The 29th Annual Reunion and Awards Dinner (Reunion) of the Kingston College Old Boys’ Association USA, Inc. (KCOBA) was held on the 5th May 2012 at Antun’s, an upscale catering establishment in Springfield Gardens, Queens, New York. It was a splendid affair attended by approximately 300 patrons. The Grand Ballroom was appropriately decorated, with the school’s colors on display throughout.
The event began with a cocktail hour featuring a variety of Jamaican foods, including oxtail and shrimp and other delectable delights. During this initial 1-hour period, the evergreen crooner and K.C. Old Boy Highland “Dobby” Dobson, wowed the gathering with many of his golden hits.
One of the added features this year was a “Purple Carpet” with a backdrop comprising the main sponsors of the Reunion. This area, located near the entrance to the Grand Ballroom, became a magnet for those seeking to capture their attendance on camera.
After most of the attendees had renewed acquaintances, the master of ceremonies duo of renowned radio personality and attorney Jeff Barnes, Esq. and Canon Calvin McIntyre of The Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in the Bronx, both Old Boys, formally got things underway. The Canon was at his patented witty self, engaging the audience in unbridled laughter with his jokes and light banter. The suave Jeff Barnes interspersed his presentations with jokes of his own, much to the delight of a now full house.
KCOBA president Rainford “Perry” Bloomfield kicked off the formal presentations with his report. He emphasized the importance of living and breathing the legacy of K.C.’s founder and first headmaster, the late Bishop Percival William Gibson, who also had the distinction of being the first native Jamaican to be ordained bishop of the Anglican Church in the Province of the West Indies. In this vein, Perry introduced KCOBA’s theme for the event – “Honoring Fortis Who Served”. He cited the two Guests of Honor, immediate KCOBA past President Robert Kelly and former KCOBA board member Calvin Hibbert, along with Presidential Awardee Norman Scott, as exemplifying such esteemed Fortis Who Served. He took time to highlight the many areas of assistance provided to the school including, necktie, nutrition, scholarship, prize-giving and infrastructure programs, amongst many others. He concluded by thanking the attendees for their continued support and identifying with the Great Cause for Kingston College.
Dinner was served after the president’s speech, with the intent to resume the formal program thereafter. While the guests consumed a sumptuous meal consisting of a choice of chicken or salmon with potatoes au gratin and vegetables, the background sound of DJ Prentice of Soul Tone provided the perfect accompaniment.
The voice of Canon McIntyre soon re-focused the attendees to the area of the head table. After having everyone in stitches and near tears with another serving of his jokes, he handed over to Jeff Barnes who introduced the Guest Speaker for the night, the newly elected Minister of State for Tourism and Entertainment in the Jamaican Government, Hon. Damion Crawford. The audience was told that Minister Crawford attended K.C. and was also the recipient of the Douglas Forrest Award for Tourism Studies, tenable at the University of the West Indies. Minister Crawford wasted little time in captivating the audience with a mixture of deliberate infusion of the government’s plans for the country with his indelible Spirit of never-say-die learned and honed at his high school alma mater. He made it known that there was precious little difference between the socialist ideals and market-driven capitalism. He did this with thought-provoking references to the need for providing opportunities for the populace in the marketplace. However, he recognized that access to proper healthcare and education (socialist ideals) were precursors to such opportunities being tapped, and this he said was the greatest challenge the island faced. Opportunities, he went on to state, were what Capitalists like to boast as the derivatives of capitalism. It is therefore no different to the objectives of the democratic socialism model that the late PM and Comrade Leader of the PNP, Hon. Michael Manley, O.M. introduced in the mid-1970’s. This model envisioned a Jamaica where there were no barriers to success of the populace, with the catalysts for such success being proper education and healthcare for all.
Minister Crawford bemoaned the disparities in the education system, with some schools lacking the basic necessities. He stated that K.C., with its system of support from the various chapters of the Old Boys’ association, was able to provide a good education for its student population, and that things we took for granted were alien to most schools in Jamaica. He lauded the efforts of KCOBA and congratulated the association on its milestone achievement of 30 unbroken years of support to Kingston College.
The presentation of awards followed the minister’s speech, and it was a combination of pride and emotions. Guest of Honor Robert Kelly was introduced by 1st vice-president Robert Rodney who summarized his (Kelly) accomplishments. In his acceptance speech, Robert gave a synopsis of his activities in Jamaica, where he now resides. He said the picture at the school is bleak, and that there was a desperate need for a new school bus. He challenged the audience to contribute to the purchase of the new bus, which he estimates to cost J$6M.
The other Guest of Honor, Calvin “John Collie” Hibbert, was introduced by his former K.C. classmate Michael Wong, who made a special trip from his home in Canada. He revealed many things about Calvin, but perhaps the most telling was his ability to calm tense situations. In his response, “John Collie” stated that his initial reaction to being told about the honor was to use the Jamaican vernacular “Gwey”, indicating a combination of disbelief and disinterest. However, accepting the seriousness of the honor, he self-analyzed the situation and felt that if the recognition was coming from the heart then “who am I to reject it”, he told his listeners.
President Perry presented the award named for his office to former secretary of the association Norman Scott. Everyone present heard the president talk about the reliability and consistency of Norman in his service to KCOBA, and by extension K.C. In accepting the reward, Norman was a picture of humbleness and was quite generous in naming many others whom he felt also contributed to making his service that much easier.
Certificates of Appreciation were presented to radio personality and K.C. Old Boy Chris “Dubmaster” McDonald and Sam’s Caribbean Marketplace, Inc. of Hempstead, Long Island, New York. The presentations were made by Robert Rodney who thanked both awardees for their community service, as well as their support of KCOBA.
The president then returned to the podium and invited Minister Crawford to accept an award from the association. Ever fast-witted, the young government minister exclaimed his appreciation for the award and promptly indicated that it would occupy place of prominence in his office, which sees more visitors than his own home, much to the delight and laughter of the guests.
The vote of thanks was offered by KCOBA Life Director, Winston L. Stewart, who was also representing the Atlanta Chapter. In keeping with the theme of the function, he traced with gratitude the genesis of the school and Bishop Gibson’s legacy; the vision and leadership of the late legendary Sidney Ignatius “Foggy” Burrowes and other Old Boys for re-starting KCOBA in 1982, after a near 20-year hiatus ; the Old Boys who procured the association’s New York incorporation and not-for-profit status; the tens of honorees recognized by the association; St. Luke’s Episcopal Church for accommodating the meetings of the association and other events; the die-hard supporters; scores of board members who served over the years to the present board; and, most significantly, the Glory of God for making all positive things possible for KCOBA.
The final 1 ½ -hrs. were consumed with dancing to the musical offerings of Dobby Dobson and DJ Prentice. It was also used by many to pose for photos with friends and of course, the now very popular Minister Damion Crawford. The event concluded just after 2:00 AM with Prentice playing the millennium anthem “One Love (People Get Ready)”, by the late Reggae music icon the Hon. Robert Nesta Marley, O.M.