JIS News

A visit to Birmingham and the Fresh Winds project, a charity that works with HIV/AIDS infected persons mostly from the Afro-Caribbean community, was the highlight of Toni-Shae James’ one week visit to the United Kingdom.
Although for Toni-Shae, the reigning Miss Jamaica Festival Queen, the UK visit was one of her prizes for winning the 2003 competition, it was also a working holiday and she was particularly keen to visit Fresh Winds, as she works with a similar organization in St. James, her home parish in Jamaica.
“The visit (to Fresh Winds) was an eye opener for me. And there are definitely things that I saw there that we can use in Jamaica.They have several activities and projects that would be quite useful in Jamaica,” Toni-Shae told JIS News before she left London last Saturday (May 1).
The Festival Queen added that she would work to continue the links made with Fresh Winds and the HIV/AIDS project in St. James.
In addition to the visit to Birmingham, Toni-Shae and her chaperone, Dorrett Thaxter of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), had lunch with the Jamaican High Commissioner to the UK, Her Excellency Maxine Roberts. They also met with the Mayor of London’s Special Advisor and Chairman of the London Kingston Consultative Committee, Jamaican born Lee Jasper.
She said that her UK visit exceeded all of her expectations. “It was very exciting. I was able to interface with Jamaicans here in the UK and to be a good ambassador for Jamaica,” she added.Twenty four year-old Toni-Shae, who holds a Master’s degree in Sociology from the University of the West Indies, is employed by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).
She told JIS News that entering the Festival Queen contest was out of character for her. “I was always on the other side watching the show and critiquing it. But I was encouraged by my mother and at the 2002 show, I told my friend that I would enter the next year and win,” she said.
Describing herself as a very focussed person, Toni-Shae said that the contest involved a lot of serious preparation, and in addition to increasing her knowledge of Jamaican history, heritage and culture, she had to prepare for the talent aspect of the contest.
“I had to put a lot of serious preparation on my talent piece, which was the trumpet,” she noted. The piece was titled ‘Young Gifted and Black’ and featured Jamaican music going back to the 1960s.
Toni-Shae will give up her Festival Queen crown in July, but she will participate in two other regional Festival Queen competitions in Antigua and St. Vincent.

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