All Articles Tagged "jamaica"
Meet Kalisa Martin and Jeff Belizaire, the founders of The Runaway Jamaica, a community-oriented luxury bed & breakfast that launched in November 2015 and is focused on amazing local food and curated cultural experiences. It’s also the first and only crowdfunded bed and breakfast in Kickstarter history, selling $46,000 in reservations and perks in just 45 days. The couple left their lives in New York City to move to Jamaica and pursue their love for food and travel. Now the pair is expanding their reach with the launch of The Runaway Experience, global curated travel experiences which will begin in January 2017. The first stop? Cuba. With the United States’ recent ease of the US travel restrictions to Cuba and US airlines beginning to offer direct flights to the country, many travelers are looking to explore all that the island has to offer.
We chatted with Jeff and Kalisa about why they chose Cuba as their first trip, what people can expect on the excursion, and why these curated travel experiences are so important to them. Check out what they had to say below.
MadameNoire(MN): Why the decision to build a curated experience in Cuba?
Kalisa Martin (KM): Cuba represents a lot for Americans as this coveted destination that we haven’t been able to go to for 50 years. As people of color, it’s a really great example of the struggle and a certain era in time and victory. There’s such rich culture and so much we can learn. If you’re going to travel to a destination and get a different perspective and learn something and be really inspired, Cuba is that place. It’s not even because it’s trendy, it’s because we genuinely want to experience it. We have certain standards that we’ve established as a travel brand. We’re excited to apply our knowledge and our reputation on a group trip so that other people can visit Cuba through our lens.
Jeff Belizaire (JB): One of my minors was African American studies and I learned a lot about Cuba during that time. There’s an appreciation level there. Cuba has been behind this curtain for so long. Being able to see it before it becomes commercialized would be an honor and something we want to share with other people.
MN: What can people expect from the experience?
KM: We are going to handle all of their bookings so that it’s completely seamless for our guests. Everything from airfare to lodging to food – we’re going to handle that beginning to end. We’ll apply our five values (food, community, sustainability, design, culture) to the entire experience. We’re going to be connecting with local bed and breakfasts to be on-the-ground operators to ensure we’re creating an authentic experience.
JB: Part of what that will include is touring the city of Havana and Trinidad led by folks that actually live there…visiting museums and historical sites…visiting farms and really cool things like learning how to roll a Cuban cigar. It’s touching on the things that have been distinctly Cuban. [The trip will be about] being able to connect people with the folks that live that every day.
KM: The idea that we have at Runaway Jamaica, which is that folks are visiting us at home, we’re going to maintain that as the on-the-ground hosts in Cuba and all the destinations that we go to. We’re going to be the ones that have experienced everything and answered questions. We know it’s awesome and we’re going to be going on it with you.
MN: What kind of research went into planning this experience?
JB: Our trip to Cuba is coming up. We’ll be spending quite a bit of time there. We connected with an operator who specializes in Cuba. Most of our research has been through this company. They have given us a thorough download. We do our own research as well. We will be visiting Cuba with them in order to get prepared for this new offering next year.
MN: How do you make sure that the business is both fun, rewarding and financially viable? Do you have any general business tips for aspiring travel entrepreneurs?
KM: The Runaway Jamaica ended up being a really awesome first branch of the business and was also a really big research opportunity for us. From it, we learned what we are very good at, what we prefer to outsource, what we love, and what is too time or physically intensive. We’re applying that to this venture. When we go to Cuba, we are not going to buy a property, renovate it, and open up a bed and breakfast as we did in Jamaica. We’re going to be connecting with other awesome bed and breakfasts so that we can extend the brand without having to start from scratch. There are awesome places that exist already that we are excited to feature, promote, and be apart of.
JB: The key to the process of the startup is that your first product is really your prototype. For us, that was The Runaway Jamaica. Your prototype is really meant for you to learn as much as possible so that you can improve on it and develop a really awesome final product. The Runaway Experience is an evolution of our first prototype and is much closer to what we think is a solid product and way more financially viable and a lot more sustainable from an operational standpoint.
MN: Will The Runaway Jamaica remain in existence?
JB: The short answer is yes, but the long answer is we’re going to define how that process will take place in the near future. The Runaway Jamaica will exist in some form. It goes back to the point of improving our prototype and applying our key learnings to dissect everything.
MN: What do you think will be your greatest challenge?
JB: I think we faced the majority of our challenges with The Runaway Jamaica which is why we are reconfiguring some things. Regardless of how great your product is, the gap between your product and selling it is all about marketing and being able to get your message and product out to enough people that you reach a critical mess that can build the business for you. If I had a wish today to wish for one thing that would make a huge difference in our barrier of success it would be having the finances to power the marketing behind it.
KM: One challenge that we face with Runaway Experience that we didn’t have to face with The Runaway Jamaica is that we’re going to be offering specific dates for people to join us as we run away to different destinations whereas with the bed and breakfast, we’re there full time. People can book dates that match their schedule. Our audience has grown a lot since launching The Runaway Jamaica. [The Runaway Experience] is going to be all about marketing, selling specific blocks of time instead of offering open reservations.
MN: What excites you the most about launching The Runaway Experience?
JB: The main exciting thing is going to more places. It’s something that Kalisa and I have been wanting to do since we met. We’ve wanted to travel to different places and spend a considerable amount of time there. We’re also excited to make friends and expand the Runaway family.
To learn more about Jeff and Kalisa’s story building The Runaway Experience, check out their episode on the Dreams In Drive Podcast 8/17.
Have you been tuning into the Olympics since the fantastic opening ceremony on Friday? We have! And it’s been pretty entertaining so far. But more than fascinating, watching the hard work and success of all the athletes so far has been very inspiring. This is especially true as we’ve watched Black women take the center stage to go for gold. In case you haven’t been tuning in, here is a brief recap of a few very interesting Olympic moments Black women have been involved in since Friday.
Simone Biles is No. 1 in gymnastics individual all-around qualifier.
The expectations were high for Biles, and boy, did she exceed them! While competing for the chance to go for gold in the individual all-around competition, as well as working to help the U.S. team as a whole advance in the team all-around competition, Biles took first place in almost every event. She was first in the floor exercises, first for women’s beam, and first for women’s vault, with this nearly flawless performance:
You can check out more amazing performances tomorrow as she competes in the team all-around.
Growing up, I would often eavesdrop on conversations had by my parents, uncles and aunts about being harassed by family members or fellow countrymen when they visit their homeland of Guyana.
The harassment would range from family members begging for money to purchase items at the marketplace to wanting specific designer clothes and footwear. I, too, have experienced said harassment abroad in other countries, and despite how annoying it can be to have people nag you for money, it never made me second-guess if I should visit certain countries again. I grew up believing this to be the norm in any developing nation outside of the United States and decided it should be expected in most cities where you travel. However, there are those who claim the harassment is too much to bear, leaving tourism officials debating whether they should create laws to protect those who visit their countries.
Most recently, Travel Pulse reports that Jamaican tourism minister Edmund Bartlett and the Jamaican government plan on tackling the issue of “badgering and harassment” due to the numerous complaints received from tourists. “We have to be aware that not everybody wants to be followed around or to be made to feel like they are obligated to buy something they absolutely have no interest in,” Bartlett shared with the site. “I am going to have dialogue with all the attraction owners [and] all those who have to interact with the guests. We have to put the mechanisms in place where [visitors] feel safe and will want to come back.
Aside from Jamaica’s harassment issues, Bartlett shared that officials have also received complaints about Ocho Rios’ downtown infrastructure. The country’s government is now planning to pay $175 million to make “the resort town more marketable and attractive to cruise ships and stopover visitors.” Bartlett also claimed that the renovations occurring in Ocho Rios will have a “freshness and crispness that will be very attractive to visitors over time.” Jamaica’s minister of labor and social security Shahine Robinson also noted that once the area is rehabilitated it will be harassment free but that most likely means that locals living in the surrounding area may not be able to enjoy the same amenities as tourists. And that’s always the catch 22 when it comes to third world countries and their dependency on tourism, which in turn leads to the matter of harassment at hand.
Do you agree there be laws against locals harassing tourists?
Nestled on the beautiful island of Jamaica, Dreamers Resorts is hoping to unveil their latest property sooner than later: Rock Cliff.
Designed as a 13-room luxury boutique resort, Rock Cliff will be the travelers’ go-to destination come Fall 2016. Positioned in Ocho Rios, Rock Cliff will be an adults-only resort for digital nomads, newlyweds, big groups, and even entrepreneurs. In their press release, Stephanie M. Clark, the COO of Dreamers Resorts said about the property, “We plan to cater to the needs of our guests ensuring that they have all of the necessary amenities from high-speed internet to comfy indoor and outdoor work spaces to exceptional customer service while enjoying delicious cuisine and spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea.”
For those interested in having a destination wedding, the Rock Cliff will be able to accommodate up to 100 guests. And for those simply seeking to relax, relate and release, they can enjoy the waterfall swimming pool, three gazebos, and even the private beach area where watersports are encouraged.
To raise funds for Rock Cliff’s renovations to be completed (as it’s a renovation of an existing property), Dreamers Resorts has launched a crowdfunding campaign. Those who donate will be offered a variety of reduced room packages at up to 50 percent off regular rates. If you’re not interested in giving in that way, Dreamers Resorts is also interested in acquiring financial investments, and help from those who can volunteer their services to help finish remodeling Rock Cliff. It should be noted that room and board will be provided for volunteers, as well.
For more information on how to invest or volunteer, email: email@example.com
No matter how diverse our world is, the images and standards of beauty we see in media is drastically skewed – especially at pageants.
However, this year, one contestant in the Miss World Pageant is breaking barriers and repping for the dreadlocks aficionados and naturalistas hailing from every corner and crevice of the world.
When the world saw the lineup included Sanneta Myrie, a 24-year-old doctor hailing from Jamaica, who proudly wears a crown of dreadlocks, the excitement began. For this pageant, this will be the first time someone has worn this hairstyle, with women of color usually opting for silk blowouts, voluminous weaves, or other manipulated styles.
A photo posted by Sanneta Myrie (@sanneta_myrie) on
Interestingly though, many ladies from Jamaica who have competed in such contests have all fiercely sported their dreadlocks to embrace their natural beauty and create a much needed conversation on why we only see one side of the spectrum when it comes to beauty. Zahra Redwood, who appeared in the Miss Universe competition in 2007, as Miss Jamaica wore the look, too. Redwood was also the first Miss Jamaica crowned of Rastafarian faith. So for her, wearing her dreadlocks was a way to break down barrier and stereotypes of her faith.
“People criticize what they don’t know or understand and develop preconceptions, and so given that, I have gone against what they’ve developed as a stereotyped,” Redwood explained. “My life has always been rooted in the arts and culture which has significantly impacted me own personal style. So even when I select glam, it has to have an ethnic twist to it,” she said to the Jamaica Observer.
Well, if anything, Redwood’s confidence has surely poured over onto Myrie and sparked something special for women of color to embrace our beauty. Last night (Dec. 19), Myrie walked away from the competition without the crown, but made the Top 5 out of more than 110 contestants.
Read Myrie’s full response to why she should be named Miss World below:
“My story is one of a little girl whose life was transformed with charity and love and my quest in life is to give that back to as many people as I can, and to inspire the world with my story, that no matter where you are from, your skin type your hair color, your situation — your dreams are valid. And I believe that beauty with a purpose embodies my quest and if I was blessed with the crown tonight, I would dedicate my essence to give back to the world in a purposeful and beautiful way with charity and love.”
If you don’t hear them, don’t worry: I’m sure you saw the “look at the ring” picture.
After dating for just under a year, actor Rockmond Dunbar and his girlfriend, actress Maya Gilbert, are engaged to be married. The 42 year old actor popped the question while the two were in Montego Bay, Jamaica on Decmeber 30th.
The happy couple were spotted Saturday on the red carpet for the 44th NAACP Image Awards Nominee’s Luncheon. They got a tad bit PG-13 when they gave each other a kiss which ended in a bit of a tongue exercise.
The ring is a 5 carat cushion cut fancy yellow diamond set in 18k gold accompanied with 21 cushion cut diamonds to complete the 5 carat band. All in all, its a 10 carat total weight engagement ring. Well, alright then!
Known for his role as Kenny on Soul Food,” Dunbar has been gushing all over his Facebook page since he announced that “she aid yes.” They’ve also entered a contest to win a celebrity designer wedding at the Empire State Building in New York City and a honeymoon to Anguilla.
Not much is known about Gilbert but she’s mostly known for her role in Zane’s The Sex Chronicles. She can also be seen on the upcoming GMC series, For Richer or Poorer, which also stars Dunbar.
This will be Rockmond’s second marriage. He was married to Ivy Holmes from 2003-2006. He has no children.
From The Grio
KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — A British schoolgirl visiting relatives in a rural village in northern Jamaica was fatally shot when a lone gunman opened fire on a group of family members as they gathered at a roadside shop, officials said Sunday.
Imani Green, 8, of Balham in south London, was standing inside a clapboard grocery store and bar with Jamaican relatives Friday evening when a gunman wearing a hoodie shot the child in the head and shoulder before also shooting and wounding three adult members of her family.
The high command of Jamaica’s police force said Sunday that Imani was “mercilessly slaughtered in front of family members in a hail of bullets as gangsters sought to exact revenge on their rivals” in the normally quiet Red Dirt district of Duncans in Trelawny parish.
The roadside business where the shooting occurred is apparently owned by a female relative of the slain girl. There have been no arrests.
Get more details on The Grio.
Coming to a new country and starting over is difficult for anyone. In her new memoir Finally Reid: The Extraordinary Testimonies of an Ordinary Woman, Marcia Reid recounts her journey from Jamaica to the US in the early 1980s. Since then, she’s traveled around the world, graduated from college, and launched a career that has her now working for IPG, one of the world’s hugest advertising, marketing, and public relations companies.
We sent Reid a few questions via email to get a little more insight into her life and times.
Madame Noire: You talk about your life in Jamaica as a relatively carefree one. You worked, shopped, made friends. Yet you decided to come to the US to work and study in New York. Why?
Marcia Reid: There were several reasons for coming to the US. Number one was the socio-economic reason. In Jamaica, the US was known as the “Land of Opportunity” where you have limitless career opportunities and can gain financial wealth at a faster pace. I got the opportunity to shop even more, and it was easier to pursue a college degree here. It was also an excellent opportunity to get away from my very strict upbringing.
MN: It was 1982. What was the experience like coming to the US from Jamaica at 22 years old at that time?
MR: It was amazing, exciting, and scary. Everything was huge and complex compared to what I was accustomed to on a small island. This was the first time I left home and had no directions or money. I spent most of the money I had within two weeks of my arrival. It was the end of August and I went on a shopping spree, not knowing that the reason that clothes were inexpensive was because the season was changing. I soon found out that most of the clothes that I bought could only be worn for another month or so, as it was getting colder. I had not even bought a winter coat, so I needed to find a job real fast.
As I pounded the pavement of New York City daily in search of a job, I soon realized that without the “New York experience” and the coveted green card, the only jobs available to me included house cleaning, baby sitting, or posing nude. In my book, I write about staying with a friend’s mother, sleeping on a pull-out bed in her living room and how I was eventually able to find a great opportunity at a luxury cruise line.
MN: By 1989, you were a mom, had traveled the world, were married and separated, owned an apartment, and had decided to focus on your college studies while working full-time. How did all of that help (or hinder) your focus on your studies?
MR: While all of this made it extremely challenging at the time, I became very focused on my studies. My son was born in 1989 and my life was spinning out of control. I was separated, buried under a mountain of debt and trying to balance motherhood, work and school. It was especially difficult, as I was going to school full-time and working full-time but I was determined to stay focused on my studies. I knew that a college degree would be advantageous to advancing my career so that I could be in a better financial position and provide a better future for my child.
MN: By the end of the book, you’ve got degrees from New York University and Columbia University and you’ve moved from Florida back to the New York area. You’re now the Director of Diversity Management at IPG. Please describe your job and the challenges of promoting diversity at a large company.
MR: My role as Director of Diversity and Inclusion is to help my company become one of the most diverse and inclusive companies operating in business. This is a commitment that IPG takes very seriously, and I work closely with our HR and business leaders across our network of agencies and corporate offices to develop and execute programs that focus on recruitment, retention and development. I help educate our employees about the changing demographics and its impact on our business, our workforce, and our marketplace. I work closely with our Business Resource Groups in the U.S. as well as the Women’s Leadership Networks in Australia, India, China and London. I also launched a mentoring program, lead a fellowship program of young professionals, manage our relationships with schools, and oversee our annual Diversity and Inclusion survey that goes out to all our US employees.
MN: How do your life experiences impact how you perform your job?
MR: My life experiences make me passionate about the work that I do. I can better relate to employees that are similar or different from me in the workplace because of my diverse background. I understand some of the challenges they face and can provide more suitable solutions and resources to create a more inclusive work environment, where everyone can feel engaged and perform at their best to achieve our goal.
I’m pretty sure you’ve seen this scrumptious piece of eye candy before, especially if you’re a follower of Tyler Perry’s films and stage plays. Gentles, a model and actor, has shown up in the films, Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea’s Family Reunion in small roles. He’s also had larger roles in Perry’s stage plays, playing Nate in Madea Goes to Jail and Nick Lovett in What’s Done in the Dark. You can also check him out in Jennifer Hudson’s video for “Spotlight.” (That was the jam!) But no matter how serious he wanted us to take him in those scenarios, I have to say, I don’t think I was paying attention to anything other than that gorgeous skin, that banging body, and those beautiful locs! I haven’t seen him in a minute though *sad face* So let’s reminisce on the fine-ness that is Ryan Gentles from some of our favorite photographs, and here’s to hoping he’ll come back on the scene ASAP.
by Selam Aster
You may have seen a victim at some point. A person with an ash-colored coat of film over their face with skin so depleted of a healthy glow that it appears to be starving for nutrients. But a dermotologist wouldn’t help her cause, only self-esteem would. That’s because she’s conditioned herself to look this way, by lathering on skin bleaching cream in hopes that she will be reborn as a lighter-skinned Black woman.
The Associated Press recently looked into why and how more and more people in Jamaica’s slums are using skin bleaching cream to “lighten” their complexions. Skin lightening is nothing new, especially in third world countries in Africa and also in India, which boasts the biggest marketplace for these dangerous creams. According to the AP, “hardcore bleachers use illegal ointments smuggled into the Caribbean country that contain toxins like mercury, a metal that blocks production of melanin, which give skin its color, but can also be toxic.”
Although the Jamaican government has launched campaigns to communicate the dangers of skin lightening, officials don’t know how much of an impact they will have considering that a 2007 campaign called “Don’t Kill the Skin” did nothing to slow the craze.”
While darker people lighten, lighter people tan, also causing damage to their skin. These acts essentially represents the yin and yang of beauty ideals in the world but what does this say about the course of evolution? Does it manifest a race to create one race, which is neither black nor white, but in the middle? From a theoretical perspective, it seems that it does. We are wired to see differences, although many of us don’t want to admit that we pre-judge in this day and age. The biological answer to fostering less prejudice would be to have less obvious differences between us, especially in terms of appearance.
While we lament the self-esteem issues that drive us to change our color or alter our features, it is important to note what these acts imply in the the grand scheme of things. It doesn’t make it any more acceptable but it does help us to better understand the complex nature of identity.