I rarely get excited, but that has been happening a lot lately. I have benefited from these conversations overflowing with inspiration. The mindset, tenacity, and journey of these incredible people are what we have been calling divine alignment. So, what is it this time? Two words: Kingston Creative.
Two years ago, or so, my sister told me about a movement of sorts happening in Jamaica; Kingston Creative is the brainchild of Andrea Dempster-Chung, Allan Daisley, and Jennifer Bailey, Ph.D. We sat down with Andrea recently and I was the giddy-headed fangirl. But you will understand why when you see what they have been doing in Jamaica. Kingston Creative is a non-profit organization with core values rooted in community, creativity, empowerment, inclusion, integrity, respect, and sustainability. Andrea, a civil engineer with corporate and government experience, is a proud Jamaican and creative with a passion for Kingston. As the former owner of Bookophilia, Andrea facilitated a safe space for artists and creatives like Protoje and Kabaka Pyramid and at that moment realized that there was a need for a space on a larger scale for other creatives.
Kingston, already the epicenter of Jamaica’s culture, was designated in 2015 as a UNESCO Creative City, still houses one of the last vinyl shops, and is still contributing to the cultural landscape of the world. Kingston Creative operates in two prongs, creating murals and developing the creative district, and on the other side, with people and business development. Ensuring that creative entrepreneurs have the skill to protect their businesses and ideas.
They are approaching their fifth anniversary in February 2022, and while there are so many incredible moments, Andrea relates that some of the best moments involve viewing the entire performances and projects quietly in the background. They recently received their first one-million-dollar diaspora donation from David Mullings from Blue Mahoe Capital, which is incredible for a small non-profit. They also recently signed a $1.295M USD, three-year agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to deliver programs as part of CreaTech, an amalgamation of creativity and technology, a Roadmap for Creative Entrepreneur, and an Ecosystem Development. This will also lead to the launch of Kingston’s first culture forum.
Andrea’s enthusiasm is infectiously hopeful; She is a visionary, ready to add to Kingston’s and Jamaica’s already obvious cultural and creative reputation. Building on the perceived vision of the survivors of the Port Royal Earthquake, Kingston Creative is highly involved in the communities to ensure that they are doing more than making the streets “pretty”. Working with the varying governmental ministries and the private sector, they conduct outreach into the communities to identify talent and work with artisans and creatives in those communities. Andrea elaborates on ensuring creative continuity. In January 2020, they trained 50 youths on how to create their art walk; She explains that the goal is to activate and leverage their cultural creativity to create economic and social transformation for themselves.
The show must go on and even in the middle of a pandemic, Kingston Creative pushed through. Andrea mentioned that the art walks were a source of income for members of the community, so they switched to virtual walks. They also employed artisans to make masks for the less fortunate. An incredible success was their grant program. They received $47 million JMD that was made available to the entire Caribbean, 26 countries, with 1,235 creatives receiving a COVID grant during the pandemic.
Like so many folks that I’ve come in contact with recently, legacy is the goal. Andrea’s journey changed when she questioned herself about her own, but not just what she could accomplish. She pulled from her friends who wanted more than anything to do more for Jamaica. Kingston Creative is a volunteer-run non-profit organization drawing in creatives to bring the vision to life. Andrea believes that “our way forward is to keep going, use the pause as preparation, and partner; partnership is the way forward.”