From the perspective of living in Jamaica, Los Angeles seems to be on the other side of the world. Jamaicans even view Europe as closer to home than Los Angeles. It was no wonder then that in the nineteen sixties the people on U. S.
West coast knew very little about the culture of our people except that we had the best ganja (marijuana), reggae, Bob Marley and a tourist destination. Many Angelinos didn’t know the difference between Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados and so on, and then of course there were the questions such as “Isn’t Bob Marley your president?” Communication was limited and sharing cultural experiences was difficult and visiting home was costly and time consuming.
In 1997 four young people decided to share our illustrious culture and multi-faceted life style with our adopted community and at the same time relive some of the wonderful experiences of our homeland. So the concept of Jamaica Cultural Alliance (JCA) was born. The very first attempt was to invite the veteran musician, big bandleader and maker of history the late Cecil “Sonny Bradshaw” and his wife Jamaica’s lady of Jazz “Myrna Hague” Bradshaw, backed up by The Antelope Valley 21 member big band, along with Jamaica’s story teller Joan Andrea (that Bumpy head Gal) Hutchinson from Jamaica for an evening of fine dining, entertainment and dancing. The event was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. So we showed Los Angeles a taste of how we do it in Jamaica.
JCA’s next achievement was to bring the award winning Stella Maris Dance Ensemble (35 members of dancers and crew) for performances at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, House of Blues Foundation, The Los Angeles Theatre Center and master classes at Long Beach City College. We reveled in the amazement and pleasure exhibited by members of city and county government officials as well as the community at large.
In later years we had the honour of entertain the likes of Pluto Shervington and his band, Marty Dread, Dobby Dobson and others, thus sharing some of the talent and versatility of our people and culture.
In 2002 JCA instituted the JCA Trailblazer award which is given to those who set a standard and Blaze a path in Caribbean Culture and History to establish the rightful place in society.
The first recipient of this award was the late Dr. John Alexander Sommerville who was the first person of African descent to Graduate from the University of Southern California (USC) as a dentist.
In 2003 the Award was given to the now late Justice Ena Lue Sang Allen who was the first woman in the history of the country to be appointed to the high court bench and the first person of Chinese descent to be sworn into the position of Supreme Court Judge.
In 2004 the recipient was the members of the 1988 Jamaica Bob Sled Team.
In 2008 JCA honored Captain Maria Ziadie Haddad as First Female Airline Pilot in the Caribbean – March 05 1979, and the First Female Captain with Air Jamaica July 02, 1996.
In 2014 the recipient was Garth Fagan O.D., Theatre Director, Dancer, Master Choreographer, choreographer of the Lion King . Many others have been given special recognitions such as:
- Ms. Rachael Manley, eldest daughter of the late Hon. Michael Manley.
- Ms. Claudia Rankine Educator, Poet and author.
- Mr. Cleveland O. Neil with the JCA Community Service Award for his honorary service as Jamaican Consul for thirty Four Years.
Most recently we dedicated an event to focus on Bre’r Anansi the childhood folk hero of our history and culture and in 2014 JCA went all out to celebrate the life of the late Dr. the Honorable Louise Bennett Coverly who truly gave credence to our culture JCA also instituted a program of honoring the different races/cultures that make up Jamaica’s rainbow society thus honoring its motto “Out of Many One People”. So far we have highlighted the Chinese and the Jews.
JCA has taken a major step and is embarking on its first community project. Steps are being taken to launch the Caribbean/West Indian Youth Club in partnership with the Blazer Learning Center of Los Angeles. The purpose of this project is to provide a support system for the children who migrate to Los Angeles and often times have difficulty assimilating into the new culture and being accepted by their peers and also to teach and encourage those children born to parents of Caribbean/West Indian origin about the history and heritage. For more information please check with a JCA committee member.
As we continue to educate and share with our adopted community the pride in and love of our culture, we feel the need to take a hard look at how we as West Indians truly value this legacy. We believe that most of us take it for granted and assume that just as we inherited it, so will it endure into infinity. When we converse with young people of our heritage, more and more we find that the legacy is locked in a treasure chest for them; however, present and past generations either do not have or are not willing to give them the key. It is our duty to teach them their history, enlighten them as to trailblazers and role models within their village and empower each one to carry the torch into the future. Indeed, “If you do not know your past/history, how can you strategically chart your future?”