The Miami Herald
Thu, Aug. 05, 2004

Proud Jamaicans celebrate 42 years of independence

Jamaican Americans will mark the island's self-rule with a prayer service and a street dance.


With prayer, revelry and nostalgia, Jamaicans celebrate 42 years of independence this week, even as they solidify their place in the South Florida community.

Jamaica gained its independence in Aug. 6, 1962. Many Jamaican Americans, some decades removed from the island, celebrate memories of the first day their new black, green and yellow flag flew over the island, replacing Britain's Union Jack.

A prayer service will be n Lauderdale Lakes Friday. A street dance takes place Saturday night in Opa-locka, organized by the Kingston College Old Boys Association of Florida and the St. Andrew Technical Alumni of South Florida. Other events are planned.

''We are trying to recreate what an independence street dance in Jamaica use to be like,'' said David Jamieson, a board member of the St. Andrew alumni group. ``It use to be one where people from all different cultures, from all different backgrounds would come out. They would eat together, laugh together, party together.''

Independence day will be special for Denver Silvera, who is known to many as Jamusa, a radio personality on WAVS-AM (1170), a Caribbean-format station.

''One of the things you can always rest assured about Jamaicans is when it comes to Jamaica, Jamaicans ... are very proud of what they have achieved,'' Silvera said.

Jamieson agreed, adding that he is proud when reflecting on the growth of reggae music and the accomplishments of Jamaican athletes and national heros like Marcus Garvey, a black nationalist known for his back-to-Africa movement in the 1920s.

Jamaican-American Dale Holness, a Lauderhill City Commissioner, heads a local effort to get Garvey exonerated by the U.S. government from a 1923 mail fraud conviction. Holness is one of several Jamaican Americans elected officials in Broward. Others include Fitzroy Salesman, Winston Barnes and George Pedlar -- all Miramar commissioners -- and Lauderdale Lakes Mayor Samuel Brown and City Commissioner Hazelle Rogers.

Jamaicans and other Caribbeans are also seeking to participate in national politics. Marlon Hill, a Jamaican American and Miami-Dade attorney, heads a new voter registration drive called ''Soca the Vote'' where Caribbean stations in South Florida, Washington, New York and other cities play soca-inspired public service announcements.

More than 114,000 Jamaican Americans live in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

''It is just limitless ... where we are going to take this,'' said Lloyd McGhie, co-owner of Marcia's Cafe in Lauderdale Lakes, of the growing Jamaican and Caribbean businesses in South Florida.