The Gleaner

Historic Jamaican Diaspora body facing demise

Lester Hinds/Gleaner Writer

DIASPORA ORGANISATION, the Jamaica Progressive League is facing an uphill struggle to survive as it has failed to attract new members and is unable, at times, to carry out its business.

Sadi Campbell, president of the League, has acknowledged that the organisation is not attracting new members and on many occasions is unable to attract a quorum.

“We have not been attracting new members and the current membership is not enough to sustain the organisation. We have been struggling to keep it alive. We have seen some hope but I don’t know if it is enough to keep the League alive,” she said.

The Jamaica Progressive League, which has been i n existence since before Jamaica gained Independence, is credited with being i n the forefront of advocating for the island’s independence from England.

At its height, the League had some seven chapters across several states in the United States. There were chapters in Philadelphia, Maryland, California, Connecticut, among other states. The League at one time owned a building on East 57th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues in Manhattan, considered one of the premier real estate strips in New York City.

Today, the League owns only a building on Light Street in the Bronx which it uses as its headquarters.

The League used to host a week-long celebration to mark Jamaica’s Independence, including cultural activities culminating with the hosting of the Jamaica Independence Ball.

Several Jamaican prime ministers have paid homage to the role of the League in promoting Jamaica’s march for Independence. It was a rite of passage for leaders of the People’s National Party to attend League functions in the US, while the League also held pride of place in attending the party’s conference.

The Jamaica Progressive League was previously listed with the US State Department as an agent being able to advocate on behalf of Jamaica. The League was present at the signing of the Civil Rights Act at the White House by President Lynden B. Johnson.

Karl Rodney, former president of the League, told The Gleaner that, like many other Jamaican organisations in the diaspora, the League has lost its way.

“We should be building on the legacy of organisations like the League, but this has not been happening. It is not only the League, but so many other organisations which have served Jamaica where this is happening,” he said.

Rodney said it was unfortunate that the vibrancy of the League has gone and this, he argued, can be attributed to organisations not attracting new and younger members.

“We are not passing on the legacy of our organisations to the younger generation,” he said.

Una Clarke, former New York City council member, said the community cannot afford to let the League die.

“If the League goes, so too will our history for Independence,” she said.

Clarke said a concentrated effort must be made to recruit new members, especially from among the younger generation of Jamaicans, so the legacy of the League will be preserved.

“We must create interest in our heritage and we must find a way to ensure that the League plays a role in this,” she said.

Another former president of the League, Irwine Clare, questioned what was the message that the League has been putting out to attract new members, especially from among the younger generation.

“The League is not attracting new members as it is not articulating what it stands for,” he said.

Clare said the League must not be allowed to die but, to avoid this, new members must be recruited and the League has to articulate a message that can resonate with the younger generation.

Dr Karren Dunkley noted that, like many other organisations, the League has suffered from not building pipelines to the next generation of leaders.

“An organisation with the rich history of the Jamaica Progressive League cannot be allowed to die and some way must be found to keep it alive,” she told The Gleaner.





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