Taste Of JA

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Pacific Timezone (PDT)

2PM

EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME (EDT)

5PM

EASTERN STANDARD TIME (JA. TIME)

4PM

Participants

Meet The Performers

Christopher Grossett

MC

Event Host

Master of Ceremonies

Dr. Amina Blackwood Meeks

Storyteller

Custodian of the Oral Tradition

Dacta Ananse

Stella Maris Dance Ensemble

Dancers

Award Winning Dance Group

Myrna Hague

Performer

Jamaica’s First Lady of Jazz & Cabaret

Pluto Shervington

Performer

Legendary Singer of ``Ram Goat Liver`` & ``I Man Born Yah``

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Christopher Grossett hails from Kingston Jamaica, with deep roots in the parishes of Portland and St. Mary. A family migration to New York City placed Christopher in social circles starting at Tremont Presbyterian Church on the Grand Concourse and the occasional trip to White Plains Road where a large West Indian community maintained unforgettable cultural reminders and roots. Though difficult at that time for the West Indian community to support acting as a primary means to survive, Christopher’s family encouraged him nonetheless to attend NYC Performing Arts High School on W. 46th Street, between 6th Avenue and Broadway. Christopher is known for saying, “Absolutely nothing comes close to being raised in NYC.” Christopher went on to receive a BA from Hunter College and is a graduate of the Juilliard School’s Drama Division. A member of Actor’s Equity, SAG and AFTRA for the past 20 years; fond memories are held for performances at The Lincoln Center, “A Wrinkle in Time”, The Syracuse Stage, “A Raisin In the Sun”, and The Nevada Conservatory Theatre, “Intimate Apparel”. Christopher is grateful to have had the opportunity to perform in all mediums. In the fast-paced world of “the business,” one’s ability to comfortably monetize and thrive as an artist is an experience within itself. Being an artist forces one to be a part of a literary world where discoveries beyond imagination are met. Further, bringing character discoveries to life on stage is one of the most cathartic experiences anyone can have. An artist’s learning, comprehension, and mastery of the critical component of cultural awareness starts from understanding the culture from which the artist is from. Quoting Christopher, “I am proud of my Caribbean heritage, and I extend my gratitude to the country and culture that allowed me to recognize that what I have is enough. It is again an honor to be asked to be a cultural spokesperson for this Caribbean event; to uphold the standard and represent the many people who embrace learning through the course of the literary and artistic community.”

Amina Blackwood Meeks is a writer and director of children’s plays and contemporary stories. She is also an award-winning actress, performer, workshop facilitator, motivational speaker and custodian of oral tradition. The highly acclaimed international storyteller has been featured in festivals in South Africa, United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, Mexico and across the Caribbean. She has also been credited for having made a major contribution to the recent revival of storytelling in the Caribbean. Blackwood Meeks is the holder of Cayman’s highest award for culture, The Gold Star of Cayman, for her contribution to the development of storytelling in the Cayman Islands. She is the founder and programs director of Ntukuma, The Storytelling Foundation of Jamaica, which is dedicated to exploring the connections between the ancient wit and wisdom of African ancestry and the ways in which this heritage has immediate redemptive applications for the growth, development, and continuation of civilization. She is also the founder and executive director of Ananse SoundSplash, the annual storytelling festival/conference in Jamaica. Blackwood Meeks has successfully petitioned the governor general for the proclamation of November 20 as National Storytelling Day in Jamaica and the last Friday of February annually as Jamaica Day for schools. Dr. Blackwood Meeks is a professor of Caribbean Literature at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts where she also functions as the College Orator. She is also an inductee in the Caribbean Hall of Fame.

In 1994, the troupe celebrated its incredible growth and considerable reputation with the launch of the Stella Maris Dance (Young Adult) Ensemble – from membership by the senior dancers within the troupe. Since the Ensemble’s 1997 Season, the troupe has undergone several important changes – the most notable being the fact that the group is re-branded as the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble, and the fact that the group now boasts approximately 25 top dancers. The Ensemble continues to seek to further the quest for a truly indigenous expression by giving young people a sense of pride in their own heritage. Their premiere offering to Jamaican dance enthusiasts in 1994 reflected this: they mounted a full-length dance drama called “Children of Sisyphus,” based on the acclaimed book by Orlando Patterson. For 1995, their offering was “The Seventh Day,” another full-length dance drama which gave reverence to the day of worship, but also placed the day within the wider societal context. Between 1996 and 1999, the Ensemble presented a series of thematic dance concerts that further underscored their artistic flexibility. For 2000, their offering included a full-length Ballet named Brown Sugar… The work was undertaken by five choreographers who explored the various cultural influences that have been brought to bear on the Caribbean region as a whole, reflecting the distinct style that has evolved from this in each member country. With its members drawn from various socio-economic communities across Jamaica, the Ensemble’s repertoire reflects the cross-fertilization of the various national and cultural ties that are found in Jamaica and attempts to fuse them and create a dance vocabulary and aesthetic that is unique to the Caribbean region. In 2016, they forged an alliance with The Nance Dance Collective from the USA under the Direction/Founder Dr. Kemal Nance from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. This company is an all-male dance initiative that dedicates its efforts to the production of choreographies that centralize the discourse of being Black and male. The group is comprised of dancing Black men across the United States and abroad. The Nance Dance Collective uses African Diaspora movement vocabularies to create art about Black manhood. They have collaborated with SMDE for the fifth consecutive year and perform in their yearly season of dance held in Jamaica at the Little Theatre. This amalgamation has forged ties between Jamaica and the USA and has exposed both dancers and audiences to various cultures.

The Dancers have also established a fine reputation overseas. In 1986, they became the youngest group to represent Jamaica overseas when they toured the Cayman Islands with “Stella’s Tale” – a Christmas Pantomime produced by the school. They have also represented Jamaica in the Cayman Islands involving fund raising for the Cayman Netball Association and special guests at the yearly Cayman Talent Exposition of the Arts. In 1994 the Dancers also represented Jamaica at the Fourteenth Annual Caribbean Cultural Festival of Art, which was held in Santiago de Cuba, and performed in Los Angeles under the sponsorship of the Jamaica LA Cultural Alliance. In 2000 they were invited by the Government of Mexico to tour the country parts showcasing Jamaican dance. In April 2001, the Ensemble again represented Jamaica – this time at the World Folk Dance Festival, held in Spain. They have also conducted workshops in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. In September 2002, the Ensemble represented Jamaica at the inaugural Caribbean Music Festival which was staged in Japan, as a means of forging closer cultural and economic ties between CARICOM countries, China and Japan. It was the first time that a Jamaican dance troupe was performing in both China and Japan and the response to the Ensemble was overwhelmingly positive and secured them a

Myrna Hague is the current Director of the Jamaica Ocho Rios International Jazz Festival, following the passing of her husband. Myrna should present an interesting study for a specialist in organizational management. She has the awesome task of scheduling, dealing with accommodation, air and ground transportation, sponsorship and booking the Acts for the Festival. Ms. Hague is well known in Jamaica and the U.K as a singer, actress and journalist. A past voice tutor at the Jamaica School of Music, Ms Hague earned her B.A (music major) degree at the University of the West Indies, graduating with first class honours, 1992, while maintaining her performing career. In 2015 Ms. Hague completed her Doctorate in Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies focusing on Jazz in the Caribbean. She is also a recipient of the Silver Musgrave Medal 2015 from the Institute of Jamaica. She is the lead vocalist with the Jamaica Big Band and the Jamaica Jazz-Mobile. An articulate speaker, she has presented papers on the Development of Jamaican Jazz during an Island-wide tour of schools by the Big Band, a project which she spear-headed by creating the first concert in Ocho Rios, sponsored by Jamaican radio station FAME FM, and also at a symposium on Entertainment and the Tourism Product at the University of the West Indies. She has also presented a paper on Jazz at the Institute of Jamaica and is currently a Tutor at the University of the West Indies. Myrna tours annually in the UK and Europe following the Ocho Rios Jazz Festival and has appeared frequently at the Birmingham International Jazz Festival, the Wigan Jazz Festival, the Hull Jazz Festival and the Brecon Jazz Festival. Myrna has appeared with Jazz Jamaica All-stars, under the direction of Gary Crosby(OBE), at the Snape Music festival, at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival and the London Jazz Festival-Royal Albert Hall and also at the Purcell Room in the Royal Festival Hall. Her most recent project ‘Simply Myrna’, a solo concert, has had a successful 10-year run in Jamaica and the US. Ms Hague has appeared with Ernie Ranglin, Andy Hamilton, Monty Alexander, Dean Fraser, Marjorie Whylie, Soweto Kinch, Sonny Bradshaw, Kenny Baker, Digby Fairweather, Desi Jones, Dr.Lonnie Smith, Jimmy Owens and Donald Byrd, Tommy McCook, Roland Alphanso, to name a few.

Pluto Shervington was born – Leighton Keith Shervington in St. Andrew, Jamaica. At the tender age of sixteen, he joined The Presidents in1966 and in October 1967 he became a member of THE HURRICANES for one year. It became obvious to Pluto that he was riding the waves with a force of his own, when he led TOMORROW’S CHILDREN in 1968. He released “I MAN BITTER” two months after his 23rd birthday to the dismay of the Jamaican Government. It did very well, considering it was banned from airplay by the government for its strong political lyrics. “ RAM GOAT LIVER” followed in 1974. This catchy tune was a smash hit and remained #1 on the charts for three weeks. “RAM GOAT LIVER” was on the charts in seventeen Caribbean Countries. “ DAT” followed in 1974 and received similar success to RAM GOAT LIVER. Pluto continued to put Jamaica on the map with his repeated hits. In 1974 Federal Records released “RAM GOAT LIVER” ( the album). This humorous and amazing album sold TWENTY THOUSAND albums within the first six months of its release; an unheard of feat in the seventies. He then released “YOUR HONOUR” in 1975 which received similar acclaim throughout the Caribbean, soaring to #1 on the charts. He continued to ride the tip of the waves with his songs and with his words when he released “PLAY MAS”, one of the first calypso albums, produced in Jamaica, by a Jamaican. Pluto continued to change with the times when he co-produced “ DANCING TO MY OWN HEARTBEAT”; a disco hit and #1 in Jamaica. In November,1976, “ DAT” went to #1 on the British Charts. Following “DAT”s climb, he traveled to London, England and appeared on BBC’s TOP OF THE POPS. Due to political changes in Jamaica, he migrated to Miami, Florida in 1977 and started Pluto & Co. – a six piece dance band. Pluto continued to expand his reach and played at Sunday’s on the Bay – Key Biscayne, Florida for eighteen years which span from February 1982 until 2000. Sunday’s on the Bay brought thousands of people from different cultures to mingle and dance to his popular rhythm and soft voice.