This month we pose “10 questions” to Mr. Ricardo Allicock Consul-General to the Southern United States. Mr. Allicock was appointed Jamaica’s Consul-General to the Southern United States, September 2002. Based at the Miami Consulate, Mr. Allicock’s duties cover thirteen southern states, extending to Arizona.
Previously, Mr. Allicock served the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade in the capacities of Director, Jamaicans Overseas Department, Advisor, Human Rights Affairs and Special Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
Prior to joining the Foreign Service in 2001, Mr. Allicock worked in the private sector, both in Jamaica and the United States, primarily in the areas of publishing and financial services. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Mercy College and a Master of Arts in International Political Economy and Development from Fordham University. He is married and has two children.
PD: So, tell us where on the island you grew up and what was your life like as a youth?
CG: I was fortunate enough to have grown up in various locations across Jamaica. I went to primary and high school in Savanna-la-Mar, Montego Bay and Kingston. My days of boyhood were a delight as I managed to make friends in each new place to which I relocated. In retrospect, I am able to find humour and warmth in many recollections of my youth. Even when I recall that, for a time in Westmoreland, I had to walk three miles to and from primary school each day.
PD: What High school and College did you attend?
CG: I attended St. George’s College for two years and then migrated to New York where I graduated from public high school. I then attended college, graduating from Mercy College with a B.A. in English Literature. After a few years of corporate life, I returned to Fordham University for an M.A. in International Political Economy and Development and eventually returned to Jamaica.
PD: You were appointed Consul General of Jamaica for the South East USA in 2002, tell me how has it been, what have been some of the special situations you have had to deal with in the regions or states you oversee?
CG: I have been, and continue to be, honoured to have received this opportunity to represent my country as Consul General to the Southern United States of America. Also, I cannot imagine a more exciting time for me to have arrived at this post. I firmly believe that our community in South Florida is the fastest growing in all of Jamaica’s Diaspora and, in all likelihood, it is the most diverse. Jamaicans have migrated here from the island as well as from the New York tri-state area and other points in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. Additionally, the state of Florida is most probably home to the largest number of Jamaican businesspersons and entrepreneurs living abroad. We are particularly active in the health, media, food distribution, neighbourhood retail, education, real estate, entertainment and professional services industries. This comes in addition to our very active philanthropic organizations which number more than sixty in Florida alone!
Furthermore, with seven publicly elected officals, three being Vice Mayors and one being a Mayor, Jamaican-Americans are more politically active in South Florida, representationally, than anywhere else in the Diaspora. Complementarily, Jamaicans in Tampa, Orlando, Atlanta and Houston are beginning to recognize the importance of political involvement for the improvement of their own lives and communities. In the midst of this heightening awareness, it is Jamaica’s hope that Jamaicans would eventually, where necessary, leverage their political muscle for Jamaica’s benefit.
Serving in this capacity is a marvelous experience. Every day that I have been here it has been demonstrated to me that we are a great, caring, generous, supportive people who make a positive impact wherever we go and, along the way, create tremendous goodwill for our nation. Wherever I go across my jurisdiction, which runs from Florida in the east to Arizona in the west and North Carolina in the north and encompasses the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands, it never fails that a non-Jamaican will approach me singing praises about our nation. That impression is made equally by Jamaicans at home as by those who live abroad. We’re just an infectious people. Strangers can’t help but love us.
Typical special situations that we at the Consulate have had to deal with across the region we oversee, involve Jamaicans in trouble or in need. This has involved raising funds for scholarships, medical care and return airfare for stranded Jamaicans, among other situations.
PD: In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, how has the Jamaican Government been coping with relief efforts to the Gulf States of the USA.?
CG: Hurricane Katrina affected the lives of hundreds of Jamaicans in the states of Mississippi and Louisiana. More than 340 temporary Jamaican workers in Mississippi’s hospitality industry were displaced as a result of serious damage done to the three resorts at which they were employed. Fortunately, Jamaica’s Ministry of Labour oversaw the evacuation of most of our workers, culminating in their safe return to Jamaica. As well, the Honourable Minister of Labour, Mr. Horace Dalley, along with the Director of the Jamaica Central Labour Organization in Washington, Mrs. Barbara DaCosta, managed, through considerable effort, to find alternative employment for approximately fifty of those workers in other states within the U.S. Another two dozen permanently resident Jamaicans were displaced from New Orleans and, in the process, lost everything. They have been relocated to Houston where, under the able and conscientious guidance of Jamaica’s Honorary Consul, Mrs. Beverly Ford, they have been provided with shelter and the necessities of living. This comes as a result of collaboration between the government’s representative, Mrs. Ford, and the president of the Jamaica Foundation of Houston, Mr. Andrew Adams. However, it takes near-Herculean efforts to maintain the lives of our brothers and sisters who are in this unfortunate situation. As such, I am making a broad appeal to all interested Jamaicans abroad to donate what they can to aiding the fourteen adults and ten children who are homeless Jamaicans in Houston. Cheques can be written to the Consulate General of Jamaica, 25 S.E. Second Ave., Suite 842, Miami, FL 33131, care of the Hurricane Katrina Fund. Each donation shall be receipted through a letter of gratitude from me personally. Contributions will be utilized for the benefit of our nationals in Houston.
PD: What are some of the immediate challenges faced by Jamaican Immigrants in the South Eastern States of America?
CG: An immediate challenge facing Jamaicans who migrate to anywhere in the United States is the fact that, with the institution of the Department of Homeland Security, your layers of protection as a non-citizen of the U.S.A. are decidedly thinner. America found itself under attack on its soil for the first time four years ago and has seen fit to take serious measures to protect itself against any occurrence of such a tragedy. Among these measures is the commitment of the U.S. government to deport any non-citizen who is found guilty of a felony. To emphasize the seriousness of this, please note that even a few misdemeanors can be stacked together to constitute a felony, thus making even a light offender eligible for deportation. I encourage all Jamaicans to live a circumspect life. Additionally, for your own protection, I recommend that any Jamaican who intends to reside in the United States for the medium to long term should apply for U.S. citizenship and, subsequently, register to vote. Both Jamaica and the United States recognize dual citizenship and, by gaining citizenship in the U.S., all the protection enjoyed by its citizenry would apply to you.
PD: Mr. Allicock Sir, you have worked in the private sector, both in Jamaica and the United States, primarily in the areas of publishing and financial services. What has it been like making the transition to Foreign Service?
CG: My transition to the Foreign Service of Jamaica has been quite smooth. Jamaica’s public service has some of the hardest working, most dedicated and educated employees to be found anywhere in Jamaica. Furthermore, the Foreign Service has been graced with some of the sharpest, most facile minds Jamaica has to offer. I consider myself most fortunate and, indeed, blessed, to be able to count myself among this cadre of professional Jamaicans who serve our country.
PD: As Jamaica grapples with rising crime statistics , the consensus is that much of the guns on the Streets of the Island are coming from the United States. Have the diplomatic missions in the USA in particular your mission been successful in developing a plan which would see the reduction in the amount of guns that are being imported from the USA?
CG: All efforts to curtail firearm exports to Jamaica from the United States are spearheaded by the Jamaican Embassy to the United States, which has Ambassador Gordon Shirley in Washington, D.C. at the helm. For our part, we at the Jamaican Consulate in Miami, in collaboration with federal, regional and local law enforcement agencies, make our best effort in stemming the flow of guns into our country.
PD: You are a conservative guy married with 2 children, how has family life been treating you?
CG: When we first arrived here my then two year old son asked me “Daddy, where are the hills?” That expressed my sentiments exactly. I miss Jamaica’s mountainous terrain and countless other elements about our country that simply cannot be duplicated outside. But, with my wife and children at my side, and Christ at our centre, it means that my home is with me wherever I go and, thankfully, they have been very supportive of me during my tenure. They have been very accommodating of my schedule, which is anything but routine, and I am extremely grateful to them for that. Most of all, I thank God for blessing me as He has.
PD: Outside of Foreign Service considerations, do you have any other career or business plans which you would like to pursue?
CG: I am completely committed to serving Jamaica as a Foreign Service Officer and make a habit of entertaining no other thought but how I can best do the job to which I have been assigned.
PD: Do you cook, what is your favourite Jamaican dish?
CG: Let’s just say that it wouldn’t be wise to depend upon me to prepare anything other than breakfast. However, my favourite Jamaican dish is oxtail and beans.
PD: What about reggae music, would you consider yourself a fan or follower of the music, who are some of the artists you admire and why?
CG: I am a huge fan of reggae music. To come from Jamaica and be otherwise would be akin to originating from Nashville and disliking country music! An abbreviated list of the artists I admire has to include Millie Small, Keith and Enid, John Holt, The Paragons, The Skatalites, Don Drummond, Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe, Leroy Sibbles, Eric Donaldson, Toots and The Maytals, Desmond Dekker and The Aces, and U Roy, because they are the very foundation of our music; Bob Marley and the Wailers because it remains the greatest band in reggae history, made Jamaica a brand name, and created some of the most poignant verses in modern music; Peter Tosh for giving us “African”; Jacob Miller for sharing his truths; Marcia Griffiths, Nadine Sutherland, Cynthia Schloss and Phyllis Dillon for strong, honest songbird-like performances; Black Uhuru for influencing reggae’s syncopation in the 1980s as it did; Third World for telling such marvelous stories; Shaggy and Sean Paul for staying true to the vernacular while blazing new crossover trails; VC for demonstrating that you don’t have to be dreadlocked to be conscious; Sizzla for indicating, through “Thank You Mama” that even hardcore, rebellious Rastas make time to be tender towards women, the source of life; Luciano for expressing his soul; Cedella, Ziggy, Kymani, Stephen and Damian Marley for nurturing their father’s legacy, continuing to share their family’s extraordinary talents and taking seriously the business end of the craft; and Dave Kelly for writing the most captivating, thought-provoking reggae/dancehall songs of the past 15 years.
PD: Again Thank You for making this interview possible. Best of wishes to you and your family for continued health and strength, much blessings from the Father.