Actress hosts, media pioneer honored, at Jamaica’s independence ball

 

(l-R) Ambassador Stephen Vasciannie, Alison Lyle, Paulette Willoughby (JICFI Chair) pose with  Hionorees Bobby Clarke, Heather Foster, Ray Goulbourne and Consul General Herman G. LaMont.

(l-R) Ambassador Stephen Vasciannie, Alison Lyle, Paulette Willoughby, chair of JICFI, pose with honorees Robert “Bobby” Clarke, Heather Foster, Ray Goulbourne and Consul General Herman G. LaMont. –Roland Hyde Photo.

By Carmen Glover

The American ballroom at New York’s Hilton Hotel exploded in a kaleidoscope of black, green and gold, Jamaica’s vibrant national colors, as a diverse group of guests celebrated the country’s 51 years of independence.

The festive event took place on Saturday, August 17, 2013 and featured actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, a proud Jamaican national, as mistress of ceremonies. Ralph wore one of the country’s folk costumes during one of her many wardrobe changes, eliciting nostalgic gasps. Media pioneer  and CEO  of Irie Jam Media Robert “Bobby” Clarke, joined Heather J. Foster, associate director of public engagement at the White House and Ray Goulbourne, executive vice president of broadcast media sales at BET, as professionals whose career achievements were honored at the event.

Sheryl Lee Ralph, her mother and Christine Steel of Fly Jamaica in Jamaican folk costumes.--Roland Hyde Photo

Sheryl Lee Ralph, her mother and Christine Steel of Fly Jamaica in Jamaican folk costumes.–Roland Hyde Photo

The function began with a cocktail reception and silent auction, which included items such as a painting of sprint star Usain Bolt.

Jamaica's Ambassador to the USA Professor Stephen Vasciannie addresses the gathering.

Jamaica’s Ambassador to the USA Professor Stephen Vasciannie addresses the gathering. –Roland Hyde Photo.

In the night’s opening remarks, Jamaica’s Consul General to New York Herman G. LaMont, said: “We plan to work hard together and play together,” as he encouraged the attendees to have a good time.  He was followed by Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States of America Professor Stephen Vasciannie, who said that Jamaicans “must double our efforts to maintain good relations with the USA.” Ambassador Vasciannie decried the large numbers of Jamaicans being deported and urged the guests to “encourage those Jamaicans who are inclined to stay in the United States to live within the confines of the law.” His remarks were greeted with strong applause.

Jamaica's Consul General to New York Herman LaMont addresses the guests.

Jamaica’s Consul General to New York Herman LaMont addresses the guests.-Roland Hyde Photo.

During a lull in the festivities, Ralph brought her mother and cousin on stage to showcase her mother’s clothing designs. She then led the audience in a sing-a- long of the nation’s folk songs including “Evening Time,” “Long Time Gal” and “Day Oh,” which entertainer Harry Belafonte made famous.

Guests at the event listen intently.

Guests at the event listen intently.–Roland Hyde Photo.

While eyeing the ballroom floor longingly in a desire to dance, the audience had to be coaxed by Ralph to applaud the honorees with more energy. “Being able to be the ambassador for the Jamaican people at the White House is very special,” said Foster in accepting her award. Clarke thanked his family, executive team and listeners. “Irie Jam has been around for 20 years and what we do is a labor of love,” he said. Meanwhile, Goulbourne thanked his friends and family, spoke of being a “son of Jamaican soil” and stated that “usually I’m not the one who gets the awards.”

L-R: Bobby Clarke of Irie Jam Media poses with members of his team, Syntyche Dawkins, Michael Williams and Louis Grant. Roland Hyde Photo.

L-R: Robert “Bobby” Clarke of Irie Jam Media poses with members of his team, Syntyche Dawkins, Michael Williams and Louis Grant. Roland Hyde Photo.

The mood of the guests seemed upbeat, despite some lulls in the event. Overall, the guests interacted with each other and socialized in a manner that demonstrated pride in Jamaica’s fifty first birthday and agreement with the recipients selected for the night’s awards. Music was provided by Fab Five Band.—OnPointPress.net

 

Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph set to host Jamaica’s independence ball

Jamaica-born entertainer Sheryl Lee Ralph.

Jamaican-born entertainer Sheryl Lee Ralph.

By Andrea Daley

New York: On Saturday, August 17, actress, singer and activist, Sheryl Lee Ralph, who has flown the flag of Jamaica high for decades, will serve as mistress of ceremonies at Jamaica’s 51st anniversary of independence ball. The event will be held at the New York Hilton Hotel. This marquee event is the highlight of social activities in the Jamaican community and serves to bring together supporters of Jamaica who lead the charge to expand the channels of financial contribution to the island.

“I was so excited when I got the invitation to host the Jamaica Independence Ball in New York,” Ralph said. “I remember so clearly, Jamaica’s first independence. My brother Stanley and I were chosen from a group of children in Mandeville to participate in a dance and song to perform for Princess Margaret when she came to visit the island. I will never forget that Independence Day as long as I live”

Ralph’s love and support for Jamaica is unquestioned. She currently serves as the spokeswoman for the country’s national HIV response program, a role she relishes. Ralph is the founder of the Diva Foundation, (Divinely Inspired Victoriously Anointed), a non-profit organization created in memory of the many friends she has lost to HIV/AIDS. This international effort focuses on raising awareness and funding on behalf of millions worldwide who suffer from the disease. Ralph has given back to Jamaica through the arts as well.  One such standout is the Jamerican Film & Music Film Festival, which she successfully organized for a number of years, attracting the influential and powerful in the entertainment industry to the shores of Jamaica. The festival is credited with producing five SHOWTIME filmmaker finalists over its five-year tenure.

“I love celebrating the independence of our great island nation. I’m also looking forward to the fact that my mom, Ivy Ralph, OD, has whipped up another gorgeous gown for me to wear for the evening. I love the fact that Jamaica has a prime minister who represents a strong figure for the rest of the world,” Ralph stated. “I love the fact that we are battling with things like human rights and as difficult as it is we are trying to bring it to the forefront of our society. I just love the fact that we’re a small nation trying to make the best of it and move forward in a positive light. I guess I’ve said all of that to say, I love Jamaica. I really love Jamaica.”

The 21-year-old annual ball has received strong support from the community. Several prominent business enterprises with Jamaicans in positions of leadership are sponsors of this year’s ball. For more information, visit http://www.jicfi.org.–OnPointPress.net.