Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Time-Out for affirmation

Ambassador Audrey Marks with General Colin Powell when he visited her last Monday at the Jamaican Embassy in Washington DC

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer column| 31 January 2011

Jamaicans have made black history so much the richer, Ambassador Audrey Marks reminded me last week. As our Ambassador to the USA, she spent 10 weeks in the final quarter of last year meeting members of the diaspora and has been researching the history of Jamaican immigration to the US.

“Jamaicans have been emigrating to the US for over 200 years,” she explained. “The second black person in America to earn a university degree was a Jamaican, John Brown Russworm. He also started the first black newspaper, called Freedom's Journal and was later appointed the colonial secretary of Liberia.” Russworm was born in Port Antonio in 1799, the son of a white planter and a slave.

Our diaspora includes brilliant professionals and educators. “Jamaica has one of the highest numbers per capita of Ivy League graduates and persons with second degrees in the US,” said the Ambassador.

Last week she met with General Colin Powell, also a son of Jamaica, who told her that he considered himself lucky to have grown up in the US with Jamaican parents. “He said that they made him feel confident and empowered,” she reported.

Civil rights activists of the 20th century, led by Dr Martin Luther King Jr, have repeatedly acknowledged the influence of Jamaica's first National Hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, in their struggle for equal rights.

Ambassador Marks says that with all our fine accomplishments, it is a pity that we tend to broadcast only the negative news from Jamaica. “All Caribbean countries have their struggles with crime but also give front page to positive news,” she remarked. “We need to do likewise.”

Audrey Marks says she is aware of major projects in the pipeline that will “directly and positively impact the lives of Jamaicans”. She recently attended the presentation of President Obama's State of the Union Address which she describes as “a memorable occasion which underpins what makes America a great country … one that demands accountability from its leaders.” She said it was also “an excellent networking opportunity with every single US lawmaker in one place”.

As we have noticed from the reports, Audrey Marks is a dynamic ambassador providing representation not only with the US, but also with the Organisation of American States. The young entrepreneur who founded the ubiquitous Paymaster is constantly reading and sharing her nuggets of wisdom.

“I have been practising the “Four Agreements with Yourself” as recommended by author Dan Ruiz,” she says. They are:
* Be impeccable in your word and action
* Don't make assumptions
* Don't take anything personally
* Always be the best you can be.

Audrey says that making assumptions can be dangerous: “When you assume, you may take the mind on a journey on a totally false premise and seriously damage your perception of a person or a situation, so draw no conclusion from mere appearance. Make sure you get the facts.” She says it is important not to take anything personally: “I have found this to be a most powerful tool. It allows us to be more rational and measured in our responses.”

Cobb lecture

I was also in the company of another exceptional ambassador last week, the ever-supportive Honourable Sue Cobb, whose family sponsors the annual Cobb lecture series which promotes research and healthy debate, and is featured as a UWI Research Day event. Dr Wendel Abel gave a provocative presentation on “Ganja: Legalise or not Legalise”. Abel noted a worldwide trend to decriminalise the use of cannabis, with the state of California being the most recent, while warning that ganja has been shown to worsen the condition of patients suffering from schizophrenia and was harmful to users under the age of 15. Ambassador Cobb is Chairman of the American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ), a philanthropic organisation that has donated millions to many worthy causes in Jamaica.

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