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The inaugural Jamaican Diaspora United Kingdom (UK) conference ended on Saturday (April 1) with delegates pledging to work to reclaim brand Jamaica.
“This community now acknowledges that the image of Jamaica and of Jamaicans in Britain needs urgent action to redress the negative perception, which dominates the UK media. The Jamaican community is diverse. It represents people of all races, cultures and religions. It has made a significant contribution in such fields as health, education, sport, politics and the arts,” the delegates said in a statement issued at the end of the one-day meeting.
The conference, which was held at the Bethel Convention Centre in West Bromwich, saw close to 1,000 delegates meeting to discuss a number of key issues such as: influencing public policy, engaging second and third generation Jamaicans, the development of entrepreneurship, and immigration matters.
In workshops held as part of the conference, the Jamaicans pointed to the need for nationals in the UK to be more involved in how their children were being educated; for the formation of lobby groups to press for changes that would benefit them; for nationals to become more politically involved, register to vote and vote; and to expand and replicate programmes to strengthen the self image and cultural identity of the younger generation.
In the latter area, mention was made of the work being done by groups such as the Black Police Association and GraceKennedy, through its Jamaica Birthright Programme.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Delano Franklyn, commended the Jamaican Diaspora movement for organising the conference and proposed that similar meetings be held every two years, with a special section devoted to second, third and fourth generation Jamaicans.
He echoed proposals for Jamaicans in the UK to intensify lobbying efforts to influence policy both in the UK and in their homeland.
Meanwhile, High Commissioner to London, Gail Mathurin, said the conference was evidence of the progress that had been made since the inaugural Jamaican Diaspora Conference in Kingston two years ago.
“I know that the UK Diaspora movement has faced challenges but it has also accomplished much. It has strengthened the cooperation and collaboration among Jamaican organizations, groups and individuals, and has already shown that it can be a strong, united voice for Jamaicans in this country,” she stated.
Opposition spokesman with responsibility for the Jamaica Diaspora, Ed Bartlett said the Opposition regarded the Diaspora as a very important component in Jamaica’s development. “We do not, for one movement, underestimate your importance”, he stated.
Keynote speaker at the conference was Sir Bill Morris, Chancellor of the University of Technology and other speakers included Commissioner of Police, Lucius Thomas; Managing Director of the Gleaner Voce Group, Kingsley Thomas; General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, Dame Karlene Davis; Member of Parliament, Dianne Abbott; Bishop Eric Brown; and immigration specialist Jawaid Lugmani.