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Soon after we set up our publishing business, I talked about the venture with my friend, Audrey Walters. A colleague at the Black Business and Professionals Association (BPPA) based in Toronto, Canada, Audrey doubled as the president of the association. 

She was excited that we were venturing into this space where she felt there existed opportunity for us to make a contribution to stories of African peoples from the continent and the Diaspora. She offered to introduce me to this wonderful writer, Garfield Ellis, from her native Jamaica. Garfield, she reported, had a number of books to his name, including collections of short stories and novels, many of which were yet to be published.  

It has been a memorable journey since that time.

We hit it off with Garfield once formal introductions were done. Soon after, we received a number of manuscripts at various stages of development from the author. His writing style stuck out, taking story-telling to another level we had yet to experience.

Out of the works we received, our editors gravitated towards one that stood out about the lure of life abroad. A young lady on a steady career path in Jamaica (could well be any 3rd world country) abandons her job to go abroad in search of the ‘American Dream’. The work spoke to the lives of many of us in the Diaspora: the challenges and tribulations faced, and triumphs realized. Garfield’s writing style gave the story an edge.

To cut a long story short, with back and forth discussions, we finally published Garfield’s Till I’m Laid to Rest (Nsemia Inc., 2010). And all this was done from a distance: us in Canada and Garfield in Jamaica, underlining the level of trust we developed.   

Over time, we explored a number of projects we could do together based on his works most of which he had yet to complete. To date, we regret that we did not move quickly enough to publish The Angels’ Share (Akashic Books, 2015) but happy that the story was published to sound acclaim.  

I had a chance to meet Garfield when he moved to Canada. Over the few meetings we held, my word to him was that he needed to keep writing; that he needed to make use of his God-given talent to tell the stories he could tell and help bring meaning to others’ lives.

News of his passing came as a shock to us at Nsemia Inc. for we had no inkling that he was ailing. It is a loss that is hard to take; one that we cannot surmount easily.

We stand with the family and ask them to remain strong even when the future may look dim for, as they say, the darkest hour is the short period before dawn. To wife Joan, children, Fiona, Garfield Jr, Odane, mother Mable, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, all relatives and friends, the sun will rise and the day will be bright again beyond the yonder.

Rest in eternal peace good friend; you still live through your words.

Matunda Nyanchama, Nsemia Inc. Publishers, April 12, 2018

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