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The Future... Is Ours

Sunday, February 28, 2021

It was, by its title, a clarion call to tear one's way out of the box in which we might have held our thoughts. And, the Apple AirPods were a dead giveaway that the latest Jamaica Observer webinar, The Future... Is Ours, was geared towards millennials and Gen Z'ers.

They did not disappoint!

The eights participants — Dr Praveen, Lindsey Lodenquai, Shantelle Francis, Yekini Wallen-Bryan, Lauren Tomlinson, Kayla Greaves, Daniel Schwapp, and Sarah Miles — are all forward-thinkers in their respective industries, and if they have it their way, creatives would help rule the world.

One common thread among the presenters was the value of family in propelling them forward. The effort does take a village. The future seems bright for Jamaica!

SO gets you up close to... the future.

 

Dr Praveen Chatani, research fellow, immunotherapy and Surgical oncology

Chatani is fourth-generation Jamaican, born in the Virgin Islands but schooled in Jamaica until age 13. He then moved to the United States to continue his education. He graduated summa cum laude from St George's University School of Medicine in Grenada and has since trained at a number of hospitals across the world. Chatani is now a surgical oncology research fellow at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland and hopes to one day bring a global perspective to Jamaican health care.

“I do have a passion for eventually bringing all of this training back to Jamaica at the appropriate time,” he shared. “It is important that we the Diaspora, who have sought training abroad, bring our knowledge back home, bring our connections back home,” Chatani continued.

In response to viewer Norma Williams' question about how parents can raise happy, healthy, wholesome and successful children, Chatani said: “Be patient. I failed many, many times before I succeeded. I let my parents down before I made them ultimately proud.” “People are not born the people they are... they become that with their (parents') patience,” he explained.

On what he'd change in Jamaica? Chatani toasted Jamaicans' open-mindedness, but called for “more collaboration between Jamaica and other countries”.

On the lighter side he told SO that he enjoys all music, but his current playlist includes a lot of warehouse underground music.

 

 

Lindsey Lodenquai, chief creative at New Wave, and freelance set designer

With a background in dance, brand management, advertising, and event planning, Lodenquai has always had her finger on the pulse of the creative industries. And though she's constantly creating, her most recognised brand to date is New Wave — a social media and event platform for culture and talent in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.

But whilst New Waves is her baby, Lodenquai's involvement in the industry has sparked a new love — set design. “...I've gone more into set design and art direction now. It's kinda what I'm doing. I'm on this path now, just trying a ting and moving forward with what I'm passionate about,” she told webinar host Novia McDonald-Whyte.

Though Lodenquai has done much studies abroad, she says, much like her grandfather, “Jamaica will always be home, I think I have a social responsibility here, to fill the void, bridge the gap, and create an environment that happens overseas.”

On what she'd change in Jamaica, Lodenquai said she “would like to see a paradigm shift in how we value our creatives and how we value our creative industry”.

Lodenquai's playlist includes: Protoje, Chronixx, Koffee, Runkus, and Royal Blu.

 

Shantelle Francis, attorney-at-law and entrepreneur

Francis was called to the Bar in December 2020, and though being an attorney lawyer is her main job, she remains passionate about her family's business, Netlink Jamaica Ltd, as well as her skincare company Maureen's Naturals. The company, though still in its infancy, is Francis's way of encouraging women to embrace their natural curls. “I want women to know they're beautiful in whatever skin they're in, and whatever hair they wear,” she shared.

When asked about plans for other ventures, Francis was resolute: “There is no limit. You can accomplish anything.”

Regarding one thing she'd change in Jamaica, Francis said, “I would like to bring about woman empowerment; I believe that people need to stop tearing down young, black, beautiful women...I want to change that...”

Francis says she listens to all types of music — dancehall, pop, R&B, but her go-to anthem is Juice by Lizzo, and it's the song she danced to the day she was called to the Bar.

 

 

Yekini Wallen-Bryan, managing director & founder, PreeLabs Ltd

“The second I started [in the field of robotics] I fell in love with it, and I'm still in love with it,” shared Wallen-Bryan, a The University Of The West Indies, Mona, alum, as he introduced himself to fellow panellists on the webinar.

Wallen-Bryan formed PreeLabs Ltd — an electronic and software company that focuses on developing and implementing automated solutions and remote monitoring — in 2016 and has since gained the support of several organisations.

He believes change is at the core of a brighter future for Jamaica.

“The only way you can impact change; is to give people a chance, let them try, let them fail... let them grow,” he posited.

About what he'd change in Jamaica. Wallen-Bryan said, “We really have to do a lot; not to only make things happen, but to also make people realise that we [Jamaicans] are capable.”

Wallen-Bryan's playlist includes music by pop band The Marías, Kendrick Lamar, and Frank Ocean.

 

 

Lauren Tomlinson, entrepreneur

At 22 years old Lauren Tomlinson — whose mother operates noted Ocho Rios eatery Miss T's Kitchen — used the webinar platform to announce her own. The vegan restaurant Lala's Nutmeg is just one of many projects Tomlinson has on her plate. The Hillel Academy alum, who revels in sharing her Jamaican culture with the world, spent the two years following high school in a not-so-typical classroom — travelling the world with the Semester at Sea programme. She continued her studies at Les Roches, where she became the first and only recipient of a Caribbean student scholarship.

Now back home, and she declares, “Not only is the future ours... the world is also ours.”

Tomlinson implored Jamaicans to “collaborate instead of compete”, and “create rather than destroy, keep adding rather than delete, and keep making Jamaica better”.

In response to viewer Donette Chin-Loy Chang's question, “What's the one thing you'd change in Jamaica?” Tomlinson said: “I believe we need to put more into our creative sector, because that is what has truly put us on the map... I could go on and on, but I think two things are very important: [Changing] the educational system and just access to resources to be able to spread our creativity worldwide.”

Tomlinson is currently jamming to reggae stars Damian Marley, Protoje, Chronixx, and Beres Hammond.

 

 

 

Kayla Greaves, senior beauty editor, InStyle.com

Raised by Jamaican parents, schooled in Canada, and now crafting a successful career in the United States, Kayla Greaves champions her Rock roots in all she does. The writer admits that it was not until she met other black and Jamaican kids that she started to gain confidence in her appearance. Now Greaves is a proud black woman and wants all black women to be the same. “My goal is to get to a point where little black girls growing up feel comfortable in their skin,” she shared.

Her main focus is a general acceptance of creative careers: “There needs to more representation for people who want to pursue creative careers... for people who want to be in the arts. It is a valid career, just as much as being a lawyer, or a doctor, or an engineer, or a teacher. Those are not the only options for people who want to have a successful career. You can be a writer and be successful; I am proof of that. If people don't see it they're not going to believe,” she said.

On the one thing she'd change in Jamaica: “I would love to see Jamaica not only capitalise on creatives but also our natural resources. For us to get to a point where if something happens again we don't have to keep allowing tourists to come in and put our own at risk, just because we rely on it so much,” she remarked.

Like her other panellists, Greaves also attributed her success to her Jamaican upbringing. “I think it was Lauren [Tomlinson] who said Jamaicans are persistent, we don't give up, we're very strong-headed. And these are things I've had to keep with me, in my soul, in my core, because the industry I'm in is not an easy industry to stay in, especially as a black woman and somebody who is not from this country. And, if I didn't have those roots, I really don't know where I would be,” she opined.

When it comes to music, Greaves prefers old-school, particularly 70s music, but currently has American singer-songwriter D'Angelo on repeat. Whitney Houston's music is also in rotation.

 

 

Daniel Schwapp, founder & CEO, SmartGrow & FarmIT

If the quote “There are no wrong turnings. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk” was a person it would be Daniel Schwapp! The young Jamaican abandoned his pre-med plans to follow his passion in drone technology, and in the process became a farmer. Schwapp credits his parents' knowledge and understanding for much of his success, and took the opportunity to encourage parents to share their wisdom with their children: “Remember to listen to your kids and constantly try to teach them valuable lessons as this forces them to step up when the time is right,” he said. Schwapp, who prides himself on having good negotiating skills, said he has his father to thank for it. “My father's first response was always no,” he shared. So, he always had to negotiate with his dad until the answer was yes. That's how he developed his negotiating skills at an early age.

Schwapp, like Tomlinson, also believes collaboration is key to, as they say go global: “We're not trying for a local small market... maybe if we collaborate we can make something that can survive anywhere in the world.”

While sharing what he'd change in Jamaica, Schwapp said, “We need to realise that other people can flourish without it being to the detriment of somebody else... And if we're talking about changing policy, then we need to look at changing tariffs and import duties.”

He is tuned in to audiobooks, with How To Create a Mind being his current fave. But that doesn't mean he's not into music. Blasting in his AirPods are tunes from Skillibeng, Intence, Popcaan, and Alkaline.

 

 

Sarah Miles, blogger and content creator, Miles Guide

The travel blog Miles Guide was born on a winter night while Miles sat in her university apartment in Montréal, Canada. She's still not sure what prompted her to start, but hasn't look back since. Now, Miles — who holds a degree in sociology, but believes that education is not confined to a classroom — has used all she's learned to shape her brand into what it is today.

The young blogger is a proud advocate for sustainability and supporting locally made products. She is excited to use her online presence to share hidden gems in Jamaica with the world and wants her peers to follow their passions.

“I can't wait to create a future where every Jamaican can have the opportunity to pursue what myself and the other panellists are doing... and to feel confident to chase their wildest dreams,” she said.

Sustainability was at the fore of things Miles would change in Jamaica. She showed viewers the reusable water bottle and straw that have become part of her routine, and are cheaper, safer and more sustainable alternative to disposable ones. “A lot could be done in Jamaica when it comes to sustainability. I think more needs to be done on a macro level, although it does boil down to individual responsibility,” she said.

Miles said the experience of the past year music has been a saving grace, and she gravitates towards songs that make her feel good. Pop group Abba, Donna Summer, and Bad Bunny are some of her top music picks.

 

To watch the webinar in full visit www.jamaicaobserver.com and click on the 'Webinar' tab. It's all powered by NCB Capital Markets Limited and Flow.

Our thanks to Phase 3 productions and to Marcia Forbes for watching, encouarging and participating