Over the past several weeks, we’ve all watched Hamilton over and over again, singing the songs ad nauseam.  We’re collectively “not throwing away our shot…” And we all want to be “in the room where it happens.”  We rejoice in the energy and spirit of a young nation built on the beliefs and ideals of immigrants.  At the Battle of Yorktown, we sing along with Hamilton and Lafayette… “we’re finally on the field, we’ve had quite a run.  Immigrants, we get the job done!”  

Today, the word immigrant is not celebrated. We’ve changed our outlook and “immigrant” now brings to mind an outsider, someone who does not add value to a community, who could create problems, who we should want to keep out.  This view, which has such a negative impact on our culture, continues to be promoted in political discussions today, despite the fact that at one time or another, most of us or someone from our past, came to this country from somewhere else.

(left to right) Delise O’Meally, CEO, Institute For Sport & Social Justice and Anthony Davis, former Director of Sport at the University of Technology, Jamaica. Taipei City

Those of you who know me personally, know that I am originally from the beautiful Caribbean island of Jamaica. I am an immigrant and a citizen of the United States.  

My sister Yvette and I grew up in Montego Bay, but since the late 1980s, this country has been our home. In the beginning, we both had many struggles, becoming acclimated to a new environment, finding ways to support ourselves, and to advance our educational goals.  As I look back on those years, it took real determination, some kindness and help from family and friends, and a lot of hard work for us both to get to where we are today.  Yvette is a software engineer and senior program manager at Microsoft, and I am lawyer and I’ve spent my career at the highest levels of national and international college and university sport.  We know without a doubt, that we contribute to the growth of this nation, as do countless other immigrants.  

According to data gathered by the Center for American Entrepreneurship 43 percent of the companies listed on the 2017 edition of the Fortune 500 were founded by first- or second-generation immigrants. I’ll do the math for you, that’s 215 of the 500 largest American companies by revenue!  Curious about which companies?  Amazon, Apple, Google, McDonalds, Disney, and AT&T to name a few.  If you narrowed down to the top 25 largest firms, more than half of those (52%) were founded by first or second generation immigrants.  “Immigrant-founded Fortune 500 firms are headquartered in 33 of the 50 states, they employ 12.8 million people worldwide, and accounted for $5.3 trillion in global revenue in 2016.” (Center for American Entrepreneurship) – https://startupsusa.org/fortune500/

This narrative must change.  We need to speak out, and put a name and face on this immigrant conversation!  Those of us who are first or second generation immigrants, or even grandchildren of immigrants, know that the influx of diversity, talent, exposure, different experience, creates the foundation of who we are as a nation.  The strength of a nation is in its people, and our people come from everywhere.  We are, and we have always been a nation of immigrants.  

Now back to Hamilton…Da da da dat da dat da da da da aye ya da; da da dat dat da ya da!

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