Features

Diaspora Activities 2011 – Jamaica Year in Review 2011

Written by Cordella Lewis

Jamaican Arts and Entertainment Around the World
A number of Caribbean and Jamaican films were introduced at the Caribbean Tales Toronto Film Festival in Canada, showcasing the area’s considerable talent over ten days in September. The Jamaican film “Better Mus’ Come” written and directed by Storm Saulter led off the prestigious Bahamas International Film Festival. Saulter’s first feature film, it was the only Jamaican film at the festival and was called a “new benchmark” for the country’s filmmaking. It focuses on the late 1970s in Jamaica and the “political tribalism” of the time.    

The Toronto festival was also the site of the first viewing of the Jamaican action film “Ghett’a Life,” from director Chris Browne. Ten years in the making, the films was funded by local Jamaican investors and features local music and talent in a story of life in inner-city Kingston. 

Jamaican musicians continued to make their mark around the world. Music pioneers were invited to share their expertise and participate in the largest international workshop held in Tokyo, Japan, at the Red Bull Music Academy. The workshop seeks to foster an exchange of ideas and concepts about music. Japan was also the scene of a Jamaican cultural showcase in September 2011 as Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Olivia Grange facilitated a an event called Jamaica Rocks in cooperation with the Min-On Concert Association and the Embassy of Jamaica in Tokyo. The event played in 24 cities in Japan and included folk and popular music, presenting the evolution of music from Mento to Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, and Dancehall types. The musicians’ performances received high praise from the Japanese audiences. 

Jamaican musicians played concerts all over the globe in 2011. Mavado brought his dancehall performances to Winnipeg, Canada in March. Stephen Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley, played a concert in St. Petersburg, Florida in July. Although he was born in the United States, Marley retains strong ties to Jamaica and has won five Grammy awards. In November, Jamaican dancehall star Toya from Downsound Records performed her Caribbean-style sounds to an audience of 25 million homes in Scandinavia during a special appearance on Cruisetv, a travel series broadcast on TVNorge. Toya was featured in a program episode that focused on the sensuality of young women in Jamaica. Big Youth and I Wayne were among the performers at a salute to reggae held in Brooklyn, New York, in October. The event featured reggae music and artistes and honored Harry Belafonte. The event also included a screening of a documentary about government-sponsored violence against Rastafarians in Jamaica called “Bad Friday.” 

Reggae music was also honored by a surprise “flash mob” in New York City in May when over 200 fans performed choreographed dance moves in Union Square to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the death of Bob Marley. The event was sponsored by the Jamaica Tourist Board and Flash Mob America and was attended by Ziggy Marley, Devon Harris, members of Jamaica’s women’s basketball team, and Jamaican chess master Maurice Ashley. 

Smile Jamaica from Television Jamaica partnered with the Today Show at NBC in the United States to provide programming that combined both presentations in March. Kathie Lee Gifford, Hoda Kotb, Simon Crosskill, Neville Bell, Simone Clarke-Cooper and Carlette DeLeon were on location in Jamaica to tape the show which will be shown in May. This was a first-of-its-kind production for Jamaican television. 

Jamaican actor and award-winning producer and playwright David Heron was awarded a lead role in a television ad for Xoom.com. The advertisement features the company’s new mobile site. Heron said he is glad to be associated with this product because it allows Jamaicans in the United States to send money back home via a mobile phone. 

Jamaican entrepreneur Fitzroy Gordon, who has been active in Canadian media for about 30 years, has decided to create a new radio station in Canada devoted to playing Caribbean music, including soca, world beat, and reggae, which will have a permanent home at this new mainstream radio station, which is scheduled to begin broadcasting in October. 

Three Jamaican authors now living in Canada joined together to present their views during Black History Month 2011. Olive Senior, Lorna Goodison, and Pamela Mordecai with, between them, hundreds of titles to their credit, participated in a special Black History Month series event at the Toronto Public Library. 

Gavin Hutchinson has written a memoir about his journey from idealism to reality and the experiences he had along the way. Hutchinson, 28, has released the story of his life in a book called “Tried and True: Revelations of a Rebellious Youth,” which describes his jobs as a weekly talk show host, working for the Bob Marley family, and launching a nonprofit meant to empower Jamaican youth through the arts and culture. Also entering the autobiographical waters was Ewart Walters, Jamaican-born journalist who started his own newspaper in Canada. His book tells the story of his experiences at Calabar High School in Kingston and his work on the newspaper. Walters left Jamaica in 1951 after Hurricane Charlie left hundreds of thousands of island residents dead, injured, and homeless. His book also covers his years with the Jamaican government as Counselor in Ottawa and as an advisor on privacy and access to information in the office of the President of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). 

The first Caribbean Women Writers Conference was held at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College and featured experts discussing works from all Caribbean regional cultures. 

Diane Abbot, a British member of parliament of Jamaican descent, has decided to campaign against the Patois Bible. She does not think Patois is a legitimate language and therefore the Bible should not be translated into it. Abbott says she cherishes the Jamaican dialect, but believes it is important that Jamaicans speak English as their first language because English is the language of global commerce.

Government Officials and Representatives Traveled the World
Arthur Williams, Jamaica’s Minister responsible for Public Service and Information, took a delegation on a study tour of Singapore’s public sector. The tour was recommended by Minh Pham, the resident representative to Jamaica of the United Nations Development Program. 

Jamaican diplomat and advertising entrepreneur Arnold Foote met with Pope Benedict XVI in May. Foote is the president of the World Federation of Consuls. This is the first time that members of the Federation will be received by the Pope. 

Five Jamaican students won scholarships to study medicine at Cuban universities in 2011/2012 through the Cuba-Jamaica Medical Scholarship Program. Yuri Gala Lopez, Cuba’s ambassador to Jamaica, presented the scholarships at a ceremony that took place at Cuba’s embassy in Kingston. 

Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, attended a community meeting at the Jamaica High Commission in London, which permitted him to promote the 50th Anniversary of Independence in 2012, He also discussed the importance of the Jamaican Diaspora in the UK. 

Prime Minister Bruce Golding led a delegation from Jamaica to the Inter-American Development Bank International Forum on Caribbean Investment and Development on June 5 and June 10. The delegation took part in a discussion between public and private sector organizations concerning trade and finance issues of importance to the Caribbean. 

Jamaican Ambassador to the United States Audrey P. Marks made her first official visit to Florida and met with members of the Diaspora to strengthen the ties between them and Jamaicans on the home island. Marks traveled on a six-day tour of Florida and focused her attention on maximizing the benefits of the relationship between Jamaica and the U.S. Jamaica’s Ambassador to Japan Claudia Barnes took a vacation on the home island after attending a meeting called by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. In discussing the experience of the March 2011 earthquake in Japan, she noted that the Ministry was able to account for every Jamaican known to be in Japan at the time of the quake. 

The Reverend Don Meredith, originally from St. Ann, was appointed to the Canadian Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Meredith, 47, says he is “humbled” that the Prime Minister recommended him for the Senate position. Meredith immigrated to Canada at the age of 12 and graduated from Toronto’s Weston Collegiate Institution. 

Angella Reid, a Jamaican-born hotelier, will be the first female chief usher at the White House, the home of the President of the United States in Washington, D.C. Reid was born in Trinityville, St. Thomas, and went to Excelsior High School in Kingston before becoming a front-office trainee at the Montego Bay Half Moon Hotel in 1978. 

Tracy Robinson, a Jamaican and senior lecturer in law at the University of the West Indies, was elected to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Robinson, who is also a Rhodes Scholar, was elected at the 41st regular meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in El Salvador. 

Anthony Jackson, the Jamaica’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom made a visit to Edinburgh in Scotland, which was meant to strengthen ties between Jamaica and the UK. He visited businesses and politicians the visit, which was only the second time in history that a Jamaican High Commissioner mad an official visit to Scotland. 

Jamaica’s Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Karl Samuda, traveled to London on a trade and investment mission designed to encourage demand for Jamaica’s products in the international marketplace. Samuda also hoped to generate new direct foreign investments and partnerships between the United Kingdom and Jamaica.

Jamaica’s Worldwide Sports Representatives
Olivia Grange, Jamaica’s Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, told attendees at a fundraising dinner for the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) in Birmingham, England, that Jamaica is ready to become the leading training center for sprint athletes from around the globe. She encouraged sports investors to develop initiatives for improving facilities in Jamaica with this goal in mind. 

Kevin Morrison, the FIFA award-winning referee from Jamaica, has been selected as to bring his skills to the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Morrison, 33, received the FIFA Referee of the Year award from the Jamaica Football Referees Association, the second major award for Morrison, who also received the Digicel Premier League Referee of the Year award in 2010. 

Jamaican football-playing youths made a positive impression on the Austrian football club of USK Anif. Craig Butler and four members of the Phoenix All Star Football Academy pioneered a move into Austria to create a major opportunity for the Jamaican players. According to Butler, the young players will be able to develop their skills outside of Jamaica in a way that could not be accomplished at home and that will benefit them in the future.

Jamaican Products Showcased
The International Food and Drink Expo in London celebrated Jamaica Day on March 15, 2011. Jamaica was the featured nation on the “Meet the World” stage at the all-day event. Colin Brown, a Jamaican chef who is based in the UK, and famous storyteller Joan Andrea Hutchinson were featured celebrities at the Expo. 

Yendi Phillips, the current Miss Jamaica Universe, has taken on the role of an ambassador representing the interests of Jamaica’s Coffee Industry Board and the Association of Japanese Importers of Jamaican Coffee. She presented a gift of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee to Japan’s Minister of Agriculture Michihiko Kano while on her trip to work on the campaign.

About the author

Cordella Lewis