25 for 25
Since the first issue of Caribbean Beat was published in 1992, we’ve profiled hundreds of our region’s best and brightest — achievers and innovators from all fields, hailing from every part of the Caribbean archipelago. Our 144 back issues form an archive of Caribbean exemplars of the present and the past. Now, as we commemorate the magazine’s twenty-fifth anniversary, we look to the future.
Here, we introduce you to twenty-five extraordinary young women and men from across the Anglophone Caribbean, all of them aged twenty-five or under, their lifespans thus far coinciding with the magazine’s. As you’d expect, a fair share of them are athletes — sports being a field where the young naturally excel. But you’ll also find artists and activists, entrepreneurs and scientists. Already accomplished in their respective fields, they also represent the Caribbean’s hope for the future — and they’re not alone in their generation. If their intelligence, energy, and dedication are anything to go by, that future is bright. Meet them now, and expect to hear more from them in the months and years to come — including in the pages of Caribbean Beat.
Spoken word artist • Trinidad and Tobago
If the past five years have seen a boom in the popularity of spoken word poetry in Trinidad and Tobago, one key catalyst is the number of events involving schools and universities, introducing a new generation to the lyrical artform. That includes a national spoken word “intercol” run by the Bocas Lit Fest and 2 Cents Movement, in which competitors represent schools across T&T — won in 2016 by seventeen-year-old Shineque Saunders of Pleasantville Secondary School in south Trinidad. Her “Chronicles of a Tomboy” combined humour with sly commentary to catch the judges’ approval, and Saunders’s victory whetted her appetite for performance poetry: in April 2017 she made it to the hotly contested finals of the First Citizens National Poetry Slam, which for T&T’s spoken word fans is like qualifying for the FIFA World Cup.
Environmentalist • Antigua and Barbuda
As an undergraduate at UWI’s Cave Hill campus, Shanna Challanger kept hearing that her ecology degree was worthless. “Too many times I was told that because of my degree I would ‘never’ be able to work in the Caribbean,” she says. But it turned out her dream job was waiting for her back home in Antigua and Barbuda, where an ambitious project aims to remove invasive species from the small, remote island of Redonda, restore its ecosystem, and preserve its critically endangered endemic species. As programme co-ordinator, Challenger has a rare responsibility, and a rare opportunity, to restore a part of her homeland to its original pristine state.
Chronixx: “Everything fi have a message”
Jamar McNaughton (a.k.a. Chronixx)
Reggae artist • Jamaica
2013 was the year a twenty-one-year-old Chronixx blazed across Jamaica’s reggae skyline, emerging as one of the frontrunners in the movement which became known as the reggae revival. A crop of younger musicians tapped into roots reggae, presenting a return to the “roots and culture” ethos which marked the music in the 1970s. Chronixx rocketed to the top of local charts with first one single then another that would become future anthems.
At first, it appeared as though Chronixx had burst upon the scene from nowhere. In fact, although his EP Hooked on Chronixx only started finding favour with mainstream audiences in 2013, it had been simmering on the underground since 2011, when it was first released. And that apparently meteoric rise was the result of a life marinated in music — in his home, school, and church.
Jamar McNaughton emerged from a musical family, with his stage name coming from his father, the singer Chronicle — before Jamar became Chronixx, he was known as Little Chronicle. Though his father introduced him to many in the reggae and dancehall industry, Chronixx spent much of his early life singing in church.
A key part of his musical immersion came at his high school, St Catherine High in Spanish Town. Although it isn’t officially a performance art high school, it is one of the schools in Jamaica that most privileges the arts, where others focus on cricket, football, and track and field. Although Chronixx performed regularly at church, even going on a tour of the island, it wasn’t until he was in the eleventh grade, the year he would graduate from high school, that he felt brave enough to face the stage at St Catherine.
But even before that, starting at age fourteen, Chronixx had followed the path of the music producer. He produced riddims for artists such as Konshens and Popcaan, until his friend and fellow producer Teflon convince him to produce his own music.
Chronixx is a clear successor of Bob Marley, and even more so of Peter Tosh — though he admits to influences from a variety of genres. Tosh’s influence has marked his fashion style also, including his penchant for berets and fatigues, uniforms of the revolutionary. His 2014 release The Dread and Terrible Project echoed Tosh’s 1981 album, Wanted Dread and Alive.
Dread and Terrible quickly topped the US Billboard reggae charts, and the iTunes reggae charts in the UK and Japan. Since his first tour in 2013, Chronixx has performed in New York, London, Australia, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, and of course at key reggae festivals in his own homeland, such as Reggae Sumfest. His first full-length album, Chronology, was released in March 2017, and Chronixx is the face of Adidas’ new 2017 “Spring Spezial” collection.
But despite his increasing fame, Chronixx is wary of stardom and its trappings, even while holding firmly to the importance of music as a tool to inspire and create change. This isn’t surprising from the young man who came to public acclaim with the song “Odd Rass”, which eschewed a willingness to follow preset paths. He is a man bent on following his own rules, while keenly aware that the industry he is in has laid down a set which he may follow or not.
“The industry set hurdles and you can jump dem until you don’t mind jumping dem, but me don’t like hurdles,” he says. “I have the opportunity to decide what is a challenge and what is not.”
Chronixx’s vision is simple: music is a revolutionary act, as bourne out in songs like “Behind Curtain”, “Here Comes Trouble”, “Ain’t No Giving In”, and “Warrior”. He views himself as a warrior for change. “Is works you a do. Everything fi have a message,” he says.
Yet, despite his militaristic viewpoint, he is gifted with a wide, beautiful smile and easy, unaffected charm. He is ready for battle and willing to stand his ground, but he isn’t combative. “I trust the magic within music, and I trust the perfection of inspiration,” Chronixx says.
Entrepreneur • St Vincent and the Grenadines
Scientists often talk about the “eureka” moment when an idea is born. For Kamara Jerome, it came on a sea journey from the Grenadines to St Vincent. When his boat ran out of gas six miles from shore, Jerome realised the constant sunlight overhead and gusting winds offered other possibilities for fuel. Leap ahead a couple of years: the prototype solar-powered boat designed by Jerome’s Emerald Energy won the 2013 Caribbean Innovation Challenge and then went on to the regional TIC Americas Challenge for young entrepreneurs. Now based in the US, Jerome is working on a new renewable energy project which he’s in the process of patenting. It’s safe to say his future looks green.
Martial artist and activist • Jamaica
The martial arts, practitioners will tell you, are less about aggression, more about discipline and self-control. Those qualities have served Akino Lindsay well. The software engineering student at UWI won the attention of Jamaican sports fans after he took a gold medal at the 2015 International Sports Kickboxing Association (ISKA) World Championships — the fourth Jamaican to hold an ISKA world title, and the youngest, at age eighteen. But Lindsay isn’t interested only in medals. Joining the Fight for Peace programme working in volatile communities, he teaches taekwondo to at-risk young people — along with those lessons about discipline and self-control. His work recently won Lindsay a Michael Johnson Leadership Award, for sports and community leaders under twenty-three around the world.
Filmmaker • Trinidad and Tobago
The daughter of artist parents — Irenée Shaw and Christopher Cozier — Maya Cozier has creativity deep in her DNA. Heading to the prestigious School of Visual Arts in New York City, she first planned to study photography, but quickly switched her major to film. Her thesis project, Short Drop, shot in Trinidad and using local actors (including veteran Albert Laveau), won an award from SVA, and has been appearing at film festivals. Meanwhile, now graduated and back in Trinidad, Cozier is working on a feature-length screenplay which she hopes to produce in 2018. “There are a lot of good stories to be told between the region and the diaspora,” she says, “and I think we can finally tell these stories on our own terms.”
Activist • Barbados
Firhaana Bulbulia was in the first year of her undergraduate programme in psychology when she founded the Barbados Association of Muslim Ladies, aimed at creating developmental projects for the girls and young women of her country’s small Muslim community, and a forum for sharing ideas. Describing herself in a 2016 interview as “extremely passionate about girls’ rights, girls’ education, girls’ inclusion in society,” Bulbulia soon joined the Caribbean Regional Youth Council — and in May 2016 she was named a Queen’s Young Leader, one of a handful chosen from across the Commonwealth for their achievements and promise.
Visual artist • The Bahamas
She discovered a passion for drawing at the age of ten, and she’s never stopped. Now a student at the University of the Bahamas, Nowé Harris-Smith is already on the radar of curators across the Caribbean, with a solo exhibition at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas to her credit. Photography is her current medium: Harris-Smith’s Bahamian Project is a portrait series documenting iconic men and women of her home country, and other recent work explores what she calls “the connection between skin and metallic surfaces; most importantly the richness within black culture.”
Cricketer • Trinidad and Tobago
Back in 2013, when Kirstan Kallicharan broke Brian Lara’s longstanding record in Trinidad and Tobago’s Secondary Schools Cricket League, the sports community took notice. Then Kallicharan broke the record again — and again, eventually scoring an extraordinary 404 not out in a 2014 match. No surprise, then, when he was selected for the winning West Indies team for the 2016 Under-19 World Cup — and named T&T’s Youth Cricket of the Year.
Entrepreneur • St Lucia
In 2014, when giant masses of brown Sargassum began washing up on Caribbean shores, burying pristine beaches under mounds of smelly seaweed, it seemed like a crisis to some. But to others — like Johanan Dujon — it looked rather like an opportunity. Because, properly treated, Sargassum actually makes an excellent biofertiliser, potentially reducing the use of harmful chemicals in agriculture. And it’s a resource that is literally washed up out of the sea. Dujon’s company Algas Organics manufactures an organic plant food suitable for use in home gardens or on farms, with a growing regional market. And there’s more to come: among Dujon’s “top secret” current projects are “a range of natural/organic agro inputs ranging from bio-stimulants to bio-pesticides” — good business and good for the environment.
Athlete • Grenada
When Kirani James — himself an under-twenty-five achiever — took gold at the 2012 Olympics, it gave budding athletes in his native Grenada a winning perspective on the 400 metres. For Meleni Rodney, that’s meant bronze in the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics, Grenada’s first ever, and silver in the 2016 OECS Championships. And she’s just getting started. “I want to be my country’s first female World and Olympic Champion and also to be the world’s fastest woman in the 400 metres,” Rodney says.
Nailah Blackman: “In the ears of the people who need to hear it”
Calypsonian and soca artist • Trinidad and Tobago
Living in the shadow of a music icon parent has its dividends — or not, if one is to gauge the relative minor successes of Jakob Dylan, James McCartney, and Julian Lennon — if the DNA for talent and the potential for a musical future get passed on. In the Caribbean, the Marley family seems to bear that theory out. And Trinidadian soca icon Ras Shorty I had enough performance genes for an entire clan. His children all have relatively successful music careers, and that success has now moved on to a third generation with the burgeoning career of his nineteen-year-old granddaughter Nailah Blackman, daughter of Abbi Blackman, a T&T Calypso Queen in her own right.
Among Caribbean millennials, Nailah Blackman has shown a determined focus on career and success. She began her singing profession at age eleven, when she joined her aunt’s all-female gospel band, Nehilet Blackman & the AGB, then segued to a solo singer-songwriter career at fifteen. Veering away from her soca heritage, Nailah sang her original compositions — short odes to teenage love and heartbreak with an indie pop ethos that she calls “not-so-Caribbean music” — on a number of self-produced YouTube videos, featuring just guitar and voice. Her talent was undeniable and addictive.
She’s clear on where she wants to go: “The direction in my career is to corner my home market, which is the Caribbean, in order to access the right links outside to put my ‘not-so-Caribbean music’ where it needs to go, and in the ears of the people who need to hear it.” She adds, “I’m working on new music for the Carnival circuits around the world. I intend to hit each one of them so they can know who Nailah Blackman is.”
That kind of focus is exemplary for a generation in the Caribbean sometimes nurtured on a kind of self-defeating dependency. Fortunately, Blackman’s biography was guided by her grandfather’s creative self-sufficiency, which saw the soca innovator retreating from his success and excess to a holistic and simple lifestyle, where he and his children — including Nailah’s mother — performed together and endured.
With a voice that balances between the trademark vibrato of a Gwen Stefani and the soft squeak of bubblegum pop singers, Nailah has blossomed as a singer-songwriter in the past three years, trading her naïve love songs of regret for double entendre soca anthems on the theme of going “low, low, low.” In 2017, coming full circle to her soca roots, she released the Carnival hit “Workout” with soca star Kes, which had fetes moving and exposed her to a wider audience via the International Soca Monarch finals.
With two single releases under her belt — “Cigarettes” and “Workout” — Blackman is always cooking up something in the studio. Her next single is a dancehall tune she’ll be launching in Jamaica, and she’s completed an EP for worldwide release later this year. She displays an insouciant fashion style that already has major brands seeking her out for endorsement, and as she matures, a new fan base is charting her growth as an artist and an avatar of young Caribbean influence.
Nigel A. Campbell
Video game designer and writer • Barbados
The Caribbean is full of avid video gamers — but professional studios, creating new games based on our own stories? Those are rare. Mark Ramsey was still a university student when he co-founded Couple Six Inc., where he’s added his storytelling flair to Le Loupgarou, a game based on traditional Caribbean folklore and set in 1930s Barbados, now in development. Ramsay is also a writer of recognised promise, fiction winner of the 2015 Small Axe Literary Competition. He’s currently working on a collection of short fiction “exploring a future Caribbean where humans and artificial intelligences live adjacent to each other — and what that might look like when we reconstruct memory, history, and identity in a world beyond those things.” Stay tuned . . .
Biologist and photographer • Guyana
A chance encounter on the campus of the University of Guyana turned out to be a decisive moment for science student Meshach Pierre. Recruited to assist a team of visiting researchers, Pierre found himself fascinated by their ornithology field project — and eventually switched his career focus from medicine to conservation biology. Birds are his primary interest, though he’s also won a research fellowship to study jaguars and their prey. And learning to use a camera during his fieldwork triggered a passion for photography — Pierre’s images of birds have been exhibited in Georgetown, and he sees them as a medium for spreading awareness of his country’s extraordinary biodiversity.
Athlete • The Bahamas
As we reported in the July/August 2016 Caribbean Beat, Shaunae Miller was one of the Bahamas’ top medal contenders going into the 2016 Summer Olympics. Her fans hoped for a dramatic finish to the women’s 400 metres — and Miller gave them even more than they expected. Her breathtaking “golden dive” over the finish line, securing her the win, was controversial but decisive. “I have a long way to go,” Miller said matter-of-factly after her Olympic win, with her sights set on “being the best.” Defending her gold medal at the 2020 games is definitely part of the plan.
Kiteboarder • Antigua and Barbuda
Kiteboarding since the age of ten, Jake Kelsick has a head for both speed and height. Deciding early on a pro career in his chosen sport, he became a full-time kiteboarder straight out of secondary school, mentored by Antiguan kiteboarding legend Andre Phillip. A sideline in photography and videography has kept Kelsick busy on his travels, capturing heartstopping footage of wave-skimming acrobatics. His motto? “Have fun, ride as much as you can, and do something worth remembering.”
Athlete • Anguilla
His 100-metre gold medal at the 2013 CARIFTA Games was just the warning shot. Two years later, at the Adidas Grand Prix, Zharnel Hughes came within a whisper of beating sprint superstar Usain Bolt, who he now trains with at the Racers Track Club in Jamaica. Hughes could have been a threat at the Rio Olympics, except for a damaged knee ligament, which derailed his 2016 season. “I am still very young,” he says matter-of factly, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics may turn out to be his moment of glory. As his native Anguilla isn’t recognised by the Olympics, Hughes officially competes for great Britain — but when he takes a medal, fans at home will cheer him on as a son of the soil.
Athlete • Barbados
Just twelve when she won silver in the girls’ under-17 high jump at the 2008 CARIFTA Games, Akela Jones was only getting started. The first Barbadian ever to win a medal at the World Junior Athletics Championships — in the long jump — she was also the 2015 NCAA heptathlon champ, and represented her country at the 2016 Summer Olympics, bearing the flag at the closing ceremony.
Athlete • St Lucia
She was born in Jamaica, but high jumper Jeannelle Scheper proudly competes in St Lucian colours, and was her country’s flag-bearer at the 2016 Summer Olympics. A CARIFTA Games and CAC Junior Championships gold medallist, Scheper wants to inspire a future generation of St Lucian athletes, with plans to start a high jump clinic at home after she graduates from university in South Carolina.
Attorney and activist • Jamaica
“For me, to be a lawyer and not give back to society would be the highest level of hypocrisy,” said Michelle Thomas in a 2016 interview. And giving back is exactly what she does, with gusto. Her list of projects is dauntingly long: she’s director of cultural programmes at the NGO Jamaican Youth Empowerment through Culture, Arts, and Nationalism; founder of the No Crime Movement, building a platform for human rights in Jamaica; and her latest project, Herstory, works to raise awareness about domestic violence via schools and communities. No wonder Thomas was a finalist for the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Awards — just a few months after being named Jamaica’s Commonwealth Youth Worker of the Year.
Soca artist • St Kitts and Nevis
Like many of the young people featured in these pages, Dejour Alexander started early, winning his first calypso competition in primary school. And he was just fourteen when his first big break came, winning the ZIZ 50th Anniversary Song Competition hosted by the National Broadcasting Corporation of St Kitts and Nevis. Making a music video was part of the prize — and that’s when his career took off. By 2013, he was on stage at the St Kitts Music Festival, the youngest-ever artist to join the lineup. His signature sound, blending soca, reggae, and hip-hop, makes him wildly popular with young Kittitians, and he’s poised for his regional breakthrough.
“Take the positive route”
Cricketer • Barbados
Several hours of training, a plunge into an ice bath, and a soothing massage begin a typical day for Jason Holder, the current West Indies Test and One Day International Captain. From the age of nine, Holder has been inseparable from the clashing bat and ball. He “heart-warmingly” realised his goal to play for the West Indies when he made his ODI debut in January 2013. His Test debut came in June 2014, versus New Zealand, playing at home in Barbados. And just a few months later, Holder made history when he was unexpectedly appointed captain of the Windies’ ODI team in December 2014 — the youngest player ever to captain a regional senior team, at the age of twenty-three years and seventy-two days.
While Holder’s brother and uncle represented Barbados on the basketball court, young Jason sat enraptured in front of the television watching the feats of his cricket heroes Brian Lara and Courtney Walsh. This encouraged his parents to enrol him in the Empire Sports Summer Camp, where his cricket passion intensified. He became, and still is, a member of the Wanderers Cricket Club, oldest in Barbados.
Leadership, passion, and focus have kept Holder at the helm as he weathers his cricket years. At both his alma maters, Charles F. Broome Memorial Primary School and the St Michael School, Holder rose to captain the respective cricket teams. He’s not bossy by nature — in fact he’s notably soft-spoken — but his love for the game pushed him to throw his bachelor’s degree in management studies to the offside, to focus on his sporting career.
One of his proudest moments came in 2015, when he scored his first Test century against England, and also won his first Man of the Match Award for leading the West Indies to victory.
Although he doesn’t love flying, Holder appreciates the ability to travel and experience other cultures, leave a lasting impression on people’s hearts, and sometimes entertain them, too. Like the patrons at a karaoke bar in St Lucia, who he recently serenaded with teammate Ashley Nurse. Apparently, they requested an encore.
Underneath his serious exterior, suggesting a maturity beyond his years, is a very jovial soul, often fooling around with friends, teammates, and crew. If he had a superpower, he says, it would be invisibility — a perfect condition to play the best prank.
Knowing where he came from, the hard work he’s invested, and how easily it could vanish, make staying grounded easy. He admits his lifestyle hasn’t changed drastically either. “I live the same life and feel pretty settled,” he says.
Set to celebrate his second year of Test captaincy in September, Holder says one of the best pieces of advice he’s received came from IPL Knight Riders coach Jacques Kallis: “when in doubt or under pressure, take the positive route.” It’s become his mantra, especially when he’s faced with adversity.
Overall, Holder aims to be one of the best all-rounders in the game, adding to the strong legacy of West Indies cricket. “We’ve struggled for a while, but I want to be instrumental in its turnaround, and leave knowing I’ve made a positive contribution,” he says. He encourages young people to pursue their dreams by setting a process to achieve their goals and reach for them.
And his own next big challenge? Ensuring the West Indies qualifies for the 2019 World Cup, which means rising in the ICC ranks by the deadline in September 2017. Holder will be giving it his all — and making sure his teammates do the same.
Cricketer • Guyana
Whatever your fears about the future of West Indies cricket, there’s no need to worry about the supply of young talent for the game — as the five players in these pages suggest. Take Keemo Paul, who grew up on the banks of Guyana’s Essequibo River. Selected for the West Indies team for the 2016 Under-19 World Cup, Paul played a decisive role in the hair-raising final, when the West Indies grabbed victory from favourites India. Recently named to Guyana’s senior team, Paul is another name to listen out for in the hoped-for resurgence of West Indies cricket.
Netball player • Jamaica
Her nickname, “Tall Girl,” hints at the reason for Kadie-Ann Dehaney’s success at her chosen sport. After joining Jamaica’s women’s netball team for the 2015 World Cup and leading the Sunshine Girls on their tour of England last year, Dehany found herself heading Down Under — signed by the Melbourne Vixens for the current season.
Cricketer • Barbados
A sports prodigy? At age twelve, Hayley Matthews was already playing for the Barbados senior women’s cricket team. Her West Indies debut came just four years later. Fast-forward to the 2016 World Twenty20: Matthews, who turned eighteen mid-tournament, won herself the title of Player of the Final for her spirited batting, leading the West Indies to a resounding victory over Australia.