There is an old saying that ‘Jamaicans are everywhere’. All Jamaicans are descendants of immigrants to Jamaica and every Jamaican has at least one relative who has emigrated from Jamaica.
Our history is one of migration and immigration and fits neatly into the sociological ‘push and pull’ concept of leaving Jamaica to find new opportunities. Jamaican labour and skill have contributed to the building of the Panama Canal, the development of the Sugar Industry in Cuba, and the Banana Industry in Costa Rica and Colon. Teachers, nurses, doctors, artisans, sports people, musicians, labourers have travelled to the United States, Canada, Britain, and more recently, the Gulf States to make their contributions in the development of those countries.The formation of the Jamaica Society (Manchester) in 1962, the very year that Jamaica achieved Independence, was the vision of people like Mr. Arthur Jackson, Mr. Bob Clarke, Miss Owen (deceased), Mr. E.G. Christian, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Byfield (now residing in Jamaica) to name a few. They wanted to help foster a better relationship with the wider community and while also reinforcing the aims and objectives of a new independent Jamaica.
The Jamaica Society Manchester has made its mark since its inception more than 40 years ago. We celebrate, for example, the number of black female magistrates in and around Manchester. Mrs, Cherry Byfield, Mrs. Lorne Plummer, Mrs. V. Reid, (Trafford) Dr. Carol Baxter (Eccles) all had involvement with the Society. Equally important is an interesting list of male members, some who have gone back to make their mark in the socio-economic life of Jamaica Mr. Kingley Sangster former J.L.P. Member of Parliament, Mr. Desmond Leaky and Mr. Onetl Williams P.N.P Members of Parliament, Mr. Arthur Byfield, farmer. As is the case of women magistrates in Manchester, the same is also true of men who have had connections with the Society Mr. A. Downie, O.B.E. Mr. E.G. Christian, Mr. Roy Walters, Councillor Whit Stennett, who incidentally became the first black person to be elected a Councillor in the borough of Trafford in 1993. A number of other members are continuing to forge ahead in various fields of endeavour.
The Society has also initiated The Jamaica Folk Ensemble that serves as a vehicle in the maintaining of our cultural presence. The Jamaica Society newsletter is also an important organ of the Society, the brainchild of Dr Henry Lowe who was a post graduate student at Manchester University in the mid 70’s. Mrs Cherry Byfield was also a key figure in initiating the Newsletter. There is also a Northern Regional Committee of Jamaicans. With the closing of the Jamaican consulate in Manchester in 1980, of which Mr. Roy White served as the Consular Officer for 12 years, the Jamaica Society was in the forefront of providing a service for Jamaicans in the Northwest, with for example, consultations at the West Indian Sports and Social Club.
We have come into the 21st century with a legacy for our children. We look to the future, confident that our young people will build on the work of those before them, and make their contribution to our Jamaican family here and abroad, and indeed, the whole human race.