Dr. Karren Dunkley is an Educator, Transformational Leader, and Social Advocate. A graduate of St. Catherine High and Wolmers Girls schools, Dr. Dunkley is a Proven Performer, who has earned the respect and recommendation of others who have seen her work first hand. Currently, Dr. Dunkley is one of the most successful educators in the United States, and one of the most internationally recognized Jamaican-born educators. As a former high school principal and deputy superintendent, Dr. Dunkley is known for her transformational leadership in the state of Pennsylvania and her inspiring relationship with the young people whom she has mentored.
A Nation Builder, Dr. Dunkley’s philanthropic contributions in the field of education, women’s empowerment, and community development are enormous, with visible impact in the United States and mostly rural Jamaica. She is very involved with capacity building at the community level in rural Jamaica. She currently collaborates with various organizations and schools to positively impact and support the needs of students and families in several communities. Dr. Dunkley is a game-changer who understands people and goes all out to empower others.
Dr. Dunkley holds a doctorate in Urban Education with a concentration in Organization and Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University; Masters degrees in Political Science and Education Leadership from St. John’s University, and Columbia University, respectively, and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Education from St. John’s University.
What is your connection to Jamaica? Have you been involved in the Jamaica Diaspora Movement or Jamaican related organizations before?
I have a physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and financial connection to Jamaica. I come from humble beginnings in Ensom City, Spanish Town. I am the daughter of a then clerical officer in the Postal Service, Barbara Carmeta Bowen-Dunkley, and an insurance salesman, Melvyn Duncan Dunkley. I am a proud graduate of St. Catherine High School and Wolmers Girls (Sixth Form). I am an active member of the St. Catherine High School Alumni. I spend at least three months out of every year in Jamaica, working with schools and select organizations to positively impact the lives of youth, young adults, and families in mostly rural communities. I am the co-owner and proprietor of Spiritz of Montego Bay Sports Grill. Like my grandmother, Ms. Kathleen Bowen would say, “mi navel string cut a Jamaica.”
Over the last twenty-five years, I have collaborated with Jamaican schools, individuals, and organizations, including the St. Catherine High School Alumni Association, Uhuru Incorporated, Spiritz of Hanover, and SHALK Security Limited to improve and support educational and community development at the grassroots level. I am committed to economic and cultural empowerment, -sponsoring academic and graduation scholarships, providing athlete assistance, and ensuring access to early literacy resources. During the school year, we assist with basic needs such as uniforms, books, bags, textbooks, and scholarships for graduation.
In the area of women’s empowerment, I mentor teenage moms and organize empowerment seminars at the grassroots level. I am committed to empowerment through Sports and served as a major sponsor of Jamaica’s Senior Netball team, “The Sunshine Girls.” I also work closely with homeless and displaced youth to facilitate access to safe housing solutions.
If elected what will be your main goal in this role for your constituencies?
Jamaica is a country without borders. As Jamaicans, we need to understand what and who the Diaspora is, recognizing that anyone who lives outside of Jamaica is a member of the Diaspora. My primary goal is to engage Jamaicans from all walks of life in the Diaspora movement so that we can know and understand the purposes of the GJDC, including how we can continue to build and improve our beloved island. I will continue on the ground community engagement and feedback to ensure that policymakers hear our voices as we advise and influence developmental issues that impact Jamaicans at home and abroad. As the northeast representative for the GJDC, I will focus on working with the government and the Jamaican people to address early literacy, skills training and entrepreneurship, youth leadership, access to clean water for every school/household, and community development.
Many in the Jamaican community abroad don’t know much about the Jamaica Diaspora movement and its goals. What will you do to change this perception and get all Jamaicans in the Diaspora involved?
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Rt. Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey
The Diaspora movement belongs to all Jamaicans. During this process, I spent a lot of time communicating with people on the ground about the importance and goals of the Diaspora movement. I intend to continue to engage the Jamaican community through strategic, inclusive communication, and a public education program that will address this issue. During this process, I found that many Jamaicans believe that this Diaspora movement belongs to “only some type of Jamaicans.” The Jamaican Diaspora movement is for all Jamaican people regardless of jobs, titles, and schooling. I have already met with a connective communications expert to set up a system that will provide the Northeast region with a multi media-platform to increase and sustain frequent and responsive communication and feedback.
Recently there have been some who have expressed concerns about not having a voice and too much government involvement in the new Global Jamaica Diaspora Council format that is being adopted. Do you have any thoughts on this?
As a Garveyite, power always belongs to the people. Power concedes nothing without a struggle. My focus has always been on working for the people and with the people. I intend to continue to represent the best interest of the Jamaican people, without losing focus of why they would have voted for me to serve on the council.
Is there a cohesive goal for the Jamaican Diaspora that people can rally around?
We must collectively deliver on the promise of a better Jamaica for this generation and the next. The cohesive goal that the Jamaican Diaspora must rally around is nation-building, outside of any political party influence or paradigm. At fifty-eight years, we are still in the process of nation-building.
We must rally around symbols of nationhood such as our heritage sites, and refurbish our national hero sites. We must teach our children about the rich, powerful, and majestic history of our country, especially our national heroes. We must take bold and radical actions to accelerate economic and cultural empowerment for all Jamaicans. We must become innovators by supporting a public-private international bond to address crime and violence in our most high needs communities. Jamaica can no longer work for just the “big man and woman or the people with money.” We must also continue our focus on job skills training and entrepreneurship in both rural and urban communities, so as a people, we secure a place as both producers and consumers in the local and global economy.
Thanks for your time and all the best in the election. Do you have any closing thoughts?
I have developed a formula for getting things done over the years, and I’ve seen it work very well. To get things done, one has to be able to work with people who have different opinions and different strategies. The concept is to get everyone to accept that the common goal that binds us together is more important than our differences in opinion. The ultimate goal is to deliver on the promise of a better Jamaica for this generation and the next. I am looking forward to working with Jamaicans from all walks of life, to do what is right for Jamaica, and to get this job done well. If I’m given that opportunity to serve as the Northeast representative on the GJDC, I can assure you that together-the work will get done.
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