Edith Baxter: ‘She Had The Irie Of Jamaica In Her Heart’

In his opening remarks at the 2023 Edith Baxter Memorial Award Luncheon at the Toronto Region Board of Trade on Sept. 22, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, the Honourable Edmund Bartlett told those attending that “we are all gifted” and have a special role to play in using those gifts to spread happiness when travelling the world.

Minister Bartlett continued that “one of the greatest gifts that brought us here today is Edith Baxter,” observing that “Jamaica was in her heart and that’s the Irie of Jamaica and Edith Baxter had it in her heart.”

The Tourism Minister’s remarks set the tone for the afternoon, and Canadian singer, song writer, actress, Jully Black energized the room with a passionate address that combined words and music.

Talking about allyship, Black told the audience that Edith Baxter was “more than an ally, she was a co-conspirator” and “that’s why her legacy lives on” because it is about “building bridges, not walls.”

And Black brought everyone in the room to their feet to join her in singing Bill Wither’s Lean on Me.

Elevating Jamaica

Angella Bennett, Regional Director, Jamaica Tourist Board, Canada, talked about privilege – that special right that a particular person or group has – and that how we choose to use that privilege is what defines us.

“Edith Baxter was an immigrant, who used her privilege to elevate Jamaica and that’s why we’re here to celebrate her legacy today,” Bennett told the audience.

Baxter Media’s Executive Vice President, Wendy McClung offered some personal observations, telling the audience that her mother “showed her passion and beliefs through words, not just the printed word, but by engaging people in conversation. She was the ultimate listener. She revelled in spreading good news in her efforts to promote tourism where hard working people were proud to show off their world. And Jamaica was her good news story.”

McClung also shared with the audience: “I know she would be so proud of this honour [the Edith Baxter Memorial Award] just as she was when receiving [Jamaica’s] Order of Distinction, the height of recognition.”

Baxter Media’s Executive Vice President also thanked Minister Bartlett, former JTB Chairman, John Lynch, Donovan White and Angella Bennett for their support and the creation of the biennial award.

Which was what the afternoon was all about and prominent Jamaican-born writer, speaker and podcaster, Arlene Amitirigala served as the M.C. and guided the audience through the presentation of the awards to the winner and the runner-up nominees.

An Unmatched Passion

And in 2023, the winner of the Edith Baxter Memorial Award was Diana Winters. Winters has worked in the tourism industry for close to 30 years and has demonstrated an unmatched passion for making travel dreams come true and giving back to communities in both Canada and Jamaica.

Winters has been an unwavering advocate for Destination Jamaica throughout her career as a travel advisor and in her roles with tour operators and hoteliers.

During her time at Palace Resorts, Winters discovered her philanthropic side while working with the company’s Fundación Palace Resorts program.

Branching out on her own, Winters has undertaken numerous independent charitable initiatives to encourage support for the people of Jamaica. She has organized philanthropic trips for Canadian travel agents to build homes and schools on the island, raised funds for local medical clinics, and launched a donation drive during the pandemic to collect tablets, laptops and other education supplies.

As the recipient of the 2023 Edith Baxter Memorial Award, Winters receives a luxury all-inclusive vacation for two to Jamaica courtesy of award partners, Sandals Resorts and Air Canada Vacations.

Commenting on receiving the 2023 Edith Baxter Memorial Award, Winters said that she was ‘shocked,’ observing “in my 30-year career, having my name alongside Edith Baxter’s is a dream I could never have imagined.”

And she congratulated the 2023 nominees — Ron Fanfair, Dave McLaughlin, Simone Smith and Sandra Whiting – telling the audience that “we’re all doing great work one person at a time.”

What’s It All About

Presented by the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) in partnership with the Baxter family, the biennial Edith Baxter Award program shines a spotlight on outstanding community leaders who are actively advancing Jamaica’s tourist industry and/or Jamaican culture within Canada.

Established by the JTB in 2021, the Edith Baxter Memorial Award honours the legacy of Canadian publishing icon Edith Baxter, co-founder of Baxter Media.

The memorial award acknowledges Mrs. Baxter’s special relationship with Destination Jamaica and celebrates like-minded individuals who share this same passion for bringing the unique, vibrant spirit of the island to Canadians.

In keeping with the competition’s namesake, the five finalists for the 2023 competition were selected based on their strong character and outstanding efforts toward promoting and advocating for Destination Jamaica.

The judging panel for the 2023 Edith Baxter Memorial Award included: Angella Bennett, Regional Director, Jamaica Tourist Board, Canada; Wendy McClung, Executive Vice President, Baxter Media; Lincoln G. Downer, Consul General of Jamaica in Toronto; and Kelly Schmitt, President and Co-Founder, Spoiled Agent.

The afternoon also saw Minister Bartlett present awards from the Global Tourism Resilience & Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC) to seven Canadians. Tourism Resilience Awardees included Dr. Pamela Appelt; Howard L. Shearer; Mary Anne Chambers; Air Canada Vacations; Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation; Mary Bishop; and Adaoma Patterson.

Check out the photo gallery of the 2023 Edith Baxter Memorial Award:

(Photos by George Pimentel … provided courtesy of the Jamaica Tourist Board)