"Let's wait a while" goes the chorus from the Janet Jackson hit of the late 80s (yes, I'm dating myself) so I gave it all of seven days before recapping the Jamaica 55th Anniversary Diaspora COnference that unfolded at the Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.
First, I concur with the congratulations proferred by the Jmaaica Observer to all involved in the organisation and planning of the four-day Conference, and also agree that the COnference was reinvented and refreshed and it worked.
The social occasions, including the massive reception on Tuesday evening, presented by VMBS at Hope Gardens, offered even more opportunities for networking than in the conference rooms - as the plenaries were generally pressed for time. There were the perennial stalwarts buttressed by bright, skilled, business-oriented young professionals.
The conference confirmed the immense untapped potential of the Diaspora and also that the Diaspora is now truly global, and has eclipsed the traditional US-UK-Canada bases that informed previous gatherings. Continental Europe - particularly in light of Britain's slow, painful exit, is becoming increasingly important, as are Latin America (particularly the northern part of the South American cone) Japan and Australia/New Zealand.
These have grown largely on the successes enjoyed by Jamaican culture, incorporating both sports and the performing arts. Jamaica is now, more than ever, a globally recognized and even celebrated brand, and that's set to extend even further with the impending IAAF World Championships in London, buttressed by the swan song of USain Bolt and the ongoing ascendancy of Elaine Thompson
Today's Diaspora is younger, more educated, more technologically driven, and interested in opportunities. They are comfortable with dual identities and dual nationalities. Their mindset is global and their opportunities are not confined to Jamaica. They do not - generally - get hung up on old school ties and often maintain globe-trotting schedules with respect to family and business.
The Diaspora, as the observer editorial points out, wants a greater say in Jamaican affairs and, indeed, would like to vote in elections without being physically in Jamaica. After all, Jamaica is a nation without borders and in which Jamaicans outside are as well informed about local affairs as those on the “Rock”, thanks to modern communications. The Diaspora is yet to be fully mobilised to influence the politics and foreign policy in countries like the United States.
Kudos again to the organizers, even though they looked a little out of depth on that first morning. Kudos to the exhibitors, in particular Grace Kennedy, not just for their steady provision of refreshments, but also for the wealth of information shred and the quality of the conversations, as was the case with several of the Government agencies on hand.
There's lots to be done, of course, and the naysayers will continue to say "talk shop" but there's truly a lot to look forward to for the next Conference