Monday, May 8, 2017

The magic of Kingston

by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Observer column published Monday 8 May 2017

posted by Aundre James on Facebook
There is a new energy around Kingston & St. Andrew and this was evident at the launch of the Kingston & St. Andrew Development Foundation last Wednesday.  How can one resist the magic of Kingston – cool Devon House ice-cream, breezy lunches in Port Royal, inspiring concerts, lazy afternoons at Hope Gardens, the laughter and drama of Jamaican theatre. Kingston is the cradle of Ska and Reggae, and the honing ground of the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt. 

There is a unique Kingston buzz that makes it like no other city in the world.  What is particularly great about Kingston is that clearly, we are practically colour blind.  We have heard criticisms of contrasting attitudes to dancehall and carnival.  Yes, it exists, but remember that passa passa and Rae Town have been favourite events of uptowners.  Indeed, Spanish Chargé d'Affaires, Carmen Rives Ruiz-Tapiador brought Rae Town uptown with the Alpha Boys Band to give us a most memorable night last year.  As Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett noted after the recent deluge of tourists in the capital city for Carnival: “Airbnb is here to stay”.  We have been told that one of the most popular places for Airbnb bookings is Trench Town close to Bob Marley’s Culture Yard. 
Devon House Ice Cream

Clearly, this column could go into raptures of Saturday shopping at Cross Roads Market, Bruce’s patties and the ‘fudgie’ honking his horn while we scoured every pocket to make up the cost of a chocomo. But you get my gist:  Kingston tastes great!

Beyond that, with one of the leading natural harbours in the world, with high-calibre professionals and companies that continue to grow and thrive, Kingston captured the imagination of business trailblazers John Wray and his nephew Charles Ward, Abe Issa, the Matalons, Kennedys, Faceys, Hendricksons.  Kingston inspired a humble man named Glen Christian to dream big dreams, and today he is a business and real estate mogul, having founded the Carimed Group and Kirk Industries. Kingston’s charm spread to the shores of Ireland where Digicel Founder Denis O’Brien decided to build one of the most environmentally friendly office buildings in the Caribbean on the city’s picturesque waterfront.  

Kingston Mayor Delroy Williams being briefed by
KSA Development Fdn Chairman
Custos Hon Steadman Fuller
and Board Member KSAC Town Clerk Robert Hill

Therefore, it was an honour to have been invited to join the Board of the Kingston & St. Andrew Development & Homecoming Foundation, the brainchild of Custos Steadman Fuller and former Custos, Donna Parchment Brown.  In fact, Custos Fuller through his business Kingston Bookshop Ltd with his wife and business partner Mrs. Sonia Fuller, have given support to the tune of J$10M for the setting up and staffing of this Foundation.  Gratitude also to Jamaica National who have contributed a well-equipped office in downtown Kingston.  It is a dynamic Board: other members are St. Andrew Custos Dr. Patricia Dunwell; Morin Seymour, former Head of the Kingston Restoration Company; KSAC Town Clerk Robert Hill; Joylene Griffiths-Irving, Executive Director of the Scotiabank Foundation; and Executive Director Mr. George Watson who was a prime mover of the St. Elizabeth Homecoming Association.

The Foundation has stated its ambitious mission. This is “to mobilize and encourage all Kingston & St. Andrew citizens and their friends – resident and those living overseas, to come together and use the human and financial resources of the two parishes for the development of the economic, educational, cultural and social capacity of its people to improve their quality of life”.

Local Govt Minister Hon Desmond McKenzie
The mission of the Foundation was well received at pre-launch briefings by the Governor General, the Prime Minister, former Leader of the Opposition, Portia Simpson-Miller, and Kingston Mayor Delroy Williams.  At the launch, Local Government Minister, Desmond McKenzie waxed poetic about his place of birth, Kingston. “We have the largest Medical facilities and we have the largest market in the Caribbean in downtown Kingston …I am proud of my allegiance to my place of birth”. 

Minister McKenzie noted the initiative will increase a sense of national pride, meaningful social and economic development and advance and renew the spirit of Kingston. 

The Minister, who had led the municipality for over ten years, acknowledged the work of former Mayor Dr. Angela Brown-Burke to promote international recognition of the city.   He said the city had great tourism potential, citing airport and port expansion and the arrival of the first cruise ship. “Kingston is a great city and we are a great people,” he declared.

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