Last week, Shaggy ignited a firestorm among members of the diaspora. He made disparaging comments that basically denied the very existence of active diaspora community leaders, insinuating that the diaspora isn’t organizing and quote – “actively supporting causes in Jamaica”. Before observing the statement he made word for word, I admit I was defending the spirit of his statement. I agree, as do many expatriates, that the diaspora is not well organized and might seem ineffective because of that. But I am well aware that there are many among us who bleed black, green and gold and go above and beyond to volunteer time and energy to the advancement of all good things Jamaican. Depending on where you are in the US, you know names like Marlon Hill, Irvin Claire and Sandy Isaacs. You know organizations like Food for the Poor, Jampact and American Friends of Jamaica. These aren’t talkers, these are doers. I believe all 3 organizations I just named have paid staff, but the individuals – they just love their country. To make a statement like “you don’t have community organisers in the Jamaican diaspora that are active… who are just at it.”, is pretty much akin to boxing these individuals in their faces.
Now Shaggy’s a good guy so I don’t believe he meant to personally attack anyone. When speaking without a script we often phrase things inappropriately. But people pay attention when people like Shaggy speak. And he basically threw the folks and organizations I just mentioned, the various people who send their small remittances home when they can, professionals who volunteer their time and talents on unpaid medical missions etc etc, he just threw them all under the bus.
A whole lot of questions have been raised in the kerfuffle, but the question I’d like to have us all linger on is, what positive can we take from the discourse that has ensued? However we felt about the exact wording of his statements, I believe the most important thing we can take from the spirit of his statement is that more needs to be done by those of us who have gone abroad and made a better life. I’ll also put it out there that, as one leader mentioned, perhaps there need to be facilitators in Jamaica that make it easier for us to help.
Shaggy does wonderful things for Jamaica and specifically the Bustamante Childrens’ Hospital. No one can deny his good deeds. I don’t think he should deny anyone else’s either. His inference that active and helpful organizations don’t exist is utterly and completely false. If you’d like to find some of those resources, if you’d like to find facilitators that will help you help Jamaica, visit jamaicans.com and search “How to help Jamaica”.
The passionate dialogue that has been sparked by Shaggy’s comments, cannot be covered completely in this short review. The video included is an extended presentation on this. Submit your thoughts by video response to http://youtu.be/YaubE_zWE_M or send them by email to [email protected] and you might be featured in the next episode.