The Jamaica Progressive League celebrates 86th anniversary

Jamaica Progressive League President, Sadie Campbell.  Sadie Campbell
Jamaica Progressive League President, Sadie Campbell.
Sadie Campbell

The month of June is recognized in the United States as Caribbean American Heritage Month. The community reflects during this tenure and looks on the many achievements of so many distinguished Caribbean people among them who have given their entire working life to serve others in multiple ways. As people are reminded during this month of their contribution to society, it behooves those who can pay patronage to these great Caribbean people by reminiscing in the culture of the Caribbean and recognized the work of some people. Let it be noted that many of these individuals and organizations have helped pivot the way and change the trajectory for thousands of Caribbean immigrants and others in the United States.

One such organization is the Jamaica Progressive League (The League) formed in September 1936 by a group of Jamaicans living in New York City. The League’s intention was to help Jamaicans in the homeland gain political independence from Britain and to assist new and arriving Jamaican immigrants get settled in the United States, as their new homeland. The League also functioned as a liaison between Jamaica and the Jamaican Diaspora. This group of committed Jamaicans dedicated to Jamaica gaining independence status, defied the odds by helping Jamaica gain independence and move forward into self-government on Aug. 6, 1962, when and Jamaica became an independent nation.

The League, having accomplished that task of Jamaica gaining independence, were aware that the work was unfinished. The members knew they would have to continue their work of advocating, fundraising, and organizing to serve the Caribbean immigrant population in America. For decades, the League continued its work, on most occasions, struggling in many ways to survive as an organization and to be a voice for the voiceless the way it started in 1936, viable strident and true. Now, 86 years later, notably the goals and notion have changed and generations after generations have continued the work of the League always with the same purpose and commitment to help serve the community. The strategies have changed, the agendas are no longer the same, the Jamaica Progressive League however, remains a vibrant entity with different ideas and diverse ways to help provide service to the people in New York City and the tri-state area, in Hartford, Connecticut. The League remains adaptive, and this has also caused it to survive. Everyone knows that for any organization to survive for almost 90 years, there are some people who remain committed to the longevity of this organization and the services it provides.

Today, that commitment comes from the reigning president, Jamaican Sadie Campbell. Each month, two business meetings are called to outline and discuss the issues surrounding the League. In addition, there are other social activities organized by the League that is constantly taking place weekly. Campbell is the 12th and longest serving president of the League. She is cognizant of what the League has done over the 86 years and ensures that the organization continues to cultivate a community which can advance for the benefit of all, as she continues also to extend the programs of the League. She explained that over the many decades, the Jamaica Progressive League was able to purchase its own building which is located on 2230 Light Street in the Bronx, New York. Campbell was able to advocate with the New York City Council for the naming of a street in the Bronx after the Jamaica Progressive League. The street is now named, “The Jamaica Progressive League Way” at the Dyre Avenue train station in the Bronx. She has established a library on the premises of the League named The Karl and Faye Rodney Library, publisher of Carib News, a New York City newspaper, Mr. Rodney a one-time president of the League. The president also announced her intention to change the function of the library into a museum highlighting the heritage and roles of thousands of Caribbean immigrants in America who have serve this nation assiduously.

For many years, the League has also addressed the needs of ex-convicts as they make their transition back into society, (those who can) and according to Campbell, this program is still operational. “We help them to make this transitional phase if they want us to,” she added. Campbell, who visits the prisons sometimes to meet with mostly young men, said that “once they can apply themselves upon their return to society, the League is there to help them make the readjustment.” Another important area that President Campbell has identified within the community and residents have continued to reach out to the League for assistance in times of distress is sometimes difficulties with the burial of a relative. The Jamaica Progressive League assists with funds to help, in this area, “Yes! We help several times. It becomes hard on a family to go through with this,” Campbell. noted.

The legacy and continuation of the League are key factors the president is focusing on; currently membership drive is a priority. “We have an institution that the new generation needs to continue,” Campbell added. Adding to the future of the Jamaica Progressive League drive is the League’s current project “Hopeful Village.” This project will be open to everyone who needs it. The areas of service that “Hopeful Village” will be proving are education, communication, mental health, immigration, and health. In regard to the mental health program, Campbell said that a site has already been identified where the residents who needs this service or is facing a problem, would go directly to that site and be referred to the proper institution immediately. An active pantry is also in operation distributing food supplies weekly to residents in the Bronx, this is continually on the drive. Immigration will remain as a service the League provides. Ms. Campbell hopes to also extend the membership and include other Caribbean nationals into the League. As the League had done in the past when it advocated for others, whether they were Jamaicans or not.

The Jamaica Progressive League has long accomplished its original goal. The island of Jamaica will mark its 60th independence anniversary this year. The founders could not have imagined that after a group of brilliant Jamaican men and women who first met in Harlem, New York in 1936; their work continues. This could only have happened through the dedication and loyalty of former presidents to the current president, Campbell, and her team of 40 men and women overwhelmingly, Jamaicans. Campbell’s devotion and effort is to execute the work of an organization, which existed before her birth. Without any family ties, this is commendable. The League has done so much such as advocate in Washington, DC for so many early immigrants. Its functions must continue whether to welcome new immigrants and help them to find their place in the United States or not. “A chain is as strong as its weakest link.” But the link that holds the League today, (President Campbell) is strong and vibrant, and she is not forgetting that there is so much more work to be done for the community through the League. The new generation, she said “needs to look at how they can help and what programs they can help revive within the League.” The future of the Jamaica Progressive League is in their hands, she added.

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