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An organization which began as an adhoc committee to highlight the positive aspects of Jamaica’s culture in Canada, is this year celebrating its 10th anniversary as an incorporated body.
Arts and Culture Jamaica Inc. (ACJAM) marked the occasion recently by staging its first Scholarship Awards Ceremony at the Jamaican Consulate General in Toronto, Canada, for the five students who are recipients of the 2004/05 ACJAM Scholarships.
Although the organization is observing 10 years of incorporation, the group actually came together informally for the first time 15 years ago, under the umbrella of the Jamaican Consulate.
President of Arts and Culture Jamaica, Cherita Girvan-Campbell, paid tribute to former Jamaican Consuls General, especially Margarietta St. Juste, for her “invaluable input when the organization was formalized as an incorporated body”. She also acknowledged the “unfailing support” of the current Consul General, Vivia Betton; the “exemplary leadership” of founder and immediate Past President, Paula de Ronde, and the enormous contribution of patron, the Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley (Miss Lou).
Highlighting some of the events the organization has been involved with over the years, the President said they were always carried out with the group’s mission and mandate in mind – to promote the rich cultural and artistic heritage of Jamaica.
“Many of you will recall readings by various authors, book launches, art and photography exhibitions, Gospel Sing, Christmas concerts, theatrical events, such as an evening with Leonie Forbes and Easton Lee, and the first Caribbean-Canadian Literary Expo. These events were either sponsored entirely by Arts and Culture Jamaica, or were undertaken in collaboration with other groups,” Mrs. Girvan-Campbell said.
The President noted that the awarding of scholarships came about because members of the group wanted to go beyond just staging events and to find a tangible and lasting means of supporting the artistic needs of the community.
Of the several community organizations in Toronto providing financial assistance to students of Jamaican heritage, Mrs. Girvan-Campbell said Arts and Culture Jamaica was the only one which focused exclusively on artistic pursuits. The first scholarship was awarded for the 2003/04 school year.
The President said the selection committee was so impressed by the calibre of the applicants for the 2004/05 scholarships, that five were awarded. The recipients are all of Jamaican heritage and attend tertiary institutions in Toronto. They are Angela James, a fourth year Drama major at York University; Andrea Black, a second-year Visual Arts/Psychology major, also at York; Byron Beckford and Coldeta McCarthy, dance students in their first year at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre; and Delroy Dixon, a first year Graphic Design student attending Seneca College.
As an added treat the recipients each received their award from Ambassador of Culture, the Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley.
In her address, Miss Betton congratulated the award recipients, and Arts and Culture for achieving its milestone. She thanked the organization for its continued effort in promoting Jamaica’s culture in Canada.
“No one of us can do this by ourselves,” said the Consul General, who is also a patron of the association. “Let each of us in our own way spread the message that Jamaica is a great country, our people are talented and many have excelled in various fields,” she added.
The Consul General also took the opportunity to pay tribute to Miss Lou as the “pioneer in identifying, promoting and gaining acceptance for the use of our Jamaican language”. She said Jamaicans would always be indebted to the cultural icon for “giving us this legacy and for her outstanding contribution to our culture”.
The gathering was treated to the talents of the recipients. Coldeta and Byron performed a dance together; Angela performed a dramatic piece she wrote, while Andrea and Delroy had examples of their works on display.