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'Mr Portmore' tells the untold story

Published:Saturday | March 13, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Anthony Minott, Gleaner Writer

Kennedy Reid can certainly be called 'Mr Portmore', because he has spent the last 12 years of his life studying the landscape, the people and the history of the Sunshine City.

"It all started with my love of photography and community work. After a few years, I realised I had tons of information to share. I have managed the Portmore website ( for over 11 years," said Reid.

However, being the sum of all knowledge isn't so easy and lately, information coming to Reid has slowed.

"Wow! I must point out that over the last few years Ihave not been invited to as many events to be consistent at documentation," he admitted.

Later this year Reid expects to achieve a major milestone when he unveils his debut book entitledThe Story of Portmore.

"The book will be published by mid-2010. It covers 500 years of history. It highlights the development of modern Portmore and features over 200 colour historical photographs, some never seen before. It will answer questions, such as how Portmore got its name, and tell little- known stories of invasion, rebellion and significant creative efforts," explained Reid.

Reid, who has lived with his family in East Ascot, Greater Portmore, for the last 15 years, said the CHASE fund was a major sponsor of his book, which, he said, is being published by Greathouse Publishers.

"Since Portmore was recognised as a municipality in 2003, it is appropriate that someone document its history. I found myself with access to tons of fascinating information that I thought it would be good to share, so I decided to write a book," a proud Reid told The Gleaner in a recent interview.

"With input and review from others, I think that the book is a treasure readers will find fascinating from start to finish," said Reid.

Unable to end the conversation without segueing into his passion, Reid made sure to speak about those things that make his book and in essence, his life, interesting.

"One should remember that Portmore has a 160-year-old horse-racing history; that it was in Portmore that the English landed to take over Jamaica; and where the most expensive film of the very early 19th century was filmed," he reminded me. Reid is a computer room supervisor at the Jamaica Public Service and is married to Sheryl, an assistant professor at Northern Caribbean University, a Seventh-day Adventist institution.

Their union has produced three children. Apart from his dedication to Portmore's past, he is at present playing an important role in the shaping of his immediate community. He is the current president of the East Ascot (2 North) Citizens' Association.

Model community

The latest item on his agenda is transforming the area into a model community. The details of that vision and what it means are currently the subject of dialogue between executives of the citizens' association and Michael Edwards, councillor for Greater Portmore North.

Reid was also the chairman of the Greater Portmore Joint Council, and was once a member of the Portmore Municipality Task Force.

Reid is a devoted family man and loves his children.

"Let's put it this way: I absolutely hate any man who does not look after his kids, and I think all child abusers should be publicly executed. I love my three kids and watch out for a few others in my community. I have four God-kids!" he exclaimed.

According to Reid, the weakness in communities and by extension, Jamaica, stems from the breakdown of the family.

"One of the reasons why community organisations are weak is because the family institution is weak. Too many under-employed parents, absent fathers and foreign mothers. In many cases, it cannot be helped, but we all need to pray for a change," he said.

Reid, a past student of Ardenne High and The University of Technology, believes that Portmore's development over the next 10 years depends on the performance of the country on the whole.

"Portmore's future is wrapped up in the prosperity of the nation. However,local leadership is critical to ensure that each com-munity is positioned for prosperity," he said.

That prosperity, Reid explained, had three elements to it which were critical to development.

According to him, space needed to be reserved for all the east to west roads to become six-lane roads.

In addition, Reid says, the beachfront of Hellshire needs to be safeguarded because every great coastal city has a great waterfront.

"Unplanned settlements are a great danger," he said, referring to the fishing village which has been growing to cover more and more of the beach there in recent times.

"For over 40 years, there have been great plans (put together by city planners). If we follow these, we should be okay," he said.

The third element for ensuring development at the community level, Reid said, had to do with education.

"Finally, we must upgrade our schools and colleges and ensure they are providing skills for the local and foreign market. Underemployed and unskilled people are the greatest threat to Jamaica's future. Portmore needs to have the best high schools and skills-training centres," he said.