The new of the Jamaican Diaspora in 2020 included the victory of Celeste Waite as the BBC’s “Sound of 2020” poll, a strengthening of the relationship between the Embassy in Beijing, China, to support Jamaicans living in Wuhan, the recognition of the Tree Planting Project by the Jamaican Diaspora Taskforce Action Network and Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance by the Clinton Global Initiative, and a Jamaican-born judge elected to serve as a justice on New York State’s Supreme Court. Also in the news of 2020 were Phacelia Nembhard of Whitefield Town in Kingston who was the first woman and the first person of color to be elected mayor of New Carrolton in Maryland, Jamaican Hazelle Rogers who is the mayor of Lauderdale Lakes in Florida and who received a 2020 Jamaican National Award, and two city councilmen in Toronto to save the city’s “Little Jamaica” neighborhood. The news reported on the Jamaican woman from St Catherine who participated in the largest maritime exercise in the world, the deportation of Jamaicans from the United Kingdom despite strong opposition, and the death of Marcus Garvey Jr., the oldest son of Jamaica’s first national hero Marcus Mosiah Garvey, in South Florida.
BRITISH-JAMAICAN SINGER WON BBC “SOUND OF 2020” POLL
The British-Jamaica soul singer Celeste Waite, 25, was selected the BBC “Sound of 2020” in the network’s yearly poll, which is designed to identify the best new musical acts. Her selection came after she won the Rising Star award in December of 2019. Celeste started writing songs and performing during her teen years. She was discovered at age 16 after posting her first song on the internet. She was signed by Lily Allen’s label Bank Holiday Records and released her first EP “Milk & Honey” in 2017.
BEIJING EMBASSY CREATED STRONG LINKS TO JAMAICANS IN WUHAN, CHINA
According to Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s Embassy in Beijing, China, “strengthened its outreach to Jamaicans in the Wuhan area of Hubei province,” which is the center of the coronavirus outbreak. The Minister reported that Whatsapp groups were created to address issues relating to food and supplies in the area affecting Jamaicans. The embassy also provided a list of 24-hour hotlines to provide Jamaicans with guidance and aid during the coronavirus crisis. Jamaicans in Wuhan also received direct help as part of the Embassy’s outreach efforts.
JAMAICAN DIASPORA TASKFORCE PROJECT RECEIVED CLINTON GLOBAL INITIATIVE AWARD
The Tree Planting Project of the Jamaica Diaspora Taskforce Action Network and Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance was recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) with the organization’s Commitment to Action Award. The award was presented at the CGI Action Network Post-Disaster Recovery meeting in Puerto Rico on February 18, 2020. Former United States President Bill Clinton presented the award. The Tree Planting Project is designed to plant one million trees in the Caribbean, with at least 100,000 trees planted in Jamaica, in order to address climate change and food scarcity via the planting of fruit-bearing trees.
JAMAICA-BORN CAROL SHARPE ELECTED TO NY SUPREME COURT
Carol Rosemarie Sharpe, who was born in Jamaica and raised on Bay Farm Road Kingston, was elected to serve as a justice on New York State’s Supreme Court. She is currently a judge in the New York City Civil Court in New York County, a position she has held since 2014. She began her legal career in the office of the District Attorney where she prosecuted several homicide cases. In her work there, she listened to the testimony of witnesses and learned how to work with people and develop relationships. She was elected to serve on the New York City Supreme Court’s Manhattan Division in 2013. She is also a judge of the New York Supreme Court 1st Judicial District, assuming that office in 2018. Sharpe was named the 2020 Jurist of the Year by the Metropolitan Black Bar Association (MBBA).
JAMAICAN WOMAN ACHIEVED SUCCESS IN POLITICS IN THE UNITED STATES
Phacelia Nembhard, who is originally from Whitefield Town in Kingston, was elected mayor of New Carrolton, Maryland, in June of 2020. She is the first woman and the first person of color to serve in this position. Nembhard received a degree in management and accounting at the University of the West Indies where she attended on a scholarship. She was named Student of the Year at the university in 1996. Upon migrating to the US after college, she worked with Citizen Bank and Presidential Bank. Nembhard sees herself as a community activist rather than a politician and has done much volunteer work in the school system. Parents at the school where she volunteered urged her to run for mayor. Since taking office, Nembhard has instituted several reforms, working with the city police department on reforms.
MAYOR OF LAUDERDALE LAKES RECEIVED JAMAICAN NATIONAL AWARD
Hazelle Rogers, the mayor of Lauderdale Lakes in Florida, was one of the 2020 Jamaican National Awardees. Rogers was one of several Jamaicans on the island and in other countries to receive a Jamaican National Award on October 19, 2020. The awards are presented each year by the Jamaican government to recognize Jamaicans for their service to the interest of Jamaica. The awards were given on National Heroes Day at the official residence of the Governor-General of Jamaica, Kings House. Mayor Rogers is a pioneering Jamaican American politician who will receive the Order of Distinction (OD), the sixth-highest of the awards in the rank of Commander. The award was given for her years of service to the Jamaican Diaspora. She was elected a commissioner to the City of Lauderdale Commission in 1998. In 2008, she was elected to represent District 94 in the House of Representatives in Florida, and in 2016, she was elected Mayor of Lauderdale Lakes. Other awardees from South Florida in 2020 included Third World drummer William “Willie” Stewart and Keith Lyn, a former member of Byron Lee and the Dragonaires.
TWO TORONTO CITY COUNCILORS WORKED TO PROTECT CITY’S LITTLE JAMAICA NEIGHBORHOOD
Toronto city councilors Josh Matlow and Mike Colle worked to protect the culture of the Little Jamaica neighborhood in the Eglinton West area of the city from the damaging effects of gentrification. Matlow’s constituency includes Little Jamaica, while Mike Colle responded to concerns about the loss of character and identity of the area due to gentrification, which threatens the existence of small black-owned businesses. The “pressures” of gentrification include increased development arising from the new Crosstown LRT, which will open along Eglinton and facilitate links between Little Jamaica and the rest of the city. Matlow cited the area’s immigrants created a lively reggae scene that contributed to the music legacy of Toronto, the food scene, and the existing strong sense of community. The two councilors created a “planning framework study” to consider how best to retain the neighborhood’s identity.
JAMAICAN WOMAN FROM ST. CATHERINE PARTICIPATED IN LARGEST MARITIME EXERCISE IN THE WORLD
Princess Whyte, a Jamaican from St. Catherine serving as a seaman with the United States Navy participated in the biggest international maritime exercise in the world, the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC). Whyte is a retail services specialist on the USS Dewey, which operates out of San Diego, California. She is responsible for the management and operation of all retail and service activities on the ship, including its store, vending machines, coffee kiosks, barbershops, and laundry facilities. She noted that the characteristics and values required for success in the US Navy as the same as those she was raised with. RIMPAC is held every year to help participants develop and maintain cooperative relationships that ensure safety and security at sea. RIMPAC 2020 was the 27th exercise in the series, which began in 1971.
UNITED KINGDOM DEPORTED JAMAICANS IN SPITE OF STRONG OPPOSITION
The Home Office in Britain went ahead with its controversial plan to operate a deportation flight to Jamaica the first day England’s month-long COVID-19 lockdown ended. The government moved forward with the plan despite strong opposition from immigration and civil rights activists. Thirteen men were deported, according to Chris Philp, Home Office minister for immigration compliance. He added that all the men deported had criminal histories and expressed his dismay that several others who had been scheduled for deportation were granted last-minute reprieves after a legal challenge and flight deferrals. Some 50 people were originally slated for deportation.
MARCUS GARVEY JR. DIED AT AGE 90 IN SOUTH FLORIDA
Marcus Garvey Jr., the oldest son of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jamaica’s first national hero, died in Wellington, Florida, on December 8, 2020, at the age of 90. He had been fighting Alzheimer’s disease for several years before his death. Following in his father’s footsteps in many ways, Garvey was a successful electrical engineer, physicist, and mathematician who was also the president-general of the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Garvey was born in St. Andrew and spent much of his life traveling and lecturing throughout the Caribbean, North America, Europe, and Africa. He is survived by his wife of over 30 years Jean Garvey, his younger brother Dr. Julius Garvey, sons Colin and Kyle-Sekou, stepdaughter Michelle Morris, and four grandchildren.