Class of COVID-19Sunday, June 13, 2021
A crisis often brings out both the best and worst in us all and the novel coronavirus, which stubbornly hovered like an overfed mosquito across the length and breadth of our beloved island, reduced many once-revered business leaders to whimpering serial complainers. And as we moved from one year to the next consisting of even more fear, chaos, uncertainty and endless curfews we continued to live in hope, seeking light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. Our single focus was to keep breathing. It was hard not to reach the end of our tether.
The ability to inhale and exhale was a COVID-19 must-have commodity along with Lysol, Clorox disinfecting wipes, hand sanatisers, masks, and gloves.
Who would have thunk it? Nobody! Even the St Thomas obeah men were caught off guard.
It's far from over, but as we patiently wait to get on badder than we have ever dared (cue: Spice's I Feel a Way), we reflect on those who through it all held us up even when their own knees were buckling under the sheer weight of it all. There was no playbook but somehow they held on tight and lifted our spirits.
No better place to start than with Grace Latoya Hamilton aka Spice who, along with Sean Paul and Shaggy, gave us the anthem, complete with dance, we never knew we needed! There'd be more; her Graci Noir luxury leisure line is in first anniversary prep mode. What Grace Hamilton is determined to do, however, is inspire women. Her Grace Hamilton Foundation, set up “to enrich women through education and entrepreneurship”, will always be top of mind. “I want women, especially the not-so-priviledged ones to look at me — the hard work, discipline and love I have for my children — and be motivated,” she has said.
Recording artiste Jeffrey Campbell, better known as Sasco, along with H&L Rapid True Value, took us on a backyard DIY journey. Outdoors was where it was at! Gardening became the new black and Ashley Foster-Horne assumed the role of SO's Unlikely Gardener.
Investing in education proved invincible even in the throes of a pandemic. Khadine “Miss Kitty” Hylton was called to the bar and added megawattage to her already dazzling star. Gordon Swaby's EduFocal vision was finally understood and lauded as he created more opportunities for teachers to deliver education virtually. Michael Lee Chin's teaching “out of crisis comes opportunity” appeared to find favour with Dr Ché Bowen, who saw the future of telemedicine, launched MDLink, followed by the COVID-19 screening tool MDLex.
Heir apparent to the Sandals empire Adam Stewart assumed the helm and began methodically carving out his own path even while honouring the legacy of his father Gordon “Butch” Stewart. “Everything we are today he created, and the opportunity to continue to build on his legacy is my greatest honour,” he said.
A thoroughly modern leader, he is not afraid to show his emotions and artfully juggles the roles of son, brother, husband, father and businessman. It is to him that many looked and continue to look to set the tone for future leadership. “You don't get results by focusing on results; you get results by focusing on the actions that produce results,” he recently shared.
Communications leader and philanthropist Donette Chin-Loy Chang, whose noblesse oblige credo kicked into even higher gear, remains hopeful of a kinder, fairer and more compassionate world post-pandemic. Her active roles on boards that push diversity and education and her indefatiguable support for students of The University of the West Indies are tangible steps taken.
Wes Hall, executive chair and founder of Kingsdale Advisors, and founder and executive chair of BlackNorth Initiative, stepped out determined to catalyse meaningful change to end systemic racism. His game plan: have Canadian CEOs pledge their commitment to end anti-black racism. If anybody can achieve this, Hall, who climbed his way out of abject poverty in St Thomas, Jamaica, to be hailed as one of the 50 most influential Torontonians of 2020, certainly can!
Who opens a brick and mortar art gallery in Chelsea, New York in the midst of a pandemic? Jamaican-born Art Whisperer Nicola Vassell, that's who! The Jamaican feistiness continues with fashion designer Rachel Scott making crochet executed by local female artisans the star of her 2021 collection, and a New York Times nod for visual artist Ebony Patterson's deceptively beautiful tapestry about mourning.
Back on The Rock Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau gave us the Christmas 2020 gift we knew we needed but didn't know who could fully interpret same. The gift was Summerhouse @Harmony Hall “We want visitors to Summerhouse @ Harmony Hall to feel like they have stepped back in time, to feel like they are enjoying a meal on a breezy verandah of a gracious friend where there is wonderful conversation, good company, delicious but simple food, and great wine; like a leisurely day dining at a friend's country house. We want our guests to feel like they have come home, especially now when all of us have spent so much time rediscovering what home means,” said the sisters. Naught else for us to add, really, save that Island Magnolia Boutique brings it all to a perfect close.
In Kingston two young entrepreneurs undaunted by the naysayers relocated their restaurant, fondly referred to as Broken Plate 2.0, to Barbican Road. It is described as “nothing short of amazing and consists of what can only be described as a unique blend of disruptive, innovative, and cutting-edge cuisine as well as world-class service”.
Closing out the class of COVID-19 is realtor Kaili McDonnough Scott. For just when we thought we had seen it all, in terms of Kingston high-rise living, along came The Residences At Terra Nova. Packaged and presented as all things ought to be: in haute Caribbean style by her team at Coldwell Banker, Jamaica Realty.
As SO raises a toast to the Class of COVID-19 we leave you with the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “If life were predictable, it would cease to be life, and be without flavour”...
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