Former American Teacher, 72, Becomes Jamaican Citizen 23 Years After Her First Visit to the Island

Former teacher and school counselor, Marilyn “Misti Memphis” Williams, is now an official citizen of Jamaica. Twenty-three years after making her first visit to the country, Williams joined 32 other individuals from 12 different countries to take the Oath of Allegiance at a ceremony on December 4m 2023, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.

Originally from the United States

Williams was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in the southern part of the United States, and she did not rush into making Jamaica her home. Several events prompted her to decide to relocate to Jamaica, however, when she found herself back in the workforce, serving as a gate agent for Delta Airlines, after her retirement. She was vacationing in Jamaica when the airline “de-hubbed” Memphis and she, along with 1,200 Delta workers, lost their jobs. Wiliams had already rented an apartment with friends, and after the news of the layoffs, she chose to apply for permanent residency on the island. She shared that she had always felt symptoms of withdrawal when she was away from Jamaica. “That was how I ended up settling in Negril, because everything fell apart in the United States, and Jamaica was there to catch me,” she said.

Finding her Jamaican home

Williams made her first trip to Jamaica in 2000 and was immediately filled with a sense of joy when she landed at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. Her words, “Thank you, Jesus,” expressed everything she felt at seeing Black people efficiently and skillfully managing their tasks. She remembered that it felt “like a soulful homecoming.” She selected Ocho Rios as her first home in Jamaica and spent some five years enjoying the entertaining environment of the city. However, once she went to Negril in Westmoreland – the “Capital of Casual” – which reflected the laid-back atmosphere of 1960s hippies, the location made its way into her heart, and she felt its magic. She made a deliberate effort to slow down and let the spirit of Negril change her life.

Citizenship interview

Williams remembers the intense interview she experienced at the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) to obtain her citizenship application. They asked her repeatedly what she wanted to become a Jamaica citizen for hours until she lost her patience and told the interviewer that she was “only an American by virtue of where my family was dropped off during slavery.” She said her family worked hard and their efforts in America allowed her to seek a better life, which was finding Jamaica and having Jamaica find her. She also described how Ghanaians treat Black Americans with a naming ceremony that signals the beginning of a new life.

At long last

Williams turned in her passport application within an hour of being granted citizenship, even before she left Negril. She was ready, and now she is the proud possessor of a Jamaican passport. She praised PICA on the strict process applied to those seeking citizenship., and while it took her nine years to become an official Jamaica, she believes all the scrutiny is warranted. She wants Jamaica to be careful about who it allows into the country, she said.

Grateful for her new citizenship

Commenting on her new citizenship with gratitude, Williams said, “We grow where we are planted. We worked hard, and though the roots of my family’s journey are deeply embedded in America, what truly blossomed into a beautiful life was the connection I forged with Jamaica, and the reciprocal embrace of Jamaica finding me.”