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Stephen Hill to receive Trailblazer Award in NY - Other Jamaicans among honorees

Published:Thursday | September 24, 2015 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Stephen Hill, owner of broadcast company Caribbean International Network.
Bernard Harvey (left), Roger Lewis (seated), Lancelot Hall (front) and Ian Lewis of Inner Circle band.
Ibo Cooper

High schools in Jamaica are very competitive and old rivalries between different institutions can carry on for years after the school leaving ceremony. CEO of television cable company, Caribbean International Network (CIN), Stephen Hill, knows this all too well, so when he recently received news that he would be honoured at a ceremony being held by a rival institution from his high-school days, the word 'shocked' doesn't adequately describe what he felt.

Having been a past student of St George's College, Hill recounted the competitiveness between his alma mater and rivals Jamaica College. Members of both institutions were always trying to outdo each other in a bid to be the best. He described the competition between St Georges College and JC as healthy, but said that the chances were one in a million as far as him being named as an honouree on a list of awardees consisting of mostly JC past students were concerned. Despite the slim chances, Hill beat the odds, and on October 3, at the LaGuardia Plaza Hotel in Queens, New York, the businessman will be honoured by the Jamaica College Old Boys' Association of New York (JCOBANY). Hill will receive the inaugural Trailblazer Award by the JCOBANY for his exemplary accomplishments and pioneering efforts in the advancement of the Caribbean Culture across the diaspora.

In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Hill said he was pleasantly surprised by the news. "I was quite startled," he said. "High schools in Jamaica are like political parties; we are very competitive, we rarely acknowledge 'outside people', but I am very happy and very proud to receive such an honour." Reflecting on the exact moment he got the news, Hill said he had a smile on his face the entire time.

"I was thinking about it and smiling to myself. This was like the PNP honouring Andrew Holness six weeks before an election, I am very proud." He went on to say that the award was even more special because it came off a unanimous vote from the JCOBANY's board of directors.

"The letter disclosed that the vote was unanimous, meaning no one contested it. Nobody objected to me being the winner, and that speaks volumes." The CIN CEO said he believes he stood out for the award because of his work with the CIN within the diaspora.


Joy in work


"It's more about CIN than about Stephen. We aim to bring the Caribbean culture to the New York diaspora every week by providing content West Indians will enjoy, and people appreciate that. They've seen the hard work and have decided to recognise it." When quizzed what his accomplishments over the years meant to him, Hill told The Sunday Gleaner that he doesn't pay attention to accomplishments.

"I believe in Henry Ford's statement which says that there is joy in work. I enjoy what I do, and that is what drives me, everyday is exciting. The money will come, but it is important to love what you do."

Hill also spoke of the importance of being determined, saying that when he started his company over two decades ago, there were persons who labelled his ideas as crazy.

"When we (myself and Ronnie Nasralla) started out 23 years ago, we bought the rights to Oliver At Large from JBC (now Television Jamaica) and went to America to show it. We met with several general managers from different television companies that called us crazy, saying nobody would understand it (the Oliver At Large series), but we continued to push it," he said. "There was one station manager that challenged us to go further by buying time on a television station, we didn't know that you could do that. When we enquired about it, we realised that it could work. After talking it over, we decided to go for it." The rest, as they say, is history. Today, CIN is one of the most watched channels by Caribbean people in the New York, the Tri-State Area, reaching over 18 million people. Their programmes include Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall, Junior Schools Challenge Quiz, What A Gwaan, Digicel Rising Stars among others. He revealed that the relationship between CIN and local TV stations is good and that whenever new and exciting content is released, CIN is informed. He, however, issued a challenge to the persons in charge of the local television industry, as he said Jamaica has the potential to export far more than they currently are.

"We need to force the local TV industry to grow by cutting down the amount of foreign content we push out," he explained. "We need to produce more local content, so I encourage our heroic local producers to continue doing the work, put out as much as you can and force the industry to take note."

Hill also told The Sunday Gleaner that while there are no immediate plans to expand CIN's reach to other states, the demand for Caribbean content is growing in other areas.

The October 3 ceremony will also see Distinguished Alumnus Awards being presented to Monty Alexander, world-renowned jazz pianist; Dr Wyman Bethune, oncologist - Stony Brook University Medical Center; Ibo Cooper, founder of Third World Band and lecturer; Ian Forbes, general manager - Sherwin Williams Jamaica Limited; and Roger and Ian Lewis, founders of Inner Circle band.