Contributing writer, Barron Channer, explains how the Jamaican-American population in the US can make an impact by voting.
Features

Unnu fi vote nuh!

“Wi likkle but wi talawah”. If you know and love the phrase then you may be Jamaican – run into the streets and rejoice. It represents who we are and what we mean to this water filled object called Earth. The significance resonates in the realm of sports and entertainment, among other areas. Shouldn’t it also resonate in the political realm? Jamaicans in the Diaspora are people with a distinct voice in our communities. We would be immensely powerful if unified and organized. Yet, we have not found success advancing our interests the way members of many other cultural groups have. This is a problem that cannot be solved overnight. However, there are simple steps we can take to move towards the goal of empowerment.

In the future, I will ask for unity but for now first things first. Each and every one of us must vote. Why should you vote? Well the simple answer is that your right was bought with the blood and tears of those who fought for our equality. However, there is a more practical reason. If you don’t vote, then you do not count to policy makers. Did any of us feel powerful when the Caribbean banana industry was ravaged by U.S. trade policy? It would be fair to ask if we could have made a difference. To that I would respond, does the Cuban-American population affect our decisions regarding foreign policy with Cuba? It is possible to make a change with a unified effort, but it starts with simply voting for those you personally believe in.

We are a strong and proud people. That is evident in our cultural influence in the communities we reside. Contrastingly, our political power is relatively small. Have you ever heard a politician speak positively or negatively about a Jamaica lobby? Let me take a guess … NO! Do you know why? Well, politicians fear or love money and votes. That is the lifeblood of their profession. If you control one or both, you are someone to be listened to. This is the nature of representational democracy. Let’s take advantage of it.

If we are as proud of our Jamaica as we seem to be of her culture, her flag, and the talents and successes of her citizens, then why aren’t we actively defending her interests in the easiest way that we can. Vote! Vote! Vote! If you are not registered, then get registered and Vote! Vote! Vote! Don’t squander your power as an individual and a Jamaican. It is time that we begin to champion our little island in the sun. This issue is important enough to have attracted the attention of Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. Addressing the Diaspora Conference, he states the following:

I am greatly heartened by the growing consciousness in more and more of our Jamaicans who reside overseas, however temporary their stay may be (and we know too well how often temporary can become a lifetime!). Today’s political environment in these host communities requires however the assertion of your own unique identity. It is the only way to find your legitimate place and so fulfill your full economic, social and spiritual potential. This assertion of your rights redounds to your own benefit and to the benefit of your homeland.

As a Jamaican, you help you nation when we organize and vote. A vote now gives the right to make demands later.

In 2000, the US experienced a historic Presidential election that will not likely be repeated in our lifetime. The seams of the US democratic system were strained by the struggle for the Presidency and the uncertainty of the results. There were dangling chads, pregnant chads and I imagine invisible chads. Whatever your political views, you must agree on one thing. The individual vote was never more important than it was in the 2000 election. The state of Florida proved to be a deciding factor in the election. President Bush won Florida by less than 600 votes – depending on who counts. Note the smile. Nearly 6,000,000 people voted in Florida. How many Jamaicans live in Florida? Now, do you think an organized “Jamaican vote” could be powerful? OK then, let’s move on.

The National Jewish Population Survey estimated that there were 5.2 million Jews living in the US in 2000 which translates to less than 3% of the entire US population. The African-American and Hispanic populations of the US are each several times larger. Then why is it that politicians place such heavy significance on the “Jewish vote” and the particular policy interests that the Jewish vote represents. Monetary contributions are, no doubt, a significant factor, but even more important is the consistent pressure applied by the votes of this community. While money does play a role in the democratic process, it cannot impregnate or dimple chads. Only people can do that…People like me and you. Let us stand up and be counted individually. We know that “wi likkle but wi talawah,” but it is high time that we show it in the realm of politics. This is where we can impact the fate of our family, friends and mother country. For now, all I ask is that you vote and encourage others to do the same. I’ll be back to ask for organization and unity later. Til’ then “walk well”

Online Voter Registration LINKS:

About the author

Barron Channer