On a sunny, brisk afternoon, Cortlandt Manor resident Geneive Brown Metzger, the former Jamaican consul general (she held the post from 2008 to 2012), is on the verge of a second wind. She had been up until 2 am working on a proposal for a prospective client in the Caribbean and then woke up at 6 to get ready for a board meeting in Manhattan. Now she sits on her living room couch with a steaming mug in her hand. Of course, the brew inside is Blue Mountain Coffee from her homeland of Jamaica, because, down to the last drop, everything Brown Metzger does revolves tirelessly around supporting and promoting her beloved native country.
Indeed, there are only so many hours in a day, and Brown Metzger, 62, seems to be filling them up with her many roles, from nationally recognized Caribbean investment and trade analyst to promoter of tertiary education and entrepreneurship in Jamaica.
She is also what’s called a diaspora strategist, working with Jamaicans living in the US who are looking to give back to their home country. They have access to much-needed American technology, industry, and medicine; Brown Metzger helps them connect with beneficiary organizations in Jamaica in need of their goodwill or investment, whether to support social causes or economic development. It’s work that speaks to her commitment to improve the lives of Jamaicans from our prosperous shores.
That commitment is infectious and has proven to be a reliable fuel for Jamaican development. Take her work to build Jamaica’s “first university town.” James Goren, a partner at Goren Brothers, a holding entity and real estate development company, worked with Brown Metzger on the initiative, which combined the University of Technology, Jamaica West campus with a surrounding community of some 1,200 homes. “I was immediately struck by Geneive’s incredible love of Jamaica, her knowledge, and her art of communication,” he says. “Her devotion to work, country, and friendship is second to none.”
Brown Metzger, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica, likes to define hers as a classic immigrant story. “It really honors what I think is an amazing country and what it means to people like myself who are connected spiritually and culturally with their homeland but find themselves—either through their own decision or, in this case, my parents’ decision—in another country,” she says. “And I suppose it could have been any other place, but I’m happy it was America because this is an amazing place. I love it.”
Her mother was a nurse, and her father was a tailor who sewed for British royalty and aristocracy in Jamaica. Brown Metzger’s parents wanted the best for their five children. “That meant good manners, a good education, and classical music—the kind of things that polish and refine a human being,” she says. Brown Metzger started playing the violin at the age of 4. “At 6, I had my first performance at a garden party in an organza dress, playing Handel’s ‘Largo.’ To this day, I remember every note,” she says.
Clockwise From Brown Metzger with former US Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater, former Jamaican Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, Ivana Trump, and Michael Weatherly of NCIS.
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Brown Metzger’s father immigrated to America in 1961 when she was 8 years old, and her entire family followed suit seven years later, settling in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood. Her parents pushed for law school, but Brown Metzger was more interested in government; she studied political science and earned her undergraduate degree at the City University of New York and a master’s at Columbia University.
Brown Metzger launched full-force into her career alongside some of the American judicial system’s most notable 20th-century figures. In 1977, she started work for Jack Greenberg, the director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, as the administrator and editorial assistant of the 25th anniversary program commemorating the US Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. “Part of the thrill was interviewing some of the biggest names involved—Bayard Rustin, Jack Greenberg, Andrew Young,” she says. “It was perhaps the most exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling time in my professional life, with the exception of my role as consul general.”
Professional life would evolve toward self-employment. In 1984, she launched Geneive Brown Associates. It grew into a successful public relations and marketing communications firm, partly because she recognized the demand for Caribbean public affairs expertise created by a 1983 US-Caribbean trade agreement. Just six years later, Brown Metzger merged her company with the powerhouse public relations firm Ruder Finn and established their Emerging Markets Division. And again, Brown Metzger found herself embedded in history. “I represented Rhodes University in South Africa, literally on the ending of Apartheid,” she recalls. “That whole experience was remarkable.”
At about the time of the merger, she started dating her future husband, Stephen Metzger, a PhD-bearing economist, market research consultant, and professor at Fordham University. “Geneive had an incredible smile, and her charisma was so engaging,” says Metzger.
The two married in 1991. Their daughters, Simone and Shannon, are now both adults and live in Manhattan. Four years after their marriage, it was time to move out of their home in Chelsea. Why they chose their home in Cortlandt Manor should come as no surprise: “It reminded me so much of Jamaica and the bush. Not the seaside, but the mountainous terrain in an area called Mandeville. It’s wooded, it’s natural, it’s quiet—we just really like it here.”
Then in 2007, she got what she refers to as “the call.”
“I was out walking my dog, and when I got back there was a message from the [Jamaican] prime minister’s office on my phone,” she says. When she called back and was asked to be consul general, she recalls being a bit shocked because she wasn’t a career diplomat. But Brown Metzger had what the country needed—the contacts and business sense to be able to, as she says, “hit the ground running and exploit the opportunities that were here on behalf of the country.”
One of her main goals as consul general was to develop greater support for deportees, an issue close to heart; Brown Metzger’s own father was deported when he first came to the US (he was later granted a visa along with the rest of his family). She organized workshops to help familes manage their finances when a father is deported and conferences at the Jamaican Consulate with American organizations and immigration agencies to help them better understand the impact of the deportation process on families. She is also very proud of having served on the USAID/Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Think Tank, leading up to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s inaugural Global Diaspora Forum in Washington in 2011.
Her impression of Hillary? “I admire the way she leveraged the Global Diaspora Forum…and I’m sure that will come back when she runs for president—it demonstrates her interest and prowess in foreign affairs.”
Since leaving that position three years ago, Brown Metzger is back to consulting, and she’s as busy as ever. What does she do when she’s not working? “I’m a Christian. And I would not be able to get through my day if it were not for that,” she says. “On Sundays, I’m in church. I spend time with my church family, and I don’t do work. Even if I’m traveling, I take time out every morning to give time to prayer.” She and her husband are members of the First Baptist Church of Ossining.
But what about idle pleasures? Brown Metzger says her husband falls into that category. “The day I don’t consider him an idle pleasure then I think the relationship is over. He’s very supportive and also extremely easy on the eyes. We both pray together, and that has really made a difference in our lives.”
Brown Metzger is also an ardent supporter of the arts and was vice president of the Paramount Center for the Arts in Peekskill from 2002 to 2007. She is also co-founder of Opera Ebony, the longest running black opera company in the US.
If she had more time on her hands, Brown Metzger says, “I think I’d spend it in devotion. I don’t want people to think I’m pious, because I’m not. I’ve learned that I gain a lot of strength and insight when I sit still. When I’m able to really enjoy quiet time, I get up with more ideas and a renewed vigor. There’s just more clarity.”