BY: JELANI GRANT
Toronto Caribbean Newspaper was sent to Jamaica to document the discussions and goings-on of conference delegates but throughout the trip, the Jamaica Tourism Board and Marshall Fenn collaborated to provide the North American media team with as many experiences of Jamaica that could fit into the tight schedule.
Over the past thirty-seven years the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel has earned the reputation for its attentive service and pristine hospitality, and up until this day, they continue to impress. Seventeen stories high, it is known as the Caribbean’s premier business and leisure hotel and was recently nominated for being one of Jamaica’s leading hotels by the World Travel Awards. Many delegates who attended the Jamaica Diaspora Conference stayed in Pegasus for the duration of the conference. The hotel was not short of stops to eat from without having to step off of the property. The 24 Seven Café served light meals from ice cream to chicken sandwiches around the clock. The Blend Bar & Lounge was across from the café and downstairs was the Blue Window Restaurant, which served delicious traditional island foods like oxtail or fish. Along with a tennis court and fitness center, the hotel’s pool came with a bar. Certainly, anyone staying there had everything they would need for their stay. The conference opening was held inside their banquet hall and the Jamaica Conference Centre was less than ten minutes from the hotel, making travel very smooth and swift throughout the conference.
On the first day of conference panels, delegates were invited to attend the 55th Season of Dance at Little Theatre, presented by The National Dance Theatre Company. Before the show started guests mingled at the outside bar, soaking in the live music and taking advantage of the complimentary drinks. Though unauthorized photos and video were prohibited, the visuals and costumes from performers were unforgettable. Jamaican gospel Kevin Downswell opened the show, raising the audience to their feet. Downswell is known internationally for hits such as Naah Bow, released in 2005, but he recently won the Album of the Year Award at the 2017 Sterling Gospel Music Awards for his All The Way album. The NDTC brought the crowd to a standing ovation by the end of the night after performing choreography from Rex Nettleford, Eduardo Rivero-Walker, Leni Wylliams, and Marlon Simms. Vibrant orange, red, brown and greens were the most common colors used by dancers performing to familiar sounds like Beres Hammond and Quincy Jones. Formed in 1962 by Nettleford and Eddy Thomas, the NDTC used dancers, singers, musicians and creative technicians to illustrate the long tradition of music and dance.
The journey to Ocho Rios included a delicious meal from Miss T’s Kitchen, beautiful sights along the new highway, and a tour of one Ocho’s most famous family attractions, the Dunn’s River Falls. Miss T’s Kitchen has hosted such reality shows as The Real Housewives of Atlanta and Bachelor, but the buffet-style dishes served to the conference’s North American media team made an impression as genuine Jamaican cuisine. Some delicacies included curry chicken, fried chicken, oxtail, and shrimp. $2 million JC was invested into expansions, which include a children’s splash pad and water slide. The park guide told Toronto Caribbean Newspaper the water park addition has increased local traffic by 50%, mostly made up of school buses filled with students on field trips. Since they installed the splash pads and slides, more than 200 children visit per day. Additionally, guests can enjoy a zip line carrying them over the park. Taking a trip to Ocho Rios from Kingston, specifically from the business district, could take 2-3 hours, but thanks to the fairly new North-South Highway, travel time is cut in half. The four-lane tolled motorway stretches 270 KM and is intended to make travel times driving to the north or south sides of the island simpler.
The conference events concluded at Kingston’s famous Devon House, known primarily for their tasty ice cream. Established in 1881, Devon House was built by Jamaica’s first black millionaire George Steibel.The Jamaica Diaspora Conference was founded in 2004 and has allowed Jamaican diaspora across the globe to connect and work together on building a country that continues to greatly impact the world. “Jamaicans at home and abroad must engage in partnerships for mutual success”, said Johnson-Smith.