NAJASO: FIRST DECADE- 1977-1987

Leadership: Rev. Hon. Collin Bennett, OD Founding President (1977-1982) & Hon. Pat Szopinski, OD President (1982-1993).
Chairpersons: Mr. Alfred Chambers (1978-1979), Dr. Montaque Oliver (1979-1981) & Mr. Franklin Fletcher (1981-1985):
NAJASO’s Accomplishments and Highlights:

First President
The Rev. Hon. Collin Bennett (1977-1982); Chairman, Mr. Alfred Chambers (1978-1979):

1977 – NAJASO was established as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization.

1978- Jamaican organizations were galvanized throughout the USA with Rev. Bennett encouraging and orchestrating travel among NAJASO regional members creating strong enduring bonds that still exist today.

NAJASO offered significant financial contributions to the Jamaica Adult Literacy (JAMAL) program.

The Adopt-A-School program was created culminating in the building of a basic school in the Mountain View area of Kingston, Jamaica.

1978 – The Marcus Garvey Scholarship Fund that evolved from discussions initially regarding the exoneration and pardoning of the Right Excellent Marcus Garvey by the U.S. Government would see the establishment of an annual scholarship for three (3) Jamaican students attending the University of the West Indies (UWI).

1980 – NAJASO pioneered the erection of a bust of the Most Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jamaica’s first National Hero located in the Hall of the Americas, Organization of American States (OAS), Washington, DC.

Second President, Hon. Pat Szopinski (1982-1993); Chairpersons: Dr. Montaque Oliver (1979-1981) & Mr. Franklin Fletcher (1981-1985):

1986 – President offered leadership in the development of the NAJASO organization in Britain

1986 – President provided leading support in forming NAJASCO (National Council of Jamaican and Supportive Organizations) in Toronto, Canada

1987 – Establishment of the Committee for Economic Growth of Jamaica (CEGJ), a business initiative promoting US investors in Jamaica while supporting import trade ventures into the U.S. Pioneering the vision among Jamaican nationals for economic power and growth.

1987 – The National Guild of New York in collaboration with NAJASO, played a major role in the U.S. Immigration Amnesty Act of 1986, mobilizing illegal and undocumented Jamaican nationals to seek legal status.

1987 – Victoria Mutual worked collaboratively with NAJASO facilitating Jamaican nationals in the USA with savings, investment, and real estate and construction information related to Jamaica.

NAJASO: SECOND DECADE – 1987-1997

Leadership: Hon. Pat Szopinski, O.D., President (1982-1993) & Dr. the Hon. Alston Meade, President (1993-1997).
Chairpersons: Dr. Charles Anderson (1985-1989) & Mr. Earl Mitchell (1989-1997).
NAJASO’s Accomplishments and Highlights:

Second President, Hon. Pat Szopinski, O.D. (1982-1993); Chairpersons: Dr. Charles Anderson (1985-1989) & Mr. Earl Mitchell (1989-1997):

1988 – The Hurricane Relief Fund (HRF) was created in September 1988 following Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 that caused severe damage in Jamaica. The HRF was a successful initiative shipping trailer loads of clothes, bedding, tools, and emergency equipment in collaboration with Air Jamaica to expedite Jamaica’s disaster preparedness plan.

Facilitated four (4) medical expeditions of 23 medical personnel (16 physicians, 4 nurses, 3 technicians) from the University of Florida, School of Medicine in Gainesville to Jamaica visiting 6 hospitals; Black River, Lucea, Montego Bay, Falmouth, Kingston Public, and Linstead medical facilities.

1988 – Providing over USD 1 million worth of medicines and medical equipment to hospitals and the Ministry of Health in Jamaica

Collaborating with Connaught Laboratories of Canada in donating significant shipment of vaccines to Jamaica.

1988 – Completion of repairs totaling USD110, 000.000 to the Huntley All Age School in the parish of Manchester, Jamaica which was significantly damaged by Hurricane Gilbert.

1992 – Lobbying the U.S. Congress on Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) matters, particularly CBI’s impact on Jamaica’s banana industry and U.S. import implications regarding Jamaica’s sugar industry.

1992 – President Szopinski appointed a committee chaired by Dr. Oliver Montague of Gary Indiana to study NAJASO’s constitutional reform resulting in term limits for the presidency; an initial 2-year tenure with the option to repeat the 2-year term consecutively but limited to 4 years in succession.

Third President, Dr. Hon. Alston Meade (1993- 1997); Chairman: Earl Mitchell (1989-1997) :

1994 – NAJASO members commuted less for regional meetings applying more information technology (IT) for communication among regional and local members. The traditional organizational climate of face to face relationships would slowly evolve to reflect the information technology (IT) age of faxing, emailing, cell phone technology, and video conferencing.

1995 – Students of the University of the West Indies (UWI) attended the NAJASO convention in Jamaica in an effort to promote NAJASO as a learning organization.

1995 – NAJASO donated approximately US$50,000.00 worth of medical supplies to Jamaica.

1996 – NAJASO sponsored a Boston University Jamaican student as a delegate of a Model United Nations conference in the Netherlands.

1997 – Two (2) UWI students attended the NAJASO conference in Chicago, IL.

1997 – President Meade led a committee that was formed to discuss issues facing Returning Residents with Jamaica’s Prime Minister.

NAJASO: THIRD DECADE- 1997-2007

Leadership: Dr. Joyce El-Ali, President (1997-2001), Mrs. Vernette Byron-Meade, President (2001-2005), & Mrs. Catherine Tomlinson, President (2005-2009).
Chairpersons: Dr. Hon. Alston Meade (1997-2001), Dr. Joyce El-Ali (2001-2005) & Mrs. Vernette Byron-Meade (2005-2011).
NAJASO’s Accomplishments and Highlights:

Fourth President, Dr. Joyce El-Ali (1997-2001); Chairperson: Dr. Hon. Alston Meade (1997-2001):

1998 – Understanding the implications and impact of IT on member organizations and navigating well through these challenging situations was a big accomplishment for NAJASO. With more video conferencing and email contact, face to face meetings including NAJASO’s regional meetings and annual Conventions were experiencing less member participation creating in some instances fiscal challenges.

1998 – A proposal to establish a national Bond system was put on hold by the NAJASO Board of Directors for future consideration.

The concept of the Jamaican Diaspora Movement was first developed by NAJASO’s executive committee and approved by its board of directors who commissioned the late Glen Gilpin to do an in-depth US$20,000 feasibility study of Jamaican organizations working together and taking ownership in the development of Jamaica using the Israeli model. Gilpin’s 50-page study was submitted to NAJASO and subsequently presented to the Jamaican Parliament and Jamaica’s Prime Minister, the Most Hon. P.J. Patterson in Jamaica. The study was directed to the Hon. Delano Franklin in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who would later form foreign trade councils that provided momentum in the invitation of 500 individual Jamaicans from all over the world for the first Diaspora conference.

The concept of the Marcus Garvey Heritage Foundation was initially presented by Dr. Alston Meade with relevant discussions pertaining to this scholarship program.

NAJASO was considered a learning organization and students were targeted for mentoring to fill various roles in NAJASO in the future.

NAJASO donated US$500,000.00 worth of medical supplies and equipment to Jamaica.

NAJASO strengthened member organizations through cooperation and inclusiveness in positive ways.

Fifth President, Mrs. Vernette Byron- Meade (2001-2005); Chairperson: Dr. Joyce El-Ali (2001-2005):

2003 – NAJASO’s leadership implemented an aggressive recruiting of non-member organizations, particularly small businesses becoming affiliate members to expand its membership program.

2004 – The presidency was tasked to provide strong financial and legal management in the face of fiscal challenges in the organization.

2004 – Constitutional reform in NAJASO saw the addition of Bermuda as a member of NAJASO, a controversial initiative regarding sovereignty, honorary status, and full membership.

2005 -Vice President of West was instrumental in getting NAJASO to be Fiscal Agent for Caribbean Classic Golf Invitational (CCGI) Celebrity Benefit Golf Tournament to Jamaica. VP was also able to get CCGI to be the National Convention Major Sponsor of US$20,000.00.

2005 – The Marcus Garvey Heritage Foundation evolved from the prestigious Marcus Garvey Scholarship Fund and has grown considerably in status. Funding source is primarily from an annual raffle event.

Sixth President, Mrs. Catherine Tomlinson (2005-2009); Chairperson: Mrs. Vernette Byron-Meade (2005-2011):

There was concentrated focus towards restoration of inter and intra-connectivity among member organizations ensuring and maintaining a positive organizational climate.

2006 – the Atlanta Jamaican Association (AJA) and Mrs. Ethel Whitehead of Ohio hosted a luncheon and provided school supplies and book bags for students and shoes and clothing for students and adults of the Hudson Street Basic School in Savanna-la-Mar, Jamaica. Three trips were made to Jamaica in March, June, and October. NAJASO in collaboration with “Hands Across Jamaica for Righteousness” distributed ten dozen pairs of shoes to school students in Duckenfield, St. Thomas.

2006 – NAJASO members fed poor residents of infirmaries in 6 parishes in 2006, including: Westmoreland, Trelawny, Manchester, Clarendon, St. Ann, and St. Thomas. The Morant Bay infirmary was painted and clothes distributed to the residents.

NAJASO: FOURTH DECADE – 2007-2017

Leadership: Mrs. Catherine Tomlinson, President (2005-2009) & Mr. B. Roy Davidson, President (2009-2013).
Chairpersons: Mrs. Vernette Byron-Meade (2005-2011) & Dr. Richard Constable (2011-2013).
NAJASO’s Accomplishments and Highlights:

Sixth President, Mrs. Catherine Tomlinson (2005-2009); Chairperson: Mrs. Vernette Byron-Meade (2005-2011):

2007 – A Concept proposal was submitted to the Ministry of Education in Jamaica on May 21, 2007 to establish the Alfred A. Rattray and Collin B. Bennett Learning Corridor Centre (Vocational Training Center for Inner City Youths and Adults) at 179 Orange Street, 2nd Floor, Kingston, Jamaica. NAJASO’s extra-curricular and technical like skills program addressed the needs of an under-served segment of the population of Kingston and St. Andrew in order to reduce crime, ensure student empowerment, while providing technical career skills. The training space was donated lease-free for five years by Mrs. Winifred Bennett wife of the late Hon. Collin Bennett, NAJASO President.

There was an unprecedented number of white paper presentations at the annual conventions during President Tomlinson’s tenure encouraging entrepreneurism and business venture collaborations between the USA and Jamaica.

2007- NAJASO through the Jamaica Progressive League, Carol Williams of California, and AJA’s Copeland Comrie awarded 13 scholarships to outstanding students of the Rose Hall Basic School in Linstead, Jamaica and donated two 4-drawer filing cabinets to the school.

2007 – NAJASO offered US$500.00 towards the building of an annex for the Maranatha Learning and Care Center in Lilliput, St. James. Mrs. Ethel Whitehead and Mrs. Balford donated school supplies, Mrs. Whitehead offered US$1,000.00 for the annex expansion program, and Flo McLean gave JUS3,000.00 towards the school’s operations.

2007 – NAJASO donated clothing, trash bags, tapes, dish towels and foil wraps to the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf (CCCD) in Granville, St. James.

2007 – Proposed shipment of medical equipment to Mandeville Hospital by Dr. Isaac Bartley of California.

Seventh President, Mr. B. Roy Davidson (2009-2013); Chairpersons: Mrs. Vernette Byron-Meade (2005-2011) & Dr. Richard Constable (2011-2013):

In an organizational reengineering effort to grow NAJASO in his tenure, Mr. Davidson introduced the following initiatives:

2009 – NAJASO donated US$1000.00 to NAJASO -MGHF Scholarship Program.

2010 – Mounted an aggressive campaign to reactivate member organizations thereby ensuring a doubling of the current portfolio by 2012;

2010 – Established the NAJASO Young Professional Group with a National Young Professional Chair;

2010 – Formed the NAJASO National Public Relations/Media Chair;

2010 – Established a NAJASO National Ambassador to share Goodwill about NAJASO;

2010 – NAJASO donated US$4,000.00 to infirmaries and Basic Schools Projects in Jamaica;

2010 – NAJASO donated US$1,000.00 to the NAJASO-Marcus Garvey Foundation Scholarship Program;

2010 – Partnered with Dennis Shipping Company for NAJASO member organizations to ship medical and educational equipment and supplies to Jamaica at administrative cost only;

2011 – Aggressively marketed, promoted, and selected a National Executive Team, Chairman of the Board, and strong representation from the member organizational level to be part of NAJASO’s National Board to provide the support necessary to the President to advance NAJASO forward with sustainable success;

2011 – Developed computerized accounting system using Quick Books Pro for proper accounting methods

2011 – Recommended NAJASO’s Marcus Garvey Heritage Foundation to be a Life Member of NAJASO;

2011 – The NAJASO Education and Outreach team established a national program working closely with member organizations throughout the U.S. offering scholarships to needy students transitioning from primary schools to high schools in Jamaica and from high school to college in Jamaica and the USA;

2011 – NAJASO coordinated with member organizations on the Program of Computer Initiatives, NAJASO Early Childhood Education and outreach programs;

2011 – NAJASO adopted & collaborated with “Read Across Jamaica Foundation” Reading program;

2011 – Help Jamaica Foundation, a sister organization was commissioned by NAJASO to lead the NAJASO national medical mission team working with NAJASO member organizations in the USA for medical projects in Jamaica and act as the clearing house for all member organizations Medical Missions;

2011 – Established the position of NAJASO Historian to capture NAJASO’s work for the past 35 years in commemoration of Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary of Independence from Britain.

2011 – NAJASO Board Member Ethel Whitehead donated US $1000 to NAJASO Jamaica Projects.

2012 – Sponsored two NAJASO Members to March 2012 Board of Directors Meeting in Los Angeles, California and organized Board of Directors Meeting to coincide with Jamaica Awareness Association of California 11th Annual Celebrity Charity Golf Tournament. Gold Sponsor of JAAC Golf Tournament. Cost covered by Golf Team of NAJASO.

2012 – President & VP East/National Convention Chair 2012 funded their Travel, Hotel, Rent a Car and Sponsorship of JAAB Golf Tournament to Buffalo, New York in May to promote NAJASO Convention and to support the Jamaican American Association of Buffalo, New York Annual Charity Golf Tournament. Total combined contribution US$3000.00.

2012 – Established NAJASO President Distinguished Service Award for the Caribbean and the USA to recognize NAJASO Presidents, Presidents of NAJASO’s member organizations and National Community Leaders for their service and grass roots leadership to commemorate Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary.

2012 – Established NAJASO President’s Club for NAJASO Past Presidents and Presidents of Member organizations to share best practices and to be fully informed of NAJASO’S work and plans for nation building.

2012 – Established the Position of NAJASO HISTORIAN-Dr. Carol Muschette-Kirk to capture NAJASO’s work for the past 35 years in commemoration of Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary with plans to create a Documentary video and a History Book on NAJASO for Fiscal Year 2013.

2012- Sponsored three of NAJASO Jamaica Team to attend NAJASO 35th Annual Convention in Buffalo, New York and to learn about NAJASO Convention to host 2013 Convention in Jamaica

2012- Initiated negotiation with the University of Technology to establish a NAJASO Secretariat in Kingston, Jamaica.

2012- Contribution of US$2000.00 by Ethel Whitehead on behalf of the Board of Directors for NAJASO for NAJASO Jamaica Projects in Montego Bay.

2012 – Established a Memorandum of Understanding with Dennis Shipping Company care of Dennis Hawthorne for NAJASO and all its Member Organizations to ship Medical and Education Equipment and Supplies to Jamaica from New York and Miami in perpetuity for minimal Administrative Cost charged by the Wharf.

2012-Established relationship with Negril Education Environmental Trust a Member Organization of NAJASO to facilitate and support member organization’s Health, Education, Donation of Books and Computer Learning Center Initiatives in Jamaica.