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Prof. Rosalea Hamilton discusses why reconnecting Africa & the Caribbean is imperative

Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican National Hero and an early proponent of Pan-Africanism, frequently lamented the disconnection of Black people from their history. His renowned quote, “A people without knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots,” has deeply resonated with Professor Rosalea Hamilton. “The fact that we don’t know who our grandparents are is not normal,” she expresses, reflecting on the impact of forced migration on members of the African diaspora. She believes this lack of historical knowledge has resulted in profound trauma. “Looking back, so to speak, with fear, with uncertainty, I think increasingly information emerges that Africa is not the Africa that is painted by the West.”

Like Garvey, Professor Hamilton, the outspoken CEO of the LASCO Chin Foundation and chairperson of the Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance, advocates for a comprehensive reconnection with Africa as a critical step towards finally liberating from the shackles of colonialism and slavery.

She particularly underscores the potential positive influence of this reconnection on Black women, both within the diaspora and on the African continent. In her powerful article, “The Grand Rising of Women of African Descent,” she acknowledges the strides of progress humanity has made in welfare, yet keeps the ongoing challenges in clear sight, emphasizing the unique marginalization faced by Black women — a compound identity at the intersection of being a woman and being Black.

“The fact that we don’t know who our grandparents are is not normal…”

Despite enduring the “dehumanizing legacy” of racism, sexism, and gender discrimination, along with harmful traditions in some parts of the continent like female genital mutilation, many Black women have defied the odds to achieve trailblazing success in their respective fields. Professor Hamilton poses a vital question, “How do we bridge the gap from the uber-successful woman to the lay-woman?”

According to Professor Hamilton, reconnection to Africa opens up opportunities for “more women to collaborate and help each other.” The potential spans personal upliftment, enhanced financial opportunities, and cultural exchange. “In Jamaica, we have a saying, ‘tun yuh hand and mek fashion,'” she chuckles. “It’s a saying that celebrates creativity in turning a little into a lot – in the workplace and within the home. But Black women have long deserved more to work with.”

She spotlights Elizabeth Agboola during our conversation, a cosmopolitan Nigerian who advocates for “exchange tourism” and encourages not only travel to Nigeria but also the return of members of the African diaspora to Nigeria. Agboola played a crucial role in launching the inaugural direct flight from Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria to the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Largely due to her efforts, the transportation opportunities arising from increased travel between Jamaica and Nigeria are set to bring many of Professor Hamilton’s ideas to fruition.

When asked for actionable steps towards realizing this dream connection, the Professor smiles and cites the late reggae legend Bob Marley, “First we must emancipate ourselves from mental slavery.” She has persistently urged Jamaica to follow the path of its neighbors, Haiti and most recently Barbados, in cutting ties with its former colonizers and transitioning into a republic. “After 500 years of genocide, slavery, and colonization, we need to step into our own,” she asserts. “It’s a moment to wrap around this concept that we are sovereign; we the people are sovereign. Jamaica is our birthright, it is our responsibility. We need to define this thing we call Jamaica in our image.”

A distinguished professional, Professor Rosalea Hamilton has served both the public and private sectors in her native Jamaica. As CEO of the Lasco Chin Foundation, she assists at-risk youth in breaking harmful cycles and pursuing lives of productivity and success. This international trade expert has held numerous impactful positions and received many well-deserved accolades throughout her professional life. In addition to her role at the Lasco Chin Foundation, Professor Hamilton has been a lead advisor to one of Jamaica’s former prime ministers, hosted the longstanding radio program, Trade Talk, and is the coordinator of The Advocacy Network, which seeks to advance constitutional reform in Jamaica.

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