Young Jamaicans in the Diaspora, along with other Jamaicans having close ties to the United States, had the chance to tune in to a forum that was hosted live on the Facebook page of Jamaicans.com to discuss the impact of COVID-19. The forum, which was held on April 14, 2020, was presided over by Jenine Shepherd, the president of the Jamaican American Youth Alliance (JAYA). This was the first Virtual Forum conducted by the organization, and over 14,000 people have tuned in, not counting those who access the forum over the radio. The youth organization seeks to uplift young people in Jamaica and elsewhere through the provision of mentors and opportunities for networking. The virtual forum, entitled “Young People Talk COVID-19” was co-hosted by Dervan Malcolm, presenter of ‘Both Sides of the Story” of Power 106 FM in New York.
The virtual forum guest was comprised of the following persons: Her Excellency Amabssador Audrey Marks, Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, The Honourable Floyd Green, MP. State Minister in MICAF, The Honourable Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, Congresswoman for New York’s 9th District, Consul General of Jamaica to Miami, Oliver Mair, Deputy Consul General of Jamaica to New York, Lisa Bryan-Smart., Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the NYC Department of the USA Small Business Services, Jeremiah Knight, Counselor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Kingston, Steven Whittingham, Chief Operating Officer at the Grace Kennedy Financial Group Ltd., David Mullings, Chief Executive Officer of Blue Mahoe Capital Partners (recently featured in Bloomberg), Xamayla Rose, the Deputy Public Advocate of New York, Dale Holness, Mayor Dade County, Miami, Dr. Karren Dunkley, Ph.D., Northeast USA Representative on the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council and Dominic Christopher, Chief Executive Officer at Deh Abroad.
The forum included two-panel discussions that focused on Foreign Affairs & Education, Impact on Business, Investment, the Economy, and Community Leader Response. Many young people participated in the forum through a live streaming at the Jamaicans.com Facebook platform, Proud Jamaicans, and Pure Jamaica. The discussions offered much useful and important information about mental health and the social wellbeing of young Jamaicans living during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
JAYA president Shepherd noted that young Jamaicans feel confused about the COVID-19 situation as a result of a societal dynamic in which false information can be easily promoted. In response, the organization is trying to provide true and meaningful information from official and reliable sources that can be trusted. ‘We, young Jamaicans at home and abroad, need to come together and support each other, because we are stronger when we are unified. We will overcome COVID-19”, Shepherd said.
The Jamaican diplomatic community in the US has shown its supportive presence in regard to the forum by partnering with experts to facilitate access to information and resources that can be shared via a variety of social media platforms and through the websites of the Jamaican Ministry of Health and the Jamaican Ministry of Foreign Trade. At the April 14th forum, the Trade Ministry focused on communicating its efforts to help young Jamaicans who are stranded in the US and what various consulates of Jamaica are doing to help Jamaican students pursuing education in the US./ Aid provided to Jamaican farmers who participate in seasonal employment in the US through the Jamaican Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries was also discussed, as was aid to businesses in Jamaica provided by Jamaicans in the US through the American government.
JAYA plans to have several social events in addition to the coronavirus forum designed to engage young Jamaicans in the Diaspora In the future.