In what was obviously a most spectacular precursor to the grandest of grand Independence Balls imaginable for “Jamaica’s 50th” in 2012, The Atlanta Jamaican Association (The AJA) certainly “put on the Ritz” with glitzy pomp and ceremony to a degree that has not been realized in Atlanta during Jamaica’s Independence celebrations in recent times. In fact, at one point during the event, when a fire alarm sounded briefly, one elderly gentleman privately and jokingly attributed the errant alarm to the fact that the fashions in the ballroom were simply “too hot”!
So it was, on August 6, 2011, on Jamaica’s 49th anniversary of independence, as The AJA, in collaboration with the Atlanta Jamaica Cultural and Education Fund, presented its Annual Independence Ball and Scholarship Awards gala, hosted at the Georgia International Convention Center, Atlanta’s most contemporary and technologically advanced facility of its kind.
Keynote speaker for the auspicious event, which was proudly and graciously sponsored by the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, was none other than Marcia Forbes, Ph.D., a leading communications and media specialist. Her topic resonated quite well with members of the audience, including yours truly, an avid student of technology. She meticulously and poignantly, and maybe even a bit excessively, highlighted the benefits to be derived from the proper use of communicative technologies.
Guests had a royal treat of delightful menu specialties ably prepared by the professional caterers. Ironically, the talk of the town was not just about the blackened red snapper, one of the many, many delectable selections. The patriotic-minded Jamaican guests raved about another item on the menu: the green, gold and black mousse martini.
Dr. Shaunte Henry, a former AJA scholarship recipient, spoke eloquently as she offered special remarks related to the awards ceremony segment of the celebration. The 2011 awardees for AJA scholarships were Kirstyn Taylor and Santana Mowbray, while Chelsae-Daughn Gill-James won the Tropical Sports Club scholarship. Both Kirstyn and Santana will be studying at the University of Georgia, while Chelsae-Daughn will enter Oxford College of Emory University. Metals & Materials Engineers, LLC (MME), an engineering firm providing technical excellence across various engineering disciplines, partnered with The AJA in the sponsorship of one of the two AJA scholarships.
Interestingly enough, this year The AJA had the highest number of applicants for scholarships ever, according to AJA Education chair, Joy Boothe. “The girls dominated, with GPA’s in the range of 3.6 – 4.5, and they walked away with top honors.”
In the Special Awards category, Elaine Bryan received the award of Outstanding Jamaican in Atlanta. At the same time, sports legends Desmond Lewis and Henry Largie won prestigious Sports Achievement Awards, in cricket and football, respectively.
Two AJA members also won service awards. Copeland Comrie won The AJA’s president award for community service, and Frederick Morris was recognized for being an outstanding member.
Vin Martin, Jamaica’s Honorary Consul in Atlanta, and Mrs. Martin, headed the list of distinguished guests who celebrated Jamaica’s 49th in fine style. And Kingston College Old Boys Atlanta was well represented, of course.
Renowned Mixmaster DJ Carlton of New York had the guests “rocking” on the dance floor, basically all night. When the celebration was over, the guests wanted even more. “Party can’t done yet,” is the rough translation of what a few otherwise polished but highly expressive women remarked, in a lengthy discourse that ended with them saying “to backside,” in unison. They will be back next year, undoubtedly. Everyone will be back, I am sure, and they will bring their families and friends, as Atlanta celebrates Jamaica’s 50th. They will be back, too, as The AJA celebrates its 35th year of proud service.
When asked what special plans he had for next year, Errol Ritchie, president of The AJA, responded promptly: “promote events on a much larger scale.” Well, if this recent Independence Ball is any indication of things to come, “next year will be something else,” as the popular expression goes in Jamaica. Can’t wait!