit institutions and sister organizations throughout Canada to give back to Jamaica. Traditionally, the biennial Diaspora conference enjoys substantial support from Canadian Jamaicans. In 2022, to celebrate Jamaica’s 60th, more than one hundred Jamaican Canadians traveled to their island homeland. They participated in celebratory activities, bringing along their parents and older persons.
With the easy movement of Jamaican products between countries, Canada has the most exciting Jamaican grocery stores, bragging just about everything Jamaican. The stores are extensive and busy with Jamaicans purchasing pigtail, crowfoot, chicken feet, plantains, drops, grater cakes, and green bananas. Such displays are indications of the deep and vast community support by Jamaican Canadians and friends.
Little Jamaica in Toronto
Additionally, parts of Greater Toronto are called Little Jamaica for a good reason. The various Jamaican patties manufacturing businesses are all doing well. They compete for the best-tasting and flakiest Jamaican patties. Canada has also developed its own brand of reggae music industry featuring great bands, singers, and producers.
If you were not at the JCA center last weekend, you missed one of the greatest performing reggae bands, Reyzolution (members all 2nd generation Jamaicans, who sound like them bawn a Yawd).
The vast and expansive Jamaica ecosystem in the GTA was encouraged by the work of this 61-year-old organization, the JCA. There are several spin-offs of the organization across Canada. This is evidence of the strength and impact of JCA on the broader community. It is the hook, the line, and the sinker for Blacks in Canada.
The Jamaican community in Canada is a vibrant model for other community organizations worldwide to follow. To learn more about the JCA, visit http://jcaontario.org. One love, JCA!