Jamaicans in Fort Bend Celebrate Jamaica’s Independence Day

Sugar Land residents Jevaughn and Tanya Sterling with their aunt, Barbara Facey, at a popular Jamaican festival in Galveston.

By  Zeenat Kassam Mitha –

Jerk chicken, sparkling beaches, clear blue waters, beef patties, curried goat, vegetarian patties, rum punch and reggae music. These words summon images of the island nation of Jamaica. Jamaica is the fourth largest island in the Caribbean Sea, and as a group of people, they are well-represented in Fort Bend County. On August 6th, 1962, the Colony of Jamaica gained independence from the United Kingdom, and Jamaica and Jamaicans celebrate this Independence Day as a national holiday.

Jamaicans in Fort Bend County are diverse, philanthropic and economically-driven. They are involved in law, banking, the airline industry, information technology, medicine, media, insurance services and biochemistry just to name a few. Jamaicans reside all over the county – from Fresno to Richmond – and as a group, they enjoy outdoor festivals, dominoes, soccer (a.k.a.  football), cricket, reggae and calypso music, food and outdoor sports.

On a broader scale, many Fort Bend county residents are involved with the Jamaican Foundation of Houston (JFH), whose mission is to promote cultural awareness, as well as education and volunteerism. The organization has supported many non-profits including:

March of Dimes: JFH has sponsored, supported and participated in their event annually.

College Scholarships for Students at Local Universities: Based on merit and need, JFH has provided more than 200 scholarships to date.

Dyslexia Intervention Training: The organization sponsors workshops in Jamaica for English teacher training to identify and mediate students with dyslexia, using resource professionals from the Neuhaus Center and St. Thomas University in Houston.

Educational Materials for Jamaican Schools and Libraries:  JFH supplies computers, fax machines and books, as well as classroom supplies to schools and libraries in Jamaica.

School Library: JFH built a separate library on the campus of an all-age school in Clarksonville, St. Ann, Jamaica.

Hurricane Katrina Families:  JFH provided food, clothing, furniture, rent, automobile and college tuition fees for families from Louisiana who relocated in Houston during Hurricane Katrina.

Disaster Relief: The organization regularly  provides 40 foot containers of medical equipment, food, clothing and other supplies to Jamaica post several hurricanes, and they supported the founding of a secondary school in Haiti after the earthquake disaster.

Jerk chicken is one of Jamaica’s most popular delicacies. So tasty and flavorful!

Jamaicans living in Fort Bend County are known to assimilate into the community and interact with other cultures. They are proud residents of the county, and their involvement gets noticed as they bring the music and culture of Jamaica wherever they go.

For those of you that have not been to Jamaica, here are some facts. The Caribbean island nation has a lush topography of mountains, rainforests and reef-lined beaches. Many of its all-inclusive resorts are clustered in Montego Bay, with its British-colonial architecture, and Negril, which is known for its diving and snorkeling sites. Jamaica is famed as the birthplace of reggae music, and its capital, Kingston, is home to the Bob Marley Museum, dedicated to the famous musician.

Other points of interest are Dunn’s River Falls, Dolphin Cove, Cave Beach Club, Blue Mountains, Mayfield Falls, Green Grotto Caves and White Witch of Rose Hall.  Jamaican destinations include Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril, Kingston, Falmouth, Runaway Bay, Port Antonio and Lucea.

The Jamaican Foundation of Houston celebrated on July 29th Jamaica’s 55th Independence Gala dinner and dance. Held at the Millennium Hall, and it was enjoyed by many, including some Jamaican transplants who now call Fort Bend home. Happy Birthday Jamaica!