by William Stewart
SOUTH FLORIDA – “I would like to thank the Government and people of Jamaica, and the Minister of Culture, Hon. Olivia “Babsy” Grange for the recognition bestowed through the granting of the National Honour, the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Officer (OD), for outstanding service to the Jamaican Music Industry. ”
It is a testament and truly a blessing to my origins with the famed Third World Band. And of equal importance, it acknowledges my work in the diaspora community through the cultural advocacy in music with children and exposing our Jamaican culture.
Thanks to all those who contributed to this wonderful recognition. My new journey began in 1997 in the UK where I studied and graduated as a music facilitator.
In 2000, I left the UK to Florida where I began to work with at risk youth establishing percussion and music programs to empower, motivate and inspire our South Florida youth.
This led me to developing “Rhythms of Africa “program in 2010, with the wonderful support of then Consul General, Sandra Grant Griffiths, now Ambassador, and continued support from the present Consul General, Oliver Mair. Special thanks to Cheryl Wynter, staff at the Consulate.
I must thank my amazing wife, Carol, and my family for their love and unwavering support.
I am grateful as the first Jamaican to win the 2010 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Arts Challenge Grant. I was also a recipient of the Luminary Award of the Consulate General of Jamaica, Miami, at the Awards event commemorating Jamaica’s 50th Anniversary of Independence.
I would like to thank attorney, Marlon Hill, for his assistance in establishing our non-profit and to Raymond and Stephanie Azan, and June Minto for their continued guidance.
Thanks to our Rhythms of Africa title sponsor, Jamaica Tourist Board and to all our community partners with special mention to Meredith Porte, Barry Fishman and Starr Porter.
Very special thanks to our board members & CEO of our Embrace Music Foundation, a 501c3 Broward based nonprofit; to the Rhythms of Africa team of musicians, artists, dancers, marketing, video, photographers, social media, art designing and stage decor personnel, and our incredible technical and road crew members, the students, our grantors, donors, sponsors, supporters, friends, fans and well -wishers.
A big up to Willie Stewart & Friends for the chance to perform, create, record, and share music.
My heartiest congratulations to my fellow honorees including Mayor Hazel Rogers, Manley Augustus Buchanan (Big Youth), Keith Lyn, and other honorees.
I am truly humbled and grateful and give God the glory to be awarded this prestigious honour, by the Jamaican Government. It is always a great feeling to be recognized by my country, the land I love. As a musician, I know the power and value of sharing our rich musical heritage especially as Jamaica reflects so much of its culture through this art form. And to be recognized for doing what I love is a true blessing, I’m proud to be a Jamaican both home and abroad. Thank you Jamaica the heartbeat of the world.