Black History Month Celebration
Jamaican-born, Jamaica, Queens resident Irwine G. Clare, Sr.’s catch phase is “If you look down on someone, ensure it’s because you’re helping to pick them up.”
Clare, a trailblazing community organizer, who was born in what he unwaveringly dubs the best parish, St. Ann, in Jamaica, is a “proud alumnus” of York Castle High School.
While attending York Castle High School, at 16, he was appointed and became the first Student Council leader, a project installed by former Jamaica Prime Minister Michael Manley that became the movement to form student councils across the island.
Clare told Caribbean Life on Sunday that he was “inculcated by a mother with secondary education,” who emphasized the importance of social services while being a member of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, and was instrumental in establishing the district’s first early childhood education school and library in addition to streaming telecommunication services in the area, which was at its infant stage at the time.
As a youth, Clare said he was also a selected representative of the Ministry of Education’s National Disciplinary Committee, attended several leadership conventions in Cuba and across Jamaica, and “left an indelible mark in the field of organizing and academic mobility in various schools in Jamaica at a tender age.”
Inevitably, Clare social responsibility was “birthed” and then he was “morphed” into what is now seen as an indubitable accomplished trailblazer.
With a visible yet unrelenting and outstanding service to the Caribbean community, Clare has created platforms that foster change, growth and empowerment.
After migrating to the United States, Clare said he sought to obtain tertiary education at Adelphi University and became a banker, subsequently becoming vice president.
As a consummate organizer and community leader, Clare said he recognized the “benign neglect of the immigrant community” and decided to immerse himself into research of “systematic practices, social structure and immigration landscape and its impact on immigrants and their affiliates.”
He found that the New York City Office of Planning and Development reports that immigrants from the Caribbean region account for two of the three largest immigrant groups in New York City.
“As the largest Anglophone immigrant group to New York City, Jamaicans and, by extension, Caribbean immigrants in particular, are in dire need of advocacy and direction,” Clare said.
Hence, in the early 90s, Clare and his partner, Winston Tucker, an attorney, saw a need to assist in providing “matter-of-fact services to Caribbean immigrants in New York City.”
Consequently, the Queens-based Caribbean Immigrant Services (CIS) was established, which served an advocacy and consulting organization “aimed at providing a conduit for Caribbean immigrants toward obtaining legal residency and ultimately US citizenship.
“Clare said CIS’s platform “stems the tide of exploitation while passionately creating and fostering social, academical and political mobility, along with political autonomy, most importantly assisting thousands to attain emotional jubilation reuniting with their loved ones.”
Clare said he has been “graced” with several awards for his service in the field, along with “profound gratitude and testimonies” for the impact he has made in the lives of multiethnic groups and immigrants seeking status, persons in hapless circumstances where he orchestrated the opportunity for them to travel to the US to receive medical care or social services.
He said “the angst of our political and social welfare locally, regionally and internationally has thrust” him into full activism mode.
In his pursuit for “equitability and changing electoral obfuscation in minority communities”, Clare said he has “inevitably encountered many challenges.”
As an erudite and witty individual, Clare said the challenges served as fuel for his “motivation and quest to inform, educate, assist and galvanize.”
Additionally, Clare said he has helped to draft and review legislation pertaining to immigration, and worked for the federal government as a consultant on special projects, so he can “identify particularistic social units.”
He said the Van Plan Industry, popularly known as “dollar vans”, has “advantageously changed the landscape of transportation in NYC.
“This was achieved by a mission to empower the operators, given the indelible and unquestionable contributions they make to the role of effective and reliable transportation across the city, especially during the historic MTA strike,” he said.
Clare said he was an advocate, consultant and lobbyist, who lobbied in the City, Albany and Washington, D.C. for operators “to operate lawfully without harassment or being disenfranchised.”
He said the lobbying was a successful venture that provided a “blueprint” for operation in which he was instrumental in its change.
Furthermore, given the plethora of work in the various sectors of the community, Clare was elected a Community Leader Representative by former Democratic NYC Council Member Jamaican-born Una Clarke, who tasked him to galvanize and empower the Caribbean American community.
In addition to community investment and development, Clare founded the Queens-based Team Jamaica Bickle (TJB), a pride of the Caribbean in the sports arena.
TJB was founded in 1994 and is considered “an impactful organization” that caters to athletes across the Caribbean in their personal and institutional quest for track and field advancements, along with opportunities for upward mobility or academic advancement.
Clare said the organization has created a reservoir that results in “effective participation, sustenance, sustainability, accommodation, travel and development of athletes and their delegation not only from Jamaica but the Caribbean region, primarily to participate in the annual Penn Relays held at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia USA.”
“This partnership and facilitation has consequently formulated cultural alliances in the Caribbean region,” he said, stating that “TBJ is a not-for- profit organization that has raised hundreds of thousands in donations and fundraising events over the years of its existence to meet and maintain its purpose of facilitating the sports individuals institutions of the Caribbean region.”
A staunch yet modest and effective advocate, Clare said one such platform created was media.
As an identifiable media personality, once an illustrious television talk show host, Clare now hosts various segments on IrieJam radio that airs enduring programs and has a legitimate band to his populace.
His delivery and content are compelling and informative, and resonates and is quite beneficial to its very diverse audience.
With, at times, a passionate, engaging and devoted listenership, Clare is expected, and never failed, to provide clarity on issues that are germane locally and internationally.
Clare remains a fixture not only in Diaspora communities but globally, and is highly revered in the field.
He has had and continues to have guests from all social and political strata emanating across various geographical locations and platforms.
A pioneer in radio, Clare said the critically-acclaimed programs have “harnessed and galvanized movements and initiatives that have resulted in evidential and hallmark changes locally and in the Caribbean region.”
Clare was awarded the Order of Distinction (OD) by the Jamaican Government for his notable work.
He also possesses a myriad of plaques, awards and certificates from a multitude of organizations and individuals acknowledging and demonstrating gratitude for the tremendous and impactful work he did and continues to do.
Clare also believes in the fundamental features of social life. Therefore, an average day for him is balancing unrelenting community services, a replenished social landscape of events in the US, his native Jamaica or the Caribbean with friends and family.
Clare is the father of Dr. Kayla Clare, Irwine Clare, Jr. and a doting grandfather to Zion.
A vastly modest individual, coupled with being an indubitable trailblazer for the Caribbean community’s political and economic empowerment, Clare remains resolute in his legacy to be “a participant and consultant to the messaging and changes needed for economic inequality, a non-disproportionate society, integrity and environmental sustainability.”