Institute of Caribbean Studies mourns the loss of Ret. Gen. Colin Powell, Jamaican American Icon

Former U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell

Institute of Caribbean Studies

Release Date

Tuesday, October 19, 2021


General Powell was well-respected by Caribbean peoples at home and abroad because of his open and obvious pride in his Jamaican roots, which he had never forgotten.

- Institute of Caribbean Studies

The Washington-based Institute of Caribbean Studies has issued the following statement, eulogizing the late former US Secretary of State and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin L. Powell:

“We, the members and supporters of the Institute of Caribbean Studies, are in deep sadness learning that Colin Powell, a son of the soil, has passed. General Powell represented simply the very best of what Jamaica has to offer the world.

“General Powell was well-respected by Caribbean peoples at home and abroad because of his open and obvious pride in his Jamaican roots, which he had never forgotten. He understood the immigrant story as well as the African American narrative and was a steadfast supporter of affirmative action as an equalizer for opportunity. As to be expected, we sometimes had differences of opinions on US foreign policy in the Caribbean, nonetheless, we viewed him as a trusted diplomat, astute leader, and military adviser, and a friend of the Caribbean. So iconic was the mark he has consistently left on the landscape that he had to be referenced in the original 2006 Resolution marking June as Caribbean American Heritage Month and every year since: ‘Whereas the many influential Caribbean-Americans in the history of the United States also include Colin Powell, the first African-American Secretary of State; Sidney Poitier, the first African-American actor to receive the Academy Award for best actor in a leading role; Harry Belafonte, a musician, actor, and activist; Roberto Clemente, the first Latino inducted into the baseball hall of fame; and Al Roker, a meteorologist and television personality.’

“He was the embodiment of the quintessential pioneer, a man of numerous firsts—the first Black U.S. Secretary of State and the youngest officer appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff among them. A lifelong friend of Jamaica, he would often be found at Jamaican independence celebrations at the Organization of American States, patiently indulging those of us in the community eager to shake his hand and get a photo op.”

As founder and president of the ICS, I now reflect with such fondness and pride, on being in the graduating class with the General as commencement speaker at The George Washington University in February 1990, when I earned my doctoral degree. It was an extra-special thrill for me to shake his hand as I crossed the stage. So badly was I bursting with a desire to scream, “I am JAMAICAN, too!”

We remember Secretary Powell’s commitment to public service and to bipartisanship. As we remember the great human being, statesman, and iconic world figure, we are sending up fervent prayers for the Powell family, including Mr. Powell’s wife Alma and son Michael. The amazing legacy of Colin L. Powell will live on for many generations. 

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