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Jamaican Diaspora Advisory Board Member Response to The Sunday Herald

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Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq. 3325 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 206
Advisory Board Member Hollywood, Florida 33021
Southern United States 954-963-8555 ph: 954-963-1632 fax
[email protected] www.diaspora.org.jm

May 25, 2006 Via E-Mail

The Editor

The Sunday Herald
17 Norwood Avenue,
Kingston 5

Dear Sir:

In response to your Sunday May 21, 2006 front page story titled, “Miami Diaspora Members Under Fire”, let me first deal with the issue of the selection of delegates for the 2006 Jamaican Diaspora Conference. As told to the three people quoted in your story, The Consul General of Miami and I consulted and selected delegates to the conference based on geographic location, desire to attend, areas of expertise, past involvement in the Jamaican community either individually or through an organization, and potential for future involvement in the Diaspora Movement. The 2006 delegates who were at the pre Conference meeting held on May 13, 2006 at the Lauderhill Police Department identified themselves.

The decision not to release the names of the delegates is in line with the position taken in 2004 and was supported by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs; Sen. The Hon Delano Franklyn. The Minister did not have any input into the selection of delegates in the Southern United States or in any of the other six areas where there are Advisory Board Members.

The issue of the Florida Sunshine Act is a red-herring. Chapter 119.01, Florida Statutes, (The Sunshine Act) pertains only to United States State, County and Municipal records which must be public. The list of delegates to the Jamaican Diaspora Conference is not a United States State, County or Municipal record.

An individual’s assertion that her candidacy for the position of Advisory Board Member is being thwarted must be viewed in perspective. This individual asked for the list of delegates so she could campaign for the position of Advisory Board Member and have her campaign position posted on the Diaspora Web Site. As explained at the meeting, no other delegate to the Conference was being afforded the opportunity to campaign for a seat on the Advisory Board pre-conference, and that it would not be equitable to others who might want to become a Board Member. It was further advised that the procedure for selection of the Board Members would be made at the Conference, and that the issue of future “campaigning” should be raised during the Conference.

If the list of Delegates was not published to anyone but the current Board Member, the Consul General and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, how can anyone with a straight face say that the list was purged with Prime Minister Portia Simpson supporters?

I was not asked in 2004 what my Jamaican or American political affiliations were when I was invited to attend the inaugural Conference, no committee chair was asked what their political affiliations were, and no delegate to the 2006 Conference was asked their political affiliation. In my capacity as Advisory Board Member it matters not to me who is Prime Minister of Jamaica, whether Omar Davis, Peter Philips or Karl Blythe had won the presidency of the PNP, or whether the PNP or JLP wins the next election. It should not matter to my successor.

To address the assertion that the Diaspora is an “elitist organization”, etc. let us be clear. Those making that claim are upset that “they” were not asked to chair a committee, “they” were not invited to committee meetings, and some are not among the list of delegates to the 2006 Conference. The apparent entitlement to all of the above by some in the Jamaican community is at the root of the problem.

After having several strategy meetings with the invitees to the 2004 Conference, and several Jamaican experts in the community, people were asked to chair committees based on their expertise centered on philanthropy, economic empowerment and political galvanization. The first public event held under the banner of the Jamaican Diaspora Southern United States, a brochure listing the committees, the names, phone numbers and email addresses of the committee chairs was published. Included in that brochure was a message from me in my capacity as Advisory Board Member telling the community about the Diaspora Movement and encouraging the community to get involved in any one of the areas in which they had the expertise or interest.

Those claiming “elitism” received the brochure and have been to almost all of the eight standing room only public forums that have been held in South Florida under the banner of the Diaspora Advisory Board Member. To read the story would imply that all of South Florida is in uproar over the administration of the Advisory Board Member’s duties. It is a small but vocal group who believes they should be in charge of the Movement and have yet to offer any ideas, executable and otherwise; or to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Not wanting to participate in any capacity other than leadership there are those in the South Florida Jamaican community who would rather use their energies to discredit and destroy what has been accomplished over the last two years by hard-working Jamaicans who have a passion for a Movement that is greater than any one individual.

The Diaspora movement is not about politics it is about Jamaica and Jamaicans. I would hope that having lived overseas we would have lost our urge for tribalism and unite around Jamaica. We would all be better served if we poured our energy into helping Jamaicans in the Diaspora and at home instead of self promotion, and to quote a famous Jamaican song, “. . . fight one another for the power and the glory while Jah’s Kingdom goes to waste”.

Under the “Jamaican Diaspora” heading, we in the Southern United States have raised $5,500US earmarked for two schools in Jamaica, Epping Forrest All Age and Woodford Basic Schools. We have brought together thousands of Jamaicans through email, community forums and an Alumni Newsletter.

The Diaspora Conference is not a convention or a rally where you sit and listen to speeches for two days. It is an interactive Conference where the delegates dialogue with a view to solutions. It is not a talk shop. Not everyone who wants to attend the Conference can attend. Space and resources are limited. We need to stop the nonsense and realize that as the Conference continues on its bi-annual quest, more and more Jamaicans will be able to attend and participate in the solutions. Be part of the solution not the problem.

I am disappointed that The Sunday Herald which says that it is owned and managed by working journalists made its front page story one without balance and one in which no one beyond “The Gang” on the ground in Florida was contacted for a reality check.

Sincerely yours,

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq.

Jamaican Diaspora Advisory Board Member, Southern United States

B.A. Journalism, Florida International University

Juris Doctor, University of Miami School of Law

Certified Family Law and County Court Mediator

Certified Arbitrator

Special Magistrate, City of Miramar, Florida

Hearing Officer – Animal Court, Broward County, Florida

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