Three-and-a-half years in his role as Jamaica’s Consul General (CG) to Miami, Oliver Mair still feels “This job for me, has been almost a perfect fit.”
“I love the variety. As Consul General you get involved in everything. You are at all the events. We’re bringing NDTC to South Florida at the end of September with the Louise Bennett Heritage Council. You get to honour people, like for example Jimmy Cliff at our Independence Gala.”
“You get to help the vulnerable, the ones who don't have a voice. That’s perhaps the area I am most excited about. People have access to resources that they think they didn't have access to. I spend time with persons who have never spoken with a Consul General, and just hear from them. I try to give voice to the voiceless as best as I can.”
Mair is energetic, accessible, and passionate. Reaching out to the Jamaican diaspora, he takes his responsibility for the Southern United States seriously, which covers 13 states including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, plus the Bahamas and Cayman Islands.
He explained that whatever impacts Jamaica or Jamaicans in the region of the southern United States is his focus, any difficulty that needs attention by the government.
In a conversation with Caribbean Today, the CG pointed out: “We have had court cases that we’ve facilitated at the consulate… Incarcerated Jamaicans, if they feel their human rights are being violated, they can reach out to us. We have had all sorts of scenarios you can think about, persons who need some kind of support from our 16-member team.”
For example, during the height of the pandemic Mair and his team kicked into high gear when approximately 2500 Jamaicans were stuck in Florida when the US/Jamaica borders closed. The Consulate, working with partners, were able to find housing for those whose hotel stays ended, offer medical support, and basic necessities such as food and transportation. A huge accomplishment for the team, the Consul General noted, stressing without his staff none of the achievements would have been possible.
Another achievement to celebrate is the annual Jamaica Hi-5K walk/run initiated by the consulate to raise funds for Jamaican health clinics in desperate need of resources. Inspired by the island’s Ministry of Health’s Adopt-A-Clinic initiative, the 3rd annual event drew the support of more than a 1000 persons from the Jamaican diaspora, and friends, across 5 cities simultaneously throughout the US. The programme also features a weekly exercise regimen facilitated by former Jamaican High School track star Daniel England that’s free to the community.
“It’s about the community pulling together and working together in unison and providing something tangible back,” said a proud Mair.
Indeed, working with the community has always been key to the success of any Consular effort.
“Though it's been a challenge budget-wise, because the government is always strapped and we don't necessarily have a budget per se to do what we do, the community has rallied with us. I support them and they support me. And when I say support me, they support Jamaica in whatever initiatives we do here. That I would say is a challenge that we continue to overcome with the support of the community.”
In fact, Oliver Mair’s working adult life seems to have been community-focused. A varied path in the private sector, he began his career with in-flight service for Air Jamaica eventually becoming
Regional Marketing Manager reaching out to the diaspora as the airline expanded its European and Caribbean routes. His 9 years at Jamaica Broilers, also in sales and marketing, took him out of the office to connect with farmers and other ordinary Jamaicans going about their daily lives. All of this, he said, grounded him in the community celebrating their peaks and valleys. He was also an entrepreneur supplying agricultural produce to hotels in Jamaica.
And, of course, rounding out the man, many know him as a performer/entertainer. Yes, Mair has had his own production company, ‘Laff It Off’, which produced successful theatre plays. His creativity is natural, it comes easily for him, built up in his blood from his first foray into acting and performance as a boy at Vaz Preparatory School in Jamaica.
“It has been in my blood from day one… I love singing, I love entertaining, I love people feeling good about themselves and having a positive outlook on life. Every time I’m doing something, if I'm giving a message, I try and bring in a little reggae music. I'm proud of my Jamaican culture.”
And that he is! Mair is adamant about marketing Jamaica in a positive way. And, although there are challenges the country is tackling, he advocates working together to build up Jamaica in order to jump the hurdles.
“Whatever we focus on becomes our reality. And I’ve found that there are certain people that regardless of the achievements that take place, will always find something negative to focus on. I'm the opposite! Let's focus on the wins that we have as a country and use that to drive us because negative energy tends not to propel people forward at all,” the CG implored.
He expanded: Our debt to GDP has been reducing from 149 percent to 96 percent. When we look at how our debt has held us back as a country for many years, we finally have a situation where we know that we're moving in the right direction.
The CG explained while many are focusing on crime, foreign investors are looking at Jamaica as the perfect place to invest. He noted the incredible performance of the Jamaica Stock Exchange in recent years, in which he himself invests.
He acknowledges that crime, or more specifically homicides, is a reality in Jamaica. But, we all have a role to play. His was volunteering for two years with the Tower Street Correctional Institution, working with inmates. He did this prior to taking on his role as CG to Miami.
“So, my message to everybody is we all have a role to play because a lot of what needs to be done is intervention before these kids go the wrong path. All of us can play a role in terms of mentorship, in terms of our own family life. We have to make sure that the people in our own family or in the community are getting the support they need.”
The Consul General’s goal looking forward? Driving more investments in Jamaica, deepening the relationship with the diaspora, driving support for his homeland.
“As a people, we have so much potential. I think we have been blessed in a very special way by God, as a people. And I think sometimes we need to just step back and have more gratitude. I know times are tough. But if all of us, regardless of our walk in life, look at our individual circumstance and where we are, we have a lot to be thankful for.”